Friday, December 18, 2009

Woodside-- My Last Race of the Decade

Pacific Coast Trail Runs Woodside 50k, Saturday, December 5th

November was a race-free month, so by December I was itching to race. All the long races I'd finished August through October had taken a toll on my body, and I thought my family would appreciate my consistently being there for a change (aside from the mandatory weekend work shifts). I got in some nice long training runs in the two weeks prior, so didn't feel too out of shape.
Somehow I thought I could go to bed later and get up at 7, but because of my recent work schedule, my circadian had set so I was up before 5. Well, at least I wouldn't be late. I remembered to bring everything, including $5 to get into Huddart Park, but when I saw a volunteer collecting money before the entrance, I couldn't find the bill and had to pull over and search my car and my pockets to find it.

Driving in my Prius, I found the first grouping of parking spots full, though I saw a very large SUV truck parked in two parking slots-- maybe I could park in one of the spots? But I soon dropped the issue, since they were still unloading and indeed their SUV was fat, and at least they carpooled. After the next grouping was full, I came across a smaller car double parked in two spaces, with at least two passengers but no doors opened. I found this inexcusable, since it was at the very end of the row, with grass to the right. So the driver easily could've parked not only in the space, but farther to the right. As a public service to my co-participants in a line behind me, I got out, knocked on the car's window. I think they were sleeping, but they lazily just look at me. Impulsively, I open the door, and try to politely ask them to park so someone can have a spot, at which these inconsiderate, selfish mistakes of evolution, started acting all upset, but luckily they had no gun. I got back into my car to eventually find a group of spaces, which I'm sure quickly filled up.

Some people are way dumber than cows.

At the start, saw the usual mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces. Included in the former was recent transplant from North Carolina Trey Barnes, with whom I ran several miles near the beginning and end of Cascade Crest 100 in August. He took off ahead, not to be seen until the end.

4:05 on the dot, good for 2nd

1st split -- 9.7 km from Werder Shelter start to King's Mountain Rd. (first downhill about 300 feet drop to 500 feet elevation, then all up to over 2000 feet)

On the ascent, I talked a while with Jason Reed. He asked if I knew how the elevation profile went. I said "it basically goes up and then it goes down," a gross simplification. He then proceeded to give me a detailed elevation description of the course, which I appreciated, although I only absorbed part of it, since I swear it was more detailed and precise than the elevation profile charts on the website. He ran Quad Dipsea last weekend, and races more than twice a week on average, so I'm not too surprised when he eventualy dropped back, never to be seen again, even at the finish, so I had to use his current facebook profile photo.

After losing Jason, I later chatted with Paul Taylor, and some guy I'd never seen before, a Bryce Hoefer from Monterey, who later I learn is a young 19 years old (so he was in junior high when I started doing ultras) and enlisted in the Navy.

The trail kept climbing, and Paul and Bryce both pushed the pace, so I lost them both before I reached the 1st aid station. Bryce would end up finishing in 3rd in 4:13.

2nd split -- 9.1 km from King's Mountain Rd. to Bear Gulch (rolling up and down)

I ran completely alone. Serene rolling up and down in the woods, with 1 tree in the path that I chose to go around.

I soon realized that I never clipped my gaiters on, so they were hanging from my ankles, not doing anything. There wasn't a lot of gravel on the course, but on this split little pebbles started to get into my shoes, so at the aid station I took the time to fix them.

3rd split -- 14.3 km out and back with lollipop loop from and back to Bear Gulch

The longest split, the elevation dropping down to 1000 feet then back up the ridge. Though not that technial, I managed to invert my left ankle twice. Once on the return ascent from the loop, I began to see runners going out, beginning the pleasant ritual of short mutual greetings and words of encouragement.

4th split -- 9.1 km from Bear Gulch to King's Mountain Rd. (rolling)

At the aid station, they had run out of gels, so I grabbed about 4 Cliff Shots with my gloved hand. I haven't figured out which ones (red versus yellow) have the caffeine in them, so I was a little nervous of getting too wired and having a diuretic effect if each I was going to down 200mg of caffeine in the next 90 minutes. The lint from my gloves wasn't too bad.

