Monday, September 04, 2006

Nameless's charge up Baldy

I got up at 5am this morning to drive over to Mt Baldy for the 41st annual Labor Day Run-to-the-Top of Mt Baldy. It's an 8-mile race up 4000' to the peak of Baldy (10,064', the highest point in the San Gabriel mtns overlooking Los Angeles). Before I left, I read the tragic news that Australian crocodile-hunter Steve Irwin had died tragically from a sting-ray barb. I was sorry to hear that because he seemed like a good-natured, fun-loving guy and he seemed to do a great job emphasizing environmental issues.

On to Baldy. This is one brutal race... a death march into the sky... an average 10% grade all the way to the top. It's a tough race but it's a blast.

The race starts at the parking lot for the Baldy Ski Lift. You run downhill on pavement at a 15% grade (no exaggeration, that's what the street sign warns) for about a quarter mile, then it's all uphill. The first 4 miles are on fire roads to the top of the ski lift. The last 4 miles are up the "Devil's backbone" trail to the top.

I last ran this race in 2003 (2 weeks after running Pikes Peak Marathon). Then I ran 1:33:37. Two goals for me today: set a new PCR (personal course record) and go sub-1:30.

The race went well. The downhill pavement part was painful. I ran nearly every step of the 4 miles up the fire road (unlike in 2003 when I had to power hike some of that). There are three aid stations along the way, at miles 2, 4, 6 (although I'm not sure these are precise... but who really cares anyway on a brutal course like this). I hit aid stations in 18:57; 38:14 (19:16 for those 2 miles); 58:17 (20:02 for those 2 miles). At that point I thought I pretty much had sub-1:30 in the bag. All I needed was to run 31:42 on the last 2 miles. The problem is that the last mile is the steepest and in the thinnest air.

I held my own with the runners near me. There was a group of about 10 of us that were hanging somewhat close together. We all probably finished within a minute or two of each other. Unfortunately, that last section was just too brutal. I pushed the pace the best I could as I power-hiked up (no one was running at this point... at least as far as I could see). I was passing rocks and trees like they were standing still. My HR was absolutely racing. I finished in 1:32:31... just 20 or so seconds behind the female winner.

It took quite a while for my HR to somewhat normalize on top. I sat on top and cooled off, ate some orange slices, and drank some water. I met one of my running friends on top. She did awesome... probably top 5 finish for the women. Then she and I ran the 4 miles back down to the ski lift. We were supposed to take the ski lift back down to the parking lot... but why do that when you can run? So I ran the last 4 miles back down for a 16-mile workout (including 2 wrong turns on the way down... argh!).

Overall, another good run up Baldy. We had good weather. Not too much wind, but it was a bit sunny. I was disappointed that I didn't get under 1:30, but at least I set a new PCR for me. I haven't seen the results yet since I ran back down instead of waiting for them to be posted. I'll have to check them out online. Evidently, I finished 49th overall (#48 for the guys... they accidentally omitted #21). At least, I was in the top 10% of the 532 runners, but I still missed getting under 90 minutes. Oh well.

Oh, BTW, the reason I'm now nameless is because that mountain was kicking tail and taking names. It kicked mine and took my name.