Monday, February 27, 2012

Lake Chabot 30K

Was it really February? A year ago we'd feared Redwood Creek 50K would be canceled due to snow. This year, I was debating whether to wear my short sleeve or tank top for the Lake Chabot 30K, as the predicted weather was "in the sunny 60s".

I got to Lake Chabot with plenty of time to pose for a photo with Coach Ken and his wife, Karen. Karen has been training up a storm for American River 50, so the question was, who would win the 50K? Experience (Ken) or training (Karen)? I said it was too close to call, but I would try to finish the 30K loop first!

The first three miles were on the flat around the lake and went by very quickly with Karen & I gossiping and catching up. The race course was the best I'd ever seen for bathroom opportunities. As the lake is a drinking water reservoir, every 1/4 mile seemed to be another outhouse, to encourage bathroom usage. Ken ducked into use one and Karen and I passed him.

We veered off the lake and entered a steep ascent where I dropped to a walk, then a series of rolling hills up to the 5.4 mile aid station. The trail was a groomed, non-technical dirt, with the shade of the Eucalyptous keeping the climb from getting too hot. Karen and Ken and I leap frogged a few times. I got into the 5.4 mile station at ~60 minutes. I was doing well!

After the aid station, another few rolling miles where I worried I'd missed the turn-off from the yellow (20K) to the orange 10K loop. At the start, a runner had asked "Will there be a human to monitor the turn". Answer: no. I passed a women runner who said she'd seen an orange ribbon, but nowhere to turn. I yelled ahead to Karen, but she said she hadn't seen the turn. When I saw the turn, I thought it would have been impossible to miss it--both sides of the turn trail were heavily orange, and there was a sawhorse.

The orange loop was surprisingly scenic. The hills were a lush green, the trail was very runnable, and there were even some cattle gates (but no cattle) to break up the monotony. The only issue was I had to go to the bathroom, but we were off the lake, and no more bathrooms! We came up to a stable and there was the nicest bathroom I've ever seen on a race course. Running water (hot and cold) A flush toilet. Toilet paper! There was even a worn oriental rug, and a small bonsai by the door. I refilled my water bottle and headed out, just as Karen almost passed me.

The rest of the race went by all too quickly. Back to the yellow loop, where I passed Ken at the aid station. The aid station volunteer said there was only around 4 1/2 miles left. Wow! I would finish well under four hours. The rest of the course was very smooth, with a couple quick 50 foot climbs. I started trying to pick off runners. The only issue was there were no runners to pick off! I saw a pair in the distance, and passed them.

On the final mile back to the marina and finish, I flashed back to my…very first trail race, at Lake Chabot, probably back in 2002 or 2003. I'd not met my goal of 2:00 at the SF Half Marathon, so entered Lake Chabot Half hoping to better my time. I hadn't factored in the hills or trails. I didn't carry food or hydration. I remember slowing to walk around 4 miles in, and seemingly endless hills. Now, the hills all seemed so easy. I had my own bottle! The first Lake Chabot race, the last 1/2 flat mile seemed so hard--I could see the finish, it was flat, but I could summon no energy to run. Now I dashed over the line, earning a "STRONG FINISH" from the race timer.

I PR'ed! 3:40 over 30K! And my friend, Chris Belknap WON the half marathon outright!

After the race, I saw Karen and Coach Ken finish their 30K. Karen was narrowly ahead, but she left the aid station second. Ken beat her by one minute!

Things I did well:

Got to the start 30 minutes ahead so I had time to sort out my pack, chit chat, and go to the bathroom

Stayed hydrated

Took an S Cap every 30 minutes

Tried a new food (Pretzels with peanut butter inside)

Made sure I had a working, trusty iPod

Wore a shirt with a zipper so my car key didn't jab me from my shoelace

Things I can improve on:

Didn't know the course well, so spent some time stressing about missing turns

Went out too conservatively. I had plenty of energy at the start. I'm used to killer Marin climbs.


Very runnable, no technical parts. No long climbs or descents. Much more picturesque than expected.

Race Organization:

Lake Chabot was Inside Trail's second race under their own name. Very well organized. The course was well marked, and I got my size of shirt. There were some aid station supply hiccups--one aid station was out of sports drink and Coke, another was out of cups. But overall, great job!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Golden Gate 30K

Thought I left plenty of time to get to the start at 7:30, pick up bib. However, though I knew as a single driver I couldn't park in the start/finish lot, the volunteers were also not letting us park on the entry road. I parked about a mile back and waited for the shuttle. Suddenly, it was 7:49 and I wasn't so calm. Luckily, a single car picked up me (& 2 other shuttle waiters) and drove us to the start line.

Picked up bib, got a large T-Shirt, and stood in the bathroom line behind one guy. He went in at 7:57. I realized he had an 8K bib (8:30 AM start) and I wished I'd asked to cut. He exited at 7:59, I went in, and I got to the start line at 8:02, thankful my watch was fast.

Up, up, up Hill 88. It was cloudy, but starting to clear. For once, I wasn't actually DFL. There was a clot of about 6 people behind me. They said they'd come from Sacramento for the 50K. I gave them a brief history lesson "These bunkers were originally to protect the Bay Area from Japanese submarines in WWII. "

I caught up with Melissa right as I was going into TV Aid station, and we hiked up Fox Trail together. The 700 foot climb went quickly as we gossiped and caught up. We're both running Ohlone 50K in May, and she entered American River 50, where I might pace Karen if Carol stays injured.

I wanted to go faster on Pirates Cove, but it was a mucky, wet, slippery mud. I stopped to tie my shoes tighter and got passed by three people. The pair of ladies dressed in blue said "Your socks are muddy!" All of me is muddy! I ran the whole way to TV, no walking allowed!

Steady climb up Marincello. The blue ladies passed me again, and said "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you get as sweaty as me! " Yup, I was drenched in sweat. One of the blue ladies was wet like me, her friend still had dry hair. I then glided down Bobcat to Alta. I'd practiced running all of Alta in training many times, and I was glad I could pound up it. Around on SCA, and I popped out at Larry & Carol's aid station at Conzelman. Yup, Carol had torn a muscle!

I finally started dropping the hammer on Coastal. Then we turned left to climb up to Conzelman. I don't like this section. And my iPod died completely. I walked on the road, feeling sorry for myself. The blue ladies passed me, and said since I passed them on all the downhills, they'd nicknamed me "bomber". When they were about 100 feet ahead, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and run with them and chat.

One told a very funny story about Headlands 100. A runner got turned around enough at night in the deep fog to start running along Highway 101 through the rainbow tunnel. Coincidentally, the police were looking for a convict that had escaped from San Quentin, about 9 miles away. So when they stopped a sweaty, disheveled looking guy, they immediately asked for ID. He didn't have any ID, only a thin story of running an all night 100 mile race. Finally he convinced them he was legitimately running, and they offered to drive him back to the race course.

The story cheered me up, and I jogged, iTuneless to the finish in 4:10.

Things I did well:

Got there early enough that even with parking issues I still made the start.

Stayed ahead of nutrition: took 3 packs of scoobies, ate them all.

Took an S-Cap every 30 minutes.

Short sleeves were fine, I never got too chilly.

Things to improve on:

I never felt like I pushed hard. I ran 6 miles the next day with Greg.

iPod failure-ick!

It would have been nice to have a jacket at the finish.