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Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Run - RunUltra Marathon

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Santa Cruz, California
United States
Pacific Coast Trail Runs
72F / 22C
Total Time = 5h 31m 38s
Overall Rank = 5/23
Age Group = M40-49
Age Group Rank = 1/4
Pre-race routine:

As many of you know, I have write a long pre-race and race report so for those of you just interested in the race details, scroll ahead!

I finally decided to kick off my ultra season this year. I DNS'd Angel Island earlier this year (toe issue. more later) and because I've been doing most of my running at lunchtime at work, it's been all flat and no hills. My goal this year was to get some redemption at North Face in December (my first DNF due to tendinitis), so I figured I should do an easier 50 miler (Dick Collins Fire Trails) before hand and do a 50K sometime before that, which brings me to the Santa Cruz 50K. The only hitch in all of this is that I had been feeling under the weather the past week, not full blown cold, but enough so that I had to go home early and was falling asleep by 8pm because I was so out of it. I was a somewhat concerned about how this would affect me for the race and I hoped that the zinc I had been taking all week would help my recovery. I did assume that my body would pay for it after the race though...

Also, DW's work has been crazy (100+ hr/week) for the last couple months and would be easing up after Friday so it was a good opportunity for a mini weekend getaway (a getaway with a race of course, which seems to be the leitmotif for me). So, Thursday, I signed up for the race. Friday I searched for a rental in Santa Cruz and found a nice little place at Pleasure Point, close to Capitola.

While waiting for DW to get home, I had dinner, which consisted of fresh spinach fettucine (local italian shop), mushroom sauce, and beets. After DW arrived at home Friday evening, we drove down to Capitola along with our cat, who whined most of the way.

We arrived in Santa Cruz at about 9:30pm or so. The place was small, but perfect for a weekend getaway and just a couple blocks from the ocean. We put our stuff away, set our alarms (at a reasonable 6:30am for a very civilized race start time of 8:30am).

At 6:30am, I'm up although DW is still out. I have some toast (Vital Vittles 9 grain bread) with blueberry jam and coffee (some costa rican beans. can't remember which exactly. roasted at home, city plus roast. DW and tend to prefer the Indonesian and African coffess though. Costa Rica beans were a bit too acidic for us). It's cool outside (50s), but it's supposed to get fairly warm (low 70s) today. Shorts and tri top (my Zoot/Gu one) plus long sleeve capilene for now. I used my inhaler (I have asthma so colds tend to affect my lungs) and packed it into one of the pockets on my tri top.

I continue with my morning ablutions. About 7:15am, DW gets up. I fill an insulated coffee cup with coffee for her. She dresses up and we head out.

We arrive at the park and we can see all the other runners milling about. I check in to get my bib. Sarah from PCTR greets me. It's nice that she (and Wendell) remember me by name given that I haven't done one of their races in about 10 months (for those of you in the bay area who have not done a PC Trail Runs event, I highly recommended them.).

DW and I just hang out before the race starts. There are quite a few people here, but no doubt most of them are here for the shorter distance events (the 10K sold out). The sun is starting to come out and I can tell it's going to be warm. I take off my long sleeve shirt and put on my IM Moo cap.

I mill around a bit and a guy comes up to me and asks me if I'm on BT. He introduces himself. He's velasqu7. he said he recognized my smile, LOL. We chatted about ultras; he did a 50K last weekend(!), but he has his ankles taped up today. We talked IMs briefly (he did IM CdA this year), but pretty soon it's time for us to line up to start. I kiss DW and she wishes me a good race.

At the race line start (marked by two orange cones), Wendell calls for the 29K and 50K runners to come over to the start. He gives us some race directions. The course has a 21K out and back marked by pink ribbons on the trail. For the 29K runners, after the out section of the pink trail, there is a lollipop shaped loop (out, loop, back) marked by orange ribbons. The 50K runners do the 29K (pink out, orange lollipop, pink back) route followed by the 21K route (pink out and back). PCTR has always marked trails clearly (ribbons every so often and striped ribbons before and through each turn), but I still hope I don't get lost.