Since Bear Gulch was the 35k turnaround, On this stretch I started overtaking runners in that race, or seeing increasingly slower runners still heading the opposite direction.

About halfway through, I landed screwy over my right toe and not only inverted but also forcibly plantar flexed my ankle. Probably my worse sprain in a long time. I hobbled pretty slowly for a couple of minutes, wondering if this was the end of my race, or worse, the end of my season, but then bemusedly remembered that this probably was the end of the racing season anyways. Fortunately I was able to resume running, but I took the pace down a notch.

5th split -- 7.3 km (more direct and shorter) from King's Mountain Rd. back mainly downhill to the Werder Shelter finish.

I thought Paul Taylor was going to keep ahead of me, but for the 3rd or 4th time in a PCTR race, I passed him during the single track switchbacks, feeling a little guilty, since I really thought he would beat me today.

Although when I climbed the asphalt earlierI thought I would hate pounding down it, I and my ankles really appreciated the even paved finish. Even more did I enjoy the surprise shorter distance-- I knew the return would be quicker than the outbound, but I didn't realize by about 2.4 km. Finish time 4:26:20, good for 5th. (Yeah, I know, most of the really fast guys were at the Northface 50 Miler....)

Slick PCTR 50k finisher's coaster, with another unique race logo

Along with the post-race food and chatter, RD Wendell Doman had been printing up Western States lottery results as they came live from Auburn. No surprise-- another year I'm not in. But this volunteer was all smiles, and probably would've been happy ladelling chili all night.

jubilant Woodside 50k volunteer and 2010 Western States 100 mile participant Heather VanNes

I later thought of running PCTR's Rodeo Beach 50k two weeks later (as I finish this, tomorrow), but unable to clear my work schedule, the race season, and my racing decade, would have to end with Woodside-- I guess I've had more than enough fun this past year. Thanks Wendell and Sarah of PCTR and La Sportiva for the comp, and to all the volunteers! Everyone have a great holiday season!

PCTR Woodside Trail Runs race website
more photos (on facebook)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cows Are Stupid

small gathering of cows between Mission and Monument Peaks, above Fremont and Milpitias, CA, earlier this week

Here is my official statement on cows: They are stupid.

Many of the East Bay Regional Parks, in which I do most of my running, are open for cattle grazing, so I am often running by cows. I've learned to slow down and talk to cows when I pass them; sometimes this works to keep them calm, but too many are too skittish.

Today, I startled a lone grazing cow and despite slowing my pace to a walk and trying to act like a friendly Hindu, she freaked out and fled down the winding fire road I was running. After about a mile, she finally veered off the trail. But after I crested a small hill, I saw her ahead running back onto the fire road.

Cows are one of the few animals I know who will let you chase them for miles on a trail. Skunks will let you chase them but even they aren't so stupid as to get back in front of you on the trail you are running. (See the final third of my Rio del Lago 2008 report for my experience chasing skunks.) Even the lowly fish knows to veer to the side when pursued. But cows? Idiotic!

To make things worse, the heifer caught up to a large herd of her friends, and so I found myself chasing not just one but about 30-40.

This situation always makes me nervous. Several years ago, early in my explorations of Bay Area trails, I chased a herd of cattle until the trail dead-ended into an impassible barbed-wire fence. Even before the trail ended, a few of the alpha cows (bulls?) were starting to moo angrily, occasionally giving me the evil bovine stare. When I was forced to turn around and head back, several of the angrier larger ones took this as a sign of weakness and fear and soon started chasing me, at which point I actually did become filled with fear, as I wondered how long it would take for some rancher to find my gored, trampled body.

To avoid riling up today's mob, I veered to the sloped side to try to bypass them, and had to go up and down several steep inclines, but as often happens, the herd continued to run parallel with me, which always pisses me off because this is so obviously a stupid maneuver. Luckily I was able to lose them when the trail split. Turning to look, I saw at least one bona-find steer with the really long, sharp horns, that could've easily impaled me had the stupid creature figured things out.

I try to keep my consumption of red meat down mainly for ecological reasons, and then we'll pay extra to eat either organic or free-range cattle. But in terms of killing a sentient creature, I will feel just as guilty about eating crabs than cows.

For what it's worth (I know this stuff, but it doesn't always work), safety tips for cows.