Saturday, December 20, 2008

season finale doubleheader: PCTR Muir Beach and Rodeo Beach

Pacific Coast Trail Runs saves some of their most beautiful courses, Muir and Rodeo Beaches in the Marin Headlands, for the end of the year. For the last several years I've done some combination of Muir Beach and Rodeo Beach. Its a brutal duo, mostly induced by that last bomb down the hill at Muir Beach (which shreds my calf every year I do it) followed by Rodeo Beach's extreme climb up the Coastal Trail off of the beach. Last year the calf injury I got at Muir exacerbated by the Rodeo Beach climb had me limping for months afterwards - I was hoping to avoid the same fate this year.

I got to Muir Beach on the morning of the 13th and ran the mile into the park that non carpoolers had to do. I chatted with both Will Gotthardt and Ryan Commons as they prepared for what I thought would be an epic battle for the PCTR ultra series overall championship. Ryan had a few points on Will but doesn't like back to back races. So I thought Will had a shot. I also saw Ralph Lewis at the starting line. He was doing the 10K so I had one less speedster to fight in the 17K.

I took off hard up the first steep hill of the Pirates Cove Coastal Road. But Tom Knauer, Ryan, Caitlin Smith, and Alex Street passed me regardless early on. On the single track climb to the ridge a couple other guys passed me, but I repassed them as we descended to the Tennessee Valley trail and aid station. After this aid, Nathan Yanko passed me moving very quickly up the Marincello Trail, passing Ryan and Caitlin (who I could still see close up ahead) as well. We made the turn off of Marincello onto the Bobcat trail to connect to the Miwok trail. As we got back onto the Old Springs Trail single track I saw Tom Knauer up ahead. I passed him bombing down to the Tennessee Valley aid station. From there I lost a little time confused on where to go from there (why I am confused after so many years doing this race I'll never know). Finally I figured it was back the Tennessee Valley trail to the Fox Trail. On this climb, I saw Tom Knauer catching up at the apex, and sped up on the bomb down this trai to try to lose him. Once I did I slowed down to save my legs for next week. But Wayne Chan flew by me in the last half mile at quite a clip. I tried giving chase but realized I was guaranteed to injure myself doing that. As it was my Garmin 405 said I was doing sub 5 minute miles in the last stretch - too dangerous on that steep decline and I definitely felt the pain of it afterwards. I ended up finishing seven seconds behind him in 1:26:14, good for fifth and first master. Five points more to the PCTR series or 71 overall. Ryan would get a few more points with another top ten finish and Will would drop with back problems. So the ultra series goes to Ryan. Frequent middle distance competitor Jason Reed, duels chronicled in previous blog posts, would win the 50K today. Way to go Jason!

My calf was indeed again sore this year, but not really injured seriously. I got a couple electrical stimulation treatments from my chiropractor, Elite Chiropractic, and a couple massages. And I continued to run (probably too much). By Saturday I felt I could gut out one last race for the year. A first or second place with a noshow by Jeff Emery would win the overall PCTR trail series for the year. But any points (top ten) whatsoever would give me second place, since my friend Gary Gellin was taking a week off after a hard race in the masters national cross country championship last week. I took off hard at the start, and I hung on the shoulder of the leader (the amazingly fast 52 year old Brian Pilcher). We went through one tunnel and crossed a field back onto the Coastal Road switchback.

But as we came up the road, a group of several runners came out ahead of us from the right. This included Jeff Emery and Caitlin Smith. "Where did you guys come from?" I asked. "You guys went the wrong way", Jeff said. Brian sprinted out ahead of them and I tried to just tuck in behind.

"OK, Jeff's here after all. Now the important thing is to just finish top ten. Take it easy and don't get injured" I said to myself. As I mused on this, Paul Taylor flew by me as fast as I've ever seen him run. As we came down the singletrack Old Springs Trail to the aid station, Alistair Adams came alongside. We both came into the aid station at the same time. I tried to keep going on what was the 50K course but Alistair shouted at me to doubleback and follow them (thanks Alistair!). It turns out that Brian Pilcher had made the same mistake and he came out onto the Marincello Trail as we were climbing it as well.

Brian flew past us up the hill and I tried to give chase, leaving Alistair and Paul behind (but probably not too far behind). A couple minutes later Alexander Gaber passed me as well. But I kept him in sight on the climb. As we approached the turnoff for the single track Alta Trail I caught up to him. Alexander kept going and missed the turnoff but I shouted at him to come back and follow. He realized his mistake and turned back. At this point I turned on the jets as I hate being passed more than halfway into the race. He stayed about a minute back for most of the rest of the race. I finished in 1:33 even, good for sixth overall. I was very pleased to run 7:34 miles in those hills (2200 feet of climbing in 12 miles) and just glad I wasn't injured. Alex came in shortly afterwards followed closely Paul Taylor and Alistair Adams.

A fun season overall. Very happy to come in second overall in the trail series and first master. I can't wait for a break from running: snowboarding and snowshoeing (wait is that running?) for the next week at Squaw (Tahoe) and Crystal Mountain (Seattle). Congratulations to Jeff Emery on his overall win! And a big congratulations to other PCTR series winners, including Ryan Commons who won the ultra division overall.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

trail shoes

I got asked recently for my opinion on good trail shoes. The following nine shoes are my tried and true stalwarts.

