And I'm not even going to do my 2013 year in review or share about by many goals for 2014 but tell you about my very last race of 2013, the PCTR (Pacific Coastal Trail Runs) Woodside 50K which occurred this past Sunday, December 29. With my focus on the PAUSATF Grand Prix (GP), it's rather unusual for me to run the PCTR series but I wanted to get one last race in 2013 and see if I could log a 4th overall win. I had 4 of these wins in 2011 and 4 again last year except that the latter didn't count for Gary's UltraRunning Magazine listing because two of these races had less than 20 finishers, which is fair. That was actually my second PCTR race this year as Race Director, John Brooks, accepted to get his Headlands Hundred to be part of our GP schedule.
My other goal for this race was to enjoy this wonderful course which I had heard so much about, so close to home. And last but not least, get some good exercise as we desperately wait for some snow in Tahoe.
Upon getting to Huddart Park, I was pleased to see such convenient parking lots all around the start/finish area. I also like how the starts of the 4 races were staged, with the 50K being first (other distances were 10, 17 and 35 km). While my first ultra race was Way Too Cool in March 2006, my second was Angel Island in July of that year, and also my first overall win in an ultra. With PCTR's mantra, "Serious Fun", these races are not as competitive as the Montrail Cup races for instance, yet, some fast runners join from time to time. For example, the course record is owned by Keith Bechtol who ran an amazing 3:36 back in 2008. The second fastest time is Leor Pantilat's 3:39. They were respectively 23 and 24 when clocking these times. With that, I was just dreaming of breaking 4 hours.
Right from the start, Ben Johnson took the lead and I had hard time keeping him in sight. By mile 2, there was only one other runner I could see behind in the switch backs, Daniel Kono. I caught up with Ben in the fourth mile as we were climbing up Crystal Springs. Ben knew my name but I didn't know him so asked "Where are you from?" Although Ben is listed as living in Folsom in UltraSignup, he said "Ashland" to which I jokingly replied "Oh, you should definitely be in front then, you Oregonian....!" Ben said he was still tired after running the North Face San Francisco earlier in December and was going to take it easy. Given his speed in the initial downhill I thought that I'd rather build a serious gap before the last 5 miles which are all downhill on this course.
I kept pushing the pace although I only knew about the course profile from looking at the elevation charts from the PCTR website. I kind of guessed that the challenge of this course, beyond the two big climbs, was to maintain the effort in the short ups and downs on Skyline Trail. Using Vespa, I didn't stop at the first, second and fourth aid stations, and only once at the third to get my GU2O bottle refilled and grab a cup of Coke. With the current drought the trails were in pristine condition, not to forget the bright sun which provided enough light under the majestic redwoods, perfect conditions for a fast run. With that I was a bit disappointed to see my time of 2 hours by mid course, with the upcoming 4 miles up to get back on the ridge, on Skyline Trail. I ran most of the uphill, encouraged by the runners we were crossing in this section. I was so focused, or in the groove, that I didn't realize when I passed the Oak and Bear Gulch connector on the way back. I inadvertently told the first two runners I crossed on Bear Gulch that they were on the wrong trail, I'm very sorry about that and apologize, hoping I didn't ruin the rest of their run. Thankfully, they didn't seem to believe me anyway and kept going down, phew!
With all the turns and trees, I couldn't see anyone behind and was just hoping that the gap was large enough to avoid a sprint in the finish area meadow. But I had no idea of what was happening behind and that was quite stressful. While that kept me pushing, I was quite tired of maintaining a 8 min/mile pace in the ups and downs of Skyline Trail, but glad Vespa kept my energy level high enough to keep moving. After asking for a confirmation of the remaining mileage to the volunteers at the last aid station, King's Mountain, I rushed in the downhill. While I was visualizing Leor in the rolling Skyline, I was now thinking of downhill running guru, Ian Sharman. On tired legs (and older ones too... ;-), that wasn't enough to get the pace below 6 min/mile though but, quickly glancing behind from time to time, that seemed to be enough to keep the lead until the finish. The pounding on the final road section was tough on the knees but it felt good to hear the noise coming from the finish area, finally.
the results, I was still quite pleased to notice that my time was the 5th fastest time from the 22 past editions (the race is held twice a year). Again, perfect conditions, especially for winter, but still.
It was quite an unexpected and good surprise to see Agnès, Alex and Greg at the finish line, for a photo shoot opportunity! ;-)
To complete this report, let me quote John's own write-up below. Congrats to him for building on Sarah and Wendell's initial enterprise, keeping attracting so many new people to trail and ultra running, recruiting knowledgeable volunteers and organizing very professional events. It will be good to see John compete in the Grand Prix in 2014, between his own races.
Back to the title, for the non insiders: January is usually the month we ramp-up after the holidays, aiming at burning the extra calories (or pounds) gained during the rich meals of the year end celebrations with casual 50K runs called Fat Ass. But since I resumed training mid December anyway, I'm obviously not waiting for the Fat Ass runs to get out of the couch.
Great way to close on a successful season. That was my 18th race in 2013, including 14 ultra races, and my 52nd 50K race so far, as many as my 10K races, time flies... Legs weren't too sore on Monday but I didn't go for a run, just a hike at Wilder Ranch State Park on Monday with the family and a short one at Fremont Older on Tuesday to watch the last sunset of 2013. Today (New Year's Day), I ran from home to the top of Black Mountain, coming back through Rancho San Antonio, for 29.5 hilly miles (3,800 feet). I met Agnès and Alex at the top of Montebello Road after their hike from Rancho on PG&E.
What a fantastic day we had at the Woodside Trail Run yesterday. It was such a great vibe on the trail and at the start/finish area. The attitudes of our runners exemplify all the right things about our sport. The weather was the best we’ve ever enjoyed at with this event. It made for some very fast times and many posted new personal records.
We welcome the 81 first-time rail runners to the PCTR family and 37 runners that can now call themselves “ultra runners” after completing their first 50km event. I was moved by the emotion and elation at the finish line. You are all inspiring and the reason we hold our events.
There are some individual results we also want to recognize:
10km: Luke Baxter from San Francisco finished first among males with 47:55. Sarah Clarke of Mountain View was the first female with 58:20.
17km: Christopher Denucci from Menlo Park was the first male with 1:14:09 and Sian Turner from Truckee the first female with1:30:21.
35km: Lennard Hachman from Menlo Park was the firstmale finisher with 2:41:10. Laura Harmen from Corvallis, OR was the first female, at 2:57:32.
50km: Jean Pommier of Cupertino flirted with breaking the four hour mark with 4:01:03. Jennifer Pfeifer from El Dorado led a deep, fast women’s field with 4:23:41.
We can’t hold events without the support of volunteers. 16 energetic folks gave their day to help you reach your goals. The event was successful because of their help. Most are trail and ultra-marathoners just like you, others are friends and family of runners, and some, like Booth and Tina, run and then volunteer at the finish area.
I will be posting results on UltraSignup.com in just a few minutes. For new trail runners, this is the website where we post your results for all of your PCTR events. Your results will be saved under your personal profile so that you can track your trail running history.
Important timing note: There are several runners that changed distances just prior to the start or during the event. If you do not see your posted time, please email me and I will correct it for you. Remember, the official time is based on computer timing, not the clock that was staged at the finish line for convenience.
We wish you the best of runs in 2014! Check out our 2014 event calendar on our webpage. Feel free to email me if you’d like some recommendations for events. You can learn more at www.pctrailruns.com
Race Director, PCTR