Around the beginning of April, my wife and I were expecting the arrival of our second bundle of 3 am feedings and diaper changes, but madness still called my name. If I don’t run I go bonkers, the Siren’s call of the trail beckoned.
Liz had run the Coastal Trail Run Big Basin 50K last year, and had a blast. Great aid, great course, and wonderful course markings made for a great event. I decided to follow her lead and try a CTR myself – The Grizzly Peak 50k.
The timing fit the due date/first weeks, the location was nice and close to home, the course seemed not too difficult, and the distance wasn’t for what I expected would be a tumultuous time in my training. Everything suggested a nice quick morning race and home by dinner.
Pre – Race
I got plenty of rest before the race, the first time in a long time! Oliva and Annika went to bed on time and Annika’s nightly feedings have been nice and routine lately. A perfect morning – up, coffee, breakfast, and out the door.
The CTR website offered a google map ‘pin’ which went right to my phone. The directions were perfect, and CTR even had a few event signs out on the road for the final turns along with ample parking. Bib pickup was fast and efficient.
There was a kids run before the event, with a single toddler entrant. I could end the post here with that picture. It’s enough to melt your heart.
Next year we’ll bring the girls and let them have at it!
“And I forgot to mention…”
California was in the peak of a record drought in 2016. In only a few short months, our reservoirs were filled to the brim, even threatening to collapse dams by early 2017. Needless to say, things have been wet here lately.
The RD and CTR staff are very nice people, but really enjoy a little twisted humor. The pre-race briefing was boilerplate and clear, but as we took off at the start the RD called out:
“Oh…and I forgot to mention…it’s a little muddy out there!”
It was an understatement.
Something like 80% of the first section (start to beginning of pink loop ~1-2 miles) was muddy to the point I wish I had brought crampons and poles. It was a wild slip and slide uphill and downhill, with long stretches of trail rife with 3-4 inch deep mud ranging from consistencies of watery pudding to thick peanut butter (even the color, too!). Keeping pace was hard, and at times forward movement of any kind was difficult and borderline treacherous. In some ways it was a pain in the butt, and in others, wildly enjoyable. The sport is about overcoming challenges, and that is exactly what the day was about.
Large sections of the rest of the course varied from slip and slid mud-fest to trickling streams running down and everything in between. There were, however, a few good sections of dry trail, and the fire road at the ridge top was perfect. I had been running without much thought to may pace or place; with the new baby my training had not been as good it could or should have been, and I had expected that. Today was supposed to be a fun day out to keep the legs moving for the bigger events I have planned this year.
At about mile 9 or so, I was running with a friend when we ducked into a well-stocked aid station to fuel and go, and the volunteer told us there was only one or two people ahead of us. That was all I needed to hear, why not put a little mustard on it and have some fun?!
A few pretzels, a PB&J and off I trotted with a little more sense of urgency, embracing the mud and making up for it on the flats and fantastic, mostly dry, sloping miles of the back stretch.
I caught second place overall shortly after the first turn around (mile 14-15), but on the second half marathon loop, I got caught by the first female (mile 21.5), who bumped me to 3rd overall. She looked strong and fresh, I knew it would be a challenge to keep up, let alone pass and stay ahead. By then I started to feel overly taxed and as the race continued on, miles 20-30 were the hardest for me. Churning through mud, trying to keep the splits down, and hold on to 3rd limited my intake to nothing more than soda and SaltStick the last few aid stations. I kept my focus, my feet moving and knees driving. With the end in sight, it was easier to push myself to the edge and hold it there.
In the end it paid off, with a podium finish: third overall and second place male.
Not a bad day.
Embrace the Mud
If I could pass on any words of advice it would be “embrace the mud”.
The course is laid out to allow for a little disbursement of runners before the narrower trails, but there is still a little bottlenecking in the back of the pack. While this is expected in 90% of trail races, this was exacerbated by the muddy conditions. A lot of runners were trying to avoid the mud, keep dry and stick to the narrow edges of the trail. Being careful is one thing, but with dozens of runners all vying for the same spots of soil leads to problems.
So don’t worry about it. Get wet, get muddy, and just keep moving. This is the world of trail and ultra, where perseverance and endurance mean more than what place you finish in.
Slip, slide, fall down. Get muddy, get scratched. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Keep moving forward, always.
The weather was nice and cool, and a fog-less bay allowed for spectacular views of the City and its bridges. I didn’t capture a panorama for two reasons; the primary being I was trying to keep pace and defend my podium position, and the second was I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. Instead – sign up for the event next spring and go see it yourself.
Wide trails, single track, and fire roads over rolling hills, easy flats, and a few steeper ascents and descents.
The well spaced and stocked aid stations mean you easily run this with a hand-held single water bottle, and maybe a small snack if you choose, or expect to spend a long time walking between aid.
There is a fairly even amount of covered/uncovered trail so watch the weather, wear sunscreen, and dress appropriately.
The park is a fantastic place to spend the day, the lake has a nice beach area, so the kids and family have a lot to do. Also trains!
Burgers, sausage, food and drink await you at the finish line, so get there as fast as you can – or not – the views are worth taking a moment along the way to enjoy.
Thank you to the RD, staff, and volunteers of this wonderful event!
See you on the trails ahead.
-The Winged Ling