When Wendell announces the race is about to start, we all back away from the start line since apparently none of us want to be right at the start. I see several other folks wearing IM caps and visors too. I guess we're endurance junkies.
  • 5h 31m 38s
  • 31.07 miles
  • 10m 40s  min/mile

Race Report (aka Mr. Toe's Wild Ride)
So the race starts off with a small little loop near the start which gives us an opportunity to swing by the spectators. DW is there and wishes me good luck. She's headed back to the cabin we rented to go back to sleep and will catch up with me at the end of the race. I'm taking it very easy since I know there's plenty of running to do and I need time to warm up.

We start on the trail. I'm taking it nice and easy, but I'm still behind folks who are going a bit too slowly for me. So, when I can, I pass. There are some that pass me as well. My lungs are feeling a little congested and I hope this gets better once I warm up. Legs feel okay. I love running on the trail. It's been a long time (my last ultra nearly 10 months ago, too long, since I've done any trail running.

There's a little bit of climbing early on and in my enthusiasm, I pass several people, who, once we hit a flat section, pass me up. There's always just a tiny bit of ego wrapped up in being passed, but I quickly squelch any temptation (if any at all) to try to run someone else's race and settle into just running my own. Plus, likely most of these runners are doing the 29K and not the 50K.

At about 5k, we cross the road. It's still fairly early so there don't seem to be many cars at all. On the downhill stretch, I lose my water bottle as it pops out of my water bottle fanny pack. I go back to retrieve it and there's another runner right there. We run together for a bit. he's a student at UC Santa Cruz so he's quite familiar with the trails. We chat a little bit. I ask him when the river crossing is coming up and he says we are getting close to it.

The river crossing (I'd actually call it a stream) is actually a cool feature to have on the run. It's about mid thigh, almost crotch high, on me. nice and cool, which I'm sure will feel great the next times I cross it.

Right after the river crossing, we have an uphill stretch. I start to do my "run" with baby steps up, but decide that it's a good time to walk like everyone else. With some of the less up sections, I begin running again. Up, up, up. I pass some people. On the downhill stretch, people pass me. I get to a trail intersection which I cross, but since I can no longer see the runners ahead of me, I'm worried that I missed a turn. I stop for a bit and wait for one of the guys I passed on the uphill to pass me and ask him if we're on the right route. he says yes. he's faster than me on the downhills so I just decide to follow him.

The guy I'm following, M (as I'd later learn), and I chat. He's been doing a lot of ultras this year. 50Ks, 50 miler, 12 hour, and attempted his first 100 miler (DNF at mile 75). i tell him this is my first ultra this year and that I was kinda using it as training for the 50 miler in 2 weeks. he said he didn't have any pacing strategy at all, but I wasn't worried since I didn't really have any time goals (under 6 hours would be fine) in mind and I told him his pace was great by me. He was a lot taller than me though so he would open up a lead on me on the flats and esp. the downhills (his stride length?), but I would catch up and sometimes pass him on the uphills (and then pass me again after the uphills).

Eventually we started to see runners coming back the other direction (on the out portion of the lollipop loop). I cheer them on. I'm running on the part of the course next to the river. This part is relatively flat to M is ahead on the course. The course goes along this for a bit and then turns to go to the far aid station (the only other one being at the start/finish).

There are several other runners here. Several come in behind me too. I have some water, refill my water bottle, and chow on some snacks. I must have dilly dallied just a little bit because I'm the last one to leave the aid station. Oh well.

I soon pass a couple of the other guys who came in behind me at the aid station, but left before me. There are many more runners on the out section (I think many of these are the 21K runners who started 10 min behind us) and we cheer them on with "Looking good!" or "Way to go!" Before getting to the lollipop loop, I see velasqu7 coming the other way and we exchange greetings.

M and I get to the loop part of the lollipop. It's uphill so I move ahead of M. Now the trail turns to sand. Okay, I'm doing a 50K with hills and now I'm running uphill in SAND. That's a little sadistic, but hell, so is the whole ultrarunning thing, right?

As I get to the farthest point out on the loop, there's a small building here with an observation deck. Wendell told us at the race directions that the observation deck itself is part of the course (and marked by an orange ribbon), so I go up to the observation deck, but don't really enjoy the view much, and then head back on my way. While I was on my way up to the observation deck, there were folks who had just headed off on the trail after and I soon catch up to these guys, including a guy with shorts with this flame print. At least it's downhill now and the sand is much more enjoyable since it cushions each step. Towards the end of this loop, M passes me.

