Salt Point State Park (in far northern Sonoma county, just south of the Mendocino county line) is a park I had never heard of before I read about this race a few years ago.
I’m glad I discovered it- it’s an amazing place. Crashing waves, redwood trees, prairies, pygmy forests. Everything trail running in California can be.
Survive. I have very low expectations for this race.
It will be my first real trail race of the season and while I’ve been doing some hills, I know it’s not nearly enough to properly prepare me for a course that climbs 2300 feet.
Good thing there is also a 50k running at the same time, so the course is open 8 hours. I know I can do a 26K in 8 hours, even if I have to walk.
I don’t know what it says about my preparation that I keep forgetting if this is a 25K or 26K. Not that that single kilometer makes that much of a difference, but I feel like I should know what I’m running.
Race Morning: Waking Up and Travel
Salt Point is about a 2-hour drive north.
The race organizers had some group camping available and a trail running slumber party could have been fun, but it also would have meant hitting and fighting traffic on 101 north, which is always terrible on Fridays. My other option was to drive up god-awful early on Saturday morning.
Neither is ideal, but I chose to drive up early. I figured that a few hours sleep in my bed would be better than more hours camping (where I wouldn’t have slept very soundly). Plus, no traffic.
So wake up call: 4:15, on the road by 4:45
But as expected, zero traffic. But there was a ton of fog, some of it thick (and little scary). I couldn’t help but think of the movie The Mist.
Mid-50s with coastal fog as we started, but it burned off quickly. It was 68 and sunny when I finished with just a light breeze at the coast.
It was starting to get a little hot the more inland we went, but I finished before it got too bad.
What I Wore
I was totally matchy-matchy for this run.
I swear this is entirely unintentional and unplanned.
First of all, I painted my finger nails the night before as part of my little pre-race ritual. I picked colors that were bright, fun, and that I thought looked good together.
As I put on my trail shoes I realized my nails and my trail shoes matched.
Second, my outfit matched the course ribbons.
Our course did one loop following the pink ribbons and a second loop following the yellow ribbons.
My outfit? Pink top and my yellow and pink running skirt.
Don’t all trail runners match their outfits to their course markings?
Song I Got Stuck In My Head
‘Malibu’ by Miley Cyrus.
I don’t listen to much pop music, so I’ve maybe heard this song 3 times, but it got thoroughly jammed in my head today.
Maybe it was the sea breezes and the smell of the ocean?
Two unrelated moments:
First, we arrived before the attendant for the park was on duty, so we needed to fill out the little envelope for our entry fees. I am rarely without a pen, so no problem. The three cars behind me had nothing. My pen made the rounds to help my fellow runners. I know we live in an age of technology, but how did no one else have a pen in their car!?
Second, I realize I’m not the fastest trail runner in the world, but I was surprised the winner of the 50K finished about 5 minutes behind me. That is seriously fast for a 50K.
A dude was following about 10 feet behind me for just over a mile.
I am a back of the pack trail runner; I am not used to having someone tail me like that.
I offered to let him pass, he declined. I tried speeding up, he kept pace. I slowed down, he would pass me but slow down not long after so I’d have to pass him and he’d go back to his place behind me.
He just really liked my pace, I guess.
I was close to the point of telling him to back off a bit as he was making me nervous (I thought he’d trip me, he was so close), but then we hit an aid station and I could leave him behind.
My Biggest Love-Hate Of The Day
The course started on the coast and then did two different loops. The first two miles of the loops were the same and were entirely uphill.
Nearly all of the 2300 foot elevation gain came in those 4 miles (the 50k ers had to run up that section 4 times. Yikes!).
I forgot what it felt like to run uphill for miles at a time.
It was really tough, but it felt good to break out the uphill power walk (OK, it may not have been so much ‘power’ as ‘walk’ during the second loop).
What I Loved
The last part of both loops ran along the coast.
Northern California trail running doesn’t get much prettier than this. Especially on a warm, sunny, clear (or clearing) day with a touch of a breeze.
Poison Oak Report
They had done a good job clearing out the worst of it, but there was still tons.
I even look at poison oak and I start to get itchy, so I scrubbed down thoroughly with Tecnu.
Fingers crossed I did enough.
My Reward To Myself
I know, I know, I shouldn’t reward my fitness accomplishments with food.
But I do. It works for me, so I stopped by Susie Cakes for a whoopie pie.
I am not remotely ashamed.
I felt much stronger than I expected; like I was just out doing my thing and everything is right with the world.
The long uphill illustrated the room for improvement in my endurance and stamina, but I was expecting it. I haven’t been doing a ton of longer distances and for sure no real distance + elevation gain runs.
But given where I am in my marathon training cycle, and how well (or not) I was prepared, I couldn’t have expected anything more.
Would I Do This Race Again?
Salt Point is a beautiful course. It is a bit of a haul to get up there, but it’s a nice change of pace from the courses in the Bay Area that I’ve done so many times.
In future years, I’d like to look into the group camping.
It sounds like it was a ton of fun.