Pier to Peak, 2010

Thirteen miles up Gibraltar Road
We’ve run some races in our day
Filled with laughter, fun and play
And we know every inch of the way
From waterfront to La Cumbra.

Low bridge, everybody down,
Low bridge, cause we’re running into town.
And you’ll always know your teammate
And you’ll always know your place
Once you reach the final turn on the Pier to Peak race.

The day before the race, Mike told me he didn’t want to me to race it. By which he meant I was to run it, just not as hard as I might otherwise. This was not really a surprise, my real race is in 20 days so it would be silly to tire myself out now. Also the schedule he gave me for the week was a hard training week, there was no rest before this race, so I knew I wouldn’t do well.

None-the-less, it’s always disappointing to hear, even when you agree with it.

Mike just wanted me to get my heartrate up for a long time.

Pier to Peak will do that.

Usually I set myself a goal and often hope to better the previous year. That didn’t seem likely. I thought I’d probably come in around 1:50. But the most coherent idea that floated in my head was “Will this be the year that Ricky beats me at P2P?”

It’s been cool and foggy all summer, but the day before the race it was unpleasantly warm on Mtn. Dr. at 7:00, which is roughly when I’d get to that point during the race. And P2P is almost always too hot, so I worried.

I expected it to be chilly in the fog (which would probably last to the Mission), and hot out of it. What to wear? Rusty and Mike had recently given us new shirts, so I wanted to wear mine — but the new shirts looked hot to me, not singlets but technical tee-shirts. Um. — I decided to wear it anyway.

I thought about sun screen. I’ve gotten more leery of sun screen since I read a study that the vitamin A in most sun blocks will mutate under harsh sunlight and turn into something as carcinogenic as the sun it is blocking. Much of the run is in the shade. Some of the run is in the fog. The sun won’t be very high (so less intense) and I won’t really be out in it for long. I decided against sun screen.

I don’t really like putting it on anyway.

It was dark and very foggy at the race start. I chat a little with Shiggy, then go to warm up. But there is Sara, so I chat a little with her (she promises not to get lost this time. I know I should be happy for her, but that just means she’ll beat me. Again.) and then I do my warmup. Then I say “Hi” to Fred as he zips past. Sigh. They are all faster than I.

Back at the start. I hear someone say there are 500 entrants this year (I think it is usually ~300. There were 419 finishers this year.). More chatting. Tim Smith had told me that he intended to run right behind me (grabbing onto my shirt if necessary), but he sees Shiggy, and tells him the same thing.

We line up, and Jake says a few words. I’ve heard them before. Then he checks to make sure that Eric and Sara have picked up their bibs. I find that kind of touching, both are semi-out-of-towners now and they couldn’t make it to the bib pickup last night (and both won last year). Sara has picked up hers, I know. I haven’t seen Eric.1

At the last minute there he is, and we’re off!

There are more people in front of me than there usually are in this race. In the past I have counted how many are ahead and keep track during the race as I pass people and they pass me, but this time it’s hopeless. Perhaps some will slow? But they don’t. Or they don’t before the leaders are lost in the fog, and by then it’s too late to count.

Tim, Ricky and Sara are all ahead. Shiggy passes me. Shiggy always seems to start behind me and then catch me in the first quarter mile or so.

Maybe the reason there are so many people ahead this year is because I am going slowly? But no. When I get to the first mile mark my time is 6:25, which is considerably faster than I wanted to be running.

Ricky is now running beside me. He explains to me why he doesn’t do well in this race 1) it’s uphill, 2) he’s done a lot of racing recently. I point out that he also insisted on doing a tempo workout yesterday, maybe if he didn’t tire himself out the day before he’d do better. He says he’s not going to do well, so why miss the tempo workout? This race is just for fun.

Which is true enough.

Mike wanted me to get my HR up, so I check. It’s currently at 86% which is a reasonable value for “up”. Each mile averages between 85% and 91%, which is what I expect. I hope that’ll make Mike happy.

We run together for the next mile (6:57, that’s what I was shooting for). Then Ricky lets me ease ahead of him.

Plenty of friends are volunteering today. Joe was at a corner, Eric (a different Eric) at another. Carrie is at the water station up by the Mission, which we have just passed. Tammy’s way up at the top. It’s nice of them to turn up so early on a Sunday morning.

Now we turn onto Mountain Dr. and the way gets steep. I pass a big clump of people, including Tim.

