Sunday, March 06, 2005

Racing on the Ridge - Palo Alto Vista Marathon, 3/05

200 runners arrived at the Skyline Open Space Preserve just as the sun cooked the morning fog down below the trail level. The Palo Alto Vista Run was the first race of the spring season (and 2005 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series), and the first sunny day in weeks. No surprise it was a sold out event. Mud be damned, we were going to have fun!

Breathtaking views of the Skyline Open Space Preserve

Eric Gould and the Redwood Trails volunteers put on a wonderful event. For racers, there was a well-marked and well-stocked two loop course with 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, and marathon distances. Guests were treated to live acoustic music as they soaked up the sun in their beach chairs, with kids and dogs exploring the landscape speckled with the first signs of Spring. It was a great way to spend the morning.

I entered the marathon, joining a handful of others at the starting line at 7:30am. The sun hadn't quite dried up the muddy trail, so the first 10k loop was a slippery run up and down two 800' vertical foot mountains. I had pulled out far enough I couldn't see the other runners behind me, but I knew they were back there. Thomas Workman was running second, holding a steady pace through the ups and downs. Not too far behind him were the inseperable Beatrice Song and Rich Hornstra, smiling far too much for a marathon morning. Just a few steps behind them was Chuan Gao, a 12-time Boston qualifier (ran it twice) trying her hand at only her second trail marathon. On mile four, I had a local pacer join me as well - a fox jumped out on the trail and led me out for about 200 yards., kicking up mud and water as it turboed away. Looking at the petite paw prints I realized that, under all that red hair, a fox isn't much bigger than Rocky the pug. But a heck of a lot faster!

The second part of the first loop was pleasant, although there were a couple of 18+ degree hills to keep your training honest. I came in at the halfway point at around 1 hr 40 min, feeling pretty good. The second loop was going to be much dryer, as the sun had warmed enough you could see the the steam coming off the trail. The 1/2 marathoners and 10k runners had already started, so we had more company on that second loop. There were some fast runners careening down the trail - Delphine Verde, John Burton, and the super-fast Mara Rieden were setting the pace for the 1/2 marathon, while Ronald Little and Redwood Trail regular Amy Chi were upstoppable in the 10k. Eric Gould had given me the number 1 bib, and he must have said something at the start, for everyone I passed was giving me a high-five and calling me by name. As marathoners can attest, that's just the kind of thing you need around mile 18.

I kept the sub-8 pace right up until mile 20, when a mild stomach discomfort quickly turned into a vomit-fest. This was a new experience for me, but in retrospect, it was the first time I had tried to take in over 350 calories an hour. Turns out, that's something you want to test before a race. I got back on the trail, but within a few miles my legs started seizing with cramps due to the loss of water and electrolytes. It was dawning on me that vomiting was causing a whole chain reaction of issues, and it wasn't something I was going to be able to fix in the next four miles. My 7:45 min miles quickly turned into 11 min run/walks, and I felt lucky to cross the finish line in less than 4 hours. Soon after, I sat in the parking lot and watched my legs sieze out of control for the next 10 minutes. To all my friends whom I scoffed at when they said they had cramps, I take it all back now. It's very hard to keep a pace when your legs don't do what you ask them too and scream back in pain with every step.

The win was enough for 104.8 points in the Trophy Series, a great way to start the season. But clearly I have some fine tuning to do before the Catalina Marathon in a couple of weeks.


  1. Scott didn't mention he was picking up trash and dropped water bottles the whole way. He was the only runner "dropping off" at the aid stations!

    Keep your head up and feet down,


  2. I should also mention the extraordinary performance by Roger Baylon. 80 years young, and tackling the 1/2 marathon in three hours!

    Nice work, Roger!

    - SD

  3. Great narration! It's nice to hear about the things that don't go as planned. Way to gut it out to the finish.

  4. Nice job Scott. Descriptive details of your problems at the end may have embellished the story. I ran the Envirosports 1/2 Marathon in Woodside so I missed you at this race. The glow in the dark shoes have worn out, and I've ditched them. Maybe that's been my problem.

    Take care and see you on the trails sometime,

    Derrick Peterman

  5. Glad to hear you replaced the shoes, Derrick! Congrats on the Woodside race.

    Those who want to hear more about the shoes can read about Derrick at Castle Rock in May, 2004.


  6. Thomas has a funny blog too about this race -


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