Andrew Taylor running Skyline 50k, photo credit Michael Lucid
Photo Credit Michael Lucid

My Report from the 2021 Skyline 50k Endurance Run

Race: Skyline 50k Endurance Run by Scena Performance
Date: Saturday, August 1st, 2021
Location: Castro Valley, CA
Result: 5:53:43 (54th Overall, 42nd Male Overall, 17th Age Group 30-39)

 

Favorite part of the Skyline 50k Endurance Run

There were several aspects of the Skyline 50k that were my favorite. First, the support throughout the entire day from other runners, volunteers, and people just out for a hike on the trails was amazing! Everyone involved in the race made it truly a special day, and I really enjoyed it.

Second, the views and variety of scenery throughout the course were amazing. There were lots of panoramic views of Lake Chabot and down the length of the valleys over the course of the early and finishing miles. Then, runners were treated with a more lush forested section through Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park through the middle of the race.

 

Least favorite part of the Skyline 50k

I truly enjoyed the entire day and every aspect of the race. There really was not a least favorite part to this event.

 

Highlights of your 2021 Skyline 50k – What went well, and what did you enjoy?

Since my DNF at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run at the end of June, I have not done much running. Between then and the start of the Skyline 50k, I had only run a total of about 55 miles, and none of those runs were very long. That being said, my goals for the Skyline 50k were…

  1. Have fun!
  2. Keep my energy up by consistently eating and drinking
  3. Finish somewhere between 5 and 6 hours

At the end of the day, I would say I accomplished all three of those goals.

I elected to only carry a handheld bottle full of water during the race, which worked well for most of the day. There were a couple of long stretches between aid stations where I ran out of water about a mile before an aid station, but I never felt strained on my hydration. I started the race with 2 Gu Stroopwaffels (280 calories), 2 Huma Gels (200 calories), and 2 Spring Energy Gels (220 calories). Over the course of the first 17 miles, I consumed all of that and a few glasses of Gu Roctane at the aid stations.

I used the drop bag service at the Skyline Gate Aid Station (approximately mile 17). I normally would not use a drop bag for the 50k distance, but this choice allowed me not to carry my hydration back and thus kept my load lighter throughout the day. My drop bag contained an equal number of calories (700 total) as I started the day, which carried me to the finish. The only additional aid I took over the last four aid stations was a glass of Coca-Cola, which help to keep my energy levels and spirits high.

I was pleased with my finish time of 5:53 for the Skyline 50k. I could have gone 15-20 minutes faster, but I also know that I would have probably felt a lot worse crossing the finish line. A quick time and hurting were not part of my goals for the day. I needed an enjoyable race, and I got just that!

 

Any recommendations for future runners of the race?

I think the Skyline 50k Endurance Run is a great race for runners new to the ultramarathon distance. There were a total of 8 aid stations on the course with amazing volunteers to cheer you on and provide support. While the course itself is rolling hills (adding up to 4500-5000 vertical feet), there were not a lot of really steep or long hills to climb. This made it easy to find lots of opportunities to establish a steady running effort.

I would recommend making sure you have time in your day to enjoy the post-race celebration as well. The food and drinks provided by Scena Performance were great, and everyone hanging out around the finish line was amazing to see and be a part of!

 

What will you do differently next time you enter this race?

I wouldn’t necessarily do anything differently the next time I do the Skyline 50k. It would have been nice to be a little bit more consistent with my training coming into the race, but I need the break I took after the Western States 100. Planning a few trips throughout the year to Lake Chabot would also be helpful to learning these trails a bit more before rerunning the race.

 

Most important course-specific knowledge to know about Skyline 50k.

Be ready for the hills! This 50k course features between 4500-5000 feet of vertical gain, spread evenly from start to finish. There are a few somewhat technical (rocks and roots) sections through the middle portion of the race.

Skyline 50k Course Profile from Strava
Skyline 50k Course Profile from Strava

How is the scenery on the course?

I think the Skyline 50k course has an amazing variety of scenery from start to finish. Runners are treated with valley and lake views over the opening and closing miles. Then treated with a run through the Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park during the middle portion of the race.

 

How tough is the Skyline 50k course?

I would consider the Skyline 50k a moderately difficult race. Runners will experience a lot of uphill and downhill, but much of it is very runnable. The aid stations are not too far apart, making it easy to stay on top of your hydration and calorie needs. There are a few technical (rocks and roots) sections to look out for through the middle portion of the race.

 

Is this race organized and well run?

100% well-organized event!. The staff and volunteers truly care about each runner’s experience, and it shows from the start of the day all the way to the very last finisher.

 

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I would consider the Skyline 50k a fairly competitive event. The winner this year was 3:40:48 for the 50k, and there were 17 total runners under 5-hours. If you’re looking to run fast, this is a great race for it. At the same time, I think this is a great first-timers event!

 

Logistics – Register early, hotel choices, crewing, etc.

This race does tend to sell out, so register early to secure your spot.

I think most runners doing this race are coming from within 2-3 hours of Castro Valley, CA, and show up between 5:30-7:30 AM for an 8:00 AM start if you’re coming in the day before from farther away, plenty of hotels and camping around the Bay Area.

Crewing is not really necessary for this race because the aid stations are well managed and close together (see below). However, if you want to have your own support, there is access at Bort Meadow (miles 9.3 and 25.4) and Grass Valley (mile 27.5). The Skyline 50k also offers a drop bag service for the Skyline Gate Aid Station (mile 16.5), which should be all most runners need to feel adequately supported.

 

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations regarding what’s available or when?

There are a total of 8 aid stations along the 50k course. The first aid station runners come to is a water-only stop, but the rest of the aid stations were more than adequately staffed and stocked. You will find your typical aid station goodies such as Gu Roctane and Stroopwaffels, sodas, chips, candy, potatoes, etc.

 

Weather and typical race conditions.

Being a Bay Area race, the start of the Skyline 50k is typically in the 60s. Coming from the California Central Valley, it felt chilly but refreshing in the early miles. You can expect it to get into the 80s or 90s as the day goes along. Be prepared for several sun-exposed sections during the last 6-8 miles of the race, making it feel a lot warmer than it is if you are not keeping up with your hydration needs.

 

Gear – Did you need anything special, or is there anything you would recommend?

Coming into the Skyline 50k, I debated whether to carry my hydration pack or just carry a handheld water bottle. I ended up choosing the handheld, and this was all I really needed to get me through the day. I also chose to wear my Hoka One One Speedgoats trail shoes instead of a road running shoe. Oftentimes, I would elect for the road running shoe, but I was glad to have the extra traction on the dusty trail and through the few sections of single-track full of rocks and roots.

 

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends and family?

Family and friends can see you off at the Bort Meadow and Grass Valley aid stations. But, I think most spectators end up hanging out at the start-finish line and enjoy activities around Lake Chabot while you run the race.

 

How is the Skyline 50k Swag?

This was the 40th anniversary of the Skyline 50k. Runners received a finishers medal, a t-shirt, and a pair of socks. The post-race celebration consisted of veggie burgers, pulled chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, chips, and lots of beer!

 

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race, and do you recommend others run it?

Overall I would give this race 5 out of 5 stars.

 

What’s next on the schedule?

I am scheduled to run the Nut 50k on Saturday, August 28th, 2021, outside Roseburg, OR.

Photos of Andrew Taylor while running were taken by and credited to Michael Lucid.

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