2021 Ultra #6 – The Royal Road 40 Miler

The Royal Road, aka the El Camino Real traverse starts in Santa Clara, right in front of the University. From there it runs through the spine of Silicon Valley through three counties and thirteen cities spanning roughly 40 miles before ending in Daly City, just a couple of miles north of South San Francisco. Here’s my Strava Activity from running this entire stretch of El Camino Real.

The El Camino Real Traverse

My original plan was to go and attempt a 50K in Alum Rock Park and I had the whole thing mapped out. Woke up early and showed up right around civil twilight (6am) and ventured out. Turns out there was just a few hours of rain the night before and the trails had a consistency of clay. The mud stuck to my shoes and it was like wearing ankle weights. I could barely walk uphill without slipping and sliding. I turned around after 2.5 miles before the steep ascents started and it was prolly the right choice.

From there I drove to the start of El Camino Real (right in front of Santa Clara University) and began this traverse. Based on my scouting earlier in the week, there was no time restrictions with parking in the weekends.

Two miles in, I realized that in my hurry to get going, I had forgotten to lube up with Body Glide. Was really hoping that I wasn’t going to get chaffed bad. But again, I would be passing by Zombie Runner’s store in Palo Alto. So could always get one 🙂

I found many commemorative bells (like the ones above) acting as historic trail markers along the way. Many of them were not so obvious and were obstructed by trees or buildings and so on. It was kinda fun to look for them along the way.

Reached Redwood City (20 miles and half way point!) around 11am in about 3:30. Traffic was pretty light up until now and Atherton was prolly the only stretch with no side walks. The shoulder was wide enough so it wasn’t a big issue. Stopped by a gas station and bought a Coke. This was definitely the fun part of doing a run like this. Plenty of aid stations along the way – gas stations, restaurants, taco trucks!

The Hillsdale section was probably the busiest maybe because it was later in the day, but the mall traffic definitely didn’t help. Checkout the address of this history marker above! Was starting to get tired, but kept shuffling at a 8:30/8:45 min/mile pace and I wanted to get to mile 30. The mantra around these miles and till the finish line was “to the next light”. Essentially run to the light with a possible break if I got the red.

I only had 1.25 liters of Tailwind since I had planned a refill at my car for the Alum Rock 50K. Pulled into Burlingame (mile 30) around 1pm in 5:30. Stopped by another gas station, downed a Coke, bought a bottle of Gatorade and dumped that into my camel bag. I was getting close, just needed to keep moving.

Crossed Millbrae and could feel the finish just round the corner. On one of the intersections, I could see the South San Francisco – The Industrial City sign up on the hills and it brought a smile to my face.

Passed the Costco and reached the Hickey Blvd intersection (38ish miles) in around 7:07. Technically El Camino Real runs for another 0.5 mile or so, but one, I was done and two, the section past Hickey Blvd had no sidewalks and no shoulders. Had to call it. I was looking for a place to take a picture for the finish line and thankfully saw this trail marker. I hung out at the Chevy’s there waiting for my wife to come and pick me up. One one had this was so stupid (pounding asphalt in traffic for 40 miles), but on the other it was kinda fun to run a historic route. As I write this blog the day after, my legs aren’t so trashed and no injuries or tweaks. On to the next ultra in a week or so!

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