Latest reviews by Philip
The final leg in the East Bay Triple Crown Trail Championships (https://eastbaytriplecrown.wordpress.com/). Probably my favorite race of the year--even with a 16-minute handicap--because there is no purer cross-country course in the East Bay. The 2015 edition did not disappoint, including some extra-knarly rocks and roots, a downed tree, and, as always, the famed Woodmonster.
First to succumb to the hills was the car, which lacked some power getting up Joaquin Miller Road and then flashed the "check engine" light. Not a great way to start the day, but we got to the start in plenty of time. Much schmoozing beforehand, many pre-race announcements for the 50th edition, and a show of hands from those who have run the race for decades. Some inspirational and amazing racers out there, most of them well over the age of 65 (men) or 45 (women) to qualify for a 20-minute head start on the field. These legends were off a little after 9:00am (this race has a relatively late start time, which I don't mind one bit), with subsequent waves following every 4 minutes.
At 40 I am now a "Master" runner, but that means nothing at Woodminster: my age bracket is 35-44, good for a 4-minute head start on the scratch runners. I say "see you at the end" to the speedsters I know in the first four waves, because they will beat me even without their handicap. 16 minutes later, finally time to go.
The start is flat for about 1/2 mile, if that. Then there are rocks and stairs and 550' of elevation gain in about 3/4 of a mile. My legs are sore. I am at the back of my wave. The course winds by the Chabot Observatory/Science Center with nasty little bit of paved uphill after crossing Skyline Road and then heads for Redwood Regional Park and Skyline gate. The scratch runners are probably all by me at this point, but I catch a few earlier starters as well and am feeling good cruising toward the West Ridge Trail. The weather is perfect in the shade and just a tad on the hot side on the exposed section. The scenery is amazing.
Approaching Skyline Gate I seriously think about a potty stop, but there is already a line with a few runners in it so...onward. I sip some water from the aid station and dump the rest over my head, where it soaks into my bandanna. West Ridge is familiar territory, rolling hills trending downward and I catch a lot of runners as my extra weight comes in handy. Fully warmed up and sweating good. My ankle is slightly tweaked from the Tahoe Relay last week and I can feel it on the packed dirt, but after making the turn onto Prince trail and booking it downhill toward the Woodmonster on softer dirt/mud/needles things feel better. This is my second-favorite part of the race.
And then, the Monster. Mostly on the Madrone trail it's about 700' in less than a mile. Estimates vary and I don't wear any sort of watch these days, so that's the figure I go with. Once, a long time ago, I ran the whole thing. I don't do that anymore. My standard greeting to fellow runners on the hill is "what a great day for a nature hike!"
From there the course loops back downhill, back across Skyline on the same route, and then for the very best part, a beautiful cruise down the Sequoia Bayview trail, one of the prettiest routes in the East Bay. I just vault over the downed tree and it feels AWESOME. I take the final treacherous downhill stretch slowly and have plenty left for the last 1/4 mile or so. A great race, as always.
Enjoyed a superb brunch in the cool shade while wearing this year's swag--a lovely 50th anniversary jacket!
Watched US Open golf with my feet up while reading the complimentary edition of Trail Runner Magazine.
Planned a trip to Transports to use the generous 20% off coupon given in the goody bag.
I highly recommend this race!
This is my second-favorite (after Woodminster) race of the year in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's always on the same day in May as Bay to Breakers in SF, a race that I've never run but do know is much larger and more of a party. Tilden Tough Ten (TTT) is a different scene, more hardcore runners gathered high above the bay to run a scenic 10 miles, out and back on a mostly paved course. It goes to double track horse trail about mile 4, and then there is a very large downhill at about four-and-a-half miles in, and after that a turnaround point in a valley. The downhill quickly becomes an uphill.
The scenery is amazing (bridges! reservoirs!), cows are usually on-course, the race is always well-run, and the competition is pretty intense, locally speaking. This race is the kickoff event in the East Bay Triple Crown Trail Championships (https://eastbaytriplecrown.wordpress.com/), which features two other unique and hilly races in the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge Half-Marathon and then the Dick Houston Memorial Woodminster Cross-Country Race (handicapped start times based on age and gender, and also features the "Woodmonster," which is just a crazy and beautiful hill). I'll write reviews for those as well.
One of my favorite things about TTT are the T-shirts: there are special sub 60, 70 and 80-minute ones and earning any of them is an achievement. Every so often I'll be lining up for another Bay Area race, notice someone sporting a sub-70 Tilden shirt, and move a little bit further back behind the starting line. The shirts usually (maybe always?) have fun cows on them and are by far my favorite race tees to wear around.
It's a small race, capped at 300 runners with nice post-race snacks, great fun, and local feel. Parking can be a bit tight; the lot fills fast and cars then line the side of a twisty Wild Cat Canyon Road. Late arrivals can get a nice half-mile warmup in. I guess I should add a disclaimer that I'm a member of the sponsoring club, Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders (LMJS), but I'd always run this race even if I wasn't. The club has great volunteers that make it all possible and some proceeds are donated to the hosting East Bay Regional Parks District.