It's been a busy racing year for me...wow! I signed in to check my calendar and noticed I've completed every race on it, and it's now time to retire 2008 to a sidebar as a reminder of all I've done this year, and time to post my 2009 calendar as I've already got a few races lined up :)
Last weekend I ventured out west, to San Francisco, to crew Mike through his first 50-miler, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships. I haven't been out to California since 2002, so I was excited to get back, and to see my very favorite running partner in crime :)
The four hour flight got me there an hour early and I now had another four hours to kill while I waited for Mike's flight to land. My butt fell asleep sitting on the floor in the baggage claim area, but I was certainly entertained with all the people watching, managed to finish a copy of Runner's World I'd held off reading for a couple months, and made a serious dent in my latest book of choice, The Universe In A Single Atom
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Sidenote: I picked up this book after reading Mike Bouscaren's Ultrarunning: My Story
(he suggested the book). It's very interesting and thought-provoking, but not recommended to anyone who doesn't enjoy the argument of science v. religion.
Once Mike arrived, we got a rental car and headed into the city to pick up his race packet at The North Face store and then get some food!
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Mmmmm, tastiest smoked salmon sandwich ever...La Boulange in the Washington Square Park 'hood
Once we found the hotel, in Mill Valley, Mike finished up some work and I laced up my road runners and headed out for a little run to get the legs ready for the next day. It was gorgeous! I had no idea where I was, so I strapped on my Garmin 305 so I could at least keep track. I ran down Redwood Highway (interior) and turned on a hilly side street that lead towards the mountains. This street dropped me directly onto one of my favorite surfaces...single-track, woohoo! I followed the make-shift dirt path as it wound through some marshy areas and then into a small peninsula area in the middle of a sort of inter-coastal waterway. Mt. Tamalpais loomed in the distance. There was a dog park in the center and a crushed gravel path that went around it. I took this until I reached about 2 miles and saw more single-track coming up that led onto the peninsula (also a national scenic wildlife reserve) and took this until it hit a dead end at the water's edge, then turned around and headed back to the hotel. The sun was setting and you could see it reflecting in the still water, and as it disappeared behind the mountains the colors changed quickly before it got dark. The run turned into just under 4 miles. Excellent. It felt good, especially considering I hadn't run in seven days while I rested my shins.
Dinner at this awesome Italian restaurant just north of where we were staying, and then we relaxed in the room and watched The Distance of Truth to get all psyched for the next day. Great documentary about the 2005/06 running of Badwater 135. We woke at 2:45 a.m. (!) and started making motions to head out. I'm glad we had organized everything the night before, and I went over directions for crew, pacing, etc. We had to meet at Rodeo Beach where we'd take a shuttle bus to the start/finish area. Once the runners started, the shuttles would take crew members back to the Beach to get our cars.
Start/Finish area The 50-milers waiting for the 5 a.m. start Pre-race shot, standing around the heat lamps...it was FREEZING!
Thankfully, a really nice North Face staffer gave me aid station directions...I had no idea where I was going and definitely would have gotten lost without them. Once the runners were off, the next stop for crew was Tennessee Valley/mile 8ish. I got there early enough to squeeze in a half hour nap, and then got Mike's water bottles ready. I ran to an outhouse quickly as I assumed I had another half hour until Mikes projected arrival at the station, but as I was coming out I saw him running up...a half hour early! Quick swap of water bottles and handing me his headlamp, he was off again, an now it was time for me to make the long drive up to Pan Toll/mile 18 and 31. Emphasis on LONG. And winding, and steep, and scary at times. But, I made it :)
Pan Toll/mile 18...Runners would come through here again after Stinson Beach. I saw Nikki Kimball (at the table) and couldn't resist taking a pic. I was surrounded by ultrarunning greats!
