Sunday, September 23, 2007

Clambake: a cool Striders' event

Sunday, September 16. I was excited to join my club mates, from the Stevens Creek Striders, for this annual event combining running, potentially ultra running, and social gathering for a picnic around the traditional clam chowder, hence the name of the event. I was excited first because I had been in France for 2 weeks without the opportunity to run on trails. But, secondly and more importantly, because, with all these travels and races, I have less opportunity to meet with my club mates and friends.

We were set to start from Saratoga Gap at 7am. Slower runners started at 6:30. The morning run is made of two options: first Saratoga Gap to Big Basin headquarters, then from Big Basin down to the Pacific Ocean, at Wadell Beach. You can see the full program, online, on our club's website.

Last year, I was preparing for my first 50-miler, the Dick Collins' Fire Trails, so not only did I run those two legs, but I also added a night run from home to Saratoga Gap, 12 miles, including the hilly ascent on highway 9.

The first leg is given for 18 miles but my Garmin 205 indicated 15.3 miles, without loosing the signal like the 201 was before. So I'd say 15.5 max.

That Sunday, Agn├Ęs and Alex were wolunteering at the Cupertino Fall festival. Clambake requires some logistic, bringing a dish to share for the potluck at the beach, and the ride back home. The family not being able to join this year, at the last minute, I decided to "just" go down to Big Basin and run back to the car at Saratoga Gap, a perfect training 50K.

The start was actually quite chilly as you can see, our small group in the fog:
Wasn't getting much better for the first pit stop at the crossing of highway 9:
However, less than 3 miles from the start, what a fun and nice suprise to find this aid station, unmanned and anonymous, yet so well stocked. Penny talks about the "Clambake Angel", saying that is quite a thoughtful person, especially as the date of the event changes from year to year, so he or she needs to check the website to make sure this is the right weekend. I'm not sure how many years this tradition have been up but, last year, when our group found the table, we couldn't believe it was for us, we thought it was for another event or race, so we didn't dare to help ourselves. This year, the angel went a step beyond, adding a sign mentioning the "clambakers." A bit like "dude, that's for you guys!" So, although we now know this is for the clambakers indeed, the mystery still remains: an insider, an ex-member, someone who lives around, an actual angel, ...???
Oh well, looking at the much detailed and visual account of this event, including the picnic, by Robin, one picture caption says: "Mike's food table", so maybe the angel is one of the several Mikes we have in the club...
Shortly after, at mile 6, we found our real and official aid station crew: Pat, Elvira and Peggy. Needless to say, Peggy had rather run with us but has been injured since her Western States. From this aid station, I took off, met the aid station crew at China Grade, then at the Big Basin headquarters, after making a short stop at the finish line of the Bib Basin Redwoods runs from PCTR (Pacific Coast Trail Runs), to salute Wendell and Sarah.
The aid station crew at the headquarters:
After refilling my bottles, I was then back on the same trail, passing some of the PCTR 50K runners, and crossing the other club members, making their way to the headquarters. I've run the uphill to Saratoga Gap twice during the local "Fat Ass 50K", the first week of January, always struggling. Although the weather was much nicer than in January, I struggled again while trying to do a negative split (going faster on the way back). Things got even worse as I got stung by a yellow jacket, twice, at the elbow. Ouch! I'm somehow allergic and it took three days before my arm came back to normal after being so swelled and painful. One of my colleagues at work told me I should run with a bit of vinegar which should take care of this if applied immediately. Especially in the summer when yellow jackets get pretty nasty. I'll keep that in mind, it's a good tip indeed.

Just after passing the place of the mysterious aid station, now gone, 5 hours later, I had the surprise and pleasure to see a coyote. Although he looked at me while I was coming in his direction, I was not fast enough to take a picture before he disappeared in the woods. After running so many miles at Rancho San Antonio Park on the Coyote Ridge trail, I finally saw one!

One mile to go (crossing of Hwy 9) and, in the background, the great view we missed 5 1/2 hours earlier:
Anyway, I managed to come back to Saratoga Gap, 3 minutes faster than our way to Big Basin. With a big pain in the front of my lower left leg, pain which I interpreted as a weird soreness for three days, before realizing it was actually a bad shin splints. Damned! At least, it's good I was not up for Rio del Lago (a 100-miler of the Pacific Association Grand Prix), the following week, as you can only get points for one 100-miler, the same year, and I got my 132 points in June. So not missing any big event, we'll see if I run the Trailblazer 10K next week. A race which I won twice already and particularly like for the support it brings to a trail I've trained on so much over the past 9 years, to and around the Mountain View Shoreline Park. At least I signed up for it, and will be there as Greg will run the 5K.

Again, this Clambake event is fun, as well as all the activities of our club so, if you live in the Cupertino area, I invite you to join us: the club, now (it's very cheap) and Clambake, next year!


Robin said...

Hi Jean

Very enjoyable article. It's amazing that you can achieve a negative split on a tough hill like that. And after being stung by yellow jackets. Well Done.


Jean Pommier said...

Thanks, Robin. You've actually a much more complete coverage of the event on your website, from end to end including the picnic!

OK, so the angel is human you tell me. Plus he will join us next year! That certainly kills quite a lot of the mystery. You see me a bit disappointed, I thought it was a very nice local legend. I know, not one of your Scottish ones! ;-)

Happy trails, especially now that you have all the time you want!