Monday, March 23, 2009

Pirates Cove 50K Race Recap - March 21, 2009

I had a fun time running the Pirates Cove 50K this past Saturday.  My full race recap is over at Trail Run Times - Check it Out!

Pirates Cove 50K Post:  Click Here

I'll continue to update Rivers Currents with my personal adventures and climbing trips.  Most of my trail running posts will be over at Trail Run Times and I will of course continue to link them here as well.  Contact me if you would like to post on Trail Run Times, the more the better!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Montana de Oro 50K

Ugh. Wind. Gusting freakin wind!  The first image that pops into my head when looking back on the Montana de Oro 50K is running some great trail in the hardest wind I have ever felt in my life.  Don't get me wrong, this race was a blast, but damn the constant wind gusts really added a level of difficulty and had me drained by the time I crossed the finish line.  Looking back though... dang that was fun!

I headed to the race start the Sunday morning (February 15, 2009) along with my friends Dom and Kristina, both of whom signed up for the 12K (rock on!).  We had camped in Morro Bay State Park the night before but were up constantly because of the tents flapping in the wind.  I've had better nights sleep but it was still fun to camp out, grill and laugh over the open fire, and make s'mores a la Kristina and Linsey's request (s'mores of course = great pre-race diet).
Pacific Coast Trail Runs and their volunteers did their best setting everything up (taking the wind gusts into account).  Wendell from PCTR gave us all the pre-race directions and then the race began right around 8:30 am on the spot.  All distances started at the same time so I knew there would be a fair amount of 12K and 25K speedsters up at the front.  I settled into a comfortable pace a hundred yards back from the front runners as we seperated from the main crowd.  The first segment ran south along the coast with some great views.

The primary climb of the race was Valencia Peak (right around 1400 ft).  The climbing started right around 4K into the race.  Under normal conditions (no 50mph winds) the climbing would not have been all that bad for in-shape hill runners.  However, the last 250 vertical feet were pretty gnarly and were on some loose-rock trail.  I think I hit the summit at right around 48 minutes and then made the fun descent back down.  There were times even on the steep descent where the wind basically had you at a standstill; I've never felt anything like it in my life.  I got back to the start/finish after the first 12K right around 1:05 (I think).

The course was basically a figure 8 of two loops, a 12K (Valencia Peak climb) and a 13.5K (Hazard Peak climb).  Those of us in the 50K ran each loop twice.  The Hazard Peak loop really was not all that bad and the second half of it was pretty much a gradual descent on fire roads.  After Hazard I made a quick stop at the aid station at the halfway mark and then continued on.  I met up with a couple 50K runners as we began to make our second climb up Valencia.  I ran with Dan Waddle for a while and we chatted about the course and some upcoming race plans.  We could see Eric Wickland only a couple hundred yards behind, followed by a few other runners back in the distance.  Dan mentioned that Eric had really solid endurance and would probably catch us by the peak.  I gradually pulled away from Dan half way through the climb and could see that Eric was also gaining.  I could not see any other runners in front of me but figured I was roughly in third or fourth place (but somewhat unsure).

True to Dan's word, Eric caught me half way into the descent and we ran into the aid station chatting about races and our upcoming schedules.  I was pumped to hear that Eric got into the Miwok 100 this May and also had plans to do the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim sometime in the next couple months with some friends.  Eric got a good laugh that this was my second 50K trail race in 8 days and I mentioned that I had my sights set on my first 100 miler, the Tahoe Rim Trial 100 this July.

I felt decent starting the last 13.5K Hazard Peak loop but the constant wind really started to wear on me.  Eric passed me for good about 5K into the loop and never looked back.  He was running strong, especially bombing the downhills.  My legs felt like they turned to lead for the last 8K but I could not see anyone behind me so I coasted down the fire roads and finished 3rd overall in 5:04.58.

A big congrats to Shigy Suzuki for taking first in 4:47.33, the guy ran really strong and is 50 years old!  After the race Dan and Eric mentioned that Shigy probably jogged in the last couple K's with no one behind him as they figured he was probably capable of posting even better times.  Eric Wickland ran second in 4:55.58, way to finish strong and break 5 hours.  Randall Vander Tuig ran 4th and Dan Waddle rounded out the top 5.  On the women's side Kimberly Gimenez finished first in 5:48:44 followed by Juliet Morgan in second, Lora Liu in third, Laura Guest in 4th, and June Gessner rounding out the top 5.  Also a big congrats to my friends Dom and Kristina for rockin the 12K and surviving Valencia Peak!  Way to go everyone!

As always, a big thanks goes out to Sarah and Wendell from Pacific Coast Trial Runs on directing another great race and to all of their volunteers for helping out to make the Montana de Oro Trail Run possible.  You guys are great!

I learned a lot from the race and am pleased with the finish, especially after taking 50mph wind into account and also since I had PR'd at the 50K distance a week before at Woodside.  Its crazy that I ran MdO over a minute slower per mile than my pace at Woodside, I need to get that improved!.. back to training.

My Race Results:
Total Time 5:04.58 (9:41/mile pace)
Place: Overall 3rd / 36 finishers and 2nd in my age division
Full Race Results: Click Here
Race Website: Click Here
Elevation Profile: Click Here 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

PCTR Woodside 50K

Pacific Coast Trail Runs put on another great race this weekend down in Woodside, California.  I made the drive south from San Francisco with eager anticipation as I was excited to run in the 50K and see what improvement on my time I could achieve at the 50K distance (around 31.5 miles).  All of us 50K runners gathered at the start at Huddart County Park shortly before 8:30 and I was really pumped to see how many people raised their hands when Wendell from PCTR asked if it was anyone's first Ultramarathon; a lot of hands went up (!) which was great to see for the sport.

