"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense."
- David Blaikie

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

I drove out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains today for another look at one of my favorite Bay Area running spots.

Big Basin is California's oldest State Park, established in 1902. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, the park is > 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering redwood forest. Elevations vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet so this was another good hill workout.

I have some great memories here. The first time I ran the ultra distance (29 mi) was in this park in 1998, the weekend after my previous distance PR of 18 mi... which was the weekend after my previous distance PR of 13 miles. That was an interesting month. Felt like I was living that dream where you find a room in your house you didn't know was there. I also ran my 2nd trail race here that same year, the Big Basin Marathon
(sadly, discontinued).

Today I set out with the idea that I'd follow the first 5 miles or so of the Big Basin Marathon course and then come back. I got a little off course the 1st mile and went out on what I think is the return leg of that course, heading up nice 500 foot climb and then linking up with the marathon course. Miles 1-4 bled off 1000 feet over soft trails with good footing that is so typical of the West. I like the challenge offered by the rocky, technical trails in the East, but the fast, soft trails here were my first love in trail running and today rekindled that affection.

At mile 4.2 there is a beautiful waterfall nestled in a lush canyon that I snapped a picture of. Unfortunately my camera batteries died shortly thereafter. There is another waterfall at mile 5 that requires some light climbing. Not recommended for acrophobics! I really wanted a picture of that one because I've talked about it frequently. Hearing that I run long distances folks always ask what my marathon time is. Well... I've only run 2 "official" marathons (both on trails) early in my running career, and Big Basin was the fastest at 3:50. Folks are usually unimpressed, and I feel compelled to add that it was a challenging trail marathon with some light climbing up a waterfall. Next time I'll get that picture.

The return trip of this out and back is a little tougher with >1000 ft climb from mile 6 to 9, then a quick 500 ft decent the last mile. All in all a spectacular day among the ancient redwood giants.

Oh, and on the way back to my hotel in Los Gatos I was passed on a double yellow lined windy mountain road by a Prius... that just seems odd doesn't it? Must be time to head back to NC.

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