Monday, April 8, 2013

Windy Hill Taper Run

One week to go until Lake Sonoma 50 mile race.  This will be my first ultra race of the year and I am totally excited.  All of the work from January until now will finally be able to be put to use.  Admittedly this race isn't necessarily the focus of the year, but it is basically the "season opener", and setting the tone at this race will hopefully signal my progress towards my top priority: TRT 100.  Sonoma is going to be stacked in terms of competition.  It is going to be so loaded with talent from around the world that I would be lucky to crack top 50.  It is going to be neat to rub shoulders with the best in the sport.  I have never competed in a race that will include the pedigree of runner that will be present at Sonoma.  Lake Sonoma, as you might have guessed, is located in Sonoma wine country.  I have never been there, but I hear the trails are challenging.  With 10500 ft of climbing, it will be have the most up and down of any 50 mile race I have done.  The out and back course starts near the south eastern edge of the lake and travels up and down the ridges encircling the lake on the south side, then heading north on the western shore where the turn-around is located.  The race director boast that the race has three significant climbs, but from what I can tell from the published profile, the biggest climb is like 750 ft, so it looks like you are just going up and down all day long on roller-coaster like terrain.  I don't know that this plays to the type of training that I have been doing around here, but I welcome the challenge and the new terrain!

So, with one week to go, I decided to get in a nice and easy 4 hour run at Windy Hill Open Space Preserve.  Windy Hill is located in the hills above Palo Alto, north of Arastradero.  It is not the biggest park in the world, and doesn't boast an extensive trail system, but it is a pretty place that is characteristic of what you will find on the Peninsula.  This is one of the few parks in the area that allow dogs, so there are a bunch of them (dogs).   I ran what locals refer to as the "Three Ups".  Actually I don't know if the locals call it that or not, but I call it the Three Ups.  Three Ups is where you connect the trails at Windy hill so that you run up the three different climbs (Spring Ridge, Hamms Gulch, and Razorback Ridge) and run down each of them.  Each climb is about 1000 ft, and each climb has some different characteristics.  Spring Ridge is an open fire road and is pretty steep.  Hamms Gulch is some nice single track with some steep stuff, and some ridge running.  Razorback is a gentle climb with many switchbacks on nicely forested single-track.  

View of the Valley from near top of Razorback Ridge Trail.
Unique horse trough fed naturally by a spring.

Look at all of that lettuce Toshi!  You should never go hungry.

Cool flower that I have never seen before.
At the top near skyline drive it was pretty muddy because of the the moisture from the clouds that were just hanging out up there.  That made it some pretty slow going and also set up the most memorable part of my run.  At the end when I decided to run down Spring Ridge trail I had quite the adventure.  Given the muddy conditions and the steepness of the open fire road I had a tough time getting my footing.  In fact, I started building up enough speed because there was no way to slow down that I decided I should take my chances on the grass on the side.  I thought that anything was better than slipping in the mud, but the wet grass was even worse, so I would try and course correct and then bam! Down I went, while sliding down sideways down the hill, accumulating mud along my backside.  When I finally got back to my feet I saw awestruck hikers as they gingerly picked their way up the trail.  I laughed it off because I felt no obvious pain because of the gentle mud and heavy dose of adrenaline.  So I tried to get things going again only to pick up too much speed and bam! down I went again...  I am sure I must have been a pretty comical sight to behold, big mud-covered guy, running and sliding down the muddy hill, totally out of control.  But I admit, it was the most fun I have had on the trail in a while. Only suffered a few scratches and am fine, so everything is good to go for next week!


  1. "Actually I don't know if the locals call it that or not, but I call it the Three Ups."

    You might have heard me LOL.

    Thanks for the hike on Sunday before church! I know it probably wasn't mentioned as it isn't a workout for you. Workout for me though! :)

  2. Good luck at Lake Sonoma! That race is stacked with elites! I think you'll do great! That race sold out quick! I definitely plan on running it someday. I look forward to your race report!