Now it's back to the far aid station to finish the stick of the lollipop. more runners on the trail in both directions. I'm behind M and arrive back at the far aid station a little bit behind him.

M is still walking since he left the aid station so I pass him. After a little bit on this flat section, M catches up to me and passes me so I just follow him. I basically stick behind him the whole way back. He's still a bit faster than me on the flats and definitely the downhills, but less so now. I'm definitely faster than him on the uphills, so I always take that opportunity to catch up to him, but I always stop when I reach him even when I feel like I could still keep running uphill. There's still a long way to go so I do want to conserve a bit.

On our way back in to finish our first 29K, it's noticeably warmer. Crossing the river again is fun and refreshing. Eventually we meet others who are on their way back out again for their final 21K. I finally figured out that the bibs in the 5xxx range are 50K runners, bibs in the 3xxx range are 29K runners, and 2xxx are 21K runners.

A couple miles out, there's a gate we have to pass with an opening just wide enough for people. I have my eye on that so I can run through it, but as I am looking forward, I stub my right toe really badly.

(Begin toe side story (feel free to skip ahead...))
Mr. Toe (right foot, big toe), has taken a lot of abuse this year. i guess you could say my achilles heel is a toe. Back in May, during the week before IM Lanzarote, Mr. Toe had inexplicably started to swell up and hurt. I taped him up, took some NSAIDs and raced with him regardless, but the follow week of vacation in Germany was very painful. Mr. Toe was swollen like a yam and the slightest touch would send huge waves of pain. I saw a podiatrist, had him drained on 2 separate occasions (not fun) and it would turn out to be gout(?!). I started on medication for this, but it did resultin 5 weeks of minimal training (and 2 DNS for me). Thanks Mr. Toe, but glad you're better.

Fast forward to September. Post IM Wisconsin, I'm trying to catch a very tight connecting flight made worse by a flight delay and I'm running from the airplane on the tarmac in the rain wearing crocs flip flops and I step on a paint stripe with me left foot which slips. To catch my self, I instinctively drive my right foot downward...toe first with only flip flops on and I jam Mr. Toe very badly so that he swells up for my return flight.
(End toe side story)

So, Mr. Toe is in pain. i run awkwardly for awhile with Mr. Toe throbbing. Mr. Toe was a bit of a concern pre-race, but everything seemed to be going fine up until now. But now i was concerned that this could end my race. I was still able to keep up with M (he seemed to be slowing) even on the flats with stubbed Mr. Toe in tow.

The pain from Mr. Toe eventually reduces, but as I continue to follow M, i stub the same toe again. Not badly, but now I'm pretty paranoid. must remember to lift my feet...

Once we get back to the start/finish for the first 29K, there are folks cheering here. I duck into the port-a-pottie to take a leak and then head over to the snack table (there's one set aside just for the 50K runners which was nice). The volunteer refills my water bottle. Makes some comment about the weather in comparison to Wisconsin (since I'm wearing my IM Wisconsin cap).

I don't see M around, so I take off. I assumed at the time that he was ahead me, but in actuality, this was a pretty quick aid station stop for me. A couple miles in, I see velasqu7 headed in. not sure how he's doing.

I see 50K racers on their way in and racers from other distances. i cheer them on and they cheer me on in return.

Just before mile 23 towards the end of a downhill stretch, I stub my toe again, but my forward momentum carries me forward and I go down. I spun a little bit and half landed on my fanny pack/water bottle so I think that cushioned my fall a little bit. I have at least a scraped knee and shin and a lot of dust to show for it, but all my parts are still attached so that's good.

As I continue onward, I see another racer dressed in black ahead on the trail. I'm slowly gaining. As I cross the stream, I pass a guy in a grey t-shirt (he's chatting with someone).

Now, it's the uphill stretch after the river and I feel good so I'm doing my slow shuffling run uphill, but that quickly turns to a walk. I see the runner up ahead and she's kinda running too, but also ends up walking. We're both walking, but I'm gaining. As we get near the top, I catch up to her. We exchange a few words (I tell her she's doing fantastic) and trade names (she's N). I continue onward, slowly pulling ahead of her.

