(Thanks Yuki for taking pictures for me and other friends)
Date: Feb 3, 2007
Race: Woodside 50K
Location: Huddart County Park
Profile: 4530ft gain/loss (courtesy of Pacific Coast Trail Runs)
Result: 5:22:05, total - 26/84, age group - 8/30, Complete Results
|Start - King's Mountain||9.7||1:01:16||11:45|
|King's Mountain - Bear Gulch||9.1||54:26||9:34|
|Bear Gulch - King's Mountain||9.1||1:07:21||11:51|
|King's Mountain - Finish||7.4||41:37||9:00|
Woodside 50K becomes one of my favorite runs perhaps because the course is pretty and close to where I live - only 40 minute of driving. Today is my sixth time here. As the race fee and toll fee keep going up (I need to cross Dumbarton bridge), I figure that this time might be my farewell one. I had such a thought in particular after I knew that there is a nice and free Telles Rock Supper Bole 50K run next day at my loved Ohlone Wilderness Trail in Del Valle Regional Park. I think I'll go for the free one next year.
Woodside race is held twice in a year - first Saturday in Feb and Dec. Both days are special. The first Saturday in December is Western State lottery and I have lost two years in row. The one in February is for both Wasatch lottery and Hardrock lottery. I apply for Wasatch for the first time and it is my target race for this year. I have been looking forward to the lottery date. Now it is the day, but I try to forget about it. Therefore, I'd like to focus on today's race in order to make the waiting time feel shorter - Once I finish it, the lottery is over. (I know I'm picked up when the lottery result is posted next day).
A race in February means chilly. Yes, in both Woodsides in one year, I always see the frost indicator showing on my car dashboard within a few minutes from home. In the beginning of the race, Sun just comes out, but it is still cold. The temperature will definitely go up during the day, but the "best" of Woodside is you'll run entirely in shades around tall coastal redwoods. Like Wendell usually says right before the race start, "This is your last time to see the Sun." You won't be able to enjoy the warm sunshine until you finish. Don't forget that you'll cover more than 1000 ft to the Skyline ridge, where it can be very chilly and windy at 2300 ft elevation.
Start - Meeting Friends
I soon spot Yuki talking with Wendell. Yuki is about to have all the stuff and go to the first aid station as the service requirement for Western States. We talk about our plan in Western States. I tell him that I better do the safety patrol for the first section only instead of doing it at the second and the third sections as well. Just want to make sure I have enough strength left to pace Yuki since he plans to run under 24 hours and I need to prepare for that pace for him.
There are also a few Yuki's friend coming for other distances. Surprisingly, they somehow recognize me because I am in Yuki's DVD when I crewed and paced Yuki in Western States last year.
Scott Dunlap sits there to take care of 50K check in. I'm excited to see him and explain how I did in Fremont Fat Ass last week (see 01/27/07 Fremont Fat Ass 50K - DNF after 33 miles).
Before the start, Wendell explains the ribbons as usual. Marissa calls my name but I do not recognize her right away. We met in Redwood Park and Firetrail last year. I was impressed with her performance at the end. She passed me at Redwood Park and was a few seconds behind me in Firetrail.
I excitedly spot Kirk. We ran together last week in Fremont Fat Ass. I enjoyed listening to his experience in ultraruning and our common training area in Fremont. He goes around to greet a few others. Nearby is Wally, who inspired me a lot in the beginning of my ultrarunning. When I started ultrarunning, I usually saw Wally and me back to back at the race results and he was normally ahead of me - American River, Quicksilver, Tahoe Rim Trail, but except Ohlone. I was very impressed with his performance given that he is 23 year older than I. This always reminds me of trying harder.
Start - King's Mountain: 9.7K, 1:01:16 Follow my Rhythm but not Chase Others' Paces
Off we start. As Wendell says, we are 3 min early after his description of how ribbons work to show the course. We cross 200 yard or so of grassland and soon lead into a shady single trail. We have nearly one mile downhill before the 1500 ft climb to Skyline trail. Everyone has fresh legs and runs fast at this beginning downhill. A gal even slips her foot and fall.
Not far behind me is Wally. Now I have not seen him for a while (last time is in Firetrail when I met him running on the course). I would like to run with him and chat for a while. However, this is impossible at this fast single track. I know he is usually strong later when I get exhausted. Maybe we can meet again.
