My third time running Pacific Coast Trail Runs’ (PCTR) Skyline to the Sea 50k was my favorite! With perfect weather (sunshine and 60’s), great trail conditions, and phenomenal race organization, all the pieces came together for a fantastic time on some of the most inspiring trails anywhere.
Berry Creek Falls from Skyline to the Sea Trail
The Skyline to the Sea Trail is a gem travelling from Saratoga Gap along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains (2,650 ft) to the Pacific Ocean at Waddell Beach. Along the way, it passes through diverse ecosystems, including fir and hardwood forest, knobcone pine over exposed sandstone, and the majestic old growth redwoods of Big Basin State Park, which comprise the most impressive stand of old growth redwoods south of Humboldt Redwoods. The 50k includes an additional 5 mile loop within Big Basin that includes the steepest hill on the course with great views from Ocean View Summit to the Pacific Ocean. While this aesthetic point-to-point is net downhill, there is still over 3,000 ft of climbing and 5,600 ft of descent, often on technical trails which can be tiring.
Having fun at the finish area!
On my past two efforts here, I started out strong only to have some cramping on the long fireroad finish. This time I decided to run more comfortable at the beginning to save myself for the stretch. My time through the China Grade aid station (18k) were very similar to the prior years, but I then allowed myself to get into a rhythm. It helped to descend into the lush and refreshing old growth redwood forests of Big Basin. I felt good coming into the Gazos Creek aid station (25.5k) near the park headquarters and knew I had a great chance to finally run up the entire hill to Ocean View Summit (the past two times I have had to walk portions of this hill). When I crested the hill without walking, my spirits were lifted and I cruised down the Meteor Trail, which is a fantastic descent, but I made sure to not extend myself too much. Back on the Skyline to the Sea Trail and through the Gazos aid station the second time (32.7k), there is one major hill remaining and then it is mostly downhill. I felt good all the way down the single track to Berry Creek Falls with the lushness and beauty of my surroundings spurring me forward.
I felt relatively strong for most of the fireroad section and only began to feel fatigued with a couple miles to go to the finish. The final stretch along the dirt road in the sun is never easy, but I knew what to expect on my third time running this course and the finish line came soon enough. I crossed the line 3:25:17, a substantial overall PR for 50k and considerably faster than last year’s CR that I set (3:38:05). While the finish of the course was changed resulting in a distance that is 0.6 km shorter (~2.5 minutes) than last year, the time was nonetheless a large improvement and would be under 3:30 and well under 7:00 per mile pace regardless. On the women’s side, trail running superstar Caitlin Smith ran very close to a sub 4:00 performance, coming in at 4:00:48 – congrats on the PR and CR bettering her own record from last year by nearly 17 minutes!
Rancho Del Oso
As usual, PCTR put on a fantastic event with flawless course marking, impeccable aid stations, and a great finish area. It was all smiles from participants at the finish area, who relaxed in the spring sunshine enjoying post-race snacks, soup and chilli, and the wonderfully designed Patagonia Capilene long sleeve shirts. A huge thanks to all the volunteers and helpers who made this event such a resounding success. Also, I’d like to mention the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Association, whose hard work the past few weekends cleared the trail of dozens of downed trees from winter storms. While we still had about a dozen trees to crawl under, over, or around, their work made the run considerably easier – thank you for maintaining these beautiful trails! Congrats to all 230+ participants in the marathon and 50k!
- La Sportiva Fireblades – Light, nimble, great traction on all surfaces of this course.
- First Endurance EFS Fruit Punch – The new formulation is awesome – quick dissolving, effective, and tasty. I haven’t tried liquid calories until recently, but I think the calories and electrolytes consumed early on to supplement gels and chews helped.
- Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus – The classic handheld water bottle that gets the job done every time.
- PowerBar Berry Blast Fruit Smoothie Energy Bar – Tasty pre-race fuel to energize.
Waddell Beach from the finish area
Comparison between 2008 and 2010 times: