PCTR Montaña de Oro 50K
Ok, ok, I KNOW it's been a terribly long time since I figured out how to post something new. And yes, I realize it doesn't take too long to post something.
It's not like I don't have things to say, either-- I have fallen in love with a pair of shoes and my new hydration pack-- that ALONE would be worth at least two blog postings! I've run in some great areas lately-- AND had an amazing adventure crewing for a friend... so yeah, I've been busy. However, that busy-ness did not include posting on this blog. I am determined to rectify this situation though, because I have missed writing-- and reading other peoples' blogs, because I haven't been doing much of that, either. I kind of went into a writing hiatus-- both for this blog and for school (it's more of a problem for school, but oh well). I am hoping this blog entry will mark the end of that hiatus.
Anyway, yesterday I ran PCTR's Montaña de Oro 50K. Yes, a 50K! And guess what? Pain-free knees! (I know everyone was on pins and needles about that one, so I thought I'd provide the spoiler early.)
Montaña de Oro is on the Central Coast of California, an area that I have driven by countless times on my way to Santa Barbara, but never explored the trails. It's about 2 hours from my parents' house, and that means I am usually tired of driving and ready to get to Santa Barbara or just getting started and not wanting to stop and make the trip home any longer. It's too bad though, because this is a gem of a park.
I managed to talk my mom into doing her first trail race EVER, so the two of us left the house at a ridiculously early hour. By the time we got to Los Osos, it was daylight but quite foggy. Thanks to Google maps assuming we'd drive 55 miles an hour, we got a great parking space, and then spent the next hour chatting and watching people fill up the parking lot.
The Montaña de Oro course does two loops twice (12k, then 13k, then repeat). Normally I am not a fan of a loop course, because I hate feeling that I have to come into the finish and then go back out again, but for some reason this time it was different. It may have been the balanced quarters, and doing each section just twice-- whatever it was, I loved this course.
The first 12k starts along the bluffs (2 miles of flat! what joy!), then cuts up toward the peaks. The first time I did this loop, I was filled with the joy of getting started and I felt relaxed and very strong. I was quite honestly surprised when we reached the top of Valencia Peak-- I was expecting it to take longer for some reason. Perhaps this was because we were completely fogged in until we reached the very top of the peak, and so I had just assumed we were going to keep climbing. This made for a happy Victoria, as you can see here. Climbing up to Valencia Peak is not an easy trail, however, and the rocky shale around the peak makes for some tricky footing going up AND coming down. Once you get off the shale portion however, the rest of that loop is pure fun to run.
The second loop climbs up to Hazard Peak, but it is much less steep than the Valencia Peak climb. This loop was also gorgeous. Whereas the Valencia Peak loop is primarily out in the open and facing the ocean, the Hazard Peak loop takes you into the canyons made by the coastal hills. This trail as well had a nice bit of flat before started climbing, then after about 2 miles of climbing, a glorious stretch that winds down to the finish line again.
After such a fun couple of loops, I thought the third loop would be as much of a breeze as I had remembered it on the first one. Unfortunately, someone had put much more uphill on the 2nd Valencia Peak loop and I really wanted to stop. I also have noticed that I hit a low point in 50ks right around the 18 mile mark. For some reason, things can feel good at 1/2 way and then 3 miles later, 13 miles more seems ridiculously long, and I'm convinced I will feel like a slug the rest of the way. I'm getting better at recognizing that I will get through this period, and I tried to remind myself that I usually felt this way at mile 18, so to try to stop being despairing and just move through it. That sort of worked-- it was helped by the lifting of the fog and realizing that I could see up and down the coast, and the higher I got, the better the view became.
Once I turned around from the peak and started that extremely fun descent, everything got much better, as I knew it would. Hitting the aid station and getting some laughs in with Sarah before I headed out on the last loop up Hazard Peak got me back into a good mood for the rest of the race.
My mom enjoyed her first trail race, although I think the 12k she did was probably a little tough for a first trail race for someone who doesn't like downhill, but I think I might be able to get her to try another-- maybe Woodside if she comes up to visit? Either way, an absolutely wonderful day! Looking forward to my next race now!!!