Sunday, December 26, 2004
King of the Trail Racers
By Mark Foyer, Half Moon Bay Review, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004
In a few years, Scott Dunlap went from the rat race to the trail race. In doing so, he has become one of the top trail runners in the nation.
He was named by Trail Runner magazine as the overall champion for the "Non Ultra" distance (marathon and shorter) of their 2004 Trailing Running Trophy Series. It's the largest trail running series in North America.
The running he does now is vastly different from the running around he did more than three years ago. Living in Mountain View, he was working for a software marketing company. Life hurtled by at a million miles per hour. In July of 2001, he started to make some changes in his life. He and his wife left Mountain View, to buy a house in Woodside, near Kings Mountain. The break-neck speed slowed considerably.
But it wasn't until he quit his job on Sept. 8, 2001, a few months later that everything changed. If he had remained on the job three days longer, he would have been in New York, where he had scheduled a meeting at the World Trade Centers. The two people he was supposed to meet that morning perished in the day's events. One died in Tower No. 2. The other was killed on United Flight 93, the highjacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
That day helped change Dunlap's priorities. Instead of running from one interview to another, he would run in the hills and along the trails near his house. Instead of dealing with so many people, he would be running with his dog, a pug named Rocket.
Dunlap had never run before, but it all came very easily. One weekend morning, while out on a leisurely run, Dunlap ran into a group of runners.
"One of them said I run pretty fast and should join them," Dunlap said.
Dunlap didn't have any idea what it meant to run fast. Born in Chicago and raised in Eugene, Ore., Dunlap did not participate in high school sports. Yet, he did well in his first trail race.
"I'm not a runner," Dunlap said. "My dog is not supposed to be a runner either. But we both love to run trails really, really fast."
As Dunlap continued to race, he was starting to make a name for himself. In Colorado, where there are plenty of trails to run on for either fun or races, Dunlap is a minor celebrity in the trail running community.
"They are world class runners, and it's flattering when they buy me drinks," Dunlap said.
The races in Colorado are some of the more difficult races in the country. One race starts at an elevation of 11,800. It goes up 1,000 feet before dropping down 3,000 feet.
"I was dizzy before the race even begun," Dunlap said.
Of course, not all trail runners are impressed with what Dunlap has accomplished. There are some, known as "ultra runners", who run 50-mile and 100-mile races in the mountains. They say running a marathon (26 miles, 385 yards) is just a nice warm up.
"I don't have a concept of what it means to run 50 or 100 miles," Dunlap said, "it's a whole different ballgame at that distance."
Racing has taken him throughout North America. He has run two races in Colorado, as well as in Washington, Oregon, Texas, New York and Maryland. He has also raced in British Columbia.
He's gone back into the software marketing industry. It's almost like it was before he left, but with a change.
"Before when I traveled, I would just see the downtown, the hotel and the airport," Dunlap said. "Now, I spend the weekend visiting the trails also."
While he won the Trophy Series, he didn't actually get a trophy. Instead, he got an array of gear, including clothing and watches.
"It has made Christmas shopping easy this year," Dunlap said.
Monday, December 20, 2004
(Photo for purchase from the amazing Don Charles Lundell)
Before I talk iPod, let me first say that my #1 choice of soundtrack for a trail run is nature itself. There are few things in life as peaceful as getting deep into the wilderness, left only with your breath, footsteps, and the scurrying of resident animals as you 'round the corner. Chill. Relax. Ooohhhmmm. Connect with nature.
Okay, back to the blog. ;oP Although nature's soundtrack is wonderful, it's not really the best pacing ally. Sometimes it's helpful to have some tunes to pull you along, particularly for the 20+ milers. But the choice of music is very important - you would be surprised at how much it can affect your pace, for good or bad. I've tried a few strategies in the last couple of months, and here are my tips. Please do comment if you have others.
1) Know what motivates you for each type of terrain. What kind of music puts a smile on your face? Helps you relax? Gets you pumped? In a long trail run, there's a spot for each. For climbs, I've found there's nothing like some agro rock (Metallica, Prodigy, Filter, Boom Boom Satellites, Soundgarden, etc.) to help pump you up and "attack" the hills (very t-zone, I admit). For the downhills, something a bit less edgy is good (REM, Beastie Boys, Seal), and preferrably with a melody now that you can sing along. For the flat stuff, I've found a good beat count can help you pace right, such as electronica or breakbeat funk (Tricky, Freq Nasty, ILS, Madonna, etc.). ILS Soul Trader is my "most played", so it must be a good one. Sometimes the right lyrics can get you going too - I've been surprised by how uplifting Michael Jackson "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" can be when you need a pick me up.
2) Map your playlist to your course. Check out the altitude map for your run, and do your best to organize your tunes based on the course layout. This can also help you pace the sections (ie, "I must be going fast since I've reached the hill and Enya is still playing" or "Michael Bolton is playing and I still haven't killed myself...something must be wrong"...just kidding).
3) Don't start too strong. If you're doing an ultra, one of the worst things you can do is go out too strong. In the Woodside 50k, I thought I should "pump myself up" with a little Prodigy to start, and covered the first 2 miles in 13 minutes....oops, so much for those 250 needed calories. Best to ease into your playlist if you can.
4) Reward yourself with some funny songs. It's great to throw in a non-pace song every hour or so, especially if they can get a good laugh. Tenacious D is perfect for this kind of thing, or perhaps a old ABBA favorite or clip of Chris Rock. It will raise your spirits. I see a lot of trail runners do this with food too, like stashing a Snickers to reward yourself for being half-way done.
5) Easy on the Echoplex near the end of your run. If you're ending your five hour run with songs full of reverb, echos, and Leslie rotating speakers, you are tempting fate, my friend. Jimi Hendrix "Are You Experienced?" and The Beatle's "Revolution #9" are nothing short of suicide-by-face-plant in the final miles.
6) Stop air guitaring when you see the cameraman. My fellow racers have found great humor in my subconscience antics. Just don't let it get captured on film. ;oP
Let me know if you have other tips or favorite songs. I would be happy to post my 5-hour playlist from the Woodside 50k if you're interested.
[Note - On 2/15/05, I posted my 8-hour playlist here]
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
(Photo for purchase from the amazing Don Charles Lundell)
I've spoken with some ultra-marathoners over the last year, and the race they describe doesn't quite match up to the short course stuff I'm used to. They talk about "mental walls", "slow pacing", "walk/running", and "being able to take in thousands of calories". Although I definitely think about those things, I wouldn't say they are critical to a good 20 mile run. And walking? Fugghetaboutit. So clearly at some distance, the race strategy shifts to more of long endurance event. I have no doubt that a 50 miler should be run this way, but a 50k?
I figured the only way to find out was to sign up for a 50k and see if I could run my marathon pace through the whole race. As a marathoner, I usually have enough juice at the end to kick hard for the last two miles - would it be the same after 30 miles?
I picked the Woodside 50k, a beautiful trail run put on by Pacific Coast Trails in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains. These are my home trails, and I've clocked 20-26 miles here before without too much trouble. This course incorporated four parks/preserves (the Phleger Estate, Huddart Park, Bear Gulch Open Space Preserve, and Wunderlich Park), with about 4,600' vertical. The last four miles were mostly downhill too, which I thought would be convenient in case the "no man's land" of those final miles proved to be too much.
