Monday, February 04, 2013

Blasting Through the 2013 Fort Ord 50k

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 230+ runners for the inaugural Fort Ord 50k in Monterey, CA, put on by the fabulous folks at Inside Trail Racing (ITR). Long known by mountain bikers and hikers for sandy single track and Sea Otter Classic fun, this Army-base-turned-recreation-area made for a perfect location for a hilly afternoon romp. Thanks to great volunteers, nice running weather, and a flawlessly marked course, we had a great time!

(Beach, mountains, single track...what's not to love? Photo courtesy of Donald B)
The fog hung thick in the sky as we made our way around the Laguna Seca race track (not actually on the track, that is), forecasting a nice cool day for running. Everyone was excited to try the new venue, and we were thrilled to have some locals from Salinas, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey join in on the fun. I somehow snagged the pole position parking (a good omen!), so I had plenty of time to gear up and get ready. This was a test "b" race for me to see how well I was doing with my training for the Nueces 50-miler in early March, so no goofing off allowed. Well, no more than normal, anyway.

(Pole position! I can crawl my way here later)
(Ken Michal gets us collected at the starting line, still donning the Hawaiian shirt from his HURT 100 finish)

(Look everyone, I'm ahead of Leor Pantilat! At least until the race actually starts)
(Go Kart racing was going on at Laguna Seca down the hill)
We had 10k, 25k, and 50k options today, and the 50k had a reasonable 2600' of climbing with most of it on the back half. Leor Pantilat was here, as were a number of 4-hour capable runners likely running for second place now, so it would be a fast race for sure! Those looking to just have some fun were also welcome, and didn't need to look any farther than Ken's Hawaiian shirt, Race Director Tim Stahler's crazy cool Tom Selleck mustache, or the ever-present smiles of Danni, Lauri, and the great ITR volunteers. At 8:30am sharp, we were off!

(Tim's moustache and Ken's shirt = channeling Tom Selleck!)
(Brian Rowlett from Carmel, JR Mintz, and Alexis Smith are ready to roll!)
(Why does he keep holding up his camera?)
(And we're off!)
We had a few miles of downhill dirt road to settle into a rhythm and allow the 25k and 50k runners to sort themselves out. I caught up with Jason Wolf (25k), who was making good progress coming back from a late season injury, and Rudy Montoya (50k) who was getting a solid 50k in before tackling the San Bruno 50-miler in a few weeks. Gary Saxton (50k) joined us too, sharing his excitement for his upcoming trip to China, and we all leaned into the downhill the best we could and disappeared into the fog.

(A view of Jason Wolf I am used to...the back of his head!)
(Michael Jiminez leans into the downhill)
We hit the first aid station (mile 3), and the volunteers were amazing at getting us all filled up quickly. I had two water bottles filled with Vitargo goodness, and dropped one here knowing we would be back in six miles. Rudy found another Fresno runner, Domenic Andreotti, and the three of us paced behind local Judd Haaland as he took us through the twisty single track and short, steep climbs. The trails were super soft, alternating between sand and lightly dusted sandstone. Super fun!

(Carmel's Giles Healey gets a refill, photo courtesy of ITR)
(Volunteers rule!)
(I pace with Rudy, with my secret hand-that-fell-asleep technique)
The trails were a perfect clash of the nearby beach and oak-studded mountains, alternating between dune-like deep sand and gravel-covered sandstone . The fog and "witch's beard" moss hanging from the 50-year-old oaks gave it an other-worldly quality, and kept us all looking around to spot new flora and fauna like a 3rd grade science class. What a great area!

(Witch's beard 6-year-old daughter taught me about it!)
(Rudy moves fast down some single track)
(Sneaking through the trees)
The fog was as settled as a Superbowl party couch as we returned to the Pilicartos aid station (mile 9), making it tough to figure out who was ahead of us or behind us. We were all thanking the volunteers for the amazing course markings. If it wasn't for all the ribbons, we would be stumbling onto the track or highway for sure!

(Domenic celebrates topping another hill)
(Carol Lane tackles a sandy descent...)
(...and then climbs! Photos courtesy of Allen Lucas)
The sun slowly pulled back the reluctant fog, unveiling a treasure trove of hills and trails full of hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and nature photographers. It was great to see so many people out and about! We had a brief stop at the Skyline aid station (mile 11) before Rudy kicked it up a gear and was soon out of reach.  I was doing my best to stay at the high end of my aerobic range, only allowing to speed up after the halfway point. For the next few miles I ran solo, wondering at each intersection if I was going in circles. These trails are sneaky!

