Pacifica is another race (like Salt Point) that I’m treating as a training run with a bib number more than a race. Even so, I hesitated a bit before I registered. A 30k that climbs almost 4000 feet? Did I want to subject myself to that?
I ultimately decided that yes, yes I did want to subject myself to that for a few reasons:
- I don’t get down to the peninsula very often, so it’s a nice change of pace to keep my training interesting.
- Because it scares me a little bit. I need to keep challenging myself, and while I know this will be a tough race, I also know I can do it (I’ve done shorter races that climb as much).
- I’d never do this course on my own, so it’s nice to have a race to push me into it. And since there is also a 50k going on, the course is open for something like 9 hours. I know I can do a 30k is 9 hours. It can be my worst day ever, and I can finish in 9 hours.
Plus, I still have a stash of free race entries due to my off-season volunteering binge, so at least I didn’t have to pay to suffer.
Enjoy the new course.
I’ve run this race before, but this is a different (and much tougher) course, so I don’t really even have a sense of what a reasonable finish time would be. As long as I beat the course closure time, it’s all good.
Wake Up And Drive There
Between my recent drama on the way up to Salt Point a few weeks ago, and the fact that my route to Pacifica will take me across the Bay Bridge through San Francisco, which always has traffic (you can drive it at 2 AM and it’s jammed), and my usual desire to be early, I left super early.
Even with a paranoia-driven generous time cushion, I didn’t have to wake up until 6. That felt luxuriously late for a race day wake up call (my last few races were 3:30 or 4:00 AM wake-ups). I can’t tell you how many times I did the math to make sure it was right.
As expected, there was traffic on the bridge, made worse by 3 cars in the far right lane with blown tires within a 2-mile section (odd, there must have been debris in the road), but no real drama.
Also as expected, I got to the start super early, which is why I always travel with a book! When I got out of the car, my first impression of Pacifica was that it smelled really good. The parking lot is in a eucalyptus grove, and the park was shrouded in coastal fog.
Ahhhhh eucalyptus scented fog! I felt like I was back at Equinox gym (they have eucalyptus-scented chilled towels to use during your workout).
It was damp and chilly at the start (a/k/a what I think of as summer In Pacifica), 54 at the start with heavy coastal clouds/fog.
While it wasn’t raining exactly, it kinda felt like raindrops were floating in the air or like I was walking in a cloud (which I guess I was, scientifically speaking).
The 30k course does two loops, a 21k blue loop (named because it is marked with blue ribbons) and a 9k pink loop (I’ll let you guess why).
The blue loop climbs up to Montara Mountain, then drops all the way down to the coast (to Gray Whale Cove), then nearly all the way back to the top of Montara Mountain and back to the start/finish area. It isn’t exactly an out and back, but it’s close.
A few things about the blue loop:
- We were very close to going all the way to the top of Montara Mountain, but we turned just short. It feels so incomplete to not go all the way up. Not that I wanted even more elevation gain, but we were so close! I would have liked to hit the peak at least once.
- As I started down the mountain (heading to the ocean), the first of the 50kers (who started a half hour before us), were coming back up. They were walking and looked super winded and tired. If that is what the 50k leaders (uber fit, 4% body fat, 20-mile training-runs-for-fun types) looked that tired, I knew it was gonna get ugly for me.
- The flat(ish) bit by the coast was so pretty. The fog stuck around, but it was light enough that I could still see (and hear) the coast and the crashing waves.
- Then it was my turn to head back up the Mountain. I won’t lie, this bit was rough (this is where I passed the lead 50kers earlier). At mile 9.66 (and yes, I did specifically look at my watch at that moment) I began questioning all my life decisions. Why did I think I could run this race? Why do I think I could run any race? What’s the point? Why do we do this to ourselves? The one saving grace was it was still cool and foggy, so temperature was not an issue. This same course in the sun would have been brutal. There was no tree cover, so if it was sunny, it would have been full, brute-force sun.
After a long down-hill that felt soooo nice, we looped back the start/finish area for our aid station and the start of the next loop. I find these courses (multiple loops that head through the start/finish area multiple times) tough.
I find myself thinking: I’m back at the start, my car is right there, I’m super tired, why should I head out again?
But head back out I did. The pink loop heads inland, and can be described in one word: switchbacks.
So many switchbacks.
