Toshi asked me why I would want to run such a short race. This is sort of a funny question when you think about it. A few years ago I would never think about running a half marathon, let alone one that climbed 2900 ft over fairly technical trails at some points. This course was my first "trail race". At that time it was put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs and called the Pacifica 21k. I could write a pretty detailed report about that race and all of the lessons I learned, but that is not what this post is about...
Why race something that is not an "ultra-marathon"? I believe you get real training benefits from racing shorter distances. Not to mention it is serious fun. You get to go fast! I bring this up because most of my ultra-marathon running is decidedly not fast, but that is just what you have to do. I could go out for a really hard training run for a "shorter" distance and hope to get the same benefits. But I know I can not simulate race conditions. There is something about pinning that race bib to your shorts, and being surrounded by a bunch of other testosterone filled barbarians, and hashing it out to see who is top dog.
It is almost sacrosanct to think of one of these trail races as such a competitive event with people that actually want to win. Trail ultra-marathons, and trail races in general seem to pride themselves on the relaxed nature of these particular types of races. You will hear things about how we help each-other out, and offer up encouragement, etc. This is partially true. People say things out loud, but everyone knows the truth. When I say to another racer as he is passing me: "Good job man, keep it up, you're looking strong", what I really mean is: Just wait until the downhill, then you're going down! It is all a front. When you line up at a race, you paid your entry fee, you did your training (hopefully), and you mean to cash it all in. I just don't buy it when another racer says something about not wanting to do as well as they possibly could, what's the point? A race is a race.
So, how did this race go for me? The guy said go and I basically sprinted off of the line. Not recommended. With this particular course, all of the runners start on a pretty wide fire-road and are allowed to settle themselves into appropriate paces before you hit the single-track climb up the mountain. I have ran this race before where I got stuck behind some slower runners and regretted it, so I made sure that didn't happen. Unfortunately I may have been a little over-exuberant with my move. Once I hit the single-track I felt obligated to keep the level of effort up so that no-one behind me would get pissed that I was messing with their paces. The second-place guy at that time, Sean Handel, was breathing down my neck about a quarter way up the mountain. He seemed to be moving pretty good and I let him pass. About 2/3 of the way up a group of guys including Marc, Leigh Schmitt, and some other guys who were actually racing the 50k and marathon came up on me, and I let them pass. It was pretty frustrating that I was having such a tough time climbing. I was expecting to push it up the mountain better than that.
At the top of the mountain you grab a rubber band to prove that you were there and then head back down the way you came. This was where I was finally able to open it up and do my thing. I started catching guys on the down-hill, basically scaring the slower runners to death as I approached them at break-neck speeds down the rocky technical single-track. I passed a group containing Leigh, but did not see Marc. I ended up catching up to him at the bottom of Montara. We went through the aid station together and then hit the next climb, and naturally he took off. I did my best to climb it well, but again, some of those other races caught me. Then on the next downhill to the valley I was able to catch them again. This is a pretty common pattern for my racing. Sometimes I wonder how much it aggravates other racers when I'm constantly making these moves because of my obviously skewed trail running strengths...
The final climb up the Hazelnut switchbacks was like it has always been for me, a slow grind. A couple of years ago I remember running the whole thing, albeit slowly. This time I was taking hiking breaks. I noticed that I did not remember how to handle the pain of these type of races. It is different than the pain of an ultra, or the pain of a 5k. I was ill-prepared, and let it get to me. After I finally crested the hill I got to let it all out once again, and ended up having a strong finish in 1:42:something. It was a new PR for that course. My A goal was to beat 1:40, but I will take a PR any day. I got second place in the half (Sean ended up getting 1:35 and setting a new course record!). Four other runners besides Sean beat me to the 21 km point, but were running longer races. Insane. Those guys were cranking. From what I hear, three of them Leigh, Marc, and Kevin Weil all ran under the old 50 k course record- Leigh and Marc fighting it out till the end, and significantly lowering the record. Just impressive.
The day was awesome, weather perfect, views out to the pacific forever. It was a good time.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Many ultra-runners take at least some time off during the holidays. They come back early in the year to find out that all that good eating has affected the size of their hind quarters. In order to get back into shape for the racing season these runners participate in semi-organized 50 km runs. There are several popular runs like this that our running club likes to participate in. It just so happened that there were two of these runs scheduled back to back Saturday-Sunday. Toshi had the brilliant idea that we should run both of them. Better yet, he suggested that we run one, and then backpack our way to the other one. I was game, but I had to one up him, so I suggested we start out on Friday at the bottom of the hills and backpack our way up to the first run as well.
