Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WTC 50K 2014 Race

25th Anniversary Magic

The legacy of the WTC continues to shine
Throughout the record setting snowy North East winter (17 storms, 70”+ of snow), I worked to maintain my training. What kept me going was my excitement about running WTC 50K in early March. Since running this amazing course last year, it has become my favorite trail race.

This year was the 25th anniversary running, a special celebration for a legionary event.

Part of my excitement this year was my running buddy Kevin was also running WTC. Kevin had lived out in Davis CA for a few years and was familiar with the trails that WTC runs upon. Like me, he was enthusiastic  about running the race.  We had decided to dedicate the weekend to it.  My original plan was to fly out Friday morning and stay thru Sunday. Last minute work issues brought me to the Bay area the Monday before. At least I would be time zone acclimated by race time.

Being a trail running podcast junkie, I was thrilled to learn Trail Runner Nation would be doing live podcasts from our hotel on Friday afternoon. Serendipity smiled to start the weekend with a few fixes of my runners high. Don Freeman, Scott Warr and guest host/Nike team runner Sally McRae had a great lineup of guests, including Gordy Ainsleigh, The Nike Trail running team, Karl Metzer and Patagonia.

TRN's Scott Warr, Don Freeman, Sally McKray with ultra legend Gordy
Nike Trail team mems Alex Varner, Chris Vargo w/ Don

Scott with Nike Team runner Sally McRae & team mngr Pat Werhane

Kevin and I made the short drive to Auburn Running Company to pick up our race packets, buy some WTC souvenirs (coffee mug and beer glass this year) and try some Salomon and Hoka trail shoes. Then a quick trip to Cool for surveying the trails on the first loop.

WTC50K sales team offering deals on all things Too Cool
Kevin check'n trail conditions on early miles
Race morning brought another perfect weather day. Clear skies, mid 40s in the early morning, temps going towards 60. It was going to be a great day.

The masses arrive early for the choice spots.
We did a quick visit to the Ultra Village, taking in the prep for the days activities and got ready to run.

Prerace mulling around the village
Race prep; first-things-first
Kevin and I soaking in the Cool.

We all lined up ready to kick off the race. RD Julie Fingar provided some inspirational words, and with Don Freeman, set us on our way.

1200+ of us getting ready to run

Julie wishing us fun. Don, the "Voice of Cool"

25th WTC50K, off and running. Conditions, Perfect!

Kevin is all smiles as we start out.
Knowing the first mile is one road, I went out at marathon pace just to get on to the trail without a backup. Almost immediately my breathing was out of sync and my legs felt heavy. I mentally blamed it on not being acclimated to the milder temps and figured it would be a rough day. (The legs and breathing fought me for about 11 miles.) The area had been experiencing somewhat of a drought, until 3 days before the race. Cool and surrounding trails received a large amount of rain in a short time. I figured that was going to make for fun stream crossings. Sure enough, soon after we were on trails, the first stream appeared. I ran straight through it, knowing I’d be getting wet a whole bunch during the race.

Swollen creeks = wet shoes
Soon the gorgeous auburn single track started and we settled into trail bliss. I’m in awe with this section of the race as the trail casually rolls through beautiful spring meadows. California sun shining makes for easy up lifting running.

Single track thru spring meadows . . .
. . . the early morning train . . .
. . . on glorious auburn tracks!

There were several more stream crossings in this loop of the course. They were so much fun!

Don't Feed the Shoe Sucking Mud!
Run, swim, run
Soon we were done with 8 miles of easy sailing and looped past the start, heading out for the exciting stuff. We started down towards the American river. Lots of mud was afoot and made things interesting.

Enjoying easy cruising before head'n to the river.
Mud on the run added much fun
Down the hill, across 49, to the river we go
Crossing Rt 49 soon brought us to the American River aid stations, with very cheery, experienced volunteers.

Aloha! Want a drink?
Big choice for chomp'n
Where's Waldo? (And when do I register?)
Several miles along the river was the calm before the challenges started.

River view

Running well along the river
The hills started slowly.

Another aid station popped up sooner than expected, with some trail warning.

Hills get progressively bigger. Though my heavy legs felt better, I was not mentally racing hard so, I walked the most of the steeper climbs.

More stream crossings were strewn about within our climbs.

Crossed paths with a mountain cat.
This kitty liked the water
Wading thru
Working the hills

Smile, you're on Ultra Candid Camera
The reward for the climbing is more beautiful single track with amazing views.

Several miles of this. Am I in heaven?

Picture Perfect trail views!

Before I realized it, the ATL aid station at mile 21 came upon us. Stock full with goodies and drink and even hot soup.

ALT  Professional Aid Station Volunteers. Thanks!
Soon after ALT AS, my camera batter died. This helped me fully enjoy the winding single track before the Goat Hill climb. While I was cruising along, I caught a toe and went down hard on my side and was dangling off the trail. As a comment to the ultra-running community, the guy ahead of me turned around and helped me from sliding down off the trail.

