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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Spooner's Cove Trail Race Sunday, December 11, 2016

On the first official day of Boston training, I ran the 8-mile Spooner’s Cove Trail Race.  The course starts at the beach and climbs 1670 feet to the top of Valencia Peak and then winds back down to the start. (At the the bottom of the post is a google-earth video of the tracks of the race.)

I ran the 5-mile course a few years ago, but I had never done the 8-mile. The hour drive to the park was terrible.  It was extremely foggy on Hwy 101.  Luckily, by the time I got to Los Osos (closer to the venue) the low fog was burning off, so I could see to maneuver the windy road.  The race started at 8:00AM.  I got to Montana de Oro State Park at about 7:35AM.  The parking lot was full, and I was directed to a spot about .25 miles up a hill from the start.  I jogged down the hill to get my shirt and number, and I immediately noticed how wet and muddy it was.

By the time I got back to my car, I only had a few minutes left.  I put on my backpack (which was probably overkill) and headed down the hill.  On my way down the hill, I saw an acquaintance named Christie, and we made our way down the hill together.  It was nice to have someone to chit chat with.  Sometimes I’m a little lonely at races.  By the time we got down the hill, the race was about to start.  My new friend didn’t quite understand how to use the flag colors to guide her along the course, so we separated while she went in search of her color. 

I started in the middle of the pack, but my goal was to get ahead of a few people before we moved onto the single track up Valencia Peak.  I did pass some, but I probably went out too fast, because several of the people that I passed reclaimed their spot before we reached the climb to the peak.  The weather was perfect and the first couple of miles along the beach were beautiful.

As we started the climb, I was getting tired.  I walked as the group walked.  Lots of people passed me, so I thought that I would not be competitive.  As we got closer to the top, the trail turned into a sloppy mess.  There was at least 6 inches of slop on a narrow trail.  If someone would have fell, they wouldn’t have killed themselves, but surely sliding down that mountain would have produced serious injury.  It was legitimately dangerous, and I abandoned all thoughts of competition.  A couple of people passed me, but most were just trying to get through the mud in one piece.  The view was incredible.  As we moved in and out of the fog, the display was magnificent.

As we got closer to the top, the trail became more rocky and less muddy.  I didn’t realize that runners would have to backtrack.  Because there were so many runners, I assumed that there was a second trail at the summit.  That wasn't the case, so before I made it to the top the fastest runners were making their way down along the same trail.  The runners were picking up a lot of speed, and I began to get nervous.  I knew that I would be negotiating very carefully and in the way of sure footed runners trying to make up time.  I finally made it up to the peak, got my rubber band and headed back.  I tried to very conscientious and move aside quickly as the mountain goat like runners skipped down the hill with ease.  There was a turn off trail, so those heading down were able to avoid the muddiest part.  Still, I was moving pretty slow, and I allowed people to pass as much as possible.  I have a healthy fear of poison oak, so I draw the line at jumping into heavy growth.  One gal ran up and as she approached me started screaming “excuse me.”  I turned around and said I will let you pass when there is an opening.  Within 3 yards I was able to let her pass, but it really annoyed me.  If she was so worried about time, what was she doing behind me to begin with?  Couldn’t she see that there was nowhere for me to go?  As the downhill overwhelmed me, I got faster and faster.  I noticed the same gal in front of me, so I caught up to her and ran on her butt without saying a word, just to be obnoxious.  She eventually let me pass.  I knew I was going too fast for my ability to navigate the conditions, but I was so caught up in the event that I wasn’t being safe.  I started to get smug about passing the woman, thinking about racing, looking behind me, checking my watch, etc. and, sure enough, I slipped and hit the ground hard.  The same gal who I had been thinking such mean thoughts about stopped and tried help me.

I was properly humiliated, but I still wanted to finish strong.  I took off and finished the race.  The food at the end looked fantastic, but the water situation was pathetic.  There were little mouthwash-dixie cups for water.  What the heck?  I asked for a first aid kit to treat my scratches and bruises.  A woman pulled out an ancient first aid kit that was a mess and told me to have at it.  Just as I finished the first aid treatment on myself, I heard my named called for 1st AG award.  I couldn’t have been more surprised.  I thought that I was going to finish at the bottom, so I didn’t even check the results board.

I was feeling pretty good by that point and wanted some pictures.  I couldn’t bear taking even a short walk up the trail, so I settled for a beach shot.  Christi and I reconnected, and we took selfies together and pics of each other.  I think I may have convinced her to do a trail run with me in January, and we both left.

Spooner’s Cove is a nice event, but I don’t think that I will do the 8 mile next year.  The mud was way too dangerous for me.  I don’t have great balance, and I’m easily intimidated by heights.  My lack of confidence on parts of the trail wasn’t just a hazard to myself, but really to others as well.  I’ll stick with the 5 mile next year. 

Google Earth Video of Garmin Tracks

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