Monday, February 9, 2009

Working Hard at the Woodside 35k

On Saturday, I had the great joy of finally lining up for a trail race again. It had been two months since Muir Beach. Despite quite a bit of travel over the holidays (two countries in Europe, close to 2000 miles of driving up and down the West Coast, etc.), I had been putting in quite a bit of work in the off-season with high hopes to return to 50k shape this spring.

The lush trails at Woodside (all photos in this report courtesy of the Blogfather, Scott Dunlap)

In addition to racking up the mileage, I had been eating healthier and started to incorporate sit-ups and push-ups in my daily routine. Needless to say, I was eager to hit the trails and see whether all that work had paid off (eating less Gelato is very difficult for me, you know).

Partying Like You're 90!
As with with the Muir Beach race, Will was happy to tag along. He's training hard to set a new marathon PR in Los Angeles later this spring, a 2:30-something time well within the realm of possibilities. The drive over to Woodside started with the obligatory stop at Pete's coffee. Some guy was celebrating his 90th birthday at 6:45 a.m. with about a dozen friends and a giant cake. That man was living life to the fullest!

Runners would start in waves today depending on race distances. Us 35k folks would be starting last at 9:15 a.m. along with the 17k runners. You don't see those kind of start times in the South.

The Race
Sarah and Wendell gave their usual instructions and we were off right on time. Even though it was sunny, we would be covered majestic Redwood trees the whole way. Spectacular stuff (and somehting else you don't see in the South). The race started with the biggest and only major climb of the day up to Kings Mountain aid station. The idea was to take it easy here and then see what I could do after that on top of the Ridge. Well, once I got to the aid, I was hungry and tired. Oooops!

front loaded elevation profile

Three cookies, an orange slice and a half potato later, I was moving again. I would only see one person over the next 30 minutes and wonder where everybody was. Swaths of fog would engulf the trail in certain sections and my mind was drifting off. It felt like I was running through a dream scene the way they depict them in the movies. The Redwood trees were magnificent, the birds were chirping and I was lost somewhere in the middle. Was this a race?

This section was an out and back, so it was just a matter of time until the race leader would pass. And sure enough, Will was flying towards me. We exchanged high fives and shouted words of encouragement. I checked my watch to time his lead. 3 minutes later three very determined looking runners working as a team rushed by me like a high-speed train. Would Will be able to hold on? I better hurry to find out!

At the turn-around, I was in 13th or 14th place. That was much better than any of my previous finishes here in California (20th, 31st, reverse order). Now, I was determined to push. The run back to Kings Mountain seemed to take forever, but the many "good jobs" by the other runners helped tremendously. I tried to return the favor as best I could, but often all I could was "gschschawb".

At Kings Mountain, I was spent. Two runners were right ahead of me and I could barely run anymore. However, once we hit the final downhill, I called up my good friend Newton. My strides were painful but efficient, and I would catch up to both of them. The final mile, this guy and I had separated from the third runner and were pushing each other to the limit. I could not pass him for the life of me.......until I saw the cars of the parking lot. Somehow I found another gear (Where were you before, Another Gear? This is a race, not a vacation!) and I flew towards the finish line. 3:14 flat, good enough for 12th place.

Cal v. Stanford
Will found me and told me he won (I had to ask him. He is ever so modest). After some yummy chili we were checking out the impressive results across the board. Previous course records were posted as well, and it turns out that Will had set a new one for the 35k distance! Leor Pantilat of Stanford, CA had set the previous one last year. I just couldn't resist saying something like "Once again Cal beats Stanford" earning me a very disapproving look from some lady standing next to us (sorry!).

Here is my take on the whole Cal-Stanford rivalry: I'm a HUGE Cal fan. The Play is the greatest moment in sports. I can tell you how the women's lacrosse team did last weekend (19-0 win) or how we fared on college football signing day. Our cat even sleeps on a Cal blanket. Clearly, I enjoy every time we beat the Cardinal whether it is in football, swimming or a science fair.

HOWEVER, I think there is nothing greater than having two such outstanding universities here in the Bay Area. A lot of successful companies have been founded, scientific discoveries have been made and world leaders have emerged on these campuses. The universities feed this hotbed of innovation that is the SF Bay Area. There is a lot of collaboration going on between the two schools. We push each other to be better, and we work together on many projects (including one that I'm involved with). I think it's a blessing to have Stanford on the other side of the Bay. I really do. OK, time to move on.

Will and I actually ended up talking to Leor for a while. He is a great talent and a good kid. I look forward to seeing him again at Sequoia, and I'm sure he'll be kicking some serious butt there and at Way Too Cool. That man is fast.

And Thank You!
Finally, thank you to Sarah, Wendell and all the volunteers for a once again perfectly organized race. See you in a few weeks!


Scott Dunlap said...

Excellent race effort! That first hill has a way of sucking the life out of ya, but you persevered. A respectable time!


David Ray said...

Good job! Looks beautiful out there.