Sunday, October 26, 2008

Silicon Valley Half Marathon AND Marathon Pacing - San Jose, CA

In all honesty, this is not one of my favorite races. It runs mostly on the Los Gatos Creek Trail WHICH THEY DON'T CLOSE. Yes, that's right. For your $100 marathon fee, you get to dodge strollers and rollerbladers and even some bicycles for hours on end. I did the half marathon a couple years ago and the full marathon last year. And I thought I wouldn't do the course again. Especially as I don't do road marathons anymore, and I don't really take road races in general too seriously. Plus I am in serious back pain, going to my chiropractor almost daily. So I couldn't have too high an expectation for today.

But its convenient and I've been running well lately despite back pain. So I wanted to see what time I could run for the half and was hoping to have a good race today. My friend Charlie dropped me off at the start at 6:30am and I waited in the not too cold morning among a surprisingly small crowd (I wonder why, besides the fact that the course is not very impressive).

I planned to try to run 6:30 miles and finish in around 1:25. But after the first couple miles it was clear that I was only feeling comfortable with 6:40 miles (due to poker until midnight the night before perhaps?). So I resolved to just run under 1:30 and enjoy the day, taking pictures en route.

I got to see Ultraholic Rajeev Patel near the halfway point, cheering the Ultraholics doing the full and half marathon (Baldwyn Chieh, Ron Duncan and myself). The Los Gatos Creek Trail is absolutely overfamiliar to me of course. So it was easy to time it to finish right below 1:30 at 1:29:57 chip time (1:30:03 gun time).

After finishing I ran out to the marathon turnaround point to wait for Baldwyn Chieh. Baldwyn and I left around 1:40 on the race clock. He was on pace to qualify for Boston which was his goal today. I was hoping running him back a couple miles might help a little.

Baldwyn and I running out from Los Gatos

He seemed to be running well and held onto qualifying pace for those two miles that I was with him. As we got back onto the trail and he turned to head north I headed back to Los Gatos to meet Charlie for breakfast at Los Gatos Cafe.

After a quick delicious omelette at LG Cafe (they really do make the best omelettes in the Bay area) we headed out to meet up with Tom Kaisersatt to walk him in the last few miles. Tom is undergoing chemotherapy for fairly serious cancer right now. He is the veteran of many marathons and ultramarathons. He has done every year of the Silicon Valley Marathon. Many of the people whose lives he has touched over the past decades decided to walk him in. The Mercury News wrote an article about it yesterday.

Tom and I first met when I ran offcourse for ten miles at Woodside 50K on a day when I already had a calf injury. This was probably my toughest ultra experience. I was bonking because I had run away from aid stations and did not have enough fuel to handle going so far offcourse. I met up with Tom and he shared some potstickers with me (who else carries potstickers in an ultra?!) which made me feel much better. And he wouldn't let me quit the race (which I was pretty determined to do that day). Then he came to my Overgrown Fatass race the next week. Finally we both went to Kettle Moraine 100K this year. When I met up with the "Tom's caravan" at mile 22 I talked to Tom about our impressions of Kettle Moraine.

Walking Tom in, photo courtesy of Jean Pommier

After this I got to meet Flyin' Brian Robinson, the record holder at the world's toughest ultra: the Barkley Marathons. I talked at length with Brian and his wife Sophie about their experiences at the Barkleys and other races.

Chatting with Flyin' Brian Robinson and his wife Sophie

Eventually around mile 24 my friend Tracy came alongside. I got to run her in to her personal record in the marathon.

Running Tracy in to her PR

This was quite a funfilled and eventful morning in paradise. And I must say all the pacing (Baldwyn, Tom and Tracy) was far more fulfilling than my actual race.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Carmel Valley 25K - Carmel, CA

I hadn't run this race since 2006, when I won the short course. I was eager to try some of the tough climbs on the "back loop". This course has over 8500 feet of climbing on the 50K (two loops of the 25K) and is the second steepest PCTR course. Gary Gellin was running the 19K and I didn't recognize any of the names in the 25K. So I thought I might have a shot to win overall. No excuses handy to perform poorly except continued back pain, which hasn't really seemed to slow me down. Arriving at Garland Ranch State Park, I saw Sean Lang and Ray Sanchez at the start, who would both compete for the 50K win.

I took off with Gary Gellin and Jason Reed in hot pursuit of some pre-teen tow-headed boy. We ran out the flat trail from the center out to the hills. This was the Lupine Loop trail and after about a mile turned up quite a steep hill to get to the Mesa Trail. At the top of the hill I dropped Jason, who had beaten me for first at Santa Cruz. But today I think he was just tired after Dick Collins Firetrails last week. After another couple miles we dropped down Garzas Canyon Trail to the Carmel River. On this flat straightaway I saw Gary Gellin flying back already from the 19K (which he won with ease). After this we turned left to cross a river and reach the one course aid station. At this point the 19Kers needed to turn back and I kept going. As I arrived at the aid station and surrendered my water bottle to them temporarily, Eric Miller arrived in behind me. I picked up the pace going back out. But climbing the steep Laureles and Vasquez trails Eric was just too fast. Well fast is the wrong word. His little running mini trot up the wall face of the mountain was faster than my trot.