As I set up for the race, I began to realize that the 50k was going to be more akin to a Half Ironman than a marathon. Given the hilly course, I thought it might take me 4:45-5:00 hours to complete. I prepared four water bottles of G3 drink, three packs of Sharkies, two packs of Power Bites, four Gu gels, and an iPod with a 5 hour playlist. This was going to take the better part of the day.
I lined up at the starting line with about 30 others (four other first timer ultra marathoners - nice work you guys!), and we cut through the cold valleys of Huddart Park and began the first 1500' foot climb. The pace was brisk along the flat part of the course, but everyone slowed substantially once the hills started. I felt frustrated by the slow pace and pulled out in front - let the rookie moves begin!
At the first aid station at mile 8, about three of us were cruising along at about a 7:15 mile pace. Given the vertical we just did, this was a pretty brisk pace. The other two stopped at the aid station to get a bite to eat, refill their water bottles, and take a breather. They gave me a funny look as I kept going, but soon caught up to me again. So far, so good.
About 13 miles in, Troy Limb (one of the three) took the lead and began pacing up the second set of hills. Judging by the size of his quads and his "Silver State 50 Miler" t-shirt, I got the impression he was no stranger to ultras. His pace was just slightly slower than my pace (around a 7:30 mile), but I also noticed he would slow to a very fast walk if his heart rate picked up too much (note, however, that his fast walk is faster than I have ever walked). He carried one water bottle in each hand, one filled with water, the other with some sort of fuel mix, and always stopped for a minute or so at the aid stations. As we occasionally switched off the lead, Troy always had nothing but words of encouragement, atta-boys, and "you go, brother"s. He was clearly in his element, and was happy to share the experience.
About 19 miles in, I noticed I was falling behind in the calorie intake. As I've learned the hard way on this, the only thing you can do is slow down and let your body catch up (or pay dearly 45 minutes later). I let Troy and the third guy pull ahead, who began pacing off each other. As I lost them, I realized how beneficial it was to have someone to pace with - following can be the easiest motivation on long runs. Perhaps this is why "pacers" are also common on the longer ultras.
About 28 miles in, I found my answer - this is DEFINITELY a different kind of race than a marathon. My body slowed to a 8:40 mile pace, and was not hearing any other requests. Fifteen seconds faster, and I was spinning harder than a fifth of Jack Daniels on an empty stomach. Fifteen seconds slower, and the runners high would kick in to the point of not remembering why I was out in the woods. But 8:40 with a quick short stride felt great. My body was sore, but I wasn't really feeling the pain. And there was a constant smile on my face from the anandamide/endorphins coursing through me.
By the time I crossed the finish line, I was giggling with delight and absolutely starving. Troy had finished some 15 minutes ahead of me, managing to keep a consistent pace through the whole race. The third guy was nowhere to be found (apparently DNF's are much more common in the ultras), leaving me with a second place finish. As I ate and stretched, I became more apparent of how tired I really was. My muscles weren't burning like a short course race, but my whole body had this dull ache right down to the bone. This felt very different than a marathon recovery.
As I swallow a handful of ibuprofen and exchange stories with the other racers (Troy congratulated nearly every racer who finished), I've concluded a few things. First, the ultra is a very different animal than the marathon and under races. One shouldn't think of it as a "marathon plus", but instead give it the respect it deserves as a full-blown endurance event. Second, I still have a lot to learn about the pacing and mental game of the ultra. The "fast walk" is a crucial skill as well, and one that should be practiced. Troy and many of the others ran a very consistent race end-to-end, and were fully aware of their capabilities along the way. I've got some practicing to do, but I have no doubt I will be trying another 50k....or maybe a 50 miler....let the addiction begin...
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
World class runner: Former Eugenean Scott Dunlap has been named by Trail Runner magazine as the overall champion for the marathon and shorter distance of its 2004 Trail Running Trophy Series. Dunlap, 35, won in a field of 18,000 trail runners for the international title, competing in 15 events including three marathons. He won three events and finished in the top five in 12 others. Dunlap, who attended South Eugene High School and University of Oregon (1984-92), lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Eric C. Gould Redwood Trails http://www.redwoodtrails.com
Please see our new calendar listings -->
* Bizz Johnson Fees *
Please remember the fees for Bizz Johnson Marathon and 1/2 Marathon go up at the end of the year. To save money registrar before 12/31/04. Race is limited to just the first 1,000 people who sign-up.
Info --> http://bizzjohnson.com/
Sign-up --> https://www.active.com/register/index.cfm?event_id=1176060
* Trail Triathlon Series *
Registration for our Trail Triathlon Series will open 1/2/05. All events are likely to sellout quickly. We will send out a special email with details before the end of the year.
* Scott Dunlap Wins Trophy Series *
Congratulations to Redwood Trails' runner Scott Dunlap on winning the Overall Champion title for the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series Marathon-and-Under Division. Please find the story of his journey - in his own words below.
A Retrospective on a Championship Trail Running Season
By Scott Dunlap
Seventeen races in six states. 231 miles of trails. 60,000 feet of climb. One Overall Champion.
What is it? It's the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series Marathon-and-Under Division.
Was it fun?
You bet-aside from losing a few toenails. And the biggest surprise was the trail-running scene in the Bay Area.
In Anacortes, Washington, it's wet and windy 11 months of the year. In Buena Vista, Colorado, every race starts at 11,000 feet, and goes up. (You can run 40 miles on rock without seeing dirt.)
After the Trophy Series, a reporter asked me to describe my favorite trails. I talked about exposed cliffs, redwoods, rushing creeks, and views to the beach. He asked which four races I was talking about. I said, That's Redwood Trails' Castle Rock race-before the half way point.
If your idea of a great Saturday morning is waking up at o-dark-thirty to get sweaty, dirty, and get blisters, get lost, and get ticks and poison oak-you're made for the trail.
But trail running in the Bay Area is special. There's a camaraderie among the trailies here that I've rarely found in other races. I've taken my fair share of face plants (usually after spending a little too long gazing at the view). But the Bay Area is the only place where the entire lead pack stopped to make sure I was okay. I'm not slamming other locations, but let's just say, the closer you get to LA, the less likely it is that that'll happen.
I'm spoiled. I've grown used to Redwood Trails' obsessive over-marking of trails, and too many aid stations, and volunteers at every turn.
I remember a trail race in Hood River, Oregon where ALL the racers were lost within the first mile. They'd marked the course AT NIGHT, with the same color ribbon the Forest Service uses to mark dead trees! There were markers everywhere, sending us scattering into the hills.
There were no maps, no volunteers, and I ran a solid 6 miles off course before some friendly backpackers turned me around. They said, Unless you plan to run to the top of Mt. Hood, you're going the wrong way.
I staggered in hungry, dehydrated and cold. Twenty runners were still lost; the organizers were on the point of sending out search parties. That was the last time I ever complained that the bananas weren't fresh at an aid station.
