Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Homebound at the Woodside 50k

Similar to 2005, I was able to cap the ultra season with a race in my backyard, the Woodside 50k put on by Pacific Trail Runs. When I say "my backyard", I'm not kidding - the 1/4 mile stretch of trail before the first aid station IS my backyard, and the aid station is in my driveway! Having a race so close is a great way to share my local trails, and honor the parks that I run 300 times a year. Plus it's a nice distraction from wondering if my Western States lottery number was going to come up for 2007.

(Running the redwoods of Huddart Park; photo courtesy of Darcy Padilla)

The Woodside 50k climbs 2,200 feet in 7 miles up Huddart Park, cuts across the Skyline Ridge Trail to Wunderlich Park, then does a loop in Wunderlich before coming back and descending down through Huddart. In total, there is about 5,000 feet of vertical, nearly all of which is in the first half. The entire course is lined with second growth redwoods, lush ferns, and sorrell. About 60 runners came for the 50k, with another 230 or so doing 10k, 17k, and 35k races.

The starting line had some familiar faces, including last year's winner and course record holder Mike Duncan, Rob Evans (recovering from the Javelina Jundred a few weeks ago), Chuck Wilson, Donna Yee, Rajeev Patel, Chihping Fu, and many more. There were also some new faces, such as triathlete Bree Lambert, Rory Fuerst, and the usual handful of first-time ultra runners that Pacific Coast Trail Runs always manages to attract. Lots of smiling faces, each looking to make friends and commune with nature.

(The 50k runners soak in the sun while they have it at the start; that's Mike Duncan up front)

Race Director Wendell Doman warned us that "this is the last of the sun you're going to see until the end", which I knew was true. As we headed down to the first section of single track, the redwoods gobbled up the sun and the temperature dropped into the 40's. Mike Duncan led out a group of eight of us at a brisk pace, and didn't slow down when we hit the hill at Richard's Road about 1 mile in. Rory and I stuck on Mike's heels while the rest faded back. I have raced with Mike enough to know this - he's not trying to burn us out, this IS his race pace! I let Rory know that Mike has been running these trails for over 40 years, so don't let the grey hair fool ya. Rory lives in Tahoe City, NV, but was in town to visit his parents. Although Rory was fairly new to ultra running, he did clock an 8th place finish at Zane Grey 50 last year (9:52) so he had the chops to rock this course. I had my sites set on Mike's course record of 4:29. Last year I finished in 4:39, but I felt I was running much stronger this year. Plus it was the last race of the season, on my home course, so I should go hard. The only thing in my way was Mike, Rory, 3 hours of sleep (from flying in from Philly), and quads still healing from last Saturday's Quad Dipsea. No problemo.

(Climbing up through Huddart Park)

We cranked up Crystal Springs at a near-lactic pace, decimating the 2,200 foot climb to the first aid station (mile 7) in about 55 minutes. Mike led us 99% of the way, per usual. Rory took the lead right before the aid station, and since he didn't stop, quickly put 1000 yards on us. Mike and I gobbled some food and chased after him. The wind had picked up a little, so I decided to keep my hat and left glove (the right one already missing).

(Rory Fuerst takes the lead at mile 7, with Mike Duncan in pursuit)

Mike got the jump on me out of the aid station (I need to work on my "speed grazing"), and it took me a mile to catch him again. We kept peeking ahead to look for Rory, but he was already out of sight. We cruised along for four miles, making the most of the downhills and chatting about running, gadgets, and how lucky we were to have this playground as our backyard. I thought we might catch Rory in the last climb up to Wunderlich, but instead we met up with a gale-force wind that chilled us to the bone. Luckily John Fors and his son were manning the aid station at the top of the hill, eager to feed us warm goodies and fill our water bottles while they braved the wind. They told us that Rory was about two minutes ahead, so he had put a few seconds on us with every mile. Food, stats, and smiles in the howling wind...these volunteers were awesome!

I spent less than 10 seconds at the aid station, put on my hat, and kept up the pace to stay warm. Luckily the wind only lasted about a mile, and soon we were deep in the redwood-sheltered trails of Wunderlich. I love this section of downhill along the fire road, so I pushed hard and left Mike to run solo for a while. I ate a few Clif Bloks and switched back to my visor as the trail warmed up; one clearing gave me a chance to take a quick pic looking over Palo Alto and I couldn't help myself. ;-)

(Looking out towards Palo Alto from Wunderlich)

I whizzed by Salamander Flat (the bottom of the Wunderlich Loop, about mile 18), and began the big climb up. My goal was "no walking", and with that mantra, I started chugging up after Rory. After a mile of climbing, the trail merged with the downhill part of the loop and I got to see some of the other 50k runners smiling and having a good time. They said Rory was ahead, and looking strong. I kept my pace, peeking around every corner in hopes to catch the lead dog.

