This is my third year doing the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon, one of the hardest trail races in LA County. I was excited to do it as one of my friends, Brittany, was also running. It was her first trail half marathon. I’ve run the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon three years in a row. 2021 was my fastest, but I was also coming off living in Napa and running trails more frequently. In 2022, I was dealing with my health issues and was just excited to run. My goal for 2023 was to at least beat my 2022 time.
Before the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon:
I woke up before my alarm around 4 am, and we left around 5:15. I had a rough couple of days of sleep, so I was really unsure of how I would feel. Truthfully, two weeks ago I ran 20 miles, and it took a lot out of me. This was followed by the Long Beach racing weekend, so I needed a cutback week the week before. So I was going into the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon more rested but still not fully recovered.
I decided to pay for premium parking for the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon. You can park right inside Vasquez rocks, which means your car is easily accessible. We still needed to pick up our bibs, so it was easy to drop everything back off at the car. We didn’t have to pick up our bibs, take the bus back to the car, then take the bus back to the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon start.
When we arrived, it was dark. I probably could have left a little bit later, but I always seem to forget that Vasquez rocks is “only” 55 minutes from my house. I would rather be early because the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon never has enough bathrooms. This year, they had 9, but for over 1000 people, that is definitely not enough. (Last year it was 3).
SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon Race:
Gear Used for SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon:
Picking up the bibs on race day was easy. We got ready, and the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon started on time at 7:30. We ended up standing in line for the bathrooms until 7:27 and once we knew we weren’t going to be able to go, went to the SpaceRock start.
I knew the first mile of the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon is generally the fastest. It drops about 200 feet. Although it’s singletrack and technical, you are still going downhill. I ran an 8:47 and was pleased. Last year was not my best year in running due to injury and illness. I was hoping to beat my time of 2:52, but I wasn’t super concerned if I didn’t. I knew my first mile last year was around 9:15, so I was pleased to be 30 seconds faster. Not that the first mile in a race with 3000 feet of elevation gain tells you a lot.
The next mile begins with some uphill and downhill. Since it was my third year of doing the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon, I knew the race gets really hard at miles 3-4, so I wasn’t pushing anything. Several people passed me, but I wasn’t overly concerned. I ran a 10:31 and 12:11. I thought maybe I had forgotten that mile 4 was the hardest because we started going downhill. Then I saw the brutal uphill, and I knew I did not. I ran a 15:39 for mile 4 and just told myself the downhill is coming soon.
From there, we went into some technical downhill, which is not my strong suit. Several people passed me. Once we got to the steep downhill fire road, I pushed it. I’ve recognized I’ve become a much stronger downhill runner, and I found myself pushing the pace hard and passing people. For that second, I averaged 7:20 for that 3/4ths mile section. Was that smart? No, and when we started going back uphill, I thought, “Wow, that was dumb.” I averaged 9:24 for that mile. Luckily I seemed to recover quickly from that.
We hit the aid station at mile 6.5 of the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon, and I grabbed a ton of electrolytes (they had Gnarly) and water. It was already very hot. They told me I was the third woman, which was surprising. I could see the second-place woman not too far up. After taking a couple of minutes at the aid station, I started the climb into the PCT. I always love the PCT section of SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon because it’s peaceful. Miles 6.5-8 are climbing, but then you get to the runnable and downhill sections.
I passed the second-place woman around mile 9. From there, I just focused on running the downhill portion of the PCT section fast. I could tell from the previous miles that she was very good at running downhills, and I didn’t want to be caught.
New this year with the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon was the SpaceRock Trail 15k. I have mixed emotions about why you would have a 9.3-mile race (in addition to the half, 10k, and 5k). The 15k course met back up with the half, and there were people going at all different paces on a singletrack trail. Honestly, it felt a bit unsafe because a lot of the PCT was washed out. I was worried someone might fall. It’s narrow and at some parts even too narrow for one person (Worried because likely that person would be me).
Even though I was focused on not falling, I still hit a tree root around mile 10 and took a spill. My best SpaceRock Trail Half Marathons have involved one fall (first and third), so I figured this was a good sign. I really just bounced back up and didn’t miss a beat. I did, however, have a bloody knee the rest of the race.
I hit mile 10 of the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon in 1:51. It was getting hot fast. I could tell it was already in the 80s, and the last few miles would be in the exposed desert. Mile 11 of the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon went back through the dark tunnel, which actually felt very cool. I wanted to stay in that. At this point in the SpaceRock, it was extremely hot. I had drank all of my hydration and could use more.
We ran through the dry creek bed, which meant running over rocks. It’s not great when you’ve been running for 2 hours, and everything is tired. That is when you usually roll an ankle, but I just kept it easy. I grabbed 4 cups of water and 4 cups of Gnarly electrolytes at the aid station at mile 11.5. Then I just kept telling myself, “2.5 miles to go.”
The hills for mile 12 and 13 of SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon feel the hardest. Even though it’s only another couple of hundred feet of climbing, after running for 2 hours and in the heat, it feels brutal. I ran a 13:46 and 14:58. We were with 5k, 10k, 15kers, which was honestly motivating to have a lot of people finishing at once.
The last .3 got confusing because the course wasn’t super well marked (they had to change part of it for 2023), but finally, I popped out of the bushes and could see the finish line. I sprinted to the end, passed a few more people, and finished the SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon in 2:39.
SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon Thoughts:
I’m happy with my effort and time. It is not an easy course or an easy day due to the heat, so it felt good to finish strong. Brittany finished in under 3 hours, which is awesome for that course. I actually ended up being fourth woman. One woman started 10-15 minutes late and there was always just two women in front of me.
Questions for you:
Have you run SpaceRock Trail Half Marathon?
What is your favorite half marathon?