What a doozy of a race. I mean that about my race performance and not the actual Skyline 50k itself; I love this race. It feels like home. So I’ll keep this race report short and sweet (and to the point).
Sometimes I feel kind of crappy when I use a race that so many people trained so hard for as a training run. Especially the Skyline 50k; it’s a really great race with a great vibe, amazing volunteers and a tireless RD that tries to ensure every runner has a top-notch time. Plus, the course is one of the best the East Bay has to offer; it traverses the ridge that rises up from around Lake Chabot in Castro Valley and goes into Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, then turns around at Skyline Gate and runs back.
It’s a lot of people’s “A” race, and a heck of a lot of folks’ first ultra experience, there also seems to also be a cross-country type showdown between a few local running clubs, and here I am just out for a long run to:
- test the legs
- figure out hydration/nutrition strategies
- see what kind of training I need to focus on for the second half of the year
That all being said, going into last week my whole idea was to treat this as a “C” race. Then, after a great run on Saturday (July 26th) I decided to get my taper on and treat this race as a “B”, which means less of a training run and now I’m going after an actual goal.
Damn my ego!
This was a huge mistake; seeing as I had only 4 weeks of solid training in and my longest run in that block being a 22.5 miler with an 8.7 follow up the next day, I was probably going to suffer a bit.
So of course I go ahead with a pace chart; planning on hitting the turnaround at Skyline Gate (14.4 miles in) at 2:00 and coming home in another 2:30-2:40. I wanted a new 50k PR (4:41:43 at Dirty German 50k in ’13) so that was the plan.
I hit the turnaround at 2:06, and figured if I continued to feel this good I’d be right up against running a 4:40 finishing time. My average pace was 8:45 right here and some quick math told me I’d have to run just under 9-minute pace for the last 17 and change.
So I was feeling awesome until mile 24, then I started cramping. I felt awful for the next 4 miles, going back and forth from low energy to full-on calf seizures. I took all my remaining Vitargo plus a Gu and just tried to get through the section from the Stone Bridge to Honker Bay aid station, along Cascade and Columbine trails. Ugh.
I yo-yo’d between a 10:15 and 14:00 pace for these miles, just trying to fully embrace the suck. I was in a low point; probably a combination of dehydration, cramping, being low on calories, being slightly undertrained, being overly optimistic, letting my ego run the show, racing that guy in the damn Five Fingers back at mile 12 (he ended up finishing 8 minutes ahead of me), and finally- the biggest lesson: not respecting the distance.
Like I said, my ego is a terrible thing- 31 miles is a hell of a long way no matter what anyone says. I come into this race thinking, “I just ran 100 miles in the high desert of Southern California, I can do a backyard 50k no fucking problem.”
That’s a shitty attitude to go out and run with.
Thankfully the aid station volunteers at Honker Bay were so funny and nice, they let me bitch and moan about how awful I felt, told me lies such as “you look good” and “you’re running strong” and all that stuff we say to each other as encouragement. Well, it really helped. So did the Salted Watermelon Gu, the 2 cups of Mountain Dew and the two salty chunks of boiled potato.
As bad as I felt, I was able to finish somewhat strong. The funny thing is, I was a whole 6 minutes slower than last year but I improved one place in the standings (up to 39th overall). Weird.
But it doesn’t matter; the thing I learned is that no matter what, even if it’s a 5k or a 10-miler with friends, you gotta respect that distance.
After the race I was able to meet and chat with some great local runners; I met the esteemed Jean Pommier (his race report here) and fresh off his amazing run at Hardrock, I got to ask Big Johnny Burton a lot of questions about what kind of training he did to prepare for HR100 (his report here). What a solid dude. John’s wife, Amy, also recounted her recent Tahoe Rim Trail 100 race, and that was cool to hear. I even got to see my buddy Jesse cross the finish line of his first ultra.
So, all in all- not a great race for me but it was a great race in general, as always. Heck, this is my third finish and I hope to back for many more. Because it should be more about building community and having fun than chasing some dumb time goal.
I mean, look at it this way: it’s taken me 11 days to write 900 words about a race, what’s the rush anyway?