Mile 3 was 7:07. A little slow, but not bad.

A guy in a blue cap is now ahead. I inch up on him, and pass. And then he passes me back. I decide I’ll let him stay ahead for a bit. No rush. He’s running at a reasonable pace.

When 192 pours into Mountain, traffic happens, so I remind the guy in blue that this road is dangerous and he moves over to the right edge of the road.

There are footsteps behind me. Tim perhaps. Maybe he is sticking with me. I don’t turn to look, of course. Might trip.

Mile 4 is unmarked, as usual. I always wonder why. It’s about where we cross 192 and head up the hill. Perhaps it’s in the middle of the intersection and so a dangerous place to mark? Who knows. At any rate I pretend it’s in the middle of the intersection. 7:12.

I’m starting to feel hot now. We left the fog behind at the Mission. My HR is at 90%. I’m working. A technical shirt is not a good choice for the rest of this race. So I take it off (and then untangle it from my hat — to which it has velcroed itself) and stash it in the fork of a small tree on the side of the road. Tim’s voice from behind “That shirt is a collector’s item!” So he is there.

(OK, the real reason for leaving it is, of course, so Tim can’t grab on to it to stick with me:-) )

Somewhere along here I pass the guy in the blue cap. He would slow, and then I’d catch up with him, and then he’d speed up, and then slow, and… Eventually I pass him permanently.

Hmm. The blue witch is still in full bloom here.

At the 5 mile mark (8:40) two people behind me are surprised that it is mile 5. I explain that mile 4 is never marked (though I don’t know why).

They pass me. Drat. This isn’t supposed to be happening, everyone else was supposed to have gone out too fast, not me. Oh well.

One of them asks “Are you getting married today too?”. Not a question I expect in a race. “Um, No, I’m not. I take it you are?” “Yes”, and his friend says “And I’m marrying him.” I had thought (though I might have missed something) that that decision was put on hold and homosexual marriages were still not possible in Ca. The friend continues, “I mean, I’m performing the ceremony.” All I can think of is Leonarto in Much Ado: “To be married to her: Friar, you come to marry her.”

The groom and his celebrant (The groom is Ben, I think) pull slowly away from me. It is rather impressive that both of them are capable of running so well. I learn later that the bride, Katie, ran too, and was 4th among the women (Ben was 8th). Now that’s how I’d like to get married when I grow up — in a race.

The sun is still low and looking down on the fog-wrapped city below, I see the tops of the clouds take on sunrise colors.

I had intended to take a GU at mile 4, but all was confusion what with removing my shirt and so forth. So I haven’t eaten one. I pull one out of my belt pouch. But then I just keep it in my hand. My mouth is dry enough that I don’t want to eat anything. As I recall, there’s a water stop around mile six, so as we get close I eat my GU. Only this year there isn’t water here. And mile six isn’t where I thought it was. But it happens eventually: 8:39.

There’s someone behind me who lets out “Whoop”ing noises every now and then. I wouldn’t choose to do that, I need my breath for other things.

Around a bend is a woman handing out ice. And water bottles. I take a water bottle. They are easier to drink from than cups. I squeeze water into my mouth. After a bit Tim comes up beside me and asks if he can have some, so I lend him the bottle and he takes a drink. When he gives it back he pulls away from me. Just not my day.

Mile 7 approaches (7:58 hunh? Is this marker in the right place?) and then the hairpin. Tim Strand said he’d probably be here, but I don’t see him. There is a water station, but I have a water bottle in my hand and don’t need more, I try to drop my empty GU packet toward a trash can, but miss.

Shadows. Tim Smith’s is in front. The guy who went “whoop” is behind, and Julio is behind him
Photo by SB Pix

OK, now I slowly start to pass people. Tim passes them first, and then I do. Tim isn’t that far ahead, maybe I’ll be able to pass him too?

Mile 8 (8:35), and just beyond are Drea and Tim (Strand). Drea is taking pictures, and Tim is handing out water bottles. But I’m still clutching mine. They both cheer us on. And then they cheer Ricky on. So he’s close.

The whooper passes me.

Mile 9 (9:13) really was at a different spot last year. This is a little worrisome.

Hmm. Flannelbush is still blooming. A bit.

And down into Flores Flats. No one is awake in the Flats as we pound through. A couple of runners pass me on the downhill, and then I pass them back on the up. I think of this as the steepest part of the race, and glance down. Sure enough the HR has climbed back to 90%.

