Training: The Hardest 10 Kilometers

Recap: Skirt and Dirt Trail 10k

A foggy 54 degrees in the Oakland hills.

I love a good race. I love trail races even more. I’ve run the Angel Island 12k for the past two years, but being a Captain with Team in Training means that I can’t just take a week off to spend half a day driving to Tiburon, hop on a ferry and running straight to the top of an island mountain and back again.

But then we got the 2nd half calendar from our coach, and it gave us the option: run the regular mentor-led run in Walnut Creek, or sign up for the Skirt and Dirt 10k¬†at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. I don’t think I’d even finished skimming the calendar before I’d registered for the race. Woohoo!

The morning dawned clear and cool in my town, but within 10 minutes of getting on the highway, I could see the fog descending. By the time I got to Oakland, and drove up the hill to scope out the starting area, the fog was so heavy that I needed to turn on the fog lights.

Still, I’m a stinkin’ optimist, so as I went down the hill to have coffee with my friend (oh, I have to love a friend who’s willing to meet me for coffee at 6:45 AM on a Saturday), I remained convinced that the fog would burn off before race time.

Eh, not so much.

Hills are good. But 9%? Is it any surprise that I’m tired?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice, cool run. What I don’t like is a chilly pre-run. It seems to take me forever to warm up, and when the race starts with a big, steep hill with a 6% grade, the transition is that much harsher. But once I made it to the top of that incline — complete with burning lungs and legs — I was feeling plenty warm.

The course was beautiful, but the weather conditions changed rapidly. We went from fog in the treetops above and clinging to the valleys below, along dry single tracks of pine needles. But then, seemingly without warning, we would pass through these 50-foot-long stretches of rain and, in places, ankle-deep mud.

I have a pretty deep (and maybe irrational) fear of hitting a slippery patch and getting injured. I’d rather walk than be hurt… at least until I get to the end and realize that I could have finished about 10 places higher in the standings if I’d just taken a few more risks. And then I kick myself with a muddy shoe.

Pre-race, with five of my teammates!

Now, remember the first 6% grade? Well, that was just an introduction. At mile 4, we met with the 9% grade, filled with rocks, roots and ruts. About halfway up, I wondered how many people I’d take out behind me if I lost my footing and rolled down the hill, end over end. I’m pretty sure that half of my time on the course was spent just crawling up that hill.

I finished in 1:41. To give some perspective, last year I finished the Angel Island 12k in 1:35. That’s two fewer kilometers this year, but it took six extra minutes. This will give an idea of how much harder and hillier this race was.

The craziest part? More than half of the participants opted for the longer and more brutal 25k and 50k races. I admire and commend them, but I’ll also say this: no effing way are you going to drag me out for anything longer than this.

Did anyone else run the trails this weekend?

 

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