(Downhill rules!)
We hit the Creekside aid station (mile 17), and I put my headphones on for some Soundgarden-powered energy while the volunteers filled me up again. My energy was good as I felt the Vespa kick in, so I dropped it into a faster gear as we got out of the scrub brush and hit a series of grass-covered hills that would take us to the finish. I passed a few folks, catching Rudy as well, pointing to my headphones as the culprit for the newfound speed. Everyone was still moving pretty fast, so no time to dawdle!

(Equestrians were nice enough to pull aside)
(LOVE these long trails! Hey, maybe I can catch that guy!)
(Carol Lane knocks down a mountain, photo courtesy of Allen Lucas)
(Rock and roll! Photo courtesy of Allen Lucas)
For a few miles, the hills belonged only to my feet as I couldn't see anyone in front or behind me. Gosh, the last time I felt this I was lost...uh, oh. But soon enough, I spotted another ribbon and sighed in relief. As we got close to the Toro aid station (mile 23), I spotted another runner in front of me and picked up the pace to catch him. It was Rob Houghton, the 53-year-old who just placed 3rd at the Kettle Moraine 100-miler last year (sub-20 on his first 100!). Rob was eagerly training for Western States this year, and welcomed the company. We cruised along together for a few miles, with him setting the pace on the downhills, much in thanks to his regular running of logging trails near his home, and me cranking the uphills thanks to my driveway. Man, I sure hope I've got his chops when I'm 53!

(Domenic manages a wardrobe malfunction in the final stretch)
(Catra Corbett climbs with ease on her way to a 5:42 it just me, or she a lot faster this year?)
(Gary Saxton cruises along clenching a bullet casing that he found on the trail)
(The smiles of Aron Eichhorn, Jessica Willamsen, and Joanna Reuland light up the trail, photo courtesy of ITR)
Rob guessed we were in 3rd and 4th place, but I had lost count in the 25k/50k start. My uphill pace had Rob red-lining a bit in the last few miles, and I put a 30-second gap between us on a big climb. I could hear the roar of Go Karts at Laguna Seca (these ones go 100+ mph!), but knew we had a few miles left. At mile 30, I could hear the Go Karts once more and went anaerobic to sprint to the finish.
(Rob Houghton making it look easy)
(Leor sighting! Photo courtesy of Allen Lucas)
The cheers at the finish were awesome as I crossed in 4:09, good enough for 3rd place. Leor had won in an astounding CR of 3:32, with Carmel's Giles Healey finishing 2nd just a few minutes ahead of me (Giles attributed his speed and Masters win to a heavy regiment of surfing, cycling, and running that Carmel has in spades). Jennifer Goldstein, a recent Bay Area transplant from Chicago, celebrated her 31st birthday by winning the Women's division in 4:25, with Alexis Smith taking second in 4:56 (all results). Everyone said the course was challenging and fun, and only a few wrong turns here and there. Not bad!

(Who-hooo, the finish!)
(Michael Jiminez brings it home for 5th in 4:18)
I felt solid the whole race, and was still smiling at the end. That must mean the funemployment-powered training is going well! But as I met new runners and chowed on apple pie, soup, and beer, I couldn't think of training and could only ponder how gorgeous this slice of nature turned out to be. I was really blown away! It is an honor and privilege to be able to race with such fine people and add a little adventure to our lives.
(Winners Jennifer and Leor pose with RD Tim Stahler)
(Super photographer Allen Lucas and I duel at high noon!)
(Allen! They are cheering your name!! Get going!!!)
My thanks to ITR and their wonderful volunteers for the great race, the awesome shwag (tech shirt with great design, pint glass), and a great day! I will put that pint glass to work at the Super Bowl tomorrow, for sure.

- SD


  1. This is great! I love that ITR decided to put on a race here. I never saw any horses (I'd been told that they would mostly be on the 50K loop) and the few bikers were reasonably polite. The course was fun and I could tell it would be fast for the leaders. The weirdness of ankle-deep sand and moss-covered trees was a blast. I'd love to do this again without the fog, just to see what the views were really like, but fear that would mean a lot of heat on this mostly exposed course.

  2. Great recap! Love the line, "The fog was as settled as a Superbowl party couch as we..."! I'm bummed I wasn't able to participate - definitely will make plans for next year's. Cheers!

  3. I am so glad ITR put this race on because I had no idea all these trails existed! It was such a great course - although we did get that disoriented/lost feeling out there too. Great recap and congrats on a great race :)

  4. Great report! I'm sad I missed this event and hope to do it next year. You outdid yourself with photos and descriptive writing. Nice job on the 4:09--that's FAST!

  5. Thanks for the report on this ITR race. The weather looked perfect for a day at Fort Ord. Beautiful course from your shots.

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  7. That looks like an incredible race!

    Great photos, too.

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