Campus Run

I gave my legs a break from the hills and ran around campus this evening for 52 minutes (8 miles). It feels weird being able to run at 6:30 pm (daylight savings), but with the warmer weather approaching, I’m going to be doing more late evening or early morning runs.

Today’s run in comparison to yesterday manifests just how much hills slow the forward motion of the runner, especially for humans. Today’s run was easier both mentally and physically but yet I was running over one minute faster per mile. Four legged mammals seem to have far lesser reduction in efficiency with their lower center of gravity and more parallel movement to the ground. Humans, meanwhile, have a higher center of gravity which inherently places the body in a more perpendicular position to the hill. Oh well, I’m glad I’m just racing humans up the hills!


Redwood Regional Run

After taking the MPRE exam in Alameda, it was a great opportunity to run the fine trails of the East Bay. After the test, I drove out to Redwood Regional Park. I parked at 11500 Skyline Blvd and the loop was as follows: Dunn Trail, Graham Trail, West Ridge Trail, the entire French Trail, Orchard Trail (downhill/left), Bridle Trail, Golden Spike Trail, Toyon Trail, West Ridge Trail, Baccharis Trail, and Dunn Trail.

I pegged the loop to be a 90 minute affair so I didn’t feel the need to carry water – mistake! After feeling ok through the cool forest of the French Trail, it started to unravel on the Golden Spike Trail and especially going up the Toyon Trail where direct sunlight was beating me. My quads were also still “pumped” (i.e. tired) from the Foothills Park run on Thursday. I was getting dehydrated and there was no water source making the hill more laborious. It wasn’t that bad, but I definitely finished more tired than usual. The lack of proper hydration and nutrition before the run due to the test in the morning probably had an effect too. Total running time ended up being 1:38 and distance covered was 13.5 miles with about 2,400 feet of elevation gain.

The good news is that the loop provided a great overview of the park environs with the redwoods along the French Trail being totally awesome, as usual. I wanted to check out Black Mountain via Rhus Ridge tomorrow, but I think my legs need a hill break so I hope to do it sometimes early next week.

Foothills Park – Los Trancos Trail Loop

Today I ran the Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park. The trail is a hilly 7.5 miles that is nearly a loop (the start and finish are about .4 miles apart). I haven’t run here in over a year so I forgot how beautiful the scenery is on this trail. One of the best sections is up the narrow canyon in which cascading Los Trancos Creek runs. Another highlight is the amazing views of Portola Valley, Stanford, and the rest of the bay area that open once you reach the upper meadows. Last time I descended via the firetrail and this time I continued the Los Trancos Loop which provided some awesome sections of single track where I could open it up. I also forgot about how steep the Los Trancos Trail is. Right from the get-go, the trail climbs steeply and then the section along Los Trancos Creek really got “the pump” going in my quads! I added a loop of the fern trail to bring the mileage total up to 9 miles over 62 minutes. There is definitely possibilities for extending the running distance by taking the Page Mill Trail from the top part of the Los Trancos Trail and into the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve where it looks like there are many variations to make a 3-5 mile additional loop (11-15 mile run).


This was a highly enjoyable loop that provides some challenging (steep) ascents, but a great setting. I’ll definitely be back here soon to try the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve extension.

Image Courtesy of The Friends of Foothills Park

Portola Valley Ranch

There are so many sweet places to run around here it’s tough to make up my mind where to go! I ultimately settled on Portola Valley Ranch, a spot I enjoyed on my one other run there a few weeks ago. The Ranch was lots of fun again, providing 66 minutes of sweet trail running (around 9.5 miles as a rough estimate). The weather was sunny, the birds were chirping, and there were wildflowers everywhere! I actually designed a run through the area that only repeated 1/4 mile section of trail the entire run. All the trails were quality, including the switchbacking Arroyo Trail, the super fun and narrow singletrack on the Toyon Trail, gradual ascents of the Coalmine and Old Spanish Trails, and a great new find in Sweet Springs Trail to complete the Los Trancos Trail/Sunrise Trail loop. Now I need to decide where to run tomorrow!

Easy Run

The easy run came to fruition today as I ran the trails and soft surfaces around campus for 52 minutes (8 miles). I was expecting my legs to feel stagnant after the 50k effort on Saturday, but they felt alright. Hopefully I will have time to hit some trails tomorrow!

