Wow, it’s 2015 and already halfway through January – time comes and goes so quickly! I have really been on the fence lately about which races I want to focus on this year and I am finally making progress (at least for the first half of the year). Late last year, I registered for Sean O’Brien 100K (SOB) which is just around the corner on 2/7. At first I was really excited and then my excitement started to wane once Coach and I started talking about marathons. As much as I love being out on the trails, there is competitive side in me that loves a painful marathon. Training and planning 50-milers and marathons together is a challenge already – throwing in a 100K just because is a different story: Lots of recovery and lots of excessive miles on my legs and less races on my calendar cumulatively.
This last week I decided to race Marin Ultra Challenge 50 (MUC)again for the third time on 3/14. This race will replace SOB. I LOVE this course – it’s definitely not an easy one, having over 11,000ft of climbing with one pretty loooooooong hill that I can barely get up hiking. I try not to think of the super hard sections – I know they are there and that is enough for me to know. No play-by-play recaps until I get close to the event so that I can focus on being tough instead of worried or scared. I will start to get more consistent with my training, run a 50k at the end of this month and maybe a half or some other short-er type of even in February before the big day.
I spent all day yesterday and this morning in San Francisco with my friend Stacie – we are so excited about the race that we decided we’d run a large portion of the course at a conversational pace. Trust me when I say that it is very rare and unlike me to run more 20-25 miles in one day, but it does happen on occasion. We had a phenomenal day – ran from the city and across the empty Golden Gate Bride and right to the race start. We ran the first section up and through SCA and then we were gone. Before we knew it, we were halfway done with our run and at Muir Beach. I suggested we go through one of my favorite sections of the course, Middle Green Gulch, which is a super long climb with lots of switchbacks. This was only one of a few hills where I took off and forced myself to envision myself right there on race day. Gosh, it felt so good, I felt so strong and I am glad I did it so I can remember this spot with a positive memory. One less thing to occupy my mind with later. 🙂
Anyway, after a solid 7 hours running, and 35 miles, we found ourselves back at her house devouring whatever food we could find until we could get some real food. We both looked at each other and said, “Can you believe we only need 15 more miles to get 50?” We both laughed, we had an amazing day and are really looking forward to this race.
As for my marathon, I am looking into a May/June event. OC on 5/3? This is the race I ran and broke my foot at mile 20 – not the best last memory. Read about that here. Or, Eugene on 5/10? Finish on the track. Not sure yet, but training begins regardless.
If you are interested in reading my re-caps from the last two years at this event, you can find them here:
Two weeks ago today, I was on a 50-mile journey, running all around the headlands, climbing some pretty brutal trails giving witness to some of the most gorgeous views in that area. I reflect back and I swear I feel something tingle inside me and I am overjoyed – not because I took home the W, but because I can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of something so wonderful and fulfilling. I feel whole running my heart out and it’s easy for me to understand that I need it. Anyway, back to the race…
This event, the Marin Ultra Challenge 50 was heavy on my mind as the race date drew near. There was never a part of me that didn’t want to race it, but like I had mentioned in previous post, I have been training, but only got bitten by the race bug recently, and I had a few personal things on my plate that took precedence.
As I confirmed my registration with Tim, the RD for Inside Trail, I suddenly remembered the brutal course and I was excited – it’s like the pain of getting your bare ass smacked and then the calming feeling of it being rubbed out. Except the ass smacking is the hill climbing and the is the view(s). Weird? I can’t explain it, I guess. Well, either way, I new it would be a tough race course since an extra 1,000 feet of elevation was added to bring the course near the original route it was two years ago. I ran it last year, and it was stunning, but it looped several times through Tennessee Valley, and didn’t include the single-track Miwok trail, Dipsea stairs or the amazing view of Stinson Beach. Like I said earlier, this race felt like a journey, and an amazing one at that!
