Woodmonster Trail Race 2018

In Running, Race Report

Bib #436. Net Time: 1:15:58.8 (19/195); Handicap Time: 1:51:58.8 (65/195)

* Group: J (M20-29, 36 min handicap). Placed 5/11.
* Passed 124 of 184 runners starting ahead of me.
* Was passed by 0 runners… because I started last!
* Woodmonster 2017: https://www.strava.com/activities/1054464214

2-MIN SUMMARY

All races are hard. Some races are harder than others. This one definitely felt like one of the harder ones: I wasn’t mentally prepared, I’ve lost a lot of fitness since my goal marathon four weeks ago, and I was totally slaughtered by the Monster (I had to walk almost all of it this year).

But, now that it’s over, I’m feeling pretty good. It was fun. I’m not dead. I had a good time seeing and feeling trails I haven’t visited since last year’s Woodmonster, and I had a great time seeing *a lot* of familiar faces (and meeting some new ones, too!).

Though I might have a few random races next month (e.g. July 4th race?), my next A-race is the Chicago Marathon. And my next fun runs: the Skyline 50K and Talmalpa Headlands 50K. Looking forward to getting back to training with those goal races in mind.

GOALS TODAY

* Have a no-look race. SUCCESS!

* Have fun. SUCCESS!

* Don’t get injured. MAYBE. I had at least 6 close calls today: I almost tripped on roots and broke my face 3 times; almost rolled my left ankle 1 time; and almost rolled my right ankle 2 times. At least I didn’t fall off a ravine on a downhill switchback this time (like during the Skyline 50K last year somewhere along these same trails)!

* Get farther up the Woodmonster Climb without walking. FAIL! I started walking on Tres Sendas (the first part of the Climb) even before I saw the turn up to Madrone. At least I made it up Tres Sendas without walking last year…

* Try to beat my time last year. FAIL. Last year, I ran this same course in 1:12:05, which placed me 28/198 overall by net time and 88th overall with a 36-minute handicap. Though I only know those exact numbers now, I was pretty sure after I finished that I was slower this year.

TRAINING

I was not all that psyched going into this race. This past week was pretty tiring. I also don’t think I’ve quite recovered from my string of 5 consecutive weekends of racing — at least mentally. Since Across the Bay two weeks ago, I just haven’t had much will (or perhaps time/energy) to keep up a training regimen. I mentioned to May today that, since the Ottawa Marathon, I’ve gained about 6 pounds in weight. My weekly volume’s now dropped below 20mpw.

PRE-RACE

Still, I knew I wanted to run this race again. Before last weekend’s preview, I haven’t run some of these trails (e.g. Madrone, West Ridge) for a year. I wanted to see, hear, smell, feel those trails again.

Unfortunately, going into this race, I didn’t sleep well. I slept around 12:30AM. I woke up around 4:50AM, to get a ride with Chris Rogers at 6AM. He was volunteering.

We got to the staging area around 6:30AM. The gate was locked, and there was no attendant. As it turned out, we were about half an hour early. It also turned out that Christine (the RD) had recruited enough volunteers, so Chris wasn’t needed. So we hung out by his car for a bit, and I took a nap (I was surprised to wake up with a strange dream after only about 20 minutes).

Several people asked me how I felt, before the race. Was I ready? All I could tell them was that I felt sleepy…

MILES 1-2. Stream Going Up.

I felt a little better when the race finally got underway. It was getting uncomfortably warm (for a race), but with the successive waves taking off, the energy in the air was palpable. I felt more ready.

As was tradition, I started with the last group. I started off comfortably fast. But there were two guys who seemed to sprint forward: Crosby Freeman and Sam Robinson. They were supposed to be in the 2nd-to-last handicap group, so I was surprised to see them (in the end, the 2-minute differential didn’t matter; they would’ve still finished 2nd and 3rd overall, despite being handicapped).

MILES 2-3. Prince + East Ridge.

Before the race, Amber asked me how I felt. OK, I told her. “Though I’ll probably wonder why I’m doing this when we get to Prince.”

