Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Missing Shorts & Kids (But Not Beautiful Scenery or Good Times) at Skyline to the Sea

Pacific Coast Trail Run's Skyline to the Sea 50k on the last Sunday of April was to be my dessert after the McNaughton 150 mile trail run (report coming soon I promise!) two weeks earlier. A gorgeous, mostly downhill point-to-point route, the course sounded amazing. And after all the slogging I did in that muddy, wet park, on top of an altered and illogical spring race schedule, I badly needed some extended speed work. Plus, I was looking forward to hanging with running friends, many whom I hadn't seen since last year.

Friday & Saturday, April 24-25, Pre-Race

Having missed all the runs around Sacramento and Auburn, this weekend was also my first opportunity to combine a race with a family outing. I found a place with nice tent cabins close to the finish and bus pickup to the start on the Cabrillo Highway (Route 1). We were originally going to leave on Friday afternoon, but my older son's preschool had their annual spring concert that evening and I had further volunteered to help set up. I only caught the singing of my older son's class, since I had to keep my younger son entertained for most of the concert. Here he is pressing the buttons on some Zamboni in the gym storeroom of the larger school where the concert was held:

My older may never make it onto Oprah or American Idol, but his teacher intentionally moved him right before the started from the end to the center to be closer to the mic, and he did not disappoint with his personality and stage presence.

The next morning I had to pack and load the car. We made it out of the house by 10 a.m. Although we'd been to Big Sur, we'd never explored the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. First we stopped at a random beach off the highway (Bean Hollow State Beach).

Then we visited the Pigeon Point Light Station.

You can't go into the lighthouse now, but the views were great, and a volunteer briefly taught us about whales; my son may have grasped the concept of baleen.

We arrived two hours before check-in to Costanoa, but were able to check in to our tent cabin.

The resort is across the street from the Año Nuevo State Reserve, so we could do a loop hike from the our campground. When I strapped on the Ergo carrier, my wife asked me if I was sure I wanted to carry our 19-month-old. I looked at her confusedly so she added "because of your race tomorrow." Whoa, I hadn't heard her express concern about saving my body for a race in a while! I told her that I would NEVER put my racing ahead of my paternal duties. All right, I didn't say that, and when I race I do leave her with the kids. But on this hike I did carry my little one the whole time.

The views were spectacular. And my older son never whined or asked to be carried.

The trail got very sandy the second half. I found myself working a lot more than I'd anticipated, climbing sections of trail that were essentially over sand dunes. So maybe I was lucky that my older son made us stop several times by while got on all fours on the white sand playing desert commando. I guess I wasn't going to sprint up this hill anyways.

I'm torn-- maybe shots like these would look even cooler if I bought him a toy automatic....

We had no food other than snacks, but they had a grill by a big tent, with decent prices and all the plasticware was biodegradable.

The shower room was heated, as were our mattress pads. No, this wasn't real camping, but this was perfect, since it was fricking windy and cold, and I know better than to make my wife take down a tent and pack with two small kids the next morning.

Sunday, April 26, Race Day

I woke up at 4:30 having to pee, and after walking back to the cabin and climbing back into the warm bed, never got back to sleep. My phone alarm went off at 6:20, we're in the car by 6:43. I decided to fill my bottle at the cooler by the reception, and feeling the urge, asked for the restroom. The guy at the front pointed me straight back. I went down the hallway, saw the hot tub, but no bathroom, and then started opening all the doors in the hallway, finding myself in 3 different massage rooms. Lots of lotions, massage tables, but I fricking couldn't find a toilet! I got nervous--I was a little fuzzy about exactly where this bus was picking us up to the start, and feared it might actually leave on time without me if we didn't get there by 7.

And I was a little nervous about another thing.....

