Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Original Fat Ass 50K - Saratoga Gap, CA

Well I'm holding my own fat ass race (free, unorganized, winter trail run) in a couple weeks. So how could I not do the original Fat Ass 50K held at Saratoga Gap (where Route 9 meets Skyline) only 15 miles from my house also located at the summit of the Santa Cruz mountains? It was first held by Joe Oakes in the early 1980s, and the RD mantle passed on to David Kamp when Joe moved to Oregon.

This year, the day broke cold but sunny and beautiful. I wended my way up the twisty Skyline Drive from my perch in the mountains south of the Gap, getting to the race a few minutes before 8 am. Race director Dave Kamp, Steve Patt, Keith Blom, Christine Miller and a few others were there.


I was a bit nervous about running this as I am directionally challenged even on a "real race marked course". On an unofficial course which would no doubt have recently downed trees from large winter storms that we've had in the Bay area in January, I was pretty sure that this race would stress my meager orienteering skills. Luckily Keith Blom was there, and we generally run about the same speed (though I think he's a bit faster). So I at least would have a partner in figuring out where to turn.

We headed up the Skyline Trail to the Hickory Oats Trail. This is the same route as the middle miles of the Stevens Creek 50K.


Then down down down the Slate Creek Trail. There were several possible offshoot trails. But someone, presumably Dave Kamp, had subtly arranged sticks into directional arrows as clues to the right way to go. We eventually reached a park maintenance area which had water. We ran into early starters Mylinh Nguyen and Chau Pham. I congratulated them on their recent Ultrarunning magazine profile and invited them to the LG Fatass on February 10th.

After some water and a snack we left the camp area, crossed over Old Haul Road and found the Portola Trail. We climbed up the slope hitting the Butano Ridge trail, while Keith regaled the newbie ultra guy (me) with stories of his many 100 miler exploits (love the one about sprinting from No Hands Bridge to finish WS in 24 hours).

Finally reaching the top we headed down the Basin Trail. We stopped occasionally to try to figure out the right path.

Once we reached China Grade road Winnie and Lee Jebian's van was parked with snacks and water set out. After partaking of both, I left my jacket and gloves and we set out into Big Basin on the Basin Trail. It was plenty warm by this time - I was sweating and a bit concerned by my lack of electrolyte pills.


Shortly we ran across Winnie and Lee doing trail work. We kept going and soon enough lost the trail markings. The Jebians happened to come up and they helped us find the right path. Once on that path it undulated up and down and eventually across some lunar like rock formations. I had raced on these in some runs held by Redwood Trails. Not too fun in light shoes, but at least we were generally going uphill by that time.

Eventually we hit the long sought Skyline to the Sea Trail and commenced the upward climb. We came out onto Route 9 at Waterman's Gap, and it wasn't quite clear where exactly to go.


We eventually found the trail off to the right and began the run upwards. With a little over two miles to go, my oft-injured left calf started to cramp up (so much for no need for electrolytes on a seemingly cold day) and I had to let Keith go on ahead. Shortly afterwards, the trail let out onto route 9 again and I couldn't quite see where to continue back onto the trail. I ran the last two miles on the road, finishing just as Keith arrived at Saratoga Gap as well. Clearly the road was a bit shorter and avoided some hills. Keith recorded my time as a couple minutes after his: 5:47. Whit Rambach came in a few minutes later. He had apparently started at 8:15am, so it appeared that he was the "winner" (shortest time) by 10 minutes or so. By this reckoning, I guess I was third, though relative place is somewhat irrelevant in a fatass run (especially one with stops to figure out trail markings every few miles). Overall, I was happy with the early season running on a hilly (7600 feet of climbing) and tree-obstructed course. It was a great race on a beautiful day in, I believe, one of the most beautiful places to run in the country.

Thanks to Dave Kamp for his above-the-call-of-duty course markings and continuing to host this historic event.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More 2007 Retrospective and 2008 Plan

Chihping Fu "tagged" me with a list of questions about the past race season. Its a better format than my original 2007 retrospective post.

