Sunday, August 24, 2014

Skyline 50k race report

By: Stephen

It's been a while since I've raced a 50k. As far as ultra races are concerned, it's a distance that still intimidates me, mostly because of the speed. My last 50k, Way Too Cool, ended in complete carnage because of my lack of pacing. By mile 18 my legs were busted, and I could barely walk without cramping. This year has taught me a lot about running and racing, and it was at the Skyline 50k where I felt that I implemented most of what I've learned. It's worth mentioning that this was one of the most well organized, friendliest, competitive, yet low-key ultras I've done, as well as the 33rd running of the historic race (who knew!). I'm already looking forward to next year.

Photo credit: Noé Castañón
My goal for the race was pretty simple: beat my predicted time on Ultrasignup (which was something like 4:17). We toed the line around 6:55am, and by 7 we were off. I settled in behind a few Exelsior guys who were moving pretty well, and after the first mile clicked off -- a 6:35 -- I knew I'd be pushing hard all morning. A few miles in, the leader slowly started to pull away, while I kept my sights on second place, who was putting in a solid effort, but also beginning to fade. The three of us blew through the first aid station at mile 4.3 and pushed to Bort Meadow at mile 6.3, where I snuck into second place.

After a quick refill, I started the gradual MacDonald climb out of Chabot, and feeling strong, I hammered the descent to Big Bear. The climb to the Skyline Gate a/s (mile 14.4) had been in the back of my mind all morning, and I knew I could gain some time, so I put my head down and chugged along. I managed to put some distance in YiOu, Jean, and Karl who were close behind and could see the leader, Evan, a few hundred feet ahead. He kept an even effort over the rolling East Ridge trail, growing his lead. As I rolled into Skyline, I glanced behind and saw YiOu and Jean in my peripherals. (click the link for Jean's race report)

Photo credit: Joe McCladdie
Technical descents have played to my strengths in the past, and with the French Trail coming up, I knew this is where I could make a move. Bounding down the rooted, rocky single track, it wasn't long before I passed the leader. It was short lived, however, and after about a mile, he caught me on the small, but ass-kicker of a climb up Star Flower.

My legs were beginning to feel flat, but after popping a Huma gel (which I'm going to review later...seriously these things are little pouches of gooey Chia seed heaven) they started to come back. After miles and miles of flowing single track that snake in and out of powerful redwoods, I popped onto West Ridge and began the beautiful descent down Toyon: a steep, and fairly technical single track system, that delivers the runners back to Big Bear.

The mile climb out of Big Bear was a real grind by this point, but I was still moving well. I crested the top and began to open up the legs on the MacDonald descent back to Bort Meadow. Everyone few steps, I could hear YiOu not too far behind, and in a panic, I took a wrong turn back onto Grass Valley. I realized my mistake after about a minute of running; nothing too serious, but frustrating nonetheless. Back on the correct trail, I pushed the pace to make up for lost time, but it wouldn't be long before YiOu caught me. She put in a hard surge on the rolling single track, but I couldn't counter. I ran within sight of her for the next couple of miles, until she floated away on the final climb to Honker Bay.

Some of the Quicksilver family
The races finishes on the same rolling paved bike path where the Firetrails 50 miler starts, so I was familiar with how fast the final miles would be. I gave everything I had, but my quads were beginning to cramp. Every step was a struggle, and to make it worse, I heard a runner hustling from behind. About a quarter mile later Karl passed me, not too long after that Jean flew by too. He offered encouragement, but I just couldn't hang. He moved from 5th to 2nd place in the final two miles; just another testament to his mental and physical strength. I crossed the line 2.5 minutes later for a 5th place finish in 3:54:04. We had a strong all-around Quicksilver showing, with Jeremy and John (just a few weeks removed from Hardrock!!!) also breaking into the top 10.

Gettin' that post-race grub on
It's been a while since I've gone sub-4 hours in a 50k, so I'm really pleased with my performance, especially considering the course profile. The elevation gain is almost identical to Way Too Cool, which means that if I just pace myself better, then maybe I'll actually do well there one year. ;) For now, I'm just going to focus on consistent weekly mileage and staying healthy for the next few endeavors.


Injinji RUN 2.0 Original Weight no-show
Nike 2" Raceday shorts
Nathan SpeedDraw Plus
Suunto Ambit2
Huma Chia Energy Gel

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Things I love: Handful bras!

By: Maggie

Thank goodness I don't have a lot going on in the bazoonga department, because I HATE shopping for bras. They never fit right! How is it possible that we've sent a man to the moon, but physicists and humanitarians around the world can't figure out how to create a bra that doesn't chafe around your chest / leave a gap to peek down / look pointy a la Madonna ?? This will be my first executive order when I'm President.

I usually just get a cheap $10 bra because if I'm going to hate and complain about a worthless, ill-fitting bra, I'd rather not spend a wad of dough on it. HOWEVER, I heard about this awesome company up in Portland, Oregon, where women were actually designing and making REAL bras for REAL women. 

So, for example, this bra has adjustable straps that can be cross-back or straight over the shoulders. It has removable pads, so I wear it to work as a "real" bra with shaped cups, and then I remove the cups for my runs at lunch or after work. yes... Yes... YES! 