I follow a group of four runners. We slow down when starting the climb. We gradually spread out and I fall behind them. This is fine. I keep telling myself to follow my rhythm instead of chasing others' paces. This thought is actually pretty good. In the past I usually ran aggressively on this beginning climbing section and thought that once I get to the King's Mountain aid station, I should be fine with the following rolling hills. However, it never worked and I used to struggle all the way. This time I decided to take it easy and not let my legs tired. I was passed a group of runners led by Mike Nuttal, a gray hair runner who amazingly passes me every time. I was also passed by Robert, who I pass him later at about 25K.
I run alone for a while. It's still up hill, but I feel great. Somehow, I fall on my fours. This has never happened before, in particular at such a slow pace. This looks like indicating a lot of trips coming at the next section.
I am familiar with this section and figure out the aid station is about half mile away and I am near the end of the climb. Now I am passed by a runner, who I soon recognized as Stephen. I call out his name and we start to run together and chat. I first met him in Firetrail last year. I was struggling near the end but he looked fresh and passed me over there. He says the Firetrail is his first 50 miler and he is first time on the Woodside course. I told him how I got lost three out of five times in the past. We soon got to the aid station.
Kings Mountain - Skyline Blvd: 9.1K, 54:25.47 Numerous Hard Trips on my Left Ankle
I am excited to see Yuki at the aid station. He is kind to take picture for me. I tell him that I feel great and actually better than last time. However, I warn him that I will look bad next time he sees me. I do not eat anything at this aid station as a test to see if I can survive with minimal.
I soon leave the aid station and have Stephen lead the way since I know he is faster. I stay behind him for a while, but let him move farther away because I want to keep my pace instead of chasing him. I'd like to enjoy running by myself here. Like the first climb section, this section is pretty and shady with tall coastal redwoods. The trail is very nice and soft with years of fallen leaves cover everywhere. While Stephen moves away from me, I selfishly enjoy the entire trail without seeing anyone else.
Over this section, I somehow keep tripping my left ankle. I'm not sure if this is because lightweight Inov8 315 does not have much support. However, I know my footing is not flat. The rooted trail and the lightweight shoes therefore easily trip my ankle. I have to slow down to ease the pain, while be careful at footing ahead.
I understand there are mile posts along the trail from mile 1 to mile 5; therefore I know how far I am in the trail and I am close to the Bear Gulch aid station.
Wunderlich Loop: 14.3K, 1:37.24 Struggle on the Long Climb
This 14.3K or 9 mile loop is the toughest part. We need to go down over 1200ft and climb up the same to complete the loop. So I drink enough and eat enough salty potato pieces. On leaving, I grab three packets of Clif gels.
Wunderlich, here I come with gravitation! I do not push myself very hard going down in order to save for the later climb. Also when going to lower altitude, I can feel the rising temperature. This motivates me to drink more, but similarly I try not to in order to save for the later climb.
Soon I can hear two runners led by Dana approaching from behind on the downhill. I still keep my pace not chasing them and let them pass me. I also see two lead runners coming up with Michael Buchanan at the front. This is the earliest moment that I have ever seen the front runner before, while I am running better than before. Therefore, he looks like having a record win today after his winning in Helen Klein 50 miles and Quad Dipsea. They are about 4 minutes apart. Their pace on the uphill is almost the same as I go down. Amazing!
The downhill takes me over 20 minutes. I figure I will spend over 30 minutes later on the climb. At the end of the downhill, we get to an altitude of 1000ft (there is a sign) and I can feel the cozy temperature compared with the chilly windy at the top. I pass a small pond and I guess it's the "Wunderlich", aka wonder lake in German? Now I start the uphill with power walk at easy pace. It will be a long way up. I start to intake energy and try to tear open a clif gel but could not. My finger is weak and the packet is tough. This worries me because it means I won't have energy supply for the remaining of the loop. I have to rely on the few potato pieces in my body that I ate at the aid station.
Here comes a young man (Taylor) pushing very hard. Unlike me, he is very sweaty. We chat a bit. He is very excited and enjoys this course. He plans to do American River next. We are then passed by a young girl (Maura), so he decides to take off. I give him my best wish and he would like to see me at the finish. I love such a nice atmosphere in ultrarunning or trail running.
After power walk and jogging, I decide to speed up and just run the hills. I know the aid station is not far at last. I should get a break over there and a short down hill after that. I catch up Robert, who passed me earlier in the very beginning but looks struggling. I know I'm a little struggling but with high spirits.