I’ve been on many hikes with many switchbacks, this one is up there for the most switchback in a mile and a half. Eeeeeeeennnnnddddllleeeessss switchbacks for the final push uphill.
By that point, the fog had burnt off, so the sun was shining and the temperatures very quickly rose. It made me that much happier it was foggy for the entire blue loop.
Favorite Part Of The Course
My favorite part of the course was the bit of it I’d never run before – the bit right along the coast.
You just can’t beat the beauty (and the sound) of running past crashing waves.
On the last uphill push of the pink loop (so many switchbacks!), I got behind a lady that was going just the wrong speed.
She was going too fast for me to comfortably pass, but too slow for me to comfortably stay behind. I felt like I was breathing down her neck. I’m super conscious when someone else is doing that to me, but what option did I have?
If I passed her, she would have been breathing down my neck since I wasn’t that much faster than her. We eventually reached the top and she sped up considerably on the downs. Problem solved.
The Post-Run Fete
The race organizers (Pacific Coast Trail Runs) have amazing food at the finish line. It is different for every race (Salt Point had a taco bar).
Today, Chef Yaku (a former contestant on Next Food Network Star who now owns a catering company) made pulled chicken in a BBQ chipotle sauce topped with coleslaw and a salad with raspberry vinaigrette. With a beer, it tasted amazing.
The Unexpected Results
Pacifica had about 200 runners in 4 distances (50k, 30k, 21k, 9k). The 30k was the smallest field with only 26 of us starting. As a result, the finish stats are a little screwy.
My finishing details:
Finish time: 4:17.11 (by my watch)
Place: 16 out of 26; 2 out of 6 in my age group (2 of 6!? That is legit impressive! Yeah me!)
I finished 16th overall! And… I was 2nd in my age group!
It sounds much more impressive when you leave out the …out of 26, and …out of 6, but who’s counting?
This is a perfect example of why I don’t put too much stock in finish stats: it says more about the field I was with than my performance. Considering how much walking I did, I feel like I have no business ending up in the top 3, but I need to remember ‘normal people’ would never have even signed up for this.
Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I know I could have done this race faster.
I don’t know if I could have run much more than I did, but I could have added a bit more power to my uphill power walk, especially in the last bit of the pink loop when I knew the end was near.
However, this was a training run. There would have been no upside to pushing myself to my limit.
This race shirt was a first – a sleeveless tee! I’ve gotten a few tank tops over the years, but never a sleeveless shirt.
The downside? It’s black. I don’t understand black tech short-sleeve shirts. If it’s warm enough for me to want to wear a short-sleeved shirt while working out, I likely won’t want to wear black, which absorbs the sun and makes me too warm. Oh well! I guess it’s always good to add a new option to the running shirt drawer.
Would I Do This Race Again?
I likely wouldn’t do the 30k again. The pink loop was fine, but it didn’t add that much to the experience.
I would do the 21k (the blue loop) again. It was the much harder loop, but it was also the much prettier loop. Funny how often those two go hand-in-hand.
I have a slightly insane August. I kept signing up for stuff, and now it’s all coming due. In August:
- Bear Creek Half
- Golden State 35k
- The Santa Rosa Marathon (Pace Team!)
I’m tired just thinking about it.
- Top: Road Runner Sports Tank (they no longer make it, boo!)
- Bra: Title Nine Frog Bra (they no longer make it, boo!)
- Skirt: Ryp Wear. This was the first RYP Wear skirt I got years ago, but I haven’t worn it in a while. I’ve lost a bunch of weight in the intervening years and it didn’t fit right at the waist. But I love the pattern so much I couldn’t part with it so I got crafty. I broke out my sewing skills and added a waistband kinda thing. Voila – I can wear it yet again!
Socks: Injinji mini-crew
- Shoes: Asics Trail Sensor (they no longer make them, boo!)
- Hydration: Ultraspire Alpha (they no longer make this particular versions, but they do make an updated version
- Compression Socks: Zensah pineapples! I wore these more for protection against poison oak than any compression benefits. Whatever the reasons, the pineapples still make me so happy!
- Nutrition: Not enough! GU Chews (Watermelon), a Salted Carmel GU and a bag of mini Oreos (from the aid station). I think the cooler weather and the amount of walking I did tricked me into not thinking about how much (and how long) I was running.