Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Skyline to the Sea 50k

00:00 Butterflies.
00:30 Holding it steady.
00:45 Still holding.
01:00 Being Patient.
01:15 Itching to go faster.
01:30 Finally. Bombs away!
01:45 Enjoying downhill on slick rocks.
02:00 Approaching half-way point to start 4+ mile loop.
02:15 Glad to see the halfway point.
02:30 Steady climbing to the top of the ridge.
02:45 Sweet, soft downhill singletrack back.
03:00 Loop almost done.
03:15 Back on the Skyline trail but getting tired.
03:30 Missed seeing the large waterfall, too focused on the ground.
03:45 Out of water and gels but feeling strong.
04:00 Feeling the bonk coming on, still hammering hard.
04:15 Looking for the last aid station.
04:30 Two cups of Coke set me right.
04:36 Happy finisher. Tired but not wasted. 12th Overall.

So that was basically it. Read on if you'd like a little more detail on my race, the course or scroll down for more pictures.

The three amigos. Harry Walther, Beat Jegerlehner and Steve Ansell ran 30+ miles to the start so they could complete a 100k for the day. Not sure about Harry and Beat's races this year but Steve is training for Massanutten 100 and the Big Horn 100, both tough and mighty 100-milers.

Billy at the start. Came all the way from LA to run with us. He redeemed his dnf from last year, a result of getting lost, with a solid finish.

I ran the inaugural event 2 years ago and set a 50k PR of 4:25. Last year I was a volunteer at aid station 1 and at the finish. This year I decided to run with the hope of breaking 4:25 but decided on race week to just train through and run the event as my last long run in preparation for the Miwok 100k. Trained like I normally would and put in 20 miles with friends training on the Miwok course on Saturday, the day before the race.

Sunday morning I felt right as rain. Got a little nervous complete with butterflies at the start but it quickly dissipated once we got going. This year they added the marathon distance, same course for the most part except that the marathoners don't do a short loop halfway through that makes it a 50k. Many runners shot off the front and there was no way to tell from the back who was running what distance. I stopped worrying about it and focused on my own run. I held back for the first hour and a half and then opened up for good until the finish line. I never got passed from that point forward. Despite running it as a long training run I was determined to run my best and see if I could end up with a decent time not too far from 4:25. I also wanted to run all of the hills on the course, in fact it became my main goal as the race progressed. The last 5 miles or so is mostly on flat fire road and in 08 I faltered on those last miles. This year I rocked it! Despite having run out of liquids and energy gels, feeling a bonk coming on, I pushed as hard as I could. I caught several 50k'ers in the process and finished strong. It was a very, very good day for me. My final time of 4:36:06 was good for 12th overall and 10th male. More than what I had expected and only 11 minutes off my 50k PR. Overall a fantastic day and really happy with the performance. With a finish I hit 85 miles for the week and the third time in the last four weeks that I had an 80+ mile week - 88, 66, 84 and 85. That's great for me and a confidence booster heading to Miwok.

Skyline to the Sea 50k looks easy on paper and if you come in with the wrong mindset you will get a surprise. You could be like me, someone who has done some hilly races and thought that the race was easy since it only gained 3000 feet total and the total loss of elevation is 5,580. I thought that in 2008, forgotten, and thought that again for this years event. Ah the surprise was so fresh and new it felt like 2008. I think also because I had made it my goal to run every step of the race I was more conscious of every incline and hill on the trail. The start is downhill and the temperature cool, a siren song for the unprepared, inexperienced, or those who consistently have problems pacing themselves. The downhill soon ends and the terrain starts to roll and after the first aid station there are even more uphills. After the second aid station I was back in business on the downhills but the first part was on rock surfaces that isn't completely level. If you love downhill you should love this section. I kept the sideway slippage to a minimum, planted carefully, kept my center of gravity above my feet and did my best not to fall. The rock as you can imagine was hard but it also looked abrasive, bruises and trail rash for the unlucky ones. The rocky sections don't last long and give way to soft singletrack. The trail then continues to roll as we made our way to the Gazos Creek aid station mile 25.5. Marathoners go straight here while the 50k runners get a slash mark on their bib to indicate they have passed through the station as they head out on a 4+ mile loop. The loop was a climb up to a ridge where we hit a few good rocky rollers before we eventually re-entered soft, blessed, downhill singletrack. The uphills on that ridge really tested my resolve to run every hill on the course. There were sections where it would have been faster to walk. The downhill reconnected us to the Skyline to the Sea trail where we eventually ended up at the Gazos Creek aid station for the second time. All 50k runners with slash marks re-enter the Skyline trail with the marathoners and other 50k runners finished with the loop. The trail continues it's downhill undulating descent but nothing like what we experienced on the first half of the race. There's a waterfall on this section of the course that I sadly missed because I had my head down most of the time. I saw pictures later from runners who ran with cameras and I can't believe I missed such a sight. The last 5 miles or so on the fire road I was able to lay down a good pace which allowed me to catch a few 50k runners and improve my overall standing. The last aid station is only 1.5 miles from the finish and because I had run out of liquids and gels I needed to make the quick stop for a couple of cups of Coke before continuing. This year the finish was in a new location and it's actually closer. I was hoping that on the last mile. I thought that this years course was slightly more challenging. Not a lot of mud but in certain sections especially in the areas where there were downed trees and there were quite a few. There were a couple that were so big that it was a challenge going over or under them.

