Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stevens Creek 50K - Cupertino CA

This free race is held at the Skyline Open Space Preserve, about 10 miles north of my house in the Los Gatos hills. Steve Patt, owner of Stevens Creek Software, funds it personally, initially as a sort of birthday celebration for himself. There is only a voluntary $20 contribution to the Audobon Society preservation trust.

The registration site wasn't available when I was race planning in January. Once I got around to checking again the race was full! Dejectedly, I agreed to volunteer and sweep the course for Steve. Have to give back to the ultra community when the races are local and convenient (as I did with trail work at QuickSilver 50k).

To my great surprise and delight Steve wrote to me a few days before to tell me that I would be able to run after all. The sun was shining down as the race prepared to start at the very civilized hour of 9am. It was a perfect day to run, though perhaps a bit warm for some. Steve walked us up the parking lot to the north and across Skyline to start on the east Ridge Trail.

15 year old Michael Kanning took off like a shot and I was close on his heels. I wasn't pushing it a bit and just felt great running up and down the rolling ridge of my local Santa Cruz mountains. It felt just like my backyard trail loop in terrain and vegetation. Michael built a minute or two lead and I saw him occasionally on the straightaways. Eventually I heard Beth Vitalis (a very strong ultrarunner from Livermore who has been second many times in this race) and Alan Geraldi. Preferring not to be hunted, I slowed down to join their conversation. Beth is also a more experienced and faster ultrarunner than I am, so this was my clue that I was going too fast. I ran with them for a while, but as the uphills increased on the way to Saratoga Gap I pulled away again. I prefer to run the hills while Alan, probably wisely, just powerwalked them. After we came out to some downhills Beth caught up again. She has this fast and furious cadence, arms and legs swinging wildly, on the downhills and the flats that is quite impressive. It doesn't look efficient to me, but it works better than the way I descend. She had cheery greetings for every hiker and runner, amidst all of the flailing. I learned on our jaunt together that Beth's picture is apparently on the cover of some Gu packets. Well I guess I really should slow down then!

I pulled into Aid Station 1 at Saratoga Gap at 10.9 miles, refilled my bottle, ate some chips, drank some Gu20 and grabbed the rationed single Gu packet. I left the aid station at 1:46:57. Beth and Jun Funaki caught up to me and we ran together for a while. The soreness that I tend to get around mile 15 set in after a few miles and I slowed to let them go ahead. I also got passed by Brian Wyatt. Eventually I caught up to an early starter and who I begged some Advil from. This helped quite a bit. I sped up and came into Aid Station 2 back at the Open Space Preserve at 19.3 miles, still in fifth place.

Alan Geraldi had caught back up and he and Mike Topper passed me going up the hill north on the trail leaving the aid station. I still felt good and kept a steady pace across the Alpine Road crossing and continuing up. We came to a "controlled burn" area that looked like the surface of Mars. As I came down the hill from there, I wiped out on the trail and bloodied my knee and shins thoroughly. I made sure to keep running so the soreness didn't set in. If anything this only fired me up, as it usually does on my frequent wipeouts. But I was still passed by Ian Hersey as we turned back onto single track for the final descent to the turnaround.

I came into aid station 3 at 25 miles in 9th at 4:28:26. I ate a bunch of potatoes and drank several cokes. Now to really turn it on for the finish. I was hoping to gain back several places as I saw several tired faces coming out of the turnaround. The climbing that was involved in the last five miles should help me quite a bit and I was ready to push it. After we climbed back up, we turned to the right on some singletrack to head down the mountain on Mandigo Trail. I missed the left turn on Ancient Oaks and went all the way down the valley to a deadend. Then I had to run back up the hill the other way until I saw where the turn was supposed to be. Apparently this happened last year as well to some of the leaders. It looks like its only three miles out of the way. But with the brutal climb back up I'm pretty sure that this added 30 to 40 minutes to my time, just counting the time on the detour itself.

I was a bit demoralized by the sidetrip and just loped out a steady pace from then on, enjoying the beautiful day, finishing in 6:27:15. Steve was nice enough to asterisk my finish with a "* Bonus Miles" indicator. Jun Funaki overtook Beth Vitalis to win this race. Beth finished second and was first woman after several attempts. Mike Topper went from sixth just behind me at aid station 2 at 19.5 miles, moved up to fourth by aid station and finished strong to come in third as first master. After an impressive start, Michael Kanning faded to sixth by the third aid station. But he managed a late surge and ended up fourth.

This is a beautiful race in an area of incredible trails that cry out to be appreciated by the Bay area ultra community. Lots of climbing and mostly singletrack, its a better course than many larger local races. I hope Steve Patt's idea of self-funded organized free races catches on more. Definitely better organized and more well supported than many Fatass races that I've gone to in the Seattle area. And plenty of aid as well. By contrast the next weekend's Cle Elum Ridge Run in Washington cost $70 and only has two aid stations during 6000 feet of climbing. I've been threatening to put on a race on my backyard trails close by (that connect to the southern extreme of this race). Steve's generosity makes me feel like I'm really dutybound to do that. If so, I'll try to stagger on the six month interval so people can get to appreciate both spring and late summer in the lush and scenic Santa Cruz mountains.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth Vitalis runs the Skyline trails? Yuck. The only time I want to encounter a fruitcake like her is in a box at Christmas, not on any of the local trails.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Adam Blum said...

Haters in the ultra community. Unheard of.

4:15 PM  

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