As I run away from Robert, I get close to the Aid Station. I stop there to eat enough. A volunteer helps me open the Clif gels. I quickly swallow two and keep one for the next section as they run out of Clif gel. As I am ready to leave, Robert and Daniel Wann also coming.
Skyline Blvd - Kings Mountain: 9.1K, 1:07.21 Struggling on Rolling Hills
I quickly pick up my pace as I am well fed and want to take advantage at the beginning downhill. I wish I can go through this section and then I'll have the finish in mind. Starting at mile 5 post, I keep counting and look forward to the next few mile posts.
At about half, I find Daniel approaching from 100 yards behind. I am tired, so I decide to let him pass if he catches up. When he is right behind me, I tell him with fading determination that you are the only one I'll let you pass. Away he moves from me. Soon another runner passes us as well. I see him a couple of times last year. He is young and fast.
I also met Kati when she runs toward me. She looks fine. I don't know what distance she's running - 35K or 50K because she runs in the opposite direction at this moment. Perhaps she had issues earlier. We stop for short time talking about the TRT last year. Later, I can not find her Woodside result and she probably misses the cutoff.
I know King's Mountain Road will approach from the left hand side near the aid station. Here it is when I feel the road half mile away and this motivates me to run faster as the aid station is not far. I can see Yuki chatting with other volunteers, while I am struggling to the aid station. Walking across, I look very exhausted. I do promise Yuki to show him my bad look!
Kings Mountain - Finish: 7.4K, 41:37.25 Downhill Racing and PR finish
I am glad to get to the last stretch - a 7.4K "mostly" downhill. Don't get upset by a small uphill in the middle coming out of surprise. Once climbing over the hill, it is a 1.5 mile fire road all the way to the finish. This is the time when the finish feels not far away.
I haste to the downhill and have the gravity drag my pace. My legs are a little hurt, but getting recovered as there is no more hills to push myself up. The feeling is great to have such a long downhill to the finish.
I enjoy the moment just in a few minutes but found a runner about 100 yards behind me. Again, it's Daniel also speeding now and getting faster. He seems to get an edge over me and is approaching. In the past, I never got passed at this section and I have always been good at downhill, being trained at steep Mission Peak. So I'd like to try a little bit harder. Here we are racing at breathtaking sub-7min pace!
Somehow I trip my left ankle again and twice in a few minutes. Each time, I have to slow down to relieve the pain in hope of not getting injured. Daniel then gains several feet and gets close to me. At one switch back, I let him pass and cheer him. I look over my shoulder and found there is no one behind anymore. I checked my time and I feel relaxed knowing I can make it under 5:30 if I can do the rest few miles as usual. I slow down. Well, just not running at that brutal pace.
Here comes the hill. Been there done that! I power walk patiently and the last hill no longer hurts mentally. At the top of hill, I can see the fire road. I merrily start to run again.
The fire road was half paved and half dirt. Perhaps some parts are paved to avoid erosion. In the past, I used to think the road looks foreover because of my desire to the finish. I was more patient today and stay with my pace. Perhaps it's because today can be my last time here. By at the end of the road, I keep speeding up and try to be more like a cool runner at the finish. Through the playground where there are kids and parents, I sprint to the finish. It's 5:22 and that's my PR at Woodside 50K!
At the finish
I feel great by setting my PR and not tired so much. I chat with Mike. I am surprised at his strength at his age, but I was even more surprised that he was passed by a senior citizen, who I know later is Dana Gard. I don't know if I can run that fast at their ages. I only wish I can still enjoy the trails then.
I hear some chats about Headlands 100 from Sarah and confirm that it's a two loop of 50 miles. Brian comes to me. He already got here 40 minutes ago! He has become very fast within less than a year. I am no longer able to run his pace. I look forward to his amazing running this year. I also thank Daniel for the last pushing so I can go well under my PR. He finishes ahead of me by only 1 min 36 sec.
Time to go home. Within my car, I find a candle melted on my car dashboard. What a disaster! But that's OK. This is not easy to clean up, but I just leave it there and, actually, find out later that the wax can be vaporized under the radiating heat and disappear gradually.
Call my wife on my way. She is surprised that I can make the phone call that early as I used to be late for the time I told her in the races before. Not today - I make my PR.
The last thing full of my feelings is "Farewell Woodside Feb.!"