2004 will be remembered fondly, not just for the award but for the chance to run with thousands of other people across the US who love doing what we do - creating our own adventures, reconnecting with nature, and making new friends.
Nobody does it like the Bay Area. Thank you all, for making this such a great place to race.
* Is trail running better - your stories *
Please tell us your stories and "words of wisdom" on what makes trail running different from road races and what is needed to get more people off the road and onto the trails. Email to: email@example.com
Clif Bar and Hammer Gel have donated product to all Redwood Trails 2004 events.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Trails and Tribulations of a Champion
Paul McHugh, Chronicle Outdoors Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004
Woodside athlete Scott Dunlap's ascent from his former status as geek couch-potato to one of the top-ranked trail runners in the United States is about as unlikely as his first choice of mascots and trail companions.
Dunlap felt burned out from years of 80-hour workweeks in the high-tech realm of Silicon Valley, after participating in two start-ups. Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, he watched, stunned, as a building of the World Trade Center -- where he had been scheduled to meet with two associates -- collapsed, taking their lives.
Dunlap's wife Christi had an idea to help him cope with the deep depression that ensued. She brought home a dog from Pug Rescue of Sacramento. Daily, this stubby-legged orphan begged to be taken outside. Finally, Dunlap responded. Whereupon, man and dog discovered they both loved going for longer and longer runs on trails near their Kings Mountain home.
"Hikers would tell me, you're not supposed to run a pug like that," Dunlap said. "And I'd say, you'd better tell him. He's already gone nine miles, and he shows no signs of wanting to stop."
Dunlap's relative naivete about athletics made it possible for him to develop many other elements of unorthodox style.
"I never learned proper technique for running," he says. "So I developed this crazy style that actually seems to work well on trails. I kind of crouch a bit, so I can jump around over roots and rocks. And there's this thing I do that other runners seem to find pretty entertaining. I actually put my hand down on the ground and pivot around it, as I fly through switchbacks."
Always slender, Dunlap's aggressive new physical regimen made it possible for him to pack 25 pounds of new muscle on his 6-foot frame. And in three short years, he's also managed to advance to Trail Runner magazine's recently announced ranking as the nation's Overall Champion for "non-ultra" (marathon or shorter) distances. He did this by competing in 15 trail events, including three marathons, from March 1 to Sept. 30. In these, he scored three wins and a dozen finishes in the top five.
Trail running has turned into one of the nation's fastest growing sports. Dunlap has some advice for runners or joggers interested in signing on, and hopping off the pavement.
"Find a loop course of trails to run, so you get to enjoy lots of scenery, " he says. "Don't be afraid to get dirty. And always, always carry a map."
Some other top Dunlap tips:
-- Bring water by carrying a plastic bottle in your hand; that will remind you to drink and stay hydrated.
-- Stretch out from running by going for at least one long pool swim per week.
-- Avoid blisters by lubricating your toes. Dunlap uses Vaseline. He also swears by the "foot gloves" of Injinji Tetrasoks (see, www.injinji.com).
These days, Dunlap is immersed again in the world of high-tech, working as a marketer for Avolent, a financial services software firm.
"Luckily, my company is very supportive of my running career," says Dunlap. "They try to find me conferences to speak at that will be located near running events. And they don't mind if I come in wearing flip-flops, when my feet get too swollen to fit in shoes."
Looking ahead, Dunlap, 35, says he's now thinking about tackling ultra trail runs. He's signed up for the recently revived Race Across California E- venture (www.envirosports.com) and has been invited to compete in the legendary Western States 100 (www.ws100.com).
But sadly, the picturesque heyday of Rocky the pug dog as a trail companion seems to be entering eclipse.
"I've just gotten too fast," Dunlap says. "It's grown too hard for the little guy. He's got an 8-minute mile, but now I run a 51/2-minute mile. Rocky's happiest running about 6 miles, but I can push pretty hard for 20. So, my wife is looking around for a faster dog."
E-mail Paul McHugh at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't worry - I'm not replacing my dog, Rocky. He will always be my short course dog, but we thought we would look around for a playmate that, perhaps, could go the distance.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
The San Pablo Marathon joins the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon options at China Camp State Park in the north bay of San Francisco. Redwood Trails put on this race, and per usual, it was well-stocked and well-marked. This race had some visiting track teams from Susanville mixed in with the usual menagerie of trail runners. Weaving in and out of oaks, madrones and golden grass along the north bay coast, this race has more turns than the average marathon (I lost track around turn #220 around mile 19). But the 1400' vertical feet is mild, and the paths are in great condition, consisting mostly of single track. I joined two others in the marathon distance (Jim Moniz, training for a Boston qualifier, and Liam Kidd who stuck out his first marathon ever for an awesome 4:10:40 finish), and about 150 others raced the shorter lengths.
Despite being beat up from the previous week, I managed to clock a 3:28:14 for a 1st place finish and a sub-8-minute average. The multitude of switchbacks have left the sides of my feet and the tops of my toes awash in dozens of little blisters, like a mild leprosy. Good thing the season is over!
Sunday, September 19, 2004
But the aspen trees are a-callin', s0 just a day after the Autumn Color Run, I'm lining up pre-sunrise at the Snowmass ski resort in Aspen, CO, to run the 13.5 mile Golden Leaf 1/2 Marathon. Hailed by Trail Runner Magazine as one of "America's 14 most scenic races," this half marathon is put on by the Aspen outdoor shop, the Ute Mountaineer. The race begins in Snowmass Village and cuts through the ski runs on the Government Trail, until finally descending back to the streets of downtown Aspen. It's a big race - probably 300-400 runners. It also happens to be the same weekend as Ruggerfest, so there are plenty of party-happy rugby players in town as well.
This race starts off with a 1.5 mile climb from Snowmass Village right up the CAT trail. Combined with the altitude, your heart gets going right away. If you think you can hang with the front runners, good luck - the Montrail Team, US Mountain Running Team, and many die-hard trail runners make this race a regular on their calendar. After the climb comes the real challenge - keeping your eyes on the uneven trail, even as you weave your way through miles of gorgeous creeks and aspen trees. As much as I thought TRM was boasting, it truly is one of the most beautiful race courses I have ever seen. Still, if ever there was a trail that demanded good trail running shoes, this is the one.
Thanks to the soreness, I finished the same way I started - slow. I think I clocked around 2:05 in a fairly leisurely run, but I didn't bring a watch. Michael Robbert clocked a fantastic 1:48, putting him 25th among the crowd. I don't know how he even got out of bed this morning, let alone cranked out a second great race. The Ute Mountaineer gave away a tower of shwag, and not a one was some cheap trinket. I was one of the few who didn't head home with a new pair of shoes or biking tires (such a genius way to clear out the old inventory!) .
