|(Best part of the Sequoia 50k - the French Trail!)|
One thing for sure is that I was relaxed. Just two weeks ago, Christi and I were seriously contemplating moving the family to Washington, DC, or Austin, TX, in pursuit of some fascinating career opportunities, and I thought for sure my life of California trails would be over within the month. But a Silicon Valley company swooped in at the last minute and the match was good, so we're staying. Phew! I start my new job on September 12th...two days after Wasatch...ensuring the first day faux pas of Frankenstein posture in flop flops. But it also leaves me with a rare few weeks to focus on training and getting Sophie Jane into kindergarten. The trails feel brand new to me again, and I swear with every step that I won't take them for granted!
|(Hanging with ultra God Marshall Ulrich, photo courtesy of Sarah Lavender Smith)|
|("know your ribbon colors, getting lost is half the fun...")|
|(Up we go!)|
Thanks to the hydropack and packed food, I skipped the first aid station and went straight to dessert - the gorgeous French Trail tucked along the back of Joaquin Miller Park and into Redwood Regional Park. This trail never ceases to amaze me with its runnable single track and deep redwood gulch. We tackled the climbs with Rachel Niehuus and Sharon Medina, two female front runners in the 30k, leading the way.
|(Granger gettin' it done)|
|(Rachel Niehuus sets the pace)|
|(Sharon Medina still smiling at the turnaround)|
|(Barry Smith joins in on the refueling for the climb back)|
|(Cody Hanson runs the ridge)|
|(Niveen Ismail bombs the downhill)|
|(Eureka's Karen Kidwell charges the single track)|
|(Look out! Passing on the single track is always fun...)|
|(Sarah Tantillo enjoys a bit of shade)|
|(Aaahhh...isn't that canopy nice?)|
|(Gravity is good!)|
We hit the aid station again (25k), where dirt diva Catra Corbett and friends were happy to give some Wasatch pointers (bring Gore-Tex, it gets cold!) as I gulped down some Coke and PB&J. I was in a good place, and the miles were flying by.
As I finished up the first loop (30k), I suddenly found myself all alone on the course as the 30k runners finished up and chilled in the shade. I slipped on the headphones and cranked up Soundgarden and Dead Weather, staying in that 150 bpm groove. Why 150 bpm? I had tested myself at the Stanford Human Performance Lab and found out that my aerobic zone goes to about 154 bpm, and I naturally feel a quickening of my breath at exactly 150 bpm, so it's easy to regulate without a heart rate monitor. It's also surprising how smooth a run can feel when you stay in this zone! I was all smiles.
As I zoomed through the aid station again (35k), Brian Callejas from Fremont caught up to me and we tackled the French Trail together. This was Brian's second 50k ever, and he was doing great! Clearly his cycling and short course running was keeping him very fit. He meticulously asked me about anything he could learn, and was happy to ease up the pace if a long answer was required. I loved that he had so much energy!
|(More French Trail!)|
|(Another great "mistake" shot! I think that's Shiran Kochavi)|
|(Heading down from the aid station to the French Trail)|
|(I'll take a double double French Trail, please)|
The last 10k was very hot and exposed, and Brian and I caught a few runners along the way as we picked up the pace to get to the shady parts. Shiran Kochavi was still looking good, but in need of water, as was Oakland's Barry Smith. Barry had just run the Pikes Peak Marathon LAST SUNDAY, and Brian and I were very impressed this 52-year-old was running at all! He let us know there had been a few drops, as well as few people kicking down to 30k once the heat started, and we were likely in 2nd and 3rd place. David La Duc was certainly out of reach at this point, but the rest of the podium was empty! Go as fast as you can without exceeding 150 bpm! The perfect 100-miler training.
|(Trail trolls planted these waist-high bastards everywhere)|
I felt great at the finish, knowing I could go all day at this pace. I have more mountains to climb this week before the big day in Utah, but my confidence is up. On top of it all, I have a solid foundation of gratitude knowing that our roots will continue to deepen in Woodside, CA. These are the very same trails where I ran my first casual exploratory one mile trail run in 2001, my first trail race in 2002, and my first ultra in 2005. Deep roots allow you to reach for the skies, yes? And so to the skies we shall run...
Thanks to Sarah and the PCTR crew for a great day!