Lake Sonoma Adventures

Since I am the proud winner of not one, but two spring race lotteries, referenced before as the lottery of pain, I decided I needed to get my act together. Mainly for Lake Sonoma, the 50 miler, but 30 miles on uncharted terrain is no joke either.

Let me back up…why was I even in two race lotteries to begin with?  Well, back when I thought I’d conquer North Face and I realized I didn’t really want to swim a half ironman distance again (let alone a full), and realized how much I loved the trails, I entered the lottery for Lake Sonoma. It’s worth noting that I thought I had to be in before North Face.  Post North Face debacle, I thought that maybe I’d need some time before another 50, and that I’d enter the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k and pull out of Lake Sonoma.  Great idea in thought, not so much in practice. Turns out, entering Cool was no problem….however, there wasn’t a way to get out of Lake Sonoma. It won’t be a problem, I thought….I never win anything, I thought….

Cue the Monday I have the flu and try to work anyway.  After a scary drive home from Redwood City, the realization that I can’t keep anything down, and an overwhelming desire to sleep forever, I check my email.  Two Ultra Sign-Up confirmations book-ending an email from the Lake Sonoma Race Director…..I had won the lottery….two lotteries, to be exact. Yup….time to get it together.

Since the 50 mile scares me way more, I decided to focus on that. Thought process being, I have to run a couple 30+ days to train for that anyway….might as well use Cool as a training ground. And people seem to really like that race….and it’s on part of the Western States course….and I saw something about frog cupcakes. I’m slow, but I better get a cupcake….haha.

Anyway, I digress. I emailed with a friend who has run Sonoma three times and planning for a fourth.    She gave me the lowdown on the course….rolling hills for approximately twenty miles, headlands
like hills for ten, back on the rollers for another twenty. Throw in some (12) creek crossings and some really good swag at the end, and you have the most fun 50 miles ever.  Well…I just had to check it out for myself.

I took a trip up to Lake Sonoma right before Christmas….I mean, I had to pick up wine anyway, why not?  I think I only missed one turn on my way to the park, and really, I was already in the park.  Pretty good for me. Haha. As I pulled in, I passed several signs about drowning and not being next…thankfully (I think), there’s only been one. There were also several signs about paying at the marina….ok, sure. If I’m going to pay for something, it might as well be a park or a trail, etc. I drove down into the marina to pay, but no one was around…very Deliverance or something.  I guess that’s what happens in the off season. I wandered for a bit…looking for a map or a person or something. Didn’t really seem like there were trails or anything near there. Luckily someone (marina worker, maybe) found me and was able to provide some directions and give me change for the parking fee.

I headed up to what I thought was the parking lot for the trail, but turned out to be a field of soft mud and gravel. Well, it’s supposed to be rugged, so I thought I was in a parking lot. Turns out the lot was the next turn off the main road, but, no one cared. Haha. I put on my awesome ankle braces, loaded up my pack, and headed towards a trail. There was only one, so I assumed it was the race course my thoughts were semi-confirmed by a few stray course markers I found (strava would later confirm that I was correct….and don’t get me started on races that can’t seem to clean up after themselves).

The trail was….excellent. I quickly understood why people like this race and why it’s fast and rugged. The trail was overall runable.  Very rolling….nothing like the walk up, jog down I was used to in the headlands. Sad, because I’ve become a great hiker, but good, because maybe I can learn to run more. At some points, it almost felt like an obstacle course….lots (ok, two, maybe three) downed trees to climb over.  And then there was the man with the crossbow. Really??  Where am I and what did I sign up for?

Unfortunately, I was tired. My body had been through a lot in early December – North Face debacle, the flu, life….and my thoughts of 15 miles quickly became 13 and then 10 before ending at 9.  But, I’d gotten a good preview of what 4/5 or so of the course would be like. And had an adventure. Tough to beat that.

Shortly after the holidays, I decided to head back out to Lake Sonoma. I didn’t feel the greatest and couldn’t decide if it was tired or sick. But, I figured, might as well go explore something new if I’m going to be slow anyway. After a quick stop at SF Run Company (fewer things burn a hole in your pocket faster than a gift card from there…), I was on my way.

Once I arrived, I headed back towards the marina, where I thought I was supposed to pay. Not before passing a sign about boar hunting until March 23rd and sharing the trails. Now, are the hunters supposed to share with me or me with them?  At least that explains the crossbow from my last adventure.  I become thankful that I just bought a bright orange running shirt with my gift card. At least I wont be mistaken for a boar. I drive down to the marina to pay and unfortunately no one is there….oh well. I remember where the envelopes are. But, before I can get out of the car, a giant truck pulls in right next to me….almost close enough that I can’t get the door open. And they have a confederate flag license plate. Awesome….sometimes I make great friends…..

I jump out and quickly pay the fee. I wasn’t planning on staying, so hopefully my new friends have plans that involve the marina. Just as quickly as I paid the fee and dropped the envelope, I got back in the car and was off to my destination – the turn around point for the race. Of course the scary truck decided they needed to leave then too….followed me halfway up before stopping and I never saw them again. Maybe they decided to stay at the marina….maybe they decided they should pay to use the park. Who knows. I was just glad they were gone.

After crossing a bridge, I found my destination pretty fast – no name flat parking area. After my previous run in, I was pleased to see several cars in the parking lot. I got ready (que awesome ankle braces) and was on my way. I didn’t have a ton of water, but it was chilly and only ten miles….ugh….bad idea. Someday, I will learn.

The first piece of trail was similar to my earlier adventure.  Rolling hills and pretty runable. I did a loop and a half or so, then realized I was doing the same thing twice. Strava later confirmed that I’d also gone in the wrong direction on the loop – how else would I get a course record ;). Oops…at least I found it. There are no names on the map and the trail markings leave much to be desired. Part of why I love it, but not conducive to easily figuring things out. Haha.

Once on the fire road out and back (appropriately titled fire road on strava), I definitely found the hills. I turned just before the Madrone fire road, but I think I saw the worst of them. Good news, with some training, they didn’t seem that bad. Bad news, I understand why Marissa suggested Fox trail repeats as part of training.

I started my journey back, and in no time rolled my left ankle. Ouch…I was walking. Grrrr….hiss.  Luckily, I was able to walk it out, but it still hurts now and it’s a little puffy. Hopefully I can get some healing or strengthening suggestions from the doctor next week. It seemed like forever – running when I didn’t feel too hot was not one of my better ideas, but eventually I saw the car from afar. Not before another runner passed by and wished me a happy new year and some hiker failed at peeing in the woods. Really….we were maybe 200 yards from the parking lot. With a porta poty. Try that. Or learn to actually hide….

Oh what an adventure I’ve gotten myself into. Until next time…over and out….

One thought on “Lake Sonoma Adventures

  1. Pingback: Who Knew Getting Lost Could be So Much Fun… | Adventurous Wanderer

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