The morning of race day, I felt so fresh and rested and I was extremely happy about that since I had only three days before caught a cold, not to mention that I hadn’t run one single step in a whole week which happened to be the day of my last half marathon trail race. I did have one potentially big problem though: I had woken up with major cramps and that had me worried I’d start my period during the race. D and I left the hotel that was just a small ride away from the race start to see if I could buy tampons at the gas station and of course, it was too early to be open. Luckily once at the start line, an Inside Trail volunteer helped me out with this problem and I put them in my handheld in case of an emergency (Thank you!). Luckily, there was never an emergency so not much more drama to discuss in this dept. 🙂
As the race started D, Kristin and I started out together. The plan, or lack of plan was to enjoy the day, not go out too fast and really power hike up and pound the downs and WIN. This was D’s suggestion to me (not the winning part), and he wasn’t there to ‘race’, he was there because it brought him back to his first-ever ultra marathon — one he says was brutal and maybe one he wasn’t ready for on his first go-round. Fast-forward to now and you’d be surprised to know that. He was also there to be my companion and keep me focused on the simple game-plan. Kristin, like me had also ran the race last year and she had been working her tail off to take some major time off last year (even with the additional elevation gain). I was stoked for her as I had been witnessing her long training sessions with Oswaldo and Armando weekend after weekend.
Since the race started an hour and a half before sunrise, we took it super easy up Coastal Trail for the first three miles, with Kristin generously lighting our way with her headlamp. Before I knew it, Ken Michel’s headlamp was guiding light and the three of us chatted for a short bit. Kristin had mentioned feeling a little uncomfortable with technical and downhill since she fell last year and got pretty banged up. I think it was this point that she decided to hang back a bit. I didn’t see her for the rest of the race, but she did end up lopping off a whole hour off her time and without one scrape! Way to go Kristin!
Last year I remember everyone trying to go out super fast on this first part of the course, I jumped out the way to let them by and before you know it, I had caught almost all of them by the time I finished. It’s getting easier to stay on a great pace early when you look at your pace per mile with 49 or so miles to go and realize that if ANY of us stay on that pace, we would be breaking course records by hours. LOL
As the sun started to rise, I felt that the race had finally begun, but not after our small group had accidentally stayed straight instead of turning right to get to Rodeo Beach. Luckily some car parked out that direction told us no racers had yet ran by and we quickly turned around and got back on track. Not a big deal…maybe 4 minutes lost and at least now we were awake.
Still bundled together a little after leaving Rodeo, we found ourselves climbing Bunker Road, going under tunnels and meeting Bunker Road again, but noticing a whole lot of people instead went straight up Bunker Road (similar to the Headlands Hundred course). The lead lady Luanne made sure to let them know that they had cut a significant portion off the course by doing that. Of course it was accidental and we still had over 45 miles to concern ourselves with.
So I said that I woke up feeling great, well except the cramps…this changed a bit for me, partially physically and mostly mentally. The physical part was my left calf on the verge of cramping – this kept my mind going in circles about what to do. I definitely didn’t want to stretch it out or put anymore pressure on it, so I made sure to stay off my toes on the ups, took in lots of extra fluids and started taking salt tabs early. The calf would go on to bother me for about 25 miles until I got too distracted to notice it anymore. The mental part was dealing with a different race plan. I didn’t like how slow we were going (or how slow it felt) and I was worried about losing time on the back end. It was even harder seeing the lead woman (Louann) fluctuating between 100 yards to about a half mile in front of us. She obviously had a game plan of not hiking – ever. I kept telling myself that what we were doing was the right thing and the hardest part of the race had yet to come. I’d catch her eventually and hopefully have a strong second half of the race instead of trying to blast uphill early and suffer later.
Not once did I look at my pace during the race, but I did keep an eye out for the 22-mile mark as that was where we would have to death march up Willow Camp Fire Rd for nearly two miles. D and I just caught the leader (Luanne) at Stinson Beach and I was now focused on staying up ahead. The climb though…it was ridiculously hard to even hike up. I kept telling myself that this is the hardest part of the race and once we were past this hill, I could focus on the second half of the race and look forward to the nearly 3-mile decline to the finish.
