Monday, June 22, 2009

What a day at the Angel Island 16k!

For two days now, I have been on a high from my experience at the Angel Island 16k. Sitting in the northern part of the Bay, Angel Island is east of Berkeley, just south of Tiburon and north of the city. You can see it from all of the major bridges (Golden Gate, Bay, Richmond) and from many of the trails here in the northern part of the East Bay as well as the Marin Headland. In other words, you see it A LOT. The Angel Island races (8k, 16k, 25k, 50k) were an opportunity to finally check this gem out from up close.

It's the one marked with an "A". (Thanks, Google!)

This race was a family affair for me. The lady was ready to take on her first Bay Area trail run (8k), my friend Will (fresh off a sizzling 2:32 at the L.A. Marathon) was ready to once again compete in the longest-distance-that-is-not-an-ultra category (25k in this case). He has three wins so far this year (I like to brag on him :)). Finally, his friend Pete was ready take on his first trail race (25k). With a 2:53 at L.A., Pete is very fast himself. I would compete in the 16k. Friends would join us throughout the day to picnic.

Having taken a bit of a breather since the Skyline to the Sea 50k, this race was supposed to be a litmus test to see how much fitness I had lost with all those 20-30 mile weeks and countless miles of travel over the past couple of months. The minimum goal was to break 90 minutes (otherwise I would really have my work cut out for me with the upcoming schedule). I would be happy with a time in the low 80s and thrilled to beat 80 minutes. Secretly, I really wanted to break 80 mins.
View of the city from Angel Island.

The race started out with the steepest section of the day. It wasn't very long, but intense enough for me to completely lose my breath. Similar to the Rucky Chucky and S2S races, I had breathing issues from the onset. However, running somewhere in the top 10, my legs felt really good, so I just motored along. I definitely got the "no way he can keep up this pace" look from people as I passed them. Maybe they would be right.

Or maybe not. Because once things flattened out a bit, I got into a good rythm and started to feel very good. At 37 mins, I passed the half way mark. Not a bad time for a hilly five miler. Five more to go, which tops out at at the highest point of the Island, Mt. Livermore (788 ft). I was happy to go back up, because the views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands were absolutely spectacular! Really, it doesn't get much more stunning than this in terms of views. What a beautiful place Angel Island is!

No introduction needed.

Of course, this second major climb really would decide how well I was going to hold up. Soon, I saw a fellow runner about 50 yards ahead of me. Slowly but surely, I was able to reel him in. Just below the summit I passed and offered to "work together." He said something about "dead legs", which gave me a psychological boost, since I was still feeling good (my legs were tired, but definitely not dead). Didn't see many runners coming down from the summit (well, only one) and thought that I must be running somewhere in 6th or so place, which would be my best PCTR finish so far.

Then it was time to tackle the final downhill, which is my strength (I think). We were running into the back of the 8k race. Passing several dozen people on a narrow single track definitely led to some precarious situations. Lots of "on your left!"s for sure. All of the sudden, a fast moving runner appeared about 30 or so yards behind me. My goal was to keep him at bay, but he was flying. Eventually I happened upon a slow runner with headphones blearing. I literally had to stop and tap the dude on the shoulder, so I could pass. That was enough time for the other guy to catch up. He was faster anyways. Had him within sight the whole way in, but couldn't quite catch him without risking life and limb flying down the trail.

It didn't matter. Crossing the finish, I had reached all my goals. And then some: 1:17:53! Good enough for 3rd overall. The way it worked out, we all finished around the same time. The lady killed it and surprised herself (as I told her she would) with a strong, strong 49th overall at the 8k. So, so proud! Will won the 25k and Pete finished strong in 3rd overall. What a day for this crew!

We had set up a little picnic and enjoyed a few more hours of hanging out, throwing the football and, of course, eating. Also met friends old and new (hello, neighbor Brian!). A perfect day on the Island on easily one of the most scenic courses around. Thanks to Sarah, Wendell and all the volunteers for another perfectly organized race. We'll be back!


Sarah (PCTR) said...

Congrats to all of you on your Angel Island successes, David!

Thanks SO much for your continued support - it means so much to us.


Peter Lubbers said...

Great job, Dave. Doesn't look like you lost that much fitness while eating ice cream and steak! Looks like you had a beautiful day out there.

Jo Lynn said...

Great job! You and I probably never crossed paths but saw the same beautiful views that day. ;)
Congratulations on the placement.

Serious Running: Chris Barber said...

That sounds like a great run with a lot of cool views! Great job Dave!

David Ray said...

Way to nail it!! Beautiful pics. Sounds like a great day.