The Woodside course was just as the name described, surrounded by the woods.  I am pretty sure 90% of the race was run under the forest canopy with a lot of new-growth redwoods throughout the rolling wooded hills.  The race basically felt like a forest run the entire time.. very refreshing.

The 50K racers began right around 8:30 am with Will Gotthardt and Ben Goldman setting the early pace.  I followed behind and was quickly passed about a mile in by Andy Anderson who zoomed by and quickly caught up to the lead runners (Andy eventually won).  Running close behind me were Alan Abbs and Beverley Anderson-Abbs.  Alan and I passed one another a couple times the first 8 miles or so and Beverley was no more than 20 seconds behind as I kept seeing her bright green armbands every time I changed direction on a switchback.  I kept my pace but in the back of my head I was wishing Bev would run me down so that I could pick her brain on her experiences running the Tahoe Rim 100 which I will be running in this July.

About 15 miles in I made a wrong turn that ended up costing me roughly 5-6 minutes.  It was totally my fault but I would do it again!  There was a troop of boy scouts out hiking with their parents and the kids started yelling and cheering and had their hands up for high-5s as I ran by.  I got so caught up in the moment high-fiving them that I followed the turn that they were making instead of going straight.  After a couple minutes running down hill I realized I was not seeing any race markers so I instantly knew I must have run off-course.  Three hikers were coming my direction so I asked them if they had seen any runners, they said no and then asked if I was "orienteering."  I mustered a laugh and replied that no I was running a trail race but at the moment happened to be orienteering, hahha.

I made the climb back up to the intersection where I made the wrong turn and got back on course at the same time that Jen Pfeifer was running by.  Jen and I shared a laugh at my mistake as its easier to laugh those things off than stay frustrated with so much race left.  I ran with Jen for about the next 20 minutes picking her brain on her past and future races.  I was pumped to hear she was a 3-time finisher at Western States 100 and her next big race was going to be the American River 50 Mile this April.  For the next 12 miles Jen and I probably passed one another 4 more times right up until the end of the race.

I ran strong through the end and managed to catch a couple runners that had passed me when I made the wrong turn.  I knew that Jen was right behind me for the last 2 miles and ran to the finish feeling like I was being chased down which helped in keeping a strong pace to the finish.  She laughed afterwards that she also finished strong because she was trying to run me down to the finish.

The Woodside course was fast and an absolute blast to run.  I set a new personal record for my 50K distance (4:21.09) and managed a 5th place overall finish and came in first in my age division.  After the race I chatted it up with Shan Riggs and his wife Abbey which was great and congratulated a lot of other runners on their strong performances.  A big congrats to all of the runners at all distances and also to my The Endurables coach Rachel Baker-Rodriguez for her top-10 finish in the 35K and the number 1 female finisher at that distance.  As always, a special thanks to Sarah and Wendell from Pacific Coast Trail Runs for putting on another great race and to all the race volunteers for helping out, you all are the best!

My Race Results:
Total Time 4:21.09 (8:29/mile pace)
Place: Overall 5th / 81 and 1st in my age division
Full Race Results: Click Here
Race Website: Click Here

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PCTR Pacifica 50K

I ran the Pacific Coast Trail Run Pacifica 50K this past Saturday, January 17.  This was my first ultramarathon of 2009 and it was a pretty damn tough 50K course with over 7,000 feet of ascent and descent. To put into perspective, the hike from the Yosemite Valley floor to the top of Half Dome is around 4,800 feet.

The race kicked off at 8:30 and started with a climb up to the summit of North Peak (11.9K/7.4 Mile loop).  There was some pretty challenging single track but I kept a steady pace even though I felt like a lot of runners were ahead of me.  I figured they were mostly 21K and 30K racers and realized I was correct once the runners in front hit the turnaround at the summit and I could start counting race numbers.  I felt good and stuck to my pace and game plan.

After two loops of the Hazelnut Loop (9.3K / 5.8 Miles each) we again climbed North Peak.  I caught up to Charles Hofacker at the start of the loop and chatted for a bit until he pulled away on some steeps.  As I was still heading up, Nathan Yanko came cruising down in the lead and looked to be running real strong.  No one else passed me and I ended up catching Charles on the descent and I pulled away to have a bit of a cushion.  I figured I was in second place as just Nathan was in front of me, and was told the same at the last aid station (that Nathan was about 16 mins ahead).  I did one last loop of Hazelnut and came cruising into the finish in 4:58.43.  Somehow I ended up in third (?) but was still pretty stoked for breaking 5 hours in a 50K for the first time, and that it occured on a pretty tough course.

I chatted with my The Endurables coach Rachel Rodriguez after as well as with a few other racers which was great.  Nathan Yanko ended up winning and I was shocked to hear that it was his first Ultra!  The guy ran really strong and probably has a lot more first place finishes on the horizon.  I also was pretty stoked to finally meet Shan Riggs and his wife Abby as I had come across Shan's blog after his 1st place win in the SF One Day (24 Hour race) and his 23rd place finish (3 spots ahead of me) in The North Face Endurance Championship which was great.

Overall it was a great day and a blast to be back out on the trail.  Congrats to all of the runners at all distances and thanks to Sarah and Wendell from PCTR for another great event.  Also a big thanks to Rachel for sticking around for the finish and having a few of us over for post-race burgers at her place in Pacifica.

My Race Results:
Total Time 4:58.43, 9.438 Pace
Overall Place 3rd / 51
Full Race Results: Click Here
Race Website: Click Here