Today brought my first race of the season and with it a strong sign that my training regime, and strategy, is on point. The Sycamore Canyon 50k is part of the Pacific Coast Trail Run series and is a very well-run event. I’m a real fan of single track trail and this course was an awesome venue for it. Rob M and Jeff P joined me for the 2 hour drive from the OC to the run in the Canyons.
The race started with the 18k, 30k and 50k runners embarking together. We started down a fire road for about a mile until we turned up a single track for the first 1,100’ climb. I hunkered down on the winding, narrow trail as we climbed up the side of the Canyon under a cool, cloudy sky. Around me were runners from every event, the 18k to the 50k, but I couldn’t tell who was running what. I welcomed the company but not the questions entering my mind. Was I running too fast? Are all these people in the 18K?
As we topped Ray Miller trail I looked to see the Pacific Ocean beckoning us back down to La Jolla canyon, the next canyon over. We were now running down the 1,100’ foot decent that we would, eventually, have to run back up, twice. Once in La Jolla canyon, we continued up another 1,000’ climb, around Magu Peak, through a brilliant, green meadow with lush rolling hills, and then back down more single track with some technical sections. Just as we entered a difficult rocky section with some precariously steep drops, we were six running in lock step. Jokingly I said “hey guys aren’t the views great here?”. And just like that I was tumbling down the side of the mountain, caught only by sturdy bush. As I struggled to right myself, I looked up to see Tom Wilson’s hand reaching back to pull me up. The running gods had spoken. A stupid joke on a technical trail!
We pushed back up Ray Miller, crested, then descended back down the knee pounding fire trail to the start/turnaround. We then had to turn back and up again! By now, 20 miles in, fatigue was creeping up on me. I realized that counting my breath in sets of four helped me stay focused, especially on the climbs. By this point in the race, I had been running with Rob most of the way. We ebbed and flowed, over the hills and down, until the last climb. By this point I wanted this thing over so I pushed up the hill without slowing until I reached the fire trial at the top for the final decent into the finish. Call it adrenaline, endorphins, or just a childlike response, once I started this last descent I ran like all hell was about to break loose. I knew I was in the top five, and ultimately finished 4th with a time of 4:44 and an average heart rate of 156.
I recommend this race. It’s a great single track course with some demanding hills and beautiful scenery. It was a good day for me and it was also great to meet ultra goddess Sue Johnston and Coyote Two Moon RD Chris Scott at the finish, and talk a little trash about Rob with Luis Escobar.