Friday, September 14, 2007


Map of the course (courtesy of the Stevens Creek 50km website)

I ran this 50km race a few days ago in the Santa Cruz mountains. I didn't know what to expect as I wasn't feeling 100% and only touched down at SFO from NYC the evening before.

I arrived at the start and paid my entry fee....a $25 donation to the Audubon Society. The race limit was 70 people, but there were some withdrawls prior to the start and I believe around 60 people started the race.

Check-in at the race start

I put together my water and fuel bottles. It looked like it could get warm, so I decided to carry two bottles and slipped a third into my behind-the-back carrier. I also slipped into the pack some Gu's and a small baggie of electrolyte tablets. In my carrier belt's case, I slipped my camera. I went to put on my sunglasses but realized I had left my strap at home. The glasses seemed to stay put whil I jogged, so I decided to wear them without the strap.

Steve, the race director, gave a good info meeting and we were handed maps. I was looking around for familar faces. Anil was running the race too (he confirmed it the night before at the party). But, I didn't see him. Soon the runners crossed the road to the official start line. At the last minute, I saw Vinod (who had paced Raj and Anil at TRT100). Eventually I did see Anil out on the course - he had missed the start by about a minute.

The race started with a decline into the valley. I started conservatively but was passing a few people here and there. At the base, we crossed the stream (it was almost dry) and then started up a short climb. By now I was sweating and my glasses were sliding down. Finally I took them off and shoved them into my pocket - next time I won't forget the strap (I ended up giving them to the race photographer who delivered them to me at the finish line. Thanks Jim).
The climb up from the creek valley.

As we continued to climb, I continued to pass a few runners. Soon, it was a downhill section and I caught up with the lead woman. We started chatting and I found out her name was Beth. Pretty soon, the two of us came up on another runner named Adam. The three of us ran together for a while chatting and enjoying the race.

Soon though we began to climb....and climb...and climb. It was here I decided to back off the pace a bit. I was worried that I was pushing my pace a bit too hard as I still had the RDL 100 mile race to run in 2 weeks. So I slowed down and let Beth and Adam disappear. Soon, 2 other runners passed me - one was the eventual race winner Jun.

The view after Beth and Adam went ahead.

After awhile I finally reached the top of the climb and then started running down some switchbacks. It was really pretty in the forest. I was picking up my pace some more. Eventually, I exited the trail and crossed over to a new trail. Here, I started passing the early start runners (runners who predicted a slower time were allowed to start one hour earlier). I came across Padma and asked her if the aid station was ahed. She confirmed that it was and I continued on. Here I started passing a couple other runners too. Finally, I entered the aid station.

The volunteers were great - they grabbed all 3 bottles and filled them. It was starting to warm up so I filled my bandana with ice. Then I was off running again.

I started after this runner Mike. He and I were changing places back and forth. As he moved ahead of me, he saw some friends approaching and went to wave at them. Then his toe hit a rock and down he went - I tried to reach for him but no good. We all stopped and helped him up - he was fine and took off again. I decided to let him go and soon a runner in a bright green top Jim caught me. He and I were also changing places - me passing him on the downhills, he passing me on the uphills.

Eventually I exited the trail a little ahead of Jim - but there were two trail options. I started down the wrong one, but Jim corrected me. So off again on the correct trail. He and I went off up the new trail and exited the forest area into the hills. The trail widened quite a bit and the views opened up.
The view from the hills.

After climbing the open hills awhile, a new trail emerged and down it plunged into another forested area. As I ran down I passed a runner who told me that I was in 7th place! Wow! That surprised me as I had assumed I was somewhere in the top 20 (closer to 20). I took the downhill at a real fast pace and as I got to the bottom, I saw two runners in the distance. One was Mike (who had fallen in front of me) and ahead of him was Adam.

I started off after them and within a mile caught them both on a downhill. I flew past them as we neared a lake and kept going. They shouted at me...I had missed the turn! So, I went back and soon caught up with them again. The three of us entered the aid station together. Again, the great volunteers grabbed my bottles and filled them up. I stuffed down some Gu and some boiled potatoes with salt. I also re-filled my bandana with ice. I didn't realize it at the time, but this aid station was actually the same check-in table from that morning (top photo). I was just approaching it from the opposite side.

Then Mike took off and then Adam. I grabbed one more drink and followed them. Soon, I passed Adam. I caught Mike and he commented that I looked fresh as a daisy...I replied that he was correct, except the daisy was 10 days old, dried and pressed inside the covers of a book :)

We ended up running together for awhile. Once again, he was faster on the uphills, I was faster on the downhills. I thought the aid station had been around mile 17 - but he told me that it was actually 19.5 miles. As we ran higher, the views became more fantastic and the trail crossed this fenced overlook. I stopped to snap a quick photo.

View from the Scenic Overlook.

As we descended to a small lake, I left Mike about 30 seconds behind me. Then it was through a parking lot and up this wide, soft, dusty, open trail that went up. I continued to climb and could see the valley to my right:

At the top of the climb, the scenery changed. It was black due to a recent grass fire. In the distance I saw a runner. I started picking up my pace to see if I could catch him. Soon I did - his name was Michael and I recalled him as the early race leader. He mentioned that he had bonked - I commented that I was probably only a few minutes away from doing the same. Then I passed him and saw 2 more runners in the distance. I started off to see if I could catch them.

The trail went down into a short forested area and emerged at a cross road. I could see no race markings and had no idea where to run. I called out but there was no one around. I had no choice, I turned around and began running back to see if I had missed a turn. Soon Mike approached. He had run this race before and told me where to go - so I followed him.

The trail started dropping down as we headed towards the 25 mile aid station. Two other runners were heading back - not sure if they were on the right trail. Mike corrected them and they all headed off. Soon, Jun came running towards us. Then Beth in second place overall. Since we were about 1 mile from the turn-around, the 2 of them had put up a 2 mile lead on us.

We all entered the aid station together. Again, the great volunteers filled my bottles. I was really getting hot and my legs were beginning to tire. Mike took off running. Michael then entered the aid station - he had bounced back. He left before me. I headed after him.

The trail then started back up the long climb. Wow! It was getting very hot and my legs were getting very tired. Soon Michael faded ahead into the distance as I entered the grass fire area (it was a slightly different path on the way back).

Old grass fire area.

I kept running but I was really hot. I was pouring water over my head to stay cool. I passed the marathon point around 4 hours 30 minutes. Soon, I could see the aid station in the distance. I ran down past a small lake. I was certain that I was going to be passed at this point but could only see one runner behind me quite a distance off.

I started running up the path to the aid station. I don't know why, but I thought this was around mile 29 or 30. But I got to the aid station and Jun and Michael congratulated me. "Is this the end?" I asked. They laughed and told me it was. Thank God!

My finish time was 5 hours 40 minutes 1 second. I was 5th overall, 4th male ...of course, awards only went 3 deep :)

I decided to hang around and watch Anil finish. He came across with a nice smile:



Rajeev said...

You took it easy and yet ran a 5:40 50K on a hilly course? LOL.

You stud you!


Alan said...

Thanks.....hopefully I took it easy enough. My legs are still a tad sore and RDL 100 is only a week away.

Michael Kanning said...

Congrats, Alan! Just rest up for the next week and you'll be all ready to go for RDL. I can't believe it's just one week away, though!


P.S. I just realized that our blogs look exactly the same! :)

Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

I enjoyed reading your report! I ran it last year. Now it's like me running with you again.