Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Double Plump Buttocks Fastpacking

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.
 We picked a nice covered spot near the top of Table Mountain to camp.  Toshi is attempting to hone his light weight backpacking skills and is working on setting up a tarp to protect from the elements.

Toshi's first successful tarp setup.

Smallest toothbrush ever, perfect for fastpacking.

Sunrise the next day.
 We had incredible weather for the whole trip, and actually it was really warm for our run.  We woke up with the sun and then hiked over to the start line at the Saratoga Gap.  There we met up with several other runners including Pierre and Jean from our club and then we were off.
Pierre and Jack.

Awesome day.

Speeding through the forest.

Jean and Toshi leaving me in their dust.
I though I was running pretty comfortably, but it was probably a more aggressive pace than I was prepared for when I tried to keep up with the other speedsters.  The run consists of three different loops from the Gap.  The first loop tours Castle Rock state park, the second follows the skyline to the sea trail for a while before heading back up the hill to the gap, and the third loop visits Table Mountain.  As I was heading back up the hill to the gap on the second loop I ran out of water and subsequently stopped eating.  Running a deficit on my hydration and calories took a toll on me and I had to slow way down.  When I finally made it to the water fountain, I gorged myself and then just waddled around for a while.  It was on this last section that I decided two loops was going to be it for me if I wanted our backpacking plans to work out so I got back to the gap, and got recovered, ate some food and took it easy.  Jean and Toshi did great and finished the run strong, but Toshi was wiped.  I felt pretty bad for wimping out because I knew that the rest of the trip would have an asterisk on it, that Toshi and I would not share in our suffering and ultimately our triumph equally.

The 2nd Saratoga champs.

Having some fun at Castle Rock

Showing some skills.

Check out this cool tree-rock combo.
 Connecting the two runs with the available trails and roads was tricky.  There was no clear cut path to get from Skyline trail through Sanborn over to El Soreno.  Luckily they had started some work on some new trails that will make it feasible, but we had to do some navigating and some bush whacking to connect it all up.  Toshi and I had some difficulties and ended up spending a little more time on this that we had anticipated, but in the end, we did not have to sleep in a swamp, so that was nice...

Another fun "Car on the Trail" pic

Cooling off the feet.
Incredible views from the top of El Soreno.
We slept on a flat section of one of the switchbacks of the fireroad at El Soreno.  It was really pretty.  It was already dark, and our spot overlooked the lights of Los Gatos and it was a clear evening with the stars out.

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"

 Some Details:

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.


  1. Your fastpacking adventures always sound like so much fun! Even if my wife would allow me to tag along, I wonder if I would be able to keep up with you guys! You two are already speed demons in all your races!

  2. Better sleep on the trail = more enjoyable fastpacking trips! I say upgrade, yo.

  3. If Google routes you through private property, you should use Google Map Maker to mark the trails as private property so that nobody else gets routed the same way. Alternatively, you can report the trail and somebody should take a look at it, though that probably takes a lot longer.