On Friday at 2 p.m. we set off from the Arastradero parking lot. Joanne and the kids were there to see us off.
|The girls escorting us on the start of our journey.|
|From Los Trancos Trail looking down at Palo Alto|
This is one of my classic routes to get up into the hills: Arastradero through Foothills through Los Trancos, through Montebello up to Table Mountain.
|Toshi's GU chomps and Poison Oak Sandwich.|
|Nice Sunset the first night.|
|Toshi's first successful tarp setup.|
|Smallest toothbrush ever, perfect for fastpacking.|
|Sunrise the next day.|
|Pierre and Jack.|
|Speeding through the forest.|
|Jean and Toshi leaving me in their dust.|
|The 2nd Saratoga champs.|
|Having some fun at Castle Rock|
|Showing some skills.|
|Check out this cool tree-rock combo.|
|Another fun "Car on the Trail" pic|
|Cooling off the feet.|
|Incredible views from the top of El Soreno.|
The next day we got up pretty early because we wanted to get down into Los Gatos to get a real breakfast. It was heaven: coffee, milk, and a egg, bacon and cheddar bagel. You have not experienced this level of culinary satisfaction until you have spent a couple of days in the forest with nothing but dehydrated pouches, gu and cliff bars.
We showed up at the start line of our second 50 km run and then we were off. This was a pretty hilly run through Sierra Azul, up over Mt El Sombroso and then down to Quicksilver, only to turn around and do it again. I think it is a little over 7000 ft of climbing. I took it easy on this run and actually felt surprisingly strong for all that we had been through already. I had a lot of fun hiking, running and socializing with the other runners tackling the mountain. They have a fun aid station for this one near the half-way point that Sean and friends organize with all kinds of goodies. It really makes for an enjoyable run.
As I was heading back down from Sombroso to the finish I ran into Toshi who looked like maybe he had a little too much of those "goodies" at the aid station, so I joined him for the final leg of the run. We finished it in some unimpressive time, but in the end, I think we understood what we were out there to accomplish, and it was good.
|Old man Jim is still talking about that "apple juice"|
We did not run the 50 km runs with our backpacks, we stashed those in other runners cars.
I used the same gear as the other trips I have been on and don't have anything remarkable to say performance wise about it. I really am contemplating getting a better sleeping pad. The Klymit Inertia X-light is just not getting the job done. It is only 1.5 inches thick and is not full length. I am now thinking about getting Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite because it is 2.5 inches thick and full length and only about 6 ounces heavier. I think I might have to take the weight hit for more comfortable sleep.
I am sold on Curries for dehydrated food option, and I like the organic Mary Janes Farm brand that you can get at REI.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Toshi, Sean and I went for a run up at Point Reyes. If any reader of this blog remembers, Toshi and I had an epic fastpacking trip out here in the fall: Stinson Beach to Tomales Point Fastpack Yo-Yo. We had some destination/time goals for that trip that prevented us from exploring as much as we would have liked. This time we had a ton of fun crawling around the interesting formations that this park has to offer.
|Ready to Go!|
|Heading up the hill while there is still frost on the ground.|
|I can see the ocean...|
|Gotta love the Point Reyes Views!|
|Looking down at Wildcat Backpacker camp.|
|More incredible coastlines.|
|The beginning of Alamere Falls.|
|This is where the falls cascade off of the cliff, straight onto the beach.|
|Pretty sweet, huh?|
|There was a spot in the middle of the falls that I got this picture- this is looking straight down into the beach.|
|These are the flows before the cliff.|
|There is a little bit of rock scrambling require to get down to the beach, but it was fun! Sean is showing us the butt slide technique.|
|Looking up at the cliff from the beach.|
|Groovy picture of the Alamere flow as it heads toward the ocean.|
Here is some video clips of the Falls:
|It is interesting how the sand just seems to suck up the water.|
|Other ultra runners.|
|Random yellow flower. It looked like someone had spray-painted this particular spot.|
|Top of Arch Rock.|
|The color is awesome in this shot.|
|Climbing down to the "arch" of Arch Rock.|
|Sean absorbs the impact of his landing off of the rock, but does he keep from falling in the water?|
Arch Rock: The Real Thing:
|Can you guess what this is?|
|The Ocean washed into these caves. It would have been interesting to see if they are accessible during low tide.|
|Can you spot Sean and Toshi?|
|Another water fall.|
|Flows into the ocean.|
|Toshi's best Leor impression.|
|We had to wade through that arch to get to the "secret" beaches|
|Can you guess what that black stuff is?|
|Now can you guess?|
|What we thought was the "Amphitheater" but it wasn't. It was still very impressive.|
|Looking out from the "Amphitheater"|
|Checking out Sculpture Beach|
|It's pretty cool how the water flows cut through the sand.|
|More slimy creatures in a cave.|
|I don't know if the starfish is being worshiped by the clams, or the clams have trapped a starfish, whatever...|
Cave with slimy things in it:
|Dead forest on the way back to the car.|
|Mt. Whittenberg, not quite the summit, but this is where you want to take your pictures from.|
|Descending through a pinewood forest.|
Compilation of various video clips: