When we got out of the car, I knew we were in trouble. The shirt I’d put over my running singlet was already too hot. The temperature, at 7:30 am, was in the 70s. Heat pockets wafted up the canyon. Oh boy.
It’s been our plan this year to do the triple crown of trail races, this being the first, the Tilden Tough Ten. It’s a 10 mile race put on by our running club each year. It’s an out and back course, with the middle mile or so being on dirt.
We walked up the road to the start area. Already chaos had started with the race, in addition to the heat. The port-a-potties had not turned up. A long line stretched back from the two toilets available. We walked over to the registration table and picked up out bibs and discarded our shirts by a tree. Someone walked up to a volunteer and asked if they could fill their water bottle. The answer was no. They didn’t seem happy. The PA system was also not working, a whole other story. Len walked around trying to get people’s attention with a mega-phone. He was telling them about the port-a-potty situation. Right then the port-a-potties turned up, attached to a EB Regional Parks pickup truck.
We settled into the back of the waiting crowd of runners and were soon on our way. I set off at around 9:30 pace, thinking I could probably run 9:00ish on a less hilly 10 miles, but wanted to save some. I’d run 9:30 until the turn around, walk up the hill, and then see what I had left. The plan went well. For a while. The path rolled up and down and had some good shaded sections. My legs felt good and my HR stayed low enough.
As I headed onto the dirt at mile four, with its steeper rougher surfaces, I was starting to feel it. The previous couple of miles had consisted of 1) an extended gradual downhill, although almost completely exposed to the sun and the hot easterly wind and 2) a good sized hill. The downhill had hid the fact that I was baking, dehydrating fast, and that maybe my pace had been too fast for the conditions. The hill I’d just come up had laid the truth bare.
Around here I saw the lead runners heading back. They looked pretty distressed, for the most part. By the time I hit the steep downhills there was plenty of the fast runners headed up. Some of them looked like they were about the keel over. Almost all of them were walking. I knew at least I’d be walking back up the hill.
I headed down to the turnaround aid station, grabbed some water, and then started my walk up. I walked by several people, but by the top I was cooked. My HR was up to 190 or so, which happens, but I was wondering to myself what that meant on such a hot day. I resolved to make my way back by keeping my HR in the 180s. Time didn’t matter. I walked for a bit, even though it was flat, and then slowly picked it back up to a run. It was survival mode.
On the way back lots of people were walking. I passed an emergency vehicle while it was assisting a downed runner. It looked like one of the lead runners. He didn’t look like he was conscious. Later a helicopter air lifted him out. (he recovered). There was numerous other emergency vehicles headed in too. I wondered what was going on behind me. The scene had deteriorated, obviously.
I mostly ran all the way back to the finish, though I took my sweet time at one of the aid stations. They had a hat dip, which was the best treat of the day. In the end I finished in just under 1 hour 46 min. By the end of the race the temperature was around 88 deg.
Although my time was way slower than my plan, I was happy enough to have got out there and finished such a brutal race. Or maybe I was just happy it was over and I wasn’t lying on the side of the trail being devoured by ants. In the end I suppose I’d call it good experience. We don’t have too many hot races in the Bay Area and now I’ve had two of them in a row to learn from. Who am I kidding?! If the forecast is for 90+ degrees when I have a race to do like this one, this is what I’ve learnt: stay home.
From the race we went to a brunch (changing a toweling down in a pullout), rushed home, showered and then headed to Patty’s graduation. She’s now a teacher!
Course map and elevation profile from my GPS.
Note: photos are from the LMJS website