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
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.
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!