Tag Archives: Chino Hills

Golden Gate 50K – 2019

February 9, 2019

As I mentioned on the Chino Hills 50K post, I had to make some substitutions on my ultras in order to hit #100 at Way Too Cool next month.  I took the opportunity to get a discounted entry to the Coastal Trail Runs Golden Gate 50K on Black Friday (I think 20% off and opted out of the shirt to save $5).  Normally I would be running the Avalon 50M in January, but it hit on my parents’ 50th anniversary weekend (not feasible to run 50 miles in SoCal and still make the anniversary party on the same day).

Even though I am doing an alternative, I am pretty familiar with these trails, which have been part of the Headlands 50M, NorthFace 50M, and the Miwok 100K.

The weather forecast isn’t great and it rained quite a bit last night, so I gave myself a little extra time to get to the start and I am one of the first ones to arrive,even before the bib distribution people.  The area where they’ve set up the bib pick-up is somewhat flooded and since the race doesn’t start for another 45 minutes, I jump in and help them get everything set up.  This includes hanging signage (I think I have an advantage) and helping them get pins and bibs in order by race (they have 5M, half, 30K, full, and 50K).

The 30K and 50K courses start together at 8am, and then the half and full at 8:15, and the 5M at 8:30.  The 50K course is the 30K course (which is the half marathon course plus an extra loop), followed by the half marathon loop again.  (It makes sense to start the 30K and 50K together so that both groups get directed down the extra loop and the full and half do not.)

I start towards the back because the initial course is mostly uphill and I am planning on walking the hills and don’t want people to be annoyed by passes on single track.  There are a number of paved switchbacks until we get on the single-track, and the weather is overcast, but not too cold, though I do have my blue windbreaker on in the event it starts raining.

Trail meanders for a while around until the switchbacks into Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 4.1.  This is probably my favorite part of the course because it’s graded for horses (not too steep or rocky) and the stable is a visible landmark.  I’m doing well on overall pace (under 14/mile), and know I will lose some time on the extra loop (aka Pirates Cove).

I don’t spend a lot of time at the aid station and head down the road towards the water.  At a certain point, you get within about 100 yards of the Cove, where the water is calm.  Later, when the trail is higher up, you can see the bigger breakers in the Pacific.

The course today is the reverse of the way I’ve run Pirates Cove before, so it begins with winding around, heading down on single-track, and then climbing back out on the uneven wooden stairs.  I’m just grateful that it’s not raining because the wood and the mud can get quite slick.  It’s already bad enough from yesterday’s rain.

The end of this section pops back down by the serene cove I mentioned before and I head back up the paved road to Tennessee Valley aid station (Part Deux) and will head off now towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the third aid station.  This section is similar to part of the Headlands 50M course, especially the windy section with stairs and rope handrails.  When I get to this third aid station (Conzelman), I will have a better idea of how much time I have to get back to the start to make the 5 hour, ~19 mile cutoff.

The trail continues down to the road, crosses over, and continues on a trail that parallels the road, and goes up, up, up.  By now, it’s started to rain lightly and I keep trying to push the pace so that I have enough time, but getting to the point where I am questioning my pace.  I thought I was at least going the pace through Pirates Cove (about 17 minutes/mile), so for 4.5 miles, I should be there around 75 miles and 90 minutes have passed.  Also, I don’t remember from the map that the trail paralleled the road or went as close as we did to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Finally!  I get to the aid station, but now I have 59 minutes for 4.5 miles.  Granted, there is a lot of downhill, but I’d have to go at the fastest pace I’ve managed all day (around 13:15/mile).  I’m definitely gonna give it my best shot.

So the trail is now a wide fire-trail and heading downhill and is a bit muddy with water streaming down the side.  I just keep shuffle-jogging down the hill hoping that it will be enough.  But, to make matters worse, just when I think I’m getting to the final stretch, the course turns and heads up a small switch-back.  On any other day, this would not be a problem, but the small descent hill is super muddy, and the last thing I want is falling and then having to run another 13 miles!

So I try and take easy and start to slip and dig my feet into the side of the hill causing ankle and foot cramps.  Yack!!  But I do safely make it to the bottom.  But the cramping doesn’t help my attempt to make the cutoff.

Now the home stretch, which is mostly straight and flat.  I know it’s going to be close and I am already rehearsing my sob story in case I don’t make it.  You know, ‘four hours, 13 miles, I can do that, easy,’ but will also understand if I am not allowed to continue.  Dang it.

