Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smiling Through the Woodside Trail Marathon

On Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 120 runners for the Woodside Trail Marathon in Woodside, CA, put on by Coastal Trail Runs. This 5k/11 mile/22 mile/marathon race was a great way to share my stomping grounds with some new trail runners and enjoy a day of perfect winter running before a weeklong storm.

Coastal Trail Runs is the sister organization of Pacific Coast Trail Runs, focusing on marathon-and-under distances to attract new recruits to the wonderful world of trails. Based on the number of hands that shot up in the air when RD’s Brian Wyatt and Marissa Walker asked “how many are running their first trail run?”, they are certainly succeeding. But what could be more attractive than a crystal clear winter day in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a perfectly marked course, and buffet aid stations? They will all be hooked for sure.

(Babysitter sick? No problem - let's make it a family hike!)

At 9am, they sent us off into early morning shadows of the redwood canopy of Huddart Park. The 5k runners blazed down the single track, slowing only when Richards Road (mile 2) started to climb. I was about 10 people back, running along with Daryl Hultquist, who had taken advantage of a business trip to run some trails far from his home in Maryland. “Our hills are about 200 feet tall”, he said, pacing himself up the first 2,000 foot climb. He was certainly going to enjoy this marathon! After this climb, we would run 5.5 miles of the Skyline Trail to Wunderlich Park and do a down-and-up loop before returning.

(Taking the single track)

(The redwood canopy gives us plenty of cover)

Being my home turf, my feet fit the grooves of the trail like a comfortable pair of slippers. Honestly, it was a bit unfair to the others to know every nook and cranny, and I quickly picked my way through all but the first three 5k runners. I sang along with my steps (Kelly Clarkson…I know, pretty corny) and absorbed the sun-sprinkled warmth through the swaying tree branches. Winter running in California is truly marvelous! I hit the first aid station (mile 6) in 50 minutes, and Sarah Spelt and Aaron Doman let me know that I was the first of the marathon/22-milers to arrive. Probably a bit too fast this early in the season, but I was having a blast so I took the refill and ran.

(Not sure how I got this effect, but pretty cool!)

 I couldn’t see anyone behind me, so I cranked Wolfmother on the iPod and made my way down the Skyline Trail. It’s funny how a trail you have run 100+ times can look so different if you just slap on a number and have some ribbons to follow. I ran fartlek style, staying in my aerobic zone until just the right hill or guitar solo demanded a surge. I reached aid station #2 (mile 11) in 1:30, finding the brave volunteers manning the “high altitude” aid station and staying warm against the growing breeze. They filled me up with a smile and sent me down into Wunderlich Park.

(The storm provided a few obstacles, photo courtesy of Dan)

(The awesome volunteers at Aid Station #2)

No matter how many times I do the loop through Wunderlich, the climb out just messes with my head with all the false summits and long fire roads. I figured some comedy could assist and switched the tunes to They Might Be Giants “Science is Real”, a hilarious kids album to learn about cells, gravity, and the Kelvin scale. I giggled my way back up the summit, much to the delight of the many hikers out enjoying the morning.

(Gene Weddle goes the full marathon)

(67-year-old Lynnard Phipps leads through the marathon course)

Back at the aid station (mile 16), the 22-milers were getting their grub on. I was still just on water (thank you, Vespa) so I did a quick refill before joining them on the return trip. It was great to have some company! There were lots of smiling faces still working their way towards us, and each graciously made room for passing while shouting words of encouragement. The PCTR/Coastal Trail Runs community overflows with optimism!

(Marie Lanka tackles the Skyline Trail)

(Jodene Laramy cruising through the 22-miler)

I flew through the next section, my legs on autopilot and (falsely) thinking we were almost done since our driveway was near. The consolation prize was seeing my family waiting for me at the last aid station (mile 21), dogs and all! Martha (the Bernese Mountain Dog) tackled me while Rocky (the Pug) got to work on the salt in my knee pits. Sophie was all smiles, and Christi was packing her .44 Magnum Canon camera. I didn’t want to stay too long since this was a race after all, but Sarah let me know I was well ahead of the rest and gaining on the first few folks in the 22-miler. I guess the home field has its advantages! We snapped a few pics, and I was on my way to the last long descent..

(Crossing Kings Mountain to meet my crew!)

