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!

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