Skyline to the Sea 50K

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Sorry for the long posting gap... Was busy working on a paper.

This morning I ran the Skyline to the Sea 50 km trail run. This was my first ultra of any kind and only my second trail race, so it was an interesting challenge. The Skyline to the Sea trail is net about 2500 ft descent (with about 3000 ft of ascent), so I figured this would be a good race to start with.

First impressions:

    The course was surprisingly technical. I do a lot of trail running, but mostly it's fire-road style trails like Rancho San Antonio. Even when there is some single-track, it's relatively flat dirt, so you can mostly run without paying much attention to where you step. This trail, however, while flat some of the time had significant stretches with roots, large rocks, etc. that you had to really slow down or even walk over if you wanted to avoid tripping.
  • A lot of trail runners report walking the uphills. I've done enough long distance races (1/2 Ironman and Ironman) that I felt I could probably get away with running them. This wasn't a disaster and I did pass a number of people on the uphills, but I didn't put that much distance on them (in some cases, the same people passed me on the downhill) and I suspect it took more out of me than it was worth. I also suspect that running the uphills wouldn't be scalable to 50 miles or even 50 K races with more climbing.
  • Hydration and nutrition become a lot more important in races like this (indeed any long distance race) because aid stations are fairly far apart (and constrained by which parts of the trail are easily accessible) and times are a lot slower for the reasons I indicated above.
  • Bees. There were lots of bees. You'd be running along just fine and the people in front of you were screaming and hitting themselves. I got stung about 6 times.
  • The race was reasonably well run, but there were two logistical issues that could have been better. First, it would have been nice to have mile markers. The trail was well marked, but without any distances, so you didn't know how far you had gone. Second, there weren't enough porta-potties at the race start; only three for 200 entrants. I spent a long time waiting in line for one and almost missed the race start. As it was, I was near the end of the start line and spent most of the race trying to pass slower people on the singletrack trails.

Results: 5:15ish. 33rd, 15th in my age group. As I recall, the winning time was 3:38.


That's a great trail, and this is a good time of year to do it. Judy (my girlfriend) walked about the lower two-thirds of it (starting at Big Basin) a few years ago, and it took all day. They ended by splashing around in the water at the beach.

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