Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Accidental Marathon

This past Sunday I decided to do my long run on the trails of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. My plan was to do 21-22 miles by covering the first part of the course out-and-back. I arrived at Lake Chabot to perfect, cool running weather. In fact it was cold enough at the start that I wore my gloves for the first part of the run. I was determined to stay on course this time as the previous time I attempted to run this route I missed numerous turn-offs including the very first one. I ended up doing about 23 miles on that run, but covered less than 7 miles of the actual course. I wasn't going to let that happen this time.

I finally had the chance to experience the first hill up the Live Oak trail which is a pretty decent climb, but not horrendous especially in cool weather. As I crested this climb the sun broke the clouds and my gloves went back into my pack. I was familiar with the next section, reaching the Brandon Trail which I would follow for a little over 4.6 miles. However, there was one bit of familiarity that I was not looking forward to... Pop! Pop! Pop! I simply can not get used to running next to a rifle range. Call me a wimpy Californian, but it stresses me out. Even knowing it is coming, I am still unable to keep the heartrate from raising and the adrenaline from surging. It definitely uses up psychological energy that I would prefer to reserve for later in my run. I can't imagine how absolutely terrifying it must be to experience an actual firefight, but running through the woods next to a gun range is about as close as I ever want to be.

Eventually the sound of gunfire fades and the trail heads down to the stone bridge. This is a fairly significant trail junction where my previous run went very wrong. The Brandon Trail continues to the right alongside a creek (there is even a sign if you bother to read it). This is one of the most beautiful parts of the trail for those that like the woods. The eucalyptus thins out and the redwoods start to take over. The trail follow a creekbed so it is a much more lush area. This trail leads to Bort Meadows and then on to the group camp where there is water and facilities. This is where I eventually found my way to during my previous run, in desperate need of water. I returned to the group camp again on this run before realizing that it was not part of my route and that I had passed the turnoff to the MacDonald Trail. I decided not to stop for water and just turned back around to find the trail head I had missed. It probably only added about half a mile total so not a big deal.

The MacDonald Trail is found up a short hill on the other side of a parking lot. Not very obvious on the map. Once on the trail it begins a nice gradual climb along the ridge that provides some decent views of the east hills. The sun was shining, but a nice cool breeze kept it comfortable. Just about every biker and hiker I saw on the trail commented on how perfect the weather was. MacDonald has only one real intersection about a mile and a half in, where a spur trail leads to a residential area off of Parkridge Drive. I wish I could afford to live there! At this point it heads downhill for another mile and a third to the MacDonald Staging Area which is where Anthony Chabot ends and Redwood Regional Park begins. This is where I had originally planned to turn around, but now I realized I had made a mistake. There was no water here nor at the Big Bear Staging Area a little futher down. I probably could have made it back to the group camp, but that was a pretty steep hill I had just come down. I knew that a couple more miles down the trail there would be a good water and bathroom stop in the park. This would also allow me to check out the single-track of the Golden Spike trail. I must say, it is a sweet trail, though fairly heavy with poison oak (don't forget your technu). Finish that, trot down the Bridle Trail fireroad and you are in Redwood Park central. I had some eats here (PB&J tortilla...yum), filled the pack with water, dropped in a few NUUN tablets and was back on my way for the return trip.

I was glad to have the fresh drink as it was a bit warmer going up the hill with the wind no longer at my face. I made another stop at the group camp on the way back as I was craving some plain water (and needed to do an intestinal check). Then it was back down the Brandon towards the last climb of the day. Another runner (the first I'd seen that day) was starting his run here as I past. While my pace was starting to slow, I did manage to hold him off ;-). Then, from the other direction, came yet another runner (why all in this spot?). This guy looked serious and was hauling some serious butt, carrying the classic two water bottles. I didn't recognize him, but figured he was an ultra runner. It made me think about all the good runners I've heard about recently from Oakland. If you have wondered about this, as I have, you need only to come check out the choice running in their backyard. Maybe I'd get faster if I moved a few miles further north :-).

Anyway, I finished back on the same route I went out on instead of by following the race route return. I'll have to check out the West Shore return route another time. I also plan to do a run on the remainder of the route from Redwood Park out to Lone Oak and back. The whole run took a little under 4 3/4 hours to complete which was more than I had planned for the day. I apologized to my wife for being late by stopping to pick up Chipotle on the way home (mmm...burritos). Upon completion, I was quite pleased to do the math and discover that I had done pretty close to a marathon distance considering the 10.5 planned turnaround plus 2 miles and the double trips out-and-back to the group camp. It felt good to be able to do an unplanned marathon as a Sunday long run.


matt said...

i am so envious of your proximity to the DC trails. so tell me more about the course. how much of the trails are covered by trees? what do you think the weather will be like? is it usually hot up there in october? are the single-track sections pretty technical?

the surprise of an accidental marathon must be pretty satisfying. great job! i don't know how you did it with the gunfire. that would have unsettled me too much.

i haven't had NUUN tablets before. what are they like?

Eudemus said...

Matt, there is actually quite a bit of tree cover over the half of the course I have run so far. The exception being the first climb leading up to Brandon and the MacDonald trail which is on an exposed ridge. However, even those have trees lining them that still provide spots of shade. October up here is hard to predict. We could get one last heat wave or we could get early rain. Hard to say. It will probably be cold at the start as it is early and Chabot is in a bit of a valley. Most of the course is, as the name indicates, very broad fireroads. The singletrack that I ran was not what I would call technical, but then I really like twisty technical stuff.

The gunfire is only in one section and it does suck, especially when there is a LOT of it going at once. Hopefully it will be too early when we pass by there on race morning since the return route avoids it. I would recommend downloading the PDF maps of the various parks. I review them often. I could email them to you as a ZIP if you have trouble finding the right ones.

I am a big fan of NUUN personally. It is a tablet-based electrolyte mix that does not contain any sugar. I prefer to get my calories from solid (or semi-solid) food and can't deal with the sweetness of many drinks. I only like their lemon-lime, but even so, late in long runs/races I often switch to or alternate with water. I also suppliment with S!Caps during hot or very long events. I also like that NUUN is much easier to mix than powders which always seem to gum up on me. It is kinda like alka seltzer. The one caveat is that it does get a bit fizzy at first and sometimes involuntarily squirts from my water bottles.

I think that answers all your questions, but if you have more, by all means, fire away (no pun intended).

miki said...

Sweet Steve! I'm afraid my training runs are getting smaller and smaller and smaller with school ramping up. I think I might barely finish DC...if I finish. But you sound like you're ready to go!

I tried the Nuun tablets at Mt. Diablo. I think I prefer the Gu20 or Conquest plus Succeede tablet combination better. The fizziness got me to me after a while. Though I did have a funny/scary moment when I thought a snake was chasing me down the trail at running speed only to realize that the Nuun carbonation in my waist pack bottle had caused the top to pop and was spraying out behind me. I am so glad I was alone during that part of the run.

Eudemus said...

Miki, I don't know how ready I can really be for this new distance since I imagine it is pretty much all mental beyond 50K. This is why I am doing runs on the course, for the familiarity aspect. I think you should consider your reduced training just a longer taper time. You've done quite a few 50K races this year so just rest and be mentally comitted.

As for NUUN, I understand that it may not be for everyone. I can only handle the lemon-lime flavor. The others just don't taste right to me. I like it because it basically adds taste and electrolytes to my water without the sugar. Most other sports drinks just taste too "thick" to me. When I tire of the NUUN I switch to plain water.

I like the mental image of running down the trail with a mini-fountain spurting from your back. Very funny.