The Crystal Cove 15k was a last-minute decision for me. I hadn’t planned to do any more races in 2022, but the desert cold and wind have made running less enjoyable lately. I desperately needed a change of scenery, and the Crystal Cove 15k in Laguna Beach was my way out. I signed up the day before, and it was $140. I can’t decide if the race provided enough value at $140, perhaps if it was a half marathon. The course isn’t closed (yes I know hard in a state park) but the aid stations didn’t really have much fuel. Electrolytes but not much more. I ran the Booney Trail Half which I feel like was around the same price and had a lot more for the value.
Before the Crystal Cove 15k:
We were deciding if we wanted to drive the night before or just the morning of. Driving the night before meant we would go through Los Angeles at the heart of rush hour. A 2:20 drive would have easily been 3:30 or 4 hours. The con was driving that far the morning of. Likely I would have driven the night before for a road race, but my only goal at Crystal Cove 15k was to have fun. We left the house around 4:45 and arrived around 7:15. We were directed to a lot about half a mile away. It kind of stinks because we realized there was parking at the closer lot. It also meant we went a half mile down to pick up the packet, back to get our racing stuff and back down. We made it to the Crystal Cove 15k start with exactly one minute to spare.
Crystal Cove 15k Race:
Gear used at Crystal Cove 15k:
- Speedland SL:PDX Trail Shoe
- CamelBak Zephyr 10L Running Vest
- Skratch Sport Hydration
- Zensah Clothing
The Crystal Cove 15k started on time, and the first mile was pretty flat. There were several flooded spots, but it didn’t bother me much. I ran a 9:18 and thought wow, that is fast for a trail race. I knew there were a couple of big climbs ahead. In the first mile, it felt like people were zooming by me. I hadn’t tapered for the race and while I felt fine, I didn’t feel great. So I tried to keep that in mind.
Miles 2-3 of the Crystal Cove 15k have two of the more challenging climbs. You start climbing a little bit, then suddenly climb over 400+ feet. Several people passed me (probably 15), and I thought, wow, I’ve gotten bad at hills. I haven’t been running as many lately in the desert. We don’t have too many road hills, and I can only run so many sand dunes without getting tired. Sand dunes are a different beast and are loose sand that you almost always have to hike up. Anyway, after about mile 3.5 of the Crystal Cove 15k, it leveled out, and we could enjoy some flatter miles. I guestimated we had climbed about 1000 feet already, so I thought, “half our climbing is done.”
I power-walked the steeper hills because I wanted to have energy at the end. But that isn’t unusual, and I usually do in trail races anyway. The next mile went without too much note. I began catching a few people. My Camelbak was jostling around and started to annoy me. I’m not sure it’s the suitable pack for me anymore because the front flasks move around a lot. I contemplated just leaving it because I was so sick of it. But I made it work.
Mile 5 of the Crystal Cove 15k is probably the hardest. It is majority downhill but makes a hard left, and you climb “the wall,” which is a third of a mile, and climbs 333 feet. It was tough. But it was back to running once we popped up at the top.
At the top the trails of Crystal Cove 15k were also occupied by mountain bikers. I didn’t care much, except it was a single track, and it was clear some mountain bikers were annoyed with the runners. One didn’t stop and gave me no room, which landed me hitting my hand on a cactus. It hurt, and I looked down to find myself bleeding.
I got a bandaid and napkin at the aid station but was still annoyed. When we hit mile 3, I was like, wow, just 3 miles to go (really 3.3), and I guestimated I would finish in about 40 minutes. I didn’t know that the last 3.3 miles of Crystal Cove 15k are downhill and steep. It’s some of the steepest downhill I’ve ever run, and parts were on pavement. It was hard on the body! When we started the steep downhill on pavement, I felt like a runaway train and just hoped I didn’t hurt myself. One bad trip at the Crystal Cove 15k and it was not going to be good.
I progressively got faster each mile, 8:55, 8:01, and 7:26. I felt good towards the end (maybe I just needed a 6-mile warmup). I was passing a lot more people. I was pretty uncomfortable when it got steep on the last mile. I kept thinking: one wrong fall, and I was going to have a terrible day.
Somehow I stayed upright. When it leveled out, we had about .3 to go, and it was an all-out sprint between myself and another person. Somehow I held him off, and my watch told me I finished the last .1 at 5:30 pace. LOL, who knew my kick was that good (spoiler, it’s not usually).
I crossed the Crystal Cove 15k in 1:40.19 and was the 13th female. I’m happy to have started and finished healthy. I’ve been consistently putting in the miles lately, so I have no complaints. Especially after passing so many toward the end. However, I could use some more hill training. I’m still not 100% sure if I found the race worth the price, but it was fun.
Questions for you:
Have you done the Crystal Cove 15k?
What was your favorite race in December?