Shifting gears into other events
As we move into the latter days of summer, there’s plenty of diversity on the running calendar right now.
Even so, sometimes it’s wise to mix in a new event or try a new sport to break out of the running routine and keep mentally fresh, especially with some big races looming this fall.
This has always been my favorite time to try something new, like a bike-run duathlon or low-key triathlon. For me, these races are good, as they prod me into shape for the cross country season with some good cross training.
Looking for something new this past weekend, I went over to Sacramento for the Tri-for-Fun Summer Duathlon that consisted of a 3-mile run, 16-mile-bike and then a final 3-mile run. Held in the shadows of the Rancho Seco nuclear plant, I thought the race might draw a couple of dozen fun-runners, but there was nearly 100 in the duathlon and several hundred more competitors in the accompanying triathlon.
The run course was no stroll in the park, as it turned out to be a challenging, hilly cross country course. Wearing the wrong type of shoes, I hung within about one minute of the lead runners and then transitioned onto the cycle for the out-and-back bike course. While I was inevitably passed by the hard-core cyclists with tri-bars and disc wheels, I held my own for the most part, especially on the uphill parts of the course.
My first mile back into running was pretty wobbly, but I soon had my legs under me once again and gained some momentum and began passing other competitors, including former Cal Poly runner Antonio Arreola. I was pretty satisfied with my finishing time of 1:33, good for 11th place overall including relay teams. My second three-mile leg was only two minutes slower than my first running leg, which probably means I was slacking too much on the bike.
Overall, the event was a great training opportunity that matched any tempo running training I’ve done all year. And it provided a good chance to see how much one could spend on a bike and the subsequent realization that running’s much more affordable on my budget.
There is another excellent opportunity coming up in about four weeks at the annual Bear Valley Triathlon on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. The course includes a 600-yard swim, 10.5-mile bike and 3.4-mile run. I’ve done the race before and it’s a low-key event held in a spectacular setting. The Bear Valley/Ebbets Pass area is also great for camping and fishing, so the triathlon could make for a great destination race for the Labor Day weekend.
Cross country training trail
A lot of people have recently asked me about where to train in preparation for the upcoming cross country season.
My favorite loop that builds both strength and stamina is right above Carson City in Lake Tahoe State Park. It’s about 10.5 miles, features non-stop uphills and downhills, a bathroom at the half way point, some great scenery – and even an occasional bear. I call it the Tahoe Rim loop, even though about half the run is on North Canyon trail.
After parking just off Highway 50 in the north side parking lot at Spooner Summit (there is a paved lot and it’s free), I hop on the Tahoe Rim trail for about 4.5 until I reach the connector trail down to North Canyon trail. These 4.5 miles are a gradual, tough uphill that test even the best runner at the 7,000-foot-plus altitude. There are three good vista points on this segment of the trail for views of the Carson Valley and Tahoe Basin.
After 4.5 miles, you’ll see the sign for the connector trail and veer left and begin a dramatic descent to North Canyon trail. If you reach Snow Valley Peak you’ve turned right and gone too far.
Early this summer near the connector trail sign, I saw the largest black bear I’ve ever seen in the Basin, so I’d definitely recommend running with company on this loop.
After descending several-hundred feet, you’ll end up in the North Canyon trail campground, complete with vault toilet if you need a rest stop. Then turn left again and head back to Spooner Lake. If you still feel good, take the west shore trail back to the Spooner Summit parking area; if not, cut it shorter and go on the east side of the lake. Even though the U.S. Forest Service might give you credit for only 10 miles, this run feels like 12-14 miles and is going to take about two hours. Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
If you can get this run in a few times before cross country season, you’ll feel great over the final few miles of a cross country or 5- or 10-kilometer road race this fall.
Squaw Valley Mountain Run
U.C. Davis standout runner Patrick Parsel was the overall winner and Truckee’s Kimball Pier secured her third women’s title Saturday during the 26th annual Squaw Valley Mountain Run.
Parsel, 20, ran the high-challenging 3.6-mile distance from Squaw Valley’s base village to High Camp at 8,200 feet (a 2,000 foot climb) in an impressive time of 29 minutes, 13 seconds. Bill Raitter was second in 30:27, ahead of Scott Peterson (31:20) and Truckee’s Peter Fain (32:30).
Parsel finished 21st at the Pacific Association/USATF West Region Championships as a sophomore for Davis last year.
Pier, 48, a national-level runner in the 1980s and ’90s, finished first among the women and 11th overall in a time of 37:56. This was her third Squaw Valley and it may have been her best.
“Winning the third was really special,” she said. “I was kind of surprised, actually. At my age, I wasn’t expecting it. I had won it twice before, but the last time was back in like 1999.”
What’s truly special about this race to Pier, it was the route she took for her first run some 31 years ago. The result? She kicked her habit of smoking cigarettes and went on to pursue a running career that took her to the U.S. Olympic Trials Women’s Marathon three times, to the World 15K Championships in Brazil in 1989 and to the World Cup Marathon in 1991.
“Whenever I go on that road, I remember how long ago it was and how it changed my life,” she said. “Since then, I’ve always loved running on trails and in the mountains.”
(Dave Price contributed to this story. Erick Studenicka and Dave Price are long-time running enthusiasts, members of the Sagebrush Stompers running club and former sports writers for the Nevada Appeal).