On Sunday, August 6th, I ran the Skyline 50k put on by Scena Performance. This was my first time running one of their races.
I was intrigued by this race as it is the oldest continuously run 50k in the US. And the course description sounded amazing:
The Skyline course is an in-depth journey through the southern half of the East Bay hills and travels on much of the famous Bay Area Ridge Trail before it meanders back to Lake Chabot. Runners will be treated to an early morning navigation around the west side of the lake, witnessing the day coming to life on the water, and ultimately return via the east side of the lake to complete the circle. In the interim, runners will travel through grasslands, bay and oak forests, ridgeline fire roads, windy single track trails, towering Redwood forests, and more while taking in all that the diverse Bay Area ecosystems have to offer.
Registration was done through Ultra Signup, so that bit was easy enough.
Communication from Scena Performance was excellent, as was the optional packet pick up on Saturday at Transports, a running store in Oakland.
Arriving at the Lake Chabot marina on race day, parking was a breeze, very close to the start line. There was a $5 fee to park in the main lot or there was free parking out on the street just a short walk away.
The start was on time and organized. There were no frills or unnecessary delays. The race director counted down from 10 to 1 and the runners were off.
The course began with a roughly two mile section of paved path before hitting dirt and climbing quickly up into the hills. While the park service had forced the organizers to route the race mostly on fire roads, it did nothing to detract from the overall beauty of the course or the enjoyment of the runners. These are some rugged, wild fire roads, with plenty of twist and turns, as well as lots of climbing. There were a few long, gorgeous sections of single track that felt a little bit like heaven.
The course markings were incredible. Any difficult or remotely confusing turn on the course had several pink ribbons and arrows pointing the way (made with flour). On at least six occasions, there was an actual human being guiding runners to the correct trail. It would have been nearly impossible to get lost.
Aid stations were stocked with almost anything a runner would want. Every aid station was also overflowing with volunteers. I counted 12 at one of the later aid stations. Everyone was extremely helpful and encouraging, cheering as every runner entered and exited the aid station and seeing to our every need while we refueled.
Truly, I’ve never felt so well taken care of.
Race results were posted live to the Scena Performance website, which is a great way for folks who couldn’t make it to the finish line to keep tabs on a runner’s finish.
Race swag included a technical shirt and a pair of running socks designed specifically for the event. One thing that was noticeably absent was a finisher’s medal. Here’s what Scena Performance has to say about that:
While we do offer a hearty congratulations, along with various race swag items, we strive to emphasize the experience over the medals, and thus devote more energy toward the things that will make the race one to remember, including an elaborate post-run bbq and beer extravaganza where you can connect with your fellow finishers. Awards will be given to the top overall male and female, as well as the fastest male and female finishers in each 10-year age group. We also have special awards to be bestowed upon the first male and female rookie ultramarathoners.
I have to admit I am of two minds about this. I appreciate that they wish to “emphasize the experience” and I do try to find joy in the simple act of running.
That being said, there is more to it than just race day performance. The finisher’s medal is also a celebration of everything a runner has done in order to make it to the starting line. It is a physical representation of that effort. It’s also a memento, acting something like a photograph, a way to remember the experience.
All in all, Scena Performance put on an amazing race. This was a gorgeous 50k with outstanding views that navigated some of the most incredible trails I’ve ever run.
Everyone involved, from volunteers to the race organizers, were friendly and helpful, catering to the runner’s every need.
I’ll be back running with Scena Performance again (soon I hope) and I definitely recommend them to any serious trail runner.