We bombed back down the back side of the mountain and came back down to the River Trail. It's an easy thing to do to just turn left and follow the pink ribbons right back. But runners need to turn right and get back to the aid station that the orange loop started at. I'm sure many runners made this mistake, as I saw a runner do it after I came back north from the aid station to follow the pink ribbons back. On the way back we went Garzas Canyon all the way. On this climb Ray Sanchez caught up.

We ran together from here pretty much all the way back in, although I put in a little finishing kick since I was just doing the 25K.

I finished in 2:30:04, good for third overall and first master. Eric Miller did a fine job descending apparently since he finished in 2:15, well ahead of me. Jason Reed came in seventh about 8:40 after me and said that he and Sean Lang had run between 6 and 8 minutes off course. When Sean came in he asked where Ray was. When I said "five minutes ahead" he left quickly to go hunt Ray down, which he successfully did. Whit Rambach was second in the 50K, with Ray ending up third.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Golden Hills Trail Marathon - Berkeley, CA

I like this race a lot for a number of reasons:
- its point to point. I love point to point races. Makes you feel like you're going somewhere and guarantees no boredom. I think its quite difficult psychologically to DNF in a point to point
- It's run on the same course and the same time as Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler. I'd get to be a spectator of watching elite ultrarunners such as Hal Koerner, Victor Ballesteros and Jean Pommier lay it down in the other direction (and hope that I didn't get passed by one of them on the way back as I did last year)
- It's extremely hilly with over 5800 feet of climbing on the marathon distance course. This is much hiller than the Firetrails 50 Miler which takes a slightly different route back. I love climby courses
- I had come in 9th overall and second master last year in a time of 4:14. I felt that this year, despite the car accident, I should be able to shave off quite a bit of time on that
- Its the race run by Ann Trason, the greatest woman ultrarunner ever. And she makes great soup.

I had very low expectations for performing in this race. I was rearended in a six car collision on Route 280 on Wednesday.
truck hitting the first car I was laid up the rest of the week in bed with a sore back and neck. On Friday afternoon I tried running around. And while my back and neck hurt, it didn't hurt more than sitting. So I decided to try to do the race on Saturday after all.

Last year my friend Brian had dropped me off at the start at Tilden Park. This year I drove to the start/finish at Lake Chabot (also the site of Skyline 50K and the
Lake Chabot Trail Challenge). Arriving there around 7am I then took the "bus of shame" up to Tilden Park. I say bus of shame because here we were a bunch of ultrarunners (or at least many of us on the bus were so). And instead of running up to Berkeley to run back to down Lake Chabot we were taking a BUS. I tried to feel better about it giving myself the accident as an excuse, but it was little consolation.

We got off the bus in frigid temperatures that felt to me like 40s but was probably low 50s. There was a small shred of sunlight poking through the trees and I tried to warm myself in it. I chatted with Leor, who had won this last year and set the course record in an incredible 3:19 and change.

We started out and I fell into the lead pack with Leor, Rob Elia and Ron Gutierrez. Leor quickly peeled off of us after about half a mile. I hung with Rob and Ron for a while but eventually my back started spasming and I had to stop and self-massage. Gerell Elliott came up alongside and we ran together for a while. He was a road marathoner tackling his first trail marathon. I hung with him until the next aid but he eventually pulled away. At we approached the second aid station at Sibley Park (7.6 miles), Alex Vaz-Waddington started chasing me down. He came into Sibley at right around the same time. I took with a quick break and headed back out for the 3.5 miles to Skyline Gate. Not stopping at Skyline I thought I had opened up a lead on Alex. As we bombed down the hill off of West Ridge onto the French Trail he seemed to catch up. I had to drop him on the steep climbs of the French Trail.

From there I was never really pursued until Caren Spore started catching me on the climbs of the MacDonald Trail. I'm a big fan of Caren's so I relished the opportunity to run with her. We got into mile 20 at Bort Meadows at the same time. We bombed down from that aid station to the Brandon Trail for the last 10K of the run. We hit that aid station at 3 hours even, so I new Karen was in good shape to challenge for the women's record of 3:49 set by Sarah Lavender Smith the previous year. I resolved to knock out some 8 minute miles with her to set her up for the record. We reached Bass Cove Aid Station at Mile 23.2 at 3:25. Eight miles the rest of the way would make the record for Caren. I told Caren to go do it and run ahead, while I knew I would be happy with 9 minute miles and a 3:52 finish.

I knocked out those 9 minute miles on those last few hilly miles, hoping that Caren would run 8:00 miles and not 8:01 miles. And indeed it took me 27 minutes for the last few miles, and I finished in 3:52. This was sixth overall and third master (last year it would have been fourth overall and second master). Caren missed the women's record by three seconds.

