728 ad

My Toughest Race

the Silver Strider online presents

                      Memory Lane   

Brought to you by



                            My Toughest Race

by Jerry Dietrich
May 1992

It was in the spring of 1992 that I first became aware of the “Run Through The Redwoods”, a 10k race to be held Felton, California.

The race was to run through the beautiful redwood forest just north of Santa Cruz. I was living in Scott’s Valley at the time and had been driving to Felton every Wednesday morning to do my weekly long run. It was my all-time favorite trail run and it began right behind the local high school and went out for miles and miles. Sometimes I would feel so invigorated after my 18 mile run, that I would complete a track workout. The oxygen rich air was unbelievable.

The first thing I noticed when reading the “Run through the Redwoods” race flyer, was the odd age groups. I was 58 years old and almost all races held at that time were the 10k distance, with 10 year age groups to 60 plus. This always put me on the wrong end of my age group and usually resulted in a third or fourth place finish.

The odd thing about this race was that it offered only 4 age groups, the oldest being 57 plus. I couldn’t believe my luck. I wouldn’t have to compete with younger runners.

I entered and decided to start my training by running the course once a week for the remaining 4 weeks before the event took place.

During my first run with a course map in hand, I found the course commenced with a half mile slightly downhill section on the rural highway that ran from Felton to the redwoods park entrance. At that point I entered the Park and looped around for another half mile before entering a dusty horse trail for another half mile or so.

At that point the course entered the dark wooded trail that began with a steep uphill. It was curving to right and I geared down for a long climb. I was surprised when the climb ended after only 50 yards and a pleasant downhill followed. I continued on, finding a roller coaster type course with short climbs followed by nice downhills for recovery.

My confidence increased each time I ran the course. My only weakness was the slightly uphill half mile long finishing stretch. My pace on this finishing section remained comparatively slow throughout all my training runs.

On race day I felt confident and relaxed as I mingled with the younger runners I would not have to compete with that day.

Then I spotted my competition, an entry I didn’t anticipate. He had turned 60 recently and had finished 2nd or third in the prestigious “Dipsea” race earlier. I knew I was in for stiff competition. I maneuvered near him and felt a little intimidated by his lean muscular appearance. Although I had done all my training in a t-shirt, I elected to run shirtless because of the warm weather. I had lost some weight during my training and felt a little puny with my bony shoulders and loose skin on my upper arms and waistline.

As the gun went off we cruised the slightly downhill start at a 6:00 pace running side by side. As we entered the park he surged ahead by about 10 yards as I slowed to a 6:15 pace.. I remained about 10 yards behind through the park loop. We slowed some more on the deeply powdered horse trail and I was unable to gain any ground. As we reached the first hill, I attacked with a sprint up the hill, knowing it was short, while my competitor slowed to a steady climbing pace. I shot by him reaching the top fueled by adrenaline, and willing myself to relax for the downhill recovery. I continued on, attacking and relaxing, for the next few miles. I was unable to ascertain my lead because of the winding nature of the trail and the navigational concentration required.  The return to the finish did not go back through the park but went directly to the slightly uphill paved portion of the race that I had been dreading.

As I hit the pavement I heard footsteps right on my heels. I didn’t need to look to know who it was. “Quick and light, quick and light”, I kept repeating to myself. I wanted to keep my turnover fast during this finishing portion. My breathing became very heavy and I was exhaling loudly. The finish was getting closer and I heard the footsteps of my nemesis matching me stride for stride. His strategy was obvious. He was going to sprint by me in the final 50 yards. I attempted a feeble kick and heard the footfalls behind me grow louder.

I expected him to fly past, but it didn’t happen and suddenly I was in the finishing chute.

I had done it! I was elated!

I turned to shake hands and there was nobody there! What a shock!

I walked a few steps, baffled and somewhat stunned.

I began my warm down jog and as I ran, I heard familiar footfalls on my heels.

As I looked down I realized that my competition that day had been the loose skin on my arms flapping against my ribs.



Leave a Reply