Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The $50 Training Run, or, There and Back Again: The Race that Almost Was

Abby, the kids, Dave & myself had a plan to go to Six Flags in Vallejo on Mother's Day. No racing, but Dave & I were planning on driving up to Bothe Napa State Park early Sunday morning for a nice long run. Our hotel plans changed a little, though, and we ended up staying in Concord, which just happens to be closer to Oakland than Bothe-Napa, and PCTR just happened to be putting on what looked like a very scenic trail race there that day. So, after approval from the mother-unit, it being Mom's Day and all, we planned on driving 25 minutes from our hotel (it was PHAT: more on that later). We got there and signed up, with the prerequisite high race day fees, but these were a little steep...$40 or $45 for Dave's 10k, and $50 for my 21k. What I call "double-dipping" is not only charging more for late and/or race day sign-ups, but also not giving said runner any shirt/swag, etc... I get adding, say, $5 on race-day. But adding $10 AND not giving a shirt just seems kinda cheap. One or the other guys. The no shirt makes more sense, so they can get the sizes in ahead of time, but $10 extra as well, for the 5 seconds it took to jot my # down on a sheet of paper. C'mon guys...
If it seems I'm a little more peeved about than usual, I'll get to that too, but double-dipping is always something that gets on my nerves.
Anywho, Joaquin Miller park was the site of the race. The extra K actually had me a little worried. 20k (and a gnarly 20k at that) was already going to be the longest race I'd done in some time (2-3 years?), but the sign-up sheet, maps, etc, all had 21k on them. I'd also forgone my usual easy & short pre-race run on Saturday morning, not having planned on racing at all. I wouldn't have thought much about this either, except for the fact that I had found and then passed the maximum threshold for my Minimus trail shoes. I'd done 4.5 in them, no problem at all, and they were comfy enough that I figured on the right trail I could do 6-8. All I can say is, I figured wrong. At some point around mile 6, I went from noticing-but-not-really-being-bothered-by the small rocks to having a stabbing pain in the balls of my feet with almost every step. Both feet!! I had to back off and change my form (in the bad way, not the good way) just to be able to jog it back to the car. So I guess I'll be keeping the miles short in those bad boys for a while longer. I've been feelin it for three days now. Luckily, this is a taper week, so I'm not missing much training-wise, and hopefully, the pain & soreness will be long gone by the weekend. Anyway, I toyed with wearing my Saucony Exodus trail shoes in the race the next day. They're pretty heavily cushioned and softened every footfall noticeably. But they're also relatively heavy, and I ended up going with the 8 oz MT 101's. They preformed admirably til pretty late in the race, on some downhills, where my feet would alternate being pissed off and going numb. If it sounds like fun, it was!!
Oh yeah, the almost race. My plan was to strategize the first half and not hammer til the second half, but a minute in, nobody was going with me, so I pushed on ahead. Lots of ups and downs (over 2000 feet complete with rocks, some really steep parts, and a few mellow spots). Pretty much the training run we'd planned. By 9 minutes in, I couldn't see anyone close on a switchback, so I figured to be at least a minute ahead at that early point. I ran "comfortably" hard for the next ten miles, though at times the terrain made it feel like more of a fartlek run than a race. The "fun" part came with about 1.5 to go, bombing downhill to the last aid station. After arguing amongt each other for a few seconds, they sent me right. Hmmm...this trail looks vaguely familiar, but I've never been here, what do I know. 1k later...hey, look, the 21k/10k split, that doesn't seem right. I think I uttered a few choice words and turned around. I saw another guy coming on the way back. He said he was doing the 21k but had started early, and wasn't convinced this way was wrong...so back to the split/10k turn again, more choice words (I was 95% sure now that we'd been pointed the wrong way). Eventually another runner (with a map on her phone) pulled it up and we saw that, indeed, they'd sent us pretty much the exact opposite direction from the finish. So, back again. As I ran past the aid station again, I told them they were sending people the wrong way. No, the 21k is straight, not right, they said. Well...THAT would have been good to know about, oh, 14 MINUTES AGO! *I know these people are volunteers. I've done course marshalling and aid stations myself. NEVER would I volunteer at an intersection if I didn't know where to send people! The smirk the one guy had on his face was almost enough for me to stop and beat him with a slice of watermelon. Glad you think it was funny...be sure to tell that to the three behind me that you also sent the wrong way. Anyway, I finished the race, and calmy (I was more dejected than angry at this point) told those at the finish that the last aid station had sent people the wrong way. Their only response was "did you tell them"? That was it.
To add insult to injury, they officially have 6 other runners in front of me in times that don't make any sense even if I hadn't been sent the wrong way. There were times where a steep downhill would prevent me from expanding my lead by a minute every mile like the first, but I ran pretty steady, and I was definitely adding to it the whole way. So, it's incredibly unlikely that anyone ran a 1:35 on the 21k course (about where I'd have finished and I'd been running alone from the first hill) & the people that ran those times are a male whose other results have been 11-14 minutes per mile (and closer to midpack) for similar distances, and a 58 year-old female who ran a recent road half in 2 hours...so faster than the winner, but she ain't gonna go 16 minutes faster on a super hilly trail!
Just an idea, PCTR...have different color bibs for different distances so people don't start early with a race they don't belong in!!! Man, I was starting to get over the bad directions, almost, but they managed to totally mess up what was left of the results too!!
Pretty easy things to fix, but they just didn't seem to care, and I'm done with them (not that they'll notice or care). I could've saved $50 and not been whooped by people with a half hour head start if I just wanted to do a training run.
We did make it to Six Flags after going back to our hotel (the aforementioned phat Crowne Plaza in Concord). Hannah and I took a quick dip and soak in the indoor pool that was in the giant fancy courtyard, next to the Koi river. Nice rooms too. I wish this place was on our racing circuit...$88 on Hotwire, and well worth that and more.
After a 79 mile week (2011 high) I'm doing a taper this week to 40 in hopes I get some of the lost leg speed back. I still feel like I ran a marathon the other day (15 mile race plus warm-up) but today is almost kinda sorta a tiny bit better than yesterday.
Up next...Avenue of the Vines, where I have no freakin clue how fast I'll be able to go. Til then...
(remember, this is all inside)
Just seeing who was paying attention!!!


Turi said...

Wow, triple threat diappointment - the fees, the directions and the results. Pretty lame.

Koi river, though? Sweet!

SnowLeopard said...

Awww that stinks. :( I'm sorry Chris. Maybe if you'd announced that you were coming they might've marked the trail better... ;)

slowrunner77 said...

NO comments on the Sheen pic? C'mon people!!