Monday, August 25, 2008

Salt Point 26K - Jenner, CA

This is one of PCTR's most beautiful courses. It is held in Salt Point State Park, and in classic PCTR fashion runs from the beach up into the hills in a very short time. Along the way you pass on singletrack through coastal woods, forests of pine on the ridge, an open prairie, more woods, a steep bomb of a descent, country roads past horse farms, out onto the coastal bluffs buffeted by wind and waves, before finally finishing at the park campground. I did the 11K in 2006, got lost as usual, and finished third in 1:06.

I was looking forward to not getting lost and enjoying more of the scenery in the two loops and 26K (16 miles) that I would get to do on this visit. I got there an hour early, chatted with Chuck Wilson, who was there to the 50K. I also got to meet Jasper Halekas, among the more modest unassuming world class ultrarunners that there are. I congratulated him (a year late) on his Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile record and the accompanying movie (a little cheesy but still a must see for serious West Coast ultrarunners). I also filled him in on some of the details of Erik Skaden and Michael Wolfe's attempt to beat that record last month (they did not succeed).

Ray Sanchez, Jasper Halekas, Bryan Wyatt and myself at the start

At the starting line I greeted Ray Sanchez, doing his second race of the weekend a day after doing the Headlands 50K. Apparently he injured himself at PCTR's Headlands 50M and was wearing a knee bandage that looked like it couldn't possibly have any effect. I saw Gary Gellin at the start as well. Gary is much faster than I am so I knew I wasn't going for the win today.

Still, I went out hard with all the leaders out the fireroad and the left turn onto the singletrack. I stayed with Jasper and a few of the 26K leaders all the way up that first climb (Gary was way out in front of all of us). On the flats of the ridgeline Jasper and three others pulled ahead. As we hit the lone aid station on that first 15K loop, and I was filling my water bottle, Mario Jackson (second in the 50K) pulled ahead. After bombing down some more and crossing the road, I entered the ocean side of the park. There was an intriguingly precipitous rocky descent into a small ravine, and a climb back out onto another bluff. Then it was another two miles or so along the ocean back to the start/finish area. I got in there at 1:22, surrendered my water bottle, and grabbed a Red Bull and kept going. I felt great this whole time. On the second smaller 11K loop, I tacked on a 1:06 (right around the time of my 11K two years ago) and finished in 1:28. This was fifth overall and first master (40-49).

Jane had a delicious Lagunitas IPA waiting for me. I sat quaffing the ale and chatting with Gary Gellin about local South Bay trails while we waited to cheer other runners in. Gary had finished the 26K in an incredible 1:58 for the course record. He turns 40 next year and I'm trying to convince him to go back to the cycling world before that happens.

While sitting there enjoying the morming we saw that Bryan Wyatt came in ahead of Ray Sanchez on his first loop, but Ray would pass him en route to come in third. Jasper would finish the 50K in an incredible 4:16.

We then headed off for a leisurely ocean drive back south on Route 1.


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