Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sasquatch Racing and the Bobcat Blitz of 2014

Sasquatch Racing
Sasquatch Racing is relatively new on the trail running scene in the Bay Area having only been in business since 2013. This past weekend (8/3/14) I finally got a chance to run in one of their events, the Bobcat Blitz at Huddart Park in Woodside. This opportunity presented itself when a mutual aquaintance of mine introduced me to co-founder Matt Forsman under the pretense that I might be able to help Sasquatch Racing get the word out about a mid-peninsula trail race. I love my trails in the peninsula and I want many more races to be held over here so I jumped on board with this promotion right away. The difficult part about promoting this event was that I had never ran with Sasquatch before and so I had no way of knowing what to say about them. If I write a bunch of nonsense and hype and then come race day it is a disorganized mess I'm going to look a bit foolish. The other aspect that made this a difficult race to promote was that I got the introduction to Matt via a Facebook message out of the blue that I just happen to be reading while I was leaving town for 2 weeks vacation. I wouldn't be able (or willing) to do much until my return in early July which will leave me about 3 or 4 weeks to get the word out.

For those who don't follow this blog I also have a Tumblr page, a Twitter account (@sftrailsdotcom) and I track my workouts on Every few days or so I posted something, somewhere to help get the word out about this race. Hopefully, in the short time I had, I influenced a few people to come out and give the mid peninsula trails a chance and give Sasquatch Racing a chance. The trail scene in the Bay Area is strong and thriving but mostly in the Mt Tam and Mt Diablo area. I love the North and East Bay parks but I am partial to my training grounds and love to toe the starting line on home turf any chance I get.

Sunday August 3rd at 9:00am in Huddart Park
I showed up at Huddart Park on race morning just brimming with energy for two reasons. One, it was a 9am race start instead of the usual 8:00am or earlier. Two, the race was 10 minutes away from my house so I could hit the road at 8:00am for a :10 minute drive rather than the usual 6:00am 1 hour drive. Another minor aspect of this race was that it was held on a Sunday which is mostly the norm for road races, especially marathons but trail races are more likely to be held on Saturday mornings. I had an enjoyable Saturday with my family and got to sleep in a bit on Sunday and cap off my weekend with a race. Normally a person might be bummed that it is Sunday signifying the end of the weekend but I was happy that race day had arrived. Perspective is everything!

Being the "new guys" on the scene, I wondered how many people would show up to this race. I know that the running store A Runners Mind is a sponsor of Sasquatch Racing. Their Burlingame location has a fairly robust running group and a few of the runners in that group are known to be very fast. I theorized to my wife that "a small group of mostly fast runners would show up". I'm thinking; Matt and Charles (the other co-founder) are known in the fitness community  of the greater Bay Area and just their reputation alone is going to attract some muscle to their starting lines. I was right, sort of. It ended up being a bit bigger than I thought with a mix of every age and ability and even a few incredibly fast runners that blew my mind by the race's end.

Upon arrival I immediately checked in and got my bib pinned on. Looking around I noticed what seemed to be quite a few really good runners, both men and women. I don't know how I know they are good runners just by looking at them but I can tell. It is not that they have all of the latest gear on or that they are doing drills taught to them by their collegiate coach. It is much more subtle then that. What can I say other than some people just give off a vibe and a look that says "I'M HERE TO RUN!" I pinned on my bib and returned to the car where my wife was getting the baby ready for the hike they were going to do while I was out on the trail. I told her that it looked like some strong runners showed up and that we would probably see quite a few sub 2 hour finishes (hopefully I am included in that group).

One of the great advantages of running in a race that is not as well known is that the bathroom line is super quick. As odd as it may seem that is a big deal. You have to arrive early to most early morning races so you can find parking, wait in line for your bib and then wait in the bathroom line, all before the race begins. In other words, big races make me wake up just that much earlier. This was a real treat to just take my time and do all that needed to be done without rushing. At about 10 minutes after 9:00 we lined up on the starting line. After a few race announcements the countdown began and we were off and running.

This race starts out like the vast majority of races in Huddart Park with a dive down Bay Tree Trail for about a mile and then a rolling but fast mile on Richards Rd Trail. This seperated the runners into their respective packs and I seemed to fall just behind the leaders and just in front of the mid-pack. Four or five people were out in front of me. The race turns up hill from there and follows Richards Road to Chaparral Trail and on to Crystal Springs trail all the way to the summit. You run along the top of the summit on Summit Trail and Skyline Trail all the way out to the Kings Mountain Road aid station. So far we have climbed about 1750 feet over the course of about 6.5 miles. Here is where we turn around and bomb down Chinaquapin Trail.

I lost one place to an incredibly strong runner Nelson Kwok at about a half mile before the aid station at Kings Mountain Road. I turned around and headed back down the mountain noting that I climbed the mountain at 9:25 pace. I slammed down the mountain faster than I ever have before. At times I was running anywhere from 6 minute miles to 7:30 pace. I bottomed out at 11 miles and noticed a female runner was :30 seconds to maybe 1 minute behind me. At mile 12 we hit the uphill that would be the straw that broke the camel's back.I began to walk and not only got passed in that last mile by the one female that I knew was behind me but a quarter mile from the finish I got passed by a guy that I had no idea was behind me. Big props to Kelly Scanlon and Ken Weese. You guys paced the race perfectly and ran strong all the way to the finish!

My wife and son at the finish line!
The official race results for all of the days distances can be seen here. For the men's half marathon it was John Branderhorst in 1:44:02 and for the ladies it was Lindsay Mayfield at 1:58:06 which was good enough for 5th overall. #BADASS. It was a great race and one of my best efforts to date. According to my watch (and the pain in my legs) I ran this race at about 8:20 pace which means that I am well below the 2 hour mark. The problem is that my watch is saying that the race was closer to 16 miles long and that my overall time was 2 hours and 13 minutes. I thought the course was 13.1 miles (+/-) and at 8:20 pace that would put me at roughly 1 hour and 49 minutes. Obviously my watch has miscalculated or I was really slow today compared to the dozens of times I have run at Huddart Park. Who knows, who cares?

In either case the highlight of the day was the great event that Sasquatch pulled off. I ran really well against some very good runners and I walked away having had a really good time. The things that I noticed that set Sasquatch apart from other race companies is the extra aid station (2 total) on the half marathon course. Most only provide 1 at the Kings Mountain Rd turnaround. The extra aid station was passed by again on your way down the mountain so even though I did not really utilize this aid station I could see it being very much appreciated by the runners. The music at the aid stations was a fun little extra too. Zico Coconut water, Red Hook Beer, all the usual snacks and 2 massage therapists giving massages at the finish line is a really nice way to finish a hard race. Quite a few of the people at this race were very nice, personable people that I chatted with. It seemed like a large group of friends (and extended friends) had gotten together to race and somehow I showed up and they graciously invited me in. In other words it was a relaxed and welcoming environment full of friendly people. Squatchers kick ass!

If you are looking for a good time check out their next event in the fall. Sasquatch will be racing in the beautiful China Camp Sate Park with the Honey Badger Half on Saturday October 25th.