The Amazing Mind (Well, Maybe Not Mine So Much)--back to Saturday

So here I have to backtrack. Given the events of the weekend, with 3 straight 6 am shifts Wednesday through Friday leading up to it, I had thought I would stay ahead of the game and pack my race stuff the Tuesday evening before the race, in between my kids' carseats in our Rav4. I was so prepared! Driving out of our subdivision Saturday morning, I had an OCD (obessive-compulsive disorder, but no I'm not diagnoses with it!) moment--did I remember to pack sweat pants in the bag I just packed? I stopped the car, apologized to my family and then tried to check my bag, unfortunately pinned down by a double stroller. I didn't find sweats, but figured I'd just wear my jeans. Two miles later, I decided to pull over again and make sure I had put back the cooler and other bag that I placed on the ground to get to my bag earlier. Which I had done.

I couldn't put my finger on it, but I didn't feel right. After crossing the San Mateo Bridge and already started up the hill on Highway 92, out of nowhere I wondered if I hadn't pack my shorts. I asked my wife to reach for the bag I packed on Tuesday and check to see if they were there. In her often used "you're so hopeless" voice, she recited: "shoes in bag....shirt...jacket...socks, actually 3 pairs of socks...arm warmers....your Navi-watch thing.....nope, no shorts."

Fruck! The situation made me nervous and I was pissed off at myself. At the same time, I could not help but marvel at the human brain-- while packing my race clothes Tuesday, my brain noticed that I hadn't packed any shorts, even though I wasn't conscious of it at the time. Cool, huh?

Cool, yes, but in a sucky kind of way, and I now had to problem solve with the same dysfunctional brain. So I deliberated--do we turn around? Look for a store to buy them? My wife had told me told me to bring a swimsuit since they had told her they have a hot tub at Costanoa, so I had stashed some knee length boarder shorts that morning in my other bag. I decided since this was all my fault, I would not inconvenience my family with further delay. I would run in boarder shorts if I had to. I would just have to lube up real well.

Eventually I thought of calling my brother up and going to my list of facebook friends and sending a message to the one person I knew who was running the race (not having much time and realizing I wouldn't be running very fast, I didn't competitively try to memorize the list of registered runners). No reception on the coast, so my wife texted him "Can you send a message to David Schoenberg and ask him if he has any small or medium running shorts I can borrow?" I never got a message back from my brother saying that David got the message, so I didn't know if he'd bring shorts or not.

So back to Sunday, we soon saw a big parking lot on the ocean side at right, and no bus yet. I got out looking like this:

which might have been cool if I had a surfboard too. Soon this normal non-dorky guy wearing a Cal sweatshirt that looks like David came up to me and told me he not only has some shorts, but he brought 3 pairs for me to try. So by the way, this is the first time we've met in person-- we've gotten to know each other from ours and others' blogs, and facebook, including a few chess matches. I'm thrown off, though by his slight German accent-- since he had moved from Georgia, I had always imagined him speaking with a Southern drawl....

Still wanting to unload, I started walking back north to find an outhouse, when three school buses drove past me before turning around. Oh well, it can wait, I thought as I turned and headed back, but took a few seconds to take a few shots including this:

David and I sat across from each other in the school bus and chatted about all sorts of stuff including his interesting B-school related summer plans until the road got swervy and I started getting motion sick and had to sit so I'm facing forward and close my eyes. Here he is with his loaner shorts I picked.

We arrived at the start around 8:30, and I bee-lined for the three Portalets at the end of the filled parking lot, the line shorter than when I took this photo.

A master of multitasking, I was able to change into David's shorts while doing my business and so didn't further hold up the rapidly lengthening queue. I took off my dingy sweatshirt, ate a half-sized Cliff Bar, and filled my bottle with water. I was finally ready to run! But as before my first and last race this year, I was fricking freezing! I spotted super-talented Sportiva teammate Caitlin Smith and introduced myself to her. She was wearing the 2009 Sportiva Mountain Running Team halter top. Will Gotthardt was with her, doing better by being shirtless. Here they are (photo by Cal), both ripped in respective feminine and masculine ways running later:

photo by Cal

I chose to keep my jacket on, remembering how chilly I had been yesterday on the coast and last night in the campground despite three layers. Sick of being cold! I figured even if I got hot later, it would serve as heat training for my next two races (Quicksilver on 5/9 and Ohlone on 5/31) which would likely be warm, if not sweltering.

