Sunday, 10 October 2010

Golden Hills Marathon

Stunning views along most of the course.
 Had a really chilled run yesterday in the hills around Oakland for the Golden Hills marathon. I've run on sections of that course and knew to expect a load of single track and great views along the way. Luckily, it was also a sunny day, although a bit hot for racing (but fine for an easier pace). Given my tiredness over the last couple of months, I decided it'd still be ok to run this as long as I didn't go too quickly. And with almost zero running mid-week, I'd had a chance to rest as well.

The Race Director is Ann Trason, although I think this is her last year before she hands it on. Every ultra runner has heard of her and there isn't anyone more accomplished (14 Western States wins, two at Comrades, and course records at virtually every race around). So it was a real honour to meet her and couldn't resist a photo (am sure I wasn't the only fan who did this).

RD and ultra legend, Ann Trason

In addition, there were virtually all the fast Bay Area ultra runners, but most were doing the longer version of the race - the Dick Collins' Fire Trails 50 miler. So even with the heat, course records fell in both races. Leor Pantilat ran 3:06 for the marathon and Dave Mackay did 6:19 in the ultra. So some really fast running given the marathon had around 5,000ft of ascent and the ultra was something like 7,800ft.

I felt a bit guilty to choose the shorter version of the race options and would have loved to race against the fast field, but this wasn't the right time for it and it would have just been a bad idea and stopped me from getting back to normal again.

The marathon starts off with around 1,400ft of climb over a few miles and I started mid-pack with a gentle jog, taking a few photos when the views were particularly good. I purposefully didn't want to have any idea what position I was so I couldn't get competitive, but there were plenty ahead of me.

After a couple of miles, Dave Mackey flew by in the other direction, almost half way through the 50 miler in under three hours. Chikara Omine was just behind, then plenty of other local faces.

Some of the descents were steep and I couldn't help going down fast and hammering my thighs, which wasn't the plan. The middle of the section went along the French Trail in Redwood Park, which I've seen in a few other races, all 50ks. It's such a great section with the forest all around and beautiful single track undulating enough to slow most people, but it's still a fairly fast trail. At this point I was really able to enjoy the run, but had to make sure I held back and avoided running hard, which is difficult when you're having fun. There was still 12-13 miles left and I wanted to finish strongly, feeling fresh and not exhaust myself.

View of San Fancisco across the Bay.

The French Trail in Redwood Park - some of the best single track running around.

Lake Chabot near the end of the marathon.

Over the remaining miles I was prepared for more big climbs, but after a high point of the trail around 19 miles, it was mainly downhill and flat. So anyone not too tired would clock much faster miles here even without extra effort.

Lake Chabot was on the left for the last few miles and the sun glinted off it to make for a pretty finish. However, it was also more exposed and warmer, which I knew would really effect the 50 milers, but was not too tough after the shorter distance.

I finished in 3:38, thinking I was around the top 10, but pleased to find out I'd come 3rd. It had been a perfect day out with a chance to chat to a lot of runners, many of whom I already knew. Great course, well organised and really couldn't have been much more fun. Trails are just better than roads, if enjoyment is the aim. The contrast between last week's road half and this couldn't be greater, although that's a slightly unfair comparison given the road race is all about a time trial, which isn't a great idea on overly fatigued legs.

Anyway, it's good to have a fun run and hopefully some more rest will pay off with full recovery so I can train again.

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