Thomas Reiss - Montana de Oro 50K

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Montana de Oro

By Thomas Reiss

Montana de Oro State Park is one of my favorite running places and is home to the PC Trail Runs, Montana de Oro 50k. My home is about 25 minutes from the starting line and the race starts at 8:30AM – how about that. I get to sleep in my own bed with no need to get up at 4AM or some other crazy early time to get to the start. It's a short drive to run on one of my favorite places on Earth. Now the thing that tops it all off is the beautiful California central coast sunshine, big waves on the ocean and weather around 70 degrees when most people are covered under many feet of snow.

I love this race due to all of the above reasons even if it is not the greatest course for my running style. It's too technical and with 6400 feet of up and back down again a bit to steep for me.

The other two times I did the race, I won and also broke the course record both times. For both of those races I was also very well rested. All of that was different this time. My training since Christmas had been very hard with not too many miles but lots of quality runs. The plan was to use this race as a stepping stone for Miwok 100k in May and my first try at 100 miles in August at the Leadville 100. So that week was just like most of the last few weeks: a day with mile reps, a tempo run and some miles around it – so getting into the race, I knew it would be hard to run well. I was planning on maybe around 4:40 (my other 2 times are 4:36 and 4:37).

Thomas Reiss, La Sportiva
At the start of the climb up to Valencia Peak for the 1st time.

The race started at 8:30AM with about 300 people in four races (8k, 12k, 25k and 50k). Going out on the bluff I could already tell that I was not really in the mood for real racing. I let the two leaders go and focused on my own tempo. On the climb up to Valencia Peak I started passing a lot of the 12k and 25k people that went out too fast, but I myself did not feel all that fresh. After running a good tempo downhill from Valencia Peak I hit the aid station in 1:00:54 – perfect. The last time I did this race I was almost four minutes faster and that killed me. So I was pleased with this time even with not feeling that great. After dropping some things off and getting a new bottle I was off to the near three miles of the rolling-slightly-uphill Islay Creek fire road. Up Barranca trail was a very hard, close-to one mile climb. Then it was up and down a few more times and finally up to the top of Hazard Peak and then the three mile descent to the start/finish/aid station area.

I came by the 25k point in 2:10:42, again about four minutes slower then the last time. I felt pretty good about the time but was tired and that worried me a bit. I was in third place, six minutes behind first and four minutes behind second. I was hoping that I would feel better the second time around going up Valencia Peak. Unfortunately, it did not happen. I started to get very tired and thought about calling it quits the next time I was in the aid station after coming down from Valencia Peak.

Thomas Reiss, La Sportiva
Coming down Valencia Peak for the 2nd time.

My split for the second time up and down Valencia Peak was almost 13 minutes slower than the first time. This loop is 7.3 miles, so you get the picture.

When I came into the aid station I walked for a bit and talked to my concerned wife to assure her I was okay and that I was just having a rough day. I also figured that this was what my coach had in mind with this race anyway. So I decided to not drop and get some good 100 mile training in. I will most likely have spots like this in Leadville as well and thought that some practice can't hurt (but actually it did hurt).

Thomas reiss, La Sportiva
Almost to the finish. Half mile left.
La Sportiva Fireblade, Thomas Reiss
After the race, glad to sit down.


I actually ran the whole last 8.5 miles including all the climbs. It was slow, but I made it through. I ran (or whatever you want to call it) those 8.5 miles over 16 minutes slower than the first time. I averaged around 8:15 pace for the first half and 10:00 pace for the second half. Pain.

I was happy to see my friends and family that came out to the finish and was very glad that I was done. I ended up in third place with 4:50:39 – actually not that bad after all. I was hoping to go a bit faster, but I think this was a good learning curve for a 100 miler. Thanks goes out to my wife and kids for support, as well as Sven and Joschko for hanging out (and Joschko for taking great photos).


Now I am looking forward to Miwok 100k in May.

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