When I finished the Urban Cow Half Marathon last Sunday, I took a deep breath and looked forward to the following weekend, when I, for the first time in seven straight weekends, would not be doing a race.
And then Einre (not his real name) started telling me about the Golden Hills Marathon. About the great trails. About the really long cutoff time. And I laughed. "Not me buddy! I'm sitting home and watching football!"
But then I went to the race website. And I started thinking about how this really was a great-sounding race. And I was suckered in.
There are actually two races - a 50 miler that starts in the dark at 6:30 AM at Lake Chabot and heads up to Tilden Park in Berkeley, only to turn around and head back; and a Full Marathon that starts at 9 AM in Berkeley and follows mostly the same trails as the 50 mile race back to Lake Chabot.
Since the Marathon was a point-to-point race, we parked at the finish line and rode a bus to the start line. It took nearly an hour to get up there. It is NOT true that Einre started up a rousing chorus of "One Hundred Packets of GU on the Wall."
Einre getting bibbed up. It was pretty cool up in Tilden Park while we waited for the race to start. Not that he noticed.
Our start is the 50 miler's turnaround. They will have gone 26 miles by this time.
A porta-pottie picture!
The course had a LOT of these sorts of inspirational signs.
The trails were a mix of fire roads and lots of fun single-track. And there were plenty of hills if that is your thing.
And a LOT of dogs! I loved all of them out running around. This guy paced me for a bit before realizing that I was going too slow to be worth pacing.
The Marathoners were blessed with the bonus of going on the French Trail. If you've ever wondered where the saying "Pardon my French" came from, just go spend a bit of time on this trail. Lots of climbing, lots of roots and rocks - just plain some of the best single-track around. But it nearly killed me. I was really dragging by this point. And my French was freely flowing.
And then I saw these guys. I thought about stealing one of them, but then thought better of it since I didn't have my cowboy hat with me. (Llamaboy hat?)
There were a couple of trees that lost the battle with gravity and chose to block the trail. Almost nobody gave up and turned around.
This bit of trail really puzzled me - why was a perfectly good looking bit of trail being detoured around? I found out later that many of the 50 milers were attacked by a swarm of wasps from a nest here on their way out. It's good to not be first sometimes!
The aid stations were plentiful, well stocked, and universally awesome! They cheered, they watered, they fed - they did everything they could to make this a perfect race. The graveyard was a new twist though (and as the Brazen Rabbit noted, that guy in the middle should have had a bib on - he certainly looked more perky than I felt at this point).
Finally - Lake Chabot! And the finish line (eventually).
I saw this and thought, Mrs Notthat isn't here, but it was possible that the Brazen Rabbit might be there waiting for me to finish (or more likely "drop-dead"). Both her and Nad (not his real name) were doing the 50 miles and I had seen them a long time ago looking absurdly perky as they were heading to the 50 mile turnaround, and assumed they had both blown past me while I was "pardoning my French" while struggling up a hill or two on That Trail.
I freaked out the finish line guy and the photographer when I stopped just before finishing so that I could take this picture. (The time is for the 50 milers - subtract 2:30 to get my Marathon time.)
And it turned out there really was a drop dead gorgeous person waiting for me - Yrrek (not her real name)! Neither the Brazen Rabbit or Nad had come in yet, so the two of us did a lot of cheering as runner after runner came streaking in. The BR made her appearance well before the magical 11:00 time (faster than 11:00 means you qualify for the Western States 100).
I was tired, not feeling well, and barely functioning at this point. The Brazen Rabbit was ready for another lap.
Both Nad and Einre finished a bit later. Swapping post-race stories is a lot of fun after a tough race. I was surprised by how many people were still hanging around, although there was a LOT of great food (the homemade soup was stunning!) waiting for us.
Nad and the unstoppable RJ (not his real name either) swapping their own post-race stories.
The swag was pretty amazing for this race - a great Patagonia shirt, Moeben arm sleeves (you got to pick the style you wanted), a wine glass, an issue of Trail Runner magazine, some other misc stuff, and a nice bag to carry it all in. Note the lack of a medal - a lot of these types of races know that these kinds of runners do a lot of events and appreciate getting useful stuff (which is why coasters are popular). The 50 milers also got a very nice Patagonia jacket.
This was a stunningly great race. Everything about it was well done, from the excellent course marking, fun aid stations, and great finish line experience to the great post-race food. The weather was ideal and the trails were perfect after the rain we had earlier (it was nice to not have to deal with dusty trails). The rain did cause a slight course change, and I'm hoping next year to get to see that other trail.
So I didn't get the weekend off. In fact, I ended up doing the DSE Polo Fields 5K the next day. Next weekend is the Redwood City Half Marathon, followed by my nemesis - the Brazen Rocky Ridge Half Marathon.
Likely I will be polishing up my French for that last one.
That's it - move along...
PS: You can see a lot more pictures I took here.