1. most memorable moment on the trails
North Face Endurance Challenge 50K in Seattle. A brutal challenging course with over 10K of climbing. It was when "endurance running" seemed to finally click for me. It felt like I could just keep on climbing. I finished wanting more.

2. best new trail discovered
I discovered more new trails surrounding my house in the Los Gatos hills, but those will remain secret. But as far as racecourses, I love the trails and mountains of the White River 50, which I did for the first time this year.

3. best performance
North Face Endurance (second master, seventh overall) was the best ultra. My overall win and masters record at Mount Diablo 8K was probably my best executed race.

4. don't know how I survived without
Support from my crew, at the 50 milers.

5. person who I would most like to meet
Karl Meltzer. He races often. Does very "climby" courses. Doesn't seem to rely purely on footspeed. Writes a great blog.

6. race I am most excited about
My first 100 miler: Kettle Moraine in June.

On that topic, my race schedule for 2008 is shaping up. I'm doing a bunch of local 50Ks until March. Then Napa Valley Marathon on March 2nd, my only road marathon besides Boston. Then off to Kentucky on March 8th to do the Land Between the Lakes 50 Miler and visit with my dad. The next week I'm headed up to Bellingham WA to do Chuckanut (my first ultra last year) again this year.

April is the North Face 50M in Bear Mountain NY, followed by the Boston Marathon. Then Capitol Peak 50M in Olympia, Washington. May is the Quicksilver 50K on my birthday, and then Ohlone 50K the following week (this back to back was admittedly tough last year). After a few weeks rest, in June I'll be flying to Madison, Wisconsin to do Kettle Moraine 100.

After that race, just one more race and I'll be doing Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. Then a couple more races in August followed by the Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota. Then trips to DC in September for the North Face Endurance 50 and the Great Eastern Endurance Run. From then on just local lowkey ultras for the rest of the year.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Los Gatos Fatass Run

Update on participants on 2/5
Whew - way more people than expected. I guess the South Bay does need some more trail runs. If you're coming and not in this list, please post a reply on the forum or send me an email.

Frank Kochinke
Lourdes Cardona
Jon Burg
Patrick Schuck
Mike Schuck
Jim Harrison
Sean Lang
Vladimir Gusiatnikov
Marco Casado
Beth Vitalis and Joe (her boyfriend)
Ryan Commons
Keith Blom
Christine Miller and Chuck Wilson
Keith Lubliner
Jim Magill
Tony Ngugen
Kyle Dando
Brian Hawkinson
Jill Mitsch
John Burton
Charles DeGraw
Adam Blum
Lynn (SJ Running Meetup)
Taylor Valentino
Tom Kaisersatt
Haiming Yu and Dirk (early starters)
Jenny Chang

Update on parking on 2/3: There are more people than I expected signed up. If the residential street parking on Jones Road fills up, I suggest driving back to College Avenue and parking in the lot behind Fumare Cigar Lounge. There should be plenty of room there.
Update on 1/12: I ran the trail this morning. Its not 1.4 miles from Limekiln Trailhead to Priest Rock intersection. Its actually 2.0 (per the GPS of Keith Lubliner). So, after removing the Novitiate Trail dogleg, the total distance is now 26.6 miles. Also, I was asked for a shorter distance option, so there is now an 7.6 mile (12K) option as well.

I want to encourage more trail and ultraruns on my beautiful local South Bay trails. The only ultra in the South Bay that I'm aware of is the Quicksilver 50K. I also want to keep up the "marathon or ultra per week" pace I've been doing, and there's nothing local on February 10th. So on that date I'll be putting together a small Fatass (free, unorganized) Run on the trails above Los Gatos, with marathon, half-marathon (22K) and 12K options.

Date: Sunday, February 10th
Time: 9:00am
Directions to start:
Take 17 South to Los Gatos downtown (Route 9) exit. Head west on Route 9. Make first
left on University Avenue (driving map from google maps below is slightly different but it works too). Make a left at the deadend on Main Street. Make a right on College Avenue. Make a right on Jones Road and continue until it deadends at the trailhead.

