Saturday, February 21, 2015

Montara Mt 50K -- 4:59

The day is young and full of promise!
I had a really good trail race this morning, at the Montara Mountain 50K, put on by Coastal Trail Runs. It's a very hilly course with 6700' of elevation gain. I beat my previous time there by about 10 minutes, finishing in 4 hours 59 minutes. I ran well the entire time and I had a nice strong finish. I didn't have any cramps. My right foot has been hurting on and off this week, and it hurt nearly all the time during the race, but it didn't get worse and it was tolerable. I finished 5th overall and 1st place in the 40-49 age group. It was fun seeing other members of the Coastside Running Club out there -- Margaret, Jim, Amy, Joe, and Pete. And Jennifer ran the 10K!

I had run this race once before (2011 race report), and my wife was looking for a 10K, so she suggested I run this. The timing was good, in preparation for the American Rive 50 Mile on April 4. So, I signed up for the 50K, thinking of this as a 31 mile training run. However, I knew in practice that I wouldn't be able to resist trying my best.

I like this race because it's practically in my back yard, and I run on Montara Mountain almost every day. This race is difficult, though, because it climbs to the top of Montara Mt twice and does the tough Hazlenut Trail three times.

Just over a week ago, I seem to have bruised my right foot or done something that frequently caused discomfort either in the back of the arch or the front. (The pain seemed to move around day-to-day.) So, my tapering was epic. I had not run so little in a week for probably a whole year.

  • Thursday: hurt my foot apparently, in a hard fast run on Montara Mt.
  • Friday: 13 slow flat miles. Both feet hurt!
  • Saturday: 5.5 slow miles. I had some discomfort in my right foot.
  • Sunday: nothing
  • Monday: nothing!
  • Tuesday: track workout, where I felt quite good.
  • Wed.: nothing
  • Thur.: easy 5 miles and my right foot hurt.
  • Fri. nothing
  • Sat. (today): race!
My foot had a minor pain during the race about 75% of the time. Going uphill was generally better, but even on the steep downhills, sometimes my foot would seemingly "warm up" and feel OK. Weird!

So, I was very unsure about how the race would go. My daughter, being concerned, told me that I should drop out if it hurt too much. I told her I would. I would not have wanted to risk breaking a bone if I had a stress fracture!

I normally wear a heart rate monitor to all of my races, to help me gauge my effort and mostly to keep from running too fast, especially early on. But the strap can be annoying and it tends to slide down my torso early on in the race until I guess there's enough sweat to make it stay in place. Also, after re-reading my race report from 2011, I was reminded of how sometimes the strap can seem to cause side-cramps, if I'm getting close to cramps anyways. At Avalon 50, the strap slid down to my waist near the end of the race when I greatly increased my speed. The heart rate monitor is also unreliable for the first mile or so, even if I apply saliva to the contacts beforehand. So, I was going to run the race without a hear rate monitor! I thought I could judge my effort pretty well by my breathing and by feel.

The race was due to start at 8am, so I set my alarm for 5:30am, to give myself time to eat and digest breakfast. I had a Clif Bar and a bowl of oatmeal. That didn't quite hit by goal of 600 calories, so I ate some pita chips.

The weather was looking to be nice -- not too hot, although it would be sunny which could make parts of the Hazlenut Trail warm, back in valley of San Pedro Valley Park, in Pacifica. I saw Jennifer there (we drove separately) and Margaret and Joe from the Coastside Running Club. I would have liked to use the restroom one last time, but it was too busy, and I figured I would probably have to urinate along the trail at some point anyway. So, no worries!

8am came, and we're off! I was about a third of the way back. I started passing people immediately though, since we were going to get funneled into a single-track trail and I didn't want to be slowed down too much. It's a long steady steep climb up the Brooks Creek trail and then to Montara Mt Trail. I kept on reminding myself to take it easy and that I was going to be in the exact same spot a couple of hours from now.

Eventually, I saw the first place runner returning from the top of the mountain. It was a woman! Cool! Of the five times I've done one of these Montara Mt races, this was the first time I've seen a woman come down from the peak in first place overall. She was most likely in the half-marathon. (Update: Tori Tyler ended up winning the half-marathon overall! Nice!) Pretty close behind her was a guy in the 50K. Wow, he was moving fast for such a long race. I counted the other 50K people (identified by their bib # in the 5000s) and I thought I was 7th or 8th maybe. I got to the turn-around, where we were supposed to memorize the sign (I promptly forgot what it said) and I picked up a colored rubber band to put around my wrist to prove that I was there. Looking at my Garmin data, it appears that I took 41 minutes to get to the top. And back down I went!

My right foot started hurting a bit, but it wasn't terrible. It probably affected my stride a little bit and made me more cautious on the steep downhill. Everyone encouraged each other during this two-way traffic.