(Sarah Spelt hangs out with Christi, Sophie, and the dogs)

A light rain kicked in, hinting at storms to come (prediction was 20” of rain in 6 days), but for now it was blissful. I am one lucky soul to call this my backyard. With one quick huff up to the Crystal Springs Trail (that part is always hard), I eased up and enjoyed the final two miles of single track and fire road.

(Jason Chan coming down the Chinquapin Trail)

("Look out, I'm not stopping!" says Marie Lanka as she comes in the finish)

I breezed into the finish in 3:36:04, good enough for 1st place and an awesome coffee mug trophy. The 22-mile winners had arrived about 10 minutes ahead of me, and Daryl (4:01:54) took second in the marathon with Rachel Rodriguez (4:05:08) just a few minutes behind to win the Women's division. Finland's Mikko Valimaki (1:17:52) and local Caitlin Roake (1:30:37) took honors in the 11 mile, and Michael Popov (32:32) and Lisa Penzel (37:35) won the 5-miler (all results). We relaxed in the winter sun, eating snacks and sharing stories of our favorite sections of the race. It was so fulfilling to hear their perspective and experience the trails through fresh eyes. My hike home found me seeing once-familiar trails brighter and more vivid, noticing details with a childlike curiosity. First time trail runners, you are welcome any time, my friends!

(Daryl takes 2nd place, then heads out to catch a red eye to go skiing with his kids)

(Laura Guest and Scott Lucchesi, our 22-mile winners!)

My thanks to the RD’s and volunteers of Coastal Trail Runs for a great race, and congratulations to all the runners (especially you first timers!). I hope to see you all again soon, and look forward to seeing more smiling faces in my backyard. For those interested, Pacific Coast Trail Runs will be back in Woodside on February 6th – come check it out!
- SD


  1. So is that a CR? - Don

  2. Just beautiful, all of you had a great day out! I kind of envy your surroundings. I live on the coast, which is nice, but the hills and the traills on these pictures... gorgeous!

    Greetings from a fellow (budding) ultrarunner from Holland.

    Andre Hilhorst

  3. What a fantastic day for a trail run! Nice to bump into you Scott and thanks for sharing your "backyard" with us. :}

  4. Thanks for commenting, guys!

    Don - I guess technically that is a CR since it was the first running of the race. But honestly it's not a high bar (the Woodside 50k CR is 3:37). Come out next time and top it!


  5. Beautiful! We were running the Wildcat Canyon trail. The weather was great yesterday.
    I love your blog. It's nice to see all the different trail races out there and hear about your adventures.

  6. Great job. My first race in the Bay Area and you are right the trails are awesome. That orange loop we did does have many false summits. Was a nice grade to run though.

  7. Congrats, Scott! And you were right, the photos are great and most important! ;) I especially love that pic of Sarah, Christi, Sophie, Martha and Rocky. You've got a great bunch there!

  8. Great blog!! You have so much useful info. I'm doing my second ultra this summer and one day hope to have the guts to do trail running. Right now I'm too scared of getting hurt!

  9. I didn't see it on your calendar, but noticed your name on the TRT50k. Post Death Ride Top-Secret-Training?

  10. great to cross paths with you scott and to run in your wake for the first few yards. what a treat to run those trails. keep up the great work with the blog.

  11. Great report, and congratulations on the win! I love the spiral photo. Did you take that while running? (If so, how do you run so fast AND take photos?)

    - Sarah

  12. Thank you for the comments, everyone!

    Denise - Trail running is WAY easy. Definitely give it a shot! I think it's easier than roads.

    Bobby - Yes, I'm signed up for TRT50k! But I'm in the doghouse for having so many races on the calendar (I kinda drunk-dialed my way through the USATF calendar with a credit card and broadband connection...thus the logic of a 1500m race followed a week later by a 100m race). Hopefully a last-minute addition!

    Sarah - That spiral photo is kind of like tunnel vision at the end of a 50k, no? I did snap it while running - I usually take about 100, and 15 or so good ones make it through. The best are usually the "mistakes" like this one.


  13. Congrats Scott! FYI, that's me in the Chinquapin Trail picture.

  14. Cool! I added your name to the caption. Be sure to right mouse click and keep that photo - it's a good one!


  15. Thanks for another motivating post...

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  17. Great running photographs that capture the spirit of the run. I am working with the women of 8 Women Dream who are going to run in the Bay to Breakers in May. We are in training mode and I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for inspiration. I especially like the photo of the running 67 year old. It made me feel like we can all do this.

    Thank you!


  18. I like your writing style. Nice blog.


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