But wait, there's more! Not only is each bra basically a 4-in-1 kinda deal (2 strap styles, with/without cups), but they come in great colors. I like wearing these to yoga, to lunch, to work, and most of all - on runs! The colors are great. I've got the Purple Mountains Majesty and Freshly Squeezed Orange, but I'm eyeing the No Headlights White next... And they aren't just pretty, they are actually functional. I haven't chaffed in any of my normal hot-spots (sternum/middle of the chest strap, under my arms or mid-back with a hydration pack on). I'm not sure if the pad pockets were meant to carry a phone/ Gu packets/ keys, but they work great for that too!

They have 6 different sizes, based mostly on chest circumference. I don't think that there are underwires in any of them, so for my well-endowed sistas, you may still need your velcro straps and metal clasps... But for my fellow members of the itty-bitty titty committee, welcome to a new era of sports bras!

Things I love: Handheld bottles!

By: Maggie

I love running with water! I know I don't drink enough water every day (FYI - we should all drink half our body weight in ounces per day, not accounting for exercise. Ex: I am about 120 pounds = 60 ounces per day, and more if I exercise.) I like to use my runs as a chance to really hydrate. And I get hot and having cool water is really refreshing. 

Nathan Quickdraw Plus
My first handheld bottle was a Nathan. I copied Stephen's since I was/am an ultra noob. It was a great starter-bottle. Mouthpiece stays open, so you can really chug. Plastic is durable, but squishy. The pockets were totally rip-stop. There's a little "thumb hole" at the top of the hand strap, so you can adjust hand position. Minor complaints: mouthpiece stays open, so I would find myself forgetting to shut it and dripping water all over myself or pissed that I'd lost water on a hot, long run. I carry my phone when I run (I love being disconnected but I worry about safety and like taking photos of flowers). When I can feel my phone vibrate in the handheld, I have to unzip it to see what's up because the pocket is completely opaque. Also, the handband is kind of wide, and on my small hands I'd get some numbness in my fingers or soreness in my hand and wrist, but only on longer runs (2+ hours). I still use this bottle, but I've kind of transitioned into....

Ultimate Direction Handy 20
At first I was annoyed by the pocket and mouthpiece because I was used to the Nathan. However, now I really like both of those features. The mouthpiece (a "kicker valve," I guess) is always closed. To drink, pop it out and bend/chew it. I like it for two reasons 1) I don't spill Scratch water down my legs anymore 2) I can't chug, so I end up sipping smaller drinks over my run - which actually feels better on my stomach! The pocket is mesh, so I can see if that phone notification is important (like my new Hokas have arrived) or if I'd prefer to ignore it (oops, was I supposed to be in class?) I also really like that I can see through the plastic bottle. I get a little loopy on long runs and sometimes think I have more water in my handheld than in reality. 

I'll definitely keep both of these bottles in my rotation. On long runs lately I've been running with a hydration pack (yay, hands-free!) But for shorter training runs it's nice to just grab a bottle and go.

Trail: Get Ye to the Headlands!

By: Maggie

Sometimes, heaven peeks through the little every day moments.

And it happens a lot in the Marin headlands.

Maybe if more people got outside and explored the natural beauty around us, it would be a better world. You can't stay sad, mad, or an asshole if you get outside regularly. It's an incredibly humbling and connecting experience to crawl up a mountainside and bonsai down switchbacks. And, ENDORPHINS! 

Climbing up this hill, I found a little mole-creature that appeared to have been dropped in the middle of the trail (maybe from a predator-bird?) It was tiny, covered in very soft, grey, baby fur, with little pink paws and a pink nose, and it was writhing on the hot dirt. It was a really hot day. I often get sidetracked on runs, but this was a really special side-adventure. Anyway, the poor little creature was baking on the trail, so I rinsed it off with my water bottle, popped it in some soft shady grass, and built a little grass tepee on the side of the trail. On my next lap around (about an hour later), the little mole was gone. I'm not sure if I couldn't find the same spot, if the little critter had burrowed into cooler ground, or if it had been eaten. I don't know what happened, but it made me happy and sad at the same time. Things like that seem to happen a lot on trails.

Trail: Toyon, Redwood Regional

By: Maggie

Heading south on West Ridge
I've been slacking on my running lately. Working full-time over the summer had kept me busy, and I have officially confirmed that I am a morning runner, NOT an evening runner. If it doesn't happen before noon, chances are that it won't happen at all. Anyway, I've been full of excuses and need to get my butt in gear.

Looking back up Toyon
I'm getting ramped up for fall's (hopefully) cooler weather and nice morning trainings. In that spirit, I've been thinking about my favorite trails. One of my top picks is the Toyon Trail in Redwood Regional Park. It's an offshoot from the West Ridge trail and is relatively short. But it's never busy, it's really rutted out, and it's got beautiful views.

There are so many options for out-and-backs, loops, or lollipop routes in Redwood. For a 9-ish mile loop, head from Skyline gate to the right onto West Ridge. You'll start out running West, but eventually you will be running south along the park's west ridge (hence the name). Stay on that trail past Chabot Space center, through the Redwood bowl (you went the wrong way if you hit Roberts Rec Area). Eventually you'll pop out of the Eucalyptus trees onto a wide sunny trail. Several trails split off- to the left down to Stream trail and to the right, which eventually link back up with West Ridge. Toyon is the third trail that splits to the right. It hits Golden Spike, which loops back north up Stream Trail and to Skyline gate.

The loop is a nice variety of shady/sunny and wet redwoods/dry scrub. It's also got about 1300' of climbing. If you want to add on more, Big Bear trail splits from Golden Spike across from Redwood Road, which is a relatively busy and paved road. Take Golden Bear to MacDonald (your only option, I think). That will climb over the next low ridge and then decend into Chabot.