In retrospect, I'm realizing two 1/2 marathons are much more brutal than one full marathon. One thing for sure - I've got some resting to do before the San Pablo Marathon next week.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
As the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series nears the end of the March-Sept season, I found myself having some work travel in the Aspen area, and a perfectly good excuse to try a 1/2 marathon double header. Through e-mail exchanges, I discovered that Michael Robbert and his wife (whom I had met at the Park City Marathon) were also doing both races. That was great for two reasons. First, he's an awesome runner. Second, I think he and I are roughly tied for the Overall Champion for the Trophy Series, so it would be good motivation to do well. We both know that we have our age group championships locked up, but hey, who's willing to settle for #1 when you can have two #1's? Michael is a total gentleman - I would be honored to finish second to such a good athlete and a good soul.
The first run was The Autumn Color Run in Buena Vista, CO, put on by the super-friendly Michelle Liverman and some of her favorite locals. In addition to the 1/2 marathon, there was a 10k, 5k, and insanely cute 1 mile kids run. The 1/2 marathon started with a bouncy bus ride up to 11,000 feet where the race would begin. I'm telling ya, the air is THIN up there! If it was any solace, the 1/2 marathon course would drop about 2,200 feet over the first 10 miles, where you could "glide" down the streets for the remaining few miles. Most of the runners were in amazing shape, but then again, Buena Vista is smack dab in the middle of half of America's 14k+ peaks, so monstrous quads were a regular thing. Everyone was in great spirits, and the weather was cooperating nicely.
As the runners stretched out and warmed up, somebody yelled "go" and the next thing you knew the race had begun (with an additional shot of adrenylin to overcome the lack of preparation). I found myself in sixth place right away, cruising along the downhill fire roads. A young Andy Rinne and the amazing 5'3", 40 yr old Anthony Surage immediately started clocking sub-6 minute miles, and as much as I would like to say I was "holding back for tomorrow", there was no way I was going to keep up. I did move up two places and began pacing with Daniel Gabalski, who was running about a 6:10 mile pace around mile 5.
Now, the dilemma. Daniel looks like he's in my age group, but I can't really tell. Should I try to pass him, or would that suck so much out of me I'll be dying tomorrow? An age group win would be great for the Trophy Series, but it would cost me in Aspen.
Aw, hell. You only live once. So I tried to pass him. FOUR TIMES. Each time he pulled away with ease, but then slowed slightly in his recovery pace (ie, down to a 6:15 mile, then a 6:20 mile, etc.). In the end, I thought maybe I could break him, and gave it all I had. I finished four seconds behind him (and yes, he was in my age group...darn!) in 1:22:15.
Wait a minute...1:22:15? That's a trail run PR! And that also means....I'm going to be hurting tomorrow! Oops. Oh well, how can you feel bad about a PR? I scooped up a disposable camera, and took the slow 2 hour drive back to Aspen to take some photos and try to rest my legs. Tomorrow would be another high altitude race - The Golden Leaf 1/2 Marathon in Aspen.
Saturday, August 28, 2004
The Bulldog had two options, a 30k and 50k. The crowd seemed more like an “ultra” crowd, and you could tell by the more relaxed pre-race conversation and the abundance of Camelbaks, gators, and head to toe SPF 50 gear. These folks were ready to make a day of it! There were about half as many racers in the 30k as the Malibu Creek Challenge Half Marathon, and a few familiar faces. Weather was similar, and the view was one of a kind – gorgeous fog on the right, smog on the left. ;oP The 50k folks had already left in the wee hours of the morning on an out-and-back course, so as we did a modified one-loop course (it was the Malibu Creek Challenge Course, with a couple of miles of hills added to the beginning, an extra mile trail loop about half way through, and some extra creek hopping at the end), we would see them coming and going.
Within a mile of the start, three of us pulled off the front with Dale Reicheneder (who placed at the Malibu Creek Challenge as well) and Alan Goldstein setting a furious pace off the front. Once those two hit the hills, they were gone for good. Jesse Haynes (of OLN “Everest Challenge” fame) passed me as we hit the Bulldog Trail, still able to hold a conversation as the incline steepened. We started running into a few of the 50k folks, and some of them told us how the trail had been sabotaged (even going as far as remarking the chalk) and had forced the front pack to go an extra couple of miles before turning around. That’s bad news on a 13 mile run…can’t imagine what that means on a 50k. Still, they all took it in stride and smiled their way through the pack again.
I had seen the Malibu sunrise over the clouds before, but it was so breathtaking I had to look again as we crossed the highest peak. But this time I looked a little too long and stepped right off the trail, falling down the side of the hill. As I got my bearings, some of the 50k runners helped me up and pointed out that I was bleeding from my head, shoulder, and hip. One of them said “but no broken bones, so catch your breath and get back on the trail” (the ease with which this rolled off his tongue made me wonder what kind of hell these ultra folks put themselves through on a regular basis). He was right though – it was four miles to the next aid station, and sitting on a trail bleeding from my melon wasn’t going to get me any closer. So I brushed myself off and found a comfortable pace.
Within a mile, I had caught the two who helped me up and he said “you’re running pretty fast, are you okay?”. I said I felt comfortable….but in fact I couldn’t feel much at all, as the adrenaline was still fresh in my bloodstream. I looked at my watch, but couldn’t do the math to figure out my pace. As I worked down the hill, the leaders of the 50k were on their way back up. It looked like a race in slow motion – they were just a few hundred feet apart, but going slightly faster than a “fast walk” pace. But clearly they knew their limits. Jorge Pacheco (last year’s winner) was leading, with a few guys within a 1000 yards of him, and JulieAnne White was working her way through the top 5 (I told you these ultraladies were fast). JulieAnne ended up getting 2nd overall behind Jorge (http://www.bulldogrun.com/Pages/results2004_50K.html). I cruised down the hill, but not fast enough to outrun Alan Zarembo who went flying by me. I ended up placing 5th (http://www.bulldogrun.com/Pages/results2004_30K.html), running the last 8 miles at a sub-7 pace! Apparently I should crack my skull more often.
The volunteers at the first aid tent were more than happy to patch me up, and sent me on my way with some ibuprofen. Christi, now a pro at being a spectator/coach/paramedic, hosed me down to stay cool. As the results were read off I realized I got 5th overall, but 4th in my age group. As I said before, you gotta bring your A game to beat folks like Dale (who got 1st), Alan (2nd), and Jesse (3rd). Karen Kelly came in a few minutes after me, looking strong right to the end.
Nancy Shura apologized profusely for the sabotaged trail, and as she explained what lengths they went to in order to prevent it, I realized that this is a recurring problem. It’s such a shame that people who go that far out of their way – this would have had to have occurred around 3am. But in the end, nobody was angry and everyone had fun. As Nancy proved, success can be as much about getting the right group of people in the first place.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
The race aside, a trip to Hood River is a fine thing. We spent a night at the Columbia Gorge Inn, which was romantic and scenic and had a five course breakfast that was to die for. They even helped us with a snafu in our reservation - when we checked in, we didn't have enough nights reserved and the hotel was full. They arranged a great room for us at the Hood River Inn, and even stopped by to drop off more breakfast coupons and snacks! The Hood River Inn is also a great place, and about half the price. You get a great big room, complete with a 1950's neon sign just outside your window for the whole "Old Town" vibe. Every lunch and dinner we had was great, and Christi enjoyed cruising the shops in downtown.
