Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race Report: Surfers Path 10K (on fumes)

In a masochistic move, I ran a 10K on Sunday morning, approximately 18 hours after completing this insane bike ride.

To be fair, the race had been a good idea in the beginning. I'd signed up for the inaugural Surfers Path 10K at the suggestion of a friend who I sometimes get the chance to run with. Plus having a race on the calendar always motivates me to run more, maybe even with said friend. And it worked — running group ramped up the training effort and I did get one run in with my friend together before the race — so the race was probably even a good idea in the middle.

But in the end, my legs were fried from 5,300 feet of climbing, followed immediately by a hot tub soak at the Dream Inn pool deck, then beers and burgers at West End Taphouse. Everything felt amazing; the food and drink was delicious.

But the Sunday morning 10K loomed. I foam-rolled at home and hydrated. In the morning, I briefly considered staying in but, but instead pulled on my Smartwool compression socks (a hopeful move to prevent cramping) and grabbed a cup of coffee. It was go time!

The race is put on by the same group that organizes the Surfers Path Marathon and Half Marathon in the spring. All of the courses cover popular running/cycling/walking routes along the Monterey Bay coastline from Capitola to Santa Cruz. The races on Sunday (a 5K and a 10K) started on 41st Avenue and headed out to Pleasure Point, then hooking a right onto East Cliff Drive. The 5K loops back around Moran Lake, while us 10Kers continued to Twin Lakes State Beach before turning back. Everyone runs past the start line and into Capitola Village for a nice downhill finish at the beach.

Road races can be big here (thousands run the She.Is.Beautiful race in the spring and the Wharf to Wharf sells out faster and faster every year). Maybe because the Surfers Path is new, or because it's November, the course wasn't packed and the whole event had a friendly, local vibe to it.

I had a few minutes to warm up before the 8 a.m. start. It was warming up, so I ditched my long sleeve at the sweat check (pretty posh for a local 10K). I didn't see my friend anywhere, but wasn't worried. I'd find her on the course.

Cinder and Callie (and Mike) came to cheer. 
I can't report much about my pacing. I managed to screw up my Garmin right at the start and didn't record about four-tenths of a mile. Instead of worrying about pace (and because my legs were beat), I focused on enjoying myself: great views, happy people. I chatted with a fellow racer who was struggling, spotted a few friends near the turn-around point, got a cheer from Mike and the dogs, and caught up with a running buddy who was out cruising on his bike. He and I ended up chatting through about three (painful) miles of the run before he ordered me to pass some people in the last half-mile.

At the finish, we found more friends, including Greg from South Valley Endurance, the timer who handles "my" race, the Santa Cruz Triathlon. There was cold-press coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters, great race shirts and a bag full of snacks from New Leaf Market for us.

It wasn't my best 10K time, not by a long shot. But I held essentially a 9-minute mile pace despite extreme fatigue. I'm definitely happy with the overall weekend effort and am ready to plan my next race! (Oh, and I need to find some new spandex shorts. Looking at race photos makes me realize what I for was not cool. Not cool at all.)

This is PROOF I need new racing
shorts. Seriously, what am I wearing?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ride Report: Our Personal Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

Some background to start: Mike, the fiancĂ©, and I love playing outside together. We appreciate each other's activities — he's a surfer, I'm a runner — but often there is one person who truly loves what we're doing and one person who is along for the adventure. One area where that isn't true is road cycling. We both really, really like getting on bikes, climbing hills and covering a lot of pavement.

We set off this morning on an adventure Mike had mapped out. Inspired by the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge, he wanted to tackle some of the toughest climbs in the county during a 55(ish)-mile-ride. Our weekend rides often include 2,500 or more feet of elevation gain over 25-30 miles, but increasing that didn't seem like a bad idea, especially if was just the two of us and no timeline.

Elevation Map

The plan entailed parking off West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, then heading through town to our first climb, a breezy warm up on Glen Canyon Road to Scotts Valley. From there, we rode the lower section of Glenwood Drive (a normal climb for us) and then headed up the infamous Mt. Charlie Road, a 5.2-mile climb with multiple short Cat 2 segments. Mt. Charlie was new for both of us. The steep sections left us gasping for breath but overall the ride was scenic and pleasant. We stopped at a historical marker at the top to learn about Mountain Charlie, a failed gold digger who survived a bear attack in the 1870s and went on to be a stagecoach operator in the area, before continuing our climb up Summit Road.

The road seemed remarkable free of cars. We pedaled past vineyards and Christmas Tree farms on Hwy. 35/Summit Road until the highway split at Bear Creek Road. We went left up, then down Bear Creek Road about 11 miles into the town of Boulder Creek. This was essentially the halfway point of Mike's plan: about 30 miles in and one of two significant climbs done. After a quick stop to refuel at Johnnie's Super (including a LARABAR and Hammer Gel) we were back on the road.