My first aid station stop (around mile 7) was very quick. As a bunch of half-marathoners were picking over the food and drinking cups of water (because many of them didn't carry bottles), I did a quick refill of one bottle with sports drink and I was on my way. I was carrying enough energy gels of my own.

The Valley View trail is relatively easy, with only about 400' of climbing. I passed some half-marathoners though who were getting tired. I felt strong and at ease. I ran every step up.

The Hazlenut Trail is much more sadistic. It has something like 13 long switchbacks and is more like 800' of climbing. I wasn't fast, but I ran every step up. I kept on reminding myself that I would have to do this same trail two more times in addition to summiting Montara Mt one more time. I passed a few more people in other races.

Then I made a tactical error. Arriving at the aid station again, I forgot to get the energy gels from my drop bag! I thought about it beforehand, but then in my rush to fill my water bottles and get a bite to eat, I left without any more energy gels! I realized my mistake 3 or 4 minutes later, but I figured that I had one energy gel still plus 20oz of sports drink and I had just eaten maybe 50 calories, and that would be enough for these tough 7 miles. I would eat the energy gel at the summit.

The climb went well and it was easier in a way the second time, because there were so many fewer runners. The half-marathoners had finished and that was the biggest group by far. I counted the 50K people and I think I was in 7th place. (It wasn't always easy to see people's bib #s.) At the time, I was pleasantly surprised as I approached the turn-around because I thought I was three minutes faster than my first ascent. But looking at the Garmin data, it was really about 43 minutes, so two minutes slower. Funny! I wonder if I had known the truth, if that would have changed how I ran. Anyway, I felt good. I felt strong. And back down we go!

Returning to the aid station again, I took several minutes to refill both water bottles and to grab my energy gels out of my drop bag. If I had paid attention, it would have been faster to grab the energy gels from the aid station's offerings. It took me a while to locate the energy gels amidst my clothes.

Valley View and Hazlenut again. I ran every step of the uphills for both of these. I tried to catch up on my calories.

Final aid station visit! I asked for "full strength" sports drink, since what they were offering was way watered down. The volunteer helpfully put an extra scoop into each of my bottles. And I was off! For this last loop, we take the yellow-ribbon shortcut that goes up the main wide valley trail, thereby skipping the Valley View trail. Nice. I was dreading the final Hazlenut climb. For once, I felt fatigued. I was getting low on energy. I ate another energy gel and drank lots of sports drink. I ran steadily though and passed a 50K runner who was walking. I passed marathoners who were a loop behind me. The switchbacks felt endless. I didn't lift my foot high enough over a rock and I tripped and landed gently on my hands. Since I was moving up the steep hill and I was going so slow, it didn't really feel like a fall. My knees didn't hit the dirt. I walked a few steps to recover and then began running again.

Finally, the last downhill! I let loose and really cruised down fast. The Garmin data is very inaccurate in the woods, but I'm guessing I was mostly going between 6 and 6:30 per mile. I felt very good except for my right foot which still hurt. I hoped I could break 5 hours and it was going to be close. I passed another 50K runner. I started to sense that cramps weren't far away, but I kept pushing. I had a good sprint to the end. My watch showed 4:58:58. Woo hoo!

Margaret had finished her 20 miler and Jim had finished his half-marathon, so they were there to greet me. I met Pete who is on the Coastside Running Club email list but I'm not sure if I had actually met him before. Pete ran the marathon and is training for the Headlands 50 Mile. Amy and Joe from the club were there, too. Jennifer finished the 10K. Congratulations, everyone!

Running club member Margaret and me, after our finishes
What went well:
  • Had a solid fast long run where I basically felt good the entire time.
  • No cramps!
  • Not wearing a heart rate monitor was a win. I wasn't distracted by constantly checking my heart rate or having to adjust the strap, so the run was more pleasant. I think I paced myself well without it.
  • I wonder if my "super taper" was a benefit in the end. I was really well rested! I only ran about 15.5 miles in the previous 7 days.

Things to improve:
  • As hard as I tried, I made some mental mistakes. I may not have gotten a good enough night's sleep; I felt really tired when I woke up. My biggest error was on the second aid station visit, by not grabbing my four energy gels from my drop bag. The race also offered energy gels, so I didn't even need to use my own, if I had paid better attention.
  • I'm not sure about my shoes, Brooks Puregrit 3. There were a lot of tight turns on the downhill switchbacks and I lost traction several times on the leaf-covered rocks or on the acorns. Otherwise, they worked well, but my old Inov8 shoes had better traction. 

Random data:
  • Official results. My official time was 4:58:58 and I came in 5th overall out of 31 finishers.
  • My Garmin Data.
  • I weighed 168.8 lbs in the morning and 164.2 lbs after the race.
  • Stopped once to urinate. I would have liked to use the bathroom one last time before the race, but the restrooms were too crowded.
I want to thank the volunteers and organizers of Coastal Trail Runs for putting on another excellent event! The trails were superbly well marked, parking and registration were well organized, and I had a great time!