Tilden Tough Ten, 2013 - A Recovery Run
After we moved to the East Bay, I started to learn the parks and trails for me to run. There are some gorgeous parks and great running trails, as good and varied as I've experienced on the Peninsula. My standard had been Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino, but I think I've found its East Bay match: Lake Chabot Regional Park, in Castro Valley, There are tons of trails at varying degrees of difficulty, and you can run pretty much as far as you want. It's my standard place for a weekend long run.
Two years ago, I heard about a series of trail races during the spring and summer called the East Bay Triple Crown. Those three races are:
- The Tilden Tough Ten, at Tilden Park in the hills above Berkeley
- The Lake Chabot Trail Challenge, a half marathon at Lake Chabot
- The Woodminster XC, a 9-mile run at Joaquin Miller and Redwood parks in Oakland, arguably the toughest of the three.
I ran the Triple Crown two years ago, and had a blast doing it. I'm never going to win those races -- it's just not my goal and there are too many serious runners around here -- but I like to challenge myself and see how I'm maintaining my endurance over the years.
Last year, I was traveling a lot for a new job and I wasn't able to keep up my regular running routine. My mileage fell off a lot, and my schedule was crazy. I managed to run Tilden and Woodminster but not the Lake Chabot half. I was bummed. Then in the fall, I caught a case of pneumonia, and that took me off of running for two whole months. When I did start running again, I was slow and weak; it took me a full 3-4 months to get back to what I felt was good running condition but I hadn't tested it. The Triple Crown seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to see where my health and endurance are.
Bottom line: I'm back. At least, I'm back to my normal fitness level. I finished the race in 1:25 (85 minutes, for an 8:30 per mile pace). The course is not that difficult for the most part, except for the middle two miles: the course is a 10-mile out-and-back mostly on asphalt, but the last mile before the turnaround is a dirt cattle trail. Depending on the weather and recent cow traffic, that trail can get really nasty and can be an ankle-turner. This year it was relatively smooth, though. The drop to the turnaround point is steep and a decent length, which means that I'm in pain for the climb back uphill. So is everybody else, though, and the trail running has turned me into a decent climber, at least in the sense that I can generally shuffle my way up just about anything, if slowly.
My time was just one minute slower than it was two years ago; last year's time was almost 10 minutes slower than two years ago, so I've regained some good endurance.
There's another thing that I noticed during this race and last year's race. I already mentioned that I'll never win any of these races. But last year during the TTT I noticed that I seemed to get passed a lot more than I ever thought I was. Sometimes during a race I'll keep track of how many people I pass versus how many runners pass me; I'm always in the plus column on that count. But not last year; last year it seemed like in the last few miles when people run out of gas, I would get passed much more than I'd pass others. This year, the pattern was back to what I'm accustomed: as the race wears on, I tend to pass people and tend not to get passed very much.
I'm not sure what that says, except that I seem to be at a pace that puts me in this place where I stay steady for the whole race. Runners who are more serious will simply beat me in the first couple of miles and outpace me. Runners who are less experienced probably start out faster than I do, but they don't know their bodies so they expend all of their energy in the first half of a race and they've got nothing left to finish with. Last year, I didn't have the energy I normally do, so I just couldn't finish out a race strongly, nor could I maintain the pace I like. This year I was able to maintain my pace, by and large. I think that's the biggest indicator that my stamina has returned, which feels great.
Next weekend is my next test: the Lake Chabot half marathon. There's a painful climb in that race, too, longer than at Tilden. I'm looking forward to the pain. Mostly.