I hung around in the gorgeous East Bay sunshine, eating Ann's soup, drinking beer, icing my aching back, and cheering other Ultraholics in. These include Jean Pommier (third overall), Sean Lang, and Rajeev Patel. Jean had come in third and Sean was ninth. I introduced myself to Hal Koerner and got the updates on his recent racing. It always amazes me how approachable the stars of this sport are. Then I headed back to the South Bay for some bedrest for my back.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Lost Tunnels to Santa Cruz Run - November 1st

The Lost Tunnels to Santa Cruz run will start at 8am on Saturday, November 1st, the day after Halloween. This is an unorganized free, "run at your own risk" fatass run. Experienced ultrarunners only should be participating. Its about 50K (31 miles) total with some form of aid at mile 11 and a stop in Felton at mile 21 for coffee and carbohydrates. See the previous Lost Tunnels post for pictures and more detailed description of the route. Below are more concise turn by turn directions.

Start - Portal #1

We'll meet at the Wright's Station Tunnel at the Los Gatos Creek bridge on Wrights Station Road at 9am.

View Larger Map

To get there take the Summit Road exit east and take a left on Morrill Road. Make a left on Wrights Station and take it down to the Los Gatos Creek bridge. There's parking just before the bridge.

To Portals #2 and #3

  • Wright's Station Road south to right on Morrill Road
  • Morrill Road to Summit Road
  • Summit Road to left on Summit Canyon Road
  • Left on Summit Canyon Road to where it turns into logging road
  • Down the logging road veering right at the first major fork to get down to portal #2
  • Climb up from the tunnel onto the railroad bed
  • Continue on the railroad bed for two miles under and over trees until you get to a ravine with a house on the other side
  • Go down and up the ravine and you'll get on a wider trail that takes you right into Laurel and Portal #3

Distance: 5 mi

To Portals #4 and #5

  • Run down Laurel Road until it hits route 17.
  • Cross route 17 and run on the right shoulder Route 17 for 1/3 mile (not that pleasant but I think this is the only "bad patch" of the run) until you get to Glenwood Cutoff.
  • Make a right on Glenwood Cutoff and head down to Glenwood Road. I will try to arrange for some form of aid station or car here.
  • Make a right on Glenwood Road and go up to Eagle Road to see portal #4
  • Turn back around and head back down Glenwood Road past Glenwood Cutoff (and the aid car) to the
    driveway on the right that connects to the railroad grade
  • There you'll see portal #5. From here its pretty much all trail (the next 20 miles) to Santa Cruz.

Distance: 11 miles

To Portals #6, #7 and the Railroad Tracks

  • Bushwhack up the hill past the tunnel entrance to Mountain Charlie Road
  • Go down Old Schoolhouse Road to the end
  • Veer left down the driveway onto the railroad grade
  • Take a right at the fork and go past the underbrush to the tunnel, which is portal #6
  • Turn back around and head due west staying to the right (don't go back up the hill) en route to Zayante. You'll be on the old railroad grade for about four miles
  • Stay straight and take the singletrack up the hill to the Zayante Tunnel, portal #7
  • Go around the hill to the right and up to the top which is Old Kenville Road
  • Continue down this road to a left turn on Zayante Schoolhouse Road
  • Run about 100 yards on Zayante Schoolhouse and look for the no trespassing fence on your right.
  • Go past that fence and you'll see the tracks. This is about halfway and its pretty easy to follow from here out. I suggest sticking together as much as possible for the first half. From here on anyone who wants to blaze shouldn't have problems navigating on their own (especially those who've done PCTR Santa Cruz before)

Distance: 16 miles

Start of Tracks to Felton

  • Run the tracks past the fire station, over the suspended bridge, through Roaring Camp, then across another bridge to the crossing with Graham Hill Road
  • Make a right on Graham Hill Road and run over to the Route 9 intersection
  • Make a left turn and you'll see the White Raven coffeeshop on the right. Stop for coffee and carbs.

Distance: 21 miles

Felton to Santa Cruz on the PCTR Santa Cruz Course

  • Run down route 9 to the Henry Cowell entrance
  • Make a left and follow the signs to the River Trail.
  • At the River Trail you're now on the Pacific Coast Trail Runs Santa Cruz course.
  • Note that if you get back onto the railroad tracks while in the park you can shave off a couple miles at the expense of not as scenic a run.
  • Take the River Trail to the Rincon Fireroad down to the San Lorenzo River
  • Cross the river and go back up the Rincon Fireroad to Route 9
  • Cross over to the Rincon Connector which connects to the Spring Trail
  • Take the Spring Trail to Lookout Trail on your left
  • Take Lookout Trail down to Harvey West Trail and Harvey West park
  • From Harvey West Park you take a left on Dubois and then a right on Encinal to get back on Route 9
  • Route 9 turns into River Street at Route 1. Follow River Street to Front Street until it turns into Pacific. Pacific will take you to the wharf.

Distance: 31 miles (50K)