|Montara Mountain beckons|
That was before I had gained entry to Western States. Race day came smack at the beginning of a solid base building phase, and my coaches advised me to keep it mellow. "Power hike the first climb, and keep the heart rate in zone 3 for the remainder", which I executed flawlessly. I could have finished quite a bit faster, but I likely would not have been able to train very well in the days that followed. Instead, I finished feeling fine, and training continued as planned. These 'training races' are getting easier to wrap my head around.
|The weather was gorgeous, just like the course|
|Pacifica, and the Pacific|
|Two way traffic made for some dicey passing opportunities|
|Some upper sections were steep|
|The upper sections were nice and wide, allowing easy passing|
|The views were hard to appreciate on the downhills!|
After following a train of runners who missed a turn at the bottom of the hill, I regained the course and ran confidently into the aid station. I felt great: no niggles since the calf cramp, I'd finished 20 ounces of Tailwind, and I was ahead of my goal split. I refilled my bottle, got a quick kiss from Twirly and set out on the third of the four climbs with just over five miles to go. The temperature seemed to climb as the wind out of the East brought the heat from inland.
I'd been oscillating with a small group of runners who would pass me, slowly, on the climbs. Only a few of these runners made it out of the aid station fast enough to catch me, and I caught all but one of them on the next descent, a short downhill back into the valley. Then, the final four miles was a grunt up a series of switch backs followed by a final fast descent through Eucalyptus groves to the finish line. I had been shooting for a modest finishing time of 2:45, but ended up crossing the line 37th out of 131, at 2:29, just barely edging out another 40-49 age group man at the line (for 8th in my AG). I don't usually kick in a trail race, but I had lots of gas left in the tank, and, well, sometimes the urge to compete can overwhelm, right?
This race course is absolutely stunning; views of the ocean, Pacifica, San Francisco and the Bay all compete for your attention. Fortunately, there is enough climbing for one to appreciate them, because on the descents, taking in the view is a recipe for bloodied knees or worse! The volunteers were supportive and helpful, and the course was well marked (I would not have taken that wrong turn if I was leading - the trail was obviously marked).
My favorite part about running this event was that it was free for me! I used a volunteer credit I had earned at the 2012 Woodside Ramble. Twirly and I followed the spectacular morning with lunch at a friend's house on the beach, where we grilled up some Gorilla Barbecue chicken, and soaked up the sun. Despite the brutal elevation, I'll be back for this one, if only for those screaming downhills!