Mike was looking good at the first go round of Pan Toll and though Stinson Beach AS was in 2.5ish miles, we decided I'd meet him there, too, as the biggest, nastiest climb was going to be after that and he'd need some refills for it. Stinson was really pretty and I had to drive along the ridge line of Mt. Tamalpais, which afforded some great shots from high up... Stinson Beach is down below
The site of all this craziness and excitement
After Stinson, it was back to Pan Toll for me to meet Mike at the 50k mark and begin pacing him from there if need be. The elevation in this race was unbelievable, I think it was 10,000 feet of gain and loss. That's a lot, especially for this flat-lander! The wait at Pan Toll the second time around was awhile since the climbing to get back up there (for the runners) was the worst of the whole race. I changed into my running clothes, got the water bottles ready, purchased a parking pass since I'd be leaving the car here for a number of hours, met a really cool gal from the area who was crewing for her husband (also his first 50-miler). We talked about trail running (my favorite) v. road running (her favorite) and I'm pretty sure I was able to convince her to give a trail marathon a shot! This helped pass the time and I should have gotten her name as every time we came into a station once I started pacing she was there cheering loudly for us, which was pretty cool since neither of us knew anyone there. Lots of big names were in this race/crewing for others: Krupicka, Jen Shelton, Kimball, Meltzer, Skaggs. I was putting stuff in the trunk of the car when I looked up and coming right towards me was Karl Meltzer (I didn't realize he was running it). I actually had to move out of the way for him to pass. Cool, don't see that everyday.
I walked back up to the Matt Davis Trail and waited for Mike so I could snap a pic of him coming in...
Woohoo, 50k, done and done!
Mike wanted me to jump in and I was more than happy to...nothing like a nice 19 mile run in the woods/mountains of northern Cali on a lovely Saturday morning :) Swapped the water bottles, got Mike some Advil and food, and then we headed out of Pan Toll. Everyone coming back into Pan Toll looked like they wanted to quit right there and a lot of people actually looked really pissed. The climbs were apparently that bad. I wasn't going to see the worst of it, but it was going to be difficult enough, for sure.
I felt great, obviously, because I had the fresh legs and was in a fabulous mood. It had warmed up some by now and a lot of the course was exposed once up top. The sun felt really great on our backs after we'd come out of the chillier tree line. The trail was a lot more technical than I anticipated, but I was ready for it and managed to negotiate it pretty well. Aside from two nasty ankle rolls (one on each side), I managed to stay upright the entire time...quite a feat for me! The climbs we unrelenting at times, but not that bad to me since I was fresh. At the back half of a long race though, the climbs were torturous for the racers. I was having so much fun pacing and really enjoyed the views. Mike was doing really well (he may not say the same, but he was) and we alternated speed-walking the climbs and running everything else we could. Aid stations were great and the volunteers were awesome, but I could swear nobody could get the mileage right. I know my Garmin isn't the most accurate in woods, but it comes close enough. Next year, they should have signs posted at the stations with mileage covered and mileage remaining. It was unnerving to glace at my GPS and see we had 5 miles to go, but the AS volunteers told us 6.8. Yikes, that's a bit of a difference!
I'm not sure which station we were at, but a really nice older guy joined us and we chatted with him while we made the 700' climb up to another ridge (this climb felt like an eternity, and was steep enough and late enough in the race that running it was out of the question). Once we made it up and began running on a nice crushed gravel trail around the mountain, I suddenly felt a very sharp pain in my left shin. It felt like someone took a knife and cut it horizontally across the lower portion of my left shin. Oh my god, it hurt like hell! I couldn't even run on it. I was reduced to walking the flatest portion of the whole dang 19 miles I was covering. I told Mike not to hold back, it's his race not mine. I'd be fine, I just needed to find a gait I could manage. I played around with lots of different running/walking angles and paces, and found that leaning to the right took a lot of pressure off it and was fine on and off. Eventually, I realized that when my leg went back after footstrike I felt the worst of the pain. I then fixed my positioning so that my legs stayed in front of or directly below me. Not an ideal running gait, but at least it allowed me to run pain free now. I lost a couple miles working on this, but I was still moving and Mike was holding up well.
