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.