Saturday, November 12, 2011

Almaden Hills Run 50k Race Report

When wrote my race recap of this race, I did so more as a summary of the general experience, but not anything particularly race specific, and certainly nothing that would be considered helpful to anyone looking for trail runs or ultramarathons near San Jose or Monterey California.

That being said, I felt it was important to review some of the details because it truly was a great event. The race was coordinated and held by Troy of Troy's California Trail Runs who hosts a number of trail races throughout the year at various trail heads and parks near San Jose.

While living in Monterey, California is fantastic generally speaking, there aren't too many sanctioned races in the area that covered the type of distance that I needed.  Obviously Monterey has its share of amazing races, the most popular being the Big Sur International Marathon held each May.  As far as Ultramarathons are concerned however, I haven't been able to find too many of them.

In addition, with great scenery typically comes great cost, which is what led me to Troy's races.

Each distance is affordably priced for the distance in my opinion and what's more, if you are an active duty military member, you get 15% off.  For anyone attending the Naval Postgraduate School or the Defense Language Institute, this is a pretty awesome opportunity to get a great deal on a trail race.

Honestly, based on the bargain price of 59.50 that I paid, I wasn't expecting much.  This made what Troy brought to the table so much more enjoyable.  Broken down by category, here's what I thought of the the race itself.

Course:  The trails themselves are very well maintained and the description on the website is pretty accurate, with a fair amount of singletrack.  By my estimation, the course estimation was a little off, but given that my Garmin dumped the first 16 miles of the course, I can't really say for sure.  In any case, the profile for the 50k appears to be about 8,000 vertical feet of elevation gain, which is pretty challenging and sure to scratch your itch if you need some climbing.

Layout:  The course markings were fantastic and although I did get lost at one point, it was more my fault than anything else.  Each and every intersection was relatively idiot proof and frankly I was surprised at how many signs, not tape, were marking the trail.  I can honestly say that my detour had more to do with my fatigue than anything else.


Aid Stations:  This is where Troy made his money.  Every 5k, there was an aid station of one form or another.  We, the 50k'ers were the last of the racers.  Which means that every single person out there had been to the aid station prior to us and yet there was never a shortage of anything.  GU, salty stuff, gatorade and water were all readily available and in abundance.  For someone like me, that was using this as a training run such that they didn't have to stress things like this, it was wonderful.  From a safety perspective, it was great to know that 3 miles away was help if you needed it.

Price:  Like I said, I don't know if you can beat it.  Make no mistake, this is a no frills operation.  I see Troy's charter as 1) making sure everyone is accounted for out there 2) making sure there is sustenance out there to support the runners.  He achieves that and then some.  The price is great for everyone, but simply awesome for military.

Schwag:  I'm not the kind of guy that freaks out about the t-shirt.  In fact, I can't find some of the shirts I've gotten at races and my medals aren't displayed anywhere.  In any case, the shirt was nice and the medal was fine.  Nothing to write home about, but if you're running a low-budget trail marathon and whining about the medal, you might be running for the wrong reasons.

Views:  There were some great ones for sure.  I don't think it's the reason one might run here though.  I also didn't find myself gazing very much either, I was too busy trying to make sure I could finish.  I've also realized that I've become completely spoiled out here.  If I was to travel here from the east coast I'm sure I would consider these jaw dropping compared to something like the Appalachian trail for example.

Overall, if you're in need of a race, whether it's a stepping stone to a larger one or an experience in and of itself, I don't think you can go wrong with any of Troy's races.

If you do run one of them and have some feedback that might be useful to others, please feel free to come back and comment!

By Marcus with No comments

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