I signed up for this race mostly because of my previously great experience with coastal trail runs on the Cinderella trail 50k. But this time, I managed to get Polina and Lucy to sign up for the half marathon as well!
So we left San Jose around 6am, and got to the start in Santa Cruz with a comfortable margin to pick up our t-shirts and bib, and get ready to run.
Before the start, I set the virtual partner on my running watch to an optimistic 5:20:00 finish time. I did not really plan the run for a PR in advance, this time the only plan I had was to run easy and enjoy the race. Even though I had the virtual partner running with me, I ignored it at first.
The main reason why I was excited about this race was the river crossing. About 5km from the start I think, you have to cross a small river. It was about 2-3 feet deep that day. I decided to just go for it, not taking my shoes off. Since the 50k consists two out-and-back 20km and a single 10km loop in the middle, we had to cross the river 4 times (twice for the 20k).
After starting at a good pace, worried about getting stuck behind slower runners on single trails, the course quickly reached fire roads. Then came the river crossing, and the second big hill in the 20k loop.
When reaching for the first turnaround, and first aid station, I started counting the bibs I could see in the 5000s (in other words, 50k runners ahead of me). I probably counted about 7-8 of them. At this point, I hadn’t really paid attention to my pace, just running as it felt good. Walking the hard uphills, running flats and carefully downhill. It’s not the race I want to risk a torn ankle.
At the aid station, I refilled my handheld bottle, picked up a gel, and left quickly. Relatively soon, I caught up with another 50k runner. Probably around this point, around 15k in the race, I checked where my virtual partner was… It turned out that I was about 5-6 minutes ahead of it. I could have slowed down at this point, this was quite a bit faster than I had ever ran a 50k, but whatever. I was feeling good, happy to be running on those gorgeous trails, between giant Redwood trees.
The 10k loop that we had to do was interesting. Unlike the wood trails that were mostly dirt, this extra loop turned out to be mostly sand. Like beach sand. That uped the difficulty a bit, but the trail was still beautiful.
After this loop, it was back to the starting point. I passed a couple more 50k runners here, as well as Lucy and Polina who were finishing their half marathon.
Reaching the 30k mark, I checked the watch again, and I had gained even more terrain on my computerized partner. I probably was around 10 to 15 minutes ahead at this point.
Now came a dilemma… I was still feeling great and easy, enjoying the run. I could slow down again, or keep it up and try to keep those 10 minutes. The dilemma was resolved easily, with a very simple reasoning: I passed a bunch of people in the last 20km. No way I’m letting them pass me now!
Easy decision. But mostly, I had no good reason to slow down as I was feeling good. In the uphill I was telling myself “The guys you passed aren’t walking this! Better run it”.
I saw the leading 50k runner at the turn-arounds, he was definitely out of reach, and looked so easy!
In the end, I just kept running as I felt good, but still pushing it uphill. Its easy to just walk them, and early in the race that’s what I did. But in the last 10-15km I tried to run more of them.
In the last 3 or 4 km I passed the last runner between me and the leader (who at this point was probably already relaxing passed the finish line.)
4hours 53 minutes, that’s a personal best, by 30 minutes. Finished 3rd overall (2nd M), after a couple of Norwegians in vacations.
I guess the hill runs, speed work, and cross training are working somehow.
Lucy and Polina finished in under 3h, which is very good for a first trail half (and first half marathon/trail race for Polina).
We all headed for a big breakfast in Los Gatos after that. And a movie, X-men, later that day. The perfect day overall!
It’s pretty obvious, but at the same time hard to tell why I was feeling so good that day. Nutrition wise, I had a good, not rushed, breakfast (Nutella, toasts, banana) about 2h before the start. During the race I took 1 gel at every aid station, plus I had one with me at the start, so that makes 5. About one every 10k. Nothing else besides water.
TODO I need to check what that week looked training wise.
The weather was perfect for running too, that always helps a lot.
This is harder to see when you beat your personal best by 30 minutes. It looks like everything went great. Surely things can be improved though.
For this race I’d say that maybe I took slightly too big of a risk. It was a small training race, and I was doing it as a training run, mostly because I like discovering new trails, I like Coastal Trail Runs’ organization, and it is, sometimes, more fun to run with people than alone on the trails. With that in mind it was maybe too dangerous to keep up the pace. Even if only recovery-wise: having to rest for a week after a training run would be stupid.
It always feels good to beat a PR. But when it’s not the objective…. Maybe next time I’ll remind myself of the true objective before the race.
Luckily the recovery was great too, and managed to keep going with the triathlon training the next day.
Oh, and I made it to the list of top runners for the course on UltraSignup :D