Monday, April 28, 2014

SLO Marathon 2014

San Luis Obispo Marathon
San Luis Obispo, California
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:41:14
AEG - 1,353ft
Pace - 6:10/mile
Place - 3rd Overall

If I had one word to sum up this race weekend, it would be "awesome!"  The second word that comes to mind is hilly. Seriously, the course was a non-stop roller coaster ride from the start.  More on that in a minute.

I qualified for elite entry and was treated to several perks at the race and the expo. We were given personalized elite bibs, our own private shuttle to the start, tent and bathrooms pre and post race, food, drink, massage, and prize money for a podium finish! A huge thank you goes out to Samantha Pruitt and her amazing staff for taking care of us, I'll never forget your generous hospitality!  San Luis Obispo is an absolutely beautiful town in central California that would've made the trip well worth the drive, even without the VIP treatment.  The only regret I have is not staying another day or two for some hiking and sightseeing on the coast.  That just means I'll have to come back.

The race began at 6:00am, which felt a bit early and somewhat rushed by the time we arrived at the start.  I met Seth by the elite corral and we were able to get loose and run about a mile, hit the bathrooms and do a few strides before getting in line.  Now it was time to find out for ourselves what this course had in store. From the beginning it was clear who was taking the lead.  Ryan, Van and Seth (a different Seth) set themselves apart from my pack of three other guys that assembled around mile four.  We hung together through the halfway point and a little separation occurred on the back stretch. Then it was myself and a guy named Jonathan.  Downhills are not my strong suit, and it seemed like they weren't his either so I realized the only way to break away was to hammer the downs.  It worked.

By mile 14 I was feeling great, running seven of my last 13 miles in the 5:50's and eventually negative splitting the race!  One of the front runners dropped out from knee issues, and at mile 18 it looked like I had made up some ground on the lead guys.  Now in third, I wondered, "could I close in on them?"  I pushed harder to climb the big ascent at mile 20 and prepared myself to give it my all from there to the finish.  At this point we returned to the main part of the course and had six miles worth of zig-zagging through half marathoners.  I ignored the obstacles and focused on my pace.  Those final six miles were the fastest six miles of any race I can remember and all the sudden I was coming into the home stretch feeling ecstatic about a podium finish and crossing the line in 2:41:14. I think that effort may be the equivalent of a 2:35-2:36 on level ground given that this race had over 1,300 feet of elevation gain!  We'll just have to see if I can find anything flat in this state...

Talk about scenic!
(Photo: SLO Marathon Facebook page)

Beautiful finish for a race.

Marathon awards ceremony. 
(Photo credit -

Thanks again to the race director Samantha, her staff, the volunteers, vendors, and everyone else that made this race so special.  Now go race SLO!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crystal Springs Trail - Huddart Park

Huddart Park
Woodside, CA
Mileage - 10.2
Time - 1:49
AEG - 1995ft

In an attempt to complete the entire Crystal Springs Regional trail from end to end, I set out today to cover the southernmost segment leading into Huddart Park.  From the parking area off of Canada road, just west of the 280 freeway, I began my journey into the unknown.  Okay, that was a little dramatic, but it was all new territory.  I enjoyed a nice, level mile long warm up before taking a right turn and heading uphill abruptly into the forest.  This next mile basically followed a horse trail through a neighborhood of upscale homes and ranches interspersed among the trees until I reached the park boundary.  Then the fun began.

The Crystal Springs trail continues into Huddart, though it's no longer part of the 15-mile regional trail system.  Deeper into the forest I went, running a counter clockwise loop that would eventually connect to the Dean trail and bring me back to where I started five miles later.  How did I know where I was going?  Remember that website from the San Mateo County Parks?  That's how.  Back to the run.  Imagine flying in between giant redwoods like a scene out of the Return of the Jedi, that's how I felt cruising the downhill sections.  The uphill portions were gentle and I ran most of those too.  All around, great run and one of those that you're sad to see end.  

A view from the trail head near Canada Road

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mount Diablo - California

Mount Diablo Summit Trail Hike
Mount Diablo State Park
Danville, California
Mileage - 9.1
Time - 3:00
AEG - 2,465ft

Obsessed might be the best way to describe my infatuation with Mount Diablo.  Ever since I moved here two months ago, this peak has been staring me down every day from across the San Francisco bay. Undoubtedly the most recognizable formation in the area and 42nd on the California prominent peak list, Mount Diablo State Park is also a hub for outdoor recreation.  Hiking, biking, camping and horseback riding are very popular here as well as those enjoying the scenic drive to the top.  I chose to earn that view on my feet. 

The summit trail begins from the Rock City/Live Oak Campground on South Gate Road at approximately 1,650 feet above sea level.  There are a couple places to start and the route may be a bit confusing at first. If you follow the Rock City (Trail Through Time) path it will lead you to the actual summit trail within a half mile and then there is no mistaking where to go.  That would be up!  I've yet to hike all of the trails to the summit, though this one appears to be the most straight forward, no nonsense approach.  The down side is how close you stay to civilization as you work your way up those steep exposed ridgelines.  The summit trail continually zig-zags along South Gate Road to the very last step before you reach the observation deck on the summit at 3,849 feet.  What might you find there?  How about the most expansive view in the United States.  I've read claims of being able to see 40 counties and that the view is only second to that of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.  I'm not sure if that's true or not, I will say that the view is unlike anything I have ever seen before. There were mountains in the Sierra Nevadas, as far as 180 miles away, that were visible to the naked eye. That's impressive!

I spent an unusually long time at the top soaking it all in, taking pictures, reading placards, exploring the easy loop trails around the peak and of course buying magnets in the gift shop.  For such a major peak so close to one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas, there was very little information about the trails.  I bought a topographic map and plan to hike North Peak from the Mitchell Canyon trailhead upon my return.    

Possibly my favorite view of North Peak and the Sierras

An alternate route down the mountain on the Juniper/Summit Trail

Panorama shot of the San Fancisco bay area

Another successful summit trip!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Running - San Mateo County

There are seemingly endless opportunities in the bay area when it comes to outdoor recreation, and whatever you're looking for, it's most likely within an hour drive or less. I've begun to seek out the local parks on the Peninsula and found a few I really like for running.  Crystal Springs has to be my favorite so far for a couple reasons, it's flat with paved and unpaved trails, the views of the lake and mountains are fantastic, and you'll feel distant from the city even though an interstate is just minutes away (Pictured right - San Mateo Parks Website). 
Other places I've been are Edgewood Park, Coyote Point, Mirada Surf and Pillar Point.  By the end of the year, I intend to see all of the San Mateo County Parks. Check out their website, they've really done a nice job putting together detailed information, pictures and trail maps!