Monday, December 15, 2014

Coastal 50k

September, 2014

Once I saw the course map for this, about a year ago, I knew I had to run it.  So I signed up for it forever ago, sometime in late 2013.  In part to force myself to get my distance up to 50k so I could run it.  I did that, finishing three other 50ks in the spring before taking a couple month racing break.

The race started with a long bus ride from Rodeo Beach up to Stinson Beach.  I like arriving early to races at Stinson, usually to get a coffee and take a walk on the beach, but there wasn’t time for that this time.  And then we started.

At the three 50ks I’ve run until now, I kind of lost all effort around mile 18-20 and slowed down a lot.  The big goal for today was consistency—I wanted to find a consistent effort that would let me run stronger at the end of the race than at the start.  And without major muscle pain.  I used two limiters: First, nothing should feel like I’m pushing muscle effort outside my comfort zone.  Second, heart rate should max out around 160ish, and absolutely stay below 170 (I max out at 193).  

To avoid the psychological rush to run up the start of the Dipsea trail, I started in the back, and kept a steady fast hiking pace all the way up Dipsea and Steep Ravine.  By the time we reached the top, we were surrounded by fog, which held throughout the day.  After running a few miles on trails that were new to me, I passed through the Cardiac aid station and started a steady downhill run on Coastal View/Heather Cutoff.  I love running these two trails at speed, so it took a lot of willpower to hold back the pace here, especially with all the recent speed training I’ve done.  Otherwise, this part just flew by, unlike running/hiking the trail in the uphill direction.  

I passed through the Muir Beach aid station, where I’ve never actually stopped before, and headed out on Pirates Cove.  Around here I started to really zone out, since I had really set into consistent pace by this point.  After turning inland, I power hiked for what seemed like forever up the Coastal Trail, eventually turning down Miwok for a fun run into Tenessee Valley, the halfway point.

Marincello.  I hate this trail.  I just don’t like it.  I’d rather run through West Oakland.  At night.  By myself.  It’s long, steady, and very consistent.  As much as I wanted to run to get it overwith, I just kept speed hiking it.  But at the top are some of my favorite trails in the headlands; they pass through small fog-rain microclimate tree stands, there’s always wind, the fog moves fast over the ridge, and there’s great views.  The course turned downhill along Bobcat to the Rodeo Valley aid station.  There was a quarter mile stretch where my left IT band tightened up, so I stopped at the next fence to stretch it out, letting a few people pass.

And then the course went back up the hill on the Rodeo Valley trail.  In the windy gap (I don’t know if it has a name), which is one of my favorite places to pass through in the bay area, we turned to run down to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’ve never run down here, but we ended up at an aid station right next to where my August Golden Gate swim ended.  I ate about 10 orange slices.  More than I’ve ever had at once in a race.  Heading back out the last uphill, I speed hiked for a while and then started running, since it was the last climb.  Coming down the Coastal Trail, I started pushing the pace, and passed a couple people who had passed me earlier, during the IT band nonsense.  

Getting to the last aid station, I only had a quick drink and snack and kept going, starting to really push the pace.  In the final stretch I came close to passing someone, but as we had gotten very close to the finish, I let him take the spot in front of me.  On these long races, I’m not big on passing people within yards of the finish.  

I finished in 7:18:21, feeling decent, at 73/100.  I could have run faster at many times, but I’m not convinced it would have made my overall run any faster.  Keeping the consistent effort led to a much more enjoyable race, and gives me a better idea of how to move forward with 50ks.  After the last one, I was kind of lost on ideas of where to go, which led to the summer racing break.  The race wasn’t a PR, but it was almost 42 minutes under my best time at a comparable course (in the 6000 to 7000 feet range).  After finishing, I went straight into a lot of stretching, enjoyed the warm finish line food, chatted a bit, and headed out for a family event.  

Next up: a brutal half marathon.

(I'm posting this months later, after originally writing it shortly after the race.)

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