A few "members" of the running group I founded, Mid Peninsula Runners, have signed up for the HorseShoe half coming up in mid-may. I have run most all of the trails around this area but not this exact route. I was excited about the idea of running "new" trails so I signed up too.
The course starts in the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve just off of Skyline Rd in the mountains above Palo Alto. From the main parking lot, just south of the Page Mill Rd and Skyline Rd intersection you run south along the Bay Area Ridge Trail. About 4 miles down the trail you switch to Long Ridge Trail and take it to the one and only aid station at Ward Rd. That's about 6.5 miles of running all together and then you turn around and run it back. The elevation gain over the course of this run is 1800' ft. This is pretty standard if not a little low for most of the trail halfs put on in the Bay Area so if you love trail halfs this is your course. If you haven't run many trail halfs you may find this a bit challenging but still very runnable.
|Half Marathon follows the pink route.|
Conformations and confusions; an update to the Horseshoe Lake Half Marathon route
After studying this and other maps of this area all last week I decided to run these trails on Saturday. The first thing I noticed is that only at the preserve map can you find the trails real names. Both online and in the park the trail you start out on is called Sunny Jim. After that the name becomes either Ridge Trail or just Trail. The key to the right path is to simply follow the arrows pointing you towards the Tree Farm Trail. Follow it 3/4 of the way down the length of the tree farm until the Chestnut Trail comes up on your right.
Like I said before, anywhere you look you will not find a trail named Chestnut in this area unless you are looking at an official O.S.P. map. Instead it will have been called Ridge Trail. Which is short for the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Here it gets interesting. The Chestnut Trail exits Skyline Open Space Preserve and enters Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. On the Long Ridge map the trail is referred to as Ridge Trail. Why not Chestnut? The next two trails Long Ridge and Ward Rd are labeled accordingly wherever you look.
I discovered just how confusing this can be for a first timer in the park but now that I know it I am going back for another run on these trails today. I can pay attention to the surroundings a little more without taking wrong turns and back tracking like I did for most of my time out there yesterday.
My opinion has changed a bit!
I just got back from running the full half marathon course. Having only run the first 3 miles out and then turning around I had no idea what I was in for. The first two notable hills come early in the course. They are runnable but taxing. The next hill of note comes at the 4.7 mile mark according to the race website. That is where you make a hard right onto Long Ridge Trail. That trail begins at a very steep pitch and continues to climb for quite some ways. I was forced to walk this. The next hill of note would be at the aid station about 6.5 miles into the run. The climb out of this area is a bit of a struggle but it did not force me to walk. On my way back to the start I noticed Chestnut Trail was a somewhat difficult climb towards the end and that makes sense as it was a nice descent on the way out this morning. The last section of trail near the tree farm around mile 12 is a walking section too. It comes late in the run and is very steep. I ran the course at a relaxed pace of 10:55 per mile and feel like 10 minute pace is possible on race day.
See you in the woods,