Einre (not his real name) spent the weeks leading up to this race convincing me that I could actually go 50 miles in 12 hours. I had my doubts, but it did seem vaguely possible. So I made this sign to wear on my back during the race:
It got a LOT of comments; "I've my got money on you making it!" said one woman who actually had nothing to do with the race - MANY runners gave lots of great encouragement. But was there a chance of me not going bust? (Spoiler alert: No, not really.)
It was actually pretty good running conditions, weather-wise, outside of a brutal and relentless wind. The good part though was that the wind was often at your back or blocked by the trees.
Note the two arches; Brazen tried something new this year - in addition to the 6 and 12 hour endurance runs, they had two 10Ks and two 5Ks, each timed to get fresh runners on the course near the end of the 6 and 12 hour runs. This was a brilliant idea, although it must have caused a near meltdown for the timing company's computers, trying to keep everything sorted.
The course was a 5K loop that had some great views of the bay.
And some great trails through the woods. The hills were modest, although they tended to add up over time - after 8 hours or so they started to resemble 1000 foot cliffs.
Near the end of each lap you were greeted by the double arches and music coming from the finish line. (Naturally, it wasn't a direct shot to the finish line from here - you had to turn left and do a bootleg move to get there.)
Weird Haired Mom, who did the early 10K and late 5K (Double Dirty!), managed to skin up a knee a bit. Welcome to the cult that are trail runners!
There was an aid station at the 5K halfway point - this meant we had an aid station every 1.5 miles! This was stunningly cool.
It also meant I had ample opportunity to catch Endorphin Dude sitting around, soaking up the sunshine. He is seriously grimacing here since he saw me and my camera. Beware the paparazzi!
There were also a number of encouraging (sort of) signs around the course.
This course is on trails in Point Pinole Park that used to be a munitions testing/storage area. This is a remnant of its past. It is also something that caused me great confusion during my 9th lap - I had gone past it 8 times but had never noticed it. When I saw it on my 9th lap, I knew I was off course. I went backwards a bit, but kept seeing pink ribbons marking this as indeed the right trail. I finally just accepted that I have the observation skills of a moderately advanced shrub.
The course was actually marked very well, including this just before a turn. It's funny how, when you get tired, you can easily miss things like this. Twice I caught myself looking down and noticing flour arrows, and realized that I had nearly missed a turn. Zombie runners like me need all the help they can get.
In addition to the absurd goal of going 50 miles, I had a real goal of finishing a 50K (ten laps). As I came in towards the finish line, The Brazen Rabbit and Yrrek (not her real name either) were holding a ribbon across the finish line. Much to their horror, I stopped and took a picture of them before I continued on. The problem was the speedy Ydna (Not his - oh never mind) was coming up close on my heels and was threatening to break my ribbon, so I hustled and managed to beat him to it. I was very tired at this point, and breaking this ribbon was much harder than you would have thought.
This was a very cool moment - I could stop now and be happy, but there were still nearly four hours left in the twelve hour race. I did a bit of math and realized I could still easily break 40 miles if I could do three more laps. So I headed out for the first of those three laps.
At the end of the first of this lap, I announced that it was going to take one heck of a sales job to get me to do another lap. The Brazen Rabbit is quite a saleswomen, and paced me on my next lap.
But at the end of that lap, I was REALLY convinced I was done. I sat for a bit, then laid down. I was shivering and VERY tired. (I'm in a bit of misery here, but startled SIR Hard Core and Etep by asking them to take my picture. Then I couldn't stop laughing long enough to look as pathetic as I felt.)
In any case, this caught the attention of the medic, who came over and started trying to work out whether a life-flight chopper needed to be radioed in. I'm sure he knew I was done, but he didn't know how determined SIR Hard Core and Etep could be.
They got me back on my feet, wrapped me in a warm towel, and got me to have a couple of cups of soup broth and a hot chocolate. Remarkably, these made me feel immensely better - the shivering stopped and my tummy seemed perky. I was still VERY tired, but after the medic asked me a few questions to prove I was reasonably lucid (What day is it? Where are you? What is up with those things on your ankles?), he reluctantly agreed to allow me to do my last lap. There was still over an hour, and even at my worst, I should be able to do a lap in plenty of time.
SIR Hard Core, who is an avid hockey player, paced me on that lap and we spent a lot of time talking about the wonders of the icing rule. Well, until all that soup and hot chocolate decided it really needed to be rejoined with nature (I am SO glad Endorphin Dude was not around with a camera for that, bloggable or not!).
But, thanks to the efforts of the very serious and noble Brazen Rabbit and SIR Hard Core, I did it. With 20 minutes or so to spare. (There was a mini-loop of 0.7 miles so that, in the last hour, we could add more miles. HAH! So not happening for me!)
OK, maybe "very serious and noble" are not exactly the right terms for these two. (But without them and Etep and an understanding medic, I would have ended with 34.1 miles.)
A great picture that Etep took - I have no idea how I found the energy to look so perky.
WHM and I with our medals. I'm MUCH tireder than I look.
Endorphin Dude joined us for a picture. He managed to get in a 50K, even with a late start. (And I think he is doing another 50K on Sunday!) I'm starting to list a bit, so WHM and I packed up and headed home.
The two medals on the left are WHM's. The one on the right is mine - the Swiss Army Knife of medals (a medal, coaster and bottle opener!).
In a typically amazing classy move, Brazen engraved all medals of people that did two or more races or the 12 hour endurance run.
And that's about it. This was a race of firsts for me:
> The first time I had to have a BM after the race started. (There were several easily accessible bathrooms, although one of them had an odor that was stunning low-flying birds at 100 feet.)
> The first time I've thrown up during or after a race.
> The first time I've gone further than a 50K or a time longer than 9 hours.
> The first time I've had pacers.
> And probably the most surprising, the first time I've qualified for joining Marathon Maniacs! Granted, it's at the lowest level possible (three marathons in 90 days or less), but this is pretty shocking for me.
So, I went bust - no 50 miles (although I'm now convinced that, with a bit more training, this would have been entirely doable), but 40.3 miles is a nice consolation prize. This event was a blast with so many talented runners putting in remarkable distances (I think the winner put in about 75 miles!). And everyone was great at encouraging the others - a fun thing about this sort of event is that you tend to see the same runners multiple times.
I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to all the volunteers that had to stand in that cold wind while we at least were able to move around and keep a bit warm; and of course, a MASSIVE thanks to everyone that pushed and cajoled me into reaching a great milestone. You were all angels and heros!
That's it - move along...
PS: I put a LOT more pictures here.