Saturday, April 18, 2015

Huddart Park - Take 14 (really!)

Huddart Park, just outside of Woodside, along with its neighbor Wunderlich Park are two of my favorite trail-infested places to wander around. Partially this is due to them being reasonably close to where we live, but mostly it's because they contain some of the best trails in the Bay Area.

I went back and counted, and it turns out that the new Inside Trail Racing Woodside Crossover trail race would be my 14th race in Huddart Park (2 as a volunteer). Most of those used very similar courses, which are famous for a short but treacherous downhill bit (after you get past the traffic jam) followed by a mostly gentle but long uphill bit. Depending on the distance you signed up for, you would either charge back down the hill or head over to Wunderlich and get some more climbing there.

Three weeks ago we ran a fun race here put on by the BayTrailrunners group (Whisky Hill Redwood Run). This race was very different from the others we had done, starting at the West Meadow picnic area I had never been to and using trails I didn't even know existed.

Fast forward three weeks and it's time for a new ITR race here. This race also started at that remote picnic area, and also used trails that I had never been on before. Even better, it included a new park - Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. (Sorry Wunderlich - no sweaty runners for you.)

I chose to run the Half distance, which meant I would not actually cross over into Purisima. But it did mean I had to go up the dreaded Richards Road Trail, which previous races had only briefly forced us to run.

Click to see this larger.
The Half course was actually two loops - the first loop was the 10K course followed by the second loop, which involved a LONG climb that would take us all the way up to Skyline Road. As you can see in the simplified map above, this wasn't one of those courses where you could shut your brain off and just run; you needed to pay attention to the markings. Fortunately, it was well marked, with ribbons, signs, and flour (probably not gluten-free) so most runners had no trouble.

I get this look a lot when I pass someone. Nobody wants to get geezered by me.
The race started on a relatively wide trail for a quarter mile or so, which meant there was no bottleneck once we switched to the single-track trail.

It's not easy to see, but that is the trail we will be going up, with about four switchbacks in a tenth of a mile.

The Half runners had a 15 minute head start on the 10K runners. My hope had been to get to the top of our climb, roughly the halfway point of the 10K loop, before getting passed by a 10K runner. Sometimes my hopes are a bit absurd. In this case I was passed by the eventual winner, a 14-year-old name Ekul (not his real name) about a mile and a half into the course.

This was my first indication of how slow I was going up these hills, and how challenging that second loop was going to be.

Jesse Ellis (his real name!) of Let's Wander Photography grabbing shots as we stumble by.
A very cool thing was that Let's Wander Photography was out taking pictures, and they came out amazing. I love how they nearly make me look like a real runner!

I like this shot showing me stopping to get a picture of him. The woman to the right  is pretty sure I'm about to run into a tree. 
I didn't even know he had taken this shot - this was me coming back below him after a switchback.
I'm pretty sure Ylrac, not her real name, is not really threatening me with that knife. Probably. It does look like Racso, not his real name either, is prepared to hold her back though.
The 10K loop ended by coming down that technical single-track that most races start on here. That bit of trail is fun when your legs and brain are fresh, but turned out to be too much for me at this point - about 0.2 miles from the first aid station, I tripped and hit pretty hard. I had a few new pains, and was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to continue on, but after walking a little bit I figured out that the pains were nothing serious, and I would have get to keep going.

The first aid station, with the Perpetually Perky Racso and Ylrac, was at about mile 6. From here the 10K runners turned right and pranced to the finish, while the Half runners turn left and headed out on the dreaded Richards Road Trail.

Richards Road Trail - appropriately named after a dick.
The first mile or so of the trail is rolling and no big deal. This is the bit I had been on many times before. Then it starts going up. It wasn't hot out, but this is about the only exposed part of the course,
so it felt pretty warm. My watch said I was going up at a 47 min/mile pace. I honestly didn't think I was going that fast. (For you non-runners, a 47 min/mile pace is really slow. Picture how slow you walk when it's your turn to go into the dentist office. Then walk about half that fast. You would still have been a blur going past me.)

Trees helped a bit, but not nearly enough.
The one thing I will give myself credit for is never stopping. I ended up passing several people while lumbering up this hill, but only because they were taking frequent rest breaks. I also got passed by a dad carrying a kid on his back, so there is that.

This aid station also served as a junction for the 50K and 35K runners as they headed to and from Purisima Park.
Eventually the hill really ends and you make it to the aid station at Skyline Road, about mile 9 for the Half runners, and our turnaround point.

Lliw, not his real name (on the right, who was involved in putting together this new course) told me he had been getting a lot of glares from the Half runners. I told him that the advertised 2750 feet of climbing was way low, but he insisted it was exactly correct. (He was right, but man - that was the hardest 2750 feet of climbing I've ever done. For the record, the normal ITR Half course here only has 2100 feet of climbing.)


