Saturday, October 20, 2007

San Francisco 12 Hour - San Francisco CA

This race is held on a one mile loop around Crissy Field in San Francisco. I was always a little dubious about such "multihour events" around a loop course. But it seems to be a popular way for ultrarunners to get some mileage in before big races. Given that there were no local ultras this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to try this.

It was great weather for it with the sun shining down on the San Francisco Bay shortly after race start. I dialed into an 8:20/mile pace and tuned into the iPod, which I usually avoid when out on the trails. On each lap we ran west on Marina Boulevard to the edge of the lake, out towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

The wind was coming from the ocean the whole day at a good clip, so this stretch was tough each time. Turning right we ascended a small hill and then turned right again on a dirt path back to the start area.

It was nice to be able to stop at my bag after each lap, pick up water bottles, drop off excess clothing and grab snacks. After I finished my first water bottle a few laps in, I saw Keith Blom there, crewing for his wife. He kindly offered to refill my bottle for the next lap and kept it up for the whole race.

For the first hour or so, I just enjoyed the beautiful day: the views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the sailboats, the happy San Franciscans enjoying Indian summer.

But after about an hour the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walkathon started up _on the same course_. This was a bit shocking as the walkers of course didn't respect the cones that were set out for the runners.

After twenty miles the repetition and the half mile of asphalt bike path pounding removed the remainder of my enthusiasm about the race. I resolved to just stop after a full marathon, which was 26 laps since each lap was slightly more than a mile. If I had known that I was just going to do a marathon I might have done faster laps. But I wasn't going to set a PR regardless as there was just too much wind. As I got to the 26th lap, I realized I had less than 8 minutes to finish under 4 hours. So I kicked in a 7 minute lap to finish in 3:59:15.

So, it was probably a good 26 mile workout on a beautiful day. And I learned that lap courses are not for me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Golden Hills Trail Marathon - Berkeley, CA

Ann Trason organizes this race to take place on the same day as the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler. It runs in the same general area as the Skyline 50K (see earlier posts) and, like Skyline, finishes at Lake Chabot Regional Park. My friend Brian volunteered to help Ann at the race, so he also volunteered to drop me off at the start at Tilden Park north of Berkeley.

It was a beautiful cold morning but the rains from the previous day had left the trail visibly muddy. There were several miles of muddy trails to be navigated at the beginning. It really isn't something I'm used and I churned slowly along throught he mud. Wendell Doman (organizer of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs) yelled at me to go faster as he started catching up to me. I sped up as the trails started drying out. I felt great today and ran all of the hills. The only part I didn't like was the hardpack fireroad going down to mile 20. As at Skyline 50K, I slowed quite a bit there to save pounding on my knees. Around mile 23 you get to the Bass Cove Aid Station and run around the south side of the lake.

I finished strong near the end passing several runners in the process. I finished 9th and second master in 4:14:15. Leor Pantilat, who I had raced with at Cle Elum a couple weeks back, won overall and set the course record at 3:19:19. Sarah Lavender Smith was second overall and set the woman's course record.

With Brian entering scores, I hung around in the Indian summer sunshine for the excellent post-race feed and Hefeweizen. A perfect way to spend a crisp sunny October day in the beautiful East bay hills.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

North Face Endurance 50K - Bellevue, WA

This was the first year of a series of races in Washington, DC, Iowa and Seattle, designed to promote trail racing to newcomers. With a championship in San Francisco in December, they introduced the largest prize purse in the sport: $10,000 to the overall winner of the 50 Mile Series.

This race starts and finishes at the Sky Mountain Trailhead in Bellevue, in the heart of Eastside Seattle-area suburbia. Seattle runners are lucky enough to have both Cougar Mountain and Squak Mountain in easy reach. 75 runners gathered for the 50K before the 8am start, in the cold drizzle. Runners gathered around space heaters and underneath tents until the race began. Although a complicated course the trail was extremely well marked, and had aid stations stocked with Accelerade and food every four or five miles.

The course had a quite a bit of climbing, over Cougar and Squak Mountains and back. Its a style of race that I like quite a bit. I don't remember walking any of the hills. I finished seventh overall and second master at 5:54, and first master was Tim Twietmeyer himself (the guy in all the North Face ads that Dean isn't in). Age group winners got free Zune MP3 players! Hey Tim, don't you think they would have given you a free Zune just for being on the North Face promo material!

This was a very well organized race. Since their final race in the series is in San Francisco December 1st. I'm tempted to skip the Vegas Marathon on the 2nd to do that race instead.