|Saratoga Gap Parking Lot|
This was an amazing run. The trail winds through some of the most beautiful Redwood forests the Bay Area has to offer. Vista views, waterfalls, old growth forests and giant granite rocks to run across are what you can look forward to when you run this race. I started out in the front of the mid pack or the back of the lead pack and basically maintained that for half of the race. It was crowded at first as we headed downhill on the Skyline to the Sea trail along the south side of Hwy 9. A short uphill and then you cross to the north side of Hwy 9. This is where the crowd thinned a bit and everyone seemed to settle into their respective pace. I was intentionally trying to hold back because I knew this point to point course was almost entirely downhill and it would beat me to death if I wasn't careful. Barely a mile down the trail on the north side of the highway we again crossed to the south side and stayed on that side of the road for over an hour. At this crossing you come into a spectacular vista view that makes you want to stop and snap a photo. That's exactly what my wife and newborn son were doing as I came running through.
I knew that at about mile 10 or so we would hit another aid station and then move on to some long steady hill climbing. Once you start the downhill again around mile 12 you immediately notice you are in the Ewok Village from Star Wars. It is awesome. Huge Redwood trees and the sound of the Waddel Creek make for a super cool, very peaceful run. The course weaves back and forth across the creek and it is in this section that you get to see 2 waterfalls. Berry Creek Falls is the first and Silver Creek Falls is the second. I had to stop and take a quick look at Berry Creek Falls. I had never seen it before and from the trail there is a bench seat that faces it. I saw a couple sitting there and I looked at what they were looking at and there it was in the distance (binoculars would have been sweet, stopping time and hiking over to it would have been even better).
The last of the hill climbing comes at about mile 16 or so. Those last 10 miles were absolutely brutal. My quads are fairly well conditioned to take a ton of downhill running but this was pushing me way beyond my max. I maintained a sub 9 minute pace up until this point by a fair margin. That was the pace I need to hit my sub 4 hour goal. 5 miles in to this 10 mile stretch I just couldn't take it any more and my pace began to drop off dramatically. The only two women that beat me on this course did it in these last few miles. The aching in my quads got so bad that I ended up doing a fair amount of walking in the last 4 miles and as a result missed my goal finishing time by a huge margin. I thought it would be reasonable for me to finish in about 4 hours. This was confirmed mile after mile as I cruised this course with relative ease. As I got closer and closer to the end and all that downhill added up on my legs my average place started slipping over the 9 minute mark and quickly heading towards the 10 minute mark. I ended up crossing the finish line in 4:43:02. That's an average pace of 10:48. This is the very definition of "the wheels just fell off!!!". I also thought I could take a top ten finish and get a top three in my age group if I was lucky. That was crazy thinking. I finished 23rd overall and 11th in my age group. The results for the marathon are here. Big props to Evan Gawlick, Tim Stahler and Andy Belk. They finished in that order and were separated by seconds not minutes!
In closing I want to say that PCTrail Runs has had a bit of bad luck in the recent past and many trail runners refuse to run their events anymore. My experience with this race tells me they are back on track and doing well. If you have never run this course, do it. If you have a bad taste left in your mouth from previous dealings with PCTrail runs, let it go. Its the past and the future is now.
I'll see you out there!