This past Sunday I ran my first 50K of the season (3rd 50K total). My training in January was solid and after a challenging race on 2/2 at Ray Miller 50 Miler (4th), work has been so hectic that I have only been able to get in 10-15 milers for my longer runs. I signed up for Montara 50K for three reasons; to get a long run in with tons of vert where I am also forced to work on speed.
Montara 50K is held in the mountains on the coast that surround Pacifica, where the course takes you on a double loop up several climbs. The total vertical gain on this grueling course is 6,700ft. With clear skies, it turned out to be the perfect day for running.
In the 5 days leading up to the race, I had already put in 40 hard miles and was prepared to take whatever my legs would give me. I like the idea of using 50K’s to train, a strategy I am going to continue to use as I gear up for longer distance races. Fortunately, I woke up feeling well rested and was exciting knowing I was going to be able to push the pace. I had two goals in my mind, first was to win and second was to try to get a sub 4hr finish, an extremely aggressive goal on such a hilly course. The previous course record was 4hrs23mins, but I knew it was soft J.
The race started out and immediately two 13 mile racers, one being QRC teammate Jeremy, jumped out in front followed by myself and a few other runners. We quickly started chatting with each other, where I met Leigh Schmitt (The North Face). When he introduced himself, I immediately knew it was going to be a fun but hard race! The first climb is ~2K feet of vertical gain in 3 miles. Leigh and I set into a comfortable but strong pace as we chatted on the way up. We hit the peak and turned around to head back down, noting all of the incredible views from all directions. I took the lead on the descent and arrived at the bottom with a small gap (Mile 8). I continued to push the next two climbs hard hoping to increase my gap on the others. I looked back on a few of the switchbacks to see if I could find Leigh, but couldn’t. However, I knew he was not far behind. We hit the aid station again (mile 13), where I grabbed some aid and headed back on my second climb up Montara Mountain and as I was heading out saw Leigh coming in. He was right on my heals.
As I climbed up Montara the second time I only had a slight gap on Leigh. Thankfully he was close by, because on the way down he was able to whistle at me as I made a wrong turn off course that got me back on track. We charged back down where I gained another slight gap. As I came into the aid station (mile 20), the race officials confused me for someone else and said I had to turn around and run another part of the course again… Say what!?! Maybe they were surprised to see me in the lead or maybe I just looked like another runner, but I’m still not clear what had happened. It took about a minute to clear this up and I left the aid station with Leigh to face the last 11 miles. We ran together for the next 8 miles and I knew in order to take the lead again I would have to make a strong effort on the last climb. We had been pushing the pace hard all morning (hit the marathon mark at ~3;25), and as I started the final climb I could really feel the lactic acid in my quads. I hit it as hard as I could, but Leigh finished the last 3 miles stronger gaining 2 minutes on me on the final Climb and Descent. Leigh finished in ~3:59 and myself in ~4:01. Despite losing the battle, it was great crossing the finish line with my biggest fan Libby cheering me on.
I did not win and I did not break 4hrs, but had a great time running hard with Leigh and getting to meet a pretty cool dude. I will get to run with Leigh again at Lake Sonoma 50 Miler in April, where he graciously offered me a place to stay the night before. I laid all I had out there and am thirsty for my next race where I continue to try to improve my speed, endurance, and overall knowledge of racing. It was another one of those days that remind me why I love running trails.
On a side note, I have to give a shout out to my QRC teammates at the San Bruno 50 Miler where Dan Decker took 1st, Dan Berger 3rd, and Greg Lanctot 5th to close out top 5. Jim, Nattu, Karen, Keith, and Kay also rocked their way to finishes.
Lastly, I ran in a brand new pair of the New Injinji 2.0 RUN Series toesocks, where I continue to be amazed that in the past 6 months of running/racing in them, I have yet to have any feet problems/blisters. Thanks Injinji for your support and congrats to Injinji Teammates Dave Mackey (1st) and Dominic Grossman (3rd) at the grueling Mt. Mitchell Challenge this past weekend!