The race was out in the boondocks at a remote reservoir, so we had to rent a car to get out there. XDogEvents prides themselves in small, community events and this one was probably about right for them. An off-road triathlon hosted about forty racers, and the half marathon had about 30 more. My dad came from Eugene to join us on this one and signed up for the full 13.1 miles. It looked like it was going to be an epic race with a small group of fun people.
Epic it was, but not in a good way. In retrospect, I should have seen the signs. First sign of a problem - no maps were issued, and none were available. Second sign - "there are some areas that aren't necessarily trails, and you'll have to go cross-country without volunteers to guide you". Third bad sign - "trails were marked late last night with pink ribbon"...only later to find out it's the same pink ribbon the Forest Service uses to mark their trails. It's a lot easier to see that mistake in daylight. Lastly, "the last aid station doesn't have any people so don't drink all the water". The smiles slowly waned from the starting line...
Within the first 1000 yards, everyone was lost (and I mean EVERYONE) and we had to stop the race and backtrack to the beginning. The second start wasn't much better, as people started losing trail markers within the first couple of miles. At about mile 4, the course started going along more recognizable trails so I took the opportunity to pull from the front of the pack. Big mistake. My dad was smart - he hung back with the others.
About an hour later, I was stopped by some hikers who said, "unless you're planning on swimming across the Columbia Gorge, I think you took a wrong turn". I pointed out the pink ribbons and they said those ribbons are what the Forest Service uses to mark dead trees that need to be cut (uh, oh). They helped me assess my whereabouts, and I was about five miles off course, that is, if we could figure out where the course was. One young hiker ran up to the top of a hill with his binoculars to look for other runners and quickly relplied "they are all over the place...and going in every direction". We studied the map and found a quick two mile connection back, so I would only be 6-7 miles off overall. At this point I was less worried about my finishing time, and more about if I was ever going to find the rental car again. They filled my water bottle and handed me some trail mix (aren't hikers great?), and I was back on the road.
About 20 minutes later, I passed another runner who said she thought she was about 25th place. She said "some people have passed me two or three times and aren't real happy about it". I looked at my watch - 1:55:20 - and understood their frustration. I passed the last aid station (which was empty) and just followed the most trampled trail I could. After a mile or so, I followed the smell of the BBQ. Miraculously, I crossed the finish line in 2:12:30, and into the arms of a very worried Christi. Then they said I got third place...excusez-moi?
My dad had crossed the finish line nearly 40 minutes earlier ("my fastest 1/2 marathon ever! Hmmm...maybe I didn't do the full distance"), and we learned an important lesson. If you're going to get lost, do so in a way that you CUT mileage, not ADD mileage. ;oP
So I asked if my dad got first or second, and they said "Who is he? We don't have record of him". Later when they posted the results (http://www.xdogevents.com/MOUNTAINMAN04.HTM) they had me down for fifth, and my dad for first. I sent a dozen e-mails about the wrong award, the missing t-shirt they charged me for, and getting results to Trail Runner Magazine, but they never were responded to.
If you ever wonder why you have to sign those liability forms, it's for hacks like Kevin at xDogEvents that can't get their act together. This race was beyond embarassing - it was life-threatening. If you're ever going to race in a new area, try to at least bring your own map to avoid a scenario like this. Race directors, take note.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
There was a 4 mile and 14 mile option in this race, the first of five races in a SoCal Trail Race Series. I was impressed with the large turnout for the 14 mile race - my guess was around 250 participants. The course made its way along the river for a few miles and quickly climbed up 2400' ft on the Bulldog Trail where you are greeted by gorgeous views and a 90 degree heat at 7am. As you broke through the clouds, you could see runners all along the ridgetop. On the right, the fog burned off the Pacific Ocean...and on the left, the smog built up in the Valley just as fast. The last half mile cut through the filming set for M.A.S.H....overall a classic LA trail run.
Sal Bautista quickly turned it into a one man race out front, and we didn't see him again until the end (his brother won the 4 mile as well). Sal ran the whole course in racing flats, and put nearly ten minutes between him and the next finisher before he headed downhill. The next pack included Dale Reicheneder (a local favorite), Willie Stewart (an amazing runner/triathlete who just happens to have only one arm...but don't even think that gives you an advantage) , and Robert Brown (my 007 vibe pal from the UK) who ended up finishing 2, 3, 4 in that order. Robert had flown in from Heathrow TWO HOURS before the race, so I think he was off his game a bit, but not enough for most of us to hang with him. Willie was amazing, per usual, dizzying us with his fast leg turnover and ear-to-ear smile. Anissa Seguin made a strong finish for the women, charging the Bulldog Trail incline as easy as a backyard jog, and finished a very strong fifth overall. I finished 8th. All in all, a very fast crew of runners. If you're coming to LA, better bring your A game.
The post-race food and drink was plentiful, and I have never seen so much raffle shwag. I think just about everybody left with something from soy coffee to Camelpaks and running shoes. And thanks to the early start time, everyone was done by 10am. I would strongly suggest this race.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Bend, OR is a great location for a triathlon – the swim is a mellow reservoir loop, and the bike course rolls by the Cascade Lakes and climbs up and around Mt. Bachelor, ending in a 16 mile descent that leaves your legs rested for the run around Sunriver Resort. Bend, OR, is still ridiculously cheap too – we got a 3-bedroom house to rent for $109/night, complete with hot tub, just a few blocks from the starting line. Most of the booking agents will give you a decent price, but if they tell you there’s a “three night minimum”, it’s BS. Just keep calling around. Sunriver is self-sufficient, and also has horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, and a full mall. All-in-all a great place to stay.
I hadn’t done much on my bike since the last triathlon, thanks to all the trail running. That meant I got a bit lazy about bike maintenance and didn’t go through my usual checks, assuming the bike was still in racing condition. I realized how dumb this was when I exited the water to find my front tire flat (oops). The volunteers were nice enough to take 10 minutes to put on my back-up tubeless tire and get it pumped up to 110 psi, which was about 60% of what it needed, but enough to get me going. What I didn’t realize was that the spare wasn’t glued on…until I turned into the first corner and wiped out as the tire peeled off. Luckily I recovered nicely since I had gotten a 10 minute rest waiting on the tire, and only had a few minor scrapes after visiting the ditch on the side of the road. As I pulled my tire back on, I faced the ultimate dilemma – should I keep going on a half-inflated tire that I can’t corner on, knowing it’s going to slow me down significantly and leave me exhausted by the run? Or should I just call it a good swim and pack up and meet Christi for some pancakes?
I figured, what the hell. No sense in racking up the first DNF. About 20 miles into the bike, a really nice guy in his 50’s passed me and said “you know, you would go a lot faster if your tire was inflated all the way”. I explained my fiasco, and lack of a portable pump that could handle 200 psi. He replied with a solution – “my son has a bike shop, and he will be at mile 25 in a big red Hummer with all his gear…I’ll ride ahead and tell him to be ready for you”. How nice! Sure enough, as promised a big red Hummer flagged me down and they “Nascar pit-stopped me” and got me back on the road in less than two minutes. At 200 psi, I was rolling much faster, and soon passed my guardian angel who cheered me on. My bike split was atrocious, but I ran a 1:35 half marathon to make up for it and finished in about 5:38. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!