With nearly a 5.3 mile stretch between aid stations starting from the base of the climb, D and I had found ourselves low on water (one handheld) and as we headed into a public part of the park, we patiently waited in line at the public water fountain to fill our water bottles. We were getting a little impatient with a hiker, who saw that we were in a race and continued to fill his whole 2-Liter hydration pack before allowing us to get in there. I remember turning around and seeing a different woman on my tail. This scared the crap out of me – she seemed to have come out of nowhere since D and I had been pretty much alone from miles 5-20 until we caught Louann and then after Willow Camp, we caught up to Mark Tanaka and about two or three other guys. I filled up only half way and took off, it was time to GO and I would try my best to not look back for the rest of the race.
As I finally got to mile 27.7 mile aid station, I already had the lid off my bottle, as nicely as I could sound, yelled, “water!” and then I took off, screwing the cap back on while running. D was behind me, he didn’t hurry through the aid station and I was able to run with Mark again. For the next 6 miles or so, I ran crazy and quickly as I could down some gorgeous, yet extremely technical trails that consisted of big tree roots and some wood stairs. All I could hope for was to NOT fall or get passed. I also had to pee, which was very annoying. I had already peed twice during the race, one of them on a downhill, which in retrospect is not where you want to lose time — save it for an up when everyone else is slow too. Reluctantly I asked Mark, whom I have raced with at Javelina and this same race last year, if it would be OK if I just peed on myself because I didn’t want to get passed. He said ‘elite’ women do that all the time and I just laughed to myself because I am so not an elite. LOL. I ended up holding it for 20 miles until I finished the race.
The great thing about this ‘scare’ of getting caught was that before I knew it, I only had 10-miles to go once I found myself at Muir Beach. My Garmin Fenix was half dead since mile 29 and that is how it would read for the rest of the race.
As I left Muir Beach, I had gotten ahead of Mark and his small group and caught one guy named Rich as we climbed up Green Gulch Trail. This was another bitch of a climb, but I was very familiar as we had to climb it twice last year and I knew exactly what to expect. As I passed him, he was beyond encouraging and I remembered that ultra runners are just so motivating and generous with encouragement. This climb kind of zigzagged and allowed me to see who was behind me without having to look back. Whenever he suspected I looked his direction, he would give me a thumbs up. This small gesture really made everything a lot easier.
Getting back on the Miwok Trail from there, I caught up to two guys who I thought were racing until I realized they didn’t seem to mind me passing them and kept up their loud and friendly conversation with each other. And because they seemed to be taking it easy, I asked if they were in the race and they confirmed that they were.
As I got in to Tennessee Valley around mile 44, I asked the aid station how much farther we had – he said about 5.3 miles. I heard him and I know what 5.3 miles is, but since my watch wasn’t showing mileage anymore and because I was still kind of frazzled from running like a bat out of hell to get away from her and to the finish line, I thought I had 5.3 to the next aid station and needed to climb out of Tennessee Valley which does not make sense since I just left from there in a different direction.
Sticking to the game plan as I did all day, I hiked up Marincello Trail, thinking I had farther to go than I actually did. When I realized my mistake, I only had a bit over 3 miles to go and I hauled in to the finish feeling so strong. I had no idea what my time would be, but as I crossed the finish, I came in at 8:41:54 as the first female and 7th overall. Laura, who had caught me earlier came in around 9:12, and Luanne came in at 9:19. Both of these women ran very strong races and I was glad to be in their company.
I know I made this recap very long, but I don’t want to forget any of it. Huge thanks to D, for keeping me smart and focused when I doubted the race plan, to Mark for always motivating me along the course, listening to me talk about peeing my pants (or potentially peeing my pants) and for letting me sneak in ahead of him again this year, and also to Inside Trail — the race was flawless, the aid-stations were great, the volunteers, awesome. I apologize if in my worried frenzy, I came through the aid stations like a bull. 🙂 And finally, thank you Tim for welcoming me back again for back-to-back wins. I will be back and this next time, I already have a game plan.