Despite my hustling, I come in at 5:01:47, and still ask if I continue.  To my surprise, the RD says yes, and then explains that they marked the course incorrectly.  At the spot with the ropes and the wind, the course should have gone straight over the hill and not down and then up the road.  In fact, it added a mile to the course, so I have made the cutoff after all (in a sense).

There are 3 or 4 people behind me that make it through the cutoff as well, and so, we all begin heading up the hill once more.  I am struggling quite a bit because of the cramps from the muddy hill and also because I really pushed the pace to come close to this cutoff (13:20) and I don’t have a lot left.

So, once again up the hill, around the coast, and down to Tennessee Valley Aid station.  My pace was almost 20 minutes per mile, and I am sorta back on pace (Pirates Cove loop took me 93 minutes, minus the hour less I have, minus the 26 minutes I lost on the last section, equals 7 spare minutes).

Now back through the same section, though when I get to the ropes section, the trail turns left and crosses over the hill and I get to the aid station so much more quickly.  Rain is starting to come down again.  I have 72 minutes to get to the end this time (which sounds like a lot of time, but not at the end of 30+ miles).

So, in this last section, I was totally by myself, but when I get to the aid station, there is another guy there. Can’t believe I caught up to anyone.  I mean, this whole race I have been talking or singing to myself because there is no one to talk to.

But he is really hurting and apparently has been at the aid station for 20 minutes or so, talking about quitting.  Quitting?  After 27 miles?  I talk to him for a few minutes while I am refilling my water bottle, sheltering from the rain, and grabbing some potato chips… and convince him to continue.

I set off down the hill and I can see him ambling 100 yards behind me.  Good, but I gotta concentrate on myself and getting to the end.

After a few miles, I turn back and he is much further back, but seems to be moving a lot faster.  Guess he will catch up to me soon.

When he does catch up, it isn’t the same guy at all, it’s the sweeper-slash-ribbon remover.  Finally, a bit of company.  We talk and jog down the hill to the road.  He spins off and heads towards the finish while I take my second gander at the uphill and down on the slick mud.  I feel like I do a little bit better the second time around, kind of skiing down in an effort to avoid cramping and also because I need to get going.

Finally, I make it back onto the road and hustle as much as I can to make it under that 9 hour final cutoff.  Honestly, I am not really running, but my version of speed-walking.  I am certain I can do it… but I end up coming in at 9 hours and 47 seconds.

As I come in, the race director congratulates me by name and the other volunteers say thank you for helping out (10 hours ago!).  Kind of a crazy race with the rain, the mud, the extra mile, and still finishing, slightly over the (normal distance) cutoffs.  And thus, ultra #99 is in the books.  On to Way Too Cool in three weeks and number 100.

Chino Hills 50K – 2018

November 10, 2018

After my DNF in Hong Kong, I needed to get in a replacement ultra.  I had made certain plans as I headed toward completing my 100th ultramarathon.  The plan was to make the 2019 Way Too Cool 50K number 100, Avalon 50M number 99, OTHTC (Ridgecrest) 50K number 98, and Hong Kong number 97.  I already know at this point that the Avalon race day will interfere with my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party and will have to find something between the first week of December and early March.

Anyway…, an acceptable alternative to Hong Kong is Chino Hills 50K (even though I have said that I do not want to run this race again because it’s sucky).  I had gotten requests for a time that the race director needed volunteers and I had said that I would volunteer, but I reached out to see if I could volunteer Friday night and Saturday morning, run the race, and then help out in cleaning up (knowing that I’d be towards the back).  Yen said that that would be okay.

In the late afternoon, I drove over to Chino Hills State Park and we set out getting everything ready for the morning (sorting shirts, numbers, giveaways, etc.).  A considerable amount of time was trying to figure out how to turn on the lights (had to use lanterns instead).  Around 10pm, we headed over to Yen’s house to spend the night (myself and another volunteer).  I finally got to meet Yen’s husband and daughter (though I guess I have seen them before but didn’t make the connection).  Chino Hills isn’t that far away but I needed to get to the start super early.

In the morning, I helped with packet pick-up until about 20 minutes before the start of the race and then grabbed my stuff, threw what I didn’t need into the car and toed the starting line.

The first section of the course is where everyone always runs, up Telegraph for a few miles (wide fire road) and then up a number of steep rolling hills to the first aid station at 4.5 miles.  I have my time from last year to compare to and I am about 7 minutes slower.  Mostly I care about finishing under the time limit.


