Been a little while since I last ran the Diablo Trail Half Marathon. There was going to be a 10-day window of clear skies between the storms and I was itching to run on a trail. When I saw that the Summit Rock Half Marathon was going to have single track runs through redwood trees, I just couldn’t say no. Besides I love the Brazen Racing events. Incredibly well organized, lots of great friendly runners and a fun hangout after the run. This run had an elevation gain of 2,867′, 500′ beyond what the Diablo Trail had. The Summit Rock Half Marathon is also an out and back trail. You climb up to the turn around point (which has an aid station) and then you run back down the same way.
Got up early, downed my Chia Fresca and Granola and got there at 7:30am just to find out how dumb I was. 40°F with Luna Sandals and no socks was not a smart move. I think I know what I want for christmas. Split Toe Tabi Socks! The cold wasn’t an issue after I started to warm up on the run, but waiting around with frozen toes is not a fun thing. Had to take my hoodie off and wrap my feet at a desperate attempt to warm them up.
Starting the Race
After a countdown from 10 and lots of cheering and hooting, we were off on the run at 8:30am. The course record holder, Leor Pantilat (1:33:27!) was right up at the starting line. There were quite a few first time half marathoners too. Pretty soon after the start, we were in the middle of redwood trees and hit the single track run that was leading us up on to the skyline ridge. Crossed the 1.5 mile aid station and with half running and half power hiking, kept climbing up and up. At the 3.5 mile aid station, stopped to get some orange slices, gulped down a glass of electrolyte and kept going.
Every now and then, there were spectacular vistas of the Bay Area to the right. The sun was peeking through the redwoods with a slight breeze that kept making me grin thinking, how awesome it was to be out there running through the wilderness. During the last few months, I’ve been practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing taking 4 step inhales and 4 step exhales through my nose. Forces me to consciously relax my shoulders and check my posture on the run. I knew we were approaching the top of the skyline ridge when I could hear gun shots to my left. The turn around point was just a little further than the shooting range.
The last mile to the turn around point was cruising on a downhill run and then back up a little to get to the aid station. I was pretty winded when I got there. Checked my watch – 1:25, not bad given that it was all mostly downhill on the way back. There were a few other runners there munching on snacks. I slurped up on electrolytes and almost choked when one of them said, “Hear those shots? They are taking the slow ones to the shooting range!”.
Downhill running with the Lunas
Since the Diablo Trail run, I’ve been doing a lot of hill repeats and trying out different ways to run downhill with my Lunas. At first it was more of a pitter, patter, chop-step which is pretty hard on the knees (not to mention slow). Lately, what I found that worked for me was increasing the stride length and letting loose. The speed increase is scary at first, but with a stronger core, it’s a whole lot less effort to let gravity be your friend and flow with the trail. However, the Summit Rock trail is treacherous. Lots of rocks and roots and I saw at least three runners almost wipe out just to recover in the last minute.
The other [more serious] problem were my contacts. One of them will occasionally slide a little causing my vision to a little blurry. I’m sure you would agree that running downhill on a treacherous trail half blind is not a great idea. Rapid blinking seemed to put the lens back in the right spot, but I have no idea how to fix this.
Approaching the Finish Line
As we approached mile 8, I felt a sharp pain on my right calf. Dang, it was a serious cramp. My first time experiencing this and I wasn’t the only one. There were a few other runners ahead of me that were stretching their calves and trying to shake it off. The funny thing is, apparently no one knows what causes muscle cramps. According to Dr. Andrew Marks, a muscle researcher at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, “I would say, bottom line, there is no really convincing biological explanation for muscle cramps.” What I did find was the cramping seemed to get worse on the way up than down. So ended up slowing my pace dramatically on the the rolling hills and made up for that on the downhills.
I stepped over the finish line at 2:25 with a new trail running PR. Also was 55th overall (out of 228) and 9th (out of 17) for my age group. More importantly I came down in one piece! The Luna Originals rocked and stayed with me through the run, though it did a get a little slippery on the muddy and wet parts. Maybe time to upgrade to the Leadville ones?