Pacific Coast Trails Woodside 35K Trail Run

oak-in-fog1I have run all but two of the Bay Area events put on by Pacific Coast Trails.  Woodside is one of my favorites, and judging by the note on the PCT web site the day before the event, it’s favored by many…”Sold out, registration closed, no wait list, no exceptions, no bandits, please don’t ask.”  That was for all four distances–10K, 17K, 35K, even the 50K.

I chose the 35K distance as a training run for the Napa Marathon on March 1.  2,990 feet of elevation over 22 miles means you can run almost the entire course, unlike many other courses with steep climbs and treacherous descents.  I was worried about the conditions due to two days of rain but knew most of the course is covered under a canopy of forest.  I had run the 17K three times before, but this was my first time doing the 35K, so I was really looking forward to it.

The 35K is sort of run in four sections, separated by three very well-stocked aid stations.  The first mile is downhill.  The front runners sprinted off the start line like a pack of wolves.  I knew the trail quickly goes to single track, as is the case with most of the PCT runs, so if you don’t want to get stuck behind a pile of people going uphill, don’t start in the middle of the pack at the start line.

I was surprised to find the trail covered in a layer of asphalt at the 3.5  mile mark.  It had been put down recently to prevent erosion, but it felt very odd to be running on asphalt in the middle of the forest.  This section was almost two miles long, and I was happier when it ended and we hit the trail again.  I was glad to get through the first 10K to Kings Mountain Road where the aid station marks the end of the long 5-mile climb.  I fueled up on a handful of PB&J sandwiches and hit the trail again.

The second section is another 9K that continues to wind through the forest.  The recent rain had caused an explosion of bright green moss on the trees.  When the sun broke through, it created an almost irridescent glow in sections of the forest.  The fresh scent of the forest after several days of rain lingered in the air.  The trail was soft but not sloppy.  For most of the course, it was like running on a soft carpet.

Before I reached Bear Gulch and the second aid station, the lead runner past me on the return.  The fog was very thick at that point, and he made quite an impression as he bolted out in front of me, eventually finishing in a mind-boggling 2:43, or a 7:03 pace.  My Transrockies partner Kevin also past me, and when I reached Bear Gulch I was pleased to be only seven minutes behind Kevin.

At Bear Gulch, we turned around and headed back to Kings Mountain Road.  I hit a bit of a bad patch through this section, sort of struggling to keep my cadence and momentum.  But I also ran more than half the entire course without ever seeing anyone else.  The downside is that there’s nobody to help me keep a pace.  The goodness is that it’s just me and the trail in this slice of heaven.

When I reached the final aid station at Kings Mountain Road, I realized I had a good chance of finishing in under four hours, but I wasn’t exactly sure how far I had to go.  I had run this section numerous times before to finish the 17K, so I knew what to expect.  I choked down some oranges and drank plenty of water so I wouldn’t need to hydrate in the last downhill stretch to the finish.

This was a good place to practice the downhill running technique taught by Nikki Kimball where you keep your hips forward and use your arms for balance.  About three miles from the finish I hit another patch of asphalt.  This time it really did not feel good at all.  After three hours of running on the soft forest floor, the asphalt was a jarring experience.  I could feel it in my knees, my quads, my back.  Not good.  I kept glancing at my watch and knew I would really have to push it to finish under four hours.  I had really not planned on running hard today, but I knew I would be pissed if I just missed the four hour barrier.  So I put the hammer down a full two miles from the finish.

I crossed the line in 3:59:06.  Ha, I did it!  Kevin was waiting for me.  I guessed his time at around 3:40, but he had managed to cut a whole 30 minutes from last year’s time, finishing in an impressive 3:26.  A great run for Kevin, which only proved to me that I have a lot of work to do before the Transrockies.

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4 Responses

  1. Excellent job, Lynn! I missed you again. I was there, too. I did 17k. The first half I had a terrible headache due to dehydration. I assumed the aide station was closer and did not carry any water. Stupid! The second half, downhill, I gained my energy, but I had been still paranoid about stumbling and falling since the injury on last November. So I paced myself. It took 2:03:42 to finish. I really liked the Huddart Park and their trails. I decided to go back there on 28th this month and do a half marathon. It will be challenging. Good luck on your next race, Napa Valley marathon!
    Mariko

    • Hi, Mariko! Sorry I missed you again at Woodside. I wore the bandana you picked up for me in Japan. Very glad to know you have recovered from your fall. Keep in touch!

  2. Hi Lynn, I went back to Woodside on Saturday for a half marathon. I stayed well hydrated this time. What a difference! I finished in 02:05:45. It is only a minutes longer than my result at the same park for 17k (10.5 miles) three weeks before. Before the race I had not run as mush as I should have because of the rain, however I tried to stay in shape taking spinning classes 3~4 times a week. It’s paid off:-) Mariko

    • Hi Mariko! Great run at Woodside! That is my favorite PCT race. My next PCT event will be the Skyline to Sea 50K on April 26. I had a good outing at the Napa Marathon this past weekend but now turning my attention to the half ironman and ultrarunning. Hope to see you out there soon when all this rain stops!

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