I just keep on running and eventually I make it to the far aid station. There's another runner here, one who was far ahead. I ask him how he's doing and he says he bonked and his race is over. I tell he just needs to refuel and rest up a bit and it'll come back. One of the volunteers refills my water bottle as I'm munching. I keep some food in hand and then I take off on the final return.

I'm not too far along and N is coming up the trail. I cheer her on. Grey shirt is not far behind either and I cheer him on. Maybe another mile or so down, I see M and cheer him on. He tells me I'm looking strong. I'm feeling pretty good, but I do know that N and grey shirt are not too far behind. In the end, I'm running my own race, but it sure would be a shame to be passed in the last few miles of a 31 mile race.

Somewhere around mile 26, my garmin's GPS must have stopped picking up the satellites (battery getting weak), but I didn't figure that out and just kept thinking I was going very slowly. LOL. There were some horses on the trail coming towards me and they were kind to stop and keep to the side as I passed.

I'm still feeling pretty good. I try to settle into an relaxed pace. I'm pretty sure I'm slowing, though. 50K runners who are on the out section tell me I'd doing well and that I'll have a great finish time.

I cross the river one last time. The water feels great since things have warmed up quite a bit. Parts of the last stretch are exposed and sunny and hot. I zone out for awhile and when my mind snaps back, I wonder if I'm even on the right trail since I haven't seen anybody for a bit. I keep running and soon enough there's another orange ribbon to reassure me that I'm on the right track.

I can see that I'm quite close since there are buildings and cars visible again through the trees. Soon, I'm popping out into the finish area. DW is there to cheer me on. Wendell and Sarah congratulate me along with just a handful of other volunteers and other spectators. I'd think very few people run ultras for the crowds or recognition; completing an ultra is it's own reward.
What would you do differently?:

would have been good to train hills more. I'm actually fairly quick on the uphills, but my legs took a big pounding (one to which they were not accustomed) on the downhills.
Post race
Warm down:

I stretched and chowed down on some food. I stretch. I change into some flip flops (ahhhh....). I find the chicken soup which was awesome.

Nicole finished about 2 minutes behind me and I high five her. She was the first female finisher. She receives a first female finisher mug. A couple other guys finish who, for them, this was their first ultra, so we all give them congrats. M finishes too. He explains how he had an extended 10 minute bathroom break after the 29K loop which explains why I didn't see him again until after the turnaround.

I receive my finisher's coaster and my t-shirt from Sarah. I see the results posted and I can see that I finished fifth. Cool. I ask Sarah how many registered for the 50K and she tells me about 30.

DW and I finally head out. we stop off at Dave's Gourmet Albacare, which we saw right by the park on our way to the race this morning. I buy 3 different types of smoked salmon kippers (omega 3s!) and eat 1.5 of them as we drive back to our cabin.

Back at the cabin i snack on pita and various dips (eggplant, smoked chicken, hummus). I shower. We nap, which feels great. We intend to go to Trader Joe's to grab some stuff for dinner, but we see a Fresh Choice (salad bar) so we decide to go there since it's quick and easy (mediocre food, but healthy, no prep time for us, and quick).

Last updated: 2008-09-26 12:00 AM
05:31:38 | 31.07 miles | 10m 40s  min/mile
Age Group: 1/4
Overall: 5/23
Course: The trails wind through 300 foot tall, 1500 year-old Coastal Redwoods, lush stream canyons, open meadows, pine and oak forests, and high dry chaparral-covered ridges. The views of Monterey Bay are spectacular!
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2008-10-09 5:29 PM

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San Francisco
Subject: Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Run

2008-10-10 1:47 AM
in reply to: #1731668

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Berkeley, Calif.
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Run
I love your race reports! They're so detailed and you have such a great attitude (even when Mr. Toe is acting up). Fantastic race. Congrats on a great finish!
2008-10-10 4:12 PM
in reply to: #1731668

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Woodland, California
Subject: RE: Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Run
Good run, sounds like an awesome place to have a race.  Hope Mr. Toe settles down!!
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