The second section is some more rolling hills on a fire-road leading to the single track where the shorter distance racers always surpass me.  It wends its way around back to a fire-road and down some switchbacks to Four Corners.  I am still netting under 15 minutes a mile (not by much) and grab some Coca-Cola to wake myself up.

From Four Corners, the trail works its way out to the far reaches of the park dumping out on a paved road (which eventually leads to the opposite exit of the park) and leading to the aid station that we hit three times.  Knowing the course better, I know that the parking lot at the top of the (paved) hill is NOT the aid station.  Most of the people at the aid station recognize me (and I know some of them as well).

This next section is the longest in between aid stations – 10K.  Although I do not care for this section, the good part about it is that I am able to see several runners either returning from the area or glimpse them on the return from the top of the trail.  And, if I wasn’t so far behind everyone else, I would probably glimpse people atop the trail behind me.  I don’t see a whole lot of people in this section but I pass a few on the upward section and a few pass me when I am walking (which is all the time now).

When I get back to the aid station, I am just over the halfway point at 16.5 miles in a little over 4 hours, and now I get to head out onto my least favorite part of the course (so far).  It’s a lot of single track but with a lot of extremes, very steep uphills (and some downhills) and totally exposed to the elements.  This section took me almost as long as the previous section but is only 4.5 miles, but at least now I am on the (supposed) home stretch.

First, there is a easy 3 miles back to Four Corners.  Most of the folks that were there before have given way to a different shift.  Now I have about seven miles to go but it isn’t simply retracing my steps the way I came initially.  The trail follows Telegraph back to the start, but then turns up a steep trail up to the East Ridge.

This section seems endless and what isn’t helpful is that the course markers seem to fade with regularity – and they more they fade, the less sure that I am on the correct path.  I just have to be confident that I am going the right way.  I see someone on the trail ahead and a truck.  Maybe I can ask him if I made a wrong turn.

Turns out that I am on the correct path and he hands me a white/fluorescent plastic bracelet which will prove that I came through the extra ridge section.  I follow the trail back down to Telegraph and then follow it back through the park entrance and around the curves through the parking lot to the finish in a time of 8:28:25 (about 40 minutes slower than last year).

Afterwards, I hang out, get something to eat, and help to pack up while the last few stragglers finish a little over nine and a half hours.  One runner, who I had seen early on, is finishing his first 50K (why Chino Hills?!?) and his mom is there to see him.  I thought he was in his early 20s, but he is just short of 40.  (Lucky young-looking Asians!)

I am pretty satisfied with my time given I am still recovering from my broken wrist and still getting over jet lag from our trip to Asia.

35 Days

January 26, 2019

35.  Yen Darcy

Like many of my long-term ultra running friends, I don’t know the exact moment when I first became aware of Yen.  She was one of those runners that I always finished around the same time as, primarily at Avalon, Harding Hustle, and Ridgecrest.  A fun recent memory was this past year at Chino Hills 50K, for which Yen is the race director.  I volunteered in exchange for a discount and so I spent the entire evening getting everything set for the next day (when I would do check-in before setting out on the course).  At the end of the night, we headed over to Yen’s house (to save the drive in the morning) and I got to meet her husband and her daughter.  It was invigorating to meet the bedrock behind this amazing woman.

37 Days

January 24, 2019

37.  Cherry Cheng

I met Cherry in 2013, when I attempted my first Fat Ass 50K.  (A Fat Ass in ultra lingo is any free, mostly unsupported event.)  Strangely enough, it came at the Twin Peaks 50M/50K, which had been cancelled earlier in the week due to a government shutdown, but when the government reopened, the RD had sent away all her volunteers and thus put on a 50K only with limited volunteers.  Leading up to the event, I had done little exercise, having gone on an African safari with my parents and sister.  I was debating whether or not to shell the money and go, and when it became a Fat Ass, I was 100% in, even if I didn’t exactly have the fitness.  Going up the initial hill, I encountered Cherry (in my original notes, “a Chinese girl playing classical music from her pack”).  As we climbed, she said she was surprised by the difficulty of the hill.  I was not (having previously run this event), but surprised how out of shape I was.  At the top where there is usually a water station, there was nothing, so thought I would stop, but Cherry convinced me to continue for a bit (even though she would be turning around soon because she had other things scheduled and didn’t think she had time to finish).  I always seem to run into her at Twin Peaks and at Chino Hills.  This year, she provided beautiful buffs for all the competitors.  I think about our slogs together, listening to beautiful classical music, whenever I wear mine.