The weather was perfectly overcast in Aptos, CA, as runners from California, Oregon, Massachussets, and one or two from China and India began their warm up. Some of them had just raced at Big Basin the day before, but had enough legs for one more redwood romp. I laced up my Inov-8 RocLite 315's, eager to try them out in a race now that I had clocked a few hundred miles in them. The RocLite's are a bit softer than the Flyroc's I had raced all season, but had the same low-heel, lightweight design. I was enjoying them tremendously for training - now I needed to see if they could hold up to 50k.
The course was a 4-mile run to the first Loma Prieta aid station, then a series of loops that kept coming back to that aid station. The 50k runners immediately started calling it the "deja vu" aid station, since we would visit it four times before heading back to the beach. The course is relatively flat (3700' vertical change), but with lots of short ups and downs as you weave through the redwoods. At 8:30am, the mass start began and we all headed up towards the forest.
life with a newborn has given me a new appreciation for peace and quiet.
(Ah, the beautiful fall colors of...poison oak!)
The downhill side of the West Ridge Trail was fast and furious. It never got so steep or technical that you had to slow down, so it was easy to keep a fast pace. You didn't want to go too fast though - one trip into the waist-deep poison oak on either side would keep you in calamine for weeks. I came off the downhill and returned to the aid station, where they filled up my Camelpak and poured some flat Coke. They said Oswaldo was still setting a cheetah-worthy pace for the 50k, and was already 20 minutes ahead! I got the feeling he knew what he was doing, and had the 4:54 course record square in his sites. Wendell later told me that he had just done the Angeles Crest 100 as his first 100-miler last month, and got 7th. Yup. He knows what he's doing. ;-)
I charged back up the West Ridge Trail for loop #3, feeling energized from the Coke. The hornets got me again (6 stings this time), prompting me into the fastest fartlek I had done in months. Christine Miller and Donna Yee were coming down the other way after inadvertently extending their 35k by an extra 10k, but they were smiling and having a good time. Since I was familiar with the trail this time around the loop, I went a bit harder. I was in the zone, and my runner's high was giving me that warm fuzzy feeling. 50 minutes later I finished the loop, about 3 minutes faster the second time around.
good enough for 2nd place. Oswaldo Lopez had crushed the course record in 4:17:23, pacing James Hughes along for a course record 22km finish (1:44, 20 minutes ahead of 2nd place). Julie Bramlet set a Women's course record in the 35km with a 3:13:46, good enough for 3rd overall. Trail Runner Mag Trophy Series contender Adam Blum won the 14km race in 1:00:07. Overall, everyone was making good use of the ideal weather and well-marked course to push the course to its limits.
Leo DeAvila (an Ironman triathlete based out of Los Gatos) and Chris Hacker came in shortly after me for the 50k, with Stephanie Hiller winning the women's division about an hour later. We ate up soup, chili, and plenty of snack foods as we watched the families play on the beach. My legs looked like hell from the hornets, but they felt good and held up to the finish. The RocLite's did well, and were cushy enough to go even longer. It was an epic day!
My thanks to Wendell, Sarah, and the PC Trails volunteers for putting on another great race. I hope to see you at the Woodside 50k in December!