Archive for June, 2011

Lake Chabot Trail Challenge 2011

This race is a half-marathon run over the trails around Lake Chabot in Castro Valley. It departs from the edge of the lake to go over some hills that get it up to half marathon length.Some magazine (Runners World?) called it the toughest half marathon course in the country.

With just a week since running a 10K PR I was unsure what was in store here. My legs seemed to be in good shape, but the trails not so much. Normally June in the Bay Area is bone dry, but this year it was set to break a century-old record for monthly rainfall in the first few days. On the trails this means mud and plenty of it. This would slow everyone down equally, perhaps some more than me, but who am I trying to kid here? As if I am ever going to place on one of these hilly trail races. Hah!
We started along the paved trail along the lake shore for the first mile. This rolls up and down but was nothing compared to the hills to come. Once again I found myself in the company of Christine, and Debra, who was grumbling about the speed we were starting out. She had a point, this was a bit fast.
Leaving the pavement, I attacked the first hill fairly hard, running most of the way up until it got really steep near the top. The surface was a little slippery but presented few problems. On the descent the cleats on my trail shoes kept things under control and I gained some places.
After a level stretch and a suspension bridge across an arm of the lake, the serious climbing began. The big hill varied in gradient which resulted in a run-walk mix. Things seemed to be going well, and I moved up some more. There was one oldish guy who never seemed to walk, jogging slowly up the steepest gradients. He was a little faster than me on these sections, but I would catch him again on the levels and downs. It was one of these early downs that my race newly ended. My toe caught a protruding rock while I was going fast downhill. I took a couple of big steps before going down, and was able to tuck and roll. A chorus of “Oh my god, are you all right?” from nearby runners, and I jumped back up, retrieved my hat and drink bottle, declared “I’m fine, thank you.” and ran on. I noticed that my right shin was hurting somewhat and looked down to check that that was nothing stuck in it, but it was just scraped.
Shortly after this we came to a fallen tree. There was no getting around it, with the canyon going steeply up on one side and down on the other. It was all branches, with no trunk, so we had to climb over the branches near the top where they converged under gravity. Since I was already banged up and dirty I went fast over this obstacle in about 20 seconds. Some reported taking over a minute to get over it. There were some slippery downhills after this, where I skated the straight route instead of skirting the muddy bits. More gained places.
Near the top of the next uphill I looked around and saw Debra close behind. Not surprising, since this style of running is right up her street.
“So you caught me at last!”
“Just wanted to make sure you didn’t fall again.”
“Oh, you saw that?”
“Yes, it was scary!”
She went by. I was paying for my early speed here, but hopefully had enough in the tank for the remaining, mostly downhill, four miles.
It was a bit of a slog. I managed the downhill section OK, but did not have a lot of speed for the rolling section at the end. I had left behind most of my early companions from the hills, but was passed by a couple of younger guys and Barry of LMJS who seems to be running really well at present. I reached the finish in 2:01:51 by the official clock, just about three seconds slower than last year’s time. But there was no mud or treeclimbing last year. I came second in my age group, so perhaps I can place in these trail things after all.


Marin Memorial Day 10K 2011

Here’s another race that I also ran last year. In fact it’s my current 10K PR, so that would be a nice goal to try and beat. But really I wanted confirmation that the slump that hit me at Kaiser and Napa was truly gone.

I carpooled up with Debra, Suzette and Karen of the LMJS Womens team. Chatting with the ladies turned out to be a nice low-stress way to approach a race rather than driving solo.  After the usual preliminaries – bathroom, warmup, strides, we lined up in the start area. Since this is a USATF event it was a very strong field, and I took care not to line up too far forward and get sucked out too fast. I had set my Garmin to metric again, with auto-laps at 1km intervals. Target pace would be sub 4:20 minutes/km which if maintained would get me a narrow PR. There were no km markers, but the splits here have been corrected for GPS variance.

The line was crowded, and we were a little sluggish getting away, but once up to speed things were fine. The runners around me were mostly going at the right speed, and the few who were easing up after a too-fast start were soon left astern. Here was Debra, who beat me at Tilden, although I have an edge on her on flat roads like this. I eased ahead and didn’t look round, assuming she would be staying fairly close. She later told me that she did stay in contact for a while before deciding she was not comfortable at that pace and dropping back.  There was a headwind in the early stages, but the trees and houses sheltered us from the worst of it. First three km: 4:21, 4:26, 4:27. This looks a bit slow now, but the numbers I was seeing at the time were about 4 seconds faster.  I must remember to aim a few seconds high when using the Garmin as a pacing tool.

On the return section of the loop I went a little faster, probably aided by the tailwind, and was already passing people. This was not great, since there was no one to latch on to get ‘pulled’ along. I just had to keep passing people and glancing at the Garmin to confirm that I was on pace. 4:18, 4:19, 4:21 for these three km. Very nice pacing, though I say so myself.

As we threaded through the Marin College campus for the first time I head a pair of male voices behind. Who the heck chats in the second half of a 10K? Ultra runners? The subject matter confirmed it: “I saw so-and-so last weekend. We ran 30 miles together.” Yup, ultra guys, and they were about to pass me. When they did, I was surprised to recognize Dean Karnazes. Yup, that guy. What was he doing running a 43-minute 10K? Then I realized that he probably ran upteen miles to get here and would probably run home again too.  This little distraction, along with the twists and turns, had slowed my pace a bit, so I determined to stay within striking distance of Dean and friend, running about 50 yards behind.  Splits: 4:26, 4:25, 4:25.

We went across a bridge and turned back towards the campus. There was a fierce headwind. I had closed a bit on Dean’s group, which had grown to four.  Two runners that they had passed were hanging on grimly in order to draft them. I was fully exposed about 30 yards back and getting killed by the wind. I managed to surge and catch them up, but it was an expensive move. There was little relief once I had caught then since they were now speeding up for that last half mile to the finish.  Urrgh!

We entered the campus once again and the course marshals recognized Dean, grinning as they pointed the way with orange flags. We were out of the wind now, and I started to sag off the back of the group as we entered the running track. My kick was gone thanks to that surge, but it was the right move.  I crossed the line 13 seconds behind Dean, but just 2 seconds adrift on the chip.  That last kilometer took 4:12, for an overall time of 43:44.

A 5 second PR! Thanks DK. I did not place in my age group, but some of the LMJS ladies did, (Laurie, Suzette, and Kate) Much fun all round.

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


June 2011
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