Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No Snow, Just Fun Mud at Redwood Park 50k

coming into the start/20k/30k/finish aid station, photo by Rick Gaston

The forecast was that it would rain a ton, and then snow Friday into Saturday, in which case the PCTR Redwood Park trail runs would be cancelled by the East Bay Regional Park District. I walked out of the emergency department shortly before midnight Friday, and the parking lot was dry.

Amazingly I woke up at 7 a.m. on Saturday (February 26th), 15 minutes before my alarm was going to go off and less than six hours after I'd gone to bed, feeling fairly rested and feeling pretty good.  Wednesday I had started feeling like another flu was coming on.

After running HURT 100 so sick in January, I feared someone had put a curse on me so that I would fall ill before every competitive race in 2011, and I would feel progressively more ill as the race went on.

Even then, I wasn't sure that the antibiotics I started Thursday to kill the Strep which grew from the throat swab would necessarily completely cure me in time, especially as I had the suspicion that it was more a viral flu thing going on, rather than Streptococcal pharyngitis. (The throat wasn't all of it, but since my nose wasn't running and I lacked a cough, had figured my throat was worth swabbing.)  I figured I would know how recovered I was only around half-way through the 50k.

Baldwyn Chieh picked me up at my house, which I much appreciated since this way I could get picked up by my family in our loaded SUV and head straight to Tahoe, where it did snow a ton on Friday.  Maybe because everyone was scared of icy roads and left real early, the parking lots were all full as early as 8:05 when we arrived, so we had to park outside the entrance on Redwood Road and walk in at least 1.25 km to the start finish area.

volunteer Darshan Thaker and my chauffer and fellow racer Baldwyn

Presumably due to the parking issue, the race started 15 minutes later than the scheduled 8:30, so more time to mingle.  Surprisingly, I was shivering in the cold, possibly due to the bright sunshine unblocked by the puffy cumulus clouds-- it was going to be a beautiful morning.

 nature-made ice, rarely seen in Oakland

In additional to greeting several friends I had seen since last fall, I got to briefly meet a few others (there were a couple of other yellow Sportiva jerseys, though most of the people doing the 20 and 30k races were gone by the time I finished the 50k.  My pre-race highlight was to congratulate in person (rather than just on facebook), Mister100-mile Trail North American record holder himself, Ian Sharman, whom I'd completely ignored (and didn't recognized) at Stinson Beach 50k in November, where he had finished in 2nd place.

In addition to pulling off an incredible ultraruning feat almost by accident, I thought he was extra cool for being around my height.

photo by Rick Gaston

He lost a little credibility though when he told me, after telling me this was just going to be long training run (pefectly reasonable), "in fact I would be surprised if I finished before you today." (No shit, he really said this, and then a few lines later told me was going to run the whole thing (I was planning on walking several steep uphill climbs).

Once the race finally started, Ian, along with several others, including many probably running the 20 and 30k races, shot up the hill.  I knew it was futile to try to keep up, but was still out of breath even walking half of it.  (Ian would drop after 20 or 30k, so at least he proved it was really a training run for him.  He would run a 2:40 at the Napa Marathon the next weekend.  Heck, he can do whatever he wants!)

So it wasn't until the ridge that I felt well enough to suspect, that yes, I had recovered, and this was going to be a fun run.

The single track French Trail section, the middle 10k in between the 20k loop done twice, had been closed (by the East Bay Regional Park District) to the race, and it was rerouted.  This made no sense, since that trail drains well.

original and usual course:

The "extreme weather contingency course" we ran:

It was soon apparent that the muddiest parts of the park were the flatter fire roads on the ridges, which effectively became fairly technical unless you wanted to completely soak your feet.  Which I didn't, though I was amused at the number of runners who at least early on, seemed to use extreme effort to avoid getting their shoes and legs wet at all costs.  Part of me wished I had worn my Wildcat GTXs instead of my Raptors (the Crossover GTX would have been overkill), but my Defeet wool socks kept me comfortable and dry enough, despite a few puddle submersions.
After the first 20k (pink) loop, you got to see people going the other way doing a previous lap.  Fortunately none of the faster runners partially lapped me.

Doing the orange 10k out and back, I talked with the guy who finished 3rd at Muir Beach with red hair, Colin Gardiner, who was running the 30k, before he left me behind.

photo by Rick Gaston

The second time doing the 20k loop, the wide fire roads got messier.  All the more fun.

The forecast for snow and rain came to nothing.  It was a beautiful day, though it stayed a bit nippy.   So, my brilliant act of preparation for this race was this:

In case it's not too clear, two left gloves.

At one point, I took my gloves off, as the pulling of the left-handed glove on my right hand actually made it sore after a few hours. But then my hands got cold again, so I put them back on.

I hung out a little with others trying to stay warm, until my wife picked me up with the kids, pre-loaded for a Tahoe ski trip.  Personally, I think had it snowed, it would have been fun to run in it.  But I got my snow in Tahoe where it belongs, with a great run to kick it off.

Thanks for PCTR and all the volunteers for a great day nearing the end of winter.

Jon Gunderson, 2nd place.  5 minutes was too far ahead for of me for me to ever see him.
He later did me the favor of pointing out that the guy on the left was not really Brett Rivers,
but Elmer Fudd.

Fudd with PCTR's RD Michael Popov and timing guru Mike Bohi


William said...

The 2 left gloves sounds like something I would do. Glad the race went well. I am targeting the San Francisco area when I finish my next grad program in a year. Seem to be many more opportunities to race with minimal travel as opposed to here in NC. You seem to fit it in quite well given your busy schedule. Enjoy your blog as I am new to ultrarunning.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

William, yes, tons of races out here. If you get to come out to the Bay Area you will love the trail running ops. And feel free to look me up, though my schedule tends to be off everyone else's.