The next section covered more new terrain for us: Hwy. 236 toward Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Four miles in, we made a sharp left onto Jamison Creek Road. Mike had said this would be the steepest — but also shortest — climb of the ride. The hill started with a mellow 5% grade and we held the same conversational pace we'd carried throughout the ride. But 1.2 miles in, the hill changed. Here's a description from Stanford Cycling Team For people wanting to climb over 1,100 feet in 1.8 miles (read: masochists), this is the ride for you. This section of the climb averages 11.5% grade, with some areas nearing 14% grade. 

I made it about two-thirds the way up the hill (the whole hill, not just the really steep part) before my legs turned to Jell-o and I had to walk. Mike powered on, using a mix of out-of-the-saddle riding, weaving back-and-forth across the entire road (much to the chagrin of descending cyclists) and sheer willpower to summit the hill. I walked about a mile, pushing my bike and wishing for a passing motorist to hitchhike with. I tried (and failed) to ride again, and even considered carrying my bike on the back of a motorcycle. The bike-hike took about 25 minutes, but it turned out Mike had only beaten me to the top by a few minutes. That must have been one hell of a crawl up! 

(Let's just say, the only good Jamison is probably the whisky, and there should be a bottle at the top of that climb for poor cyclists like me.)

From there, we turned onto Empire Grade Road bemoaned all of the little hills on our back to town. Just before we passed UC Santa Cruz, we hit 37 mph on a downhill. The ride finished along West Cliff Drive, rounding out at 56 miles and about 5,600 feet of elevation.

These climbs are integral parts of a couple cool century rides that happen in here in the spring and summer: the Mt. Charlie Challenge in April and the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge in late July or early August. I've heard the Mountains Challenge always includes Jamison, which may be a deal-breaker for me, but the Mt. Charlie ride could be exciting. I haven't ever attempted a century ride (metric or full 100 miles), but would like to. Maybe 2015 is the year! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Muddin' it up

I attempted a long trail run Saturday morning. It's been awhile since I felt motivated to hit double-digit mileage on a run, but the "perfect storm" of new trail running shoes and a chance to hit some new-to-me trails presented itself. I couldn't resist.

I set out in Ed R. Levin County Park after dropping M at the Oakland Airport for a quick boys' weekend in Joshua Tree and Long Beach. I arrived at the park, on the outskirts of Milpitas, before 9 a.m. and paid the modest entry fee. Despite miles of trails wending up the grassy hillsides, the parking lots were empty. I felt surprised, but was excited to have the paths to myself.

I laced up new Project E-Motion N2 trail shoes by Pearl Izumi, decided against listening to music and popped a Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tablet in my water bottle. I had roughly planned a 9- to 12-mile adventure that would take me to Monument Peak and perhaps all the way to Mission Peak, in the adjacent Mission Peak Regional Preserve.

Unfortunately, it also was the morning after one of the first storms of the fall in the Bay Area and the rainfall (after so many months of so little) congealed the trail dust. Large signs declared the trails closed to bikes and horses because of the rain, a regulation I silently celebrated — I wouldn't have to contend with those trail users and I got a brief boost of confidence for being out there when cyclists and horsemen weren't. 

Quickly, I realized the trails should also have been closed to runners and hikers. The mud sucked my shoes in, encasing them in a thick, sticky paste largely composed of decomposing horse shit. I paused to clean my shoes on a wooden fence, then continued my run. As the hill steepened, my feet slipped in the slick mud but I soldiered on. 

A quarter-mile into the run, I encountered the first locked gate. Maybe this should have been a sign to turn back, but I assumed it was meant to keep those horses and bikes out. I just climbed it and used a rail to, again, clean mud from my shoes. I changed my mind when at the second locked gate, a long 15-minute mile farther up the trail. The trail conditions hadn't improved and likely wouldn't, even though the rain had let up and the sun was peeking through clouds. So I turned back, hopping a different gate to access a paved service road that led back to the parking lot. 

Just before the parking lot, I detoured onto another trail that seemed less mucky than the first. Yeah right! Muckity muck mud everywhere. It felt like my shoes could be pulled right off my feet by the goop. On downhills, the mud naturally shook off of my shoes, and clumps of muddy horse poop flicked against my calves. Eventually, I found my way to manicured grass near the nearly-dry reservoir built for recreational fishing. I ran loops there to clean off the mud until I hit 4.5 miles. Unable to keep a pace in the extreme trail conditions, I called it. 

I think I'll hit a favorite trail at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park tomorrow morning before work. The rain improves those paths! 

But Ed R. Levin County Park — I'll be back. A friend had recommended the trails there and they do look great, given the right weather conditions. 

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."