I ran the Castro Valley Trail Challenge race last year. It was my first trail race and it didn’t sit well with me or my legs. I couldn’t get my mind around the hills on that course and after talking with my buddy Andy, I wasn’t the only one. He lost two toe nails on this course!
Since then, I’ve ran numerous trails and have come to actually enjoy them. You can’t beat the views and more often than not, they’re cheaper than road races since race directors don’t have to close roads, require police support or expensive city permits.
I have also been trying to fill out my race schedule to satisfy the 4-race minimum for the California Half Marathon Series. With other races I wanted to run, I’ve been struggling to find affordable, local races to meet the series minimum. This race is only $50 but I knew how much it hurt last year. I hated the pin-style medal, heavy cotton t-shirt and the course beat the crap out of my legs… did I really want to do it again?
Getting there is simple. You can easily avoid the $5 parking fee by parking on the street outside the park entrance and it’s probably worth it if you get there early enough. If you wait too long though, all the parking will be gone and you’ll have a good walk ahead of you to get in the park.
Bib pickup is on race day morning only so you’ll have to get there early anyhow. You also get your shirt then so plan to walk back to your car to leave it in there.
There are bathrooms right next to the starting line but the lines get long since there’s only a couple stalls in each. They don’t bring in extra porta potties so take care of your business early.
The turnout seemed smaller this year as we lined up on the field before starting. I did some light running prior to help shake off the stiffness of the morning. I couldn’t believe how low the water levels were. California is definitely in a serious drought. Seeing the docks curled up on land was shocking.
I knew the course from last year so mentally, I knew when some of these hills were going to rear their ugly selves. I could have prepared better still but having past experience was a huge advantage. I took the hills nice and easy. Small strides, easy relaxed form. Side stepping as I climbed to engage other muscles and to give my primary muscles some, albeit minor, relief.
Still, at times, you just couldn’t help but stop and walk up some of those hills. 800 feet of climb in a single mile! That’s steep people!!
All in all though, I quite enjoyed the course that day. It was hot but still enjoyable for a trail run. There’s plenty of shade at times when you’re low and really in the thick of the trees. The course is basically running around the lake and there’s some really great views at times. They’re usually after a tough climb so remembering that you paid for that much pain and forcing yourself to take a moment and enjoy the views can be tough.
Overall: 43 / 231
Official Time: 01:56:05
Age Group Place (30-34): 5
Not my best effort but my goal was to finish under 2 hours so I’ll take it.
I loved that they did actual finisher medals this year instead of the small pin-style finisher medals. The shirts were still heavy cotton tees with a huge graphic though. They had some healthy snack options after the race too which was also a nice treat. I grabbed a banana, apple and bottle of water while I recovered in the shade.
I like that this is a more intimate race set within a challenging course. I’ll probably run this again even if things are status-quo next year. If they get tech shirts, it would set-match! I’d love to beat my personal best time and if I could run it without walking, that would be a huge success.