the random trail section at the start
me and Lori just before the chute
This post is coming a bit late. Since this race, I've gone back to workfor a few days, then gone on vacation to Seattle & Kent, WA to be in my brother-in-law Tom's wedding. My running since resuming some run-specific training has been questionable, so I signed up for this race primarily because it was out of my comfort zone, and I figured the half woupld be more beneficial than the 10k. My gym-rat friends, Ron & Lori Crawford, told me about this race at Donner Summit/Soda Springs a few days before, and I decided I'd do it as long as I survived the week. By Wednesday I'd signed up on active. Lori was also doing the half, and we'd spend a few hours on the beach and in the kayak at Serene Lakes after the run with Hannah & Abby as well.
This was a "Big Al" race. I'd run two of his races in the summer of 2000 (this one, formerly known as Devil's Outlook, and To Hell and Back 15k/30k). Back in 2000 we'd wondered if the courses were accurate, and last week we got our confirmation - not even close. While the 10k was probably a half mile long, the half (even on the xeroxed course map) was 13.95 miles. No big deal, as my primary reason to run was to force feed myself a bit of endurance, but the funny thing is - there are two out-and-back trail sections in this race. The turnarounds are pretty random, so all one would half to do to make this course 13.1 is to move one or the other a little. No loops at all. Go figure. But...his races are always fun, and pretty small, even with the dawn of on-line sites, and very scenic. Love that mountain running!!! The course was about 4 miles of road and 10 miles of trail. The description on active said "no major hills" which was almost laughable, since there sure ain't a whole lotta flat, and the course would vary between 6700 & 7000 feet elevation.
We started on a (random)40-50 yard stretch of trail before hitting the road accross from the finish at Soda Springs, and climbed for well over a mile. No 15% grades, but a steady climb at close to 7,000 feet. Ryan Ress (who'd fight back from second to win the 10) & a younger runner led the pack (I hoped they were both in the 10k but at that point wasn't really sure) and I filed in at the front of a small chase pack behind them. About 10-12 minutes in, right after passing the CSU Stanislaus High Altitude training cabin (via 1998-1999) and before hitting the big off-road downhill, I was caught and eventually passed by a runner I didn't know. He may have told me his name, but the memory ain't what it used to be. He assumed the lead on the downhill and would build his lead to anywhere from 40 to 100 yards before we were to turn and climb back up. I ran conservatively since I hadn't run close to this distance since December, and haven't been in really good shape for a half for over a year. I was running comfortably on the downhill when another runner, Bill Rattier, pulled up beside me. We matched each others pace and after seeing the two 10k leaders nearly side by side on the way up, started to pull slowly closer to the half leader, enjoying the good company.
We'll never know how that race would have worked out though. As we were making the turn around mile 4.5, it dawned on me that we had not seen him coming back up! We stopped and yelled down the trail for him, but it was winding and he apparently was just out of ear-shot, and had definitely missed the turn. I was dreading this long climb back up to the road, but I thought if I could stay close up the hill, I'd have an easier time on the flat, rolling, and downhill terrain to the end. My lungs, hip, and Achiiles felt every step on the way up, but I never fell more than a few yards back, and as I thought, once we hit a little downhill stretch, I was feeling ok. Not great, but ok. We ran side by side wondering exactly where the second out-and-back would be as we drew ever closer to the finish line, but we found it. Some fireroad after a brief section of gravel. I was starting to feel it in my legs now, but we held the same pace and ran side by side. After the last 180, we seemed to be on an ever so slight downhill, and I picked up the pace just a touch. I expected Bill to come with me, but by the time we got back to the road for the last mile or so I was starting to pull away. The course suited me well...an uphill finish would not have worked too well, but the downhill was fast (relatively) and I finished the 14 mile mountain half in 1:33:08...about a 1:27 on a 13.1 miler. Not blazing, but faster than I thought I'd be, given the terrain, and a very unexpected win. Bill came in about 45 seconds later, and a former college teammate at Lassen, Dolores Bergmann, came in 3rd or 4th overall, and easily the first woman. Lori was the 4th female across the line. We stuck around for a bit cheering on other runners in the small field before heading to the beach. It was like dejavu being on the same roads and trails (and lake) that we were on as a cross country team back in the late 90's. CAL's ladies CC team was even there at the lake...presumably for the same purpose - to get some montain training in before the school year & season starts (at sea level).
A very fun day, although I have not been able to build on it with much in the way of quality runs since then. Both Achilles and my hip/glute/hammies have actually felt measurably weaker since then. Hopefully that will dimiish with time. There's a 4000 person 4k run in New York City at the end of September that will most likely be my next race (unless I can tame the injuries by the time the Friendship run rolls around 9/12)... this in the midst of a couple brewery visits and a Yankees-Sox game at the new Yankee Stadium!!! I'll put up some pics from the Seattle trip and Tom & Stephanie's wedding next...