Arrillaga Gym

Today I hit up Arrillaga gym for my first complete gym workout in a long time. I have always enjoyed going to the gym to get “the pump” through some high rep weightlifting. I used to go 4-5 days a week first and second years of law school when weekly running mileage was 20-25 miles per week, but it’s tough to hit the gym when the runs are longer and I have to drive to them. Today I mainly worked the chest, shoulders, and abs. My legs feel pretty good on the whole but I’d like some areas of lingering soreness to completely clear before I resume training. I hope to do an easy run tomorrow and then resume longer trail running later this week. One spot I want to check out for a nice hill run is the Black Mountain trail via Rhus Ridge off Moody Road in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. I have heard great things about this trail and the 2,500 feet of consistent elevation gain will be a good hill workout. I have also not been to El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve in some time and with the dry weather of late trail conditions should be good.

PCTR Skyline Ridge 50k

I was fortunate to run in another great Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) event this weekend at Skyline Ridge! This time I participated in the 50k run. I ended up finishing first place in 3:58:11, my first sub four hour effort over 50k on a relatively tough course with continuous hills throughout (some steep) amounting to 5,190 feet of elevation gain. The weather started out partly cloudy with temps in mid 40’s and finished bluebird with temps warming into the mid-upper 50s. Blustery 20-25 mph Northwest winds provided some additional challenges atop Russian Ridge. There were several points along this spectacular course where I felt very lucky to be a resident of the Bay Area!

Due to my relative inexperience, I didn’t have any specific goals for the run other than giving a good, consistent effort. I also wanted to take all the steps (hydration, salt intake, solids) to avoid cramping, which haunted me from my one other experience running a 50k – the Cle Elum Ridge 50k in WA state last September. At the Cle Elum event, I started out too fast and was not diligent in hydration resulting in severe cramping in my calf beginning 15 miles into the race. This caused me to jog/hobble for the rest of the race, substantially curtailing my potential. I have never had cramping like that so it was something new for me – a learning experience I did want to repeat!

The Skyline Ridge course is divided into two sections: the first 23k is an out-and-back south from Skyline Ridge to Long Ridge and features 2,170 feet of elevation gain and spots where the runner can get into a rhythm in the forest. The final 37.5k involves two identical loops north of Skyline Ridge to Russian Ridge. Each of these loops entails 1,510 feet and numerous hills to negotiate on an exposed ridge.

The first 23k was really nice and I felt super comfortable running 7 minute pace because this is my usual “long run” training distance and pace. I came through the 23k aid station at 1:42 and after fortifying myself for a few minutes, I set out for the first of two 13.7k loops at 1:45:40. The first loop continued to feel good despite blustery 20-25 mph Northwest winds on Russian Ridge. I finished the first loop in 63 minutes, arriving at the aid station just after 1:49.

At this point I thought about the course record (3:55:05 by Chikara Omine in 2005) and my chances of improving it. I was briefly encouraged by the fact that I beat his 37k split time of 2:52:47, but as I left the aid station at 2:50:28, I quickly realized running up the first hill that a 64 minute final loop would be a very tall order for me. I simply didn’t have the kind of finishing strength necessary to hammer out another 63 minute loop and I encountered difficultly with the hills over the final 8.5 miles. Also, due to a change in the finish location, the race directors told me an additional .3-.4k was added to the course (2-3 minutes by my estimate, so it may have still been close). I ended up doing the second loop in a little over 67 minutes, a noticeable slowdown from my earlier pace. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with the result and the fact that I did not cramp this time.

I was successful in staying on top of hydration and nutrition. I took in four gel shots over the course of the run, half of a Powerbar, and this new product – the Clif Shot Block Cramp Buster (7 blocks). I think the Clif Shot Block was pivotal because I was able to consume something solid (calories) and absorbable that my stomach did not object to. The Shot Block Cramp Buster was the source for the vast majority of my sodium intake and it was sufficient. I was intending to eat two Powerbars, but a half bar didn’t even sit well. However, I did feel the half Powerbar was ultimately helpful.

It was great to chat with both familiar faces and new friends at the end of the race and munch on the great post-race food. Congratulations to the other runners who participated in this fabulous event. Without looking at the results for other performances, I can already comment that the men’s 50k was definitely the finest field ever assembled for this event, including Jon Olsen (2nd – 4:08), Thomas Clarke (3rd – 4:11), Kevin Weil (4th – 4:15), Sean Lang, Ryan Commons, Scott Dunlap, and Mark Tanaka.

The effort today was a huge personal improvement from the inexperienced cramping debacle at Cle Elum. While I don’t plan on racing 50k for a couple months, I know there is also much potential for me to improve at the distance, especially in the latter stages where both physical and mental strength are imperative. Thanks PCTR for another fun day in the hills!