Not too much to say about this past week’s training because 49 of 73 miles were from the Marin Ultra Challenge that I did on Saturday. Yes, I ran a 50-miler, but I had so much fun doing it. Typically I write looooooong race recaps but for some reason, I just don’t want to so I will just quickly tell you about it:
Gorgeous course all over Marin Headlands (SF) starting and finishing under the Golden Gate Bridge and then running through and around Rodeo Beach, Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach. Views were breathtaking (for me anyway), overlooking the beach from some pretty gnarly hills. With an elevation gain of 10,000+ feet, I really expected it to be a long, hot, 9.5 hour day and I was content with that.
My plan was simple, run fast enough to be the first woman, but not so fast that I might injure myself (thinking of the big picture marathon). I was really hoping for a top ten overall finish and I ended up placing 9th!
A few things to note:
- I was extremely worried about getting off course since we would be going in and out of Tennessee Valley from a few directions. I did, only once right before mile 20 and instead of turning right on Miwok, I headed left back up a trail that we had already came down earlier. Common sense told me I shouldn’t be heading in that direction and since I could no long hear the voices of the guys that were in front of me, I got back on the trail and found the pink ribbon that should have taken me right instead of left. Not sure how much more I added to my milege — not a big deal. The race was officially 49.3 miles and my Garmin died with 48.99 miles on it, 7.5 minutes before I crossed the finish line. I guess I could do the math if I wanted to. Garmin details HERE.
- Aid stations were fully stocked with a huge variety of items. I managed to get 90% of my nutrition (240+ calories per hour) from my own stash of FRS energy shots. I am really tired of gels and these remind me of concentrated orange juice that can be taken as a shot, or poured into a water bottle. Each shot is approximately 120 calories, 35mg of caffeine, and just…YUMMY. ONE thing I didn’t like was the packaging – the wrapper is hard to remove when you are running/hiking and then screwing off the cap is difficult; the hard little bottle makes it hard to carry more than a few at a time if you are carrying handhelds instead of a pack. *FRS website seems to be discontinuing this size and is instead offering a 16 serving size bottle (maybe for the reasons I just mentioned). I purchased mine on ebay, buy one case, get one for free so I doubt I will find another deal like this. By far my new favorite product that I don’t want to be without — a must-have!
- Inside Trail hosted this event and had some really great swag. Coming in as the first Female earned me a new Suunto Ambit GPS watch with heart rate monitor, $250 in prize money and a few other things like an embroidered blanket and personalized beer mug. I was really excited about this since I have never really won anything before, plus I felt like I had to work pretty hard to earn it.
- Complaints? None, really. I would suggest that the race have water available in the morning at the start line. I never come to a race with an empty bottle or pack but I did on this day and got lucky to have a bottle in my car. Other than that, everything was great and I would love to do more of their races.
- One of the best parts of this event was the people. I had a blast traveling up with my coach Andy Noise (who did the 50K), allowing us to catch up and get to know each other better. I was also able to run with Mark Tanaka — this man heavily influenced and inspired me through my journey at Javelina in October. He has a lot of races under his belt and I think I could learn a lot from him. We ran together for quite a long time and only finished about 6 minutes apart. Then there was Chris B. who I ran into during the race, it turns out were were DM friends already but just never met. That was cool.
Well, I think I made this a long post again. Darn it, I guess I will try harder next time. 🙂
June 24, 2013 | Categories: Santa Rosa Mara
OK, I was pretty disappointed when Ashley didn’t text/comment or anything after my race this weekend but when I came home from my trip, she had decorated my door and left me a pile of chocolate with a note that said, “This came out much cuter in my head.” Sneaky girl. What was I thinking? 🙂