Friday, October 3, 2008

My First Ultra Marathon-Skyline to the Sea 50K-Sept 20, 2008


It's been some time since I posted. With the arrival of our newborn son, Gabriel Adam, I've had my hands full. He's a wonderful child and we are blessed with his arrival. With some good planning and a little luck, Tracy and I are both home with Gabriel. As such, we decided to extend our already planned trip to Santa Cruz for my race and also visit Tracy's parents in Grass Valley. This would be Gabriel's first big adventure at one month of age.

I decided early in the year that I would attempt a 50k race. And when I heard Pacific Coast Trail Runs was creating the inaugural Skyline to the Sea 50K trail run taking place near Santa Cruz, I knew it was for me. I shot off my check and began my training.

As I mentioned in prior posts, I had run a number of trail runs in preparation. I was feeling great up until about a month before the race. About that time, Gabriel was born and my training went out the door. And about a week later, I received a call asking if I would open a section of Algebra and Science at Gompers Charter Middle School. I agreed but under the condition that I would only work until my race. As such, I ran twice the two weeks prior to my race putting in a total of 20 miles. Talk about a long taper....

We decided to drive up early and surprise Tracy's parents in Grass Valley. Grandma Judy had already met Gabriel but Grandpa Jim had not. Tracy and I want our son to know and love his family as much as we do so visiting the family was important. We made the 10 hour drive with Gabriel in tow and he was a delight. He would cry when he needed to feed but otherwise slept most of the time. The long drive was all worth it by the look on Grandpa's face when we surprised him at work. Priceless!

After a short but sweet visit we made our way to Santa Cruz where Grandpa Gary and Grandma Louise were visiting Aunt Haley none of whom had met young Gabriel. The introductions went well and Gabriel was received with open arms. After an hour or so, we said our good-byes and headed for our hotel in downtown Santa Cruz, directly across from our good friend Lucio's restaurant, Cafe Lucio.

I now began to think about my race and how I should prepare for it. I knew I had the base to finish the run. After finishing two Ironman triathlons and numerous challenging trail runs, I would find a way to dig deep if need be. But with the lack of recent runs, I decided my best course of action was to start off slow and progress as the race unfolded. My priority for the day was to finish the race, in the top half of the field, and have a time of around 6 hours.

While I could go into the details of the course, I came across this report by Scott Dunlop who has an excellent report with pictures. At the start of the race, Tracy and Gabriel wished me well. I always loved having Tracy at the start but now with the little man present, it was even sweeter. I purposely seeded myself way towards the back of the pack, forcing me to run a slow pace. The trails were two narrow for much passing and thus I would be forced to go slow. I would do so until about mile 10 where I would finally hammer for a stretch.

Tracy and Gabriel met me at the first aid station where I informed her I had already been stung by African bees two times. In all, I would have 5 stings but far shy of the 20 stings one person I spoke to had encountered. I chimed in that I would take bees over rattlesnakes any day of the week.
At the Gazos Creek Aid station in Big Basin, my folks joined my cheering squad. I first approached this aid station about mile 15 and then did a challenging 7k loop before returning a second time. Leaving the second time, my legs were cramping a bit so I walked for some time as the trail climbed for a mile or so. At the top, my legs felt good again and I found myself running a decent pace for a number of miles.

As the trail descended through the redwoods and towards the Pacific, I knew I would achieve my goal of finishing but realized a 6 hour finish was unrealistic. I kept plugging along and finally found a running friend. I don't recall his name or that I ever knew it but we had a common bond and that was to finish strong. We ran together for the final eight miles together exchanging stories and encouragement. Had I not paired up with this stranger, I probably would have finished well beyond my 6:25 finish time.

As it turned out, I finished 103/212 so I managed to achieve two of my goals. I had a great time and gained a great deal of confidence along the way. As usual, a huge thanks goes out to my training partners, my wife and son, Laura for her words of encouragement, and my family for their love and support.

We celebrated my finish, Gabriel's arrival, and time together at Cafe Lucio across from our hotel. As usual, we left Lucio's with full bellies and good stories.
Until the next adventure.....

1 comment:

katsu said...

Nice to meet you.I'm shizu from Japan.I joined the trail race was held in BigBagin in Apr.So I looked your blog by the word of "BigBagin".
Running is fun,of course,but I realize it's excellent to run for the child.I'm more impressed by your run.
I enjoyed BigBagin trail.I wish to run again there.Thanks.