Leor Pantilat would break his own course record (3:38:05) with a blistering 3:25:17. He would be the only person to break 4 hours that day. Caitlin Smith would also break her own course record (4:17:54) with a 4:00:48. She came in third overall. Seven hours into the race these two were still hanging out at the finish line, standing and chatting it up with friends. I had to sit down and do some of my socializing in the grass or in the benches.

Rode up with Jonathan Gunderson, his wife Wilma, and Billy Yang who came all the way from LA to run the race. Jon ran a 4:13 and Billy avenged his dnf from last year after getting lost. I arranged for another ride home with Joel Lanz who was volunteering and got to hang out until it was time to clean up and pack up. The work kept my legs moving which was great for me.

Next up, the 100k in the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam.

Theresa, Ivette and Yuka looking great in their Patagonia finishers shirts. Congratulations ladies!

At the finish line with Tony Dunnigan and Daniel Fabun. Just halfway through for these gentlemen, they would pick up some gear and extra water bottles for the trip back up to the start. Both are planning to run The Relay solo. A 199 mile run that is meant as a relay race for a team of 12. I've done it 4 times as part of a team, it would be tough solo.

Jonathan Gunderson rocked it with a 4:13 for 6th place and Hao Liu had a PR run with his sub-5 finish. I had to yell at them to smile - No looking tired in front of the camera!

A few of The Endurables chilin at the finish.

My good friend Samantha of The Endurables. I like this picture because of the background, oh and Sam too.

The finish. This was at the end of the day and most people have already left. Such a great place to run and the weather was spectacular.


  1. Great job Rick! Sounds like you're ready for Miwok.

    Hey, you got a shot of me in your last picture (I was a volunteer at the finish).


  2. Great race report, Rick! Thanks for the pictures. We haven't been introduced, but that's me in the middle of the unknown ladies picture with my friends Theresa and Yuka.

  3. Cynthia it was great seeing you. Thanks to the both of you for volunteering. I hope to do the same the weekend after Miwok.

    Ivette, you are welcome. I really should have introduced myself after I took the picture, chatted a bit about the race. You guys looked great with your shirts.

  4. i LOVE your undying enthusiasm for all things trail running. great pics as usual. i'd say the background DEFINITELY outshines me. :) congrats, Rick. i totally agree on underestimating that course. "but it's only 3000+ gain!" she said naively. first 7 miles: the bomb. next 6: the reality. next 5: uh oh. next 6: oh yeah, downhill again! last 6-7: flat, flat, flat. but beautiful along the water and oh yeah - that waterfall. spectacular.

    always great to catch up with you at the end!

    ps: steve ansell kept flying by me on the downhills only to have me slog slowly past him on the ups. i finally caught him in the last mile where he let slip that he was on his 60th mile of the day effectively cutting my smug elation in half. lol.

  5. Fantastic performance, Rick! That looks like it was an absolutely perfect day for running. Always nice to see pictures of happy runners!

    Well done!

  6. Sounds like a great race! Nice running --- congrats on running the whole thing. Your time is about what I'm shooting for in my marathon this weekend. :)

  7. Congratulations sensei! Few minutes past your own PR. Nice people and weather.

  8. $hi7 that's quick!

    What a great set up for Miwok!