Cost: FREE
Aid/Food:Water at the 4.3 mile mark (Limekiln/Priestrock intersection) for all distances. Water/sports drink at marathon turnaround on Hicks Road. There will also be some snacks at the finish.
Other Frills/Awards/T-shirts: NONE
Results/Timing:We have a volunteer collecting times at the finish for me to post.
RSVP/Questions/Volunteers:Would be useful to have some kind of headcount to know how much sports drink to have available. So email me if you're planning to be there or have any questions. If you want to volunteer, even better.
Marathon Route:
Jones Road Trailhead of Jones Trail to dam – 1.2 m
Alma Bridge Road to Limekiln Trailhead – 0.6
Limekiln to Priestrock Trail – 2.0 (AID STATION - water)
Continue on Limekiln to Woods Trail – 3.0
Woods Trail to Hicks Road – 6.5 (AID STATION - water, sports drink)
Return on Woods Trail to Limekiln Trail – 6.5
Left on Limekiln Trail to Priest Rock Trail – 3.0
Continue on Limekiln Trail to Alma Bridge Road – 2.0
Right on Alma Bridge to Jones Trailhead – 0.6
Right on Jones Trail back to town - 1.2
Total: 26.6 miles (in the fine trailrunning tradition, you're running slightly long)

"Half Marathon+" (22K) Option:
Jones Road Trailhead of Jones Trail to Dam – 1.2 m
Alma Bridge Road to Limekiln Trailhead – 0.6
Limekiln to Priestrock Trail – 2.0
Continue on Limekiln to Woods Trail intersection – 3.0
Turn around and return to Jones Trailhead via the same route - 6.8
Total: 13.6 miles

12K Option
Jones Road Trailhead of Jones Trail to Dam – 1.2 m
Alma Bridge Road to Limekiln Trailhead – 0.6
Limekiln to Priestrock Trail – 2.0
Turn around and return on same route - 3.8
Total: 7.6 miles (12K)

Detail of start/finish on Jones Trail

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Epiphany Ultra

Don Medinger, publisher of UltraRunner, hosts this fatass (free, unorganized) race on the Skyline firetrails (on a course also used for Dick Castro Firetrails 50M, the Golden Hills Trail Marathon, and the Skyline 50K) above Berkeley to celebrate his birthday each year, around the Feast of the Epiphany (hence the race name). He used to do it as a mile per year until 2001 when it reached 50 miles. Now its 1K per year, so this year was a 57K. Runners can show up whenever they like and track their own time.

I decided to just run a marathon. I arrived at the start at Skyline Gate above Berkeley at 8am. Although we'd been having hurricane rains for a couple of days (I had no power when I left my house), it was a clear beautiful day to start. I wasn't quite sure of the course when I got there (most people had started at 7am). So I made up a course around the periphery of Redwood Regional Park. This one was quite hilly, up and down the ridgelines. I got back to Skyline Gate at 10:20 and signed onto a rain-soaked clipboard (by this time the rains had started again). Then I figured out what the real course was supposed to be and ran straight out the stream trail all the way through the park, to the MacDonald Landing. Then up the hill towards Lake Chabot. I ran into Chuck Wilson at the 57K turnaround and ran back with him for a while. It started to really rain heavily. I slogged back through the muck and mud to the Skyline Gate at 12:32. Chuck had told me that the 57K turnaround was 5.5 miles from the start. So I "owed" two more miles. I ran out one mile on the West Ridge Trail passing Caren Spore (who was also making up her own 19 mile route and starting late) and turned backaround. I finished the first marathon of the year at 4:47:50.

Fatass races are fun. But I don't like to drive so far for them. I need them to catch on in the South Bay. Ironically enough, the first Fatass ever was supposedly in Los Altos, but it seems to be inconsistently held recently. Supposedly its running this year on January 19th. But most ultrarunners I know will be at the Pacific Coast Trail Runs Pacifica run that day.