Snow? Mud? Rain? Freezing Cold? While weathermen and weatherwomen around the Bay Area had everyone on edge with predictions of a local cold weather armageddon this past Saturday morning, reality wasn’t quite as dramatic. The Redwood Park 50k in the Oakland hills this past Saturday was a cold one with frost and a couple of ice patches on the ground. In spite of large residual pools of rain and muddy hills along the course, the sky was blue and the air was crisp for a great day of running. There would be some downhill sections where I would need to show caution instead of the reckless abandon that I love, but overall it was a good step towards a successful 2011.
I didn’t want to try and torch the first 20k loop; rather, I wanted to keep it steady throughout the entire run and most importantly finish the race healthy. I’ve torched the first half of 50ks before when my body wasn’t trained up enough, only to be plagued by serious fatigue later in the race. I was targeting between 4:15-4:20, cognizant of the fact that I need to dial down some of the descents to stay healthy and that there would be significant wet patches, particularly on the climbs. In my head, I was thinking 1:37:30 (20k), 2:32:30 (30k) and sub-4:20 finish would be a decent training race and be a good steady effort.
Cruising in to the main aid station in 1:38:30, I took a minute to reload before taking on the 10k loop. At this point, I started to see a number of other runners from the other distances out on the trail, particularly the slower 10k runners coming back to finish. As I try to slow things down and stay consistent, I continue to make it a point to encourage the other runners in their own races with a simple “Keep moving” or “Good job”. Sometimes, pulling myself out of my own competitive vortex is a great way to simply enjoy what I’m doing as well as focus on running this race the way it was intended to augment my training.
It’s also on this 10k loop that I was noticing an increase in the number and size of the pools of rainwater along the course. Surrounded by redwoods on the floor of the park, the moisture simply doesn’t evaporate as well after a storm as the open ridge trails which make up the bulk of the 20k loop. I was constantly checking to make sure that as my shoes dryed out, the mud wasn’t becoming a dried cake that would add weight. After a sluggish climb up to the Ridge trail due to the mud, I picked it up coming back down from Skyline Gate through the Redwoods to ease in to the main aid station in 2:31:30 at the 30k mark. This was a minute ahead of the basic race plan I had come into the race with, which was just fine by me.
Again, I spent 2 minutes getting my gels out of my box setup on a table next to the trail, which would be way to long for a really competitive race but was just fine for this race. Heading out on the initial half mile climb, I finally felt some real sluggish in my legs. Since bruising my right forearm and scraping up my leg and hands 2 weeks ago in a fall out on the Coastal Trail, the one element of my training that suffered most were the intermediate tempo runs of 15-20 miles. It was already a hole in my training that I needed to fill, but the fall seemed to delay that training further. As I closed in on the 20 mile mark of the race, it became obvious that this is one hole that will need to filled in March.
I kept trudging along and at times moved quite fluidly. I looked back occasionly to wonder if I would see any other runner with 1st place firmly in front. With about 3 +/- miles to go as I turned onto the Toyon Trail down toward the park floor, I was scheduled to finish 3 minutes slower than that 4:20 target assuming I finish the last section in the same time as the first 20k loop. After picking up some steam on the downhill and not seeing anyone within sight, I turned it back onto cruise control to finish the final loop in 1:53 and the race in 4:26, 2nd overall. It wasn’t a dynamite race perse, but it was effective enough considering my health not being 100% and the conditions being as they were. The results this year are slowly taking care of themselves with a 5th place finish at the Angel Island 25k (1:53) and now this 2nd place finish here. At least I know that I’m on the right track as far as getting effective training to start the year. Besides, it’s always nice to see running friends out there like Mark Tanaka, who is also dealing with health issues but had enough to finish 3rd overall.
The first two months of the year have seen me keep to my oft-stated goal to do 2-3 quality runs a week. Around those runs, I generally try to keep it easier in order to maximize my effort on the quality days of training. My wife has also been giving me the time and space to train properly, which has been a key factor in getting a good start to 2011 running-wise. I'm back down to 167 and continuing to trim down for the big races. It’s also been a really good thing for me and having my Uncle out with me at the track to keep my honest in my effort. This is just one step in the process, although I will look to a healthy Lake Sonoma 50 during the first week of April as a more serious gauge of what I should be able to do at Miwok. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to update some of my Miwok training here in the next couple weeks and give a more honest assessment for how I see the big race in May shaping up for me personally. For now, it’s back to training. :)
Cheers and God bless,