A minute to the start, I worked my way to the front.

photo by Rick Gaston

Like at Diablo Trails, I took off fast mostly because I was freezing, but in this race, the field is thick, including last year's co-winner, Leor Pantilat, so I didn't find myself way ahead of the pack.

It was downhill from the start, and with that, everyone was flying. I was soon completely out of breath, but at least not so cold, but plenty of people passed me. Soon I fell behind this guy who looked older, with a receding hairline. Nothing against guys looking like that, but not knowing his age or fitness level, I was wondering if I should be well ahead of him.
After the race, I determined that bib #168 was Paul Taylor of Redwood City, only 4 years older than me, and ended up running a marathon distance (by inadvertently skipping a loop?) in 4:08; a friend told me I look like a taiko drummer with my visor backwards. photo by Cal.

Several miles later, I eventually passed him.

Near the end of the split I suspected I missed a turn, and heading back, run into another guy who did the same. At most a couple of minutes lost, and since I wasn't in a super-competitive mode, was not upset at all. Several runners, including the balding guy, get ahead of me again.

At registration, along with my bib, I had picked up the course description summary which lists all trails and turns and mileages. Thing is, I didn't notice that the distances were in kilometers, not miles, so when the first aid station at Waterman Gap came at 6 1/2 miles, I was a little taken by surprise.

The next 7.4 km to the 2nd aid station at China Grade (km 17.9, mile 11.1) were more uphill than downhill. I was actually relieved-- the fast downhill running felt harsh on my still McNaughton-worn body. I enjoyed being able to control my pace with pure aerobic, uphill effort. I fell into a group of about 3-4 guys and we would take turns passing each other.

More downhill, downhill. But the soft trail increasingly yielded to hard rocks, more technical and less forgiving on my joints. If I was deliberating about how much to hold back earlier, I became decisive-- yes, we're holding back. Quicksilver was 50 mile in 2 weeks, and I wanted my already sore body a chance to fully recover for that race, which I've done three straight years and so have particular time goals.

At Gazos Creek aid station (km 32.6, mile 20.2), I failed to recognized it was volunteer Adelyn Bonner marking off my bib, and then proceeded in the wrong direction, until someone pointed me up the hill. I heard a comment that one person should make it their job to point runners in the right direction.

It was all uphill. I got worried I was off course, then remembered to check the the course summary sheet--yup, 1 mile straight and all up. Finally I saw ribbons to turn right to find 2 huge downed trees with numerous branches and leaves blocking the single track. Fun! Three miles after leaving Gazos Creek, I started to catch up and pass other runners. Were people pooping out already? Soon, duh, I figured out that I had made a big loop and that these are runners approaching Gazos Creek aid station for the first time. Realizing that passing so many runners was probably just giving me the illusion of running real fast, I tried to pick up the pace.

okay, I have no idea where this was taken by Cal, but I'm picking it up....

Starting to feel warm despite my desire to heat train, I began rolling up my Sugoi sleeves underneath my jacket.

photo by Adelyn Bonner

At my 2nd stop at Gazos Creek (km 32.6, mile 10.2), Sean Lang pictured above filled up my bottle again and then I go straight. Turning right I saw Sportiva teammate Caitlin Smith, who told me she was relieved to see me, having taken a wrong turn and lost about 10 minutes. So even if I did so-so this race, I knew I'd served my purpose. I consoled her by reminding her that her real race to gun is Miwok next weekend. In keeping with running about 30 seconds per mile faster than I (even as pre-taper week training run) she took off up the winding single track out of sight before I would've been able to say "chick me please, speed princess" ten times.

I then ran pretty much alone except for increasing numbers of hikers down the extended downhill. After a few miles a voice behind me asked to pass. "Is that Brian?" I asked, thinking PCTR regular Brian Wyatt.

