Yesterday, we woke up bright and early at 6am for the Cinderella 10K. I realized that I’ve been completely spoiled this year with 9am starts and races within walking distance. Everything was going smoothly until we were in the car and I turned the key to start the ignition.
“Che-che-che-che,” my car whimpered. The Gypsy Runner and I exchanged concerned glances. We waited 1 minute, then tried again.
“Che-che.” We were at the cusp of full on panic. It was 7am on Saturday morning and we were 13 miles away from a race that was not public transportation-friendly. We began thinking about all of our options (who’d be up at this hour? should I call AAA?), and then I saw the newspaper delivery man across the street. I used my friendliest demeanor (while in dorky running gear, but whatevs) and convinced him that he could spare 2 minutes to help jump-start our car. Whew, crisis averted! Then we were off to the race, counting our lucky stars…
We arrived at check-in at 7:30, in plenty of time for our 8:15 am start. We grabbed our numbers, met up with our friend BD, used the bathroom, did some warm-ups, and watched as the half marathoners, full marathoners, and 50K runners started their race at 8am.
About 150 people were registered for the 10K, so it was a nice, small field but not too small. The group was made up of people of all ages, sizes, and shapes. Some looked pretty competitive, while others looked like they were looking forward to a nice hike/jog through the redwoods.
At 8:10 we started to line up. The Gypsy Runner and BD lined up at the front of the pack, while I stood 4-5 rows behind them. The course was a figure 8 shape that ran between Joaquin Miller and Redwood Regional Parks. I was somewhat familiar with Redwood Regional, having run and foraged there previously, but Joaquin Miller was uncharted territory. I knew that the course started with a steady, steep climb and I didn’t want to go out too fast and be spent by mile 2. (see elevation charts below)
At 8:15, we were off! As I had anticipated, everyone flew out of the gates and sped up the first hill. It was tough, but not as bad as I had feared and I even managed to run the whole thing. Go me! I kept up what I thought was a decent pace through 2.5 miles (I couldn’t really trust my Garmin under the trees and with switchbacks). It was really beautiful — rolling hills, glimpses of the San Francisco Bay, and lots of trees.
Then came the dreaded portion of the course: a steep downhill followed by an equally steep climb. At first, I tried to aggressively tackle the downhill. Due to the uneven footing, I leapt from rock to rock instead of running. That was going well, until I reached almost the end of the downhill section; I caught my toe on a rock and started to trip. I’ve done this a bunch of times while trail running and have always been able to catch myself from falling. I wasn’t so lucky this time. As I tried to steady myself, I stepped on a layer of tiny rocks, which rolled away under me, causing me to slip forward. I scraped my right knee and right elbow and jammed my right thumb, but I was fortunate not to have hurt myself more seriously. According to my Garmin, I was down for about a minute. I brushed myself off and pressed forward. A few of my fellow runners stopped to make sure I was OK, which I sincerely appreciated. The funny thing is that a few minutes before I fell, a lady in front of me also tripped in the same area. I probably should’ve taken that as a sign to be more careful, but I think it had the effect of distracting me instead.
The physical pain was one thing, but falling really put a damper on my mojo (Editor’s note: on a previous draft, I had written “put a hamper of my mojo.” Quite a different meaning…haha). On top of that, I then faced the extreme uphill portion of the course: a 500-foot climb over the next mile. That’s when I started walking. To be fair, everyone around me was walking, that’s how steep and treacherous it was. I hiked up the hills, jogged the relatively flat portions, and then hiked some more. I was really happy to get back on the West Ridge Trail where the trail was flat. I knew that the end of the race was nigh. Good thing too, because not only was I tired, but I was dirty and bleeding. “Must keep pressing forward,” I told myself.
Next came a special “treat” that is specific to trail races: single-track trails. When I say single track, imagine a gully-like dirt trail with overgrown weeds on either side. There would be no passing in this area. Seeing the tiny rocks and rut-filled trail, I had a difficult time letting go of my fear and taking advantage of this relatively flat section. In retrospect, it was probably the safe and smart thing to do. There’s no reason why I should risk hurting myself just for a few extra seconds at a race. There were a few more arduous hills during this part of the course and a couple of treacherous downhills, where I almost fell AGAIN. Damn you, stupid rocks!!!
Because my Garmin was off, I had no idea where I was in the course. I was pretty darn tired, physically and mentally, when Matt Fitzgerald’s RUN popped into my head. I told myself, “I feel tired, but I’m not really tired. My brain won’t let me collapse right now even if I just push myself a little harder.” I picked up the pace and passed a fellow racer walking, which provided a much-needed boost. Around that time, I came to a relatively flat portion where a dad and his little girl were clapping for the racers. Another nice boost. Suddenly, I realized that I was coming into the clearing where the finish line was. Woohoo!! I saw the Gypsy Runner and BD waiting on the side, cheering me on. And at 1:23:56, I finished the Cinderella 10K.
I met up with the Gypsy Runner and BD and found out that they both did great! The Gypsy Runner finished in 3rd place overall at 51:36, beating out the 4th place finisher by 4 seconds. Now that’s what I call hustling! BD finished 3rd in his age group at 55:33 (and 10th overall). I was so happy for them that I didn’t mind my own less-than-stellar performance.
What I learned from this race:
- It’s useless to predict a target time for a trail race unless you’ve actually run the course. Remember when I thought I might be able to run this race in 1:05? hahaha. Turns out that was a tall order.
- Just as running tangents is the most efficient way to run a road race, running the smoothest part of the trail is best for trail racing. I wasted a lot of energy in the first 2 miles running on the uneven, right side of the trail just so that faster runners could pass on the left. Mistake!
- I need to work on my hills (both up and down) but sometimes s#@! happens and when it does, safety first! It’s not worth risking injury just to finish a minute faster.
- Hills: some are just too steep to run. Try to run almost everything, but it seems more efficient to walk the steepest hills.
General thoughts on the Cinderella 10K:
- scenic trails
- affordable registration ($5 off if you opt not to get a t-shirt)
- easy access (as long your car battery works!)
- shady course, “due to the lush tree canopy,” according to the Gypsy Runner
- lots of snacks and drinks post-race
- treacherous trails = elevated chance of injury
- single-track portions that don’t allow passing
- only 4 toilets total at start/finish; no port-a-potties on the course (though I think this is the norm for trail races?)
- no chip timing, but due to small field, it was unnecessary
- free street parking but get there early to park closer to the entrance
- no rule prohibiting MP3 players, making it difficult to communicate with other runners on narrow trails
- course marking — it can be easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention. Luckily, I was pretty familiar with the trails in Redwood Regional, so I ended up guiding some 50K runners that had missed the turn to the right path. Poor ladies, they ended up running an extra mile!
Official data: 1:23:56, 6.3 miles, 13:20/mile.
*Technically 6.3 miles, but whatevs.