Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Trail Runner Once Again

This week I did a lot to be proud of, running wise. As you guys know, I did my 8.55 miler last weekend, which was awesome. Then, I ended up doing 6.5 on Monday, even though I only planned on 5. I even did 2 midweek runs despite the torrential rain California has been experiencing. Ironically, though I suited up for rain both times, somehow my runs seemed to always coincide with breaks in the weather. I was actually a little disappointed, since I love running in the rain, but it was nice to stay dryish.

Since I'd been feeling pretty strong on all these runs, I buckled down and finally registered for Woodside's 17k. That 10.6 miles!! Holy Cow....double digits. I still felt a little uneasy about committing to such a "long" distance, but I figured I could do it, with plenty of walking :). Ed will be doing the 35k, and I'm excited about getting closer to him, distance wise, in these races.

This race is a really special one for me. It marks my first trail experience back in 2007. Up until that point I had been running entirely on roads, and seeking out the flatest of routes on those. The marathons I had done were completely flat (which I picked on purpose for partially that reason), and I saw no reason to make running even harder by doing those dreaded uphills. However, one day I stumbled upon PCTR's website and was reassured by their promises of fun and being okay with hikers. So, I signed up for the 17k, freaked out about hills and mountain lions, but excited about trying something completely new.

I still distinctly remember standing in the crowd of runners at the start, and those first few minutes of running when we reached a single track. My though was, "this is so beautiful, it's like Disneyland!". Sort of an odd comparison, but I think that I was just so amazed that such a beautiful place could exist - it was like a fantasy land :). The uphills were hard, but I loved the aid station, and at that point hooked up with 2 other women who I stayed with for the rest of the race. It was so much fun meeting new people and before I knew it, the race was over. Afterwards, I stayed at the finish for probably an hour, chatting with a woman who told me about the unreal world of "ultramarathons" where people ran distances like 50ks. She made it seem so fun and exciting and really sold me on my own ability to do such a thing. I left the race excited and amazed by the trails and the community, and ready to seek out trail runs and races. From there, I got involved in running groups, races, and finally, ultras.

So, this race obviously had a big impact on me :).

This very long winded reminiscing leads up to my run today. Ed decided it would be fun to head up to Huddart Park and run the trails up there. I really wanted to go at least 9 miles on trails before Woodside, to make sure I could handle going that distance, and this seemed like a good choice. Not only would it be similar trails and terrain to the race, but redwood forests are great places to run after long rains because the trails seem to drain well and don't get that super sticky, hard to run in, mud. Ed also knows this park really well, since he's run here many times before.

We started in a residential area Ed had discovered, about a 5 minute walk from the trail. From there, we had a nice downhill, and in no time at all, we were on a familiar trail. I had actually hiked on it this past summer with my colleagues from work. Apparently, it's also part of the Woodside race. Ed had us just follow the race course along and up a fire-road for maybe another 1/2 mile, until we reached the "Chaparral" trail, a beautiful single track. It was made even more spectacular by the sunlight that was finally streaming down on the mountain and the mist still handing in the redwoods in front of us. At least 30 times throughout the run, I kept exclaiming how beautiful it was. The whole forest was incredibly green - that bright new green that comes after rain. It was switchbacks heading uphill once we got the the Spring Trail, and it would stay that way for the next few miles.

Even though it was uphill, I surprised myself by actually running a pretty good amount of it! It was such a mild uphill that I felt lazy not running. Our original plan included a loop that we had read about online, but as we were getting closer to 4.5 miles and hadn't started the "loop" part of this, I voted that we turn it into an out and back. I was ready to start enjoying the downhills that I had earned over the last hour.

We kept going until we hit 4.42 miles, where a steep decent was beginning. Neither of us was up for heading down that close to a turn around, so we turned a bit early and figure we'd make up that mileage somewhere else.

Heading down was such a totally different experience from the way out. We were "flying" (at a 10ish minute mile pace) down the switchbacks and I was feeling amazing. I felt so fit and strong and happy, and I was so grateful to be outside. The miles seemed to be going by quickly, and before we knew it, we were less than 2 miles from the end.

Ed, however, thought it would be more fun to head down the Spring trail all the way instead of retracing our steps the way we had came, since it seemed like the trail would meet up with our route further down. It seemed like a promising idea, though I was a bit worried that we'd end up short on mileage. We reached the very strong creek, crossed over, and found ourselves having to make a choice of which way to go. Not knowing these trails, but recognizing the name, "Dean's Trail," I thought that that was the way to go, and asked Ed. Apparently he didn't really look at the sign himself, but agreed with me. Suddenly, we were heading uphill :(.

Up and up we went, and I wasn't particularly happy with Ed about his brilliant "shortcut". As we continued to climb, it really started to feel that we were going the wrong way. At a trail junction, I finally took out the map and Ed confirmed that we were supposed to take the other way. Oops.

Luckily, as I told Ed, it was far too beautiful out to be worried about a misdirection. Especially since now we had a lovely quarter mile downhill to enjoy. Once we reached the creek again, Ed actually looked at the sign, then at me, and said, "Sorry Honey!" Ends up that it was only .1 miles the other way to meet up with our trail. We started up again, the right way this time, and in just a few minutes, we were back on the fireroad that we were on much earlier.

By the time we crossed over the creek and onto our last trail, we were 5 hundredths of a mile short of 9 miles. I kept up the running until we hit 9, but then gratefully hiked up the rest of the trail. Ed offered to go ahead and get the car so that I could skip the final section on the road, but I was doing okay and didn't want to give up. I was happy to take the extra mileage.

As we exited the forest and re-entered the residential area, I knew we were almost back. On the downhill we started running again, and, finally we were back.

The garmin died right after we hit 9, but we probably completed 9.5 in all. Wow!

I felt so wonderful out there, and I feel very confident about tackling Woodside in 2 weeks, on my 3rd anniversary of my first trail experience. Now, I feel very tired, sleepy, and happy :). What a wonderful way to spend a sunny Saturday!


runningtwig said...

Good for you!! That is awesome - you are going to do so well! and your comparison to disneyworld cracked me up...

Sensationally Red said...

Yeah!! I'm so happy for you!

Scott Dunlap said...

Sounds like you are running very well. If not, Woodside has plenty of opportunities for walking. ;-)

Hopefully I'll see you at the aid station!


オテモヤン said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah said...

You have every reason to feel confident! Very cool that your comeback race has so much history and meaning for you.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

happy anniversary and welcome back!

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

great to see you back. I'll be at Woodside, too, so I'll you there!