Saturday, October 17, 2015

Does sleeping in improve your stride?

This was the second year that Stevens Creek Striders put on the Stevens Creek Trail Race in the Skyline Open Space Preserve (and several surrounding parks). There were three distances available: 50K, 30K, and Half Marathon. To shake things up a bit this year, the Striders decided to stagger the starts to try to get more people stumbling up that hill to the finish at the same time.

So it was that I slept in a bit and took my time getting ready to head out to the race for the 11 AM Half start. Which was a good thing since Mrs Notthat and I had spent the night before at the Palo Alto Moonlight Run, and getting up early after that was not going to happen.

When we ran this race last year, at a more traditional start time, it was foggy and cold.

A typical view during this race in 2014.
This year, with the late start and an unnaturally warm fall, it was toasty - I was loading up with ice before the race even started!

Last minute instructions, mostly along the lines of "think snow!"
The Half field wasn't large, so I had a great shot at a top-50 finish. (I actually ended up 19th out of 21. Go me!)

We started with a long uphill, mostly exposed climb.

"Go Sirhc! Not your real name!"
Since the Half started well after the 50K started, and the 50K finished on the same trails we were on, I got to see a number of the faster 50K runners as they blew past me.

Above was the moment that made this whole race worth it - there was a family out hiking the trails, and this little girl whipped out a camera that was almost identical to mine, and took a picture of me! She even did that before I whipped my camera out! How cool is that!

Even better, one of my FB friends knew her dad, and through the magic of FB, I got to get a copy of the picture she took of me:

For the record, I did not trip over that large rock in front of me. But it was close.

After another climb or two, and some nice shady stretches, I hit the first aid station, at about mile 5. They were fantastic, and had ice to help get things back under control.

The clear skies meant there were a lot of nice views. (That's looking towards the bay with the East Bay hills in the background.)

The turnaround on the out-and-back, and the second aid station. With ice! The volunteer had to carry all that water and ice out there on his bike. Yikes!
To get the mileage to work out right for the Half, a brutal out-and-back was added. Granted, a lot of it was in the shade, but a lot of it was uphill. It was when I got about halfway out of this bit of the course that the effects of the heat started to really get to me, and things started to unravel a bit. Or a lot.

"Which way do I go?" Up the hill. Of course. Ugh. This was at the end of the out-and-back.

At least the trail kept it interesting while I spiraled down to despair. (These really are great trails - some are pretty technical and fun, while others are pretty smooth and fast. Most were single-track-ish. Lots of rocks.)

Eventually I made it down to Horseshoe Lake, which meant I was only about a mile from the finish. It was really warm out by this point, and that "No Swimming" sign nearly got ignored.

The last, cruel climb to the finish.
The finish of this race has a small, but mean little hill to climb.

I finally got to the top of that hill, and saw that finish chute. Note the guy with the camera - here's the shot he got of me:

"Seriously? I'm not done yet?" (This pose cost me a sub-four hour finish though - my finish time was 4:00:03. Sheesh.)

I don't think I've ever gotten an icy sponge bath at the end of a race. This was amazing!

The face of a guy that was REALLY happy to be done.
Asset "drink no evil," Ydnar "eat no evil," and, well, RJ (not their real names).
It really was fun that there were a number of 30K and 50K runners already hanging out when I finished, so the late start worked out well.

This race is a blast! It's fairly old school - no medals or shirts - but this year we got a great hat (last year was a handy buff), and the trails are a blast with a well-marked course. The volunteers were all amazing, making sure all us runners had a great race.

Thank you Stevens Creek Striders for all you do to put on this race!

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: I never answered the question posed by the title - would sleeping in improve my stride. I was about 45 minutes slower this year compared to last year. I put a lot of that blame on the heat, although some blame also has fall on my current fitness and that Mrs Notthat was not here this year, so I didn't have her to chase.