Instead, I returned to the Bear Gulch aid station where the wind had died down some. They let me know that Rory was 6 minutes ahead, so he was continuing to put time on me despite my fast pace. I didn't lose hope, however - we still have 11 miles to go, and I know the Skyline Trail is deceivingly difficult on the return to Huddart. I went for the power combo at the aid station (flat Coke and m&m's), and headed back as fast as I could.

(Coming back on the lush Skyline Trail)

I charged up each hill, feeling comfortable in pushing my heart rate to my lactic threshold since I knew of each downhill where I could recover. It sure does help to know the course intimately! I kept the water flowing and ate a few more Clif Bloks along the way. My watch was showing I was about 8 minutes ahead of last year's time, so I was on track for a sub 4:30 pace. But as we all know, it's the last few miles where the rubber meets the trail, so to speak.

Back at my home aid station (mile 26), they let me know that Rory was 4 minutes ahead and didn't stop. That meant I was gaining on him, but not fast enough! I refilled my water as fast as possible and bombed down the Chinqapuin Trail, letting gravity pull me down at a sub-7 minute pace to the point that my quads were screaming. Hold on, quads! Just a few more miles!

I was surprised to find that the last section of the course had been changed, allowing us to go all out down a fire road instead of zig-zagging the switchbacks. I continued to go hard, right up to the finish line where Rory was already chilling. He had won the race in 4:14, and I had come in second in 4:24. Just like at the Seacliff 50k, I reached my goal of beating the course record, but finished second to somebody who just CRUSHED it. Rory had gone all out on the last section, and when adding his speed to his time savings from the aid stations, put an impressive new course record on the books.

I was still very pleased with my run. I had managed to come in ahead of my target time, which was 15 minutes faster than last year (albeit some of that gain came from the course change). I also felt surprisingly fresh at the end of the race. Hmmm...perhaps I'm not going hard enough most of the time? As Matthew and the other volunteers served up hot chicked soup and chili, we cheered on the other 50k finishers. Mike Duncan came in at 4:36 for 3rd place, soon followed by Rob Evans (the only guy I know who can get 4th on an "easy" day), Bree Lambert, and Eric Pacenta in 4:41. Bree was running her first 50k ever, and won the Women's division with a course-record 4:41:02, despite falling and cutting up her elbow. I think she has a future in this sport!

(Women's winner Bree Lambert and 4th place finisher Rob Evans at the finish)

In fact, a quick check of the results showed that new course records were established in all distances for both men and women. My congrats to Ralph Lewis (10k in 47:09), Jessica Langford (10k in 51:57), Kevin Keenan (17k in 1:21), Joan Ellison (17k in 1:26), Brent Wright (35k in 2:45!), Patricia Rios (35k in 3:36), and Rory and Bree. Nice work, you guys!

I returned home to find out I didn't get the Western States lottery slot for 2007. On the bright side, that makes me a two-time loser (who thought I would ever say that?), so if I'm up for it, I can get an automatic entry for 2008. Right now, that seems so far away it's hard to imagine. Instead, I'll just read through Ultrarunner Magazine and start obsessing about my 2007 schedule. ;-)

Below is a the Garmin Forerunner map of the Woodside 50k. I've had a great time in the last couple of weeks playing around with the new Forerunner 305 and uploading tracks to Everytrail.com and Motionbased.com. Expect a full report soon!

Cheers, SD


  1. Scott -

    I can't help but wonder how many minutes you might have saved if you didn't take pictures along the way. Please don't take that as a suggestion though...it's much more fun to read with pictures!

    BTW, how did you get a pic of the guy taking the lead? Doesn't that mean YOU were in the lead? :)


  2. Alas, Larry - what fun is the run with no pics?!?

    I will admit that I took a few of these (the ones with no people) a couple of weeks back. And yes, I did jump ahead of Rory and Mike for about 20 seconds to take a pic, but I don't think that counts as "the lead".

    I think the same thing about not carrying a camera to save a few minutes here and there (and some added weight loss), but decide against it every time. These ultras mean a lot to me, and all the more so when I humbly try to capture the experience and company in words and pics. I would rather be last with a great story than first with kidney failure and a course record. ;-) Perhaps I could do both someday???

    Thanks for reading!


  3. Hi, Scott,

    Great report! We'll send a link out to all the runners. I'm sure they'll enjoy reading it and seeing the excellent photos.

    FYI, we changed the course in February this year due to a slide along Alambique. We now use the longer Skyline Trail in Wunderlich and, accordingly, shorten the section to the finish by going down Toyon Rd. The distance is the same so don't feel that your PR was compromised. Course records for the other events are from this year due to the new course.

