Welcome to another installment of Audra Learns the Trails of the Bay Area by Running Trail Races. On this week's adventure, we take on the Berkeley Hills by running the Grizzly Peak Trail Half. Your distance may vary, it was actually 12.8 miles which proved to me more than enough. Let's start with the course profile shall we?
There were 5 distance for this race: 10k, half, 30k, marathon, 50k. Usually with so many distances, there will be different start times. The field for this race was kept pretty small (and sold out) so we all started together.
I thought the first mile would be pretty bad but it wasn't. I'm still learning how to pace myself at the start of these races. I'd say almost all of them start with an uphill and I don't do any warm up. Ok, this time I did: a sprint from the bathroom to the starting line, but that doesn't really count. I'm trying to just ease myself into a comfortable pace to start, as comfortable as one can be while gaining 600' in the first mile.
I'm had some butt/high hamstring twinginess the past few weeks so I told myself I wasn't going to run hard this week. Good luck with that! Well, the course certainly helped slow me down. For 1, there's a lot of up and down, it was tough to find any kind of rhythm. It was also rocky, like East Coast rocky so watching your footing was key. I was cruising down hill on a very gutted, rocky section and just kept thinking someone is going to seriously eat it here (I've seen 1 bloody photo and heard reports of 1 dislocated finger). We've also had some rain in the last week or so so there were muddy sections. It's funny to see people try and tip toe around mud and puddles. I try to pick the best line so I don't get stuck but I don't really worry about getting dirty, I'll run right through if that's the best way. A real down side to this mud is the mud drying, leaving fossils of foot prints, hoof prints, bike tire tracks and who knows what else to navigate. I imagine if the trail had been in better conditions I would have been a few minutes faster. But that's what you get with trails, you just never know how things are going to be out there and it has a huge impact on the outcome.
For most of this race, I did have others around me. I wasn't sure who was running what distance and of course, even when I say I'm not going to "race" I start keeping track of the women around me. On the very steep down hill, I lost 3 of them. Only 1 came back to me (though in the last mile, 2 would come FLYING by me, though only 1 of them was racing my distance). Some of these folks out there doing the longer distance stuff are no joke: they really MOVE.
At about the half way point, we were rewarded for suffering up the steep inclines with the most amazing view. We came to a clearing and there in front of us was the Bay Bridge, all of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Marin, and Mt Tam. I'm so glad it was a clear day, it's an amazing sight. The guy in front of me peeled off to take a picture.
After a lovely almost 2 miles of downhill came what I was calling in my head The March to the Gulag. We had run down this steep rocky section. It didn't realize I'd be running back up it (mile 8.5-9.5). It really wasn't runnable, too steep and so rocky. There was just a line of us walking up it. The silver lining to this is I know it's the last real hill, and the rest of the course is downhill. I can't recall the last time I had such a slow mile. It took me over 18 minutes (my fastest mile of the race was just about 8 minutes). Trail running=coming to terms with sometimes having to walk.
So before I get to the end of this tail, I'm going to take a time of you tell you about one of my co-competitors. This is the 2nd time I've encountered a guy like this in a race. I passed him around mile 10 (he did pass me back). I took one look at him and winced at the thought of what it was going to feel like when he took a shower. He was wearing cotton underwear under nylon shorts, cotton socks, Vans (hey props to you dude if you can run 13 miles in Vans), no shirt, and was carrying one of those cheap backpacks with strings for straps. Sir, that is a one way ticket to Chafe City.
Now back to our regularly scheduled misery:
I hit the last water station and know there's about 1.7 miles to go. I can hear a couple of women coming up behind me and peak back, I don't want to be passed this late. Well, 2 come FLYING by me. I catch a number of 1, she's not in my race so I'm not worried. The other one is and there is no way I'm catching her. Then I notice my shoe coming untied. I'm not stopping to tie it and just hope I don't trip in the last half mile. Stupid laces.
I don't trip and no one else comes around me.
I finished in 2:22:38 ( a blistering 11:09 pace)
Loren is at the finish with Barb who couldn't run. I ask Loren how she did and she hold up her first over all medal, her 2nd win of the year (she was also 6th over all and will just say a woman doing the marathon was ahead of her as well as someone who was a bandit but she was still first in the half).
I was 2nd in my age group (behind Loren of course), 9th woman (out of 45), and 26th over all (out of 89).
Steep Ravine is still the hardest one of these races I've done, but I'd put this at 2nd for sure.
Yesterday I wasn't too sore. My butt/hammy feel fine. I have some quad soreness and some soreness along the outside of my left calf. I rolled my ankle a bit during the race which is what's causing it, but it's just sore. As is my big toe, ouch.
Coast Trail Runs who puts on these races does something called the Trail Blazer awards, it's a points standing for their races over the course of the year. As of mid March, Loren was leading in the half distance as well as in our age group, I'm 3rd in our age group. I think I'm 23rd or something over all. All of this is of course based on who shows up!
Next race is in Palo Alto in Mid May. Stay tuned!