As I look at the line of runners ahead of me, they all appear to be jogging very slowly. You’d hardly think it was a race.

OK, I guess the purple nightshade really is blooming still.

I pass the whooper.

Mile 10 (9:17) comes and goes. And then we pop onto the other side of this ridge and I know Camino Ciello is close. (But it’s not as close as I want it to be.)

Finally the intersection appears and we head right. Tim really isn’t that far ahead. I pass one person between us. And finally the turn around. Mile 11 (11:49). Oh, god. Ricky is right behind me. And there’s the whooper too (James). Now downhill for a bit. Everyone tries to go as fast as he can now. And I just know Ricky’s going to pass me.

Julio, a guy from Ventura (whom I’ve also played leapfrog with), passes me, but not the whooper nor Ricky.

When I get to the intersection I see Sara starting to come up.

Hunh? When did I get ahead of her? I thought she was way in front of me — as she has been in the past. No energy to ask, I simply cheer her on.

Tim has pulled far ahead now. I can’t even see him.

Now I know that mile 12 was in a different place last year. My time (6:17) makes me think this year’s position is wrong. I don’t think I can go that fast so far into this race (even a downhill mile).

I guess it doesn’t really matter. In other races I am much more concerned about pace, here pace is an afterthought, it’s whatever comes out of the interaction between my body and the terrain.

And now it’s up again. The transition from fast downhill running to slower uphill running is difficult for me. I think my HR drops on the downhill, and when I’m tired it takes a while for it to wind its way up again. Anyway I find I am pushing too hard and have to slow down. And now Ricky passes me. Sigh.

It’s the final stretch.

No shadows mingle with mine now.
Photo by Ralph Philbrick

There are suddenly a lot of cars on the road, which is annoying. The cars aren’t moving quickly, probably because the runners aren’t sticking to the right so the cars have to wait until they can pass. The result is that I get to smell their exhaust for a long time. (I’m tired and cranky now and want to complain.).

And finally here’s the turn toward the peak. In the past this point has been marked as mile 13. It is not marked so this year. I click my watch anyway (11:22). And then up the final steep bit. Twist, turn and I bump over a rise and can see the finish line far above me. The clock reads 1:49:??. Sigh. I’m not going to break 1:50 this year. Oh well.

I try to go a little faster, but I don’t think I do. Final time 1:51:11.

Not my best time. Not my worst time. Given that I started the race tired, I’m reasonably happy.

I end up 13th overall. I guess I passed more people than I thought. There were more than 12 people ahead at the start. A lot more.

Neither Shiggy nor Sara got lost this year. Shiggy beat me by 6 minutes. Sigh. So, as always, I was second in my age group.

After I got back to the bottom. And after I had showered, I biked back and pulled my shirt off its tree. It was still there. Despite Tim’s warning, no one had collected it.


  • 1Eric told me he did pick up his bib on Saturday. So I don’t know why Jake checked to make sure he had done so. Eric did arrive at the start with “90 seconds to spare”.

5 Responses to “Pier to Peak, 2010”

  1. Nancy Kaplan Says:

    enjoyed the recap

  2. Bloggulator Says:

    I enjoyed the read, thanks for the report…. mile after mile up that unforgiving mountain in the hot early morning sun…. I felt I was there! I know every twist and turn on Gibraltar Rd, and have run the Pier to Peak 4 times. Next year perhaps, and maybe break 2 hours… so far I haven’t quite made that!

  3. Kary Says:

    CONGRATS George!

  4. ChrisB Says:

    Nice race report, George. I never noticed that there is no marker at mile 4, but now that you mention it… I am also amazed you remember the mile marker positions from the previous year but am not surprised they end up in different spots each year. I helped Wally mark them one year when I did not run the race… Just sayin’!
    Congratulations on your finishing time. It might not have been a PR but it’s still impressive. See you next year!

    • georgeruns Says:

      Now it is possible that I have simply missed mile 4 every single year. But I don’t believe that.

      I don’t remember every mile marker, but I know last year there was a marker right after Gibraltar rock, and this year there wasn’t. Last year mile 6 was at someone’s driveway. This year mile 12 was at the Gibraltar fire road intersection, last year it was another ¼ mile beyond. Since mile 11 is always at the turn-around, mile 12 should be easy to get right. Or at least a distance which is 1 mile from the turnaround…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: