Monday, October 10, 2011

Week Summary (Oct 9) - Feeding the Firetrails

West Wendover Trails: 5.4 mi (+532 ft); 9:19 pace
Office Loop: 3.5 mi (+497 ft); 9:09 pace
Dick Collins Firetrails 50: 50.2 mi (+8,741 ft); 12:38 pace

Weekly Totals: 59.1 mi (+9,770 ft); 11:56:36 on trail

An exceptional week highlighted by success at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 along the East Bay Skyline National Trail above Oakland, California.

The taper week began with fieldwork in western Utah near Wendover, Nevada. Although we were rained-out late on Tuesday morning, the sun broke through for an afternoon run on the West Wendover Trails. Maybe a bit surprising for the casino-town of Wendover, these looping trails are well-kept with a nice trailhead parking and rest area. The wide, perfectly graveled trails wind onto some abandoned shorelines of pluvial Lake Bonneville, northwest of the Wendover strip.  There are loops of one, three, and five miles (approximately) that are signed with large trail markers. The signage is rather overdone for such a small park-like group of trails, but it is certainly a local well-done and well-maintained project. I kept the pace easy and enjoyed a breezy hour away from the hotel.

Taking it easy in preparation for the weekend, Wednesday was a rest-day, which was good because I spent the day driving home from Wendover in an early winter-like storm. Snow capped the higher peaks across northern Nevada. Thursday morning brought snow to the Comstock. Nothing stayed too long, but it meant my first seasonal run through a foggy snow squall.  A distinct chill reminded me of my early training last winter.

Unlike my previous taper, this week was painless and restful (no day-long wood-tossing cross-training!). I have been very happy with my preparation for the weekend; I distinctly remember a twinge of doubt when I added Firetrails to my schedule, now I simply can't wait.  Darren and I will be sporting the new running T's and singlets from Eclipse Running in Reno.  Happy for the support from Chuck and all the running staff of our local, long-time road and trail headquarters.

Darren and I left in the late afternoon Friday for Castro Valley near Lake Chabot, Saturday's start/finish line. Although the usual east-bound traffic from California was a mess, we had an easy drive west-bound on Highway 80 into the Bay Area. Stopped the Yota at the Quality Inn, just a few miles down the hill from our start.

Up at 4:30 AM to start the fueling and get to the Pine Cove picnic area. We arrived in the pre-dawn darkness and parked on the street among a growing line of runners' cars.  Headlamps bobbed through the trees as we searched out the glow of the check-in tables. There we met several over-caffeinated volunteers and grabbed our bibs (#252 and #253); the starting line was the only spot I would be ahead (one place) of my speedy brother. We decided to pay the park fee and move the Yota closer to the picnic area. Once organized we turned in our drop-bags (available at the 25-mile turn-around) and made our way to the starting line on the paved bike-path east of the picnic area. We'd begin in the dark at 6:30 AM, a few of the runners sported headlamps, but the growing pre-dawn twilight was just enough to follow the wide trail. As I felt a twinge of a cool shiver, Julie Fingar, the Race Director, wished us well and set us off. Our Firetrails had begun.

The Dick Collins Firetrails 50 has been held 29 times, including this year. It's a well-organized event with evenly spaced aid stations along a varied track of fire roads, redwood grove park paths, oak and then fern-lined single-track, and a lake looping bike path.  This year the event was blessed by a preparatory rainstorm, two days prior, that dampened the roads and trails and cooled the hills. Although some places were soggy and a bit rutted, the vast majority of the track was in perfect running condition. Warm exposed hillsides, with splendid Bay Area views and an airshow with the Blue Angels (!) were followed by the damp darkness of redwood enclosures. I didn't expect this variability and relative seclusion this close to the Oakland metropolis.

I've prepared a detailed race-report, so I will simply say that although I lack the experience to compare events, I greatly enjoyed running my first 50-miler at Firetrails. It was a worthy challenge and I think both Darren and I are happy to have prepared for it and run it well.  Darren reached a 50-mile PR with a finish at 8:13:25 for 25th place overall (OA) and 11th in the 40-49 category. Although I had fantasies of finishing under 10 hours, I learned that, although in reach someday soon, that was indeed fantasy or, more likely, simply unrealistic for my second ultra. I hit all of my aid-station splits on the way out, but a couple of the bigger hills on the in-bound took their toll (my Garmin showed over 8,700 feet of climbing, but Darren's showed closer to 8,000; course description says 7,800 feet gain). I happily finished at 10:34:04 in 121st position (220 started, 193 finished), 51st in the 40-49 category . Simply and completely happy with my effort and result. Of course, I know I can better it with more experience and a better foundation. But, damn that was fun. And I qualified for the Western States 100, if that becomes important sometime soon.

We hung around the picnic area congratulating our new friends, those people you seem to group-up with as you yo-yo along the course; catching some, dropping others, re-grouping at aid-stations to start again. The post-race food hit the spot, though we added a pizza later at the hotel. The swag bags were generous and I was almost teary-eyed as I was handed my first "finishers" award, a nice Patagonia pull-over. The race T's were also simply adorned Patagonia garments.

And now it hurts. We were back in Reno and VC a little after noon on Sunday. Uncoiling from the drive, every movement in the afternoon and evening was a painful reminder of the excellent Saturday. I iced up as much as possible, but my ankles were swollen and my ITs ached with every step. I'd experienced little discomfort during the event, unlike the terminal miles at Lake of the Sky, but, this time, the post-race recovery was dramatically more painful though only slightly crippling. By this morning (Monday), the pace of recovery has increased and there may be a run tomorrow afterall!

I'm re-thinking my Relentless Forward Progress regime slightly. It's not a response to any defeat or injury, simply a realization that progress might be better in a step-wise fashion; I'm adding another step toward my first 100.  Well, it'll be 100, but I'm going metric first. In his book, Bryon presented this as a good possibility. The 100s that present themselves at the end of the RFP training schedule are significant efforts, Chimera has 22,000 feet of climbing. After Firetrails, I think it would be wise to reinforce the foundation a bit more prior to biting into something like that. I can't imagine having to turn-around and re-do Firetrails (plus some climbs!) at this stage. I'm moving forward, but keeping it in perspective.  How 'bout the Antelope Island 100K in a month?! Let's keep going...



  1. You clearly have an addiction problem if you're already thinking about a 100k in a month. You should seek help!

  2. You're big time now, Craig! Super effort and I think the Antelope 100k would be a perfect choice. I'm registered for it.