I takes me several times to get people's names and faces down, so I was pleased to know I now had Brian's voice down. He told me I'd probably pass him again soon, but I told him probably not. "Well you just ran 150 miles a couple of weeks ago," he said; Brian had just done PCTR's Diablo 50 miler last weekend, so I wasn't going to sandbag an excuse-- this might be the first time he's beaten me in a race-- great job dude! The downhill finally leveled out, which I found more forgiving on my body, even if I pushed the pace. I suspected it would be mostly flat to the end, so as only to be 75% wussy, I decided to hammer it home.

another photo by Cal

Interestingly (and minorly irritatingly) despite the flat terrain and ample sunlight making its way past the treetops, my Garmin Forerunner kept beeping and flashing "Satellite Reception Lost, Click Enter." So when I saw a few water bottles at the side of the trail, and my Garmin read 7 something miles for for the split, I wasn't sure if this was the last aid station or not, so I quickly unscrewed my lid, filled my bottle and sped off.

A mile later, I saw the real aid station. I tell them I don't need a bottle fill, but out of habit, grabbed a potato chunk, dipped it in salt and stuffed in my mouth. One of the volunteers, whose name I can't remember-- (read the 1st comment below to find out who it was!) told me he couldn't wait for my McNaughton 150 report. I apologized-- I was almost done, but then this race came up. Leaving the station, I realized that a scarfing a sugarless potato chunk two miles from the finish was physiologically useless and stupid. It wouldn't have mattered, but I caught a glimpse of a runner ahead of me, and tried to sprint to catch up, but then felt the potato. Oh well.

Less than a mile from the finish, I saw cars and day-hikers. I followed the ribbons around into a parking lot, then couldn't find the trail. I asked a bunch of people standing there where the course went and they pointed back where I came after I did my 180 turn. I objected, then saw the guy behind me coming up the trail, who without hesitation saw the pink ribbons, and instead of running past them like I did, turned into the final 0.6 mile long Marsh Trail to the finish.

More irritated than the earlier time I got off the course, I sprinted to catch up, telling the runner in blue as I passed him that if wanted to pass me again, more power to him.

Danno Brown, who thankfully was totally cool with 15th place.

I ran into the finish area, got handed my finisher's coaster, and saw all these guys already relaxing in the grass that maybe another day I would've been able to keep up with (or maybe not--maybe I'll never know). Rick Gaston, who had been volunteering on the course and now at the finish, then shot a photo of a bunch of us.

left to right: Brett Rivers (7th), Nathan Yanko (3rd), Will Gotthardt (3rd), Caitlin Smith (10th, 1st woman), me (way, way back in 14th)-- all enjoying the mutual soreness, conversations and the weather.

Will Gotthardt, finishing a strong 4th and almost under 4 hours, then helped me by finding my drop bag from a collection of over 150 identical white trash bags with pink-red handles. He and a lot of other finishers were already modeling the very cool looking green Patagonia capilene long sleeve race shirts, with the what appears to be the new Skyline to the Sea logo.

I talked first with Nathan Yanko (3rd and under 4 hours), catching up with him since our talk at Lake Sonoma 50. Then I started grazing. After a while, I started getting nervous that my family hadn't shown up yet, so asked Rick Gaston and then RD Sarah to borrow their cell phones. Despite moving all over the field, I couldn't get a signal. Right after Rick set me up to text, I felt my older son tapping me on the leg.

We hadn't realized that we couldn't drive into the finish and park there, but come to think of it, since everyone had parked down the highway for the buses, of course there would be a shuttle carrying runners back to the parking lot. The kids hadn't napped yet, so it was soon time to go. I changed back to my boarder shorts and put David's loaners into a ziplock bag so he could either try to sell them online or put them in his wash per with minimal nastiness per official CDC guidelines. We couldn't fit on the first shuttle that came, so we waited by the end of Marsh Trail as runners came out to the finish, both of my kids cheering "yay" and clapping for each runner, and partly making up for their inappropriate daddy, who had wandered back on what he thought wasn't part of the course only to see a runner approaching and mortifying their mommy.

Missing child!

