A while ago I signed up for my first PCTR trail race, the Redwood Park 30k in Oakland. I figured it would be a great way to get in a long training run on some new trails in an organized atmosphere with aid stations and a t-shirt. Plus, I'd heard nothing but great things about PCTR races and had been eager to check them out. I was not disappointed and ended up having a great experience. I'll definitely be back for more!
I headed to the bay area Friday night with my mom after a long day at work. My aunt lives in Oakland so I figured it was better to get there late Friday night and get to sleep in a bit Saturday. When we got there I was exhausted, so after laying out my stuff for the morning I immediately went to bed. Things went smoothly the next morning and we arrived at the start area with plenty of time to spare. As I was waiting in line to get my bib I spotted one of my coworkers who was running the 20k so after checking in I hung out in his car to keep warm. In the days leading up to the race there was talk of possible snow at sea level and lots of rain, but instead we were greeted with clear, blue skies. The temps were, however, quite frigid at the start. My phone said 32 degrees and frost and ice were everywhere!
no snow, only ice
Soon it was time to head to the start and after hanging out for a bit while the race director explained the course and other details, we were off! The course had been slightly altered due to heavy rain during the week and consisted of a 20k loop (pink) followed by a 10k loop (orange) that doubled back on part of the first loop. I'd been warned that the first mile was uphill and man, it sure was! It was funny to see everyone start out running up the hill all pumped up and then gradually slow to a hike. There was a good number of puddles that were still iced over and a fair amount of mud, too. I warmed up quickly from the climb and the sun and ditched my gloves and ear warmer. Anticipating possible snow, or at the very least cold rain, I had worn three layers on top. I ended up being comfortable for the majority of the race, though, especially in the shadier sections.
hiking up the hill of mile 1
Around mile 3 we ran through our first redwoods along a section next to a lovely little creek. The mud was plentiful and we hit a few more steep hills as the 10kers flew past us going in the opposite direction. We had a few more rollers to deal with before we reached the first aid station around mile 5.5, loaded with all kinds of snacks. I wasn't really ready for food so early on so I grabbed some fluids then continued on. Over the next couple miles I kept leap frogging the same runners and eventually I struck up a conversation with one of the women I'd noticed from the very beginning. She was doing the 50k (her first!) and we chatted about running, triathlon, work, trail running, and the next few miles flew by. It was great having company along the course since I was out there solo.
luckily we didn't have to cross through it!
one of the awesome views that made the hills worth it
Around mile 8 we hit a long section of single track going downhill and after about a mile I heard my new friend call out behind me. When I stopped and looked back she was holding her knee, (she'd told me earlier on that she had knee problems) and seemed to have taken a wrong step. She said she was fine and to keep going, that she'd catch up in a bit. Well, as I found out later, she didn't make it any further and ended up being taken to the hospital : ( I felt bad for leaving her when I heard what happened, but then again I had no way of knowing how serious it was. I never even got her name though!
another hill & my poor running buddy in the blue
We emerged from the single track onto another fire road and after about a mile we were back at the start and the end of the 20k loop. The second aid station was set up here so I grabbed some a cup of electrolytes and then circled the parking lot and found myself back at the aid station where I grabbed a handful of gummy bears before heading out for my final 10k loop.
The first half of this loop sucked. I suddenly started to feel the fatigue in my legs, and all the faster 30kers were passing me on there way to the finish. Plus, the first half of the loop was the same as the 20k loop, which meant I had to climb the hills I had loathed earlier again, and I cursed repeatedly the as I hiked up, willing myself not to just lay down in the mud like I wanted to. The mud was worse the second time around, too, after being trampled by so many runners throughout the race. My quads and hip flexors burned, but the hills just kept coming. I was on my own for most of this loop, only passing a couple runners the entire way, so I was left alone to my thoughts. They mainly revolved around how much I wanted to be done. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking about how I needed to include how much I hated miles 14-16 in the race report. Hah!
this hill was 10x worse the second time around
Finally, I got to the new section of the loop which also happened to be a nice long downhill. I let my legs go and flew down it, so glad to be running instead of hiking uphill. Eventually I found myself back on the main trail, down by the creek amongst the redwoods, with just a couple miles to go. I had got a second wind coming down the hill and I decided to just go with it until it ran out, so my pace for these last miles ended up being my fastest of the day. There were no other runners around as I made my way back toward the start, which would now also be the finish for me.
pink on the first loop, orange on the second
The finish was pretty uneventful as most of the runners had done the 10k or 20k and were now gone. I had noticed after the 20k loop that my Garmin measured it a little short, and when I finished the race I found that I had only recorded 17.9 miles (30k = 18.6mi). Being crazy me, I did a lap around the parking lot til I got to an even 18 miles, in just over 4 hours. Official finish time, however, was 4:00 on the nose. There was a ton of great food at the finish (including chili and soup, but sadly neither were veg) and I immedietly was drawn to the goldfish crackers : ) Once I stopped moving, though, I got really cold since my clothes were still damp. I sat in the sun while I waited to be picked up and as I waited I was surprised that my legs didn't hurt more. Eventually my mom showed up and I ditched my muddy shoes and changed into wonderfully dry clothes.
I really enjoyed this race and was quite happy with how I did. It was also great to fit in a race as a training run, especially for a longer distance. The course was beautiful and challenging, incredibly well marked and organized, and it was just a fun atmosphere. PCTR puts on a great race (at a great price, too!) and I will definitely be returning. I spent the rest of the afternoon grabbing lunch and grocery shopping with my mom and aunt in Berkeley, and then closed out the day with a home cooked dinner at my grandparents in Walnut Creek. When I got home that night I practically collapsed into bed!