Earlier this year I ran the Pacific Coast Trail Runs 35K as a training run leading into the Ohlone 50K. In that race I found myself in fourth place at the halfway turnaround point and went from training run mode to race mode to catch and pass the third place runner. I ended up finishing that one third but I wasn’t so lucky this time around.
The course starts out in a field and quickly hits a short single track section where passing is difficult if not impossible. Even though I’ve been slacking off since CIM I figured I had enough fitness to place in this race so I stayed with the leaders from the start so I wouldn’t get held back by a slower runner in this section.
After a little more than a half a mile the course moves onto a fire road for a long 4.5 mile climb to the King’s Mountain aid station. Realizing I couldn’t keep the pace for the long climb I slowed down and let my friend I was running with race by himself.
After the King’s Mountain aid station the course becomes is more or less rolling hill single and double track through the redwoods. Knowing my friend was up ahead I increased my effort a little to try to gain some ground.
Somewhere around the 10 mile point you reach the Bear Gulch aid station which also serves as the turnaround point for the 35K distance. The nice thing about having an out and back section is that you can figure out your position in the race, how far ahead the competition is, and how close the runners behind you are. The lead runner was about 6 minutes up on me with a chase group of two runners a couple minutes back. My friend was in fourth place another couple minutes back and I was two minutes off of him.
I had a quick turnaround at Bear Gulch thanks to the volunteers there and quickened my pace to hunt down my friend. Earlier this year when I was in fourth and caught the third place runner I had a bigger deficit to overcome so I didn’t think I would have a problem.
Unfortunately slacking off and only getting in a handful of runs for the month is not the best training for a trail race. About a mile or two after Bear Gulch my hamstrings started tweaking. After months of training on the roads for a fast marathon I don’t think they were ready for the hills of a trail race. Eventually they started cramping forcing me to walk and shuffle the rest of the course. As I stumbled along I was passed several times over. At the 3:11 mark, which was the time I finished the course in earlier this year I still had about two and a half miles to go.
With about a mile to go I found my friend on the side of the road. I thought he came back to see what was taking me so long but he suffered the same fate as me only in a more epic fashion. He ended up cramping so bad that he had to sit down on the trail and wait until he was able to walk again. We ended up walking the final mile in together.
|There’s always next year! Photo courtesy of Allen Lucas.|
It was a little sad to walk into the finish line of the final race of a year filled with monster personal records and my first Boston Marathon qualifier but I finished injury free and had a great time. I’m happy with that.
Age Group (35-39): 5/6