There was a short out-and-back getting to the turnaround aid station, and I was curious whether I would see Coach Luap (not his real name). I had gone so slowly up that hill that I had to believe he would be hot on my heals, and I was right.


From the turnaround, we had mostly downhill trails to the finish. By this point, a lot of the faster 50K and 35K runners started passing me.

Another great picture by Let's Wander Jesse!

After bombing down the trail for a couple of miles, you cross this bridge, and cruelly, have to start climbing again. It's not steep, and it's not for long, but it's still a climb that I could have done without.


The finish line, finally. It took me a ridiculously long time to get to this point, but I did it. Racso took a couple of pictures to prove it.

Picture by Racso. Just. Ten. More. Feet.
Picture by Racso. If I can just make it over the timing mat.
That's quite a crew you've got there.
Before the 50K started, I told Tnek that my main goal was to finish my Half before he finished his 50K. He laughed, but I had my doubts. I ended up beating him to the finish line by about seven minutes (he had a 30 minute head start, but ran a fantastic race for 11th overall).

Nobody can say Luap doesn't use his head at these trail races.
Coach Luap ended up about 30 minutes behind me. Amazingly, he was not the coveted Dead Last Finisher though. Sadly, he had taken a nasty spill at that point a mile from the finish where we headed back uphill, and managed to crack a rib. Weirdly, he was still smiling.

Dr. Ylrac (not her real name or profession) digging most of the bits of trail out of Luap's face.
Two of my favorite runners: Htirdle, who I have never seen not smiling while doing MUCH longer distances that I ever will, and Kram (not their real names), who always manages to make these races entertaining (and finished 7th overall in the 50K).
I like that the medal and ribbon lists the elevation of the various courses.  They should have a "feels like" elevation listed too though.
This was a really hard race for me. My training has been sporadic, especially with regards hills, but it still should not have taken me a little over 4:30 to finish this. While crawling up the Dick Trail, I promised myself I would downgrade from the Half at the following weekend's Brazen Diablo trail race. But when I got home I realized that the Diablo course is shorter (this Half was 13.7 miles) and has less climbing than this course had.

What's promised on the trail, gets broken on the trail. (Or something like that.)

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A life well lived

Note: This is not a normal running post, so most of you can (pardon the pun) run away now. It's going to be long with lots of pictures. But no running. Or trails. At all.

My dad passed away last week at the age of 78.  And all of those years were lived well, outside of a gradual decline in the last one.

He was born in beautiful (I'm sure somewhere on the city's website it's described that way) Garden City Kansas. His dad owned a gas station, so he grew up working on cars.

1956 - Apparently dad really like soda. Or milkshakes.
1956 - High school graduation picture.
Somewhere about this time dad met mom, one thing led to another and they got married.


I don't know the timing details, but around the time he got married he also started working in house construction. After a side trip working with a natural gas company (which involved checking far-flung wells, which were often home to rattlesnakes that he would have to dispatch - I was always amazed at the huge number of rattles he managed to collect), him and a friend bought a sort of odd business; and ice manufacturing company.


I have a LOT of memories from this place, which made a lot of ice using a process that created 300 pound hunks of nearly purely clear ice. As a kid, it was fascinating to be around this process; there were large frostbitten rooms where the ice was stored, a ridiculously scary machine that would reduce 50 pound blocks of ice into small chunks suitable for a pop, and a huge engine that ran the whole thing.

My first job (at maybe 12 or 13) was working there. Dad, showing a degree of confidence/bravery that stuns me to this day, entrusted myself and two of my friends to work the ridiculously scary machine during the summer, bagging the ice chunks for delivery throughout the western half of the state and parts of Colorado. It was a blast to work in a frosty room while outside it was often in the 100s. We learned skills that would never apply anywhere else, but more importantly, we learned what it meant to have a job and be responsible for what went on there. Even better, it was only a couple of hours a day, so we still had plenty of time to play and goof around (and we were really good at goofing around, although most of our summer time was spent playing sub-sandlot baseball).

A funny memory - when I got my first paycheck I noticed that some of it had been withheld. I knew I wasn't the best or fastest, but I didn't think I was bad enough to not get paid the whole amount. Then the concept of taxes and social security was explained to me.

I may have cried.

Another funny memory - a year or two after they bought the ice company, a new business moved into town that was going to use modern equipment and put us out of business. Within a few months they actually became a good customer; modern equipment was no match for the old, but very prolific equipment.


One of the things that I'll always remember is how my parents would load up us four kids and take us fishing or camping. A lot. Sometimes it would be just a weekend trip to a local reservoir and other times it would be a weeklong trip through Colorado. Fishing was always involved, but so was scampering on rocks and other outdoor stuff.


