Saturday, November 14, 2015

When a Half Marathon Isn't Enough

It had been a bit over a month since the last time I ran a race with double-digit miles. That race, the Brazen Rocky Ridge Half Marathon, and the Half the week before that at the Stevens Creek event, had teamed up to crush me a bit.

The cure turned out to be working an aid station at the PCTR Eldrith race - watching all those runners  tackling the Marin Headlands made me want to tackle something myself, and the Coastal Lake Chabot race fit the bill nicely.

This race had a bunch of distances to choose from: 5M, Half Marathon, 30K, Marathon, and 50K. Since the trails around Lake Chabot are fairly manageable, as far as climbing, I really wanted to do something longer than a Half. My finger hovered over the Marathon button during the signup process, wavered a bit, then confidently mashed down the 30K button. 30K would be the longest distance I had gone since July - baby steps.

The Kid's Race. The bumble bee owned this race!
It was a very clear, but very cool morning, which was perfect for me.

Mr. Coastal: "How many of you need to thaw your sunscreen?"
There was a large turnout for this event, and all distances except the 5M started at the same time.

See all the runners that are already WAY ahead of me? This is about a mile into the race. Sheesh.
Races at Lake Chabot are a mixed bag, with a little bit of something for everyone. Like pavement? You got some of that. Like hills? You're covered. Like single-track? You will get some of the best around. For me, the draw is getting to run all the way around a medium-sized lake. You get some great views, but there's something that really satisfies the ego when you complete a lap.

(I counted them up, and this would be my 17th time running a race around this lake since 2010. I also have 8 other races here where I didn't go all the way around. There's a pretty good chance I have done more races here than anywhere else.)

"Way to go Yekcim! Not your real name!" 
We had a 15 minute head start on the 5M runners, and since we shared the same trails for the first 3 miles or so, I knew there was a chance I'd get passed by the faster 5M runners. And I did, but not by many.

The Bridge of Death. Look at that nice trail running along the side. Some day…
We split from the 5M runners at the Bridge of Death - they were blessed and got to skip it. I had to be brave and cross it.

Another bonus of Lake Chabot races are the outhouses scattered around the lake.
Brazen Half Marathons here require you to leave the lake and struggle up the infamous Live Oak trail. Almost everyone else though, avoids that trail and keeps you around the lake a bit longer, which is alright by me.

There are still climbs, but they are fairly manageable. The top of this climb led to the first aid station.

The adorably named Honker Bay aid station. With the equally adorable Rimidalv (not his real name).
The first aid station is at mile 4.5 and is notable for two things: It's the end of that climb, so you have a fair amount of mostly downhill ahead of you, and that downhill is all on wonderful single-track trails.

Seriously nice trail.
Blue ribbons mean bad - don't go on that trail. I happily avoided that climb and stayed on my flat trail.

The problem with all that downhill is that it's followed by the biggest climb of the race. That climb is rewarded with the second aid station, mile 8.5.

By this point we have wandered a fair distance from the lake, but we now turn and head directly towards it. The trail from here to the finish is not all downhill, but it mostly is, with a number of short climbs tossed in just to break things up.

If you keep at it, you soon arrive back at the lake.

And then you are presented with the finish. Unless it's not yet the finish. For the Half Marathoners, this is it, and they are done. For all the other longer distances, you fill your bottles and head back out. For the Marathon, you do another complete lap of the lake. For the 50K, you do that bonus lap then go out a third time to do the 5M course.

For the 30K, I only had to head back out and do the 5M course. I was feeling tired, but everything was fine - no worrisome pains or any hesitation about heading back out. I even toyed with the idea of doing an impromptu Marathon. I had hoped to get the Half done in under three hours, and I think I managed that (barely). That meant a four hour 30K was possible, but it would be tough. A Marathon would likely be in the seven hour range, which was a lot of hours.

Look - it's a trail race. There will be hazards such as this you'll have to face. Deal with it.
The 5M course had a decent climb, and that climb reminded me why doing the 30K was wise.

I should have mooned the Bridge of Death as I skipped it this time. 
The other reason the 30K was wise was that I didn't have to cross that bridge again. I liked that I felt good enough to seriously consider the Marathon option, but I also REALLY liked that I was smart enough to be happy with the 30K.

The finish, for real this time.
I didn't break four hours, but I came closer to it than I had a right to expect. I was very happy to be done in any case.

There were 194 finishers in the Half Marathon. There were 25 30K finishers. I finished in 24th place, beating only a 74 year old guy. Barely. But I still managed to get an age group award for third place! Yes, it was by default, but I'll still take it!

This event was a blast, as always. The weather was perfect and the trails were well marked and gorgeous. (Well, with the exception of the paved bits - no way they will ever be gorgeous, although since they are along the lake, they aren't pure torture.) A huge thanks to Coastal Trail Runs and all of their volunteers for making this such a fun day, and a successful return to racing something with double-digit mileage.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


Beth said...

What a beautiful day you had! We are loving this clear, cold weather. There's even some mud starting to happen : ) Should be a good winter for it!

Fun Size said...

Glad your longest run since July went well. I don't know how many times I've gone around the lake but I know it's a lot smaller than 17 times. That's a whole lot of racing at Lake Chabot!

Jason said...

Nice work Allen, and I really like your stories.

Jason said...

Nice work Allen, and I really like your stories.