This was an important race to gauge where I am in terms of trail running, which in turn is a gauge in how well I might be able to handle of 50k, which is run, usually, entirely on trails.
Race Thru The Redwoods 10k - 52:13 (8:25 pace; 97/356)
Felton is a little town in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Pacific Ocean side. A great, small town tucked away amidst towering redwoods, and is a roughly 40 minute drive for me. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to run this race, beyond being a trail run, because I knew it would be ideal conditions and close to my house. I would not be disappointed.
I woke up around 6:45 and showered up, remembering the week before when I didn't shower before the race and felt groggy. Because of my little fiasco yesterday in running on a full stomach, I made sure that this one I ran on an empty stomach. I know, you need fuel in order to keep up your stamina, but I usually run better on little to no food in the stomach, at least with distances that are 10k or shorter. So I knew that I would be alright without eating breakfast, plus I wanted to compare this to how I felt on the full stomach.
Arriving at Henry Cowell State Park I was not disappointed with the weather. In fact, it was a little cold as my knees shook amidst the cool morning breeze. After checking in we all shuttled over to watch the kid's 1 mile race. If you ever get a chance to watch a kid's race, do it. It was fun watching them sprint in with smiles as they revelled in everyone clapping. And get this, the first finisher, who was 13, ran the mile in 6:22!
Soon enough our race started. I ran the first two miles great, averaging 7 minute miles. The first mile was all on a paved road sloping up for a while before connecting to a trail and starting mile 2, which was also fairly flat, although the sand made it a little difficult to run in. You see, I wanted to run a fairly fast first two miles because I knew that I would be coming to a large hill that would slow me down considerably.
The hill didn't show itself until about 2.5 miles into the race, and it was a killer. It went for almost a mile and had an elevation gain of around 400 feet. Some parts of it seemed like I was walking straight up, hands on knees. Yup, you heard correct. Second race in a row where I had to walk the hill portion. I walked most of it and tried to run anytime the steepness wasn't so bad, but that wasn't too often. Luckily the whole race was ran under the cover of the redwood forest, which ultimately kept everything in the shadows and nice and cool. Mile 3 ended up being a little over 11 minutes, which killed my average and began making me doubt that I would be able to finish in the desired 50 minutes.
About half way into mile 4 the hill relented as the trail spit us out and onto a road that gently rolled up and down, allowing us to get our breath back and continue at a more or less steady pace. As we rounded the cone and began running back towards the finish line everyone began picking up speed. The steep elevation ascent from earlier now turned to a steep elevation descent down a paved road, so we didn't have to worry about the rocks or roots of the trail we just ran up that could jump out and trip us up. The slowness of the first half of the mile was offset by the speediness of the last half, resulting in about a 9 1/2 minute mile. Not too bad, but now it was all downhill and I wasn't too sure how my right foot would hold up, since it was downhill running that really hurt last time.
I felt a twinge of pain if I let myself run too fast, which usually resulted in long lunges down the hill, so I shortened my stride in order to lessen the strain on my tendon. This seemed to work as the pain disappeared. The last two miles eventually merged back onto the trail before spitting us back out and onto a road and to the finish line, averaging about 8 1/2 minute miles. All in all, a good effort, one that has given me a great evaluation on where I should be and how I should train. I was planning on attempting a 50k on September 8th, but after today I am not too sure. Either I need to get some serious trail running in the next two weeks, or I need to pass on the event and prepare for one at a later date. Granted, I would be starting the 50k out running the flats at around a 9-10 minute pace since I know I will have longer to go, and thus not be so tired so early on, so maybe all is not lost.
Until then, happy running!