Sunday, January 29th
After several weeks in a row of educational posts, I decided to change gears to a more personal/community post. This past weekend, I participated in the 2017 Turner’s Tuff 10 at Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern near Jamestown, CA. The event was free for all participants. However, Dusty Bottoms Trail Runners collected donations for the Center for Human Services. I managed to make a small donation myself despite being tight on money toward the end of the month. The event was all about raising awareness and having fun on the trails with fellow trail runners.
Before each race, I like to make a few comments about how the week went. Later, this allows me to reflect on the positive and challenging situations that may have contributed to the outcome of the event. Even with a small race such as Turner’s Tuff 10, I knew there was something I learn or realize about my training.
For this particular race week, life stayed pretty calm. I was able to find someone to watch Samuel for a few hours each day from Tuesday through Friday. Finding help with Samuel gave me some extra time to run and complete other tasks related to coaching and life in general.
My running miles went from a total of 10.7 the week before to approaching 30 miles for this race week. I also maintained my three days per week of strength training, which totaled another 60 minutes of workout time. With a little less stress throughout the week, I had a better appetite as well, and it showed in my energy levels. Despite the sharp increase in mileage and strength training, my legs felt rested at the start line. There was a slight concern in some right knee pain that began on Thursday afternoon after my run and strength workout. I didn’t think it was anything serious, so I figured I would see how it would play out on Sunday.
The Area and Course
The Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern is about 40 minutes outside of Modesto, and it is part of the Red Hills Mountain Range. Elevations range from 750 to 1,750 feet above sea level. The slopes of the actual hills range from about 30 to 75%. All the hill climbs are short and steep. Throughout the area’s long history, it has been used by Native Americans, Gold Rushers, and filmmakers (scenes from North of the Rio Grande and Back to the Future).
Today, the Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern is managed by the Beauru of Land Management and features nearly 7,100 acres of land. The goal of the public area is to protect 250 species of native plants, the rare serpentine soils, a rare minnow known as the Red Hills roach, and the winter habitat for many bald eagles. The area gets its name from the iron-rich soil.
The Turner’s Tuff 10 race course was a lollipop shaped course passing through an aid station twice along the way. Besides the rocky terrain, the total race distance was 11.25 miles. Adding to the event name of Turner’s Tuff 10. The other reason for the name is probably from the rocky rolling hills and scattered stream crossings throughout the course. It was critical to pay close attention to trail markings as there were trails everywhere.
Let the Race Begin
I arrived at the start area around 8:00 AM. Immediately, I realized that I had forgotten a handheld water bottle. Thankfully, it was not a long run, and there would be a chance for aid along the course if needed. There also would be no clock time for Turner’s Tuff 10. Runners were to time themselves if they wanted to know their results. Being a free event, this was completely understandable, and it took me back to the grass roots of trail running.
As the race began, I settled into a comfortable pace behind the top four runners. I had jogged about 1-mile before the start, but I knew this was not enough to warm the legs up to run any quicker. In the first couple of miles, I stumbled around for good footing in the rocks and felt my lungs working with each short but steep climb. Around mile two, I moved past Sean before a steady downhill stretch that ended with one of many stream crossings along the route. Then the course proceeded with about a quarter mile climb that was just enough of a grade to force me into a walk for about 25 strides. Up ahead, I could see the top three runners, so I forced myself back into a run.
Up Hill Grind
I was slowly coming into full stride around my 3.5 and the first aid station. Before the day began, I figured I would get a drink both times past the station. However, when I reached this point, the next runner was just a few seconds in front of me, and I did not feel all that thirsty. I pushed on as the singletrack trail gave way to a wide gravel path that made running much easier. Once past the next runner, I could feel him sitting in my shadow, so I decided to hammer the pace uphill for 2-minutes. The additional effort separated the two of us for good. The extra effort also brought me up to around 30 seconds behind the second-place runner, Peter.
From the aid station at mile 3.5 to mile 5, the course was a steady uphill grind on the gravel path. There were several times that I wanted to take a short walking break. However, each time I had the thought, my mind and legs rallied to keep pushing forward. The course eventually turned back into a single-track trail and shortly after that I managed to come up behind Peter. He recognized that I was running well and stepped off the trail to let me pass.
Now firmly in second place, my goal turned to finishing off a solid effort for the day. After all, it was Jon Olsen in first, and there was no catching him. At about mile 6.5, the course took a hard left turn back out onto the gravel path. I would now be retracing my steps back to the start/finish area. For the next two miles, the course was mostly downhill. I leaned into the pace with back-to-back 7:44 and 7:43 miles. There was extra motivation coming from passing other runners that were still on their way out. Each time a runner passed by words of encouragement were exchanged, and it helped keep my mind of the tired feeling filling my legs.
With 3.5 miles to go, I reached the aid station once again. This time I needed to get a drink. I had started the day wearing a beanie, arm warmers, and gloves. The gloves had come off at mile 2, and the arm warmers were pushed down around my wrists by mile 5. It was getting warm on the course, so the drink of water and a 30-second pause felt amazing. Several other runners were at the aid station on their way out on the course. These were the last runners I saw on the trail till the finish line.
Over the last 3-miles, my pace faded with each mile. My motivation to push hard let up with the trail now quiet and the rocky technical terrain under my feet. I could still feel the strength in my legs, but my endurance was lacking. With several rolling hills in the final two miles, I decided to ease off more on the uphills and continue to push hard on the downhills and a few flat sections.
With a quarter mile to go the finish line came into sight. I cruised down the final rocky slope to the sound of cheers from Dusty Bottoms members. I stopped my watch at 1:32:57 for 11 miles (8:25 per mile pace). The shakiness in my legs as I stood at the finish line told me it was all I had for the day and I was happy with it.
Within a few minutes of crossing the finish line, I changed my shoes, shirt, and hat. Then, I did something completely different. Instead of hanging out at the finish line to chat with others, I grabbed my wife’s camera out of the car and hiked back up the trail about a half mile with a grilled cheese sandwich and a bottle of Tailwind Nutrition in hand.
I set many goals this year, in particular, I wanted to get back to being a better ambassador for the sport of trail running. From July 2015 through the end of 2016, I focused too much on my performance and let my lack of achievements eat away at my enjoyment. Coupled with lots of life changes, I had lost my passion for the sport of trail running. This year, I was going to race less, but enjoy and share more!
I sat on the trail in the sun for just over an hour and thought about my training, my goals, and my performance on the day. The solitude of the trail on such a beautiful day was the perfect setting for positive reflection. In between my thoughts, I shot some photos of runners as they passed by on their way to the finish line.
Great job to Dusty Bottoms Trail Runners for the fun, but challenging event! I will be using the trails of Red Hills many times in the near future to prepare for other events, so thank you for the introduction to the area. On to FOURmidable 50K in Auburn on February 18th!