I am having a hard time trying to figure out how to describe my experience in the 50K on Sunday. Are you familiar with Tracy Chapman’s song, Revolution? If not, ignore the words around a revolution and listen to the the full 30 second preview from the link I provided until you get to the part that says “Don’t you know you better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, RUN, RUN.” I guess that is the jist of how I would describe Sunday…a boatload of running….seven hours and five minutes to be exact.
The race started at 9am, so we were up before 6am to pack up our stuff, ensure we had enough time in the bathroom, eat our pre-race oatmeal, drink plenty of G2 sports drink and water and then drive to the start to pick up our numbers.
None of us were overly nervous for the race, but something about being in the starting area before a race maximizes your nerves regardless of how nervous you are.
We spent the hour at the starting area dancing around (literally) our rented minivan for the weekend and playing with Little B and the using Erin’s rendition of a dance routine to Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Something to entertain ourselves and pass the time before the start. Some dedicated time with MJ’s song, also equipped us with a new insult, “You’re a vegetable” which would of course be brought up more than once in the next seven hours.
At 9:00 they rounded us up across the street and on the trail we would be following and then a belabored 15 minutes later, we were finally allowed to commence the race.
We had figured the race would take us somewhere between five and six hours. Six was realistic but when we started thinking about how much downhill the race contained (5,580 feet) we began to think we might be able to average closer to a 9-minute mile and thus a five hour time. Piece of cake.
Oh, were we ever so Naïve. What we were not factoring in was the 3000 feet gain of which we were planning to hike rather than run and the most technical trail any of us had ever run. It was literally more or less a single track for the first 28 miles…and that doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was a single track with many gnarly attributes including:
- rocks and roots covered with leaves
- mud, mud and more mud
- fallen redwoods of which we had to climb over, jump over or even crawl under
- steep uphill followed by steep downhill and vice versa
In fact, there was hardly anywhere on the course that felt like a straight away where you could really stretch out your stride and feel like you were on auto pilot. I even tried to get in front of our mini pack to try and stretch out my legs but it never really happened until the last three miles of the race.
Even with all of these challenges, we managed to stay together, keep a positive attitude and finish the race. Along the way, Erin took a couple of tumbles over some of the aforementioned roots. One was early on, around mile seven when she rolled her ankle on a root and then fell to the path rolling around in the dirt all the while aplogizing for slowing us down while replying, “only shooting pain, only shooting pain, it will pass. I am sorry. I am okay. Only shooting pain.” Of course Anna and I were trying to convince her that we were in no hurry and continuing to ask her if she was okay. She was so concerned she was going to ruin the day and waste all of our training but that was the last thing from our minds.
Surprisingly she was able to get up and continue only to repeat the episode a few miles later at which time she again was able to continue. While she made it through with only a kankle (swollen ankle) on her right foot other fellow racers were not so lucky and were hiking out with foot braces and walking sticks.
One great attribute of this race and the other Pacific Coast Trail runs are the aid stations. They had a smörgåsbord of race food including water, sports drink, Clif Shot Bloks, pretzels, pop tarts, chocolate chip cookies, boiled potatoes with salt to dip in, potato chips, gummy bears, PayDay bars, jerky, animal crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and surely other things I am forgetting. At the first aid station around Mile 7, I stuck to the food I had tried out in training, but by the second aid station, I realized I was going to need more food than the Shot Bloks, gummy bears and Gu I was carrying and dug into to the potatoes dipped in salt, chocolate chip cookies, pb&j, PayDay bars and luckily did not regret it.
Amazingly, in the entire 31 miles, the only nutrition problem we had was around mile 29 when the aid station was much further than advertised and everyone was running out of water. Anna got close to a meltdown due to lack of calories but I had some liquids to share which pulled her through.
My darker moments during the race were actually in the first 20 miles. I was running along thinking HOW much LONGER we had to run and it was hard to feel positive about our forward progress. I tend to do much better once we are closer to the end, I have always been this way.
Besides my awesome running partners, the best part of the race was the scenery. I don’t think there was a stretch of even 100 meters that wasn’t scenic. It was a beautiful race starting near Saratoga, California (Saratoga Gap) and ending near the sea in Santa Cruz. Like the one in the photo above, there were massive redwood trees scattered throughout most of the 31 miles and if it weren’t for my justified fear of tripping on a tree root or rock, I would have been running with my face up towards the arbored ceiling above us the entire distance. It really could not have been more beautiful.
Yet another fantastic attribute of the race was the dirt trail for the entire distance. Who knew so many adjoining miles of trail existed in our country’s most populous state?
For the entire duration of our run, Belén was busy seeing California for the first time with her Auntie Chrissy and daddy. They were awesome support crew who we SO appreciated especially at the beginning and end of the race.
A little more than seven hours after we started, we crossed the finish line together and could not have been more estatic. All of our training paid off and we finished (yay!) a race that in my book is very difficult. We ate some food, picked up our Patagonia shirts (double yay!) and then headed for the ocean.
The final picture of the day requires a bit of explanation. On our drive from the San Francisco airport to Cupertino, where we stayed the first night, I wondered out load if there might be an opportunity to create an iPhone app where you could try out different hairstyles. Anna immediately looked into it and found such an app created by Créme Group. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had with that app. It made getting from point A to point B pass quite quickly and I promise another blog post with some of our output from those sessions. To whet your appetite, I will share our favorite race photo.
With this, our 50K journey comes to an end more than five months after it began. After so much time spent training, we are left with sore muscles, blackened toenails, closer relationships, a green long-sleeved Patagonia shirt, fond memories and the accomplishment of enduring a race few people will ever attempt. On top of it all, Anna, dedicated her race to the eradication of Polio and each member of her Rotary club donated $1 to the cause for each mile she ran.
While I cannot say I am going to run right out and do another such race any time soon, I will quickly admit it has been a wonderful experience I am glad I undertook, especially with such good sisters/friends.
That last line just gave me a flashback to sorority days.