Sunday, October 7, 2007

Good Runs

Fall is here, though you wouldn't necessarily know it by the last couple weekends around Northern California. Beautiful weather - crisp mornings warming to comfortable afternoons and clear skies. Both Lori and I ran in a couple of Pacific Coast Trail Run runs the last two weekends. Angel Island on Saturday, September 29th, and Carmel Valley today - October 7th.

Lori had been battling a cold for a little over a week up until yesterday, and didn't run her planned race last weekend at Angel Island. She still ran a good 8k and felt alright. Today, she ran the 8k at Carmel and was feeling good and was pleased with her time.

I had not planned on running either of these races, but changed my plans, stayed in town and joined Lori for both. The Angel Island run was a great day. The weather could not have been better, and the 25k course had us doing three loops around the island, each progressively higher with the final loop ending at the summit. Lori and I had to leave early for the drive to Tiburon, but it went by quickly with no traffic, and crossing the Golden Gate bridge in the early morning is nice, especially with the incredibly clear air. You could see everything!

Once at the ferry station in Tiburon (one of the cool features of this run is having to take the ferry over to Angel Island) we got our bib numbers and milled around with everyone else waiting to catch a ride over the the island. Everyone pitched in and helped load the race gear and supplies onto, and off the ferry and over to the start area. Within a few minutes, Wendell had the 25k and 50k runners up to the line for instructions.

After a short level section, the trail took a sharp turn up. After a short distance a section of stairs replaced the trail. After the stairs the course wound along a paved road, through old, abandoned buildings left over from Angel Island's era as an immigration station (I believe). I ended up running next to a nice guy and we started to chat about all kinds of things, lots about the fantastic views (did I mention how clear the air was???) and we ended up running nearly the entire race within a few yards of each other. On the first loop, we actually missed a turn as we both were staring out at the view of San Francisco. Fortunately, a few other runners behind us alerted us to our mishap, and we quickly corrected our mistake.

The race really flew by, and before I knew it, we were at the summit - with yet another fantastic view of the entire San Francisco Bay - and only a downhill to go to the end. Ken, the guy I was running with, picked up the pace and we really attacked the remaining trails. I must say that it was fantastic to have run with him, as it really taught me that I can be a lot more aggressive than I have been in training. We crossed the line a few seconds apart. I posted a cool 2:09:04 for 6th place (results)! I couldn't believe it. Top ten!

After, Ken and I talked for a few minutes, congratulating each other on a great run and enjoying the beautiful day. Lori met me, and we hung out at the finish area for a while before catching the ferry back to Tiburon. An afternoon in San Francisco topped off the day, and what a great day it was.

The Carmel Valley run today was another gorgeous day. A bit on the chilly side at the start, it warmed up nicely. I ran the 25k again, taking Lori's spot in the 17k and upgrading to the 25 late last week. Actually, Lori was not going to run, but had been feeling sick all week and since I was staying in town instead of going hunting and camping, I took her spot. She actually did race day registration and did the 8k since she was feeling better.

Since I had run well the week before at Angel Island, I was looking forward to how this run would end up. While the distance is the same, the nature of the course is quite a bit different. Carmel Valley has twice the elevation (just over 4k), and that elevation is MUCH steeper! As in really steep. To the point that quite a few sections were not runnable. At least by me. I did see one woman running a a pretty good section of it (I think she was wearing a Wonder Woman suit, but not sure as she flew by me on the uphill). I had worked out some rough times based on last years 33k times so Lori would know an approximate time to expect me.

The smile on Wendell's face told me what I wanted to know about the hills on this course. He had a devilish smirk when referencing the "real fun" that begins for the 25k and 50k runners after the first aid station. The smirk understated what lay ahead. The uphill I mentioned above that I didn't run...that was the smirk. It was ridiculous steep. And went on for a while. A few sections had to be at least a 50 degree slope and probably more. I'm still awed by "Wonder Woman" running up it. Damn. That is some serious fitness.

The downhill was equally steep, and certainly required control and quads to keep from taking a tumble. This run was definitely going to introduce me to any and all little used muscles in my legs, butt, abdomen and some other areas of my body. I felt this run a lot more than Angel Island, and on the last big uphill was passed by one person running the 50k, and one running the 25k. Dammit man. Within a mile-and-a-half and I get passed. The elevation had taken its' toll, and I couldn't keep up.

My time was 2:37:11. Good for 4th place (I think, I didn't want to bother the time keeper too much so I only took a quick look at the time sheet)! I am very happy with this. I still can't believe it. I had actually beat my best case time prediction by a few minutes. Turns out the 25k person who passed me near the end was the women's first place winner. She looked really strong there at the end and picked up her pace to the finish, as did the guy who was running the 50k. Really cool to see.

All-in-all, I am ecstatic about the past two races and learned a lot from them. I have some good things to focus on in training, and both Lori and I really like the race scene with Pacific Coast Trail Runs - lots of really nice people and well organized "races."

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