My dad had a similar mishap. Unfamiliar with the course, he started pacing his bike off a group of riders in front of him with numbers painted on their calves. About an hour later, a cop on a motorcycle pulled him over and told him the people he was following had raced the previous day (thus the calf markings), and today were out on a joy ride….well off the duathlon course! He took it in stride, and still finished well (although he had to give up his title…alas). We had a good time telling our stories over pizza and beer. Mistakes are far more enjoyable after you’re done.
With this race done, I put the bike away for the rest of the season to focus on the trail running.
Friday, June 18, 2004
The air is definitely thin up here, no doubt about that. I was slightly out of breath before the 6am gun went off. The Park City Marathon isn’t “really” a trail marathon – a good 17 miles of it was on pavement, and the rest was access roads. But it does have 3,000’ of climbing, and cuts right through downtown Park City when everyone is starting to get their coffee. We had a little bit of rain, and a 6-10 mph that was just enough to make you groan. One cool thing about the Park City Marathon starting line – it had every type of person you could imagine, from teenagers up from Provo who slept in the car, to grandmas and grandpas pulling on their shoes to show the kids a thing or two. Everyone was out to tame the mountain this morning.
By the time we hit the high point in the race (around mile 16), David Schroeder pulled way out ahead of us. David, clearly a gifted runner, had hung back with us early in the race to “make sure we were having a good time”. Utah people are so friendly! I was holding second up until mile 20, where I was passed by Michael Robbert, a strong runner from Littleton, CO, and Tom Neuman, who had just had two stents put in four months previous (clearly, he’s recovering well). I ended up with fourth place (http://18.104.22.168/runner/data/1825/328/result/MEN.TXT), in 3:10:17…just enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Now, I hadn’t planned on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, largely because trail runs don’t really lend themselves to the kind of neck-breaking speed one needs to do so. But if you qualify, you must go, as I’m told.
After the race, I congratulated the other Boston qualifiers and learned that Michael Robbert (also a qualifier) and his wife were traveling the mid-west to race every Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series race they could. Part of me was glad – at least I wasn’t the only one with this crazy race schedule. But part of me was worried – Michael is clearly a strong runner, and if he wife is cool enough to drive their VW bus through the night for a 10k, I had my work cut out for me. But as competitive as I wanted to be, I couldn’t help but think that the Robberts were just the kind of people that the TRM series was about – outdoor lovers, using the race series to see as much as they could.
Soon after the race, my legs seized like they never have before. Maybe it’s the pavement, maybe the altitude, or likely from trying to hang with a bunch of runners that are much faster, but this recovery is going to take a while. And Michael is going running in two days? I guess the "recovery" race is on!
Sunday, June 06, 2004
The course starts with a mile of beach running, then cuts up slightly into the hills on an access road. The access road circles some amazing marsh land, and the Pacific breeze is never too far away. With a two loop configuration, I would recommend this race if you’re with friends that run at a different pace – you’ll see them time and time again!
My rest did me good, as I finished first overall in 1:28:56 (http://www.redwoodtrails.com/2004_results/ptreyesresults.html). Christopher Farady, in his first trail run ever and part of a training plan to get him to the Boston Marathon, finished about four minutes behind in a stellar debut. I’m feeling good for the Park City Marathon next week.
I also switched shoes on this race, going away from my trusted Salomon X-Pro’s to the Vasque Velocity earlier in the week. The Salomon shoes are still great, but the Vasque seems to have a bit more heel comfort.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Saturday, May 08, 2004
I would like to think there are lots of people doing the TRM Trophy Series, but I’ve only run into a few that are aware of it. It looks like Malcolm Dunn is going to keep racing, but he’s also a track coach so I don’t think he can go every weekend. Well, who knows.
Race #6 found me at Mt. Diablo, an impressive mountain about 40 miles east of Oakland. We’re going to run up the north side, but I’ve heard you can also bike up the west side if you’ve got legs that can handle Alps d’Huez kinds of incline. About 140 have arrived for this race, and again, there are lots of new faces. Redwood Trails has been very busy marking this crazy trail, and has put an aid station right at the top of the 2,400’ peak. Weather is an outstanding 68 degrees.
The pack sorts out to a half dozen runners within the first three miles, and the long climb spreads us out about 4-5 minutes. Matthew Timmer, a tattooed Outward Bounds instructor from Santa Cruz, leads us right up the hill, smiling the whole way. At the top, everyone takes a few seconds to take in the 360 degree views (can you imagine this happening in a triathlon? No way!) and stock up on food. Matthew heads down like a gazelle, and we let him go. 1:51 later, I cross the finish line in third (http://www.redwoodtrails.com/2004_results/diabloresults.html). Kudos also should go to Mark Strawn, who despite adding a half mile due to a wrong turn, only finished a few minutes later.
As I’m looking back on the last three months of racing, I feel lucky to live in SF. Marin, Castle Rock, Golden Gate, Mt. Diablo, Napa, Woodside, Purisima….all so different, but all so breathtaking. It shocks me to think that most SF residents will never see this side of the Bay Area, but then again, I hadn’t in the first four years I lived here. Props to the race directors for giving us a reason to get out here!
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Trail race #5 in the season found me at Castle Rock for a 10.5 mile run put on by Redwood Trails. If you’re only going to do one trail run in the SF Peninsula area, THIS IS THE ONE. It’s an out-and-back course that cuts through the Castle Rock State Park area above Saratoga, diving down into the oaks and manzanita, back up the natural stone steps, across a gorgeous exposed ridge where you can see to the Pacific, and then down along a river briefly and back again. It’s distractingly gorgeous, with just enough incline to keep those who haven’t trained at bay. About 2,000 vertical feet overall, I think.
Within the first two miles, it was down to three runners up front. Myself, the now-lean-and-mean Derrick Petersen, and a cool bloke named Robert Brown. Robert Brown is the UK trail running champion, as well as a pilot for British Airways which lands him in SF and LA quite regularly. He is SUPER fast, a complete gentleman, and gives off this whole 007 vibe. He beat Derrick and me by a solid five minutes, and then told us he was running another ½ marathon the next day. Crazy. Derrick got a well-deserved second (complete with day-glow running shoes), and I placed third (http://www.redwoodtrails.com/2004_results/castleresults.html).
I should note at this point that my toenails are definitely showing signs of wear. I’ll spare you the pics, but it looks like somebody took a hammer to them. Two are definitely coming off soon. Christi (my wife) already has a “thing” about feet (no touching, please) and my new makeover isn’t helping one bit. Here I was hoping to look sexy in Lycra, and now I have to wear socks at all times. Alas…
Sunday, April 18, 2004
With triathlons greats like the DeBooms out in front, the rest of us could take our time and try to get the feeling in our extremeties back (I did finally feel my toes about mile 3 of the run). Still, it was the most challenging course I have ever seen. You can't really complain when the title is "World's Toughest", I mean, it's not like you weren't warned. The bike was hilly with lots of canyon descents and climbs, and the run was challenging, covering sections of the famed Western States 100 course. I finished near the end of the pack in about six hours, and had a great time.
