Monday 29 April 2013

Big Sur International Marathon

This weekend I was down at the spectacular Big Sur International Marathon south of the Bay Area in California. What an amazing course! Two years ago there was a land slide that meant the course was an out-and-back and missed the first half of the normal course, so it was great to go back again this year to do the whole thing.

It's one of the most beautiful road marathon courses in the world, as the photos below show, plus it attracted a fair few ultrarunners this year - Mike Wardian getting back to form after injury, Badwater winner Oswaldo Lopez, Sean Meissner, Scott Dunlap and more. Always great to catch up with friends at races, but it doesn't happen as much at the road stuff as on trails.

Due to the 50k last weekend and Miwok 100k next weekend, my main aim was for a hard tempo run and to enjoy the views. However, it's traditionally a ridiculously windy course with around 2,000ft of climbing so it's not the fastest marathon out there. The first 6-7 miles were easy and fast but then we suddenly hit a wall of wind which increased the effort level exponentially. The strength of the wind ebbed and flowed but it was always a head-wind to the finish. In addition there are several other shorter races using the same course and all have significant number of walkers so the day is spent weaving around people but not in a way that slows the runners down.

Put this on your to-do list if you like road races...or even if you don't. Full results are here.

Monday 22 April 2013

From Winter To Summer In One Day...Plus Diablo Trails Challenge 50k

I've been in California almost a week so far after living here back in 2010/11 too and much as I really love Oregon, it'd been so good to get some hot weather. As if to reinforce this point, we loaded up the moving truck in a snow-storm, drove it in a very dangerous blizzard then woke up in a motel in Weed (they have a lot of obvious tourist T-shirts) in northern Cali to drive through the sun to Walnut Creek in the Easy Bay of the San Francisco area. Unlike the micro-climate of San Francisco with its fog and generally poor weather, Walnut Creek has some foothills as a barrier to the Bay and therefore has more typically California weather. In fact the temperatures have been freakishly hot and even hit 90F (32C) today.

One of the things I most love about the Bay Area is the variety of trails and number of races. It's easy to run a trail race of any distance from about 5k to 50 miles virtually every weekend, if you so choose. And I often so choose...

Even more conveniently there was a race at Mt Diablo State Park on the first weekend of living down here with multiple distances, but I needed a long training run so did the 50k with a solid 7,000ft of ascent. Since I last lived here several new trail racing companies have popped up or grown much larger and this is organized by Brazen Racing who did an immaculate job with a perfectly marked course and nothing to fault at all. They also have the largest medal I've ever earned! In addition it's all for a good cause, the Save Mt Diablo project which aims to buy up the large patches of the mountain that are privately held to make them usable for all instead of developing it.

I saw the course record was 4:51 and that it usually doesn't have a deep field so I thought it'd be a perfect, no stress race which I could just relax in. However, the owner of the new San Francisco Running Company store, Brett Rivers, decided to turn up in great shape and proceeded to head out at a fast pace in the early miles. My legs were still sore from moving into my third floor apartment without a lift/elevator so I really didn't want to chase him, but I also kind of wanted the win. It didn't help that I was interviewed at the start and cited as the favorite to win and break the pressure, then!

Brett dragged me along and I just aimed to keep him in sight on the climbs but with the last few miles being mainly downhill I managed to take the lead at 26 miles then hang on for dear life til the end. Brett finished within a minute of me and I just wish I'd been able to run side by side the whole way instead of with a small gap almost all the time as it was good to catch up with him. At least we both ran good times and lowered the course record to 4:15 with Brett coming in at 4:16. The women's course record also fell to Katie Murphy in 5:22 - full results here.

Start line in the morning warmth (that's a change from recently)

Mt Diablo from the south before we got very close

Brett about a minute ahead of me maybe 10 miles into the race
Diablo in the background and Lon Freeman just behind me. Copyright: Scott J Hein
At the finish line. Copyright: Katherine Ingram
Two very tired runners - nice work Brett in pushing me as had as I could go

Good food at the finish

On a separate note, I've recently started using Strava to upload my GPS runs to. I never really got the point until I saw the geeky fun of formalizing fastest known times (FKTs) for pretty much any run or segment of a run. It certainly adds to the challenge on the standard routes I do regularly to have mini sections to use a time trials and aim for the times other locals ran those sections at. It's certainly strangely addictive and turns tempo runs into races.

The next few weeks should be fun too with more Bay Area races lined up. The beautiful Big Sur Marathon next weekend (along with friends from all over like Mike Wardian, Mario Mendoza and Sean Meissner) then the Miwok 100k the week after that, one of my favorite trail races. For once I won't be either jogging it or wearing an Elvis costume so it should be a great test for the Grand Slam.

Monday 8 April 2013

Last Days in Oregon (For Now)

With only one week left for me before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area I've been trying to fit in the best of what I can on the trails at this time of year. Sadly the mountains are still in ski mode so Smith Rock's the best bet, plus the trail running season just kicked off in Bend with the Horse Butte 10-miler.

After getting destroyed on the climbs on recent training runs and at Gorge Waterfalls 50k last weekend I've been including more uphill speed sessions which left me exhausted on the minor climbs at Horse Butte. It's worthwhile and I'm very glad I could fit this race in, especially since I was able to go a few seconds quicker than last year despite really windy conditions. Hopefully faster times at both this and Gorge Waterfalls are a reflection of better fitness than the same time last year.

Anyway, more photos of Smith Rock are below. I've been making sure I have plenty of these in case I don't come back for a while. And full results from the 10-miler are here.

Gray Butte

My father-in-law, Clint Andring, with Monkey Face in the background

Monkey Face from afar

Monkey Face from the angle that shows why it has that name

Clint on top of Smith Rock

Cheesy grinning on top of the Rock