Sure enough, when I got to Prince and East Ridge, I wondered what the heck I was doing. Still, it was early in the race, and I still had mental and physical reserves. Somehow, I managed to avoid walking this uphill. I passed quite a few runners on this segment.

MILE 4. Stream Trail Going Down.

This is by far my most favorite part of this course: it’s steep enough for that sense of flight, yet not so steep that I feel like face-planting. It’s also fairly wide and fairly straight. This meant that even if I had to take a less-ideal route down the trail (to avoid other runners ahead of me), I’d be less likely to fall over the cliff. My only concern on this section was whether I had gone down too slowly.

MILE 5. The Monster.

The Monster felt harder this year. I also saw fewer people going up the Monster than I remembered from last year (so there was less motivation to try catching walkers on the climb). Though I wanted to avoid walking, I started walking early. Walking felt just as fast as running, and in fact, I caught up to Joe Aman, who was run/walking. For many minutes, we hiked together, and we had a nice conversation. “There’re so many false summits here,” he remarked. “This should be the real one,” I said…

MILES 6-8. West Ridge to Chown to French to Orchard, back to Stream.

Finally, the end was in sight, or at least French Trail. It was around here when I realized that I had effectively been running at my 50K pace. My legs felt relatively fresh, after some 5 miles of “warm up”. My mind and body started telling me: “hey, let’s go on a run.” I probably should’ve done more than 0.45 miles of warmup earlier!

In any case, I had a good time coming down from West Ridge. I passed quite a few runners here, and they were all courteous (i.e. stepping aside on the single track). From my preview run last week, I knew that I had lost a lot of switchback turning skill, as well as down-hilling technique on technical terrain (e.g. lots of rocks and roots). Unfortunately, that showed today; I felt like I had to brake a lot more than I probably needed to. I was just glad that the dirt wasn’t too soft, or muddy (I would’ve definitely twisted an ankle otherwise).

MILES 8-8.5 (END). Stream.

The last paved stretch on Stream wasn’t the best. But it also didn’t feel as terrible as I thought it’d be (from last year’s memory). I tried to push a little bit, and for a while, it didn’t seem like I was going any faster. Finally, I settled into a faster road pace, and suddenly, the finish line appeared. I crossed it, and it was all over.

WATER & FUEL

Chris Rogers gave me a Gu just in case I needed it. Ultimately, I didn’t. But I did stop at both aid stations (at Skyline Gate, and near Redwood Peak) for a few seconds for water. An announcement before the start of the race recommended carrying fluid, citing the warmer temperature. I probably would’ve considered that recommendation if this had been longer than a half marathon.

NEXT

* 2018-06-24: Woodmonster (Oakland, CA).
* 2018-08-05: Skyline 50K (Castro Valley, CA).
* 2018-08-25: Tamalpa Headlands 50K.
* 2018-09-09: Giants Race: San Francisco.
* 2018-10-07: Chicago Marathon.
* 2018-11-02/03: Ragnar Napa Valley.
* 2018-11-17: TNFEC Norcal 50 Miler.

ADDENDA

* Out of the 6 races I’ve run over the past 7 weeks, I think the order of difficult has been:

1. Ottawa Marathon (fastest, longest continuous sustained 95%+ effort)
2. Quicksilver 50K (longest, most elevation, most exposure)
3. Lake Chabot Half (longest sustained climb, warmest)
4. Woodmonster (big climb, but lowest mental/physical effort)
5. Across the Bay 12K (paved, “short” race, was able to settle into a groove)
6. Tilden Tough Ten (possibly my ideal distance, mostly paved, great weather)

* It’s possible that some of the close calls were due to my shoes. I decided, after last week, that I wasn’t going to wear trail shoes for this race after all, despite the technical terrain, and that the speed boost from wearing lighter shoes would be worth the risk. But it’s more likely that I’ve lost a lot of trail running technique from my lack of trail running recently.

* But, I was also about 80% sure that we’d see somewhat slower times this year (it definitely seemed warmer this year). That guess seems borne out by my improved standing this year (19/195 OA by net time this year, versus 28/198 OA last year, with an apparently similar age-group distribution of runners both years).

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