San Francisco Bay delivered another scenic, fun and challenging race this summer - Angel Island 25k Trail race.
Summer is the racing season! I can’t say I’ve been killing it on the road/trails, but I am doing my best to simply enjoy the pleasures of running whenever I can.
About 3 years ago, when I really got into running and racing, there were periods when my hubs and I would run a 5k every weekend! We got into triathlons, finished our first half marathon… and racing seemed like an amazing adrenaline rush! But unfortunately (not to burst anyone’s bubbles, starting with my own), sometimes the adrenaline wares off, the body gets injured, the mind gets tired, and those periods of runstasy (run-ecstasy) somehow come to and end.
These days, I run a race because I really want to. I try to pick a good event that promises to deliver lots of fun! I really enjoy running scenic courses, and although I am by no means a trail blazer, I love running trails for that additional adventure boost!
Angel Island 25K delivered the perfect running experience, and more!
First of all, you have to take the ferry to even make it to the island you are going to run. How fun is that?! The ferry ride was very smooth (no pre-race stomach pains there), and the views of the island, San Francisco and surrounding areas just made the whole event that much more enjoyable, and got me fired up to run a great course! Ferry ride just gave us a preview of the views to expect during the race.
I read a few reviews before the race, not knowing what to expect. Some noted the beginning of the race is run on a single track so narrow you can’t pass or be passed for about a mile and a half. Luckily, they changed the course this year, allowing for more space! However, a good two miles of the first portion are on a paved road, so the race ended up being a mix of trail and road.
I ran the 25k, which was a double loop on the island trails, almost going all around the island. I am not a fan of double loops by no means, but this race made up for it by delivering great views you got to enjoy - twice! The only downfall (no pun intended) was having to descend the mountain all the way to the start area, just to do your turn and head up again. I couldn’t enjoy my downhill run the first time around at all, knowing I’ll have to climb it all up again - and I could very well tell it wasn’t fun by the faces of all the people climbing my way when I was descending.
I had a great crew running with me - my husband Acyuta and his cousin Nathalia, who came all the way from Bogota, Colombia to visit and run the race with us. She did the 12k, it was her first official trail race, and she ran the San Francisco Marathon 5k the next day as well! Ambitious runner, I say!
I took my time knowing I’m not breaking any PRs on this run - it was a hilly trail, and 4k over a half marathon distance. The race was small, just over 320 participants, and the majority did the 12k. We, the 25k runners, got a 10 minute head start, which meant I got passed by a lot of fast 12k-ers during my first lap, and that was no fun! It’s somewhat demoralizing to be passed by people, as any runner knows, specially if you are suffering and know that you’ll have to do it all twice. But that meant the second lap was pretty quiet and peaceful! I got to run with an older gentlemen for a mile our two, him passing me, then me finally passing him, and it took me some time to notice he was actually wearing a NO MEAT ATHLETE shirt! Yes, a man well over 50 (or maybe 60), running a 25k competing with a 29 year old - being Vegan sure is awesome! I can only hope I’ll be that active in his age.
The air was pretty clean, with high levels of oxygen, and the hills were not bad, but definitely noticeable, so it took me some time to adjust my breathing pattern and my stride. My pace was sporadic and I stopped/walked a few times. At mile 11, just as in Portland Half Marathon, I got a nasty cramp and had to walk it off for a good while. It lasted for over a mile, maybe even two, and no breathing or stretching would really help. At the end, I realized that taking smaller sips of air, instead of my deep yogic breathing, helped me recover better. There was a pretty decent hill about half way through the loop, and I walked it both times around as well.
I finished in 2:40min, or about 10:17/mile, including stops. I ran about 9 - 9:30 road half marathons (and I usually don’t stop much). I don’t know if that reflects the challenge of the course, but I did perceive it more challenging than most races I have done (except Denver Marathon and Big Sur 21 miler, both long and hilly as hell!). It was about the time I expected I would finish knowing I’m no hill, or a majestic trail runner. I’m neither proud nor disappointed, but I am slowly working on building my speed up again after taking some time off and injured.
I stopped at the half way point, because this was almost a self supporting race - the only aid station was at the start/finish point. So after descending the mountain, I stopped to refill my water bottle, drink some gatorade (I only drink it at races!), and I grabbed a handful of peanut butter pretzels - now that wasn’t the best idea! As I was riking (run - hiking) back up the mountain, those pretzels got so sticky and dry in my mouth, it was utterly unpleasant. Yes, I’m laughing out loud as I write it. I felt like my dog trying to eat peanut butter, getting it all stuck on his palate. My handheld was about 10.5oz, and I ran out of liquid quicker the second time around, so I was pretty thirsty for the last 3-4 miles. Bigger bottle next time: Check!
Overall, this was a BEAUTIFUL and FUN race, and I was exhausted but supper happy when I crossed the finish line.
I almost forgot to mention one of the most important perks - it was a very affordable race! At $55, I got race entry, ferry fee and a decent (cotton) Angel Island shirt. Enviro sports are the organizers of the race, and they have a few beautiful races every year, including famous Big Sur, Death Valley, Mt. Tamalpais - all the cool, exotic and challenging spots of the North West Coast. I’m hoping to do more races by them!
Hope you are enjoying your summer, and keeping active!
My next run is Ragnar Trail Lake Tahoe, and I am both incredibly excited and a bit nervous, I’ve never done a trail Ragnar before! Happy running…