Left to right starting with the first row here they are:

(first row, left to right)

New Balance 790s - absolute my one goto shoe. Most Bay area trail races are actually lots of fireroad without too many rocks or bushwhacking. Its a minimalist shoe but more than enough tread for most needs. I actually have multiple pairs of them, one with the heels cut off for even lower profile. The big disadvantage of 790s is they wear out almost instantly.

New Balance 840s - this is a new shoe that I bought recently. It has become my favorite on my "home trail loop" which has lots of bushwhacking, treacherous downhills and challenging uphills with loose scree.

New Balance 800s - good for longer course with rocks and pounding hard pack. I often use them early in very long races (50 miles and longer)

(second row, left to right)
New Balance 811s (can you tell I like New Balance yet?) - I have done a bunch of "snow running" and deep mud running in these and enjoyed it. Otherwise way too heavy a shoe for me.

North Face Hydro Trak - great for running in rain, water and rivers. They are basically mesh and don't absorb water. I have a couple runs locally that involve long river runs. These are perfect for them.

Nike Free Trail 3.0 - great for training in a minimalist shoe. Don't race in them and don't run too often in them. But for occasional training and building foot strength they are great.

(last row, left to right)
La Sportiva Maxum Ridge - a beefy stiff shoe. Great for running with orthotics when you need a stiff sole. Great for running or hiking in snow (better even than the 811s)

Nike ACG Ascents - similar to the NB 811s in many ways: good for mud and light snow Probably prefer the 811s over these nowadays mostly since NB fits me so well.

Salomon - I just love the snug lacing system, light overall weight and yet still aggressive tread pattern. Now that the 840s are out I'm not using the Salomons much.

Overall my favorite is still the New Balance 790. But I like the NB 840s as well. And overall I could do over 90% of my running with the pair of these shoes.

PCTR Woodside 17K - Woodside, CA

The PCTR season is winding down with three races in December. Huddart Park in Woodside is a favorite training run haunt and I've done the various race distances on the Crystal Springs and Chinquapin Trails many times. This varied from a course record in the 10K in 2005 (since then the course has changed) to a disastrous offcourse injured 50K last February where I was last but got to meet Tom Kaisersatt and experience ultras in a whole new way.

Today I just wanted to get a few points towards the overall trail series (I clinched the masters division in October). Right now Jeff Emery is leading with 78 points. Jason Wolf has 70 points. My much faster friend Gary Gellin has 62 points and I'm sitting at fourth with 60 points. Some third and second place finishes for this and Muir Beach and Rodeo Beach over the next few weeks would at least put me in contention for the overall series.

I got there in time to watch Leor Pantilat, Will Gotthardt, Scott Dunlap and Jason Reed take off on the 50K at 8:30. Tom Kaisersatt was also there at the start to support other ultrarunners, classy guy that he is. Chatting with him, he seems to remain in good spirits despite his ongoing battle with cancer. He's also going to be at the start of the Los Gatos Overgrown Fatass that Sean Lang and I are holding on February 8th this year.

Then at 9:00 my frequent short distance rival Ralph Lewis lined up for the 10K. While waiting for my race to start I drank some Coke as it was the only liquid around I could find. I figured my intolerance for sugar wouldn't be an issue on such a short race. I would be wrong. While I was foolishly downing my soda, Paul Taylor and Alistair Adams (frequent masters age group rivals at PCTR races) arrived on their bikes! Impressive guys. I said "well when you beat me today I guess you'll really own me".

Then finally at 9:15 I lined up with Gary, Paul and Alistair for the 17K. Alistair took off like a shot trying to follow Gary down the Bay Tree trail. I took it easy and just stayed within sight of Paul Taylor. Finally down on Richards Road I fell in alongside Paul and we chatted about the season and past races. When I saw Alistair up ahead on the climb I took off to catch up. Alistair seemed to be suffering, said to go ahead so I took the left onto Chaparral on my own and sprinted out to the Crystal Springs trail climb. I really like this part of the Woodside course. The climb just keeps going and going and going with lots of "false summits'. Most runners seem to flag at some point during the ascent. As I got within a mile or two of the King Mountain Road aid station and turnaround I had to stop and hurl from the Coke and pretzels I had stupidly ingested before the start. It was not a quick affair and at least five runners, including Paul and a guy named Scott Smith who was just behind me on most of the climb, passed me while I was prostrate.

But feeling better, I resolved to try to catch up. I got to the aid station just behind Paul and took off back down the hill to the Dean Trail. Paul let me go ahead of him through the gate. And I took off after Scott Smith, who was about a minute ahead. I steadily reeled Scott in on the descent and managed to put a little distance between Paul and I. I thought we were on pace for about a 1:25 finish. So when I was 15 seconds away at the 1:20 mark, I thought I would be fine putting in a kick to at least make it a fight for second place. Then I heard a cheer and it was clear we were coming to the finish much sooner than I thought. I put in a desperate kick at that point but I finished 10 seconds off in third place in 1:21:25.

Another six points for a total of 66 points. Still in fourth place but now only 12 points off first place with two races remaining. A couple second places would give me 82 points, which is probably what Gary will end up with as well.

Paul came in shortly afterwards in 1:22:59 with Alistair about 10 seconds off of him. This was pretty close to a repeat of the Big Basin 20K back in April.

I stayed around chatting with Gary, Paul, Alistair, Ralph and watching more finishers. Ralph was third in the 10K in a respectable 50:48, especially as he is dealing with a groin pull (this was the toughest injury I've ever had to recover from). Leor would end up a rare second place to Keith Bechtol who did the 50K in an incredible 3:36.