Goat Hill was a tough hike but I kept moving up, trying to do OK on the Strava segment challenge. When I got to the top I finally looked at the time and realized I was running much better than expected. A quick bit of cloudy mental math told me I could possibly do a run a 5:20. So I latched on to a train of 5 runners and settled into a good pace for the mostly downhill 5 miles, focusing on trying not to break with the quads. Another fall in some mud gave me a smackin' and I jumped up and continued. My leg wasn't pretty but didn't bother me much.

#sufferbetter @wtc50K

Soon the 2nd Rt 49 crossing came and went. In the last mile I realized I was going to break 5:10. I was ecstatic! This would be a ½ hr better than last year’s WTC and a 50K PR. How did that happen?!? 
Must have been that anniversary magic.
Kevin also did great, clocking a 4:40 time and securing a top 100 spot. Nice job!

The Nike Trail running team made this race theirs. Chris Vargo took 1st in a time of 3:16:51, laying down the second fasted course time. Teammate Alex Varner, was several seconds behind, with 3:17:04, the 3rd fastest time. Third place was locked up by Jacob Rydman in 3:35:36.
Magdalena Boulet, continued her transitions from road to trail running dominance by taking the first place female spot in 3:53:09. Caitlin Smith was soon behind in 3:56:25. Jennifer Pfeifer rounded out the podium in 4:14:13.

Kevin and I fully enjoyed hanging out at the Patagonia lounge after the race. The beer was good and the people we met were Cool. Andy Jones-Wilkins, who ran for the Patagonia team was hanging there there for awhile. We had lots of fun talking to other runners and trading stories. 

Well deserved smiles and libations
An amazing time at an outstanding race!

Can’t wait for next year.

EPILOGUE: Never Know How You'll Meet

Sunday, the day after WTC, I randomly decided go to Muir Woods to see the Red Woods. Learning that the Dipsea Trail cut through the park, I hiked up a mile and 1/2, to get to it. Soon I met some hikers, several mid age men and a 60 something woman. She was hiking a bit faster than her companions.

We started talking, while I tried to keep on her pace. I mentioned I ran a trail race and she knew of WTC50K. Then she asked if I ran any longer distances. Commenting that I am slowly working up to a 100 miles, hoping to run the Western States 100, made her light up. "I have two sub-24hr Western States finishes" she says. Wow! What are the chances?

Her name was Valerie Doyle and she was the 2nd place female runner at WS100 1982.

Valerie Doyle: WS100 22:42 1982, 22:48 1984
Valerie also ran WS100 in 1984. Thirty years later, she is still going strong. Her running has diminished, yet she continues to be active. For the next 30 mins, as we briskly hiked down Dipsea, we discussed nutrition and medical thinking on ultra running circa 1980s. I was enthralled.  She was so exciting to talk with.

It was a most serendipitous meeting I've had in a long time. Parting our ways, I couldn't help thinking there was a reason I met Valerie. Still thinking that now.

Here's to Valerie Doyle, it was fascinating to meet you
Hoping that all of us continue to thrive, as she does.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lake Chabot 30K, Warming Too Cool

I recently spent a week in San Jose, CA for work and decided to stay through Saturday and do a trail race. Inside Trail Racing was putting on their Lake Chabot race, with multiple distances, and the 30K seemed to be just right. Since I was running Way Too Cool 50K in two weeks, Lake Chabot would be a perfect tune up race.

Back home in the NJ/PA area, I had been doing long runs in 15-20 degree temps, with twice weekly snow storms making it challenging to get the miles down.

Typical Sunday run back East

The Bay weather was just a bit different, with the temps at race start about 50, and not a snow flake to be found.

Lake Chabot from the dock
Morning Tranquility

This course is really quite enjoyable. The first and last mile or so are on paved trail that meanders at the lake's edge. Most of the rest is dirt road or path, with some bits of single track sprinkled in. The middle section has some challenging climbs and decent. Race director Tim Stahler and crew seem to have the formula down for hosting a great trail race. Lake Chabot measured up to other ITR races I have done. Well organized, fun course, great volunteers and sacrifices to the weather gods were made well in advance.

Tim (w/ bull horn) makes sure we're listening 

Warming in the prerace sun
The 50K 30K and 1/2 all started together. Nice, easy, flat start along the lake

Fellow East coaster Pablo enjoys 1st mile with Cristina

Early crusing 

On to the dirt
Down and . . . 
. . . across the bridge
Much of the course looked like this, but with hills
Lake C from the other side
Soon the hills started. The first two miles lulled us into easy running on the flats. Now there was work to do.

Everyone start climbing . . .
. . . and climb . . .
. . . getting higher . . .
. . . keep on climbing

. . . still higher
It soon became apparent, as the temps pushed into the upper 60s, that my body doesn't really acclimate to a 50 degree temperature swing in one week. I was breathing much heavier that I usually do for similar climbs.

Ahh. Some nice single track thru the woods 
I decided to back off on the climbs and work on my non existing downhill technique. That will be a work in progress for a while.

Happy, smiling volunteers always make it better.
The race seemed to fly by so quickly, as if in dream pace. I kept thinking I would wake up and there would be another 6 inches of snow to shovel and run through. Yet, it was real, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire time.
One thing I learned is that I was not in 50K shape, especially for a California 50K. I'll just have to take it easy at Way Too Cool. (Yea, sounds good now.)

. . . as we go merrily along
Thank you ITR for another outstanding race.