Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Skyline 50K: The Oldest Race You've Never Heard of

The oldest race you've never heard of...
The Skyline 50K trail race is much like an 80's John Cusack cult film that everyone else loves, but that embarrassingly you've never seen...

"I can't believe you still haven't seen Better Off Dead" your friend admonishes you, shaking their head in a mixture of amazement and disapproval.

"Well, I've seen Say Anything and The Sure Thing" you offer proudly, hoping that will impress them, or at least let you off the hook.

"But dude, you've got to see Better Off Dead. It's a classic. That film that put John Cusack on the map!"

OK fine. You promise to rent it on Netflix next weekend just to shut them up. Skyline 50K is like that. It's a classic, low-key race with a big cult-like following. And while it doesn't have the notoriety of larger races like Firetrails 50 that are run on many of the same trails around Oakland's Lake Chabot, it does have a very storied tradition.

Skyline 50K has been around for quite a while. UltraSignUp.com lists results for the past 33 years going all the way back to 1982. It's arguably one, if not the, longest continuously-run ultra trail races in the country. If you want to learn more about the history of the race, check out this great nostalgic piece from Sarah Lavender Smith on TheRunnersTrip.

And for a good general description of the course including maps, elevation profiles, and photos definitely have a look at this year's race write up from Scott Noak at DirtyTrailShoes.

The actual race report (sort of...)

I won't bore you with all the details of how poorly I ran, how shitty I felt, how many times I swore and cursed under my breath, or what a colossally stupid idea it was to run another race only 3 weeks after finishing Hardrock 100. Nope.

Let's just say I spent a lot of time during the race trying to think up creative ways I could drop out while honorably acquitting myself. I had fantasies of being mauled by yellow jackets, going into analeptic shock from stinging nettles, or being gored and dismembered by grazing goats. None of which came true unfortunately. So I ended up having to run the entire 31 stupid miles.

I spent the first half of the race trying to keep up with my buddy Jason Reed who runs for a rival racing team (whose name I must not speak). Jason ducked into the restroom at the turnaround point at Skyline Gate and I never saw him again. I spent the rest of the race in tight battle with three other runners including Lance Doherty, Jeff Koranda, and Terence Hurley. All four of us would all finish within two minutes of each other!

Lance caught and passed me with about 10 miles or so to go. Jeff and Terence were never more than a few switchbacks behind. I didn't particularly care whether they caught me or not. My main concern was actually whether the beer that I left in a cooler in the trunk of my car (which I parked in the shade) would still be cold or not when I finally finished.

Thankfully, I eventually crossed the finish line in 4:20:05 for 10th place. And while not anywhere near my amazing 3:55:55 performance at Way Too Cool 50K earlier this year, this was apparently somehow my 2nd fastest trail 50K ever (and almost an hour faster than the 5:19:10 I ran at Skyline back in 2005). And, most importantly, in case you were wondering, the beer was still ice cold. And delicious!

On a side note, my wife Amy (who also ran Skyline this year on only 2 weeks rest after finishing 3rd woman at Tahoe Rim Trail 100) had a similar experience out on the course that involved a comparable amount of cursing and swearing. But she held on to finish on the podium as 3rd woman. And like me, she also took solace in a cooler full of cold IPA afterwards.

If you want to read a more detailed (and less whiny) race report that describes the exciting back-and-forth action among the speedsters at the front of the race, check out this race report from my Quicksilver Running Club teammate Jean Pommier on his blog, Running, my second job and passion.... And here's a link to the official results. Congrats to all my Quicksilver teammates who ran strong and finished!

Beer, Burgers, and Hot Sausages

While I publicly stated that I signed up for Skyline 50K in order to try and score a few points to move up in the PAUSATF Grand Prix standings, my real reason for running the race had more to do with: a) being able to show off my Hardrock belt buckle and shirt/jacket, and 2) stuffing my face with finish-line kielbasa, burgers and beers. And I accomplished both of those objectives quite admirably.

Showing off the Hardrock bling with Amy

Choking on an overcooked hamburger

Team photo (with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA)

Post-hamburger, post-Sculpin spicy kielbasa


Jeremy said...

It's a good thing you didn't dump the Pliny on your head!

Big Johnny Burton said...

LOL. Yeah, my performance certainly didn't warrant a beer bath celebration. I would have even felt bad wasting a PBR.