And as if that wasn't enough, dad became the Boy Scout troop leader, which meant even more outdoor adventures. Looking back on all this, I cannot imagine how he (and mom, who became the Girl Scout troop leader, which led a couple of times to me camping out with a huge group of girls!) managed to find the time to do all this.


There were four of us kids - two boys and two girls - and we were all roughly a year apart in age (remarkably, the middle two were born in the same calendar year).


It turned out that the ice business was a very good business to be in at that time. The railroads did not have refrigerated rail cars at that time, so they bought a LOT of ice for shipping beef from Garden City's prolific stockyards.

Remember, this was the 60s. My mom got a wig and we all took a shot at trying it on. And no, you won't see the picture of me wearing it. Ever.
This is really really hard to explain. Growing up in Kansas, pheasant hunting was a big deal. I believe my mom is holding the 30-30 Winchester that I had bought to go deer hunting with in Colorado. I'm pretty sure no deer were ever harmed by it.
A dad and his puppy.
Two things happened in the early 70s that resulted in a big change for us: the railroads started to embrace refrigerated rail cars (which took away a huge chunk of business for the ice plant), and we decided it would be a blast to run a campground in Colorado.

So in the summer of 1972, we packed up and moved to the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Garden City was not a huge place - maybe about 16,000 people - but Pagosa was downright tiny by comparison - maybe 1,500 people.

Dad chopping ice off the roof. It turns out that it snows in Colorado. Sometimes a lot.
Unfortunately, the timing of trying to get a new campground going could not have been worse, as it turned out, since this was when the first gas crisis got going. Suddenly, people were not keen on driving huge trucks towing huge trailers or RVs anymore, and the campground never actually got off the ground.

A LOT of snow.
And this was when I really started to find out about my dad's many talents.

First, he decided that maybe building and selling houses would be a good way to make a living. I couldn't believe that he actually knew how to do this. I mean, REALLY knew! He built an amazing house that is still the class of the neighborhood, but it turned out that people willing to pay for a classy house were not as common as people willing to pay less for something with a lot less class. And he didn't know how to build houses with a lot less class.

A dad and a smaller puppy.
Then he leased a small grocery store/gas station on the outside of town. It was a sleepy place that the previous owners felt good if they had a $200 day. Within a month he had turned it into a bustling place making four or five times that. How in the world did he know how to do that? He kept the books, ordered the inventory, and kept the place hopping.

As a fun thing, the whole family got involved - this was before self-serve gas stations even existed, so I got really good and filling up cars, checking their oil, and everything else that goes along with that.

As a not fun thing, a business like this is open long hours and never takes a day off, and once the lease got close to ending, he started looking around for something else. And extremely weirdly, he found it in becoming a banker. In managing the business, he had worked closely with the local bank, and it turned out they were impressed with his skills and hired him.

My dad the banker.

Eventually he ended up managing a savings and loan, where he stayed for many years.

I'm pretty sure he shared that cake.
In 2002 he retired (then was sucked back in part-time for a short bit).

I asked for an explanation. "He was the Chamber of Commerce President." Apparently the Chamber of Commerce is a far weirder group than I suspected.
Getting his veggies.
Dad thought it would be fun to learn to weave. It turned out to be far less exciting than expected and he soon moved on from that hobby.
Dad at his next hobby, running a quilting machine. 
Dad in Maryland with a newborn Danni.
Mom, dad, and grandma shivering at the Golden Gate Bridge viewing area.
A dad and yet another puppy.
Proving that he likes non-puppy animals too.

Every Lent for many years, dad and mom would make cole slaw from scratch for the Friday Fish Fries. Enough for about 300 people each Friday. They had it down to a science, but it was still a lot of work.


After retirement, mom and dad spent a lot of time camping, towing a fifth wheel all over the Southwest.


Danni got married on Kaui, so mom and dad flew out to see Hawaii for the first time.


One of the first things done after we got to the island was to hit a yard sale.


Somewhere on that island was a little town that had a bunch of cats hanging out. Dad sat down to rest and a cat jumped up on his lap. Again, it wasn't all about puppies.


The wedding was on a ridiculously remote beach. Here dad is having a beer with the local guy that guided us to the right place. (The car rental place would not have been impressed if they knew what our van was put through to get here.)

Enjoying the Hawaiian sun.
This was all of us in about 2011 or so.
I think this was in 2013, their last visit to California.
Dad lived a great life. He leaves behind a huge legacy and massive footprints to try to follow. And a huge extended family including mom, the four of us kids, eight grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, twenty two great grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson.

Family gatherings are really impressive!

And he will always be a part of them.

That's it - move along…