After rereading what I wrote yesterday I found myself being disappointed that I never actually described the experience of the race itself. What I wrote about it did not communicate why I liked the trail run. So, I am going to try to write about the run as a description of my personal experience.
I guess that I have to begin with getting up in the morning. Since the race was at 9:00AM and according to MapQuest it was almost two hours away we had to leave at 6:00AM to allow time for registration, changing clothes and finding the place. We got out of the house at 6:20AM and stopped for hot chocolate. But, we were on the road by 6:30AM with only a small room for error.
Fortunately, the times given by MapQuest seem to assume that a little old lady from Pasadena would be driving and we made the trek with plenty of time to spare. We were early and found a place to park that was quite close to the registration area. The surroundings were wonderful. The run was in a park set in the middle of a redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The air was cool, but not uncomfortable for running, I would guess that the temperature was in the upper 50s Fahrenheit. We got our numbers, pinned them on and used the clean convenient restrooms.
It was announced that we would wait a few minutes longer than the scheduled race time to allow for stragglers that might have gotten lost. The pause wasn’t a problem as we had the beautiful park everywhere we looked.
My daughter, wife and a friend from the athletic club we train at were with me. But, the rest of the people at the race were quite friendly. The director of the race gave us instructions, like follow the signs pertaining to your distance. Our group had all signed up for the 5.5-mile race. The other races were 10.5 miles and 16 miles which was once around 5.5-mile and 10.5-mile course. He also told us that the trail Marathon had been cancelled this year because it had taken some of the people seven hours to complete.
Then he went down the road a bit with the group that would run the 10.5-mile race. He would start them first, and we would wait 5-minutes for them to get down the path before we would start. As we waited I began to shiver. I just wanted to get started so I could get warm.
Finally the moment happened when the director of the race said, “Go!” But, we only moved slowly through the gate at the beginning of the trail. The trail was only wide enough for two or three people, so squeezing over 100 people through that tiny opening took some time. This was probably the worst part of the race, because our group had been standing at the back of the pack and we had to wait until almost everyone got started before we could actually begin to run. I looked at my watch and I believe that it took nearly 5 minutes before I got up to a jogging pace, only to be stopped at another traffic jam on the path.
After traveling only a short distance of walking and slow jogging we made it to a road crossing where I could pass by a large number of people and begin to pick up my pace. But right across the road was the first hill. It wasn’t very steep, but it did require a bit more energy to accelerate and pass by some of the runners on the path. At this point my wife called out, “See you later,” as I began to pick up speed. My daughter and our friend had been stuck in the crowd and they were already behind us.
It quickly became apparent that running on a trail was different than running on the street. There were sticks, mud and logs lying across the path in places. When you are walking a stick isn’t a big deal, but when you are running and step on a stick your foot will roll and you may lose your balance. This happened to a person directly behind me at the beginning of the race. I heard a thump, and turned to see someone on the ground. I asked if they were OK, and they said yes as they got up and began to run. “I’d better be careful,” I thought to myself.
Over the next mile or so I passed quite a few people, one by one and I finally managed to get to a good pace. I saw the first mile marker on the path and I was certainly in a groove. I heard heavy breathing behind me, and I anticipated that someone was about to pass me so I moved over. But they just stayed behind me for quite some time. I was looking for the mile 2 marker for quite some time, but I never saw it. Based on what I expected my pace to be I had guessed that I had passed it quite some time ago, but the race didn’t seem that clear anymore. In fact the rest of the race is blurred together in my memory.
I do know that the racecourse took us to a waterfall that must have been 30 feet high. The race went down a set of stairs to the observation platform, then turned around and went back up. It was a bit disappointing to see some of the runners going halfway down the stairs, then turning around, but it wasn’t like we were trying to win the gold medal in the Olympics or anything.
Then we made it to “Slippery Rock” the sign proclaimed. This was certainly the steepest part of the race. From the race profile posted on the Internet I learned that this steep climb was about 300 feet up in about two tenths of a mile. Most of the people were walking up the rock, and I was with them. I don’t know how anyone could actually run up this rock. But, I took long strides and I passed by about ten people just on the face of this rock. The three-mile mark was not posted, but it was somewhere on the face of this rock based on the race profile.
My wife had passed me by before we had gotten to the rock, but I thought that I might be able to catch her. But she maintained her speed and I remained behind her as we climbed the rock. At the top of the rock was the mid-course water station. I ignored it as I usually do. I don’t particularly like water sloshing around in my stomach as I am running, so I put off the water until the end of the race.
Then the course took us down the backside of the rock, which was a nice downhill run with only a few obstacles in the way. One interesting obstruction was a tree leaning against a cliff and the path went under it. I certainly had to duck, and I imagined that if I were too tired I might not have been able to find the strength to duck. Then I would have “hit the tree.” I began to think that it was funny to have “hit the tree.” I began to amuse myself by thinking that Marathoners “hit the wall” but trail runners “hit the tree.”
I know, it wasn’t really that funny, but that’s what happens when you exert yourself too these extremes. And, while I was thinking this I saw that I was getting close to my wife. I ran past her and told her to be careful not to “hit the tree.” She didn’t think that it was funny.
Of course the end part of the race is even foggier. I know that my wife passed me again on another uphill stretch. She certainly does quite well on the climbs. But, I didn’t let her get too far ahead of me. And, we passed the 4.5 mile marker very close together. I told her that we had less than a mile to go, and I passed her on an uphill climb for the first time. It wasn’t long after that that I saw the flags and the clock showing that we had reached the end of the trail. I saw that my time was 1:02:20 and I turned around to wait for my wife to finish behind me. When she did I saw that she finished at 1:02:35.
They had snacks and water set up at the finish, but it wasn’t for those of us who had just finished the race. Instead it was for the 16 milers who were just passing through on to the 10.5-mile loop. I wanted to get some water that was located up the hill at the registration table. My wife waited for my daughter and our friend to finish while I went to get some snacks and water. They had fresh fruit, trail mix, water and even candy. I grabbed some stuff and headed back to wait at the finish line. And, my daughter finished the race about ten minutes behind us. We had fun talking about the details of the race and eating snacks.
The amazing thing about this race was that the results were being typed in a laptop computer and printed out periodically. They put the results up at the snack table and we could see where we finished. And, that’s when I found out that I actually finished 9th overall in the race. I was surprised, I had never finished that high in the results before. I also found out that our real time was 57:20 and 57:35, because I had forgotten about the 5-minute delay for the start of our race. My wife finished second among the women in the race and I finished 3rd in my age group.
Well, we stood around talking with the other runners for some time and then we felt rested enough to hike a little ways through the woods. We thought that we might take some time to actually look around and enjoy the redwoods, waterfalls and banana slugs. We walked back to the “slippery rock” and the stairs that took us down to the waterfalls. This time we lingered just looking at the falls and the fish swimming in the creek at the bottom. Then we turned around and climbed the slippery rock one more time as we headed back home again.
I hope y’all like that better than what I wrote yesterday…
Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Cross Posted @ Bring It On
and BlogSpiritTrail Running