22 February 2014, Lake Chabot, CA.
The end of February officially marked the beginning of a very ambitious year of racing for me. My calendar is chock-full, with a race nearly every other weekend. I have no idea if this will be sustainable or if it’s just plain insane. But at the moment, with the pleasure I get from running and the feeling of accomplishment from racing, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
First up was the Lake Chabot 30K, in Castro Valley. The event was hosted by Inside Trail Racing, which I’m loving more and more with each run I’ve done with them. The races are expertly organized, the courses are methodically designed, and they attract a very fun group of runners. They’re competitive to keep you fast, but friendly enough to be conversational. It’s a wonderful balance that seems to be very typical of the trail running community – this type of runner just seems more chill.
The course started at Lake Chabot’s marina (which, anecdotally, doubles as the lake’s fish dump site for the many stocked trout, bass, and crappie) and followed a more-or-less flat contour around the lake’s inlets, lined with sweet-smelling eucalyptus. I stuck with the front of the pack – about five or six dudes from the half, 30K, and 50K races – for the first few miles, keeping the (for me, unsustainable) clip of about 6:20 min/mi. At the first incline, I cooled off on the pace and let two guys on my tail pass me (one 30K and one 50K, who was wearing running shorts that looked like they were made from a disco ball).
I quickly caught them again at the first aid station, where I took two swills of flat Coke and dashed away; no point in lingering. That was the last I saw of any other runner for a long time. The race narrowed to just me and the trail, which then diverged from the lake to open on the meadows and rolling hills of Chabot Regional Park.
(My only complaint about the course was the stretch that borders – unexpectedly – on a shooting range; every gunshot bounced between the hills and trees until I couldn’t tell where the gunfire was coming from. Paranoia of the exhausted mind had me convinced that the next shot was going to hit me, and I jumped at each one.)
Somewhere around mile 16, disco-shorts suddenly appeared from behind me and complimented my speed on the descents (“It’s just my young knees!”) and I complimented his rad choice in sportswear. We paced for a mile or so, until he took off a quarter mile before the finish line – only to zoom past it and continue on to the last 20K of the 50K race, where he went on to finish in the top. I, on the other hand, was grateful to complete the race, crossing the finish line with a smile on my face and Rachel, Marc, and Abby cheering me through.
I came in at 2:20:06, finishing 4th overall and 2nd in my age group.
What’s next on the racing horizon? Well, I think it’s about time that I try this whole ultra thing on, and see how it fits. And where better than in the gorgeous hills of the Marin Headlands? So March 15th I’ll be at the Marin Ultra Challenge 50K. This will hopefully be the first of many ultras this year – not least of which is two weekends later, with the excitingly unconventional 4MPH Challenge in Whiskeytown on March 29th.