I decided to fill my water bottle up with some sports drink before the shuttle came back, so carrying my younger son, walked back up to the refreshment table while my older son, unsupervised, started scarfing jelly beans. Heading back, I couldn't find my toddler. "Peter where's Lucas?" "He's right there" he answers, pointed what I thought was past me. I look back up toward the snack table, don't see him, so started walking up, asking if anyone saw my other child. Brian Wyatt then responded by asking, "You have a third?" I still didn't get it, and started walking around the finish area. "He's there, daddy" but I don't see his brother.

Finally my older son, probably frustrated with me, shouted: "Daddy, you're holding him!"

As I commented to those witnessing my folly, it's better to think I'm missing my son when I'm not than to not realize he's missing when he is.

The drive home had that happy feeling of having had a great weekend. And my wife told me that she would enjoy coming back and doing the upscale camping thing again I wanted to do the race next year.

Thanks Sarah and Wendell, all the many volunteers (point to point courses like this take many many), David for the shorts, my bro for the call, my Sportiva and other sponsors (see links above at right), and my wife and kids for letting me go run and being so much fun making the whole weekend memorable.

click for Garmin/Motion Based map of run (realizing there were satellite reception problems)

Other blogged reports:

Adelyn Bonner (volunteer)
Rick Gaston (volunteer)
Leor Pantilat (Sportiva teammate & male winner & now sole record holder)
Caitlin Smith (Sportiva teammate & female winner & record holder)

list of registered runners (to figure out who's who in the above gallery)

1st published Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 14:30



Harald said...

Haha, no shorts!

I once packed two right shoes for TRT 50 and had one the volunteers ask per megaphone if anybody had a spare pair of shoes, size 10.5, please? Shame, shame.

The guy who asked about the McNaughton report was me, btw.

Oh, and I'm kind of interested in where you missed the trail the first time, since I marked to Gazos Creek - was it a 90 deg left downhill, wider than the single track you came from at about mile 4.5 on the GPX you posted? There should have been 2 ribbons just past that intersection. Were they gone?

Great report, as usual and I'll see you at Quicksilver.


Rajeev said...

I knew it was Harry who asked you about your McNaughton report!!

Mark - you crack me up! All your race reports are so much fun to read.

Eagerly awaiting the McNaughton report.

Congratulations on another wonderful race.

See you in QS.


Peter Lubbers said...

Great report, Mark.
Nice job out there so soon after that long run!

Baldwyn said...

Wow, what a tale. Seeing the board short pics before the blog was rather puzzling, especially when apparently you ran the race more appropriately garbed in later photos. But the missing child part is just too much! Congrats on a great outing with the family!

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

You can find a pair of shorts worn by the Masters World Record holder in the 150 mile distance on ebay NOW!

and, oh yeah, GREAT to finally meet you in person! See you soon

Scott Dunlap said...

Awesome report! I forgot my shorts for Boston this year. Totally embarrassing.

Looking forward to that McNaughton report! Get on it!!! What, you have a life or something?

Gretchen said...

Great job Mark!
You know, this morning I was frantically searching for my car keys, harassing my husband for probably misplacing them, when I suddenly realized they were in my hand. I didn't realize people did that with children too. Good to know.

kate said...

nice report, Mark- you are great!

we want to check out the tent cabins at Costanoa- they sound nice!

Rick Gaston said...

Should have ran in the aloha print shorts. They were cool! Paul skipped the loop because of an injury, at least that was what he told me at the finish. Dan Brown is a personal friend and I don't think he minded that you passed him. Now is it just me or does your kids always look like they are dancing? Never a dull moment. Good to see you. So soon after a 150-miles!

By the way that picture of you and your youngest laying down in the sand while the older kid was skipping on the sand in the background - priceless. A total keeper.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. Yeah, not realizing I was holding my kid in my left arm was a first.

Harald, sorry I forgot your name so fast again and thanks for marking as well as feeding. I don't think you missed marking anything-- I and the other guy just spaced out. I believe we missed a single track coming from a fire road. The fact that I missed the last turn off that no one else seemed to have a problem with shows I am navigationally challenged. See you at QS.

Anonymous said...

Do you crack me up. I don't know how you do it with your work schedule. Your kids keep getting cuter everyday. Good run despite all the chaos.