Friday, August 08, 2008

Middle Sky

I waited to post the following report as I was running this race one week before pacing someone through the night on his first 100 miler. I didn't want my runner to read that his pacer was "racing" the week before his event and give him one more thing to worry about...


After a pretty low mileage week in Vegas, I wanted to at least hit a normal 60+ week before getting ready to pace at Headlands and then start my taper for Cascade Crest. I was coming into the weekend and figuring that I would need to do a couple back-to-backs to hit the number. Then I learned heard that the Skyline 50K was still open and, better yet, it would be on Sunday allowing me to get the scheduled 8-miler in with my wife on Saturday. I had never done this race before, but it is the oldest 50K in the west according to some.

The name may be a bit misleading to those who do not know the Bay Area since I ran the Skyline Ridge 50K earlier this year. However, this race is on the complete opposite side of the bay. There are two areas known as "Skyline" in the Bay Area. There is the ridge along Skyline Blvd. along the Penninsula on the west side of the bay that ends at San Francisco proper. There is also the ridge along the east side of the bay up above Oakland that has its own Skyline Blvd. which is where this race would be. I will also be running the "Skyline-to-the-Sea" 50K later this year which starts along the east bay ridge and goes straight down to, you guessed it, the ocean. Each of these races is in completely different parks and don't share much in common beyond the name.

The Skyline 50K starts at the Lake Chabot Marina in Castro Valley which is the same location as the Dick Collins Firetrails 50m. In fact, it is about as similar to that race as possible while managing to take as many different trails as it can. The route starts off in the opposite direction around the lake and then heads up to the Goldenrod Trail to the ridge before down to the stone bridge where the Firetrails race returns. However, it takes the Grass Valley Trail towards Bort Meadows rather than the Brandon. It then continues similar to Firetrails up and along then down MacDonald and over into Redwood park and along the Golden Spike trail. From here it diverges again heading up along the east ridge along the trail of the same name. It shares an aid station location with Firetrails at Skyline Gate, but here you go along the West Ridge and French Trail before turning onto Toyon and back into Chabot to return up and over MacDonald again. After that it is the Brandon Trail back from Bort Meadows to the stone bridge. The final leg takes one of my favorite trails, the Columbine which winds through the woods before depositing you on the north side of the lake. The return is around the lake and then back to the Marina via the same paved path wher Firetrails begins.

So, that's the course, a sort of mini-Firetrails in reverse. It's a pretty good course and since I train on these trails relatively often, it seemed a good one to add as a training run. I started the race out easy. With 4700ft of gain/loss, I figured a 6-hour finish should be a good time without pushing it terribly hard. Early on I remember someone saying to me, "what are you doing back here?" It was a good reminder that I was right where I should be for taking it easy in a race. Of course, then we hit the first downhill section and I couldn't help myself but fly down it. I was still near the back of the middle of the pack, though and reminding myself not to push. I decided that, since this was supposed to be a training run, I should be doing some sort of training. As we hit the hill up MacDonald trail, I went into a fast walk letting myself push the pace as long as I wasn't running. I have been told that Cascade Crest has a lot of steep trails with no switchbacks so having a fast uphill walking pace is a big benefit. I would continue this trend throughout the race, pushing a fast walk uphill, taking it very easy on the flats and just letting the terrain and slope set my pace going down.

Just as I was about to head up the last big hill on the East Ridge Trail, another runner was in front of me on the hill and a mountain biker came cresting the top towards us. I'm not sure if he was startled, going to fast, or just made a bad move, but he went down and hard. He landed flat on his back, his helmet coming off after the impact and his cell phone thrown to the side. The runner in front of me stopped and I sprinted up to catch up. The guy was conscious, but just laying still look up and moaning a bit. I asked if he was OK and he said, "I don't know, my back feels numb." Just then some other bikers came upon us and got off to help. The runner in front of me decided to continue on since there was someone else to help, but I decided I wouldn't feel right about leaving until I knew this guy could get up on his own. The bikers who had shown up were a man and his daughter and I knew they wouldn't be able to get this guy up on their own if he needed that sort of assistance. Besides, my life certainly didn't depend on me finishing this race, but if he really hurt his back his could depend on his ability to get help and get out of here. After a couple minutes I asked him if he could try to slowly roll over onto his side to see if it hurt. He not only was able to do this, but realizing he was not as bad as he thought, he rolled all the way over and managed to stand up. I was still a bit shaken from the jolt, but was OK. I took off feeling relieved. The image of the runner being choptered out of Ohlone was not far from my memory.

