My friend Kate is temporarily living near San Francisco, and in return for showing her around some of SF’s finest trails a few weeks ago, she convinced me to join her for the Lagoon Valley 30K outside of Vacaville. I’ve driven by the Lagoon Valley exist numerous times over the past few months as it’s right on off of I-80, but I hadn’t quite put two-and-two together that those dry, rolling hills that were usually the foreground to the early stages of spectacular driving sunsets were THE rolling hills she’d been running on.
Vacaville’s about an hour outside of downtown SF, so I hit the road at some ungodly early hour (totally cursing races everywhere for completely unnecessary starts before sunrise). 30K is a bit of an odd distance, and the race was fairly small and informal… but I’m starting to find that trail racing in general (at least the ones I’ve been going to) are all generally small and informal. I know people say there’s a tight-knit trail community because relatively few people are actually crazy enough to find waking up at ungodly hours to hurt your body climbing mountains ‘fun’, but races continue to confirm that. I love the friendliness. I love the camaraderie.
Where marathon and road racing hurts, trail racing hurts in new ways but has the added benefit of being slightly more interesting and slightly more ‘enjoyable’ (I use that term loosely. Perspective, guys). You know what is not enjoyable though?
Making a wrong turn in the second mile for the SECOND RACE IN A ROW.
We started off fairly comfortably going around the lake above, and I fell into a steady, normal-paced rhythm with another guy ahead of the pack. After about a mile, he pulled ahead, and another guy came up behind me and went in front… and then proceeded to lead me, and a handful behind me, in the completely wrong direction. I had a feeling it was wrong almost immediately, but we were passing course people (we were back by the start), and no one called out… until about another mile, when the bike pacer doubled back and was like …. ‘Yea… so you went the wrong way.’
I don’t usually rage, and I was kind of annoyed at myself for the silent rant that was going on in my head. I’m not sure if I was more angry at myself, the lack of person at what was a sharp, non-obvious turn a mile in, or just generally angry.
At that point, they had us skip a lap around a field and rejoin the rest of the runners, but I was now near the back and having to do some serious self-negotiation not to just sit down on the trail in weeks of exhaustion and cry. After getting stuck on the single-track for another few miles slogging behind some people, I eventually hit the top of ‘Big Momma’ and could see the snake of runners through the grain, had a sudden surge of angry adrenaline, and just took off and passed everybody.
Anyway, after another wrong turn toward the very end where I was lost in some woods and had a moment of actually yelling ‘WHY IS THIS COURSE NOT MARKED’, I managed to finish, having done almost three full extra miles.
I came in third overall. And first female. I’m not quite sure how that happened. I had the course record beat (had I run the actual distance) by at least 10-15 minutes.
1. I am going to actually start training properly. For being mostly self-competitive (and not really competitive), I get really competitive with races. I like to win. I am going to win.
2. I really, really prefer trail running. I love solid road runs, but trails. Ugh. Just trails. All the time.
3. I am memorizing course maps before racing. Or at least putting them as a route on my phone.
We finished off (as every race should) with brunch, and then I immediately turned around after getting home to join my SF running crew for a Shalane-filled dinner, because running is funning, and running friends are fun.
I’m more than a little exhausted right now. I was feeling tired this week – unnaturally just down-to-the-core tired – and it’s definitely hit full-on today. I very rarely have days where moving is just not an option, so when I do, I’ve learned to give in and accept that clearly there is some reason why my body is aborting all activity and try to embrace it.
I did take Otis down to Baker Beach for a short walk (and portrait session) in the mist, which was probably more activity than I should’ve been doing, because I promptly came home and dropped on the couch for another four hours.
I’m not going to lie. It was an incredibly pleasant day. And weekend.