Back to School


Fun week last week! Started back to school on Tuesday, in my 9th year teaching math-n-science to sixth graders at Windsor Middle School. Learning names, establishing routines, and basically just getting back into the swing of things with teaching. I was looking for the time between Tahoe Rim Trail 100 and this race at Headlands 50k as a major transition phase in the year. When I signed up earlier in the year, I’d anticipated being motivated to jump back into training a bit earlier and with more gusto than I actually had since TRT in July. Still, just listening to my body allowed me to run well at Headlands, all things considered.

So, this C-priority race represented the official breaking-the seal-on-the-fall-trail-running-season. After having the same old problems in training this month with my Garmin 910XT’s heart-rate monitor, I just decided to ditch it and go down to Headlands and just run by feel, and keep this one simply relaxed and fun, since I was basically going off fitness I’d established in June and July. So, no HRM, and also, no water bottle, which was a first for me in a 50k. I’ve always wanted to run a hard 50k trail-run with no bottle. So, looking at the weather forecast, I figured what the hay, I’ll do it. And, as it turns out, it wasn’t a big deal at all. I love running unencumbered and the time I took to drink at aid stations was about the same time it took for guys around me to fill their bottles. I was getting down about two cups of water at each aid station. Toward the end, one of those cups was sports drink, and then cola. A successful experiment. I’ll definitely do it again for 50k, when the temps cooperate of course. Now, I’m still trying to figure out if I have the cojones to try it for a cool 50-miler… Maybe not…

After the start of Headlands, enthusiastic speedster Alex Varner, was soon out of sight and it seemed a race for 2nd. There were a lot of us together for quite a while over the first half of the race. I felt I could easily end up in 5th or 6th. Since I had zero idea where my fitness was but knew I was likely not going to be as fast as I was earlier in the year when I last went under four hours for 50k, I had looked up Leigh Schmitt’s winning time from last year and found it was 4:12—about 8:07/mi pace. Thus, I set my Garmin’s Virtual Pacer to 8:07 and went to work, stayed smooth, and really tried to enjoy the ride.

I guess I felt as expected, neither superhuman nor too terribly out of shape. The climbs felt a little harder than I’d like but the downs were really coming easy and I was bombing them in my trusty Hokas. I continue to love these shoes for all the protection they offer on rocky courses with a lot of descending. I’d save heart-beats on the climbs and just motor on the downhills. Good, good fun!

Somewhere around 2:30 in, I’d been concentrating on keeping the power on and basically just working my ass off to put a gap between me and whoever was behind—due diligence. As we were getting back north on the Dipsea Trail, I was surprised and not too happy to hear someone coming up from behind. I pushed a bit harder. Still there. Who IS that?, I thought. Finally, I turn around to see Jon Olsen, who was running a smart race and would soon overtake me. Anyway, I have a lot of respect for Jon and was pleased to have someone to now work with a bit. That is, before he would inevitably drop me.

I probably kept Jon in sight for some 20min or so and it was sweet running just working hard and giving chase on those delightful trails. I stayed with him to Stinson Beach where I was about even with virtual Leigh Schmitt. But, by the time the stairs and ladder climbs had had their way with me, I was some 10min down on virtual Leigh. Back to work to the finish. Since I wasn’t looking at distance at all during the race, and just virtual pacer and race-time, the miles seemed to go by quick. The sensation also likely inspired by the lingering effects of a long day running 100mi just a month ago. Anyway, it was nice to have the miles not weigh heavily upon my mind. But, they ran out before I could get all my time back, and by the finish, I was about 5min back on virtual Leigh. Had I just kept up with him I may have stayed in front of Olsen for 2nd.

Varner, with a new course record at 3:41, was in another zip-code by the finish. I’ve since read he was 26th at the Boston Marathon this year with a time of 2:21. So, with my best at Boston being 2:39, back in 2000, I didn’t feel so bad. Over beers, post-race, Alex was psyched about the event and his CR though I urged him to return promptly to racing exclusively on the road.  😉


My hamstrings started really protesting with about a mile to go, which I was quite pleased did not happen earlier in the run. I was then immediately impressed to see how strong Jean Pommier ran, coming across the line just a minute later in 4th. Good times of course hanging out after, basking in the afterglow of day’s honest and taxing effort, drinking a few Sierra Nevadas, eating great pizza, while chatting up my ultrarunning brethren. This is what it’s all about. After than, it was over San Francisco Running Co. for a visit before heading back up the road to Windsor. Sunday was fun, cheering on runners at the Santa Rosa Marathon/Half-Marathon/5k. Good to just limp around and hoot-n-holler. After that, got my athletes’ plans done, spent some quality time in the classroom before my wife brought home our new French Bulldog, “Sam Axe,” named after a character on one of our favorite shows, Burn Notice. Hello puppy training! >>> 😀


7 thoughts on “Back to School

      1. I second the motion! Seriously, how slow that makes us look… 😉 Great race and report, Bob, enjoy your 6th grade class while maintaining such an incredible fitness level!

  1. Rob Main

    Congratulations on another great hilly trail run Bob! And thanks for the write-up; racing vicariously thru you saves me a ton of suffering 🙂

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