I upped my pace for a little bit to make up some time and to just get my legs moving again. After a few minutes the bikers who helped rode by and said he was fine and even road off on his own. That made me happy. Before long I arrived at the Skyline Gate aid station. I spent a little time fueling here and saying hi to some familiar faces. However, I wanted to get going as this return section on the West Ridge Trail were not parts I run frequently so I was interested in getting to know them. The best part here was definitely the French Trail which heads straight down steep terrain with fun roots and stuff to jump over. I had a blast hooping and hollering, calling out lots of "on your left" as I went. It was then time to work on my uphill marching some more. Somewhere along here Craig Slagel caught back up to me. When I said, "I thought you were taking this extra easy?" He said, "I thought you were too?" We both laughed. He was going to be pacing at Headlands the following weekend as well, but also had the Leadville 100 the week after that.

Craig and I stayed with, or near, each other for a while playing a sort of yo-yo where he would drop me on the uphill and I would catch him on the down. I tried not to let him get to far ahead going up and he tried to stay as close as he could going down. It was sort of like Ohlone, but I was able to beat him there because it finished on a long downhill. It would be different here, I told him since the finish was pretty flat on a paved section. Even if we were together there is no way I could match his road pace to the finish. I could see the mechanisms working in his mind and I could tell he wanted some redemption from Ohlone. On the big climb up MacDonald, he put his Hardrock trained legs to work. I kept him mostly in sight, but lost him on the rolling section along the top. I knew if I didn't catch him on the downhill into Bort, I wouldn't see him again until after the finish. And, so it was. He had mentioned a 5-hour finish when he left me, but I had put 5:30 in my mind at this point and wasn't willing to push for anything faster than that.

I met up with a guy named Doug whom I had talked with for a bit earlier in the race. He had gotten into States this year, but after it was canceled said he just sort of kept tapering. This race was his way of kicking himself back into gear a bit. We stuck together all through the Columbine Trail with him staying right behind me which kept me motivated. Eventually he dropped back a little and I caught up to Charles Blakeney whom I had met at Ruth Anderson. We made it into the final aid station together and both headed out quickly with Doug decided to take a little time there. I left Charles on the steep downhill, but he came back and passed me on the flat path around the lake. I told him that I wasn't going to push it and I'd see him at the finish. That lasted a couple minutes and I caught back up to him. We stuck together chatting and just cruising around the lake. A 5:30 finish was pretty assured for us both and he was nursing an injury so neither of us pushed. About 1/2 mile to the finish I saw that I could beat 5:25 so I said to him that I wanted to stretch my legs and he said "go for it."

I ran the last bit crossing in 5:24:38. Not bad for a training run.

Since my wife was working and I had no other obligations, I spent the rest of the day hanging out with Craig who finished in 5:17:24. It was nice to add this unexpected race to my schedule. With so many races filling up early, it is good to know that there are still opportunities to just jump into one at the last minute. I didn't feel like I pushed it too hard and it was a good test of my fitness.


miki said...

Hey, I'll see you at Cascade Crest. I'm crewing for Hao Liu.

Eudemus said...

Miki, I saw that you will be on Hao's crew. Not only will you see me, but you guys are driving me to/from the airport! Should be a load of fun!

miki said...

We are???!!! Cool!

kelly said...

I enjoy your blog. I recognize you but I am not sure if we have ever met. Good luck at Cascade Crest. My good friend, Suzanna Bon will be running there too. Take care.

Eudemus said...

Kelly, glad you like the blog. I'm sure your recognize me from Headlands last weekend as I was volunteering at 4 different locations along the course before pacing through the night. Congrats on a great race!

Anonymous said...

You dork! you didn't have to keep this a secret. Thanks for pacing me again at Headlands. You are a excellent pacer and a great guy!