I felt really strong on the run, and I think it was largely a mental boost from finishing that marathon a few weeks previous. I signed up for the Park City Marathon in a few more weeks to try another marathon, this time a trail/road mix. Again, I understand this isn't the best training method (let the flame comments begin), but I'm trying to fit in as much as possible for the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series.
Honey of a sun burn on this event too, btw. As soon as you think you're the pro, another rookie move comes along to remind you. ;oP
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Well, here’s the logic (not saying it’s right, but here’s how it worked out) – if Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series points are counted based on mileage, then I better do a couple of marathons. So I signed up. Now, of course, I’m at the starting line wondering how one should go about running a marathon. "Trail by fire", so to speak.
The Golden Gate Marathon is put on by Envirosports, and takes place in the Marin Headlands starting right at the beach. This course doesn’t kid around – you go 400 ft and immediately begin the first 1,500 vertical foot climb over the first two miles. It’s worth the climb though – from that point on you run along the ridge tops with spectacular views of Marin, Sausalito, the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco. This race attracted a lot of ultra runners – post-race conversations had a lot of “hey, I saw you at the Western States 100 last year”. I got that sinking feeling I was in WAAAAY over my head.
Given my past Envirosports experience, I packed a fanny pack to be self-sufficient with water, G3 sports drink, some Power Bites, and a Snickers Marathon bar (well, it says marathon right on the package, so it must be right). My past fears were unwarranted – Envirosports put on a great race, and there were plenty of aid stations. As I crossed the first peak, I was in third running with these two guys in their early 40’s. Was I going too fast? Should I worry? I asked the guy next to me, and he said “you look fine…just don’t go lactic” (lactic meaning, don’t push yourself to where your lactic acid builds up in your muscles faster than your body can eliminate it…otherwise known as “going hard”). This guy seemed to have a good pace, so I started chatting with him. After a few miles I thought I was hallucinating, because he was telling me about running 200 miles at a time, how to place at the Badwater 137 mile race in the desert, and how he had done a marathon to the South Pole last summer….wha?!? I figured maybe I should slow down, and did, letting the two others break away. I later found out that guy was Dean Karnazes (http://www.ultramarathonman.com/), one of the craziest ultra runners on the planet, and one of OLNTV’s 10 Most Extreme Athletes. I don’t feel so bad now. ;oP
After 20 miles, I started to walk up the steepest hills, but seemed to have a lock on third place with nobody in sight ahead or behind me. Either that or I was really lost (definitely possible). After 23 miles, my legs started to go jelly and I got the most insane runners high. But I laughed my way through it and crossed the finish line in 3:38, all smiles. Dean and his family were there at the finish line, cheering every runner as if they were family.
I asked the Envirosports folks when they were going to send results to TRM – they had no idea what I was talking about. I feared I might not get points, but I didn’t really care – I just finished a marathon!
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Race #3 found me under the Golden Gate Bridge, running a quick course down to Baker Beach, along the Presidio, and back again. This course traces a lot of the Escape from Alcatraz run course, so it’s a good one for folks attempting that triathlon, and gives you some practice at hitting the 400 sand steps when your heart rate is already going full bore. You also get a lot of practice at “dodge the spectator”, as it is lined with hikers and tourists during all sun hours. There was a different crowd at this race – a lot of the city folks came out to play, which was fun. It was another Redwood Trails race, so nobody got lost.
I placed third again (http://www.redwoodtrails.com/2004_results/SFresults.html) in 1:01:17. I took a huge digger at mile 6, and skidded down the trail on my hands (the first aid tent was more than happy to help pull out all the pebbles), but I don’t think I would have caught Martin Panos and Sam Aranda, both of whom were looking great about a minute ahead of me. I’m already worried about the marathon in two weeks (my first), so best not to push it.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
The Redwood Trails of Napa is another great race by Redwood Trails, held in Bothe State Park just outside of Calistoga in the wine country. I thought it was going to be a fairly flat course (vineyards, right?), but I thought WRONG! It turned out to be a fairly steep two loop course, with about 3,200 vertical feet of climbing. The steepness made it a difficult race – you can’t make up time on the downhills when you’re sliding on your ass. Still, it was a great course. You worked three miles up to a ridge, then ran along that ridge in the heat for a mile, then back down the next gulch. Two stream crossings kept you honest.
I placed third (http://www.redwoodtrails.com/2004_results/naparesults.html) in 1:50:57, behind my new arch-nemesis Malcolm Dunn (coming in an amazing 13 minutes faster) and Stephen Judge, who passed me a couple of times after taking wrong turns. Everyone was in good spirits, and soon were enjoying the spirits of nearby Napa Valley as well.
Christi and I had stayed at a B&B nearby, who made a wonderful fruit breakfast that I inhaled. We soon after learned an important lesson – NO NEW IS GOOD NEW. I fought stomach cramps for the first eight miles even with just a slight change in diet. Christi soon coined the phrase, and it would be our mantra for race prep from here on out. Routine is a good thing when it comes to pre-race diet.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Skyline Ridge is in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just above Palo Alto. Most of the race is crossing the grassy fields on tight single track, on the west side of the hills in Skyline Ridge and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves. Those who had done there speed work made good use of the many switchbacks. We lucked out with perfect weather – sunny and 70 degrees - and about 100 of us showed up to race. I suspect my fellow racers in Whistler, Denver, and NY aren’t quite out of the snow yet.
The race went well (I placed first overall), which puts me on the TRM scoreboard. It’s a long season, however, so no need to break out the champagne yet! I didn’t feel anyone on my shoulder until the last half mile, and when I crossed the finish line and turned to shake his hand he had already left for his SECOND LAP. Apparently he was doing the half marathon. Doh! I’m going to have to keep my eye out for Malcolm Dunn. He ended up finishing the ½ marathon at a faster pace than I did the 10k.
I’m quite sore from this race as well – more than usual. I think sprinting down a trail is pretty tough on the body. There’s a lot of racing to go…I should probably get better at understanding who I’m running against so I don’t risk everything to beat a guy who isn’t even in my race. ;oP
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Envirosports – One of the original race promoters, these guys have been around for nearly two decades. But that doesn’t mean they are the most polished. Of the few races I’ve been to by Envirosports, they seem to prefer running their races “survivalist style”, ie, minimum trail markings, minimal aid stations, and over the craziest terrain. It’s not out of the question for them to have only one aid station for a 14 mile race. Even their version of “aid station” can be minimal – one time it was just five gallon jugs of water under a tree - and on one occasion, I stopped by the only aid station to see it had already been cleaned out by the shorter course racers. Still, Envirosports seems to attract the most competitive field in the SF area and the audience/volunteers are always friendly. If you don’t mind a little risk and throwing a few elbows in the front pack, this may be your race promoter.
