Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mother’s Day Half Marathon race report

The Mother’s Day Run Half Marathon near El Sobrante, CA is one of many races celebrating Mother’s Day couple weekends ago. This one, run within the San Pablo Reservoir Recreation Area, was a very nice, low-keyed, local race. With only 26 runners for the Half and 120 some runners total, including those for the companion 5M and 5K races, the race experience was at the opposite extreme from that of a big city race. Except for the first couple miles and around the turnaround point of the out-and-back course, I was mostly running by myself. Without other runners around me, my pace was probably somewhat slower than it would have been otherwise.

The race was well organized and the course was well marked, with planted arrows and signs and, on the ground, many pounds of organic flour (I think that’s what it was)! This was my second trail Half. As with the first one (Dances with Dirt at Devil's Lake), this course was a lot more varied and scenic than are typical urban road races. The first ~5 miles of the Half course was along the Old San Pablo Dam Road, which is also a good part of the Old San Pablo Trail. With the rough and uneven surface, several dry stream bed crossings, one cattle guard (crossed twice), and various other interesting terrain conditions, careful foot landings are essential!

The most challenging section of the course was the steep path up to the top of the Briones Reservoir Dam. For two particularly steep stretches of the path, where my forward speed was basically that of a walk, I just walked. After a scenic round-trip across the top of the dam, the return trip down from the dam was just as challenging—though for different reasons! This is where I definitely need more training—running down steep slopes without slowing too much. Discretion being the better part of valor, I ran down very conservatively, giving up a minute or two, to not chance a catastrophic fall! With each step, I was keenly and nervously aware of the IT bands doing their thing around the knees.

My time of 1:50:30 was about 4 minutes slower than my PR. But, for a trail Half, I was fairly satisfied. It was still my second fastest Half. I very easily won the Great Grand Master division, as well as my age group. ... Well, OK, it would have been really hard to not win both, my being the only one in both groups! J I did, however, finish 5th overall (out of 26) and 4th in the men’s division. I still started out at too fast a pace, which might have led to the slight slowdown during the second half of the course, though not as much as that at the Frederick Half a week earlier. The bump in pace around Miles 5 and 6 corresponds to the trek up the dam.

This was one of those “races of opportunity,” i.e., I was already going to be in the general area, so I just looked around for a race that was nearby and on a date that fit my schedule. It was a great experience. Excellent race director, friendly volunteers, lots of food. If a future “opportunity” for this race comes up, I definitely would run it again.

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