I was in California this past weekend for the 40th annual Brickyard Race – an event offering runners a four mile or an eight mile option. This road race starts in Rankin Park in Martinez which is located in the East Bay about 40 miles or so from San Francisco. The route heads toward the old Brickyard (hence the name of the event) near Crockett on the Carquinez Scenic Highway. The course is void of traffic save an avid hiker or cyclist since it is closed to motorized traffic after the two mile point due to erosion. The views along the race course are indeed scenic overlooking the Carquinez Straights to one side, and hilly open space on the other side. I travel to Martinez for the race every year to help my friend Terri who is the race director.
In California, the sunrises are usually very pretty as you can see and there are some fantastic trails to enjoy, which I did in addition to racing the 8 miler. In fact, I ran trails on Saturday prior to the race on my old stomping grounds – having lived in Crockett for about 16 months from early 2001 to spring 2002. I also explored some new trails on Monday morning (which is when I took these photos). Those pictured below are in Martinez on the California Trail which is part of the East Bay Regional Park system.
Getting back to the race. . . and tangents.
When racing, most people hope to get the best possible finish time. One way to get a faster finish time is to run the shortest distance between two points. The Brickyard Race is a good example of a race that offers tangents. The course is a very hilly route with numerous twists and turns which provide "tangents" to run. Instead of following the natural curve of a road or wide trail, head for the inside turn reducing the "distance" that you run. This technique is a great race strategy that most of the top competitors use and there is no reason a mid-to-back of the packer can't incorporate this strategy into their racing. Tangents are easy to run on most road races and also easy to incorporate in trail races that provide wide trails such as fire roads, or cat tracks at ski areas. A word of caution on trails that are single track – do NOT go off trail to cut a tangent or a switchback, rather always stay on the marked trail. Hopefully the diagram below illustrates my point.
It is amazing to me that people don't use the tangents available on a race course. When I ran the Vail HillClimb one year, I was amazed at the runners I passed who were not using the tangents wisely. I figure on a course like the HillClimb with 7 miles of uphill and 2000+ feet of vertical gain, any way you can save some time is worth the effort. Like the HillClimb, during the Brickyard Race I noted many runners not using the tangents to their advantage. I suggest, like many other race strategies, you practice this technique in your everyday runs (certainly not in heavy traffic situations or on multi-use trails where you encounter other users frequently) so that it is more rote for you on race day. Keep setting PRs and enjoy the trails.