One more (unexpected) aid station, where we were told 2.8 more miles, uggggh, seriously! It was all going to be downhill from that point though. Music to our ears. The sun was starting to go down, so we knew we were nearing the 5:00 p.m./12 hour cutoff Mike needed to make to qualify for the Vermont 100. The trail was leading us back down to the roads below and we worked out a really good run/walk routine. We were trucking along and I was really impressed with Mike's persistance and how well he cranked out those last couple of miles. I kept glancing at our time and the clock knowing we needed to break 10 minute miles for the last two miles. Speed walk to a flag, then run to the next. Then there was a slight incline on a road that we knew held the finish line. It was curvy and we could hear the sounds of the finish line; Mike asked me to run ahead and tell him what was around the curve. A tease, it was more road!! Finally, the finish was in sight and I yelled back to Mike. He sped up while I pulled back so he could finish ahead. He was going to make his cutoff!! Crossed the line in 11:54, six minutes to spare. Hello, Vermont :)
It was cold now! Since we couldn't carry anything, and didn't have a dropbag we only had the clothes we had on and our water bottles, and our car was 30 miles away, at Pan Toll. Now it was time to figure out how the hell we were getting back up there! We looked like a roll of aluminum foil threw up on us...we each had on two space blankets to keep warm and were huddled at a table while Mike ate some chili and I stressed about the car. Oy, we should have planned better for that. I began asking around to see if anyone was heading towards Pan Toll, and I thankfully met Ernesto who was happy to give us a ride. We just needed to wait for his friend, Chuck Wilson, to finish. We huddled around a heat lamp with some other runners and talked it up with Joel and his wife, from Seattle. Great people. Another reminder of how wonderful the ultrarunning community is.
The drive back up to Pan Toll was a flashback for me and I'm soooo glad I had thought to put the driving directions in the pouch of my water bottle. Otherwise, we'd have been SOL. We had the heat blasting, and Ernesto told us all about the different races he's done and about living in NoCal. What a stellar guy, he's done a lot and is one of the nicest people I've met lately. Very kind and obviously gracious for going so much out of his way to get two perfect strangers back to their car. Thank you, Ernesto!!!!
Happy to be DONE!
We were exhausted! Back at the hotel, we ordered pizza, iced our limbs and Mike passed out hard while I inhaled the cinnastix. The sugar tasted so good! We slept in a bit on Sunday, grabbed breakfast up the road, at the Dipsea Cafe (absolutely delicious!), then packed up and headed into the city to find a good place for coffee and hanging out. We found Lombard St. and I drove down it. Waaaaaaay too steep for my tastes and I was freaking out! At the bottom, though, the view was fantastic :) We ended up at Coffee Adventures on Columbus where we lounged on the couch and read the paper, then we wandered up towards Fisherman's Wharf. I had to hop on a trolley though and be touristy...
San Francisco is a great city, and I love the easy access to fabulous running trails :) I had a flight to catch though, so we headed to the airport where Mike dropped me off and he then headed to L.A. for work.
I had a fabulous weekend, tiring and short, but worth it. It's just what I needed and now I'm really pumped for my 50-miler in April, at McNaughton. We learned a lot from this race and we'll go into the next one much more prepared, and comfortable :) This was a great way to wrap up the year and our racing calendars. Now it's time to rest, but not for long...my 50-miler training starts on Monday, and Mike's got another in March (Bel Monte Endurance Run 50) to get ready for!
Beautiful recap Paige - thanks for leaving out how slow and painful that last 19 miles were for me :) For the record, the first 31M took about the same time as the last 19 miles...that's how much pain my quads, hams, ankles, and knees were. Wouldn't have made it without you for sure.
I figured you'd go more into detail on that in your blog :)
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