Pacific Coast Trails – Wendell and the PCTrails crew promote the most ultra runs in the area, and because of that, their races have that laid back ultra vibe. Their motto is “no races, just runs” and they like to promote a welcome environment that is more about participating than winning. Oddly enough, however, they have the best prizes for the top male and female finishers! For you ultra runners, PCTrails is one of the few who will regularly tack on a 50k or 50m length to their races and they tend to have one every month of so. Be sure to check out the course descriptions first - they are not afraid to put 10,000+ vertical feet in a single run. Aid stations are typically well stocked, usually every 4-5 miles for the short races, and every 7-8 miles for the longer ones. Expect fruit, water, Cytomax, granola bars, and lots of chili and soup at the end. I have gotten lost at a few of their races (not a marking problem, but a "somebody remarked it" problem), but as fellow participants will tell you, that’s supposed to be part of the fun! I would recommend these guys for any race, particularly your first foray into the ultra distances.
Redwood Trails – Redwood Trails (RWT) races are very well organized, and I would consider them the safest and best marked of the three promoters. Eric Gould of RWT used to work for Envirosports, but split off to start his own thing in early 2000. RWT runs a mix of loop and out-and-back courses, and is usually the first to try out a new location (for example, the Bizz Johnson Marathon, which is considered the fastest trail marathon course in the nation, or their recent race at Red Rocks in Las Vegas). Their courses aren't always the easiest, but are definitely the most scenic ways through the parks. Eric and his crew obsess about trail markings and aid stations, and if you complete one of their races, you’ll feel the comfort that comes with such detail. Most often you can always see the next trail marking while you’re standing at one, meaning you never have those "oh my gosh, I must be lost...oh wait, there it is" moments. Aid stations are typically every 2-3 miles, and all of them are fully stocked with fruit, mini clif bars, Gatorade, Hammer gels, and soup and sandwiches (and sometimes homemade cookies) at the end. I've often passed an aid station before I finished digesting the food at the previous one - you won't run out! RWT attracts a great range of racers, with usually a dozen fast folks up front, and people of every speed lining the remainder of the course. Ribbons and medals are often three people deep in each age group, so lots of people get to take home a souvenir for a job well done. But even if you don't get a ribbon, the RWT t-shirts are hands down the best designs. Maybe this is why the finish line at RWT races is one of the happiest places around on a Saturday morning (not quite Team-In-Training-cult-happy, but certainly more optimistic than most). A great place for your first trail race, or for trying out a new location. For some variety, 2005 will also include trail triathlons.
Last year I ran the Woodside Half Marathon put on by each promoter, just a few weeks apart. Here's a quick comparison:
Envirosports - The steepest route (about 2/3 loop), one aid station (no volunteers on the trail), 110 participants, winning time - 1:14:04. Yes, 1:14. He was insanely fast, and talked trash the whole way. ;oP
PC Trails - An out and back course, two aid stations (no volunteers on the trail), 70 participants, winning time - 1:24:44. Note that they also had a 50k run with about 40 participants too.
Redwood Trails - A loop course, three aid stations (four volunteers on the trail), 130 participants, winning time - 1:26:12. RWT had more walkers than the other two, but since it was a loop course, it didn't really matter.
Let me know if your experiences with these guys are different. Overall, we’re pretty lucky in SF. Between these three promoters, you can race year ‘round.
Friday, February 20, 2004
I placed fourth overall with a time of 1:10:51 (about a 7:11 mile average, http://www.pacifictrailruns.com/Purisima_Creek_Redwoods_Results_04.htm). Looks like I need to work on my downhill running (this is where the pack left me in the dust), but the distance covered wasn’t a problem.
I noticed Derrick Peterman from San Jose is back this year, and is looking a few pounds lighter and a few minutes faster. He still hasn't changed his day-glow shoes , but he whupped my ass so maybe he's got a secret there.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Lap swimming is still enjoyable. As a matter of fact, I’ve found it to be the perfect complement to running. Running compacts your spine, and swimming stretches it back out again. And the masseuse gets a new client either way.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Trail running shares surprisingly little with its road running brethren, aside from the minimalist appeal. After meeting a few other trail runners, I’ve also noticed it attracts a very different breed of people, more of your outdoorsy types than your competitive types. I look forward to the trail running races – I’m not sure how a little competition will change the participating group. Maybe these environmentalists get all spotted-owl crazy as soon as they get their number on.
Here are a few other things I’ve found about trail running:
You have to pay attention. This isn’t a “zone out” kind of sport. The terrain is constantly changing, requiring you to stay in the moment. I’ve found this is actually more meditative than the clocking miles on the pavement – if you have to focus on one thing, it drowns out everything else. But there’s also a very important pain-related motivation too – you can get into a lot of trouble tripping on the way down a hill.
It’s best to slow down. Roots, rocks, hills, streams, switchbacks, steep hills…there’s a lot going on in a trail run. Best to slow down your pace 10-20%. This isn’t going to mean less of a workout, believe me.
It’s hard to keep your race pace. Unlike the road runners who know exactly what their mile pace targets are, it’s best to not think about it with the trail runs. Every mile is different than the last, and you rarely get in five strides at the same pace let alone a full mile. I found I got much faster (and enjoyed it much more) once I ditched the watch.
No cars! The scenery is gorgeous, but best of all, there are no cars! Now there is the occasional mountain biker and a few of them are super-agro (and at 20-30 mph, can feel like you’ve been hit by a car), but in general I find it to be a much safer environment for running.
Always, always, always carry a map. Now maybe I’m just the kind of person that can get lost in my own backyard, but I’ve gotten lost about 10% of the time. If you aren't the type to get lost, you may run into me, and I will worship the ground you walk on if you can help.
It’s cheap. Unlike my wallet-sucking triathlon hobby, you don’t need much more than a pair of shoes and a trail map. But if you like gear, there’s no shortage of great stuff.
More insights to come. I already have my first race coming up – a test 14k in the Purisma Redwoods put on by Redwood Trails (www.redwoodtrails.com) – so I’ve got to clock some miles!
Monday, February 02, 2004
By the time February, 2004 had rolled around, I had already spent a small fortune on registration fees for a pair of triathlons (Pacific Crest 1/2 Ironman in Bend, OR, and The World's Toughest 1/2 Ironman in Auburn, CA) and a couple of marathons. My logic went like this:
"You must sign up for at least two races to keep yourself motivated throughout the season. Anyone can get through an Olympic distance triathlon, so be sure to sign up for something that REQUIRES sticking to your training schedule like a 1/2 Ironman. Not falling on your face will be enough motivation to get up every morning."
I know, I know. I need help. Christi, my wife, thinks I'm nuts. I need to get out of dream world and take a good hard look at that 35 year old body that will soon be cursing at me. But for some reason I think if I race enough I will actually look good in Lycra (particularly the one piece tri suits that Christi calls a "unitard"...doesn't seem so sexy now).
I've also been eyeing a new trail running series put on by Trail Runner Magazine (www.trailrunnermag.com) called the TRM Trophy Series. It's the first year (so who knows what will happen), and there isn't much for prizes, but they have a great schedule of races. Seems like a good use of frequent flyer miles, and a great chance to see more of the great parks and open space preserves all over the States. Their competition seems a little long - March 1st to September 30th, and do as many races as you can - but another good reason to slow down and enjoy the scenery.
The flowers are budding...time to get off the couch.