    Wendell, PCTR

  4. Scott,
    Thanks for trying EveryTrail, and embedding the interactive map in your blog! I am honored that athletes like you are starting to use our service. I hope you like it! And I can't wait to see your photos included in the map :)

    I am looking forward to the full report about your EveryTrail experience. Feedback from our users keeps us focused and helps us further improve the site.

    And... I hope to welcome more trailrunners to EveryTrail!

    Joost Schreve
    Founder - EveryTrail

  5. Scott,

    I've been actively following your blog for some time now as I'm a current east bay resident (berkeley) and know of many of your racing locations. Congrats at your great run at Woodside. I had initially hoped to run that race but, unfortunately, had to take a teaching exam this weekend and so wasn't able to. I'm hoping to break into the world of ultramarathons at some point in the relative future and was thinking about trying my hand at a 50k in the fall of this coming year. Because of your expertise in this area, I was wondering if there might be a particular 50k race that you might think would suit a beginner? I've been looking at the schedule for the PCT races and have been eyeing the skyline ridge, stinson beach, or seacliff 50k. I'm hoping to run at least a few PCT races of shorter distances in the coming months so maybe I'll see you out there some time! Thanks in advance for any advice you might be able to offer, and congratulations again on the 2nd place! Your reports are always a joy to read, and I'm definitely a fan of the pictures :)


  6. That race looks beautiful! Congrats on second place and an awesome time!

  7. You are an amazing runner, Scott- to do that on the heels of the Quad- raw talent- GREAT job!
    Sound slike a great running place to train, too...
    hope you are recovering nicely!

  8. Great report Scott. I love how you run with one foot in the race and the other in your blog. Truly what is a report without pictures. Like the say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

    I didn't get in to WS either, a lot of people I know didn't get in...must have been really hard this year. I've been thinking about Tahoe Rim Trail since you reminded me at Quad. If I do it it will have to be after Bighorn. Good luck in your plans for the new year.

  9. Thanks all for the comments.

    Adelyn, I applaud your goal of stepping into the ultra ranks! If you like the pics here, you're gonna love the runs.

    On recommendations, you've already done the hard part in finding PC Trail Runs. Any of their runs are a good place to start. Seacliff and Skyline are both great places for a first 50k. If you're motivated by views, go for Skyline; if you like the lush woods, then Seacliff is your race. Stinson is also fun, but has some pretty steep hills, so your hamstrings would have to be ready. Save Diablo for your 2nd or 3rd race - that's a tough one.

    You can also e-mail Wendell and Sarah at PC Trails and get their recommendations. They have put more first-time ultrarunners on the scene than anyone, and you'll see why when you talk to them.

    Good luck, and let me know which one you sign up for!

    Cheers, SD

  10. Beyond words...pictures do add so much! I don't think you'd have as many readers without:) And humbly - second place to cap the season...congratulation!

    Scott, any advice on picking Quicksilver vs Silver State 50, please?

  11. Scott, had seen your results on the PCTR website, but the detailed race report I read just now was more fun--I got out of breath imagining myself trying to keep up with you guys (have been wanting to run this one too). Great back-to-back weekend racing!

    to Olga, (even though you are asking Scott) I've never done Silver State, but it's supposed to be awesome and unless you live at altitude, much harder (times usually about 1-2 hours slower). Quicksilver is a great race that I'm hoping to do again this year, so you can't lose either way.

  12. Olga -

    I was looking at the same two races myself for next year. Both look great, but the Silver State 50m looks like a serious ass-kicker. 20k vertical feet of change, starting at 4,000'...that's a lot of altitude for a 50-miler! The winning time for women was over 7 hours in the 50k...that's a tough course! Plus the race packet is full of "no water for miles" and "no trees" warnings.

    But I know you have aced some tough 100's before, so I'm sure you could take either. If you want to run till you cry, go for SS50. Of course, you could always do both... ;-)

    Let me know which one you end up choosing!


  13. The Faith had spoken: Silver State! I love to run till I cry, and then some. I hope to see you there for inspiration. Can't do both - family will kill me. They still can't forgive my 2005, and they are right. Quicksilver, as well as Leona Divide, will move to my 2008 plans (I want a Zane Grey repeat on opposite direction, should be fun).

  14. I first ran with Rory 2 years ago in Costa Rica, and then last January at HURT. He's a talented kid who will be turning in more great performances soon!

  15. Dear Scott,

    My name is Adam Jacobs and I am the Editor-in-Chief of The Final Sprint (www.thefinalsprint.com).

    My team and I really enjoy your site and find it to be very well-done.

    If you could please email me at your earliest convenience I would really appreciate it. I would like to discuss developing a mutually beneficial relationship between our sites and also some other business issues which I think you will be interested in.

    Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Take care,

    Adam Jacobs

  16. Great job on the run Scott! I love PCTR runs and really miss them now that I've moved down to LA.


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