Coyote Lake Trail Run/Marathon Recap

I received a short email on Friday morning: “The race has been canceled.” I’d planned to run the Ohlone 50K on Sunday (a week ago), as part of a weekend trip with Matt. Though we were heading up to Livermore to attend a charity event for the American Heart Association, I persuaded him to throw a race into the plans and he discovered this one. I only began to study the course map and elevation after registering and realized that it included a fair amount of climbing (7,800 feet over 31ish miles).

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Despite a difficult course and the fact that I’ve never run 50Ks on back-to-back weekends, I accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, that cancellation email left me disappointed and scrambling to find another race on Sunday, in that area. I stumbled upon the Coyote Lake Trail Run on Runsignup.com, but there wasn’t a lot of event information, so I was hesitant. With little other options, however, we decided that we would give it a shot! Based on results from years prior, this was a very, very small race…

We had a lot of fun (and a lot of wine) at the event on Saturday. It was held at Wente Vineyards in Livermore and the night included a silent auction, wine and food pairing stations, selfie sticks on every table (best idea ever), a live auction and a Tom Petty cover band. It was fun to get dressed up, drink good wine and socialize.

By Sunday, I was back in running attire and really curious as to what the Coyote Lake Trail Run held for us. The race details showed the marathon course to be 25.8 miles long and with 2,900 feet of elevation gain. There wasn’t a course map or elevation profile on the website, so we didn’t have any idea as to where we would be running or what the terrain would be like. I actually prefer this as I am less likely to “psyche” myself out. We pulled up into the parking lot, counted no more than 40 vehicles, visited the registration table and realized that this race was very small. I began to wonder whether any of the runners were going for the full 25.8 miles, as everyone seemed to be running the half marathon (13.9 miles) or the 10K (6.8 miles). I was okay with the fact that Matt and I may actually be the only marathon finishers. Since the marathon was a two loop course of the 13.9 miles, I also accepted the fact that I would have an opportunity to run one loop and call it a day.

I waited in line for one of the two porta potties, missed the race director’s informational meeting and made it to the start line with only a few seconds to catch my breathe before it was time to go. The race starts in the small city of San Martin and takes runners through the rolling hills of Santa Clara. We ran atop the ridge lines for many miles of the race and enjoyed views of Coyote Lake at the midpoint of each loop. At approximately mile 4, I hear the runner behind me exclaim that he’d seen a coyote pop its head out of the grassy area we were running by! I furiously scanned the area for our furry spectator, but couldn’t find him. The first loop of the race was nice because I had people in front of me and behind me, so it didn’t feel like I was out there on my own. We enjoyed rolling hills and cool weather for the first 6-7 miles. There were also a few cattle gates on the course and we had to spend a few seconds lifting the lever up to open the gate. We entered a forest-y area (less dry grass, more green trees) at approximately mile 8 and then the lake came into view. I kept expecting us to turn right and circumvent Coyote Lake, but we followed it’s path for a while and then made a left to head back to the start area. At mile 9 or so, we encountered a section which was pockmarked, but covered in grass. Though it was downhill, I wasn’t going to risk rolling my ankle in a grass-covered hole by trying to run down fast.

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I realized that we were approaching the start/finish area and mentally prepared myself for the second loop. I was happy that the last 3 miles would be downhill, or so I thought. Myself and another male runner came upon an unmanned aid station – a right turn would return us to the finish while a left turn would begin our second loop. We were both unsure as to what we were to do, go back to the start and make a u-turn, or continue on for the second loop. We decided to continue on. Shortly thereafter, Matt comes up from behind and let’s us know that we were following the course correctly. Matt had turned right at the unmanned aid station, followed signs to complete a large 2-mile loop around a field, and had found himself back at the start. Evidently, that large 2-mile loop was to be completed after the second 13.9 mile loop. The misunderstanding was a disguised blessing because we were able to run the majority of our second loop together. This was definitely one of the best 13.9 miles I’ve ever run as we encountered more wildlife that I’ve ever seen during a run: a wild turkey, horses, cows and a few deer bounding across the trail. The second loop went by quickly with good company and all of the animal sightings!

I felt decent as we began to head back toward the start, but Matt warned me that the 2-mile loop around the field at the end was not great. I asked him if it was a mile, to which he hesitantly responded “yes, a VERY long mile.” After passing the unmanned aid station, I turned right to begin the small loop and he turned left to finish. The last section was hot, boring and mentally excruciating. It felt like the finish line kept moving further and further away. The website shows my official time to be 3:33:56, but I remember it to be around 3:36, so I’m not entirely sure. However, I am entirely sure that it was more difficult than I’d anticipated. Matt’s Garmin recorded ~3,500 feet in elevation.

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The post-race spread included standard ultra-marathon fare: pretzels, steamed potatoes with salt, potato chips, tortilla chips, MnMs, bananas, oranges, chili, and beer. We enjoyed a beer, munched on the snacks and cheered runners in. There were only 5 full marathon finishers and I was one of two females. It was a very small race, but everyone was friendly and supportive.

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After a quick $15 shower at a nearby 24 Hour Fitness, we returned to Oakland and had lunch before our flight. I really liked the restaurant we ate at: Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe. It had a diner-esque feel to it, but offered a fully stocked bar and a very unique hangover menu. The picture above was taken as we were walking back to the car – Oakland is definitely an interesting city.

Overall, the Coyote Lakes Trail Race was a small, but fun race. I enjoyed the challenging course and getting to know a new area. I received an email today that the Ohlone 50K was rescheduled for September 20, 2015, but whether or not I will be able to attend is contingent upon the craziness of my work schedule in late September/early October.

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