42 days and counting till we’re on a plane to Moab Utah. Technically a couple of planes to get there. All our travel races so far have been in cars where we have the luxury of bringing pretty much the kitchen sink with us.
Trying to keep things to carry-on luggage means we have to be a little more select in what we bring. Trying to bring two pairs of shoes (Altra Olympus 4.0 and Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s) along with Oofo recovery flip flops is an imposing start to the pile I started today. Since I can’t run trying to recovery my feet I’m taking the time to work on seeing how well things pack.
So take those three footwears and add 2 long sleeve shirts (temps will range from 30 at the start to 50 at the height of the day), two shorts (Altra 2.0’s), 2 pairs of socks (Injini), 2 Halos, compression tights (Recovery UX), a pair of uber soft sweat pants, an after race shirt, coming home shirt, socks. The doubles are because well while I’ve never had a problem, I don’t want to end up running naked because of an GI issue from some unknown foods.
Now let’s talk gear – VaporKrar vest, bladder, soft bottles, FAK, meds, wet wipes, go pro, gimbal, batteries.
Then there’s the fuel bags – Single serve nut butters, Ultima, SaltStik Chewables. We’ll also pick up some Carb Balance low carb tortillas and PB to make real food for the run when we’re there. Then whatever non-carb loaded food at the AS’s that looks good will provide additional calories.
My RW and I need to settle on attire, for our race firsts we’ve always ran as twinsies. We’re probably going to go with REI brand quarter zips. They’re super soft and comfy, they’re lightweight so you can layer if you need to or pull the sleeves up and cool off. They’re great shirts for cool weather running.
So 42 days out is probably a little early to be test packing but I feel like I have to be doing something since I can’t run.
60K Race Report
(My apologies to Aerosmith)
Blips in my consciousness:
– It’s 3:30 AM. But at least we’re near the beach?
– We’re all on a school bus (AKA “shuttle to the start”) and someone drops their phone, setting off a cricket sound effect. “So nice to be out in nature,” someone quips. We’re all just awake enough to laugh.
– I’m biologically confused as I swing violently between passing out asleep and snapping awake to nearly vomit. What I get for riding a bus on a windy road in the dark.
– Rush for the accordion door. All of us praying after the 45 min ride that the bathrooms are open. They’re not.
Consciousness booting…. Please wait….
While we all do our own versions of dances over lack of faculties (and in SF you can get in deep shit – ha ha – if you hit the bushes), the RD jumps up on a nearby park bench and bequeaths that he was going to do the race briefing while we were all a captive audience. As his audience barely holding onto code yellow, we pleadingly look up at him and do our best to be attentive. [TRex: RD is Race Director aka the person who gets all the blame when anything goes wrong on a race.]
First thing’s first, the police are on their way to open the restrooms.
Second “thing” was a ball of too much:
1. There was zero fog over the Golden Gate Bridge. We were instructed to enjoy the views but be advised this meant it was going to hit triple digits. We’re looking at you 60K runners.
2. There was a bike race scheduled for the same day on an overlapping course. We were informed not to panic however there were going to be thousands of bikes, non specified type (mountain or road), out there “somewhere” and they were not going to be looking for us and our small event.
3. The markings were out yesterday so they were most likely still there. However we were to be aware that this area has a high level of vandalism and so we had better be familiar with the course. The first stretch towards the Golden Gate Bridge should be the easiest as we “really don’t need the markers, just run towards the bridge. You’ll be fine.” [TRex: I’ll never understand this. You can’t get people to clean up their own trash but they’ll gleefully pull up marking tape just to screw with people.]
4. Other stuff I tuned out at that point because the police had arrived.
We all abandon the RD to rush the stalls. We’d been informed we’re going to be running on the sun, while dodging murderous cyclists and were using the Golden Gate Bridge as a landmark to get across the bay then follow markings that are “probably” there to the finish. What else did we need to know?
Bathroom break over, we all line up and figure out that we’re supposed to go as the front of the pack takes off. That or they were just done standing around and decided we should start.
Thoughts by the Mile
Mile 1 – Made it to the Golden Gate Bridge! And we only had to have one trail running convention to figure out an intersection in getting here. Can I throw up now?
Mile 3 – Wow the Golden Gate Bridge is really this long. Can I throw up now?
Mile 4 – Off the bridge and the view is spectacular. Problem is, the noise isn’t. There’s a runner latched onto me who is doing a damn good impression of Tim from Jurassic Park prattling at Dr. Grant in their first scene. Word score 1,000 him to my 1. I’m still pretty nauseous so probably just as friendly as the the good doctor as all I want to do is slam a door on him. “- I heard that there was this ah, meteor, um, hit the earth. Some place down in Mexico, and made this big crater-…” I use my uphill gear to lose him. Or toss my cookies. Or both. [Trex: Neat, an oblique dinosaur reference.]
Mile 6– ‘Look at you eat like a big girl! I’m so proud of you. Yes I am! You ate 1/2 a waffle just like a big girl!’ Great. I’m already having an internal conversation with 1 extra personality that has shown up thus far. I’m thankful it’s the encouraging one instead of an alternative since I needed to figure
out how to eat while still bus sick.
Mile 8 – Rolling into this aid, the race plan of my coach surfaces in my mind again. The goal was to arrive here feeling very fresh, like I had just started. Unfortunately his exact words were, “like you just got off the bus”. No coach no!!! Not like I just got off the bus please…..
In due diligence, I took a PB&J quarter away from the table feeling the plaid start to materialize on my face again. [TRex: By mile 8 I’m usually feeling like it’s time to head to whatever the local better version of IHOP is. You know the place, where they have good pancakes and service.]
Mile 10 – The sun starts to take jabs at us as we traverse Miwok. I’ve joked about our fire trails acting like solar panels however this is not far from the truth. There are a couple of outings where I’ve been concerned about burning the underside of my nose as rays ricochet off the ground. I backed it down a little knowing that overheating would keep me from eating too and I’m behind in calories already. While it’s not near that high temp, I knew this was an going to be an inevitable race feature.
Mile 12 – Bikes! BIKES! Heads up! Fortunately they were on the road and not the trail as we feared and there was a volunteer to cross us to the aid. It seemed like something out of a cartoon stoplight as one direction of traffic halted on a dime (them) while the other (us) floored it. Once safe at the table a running buddy of mine calls for ice. I verbally poke at him saying it’s not THAT hot yet and make mental note to call him Ice Princess next time I see him. We only give crap to those we love. [Trex: Holy Hannah, if I’m ever on a trail with Rabbit I’m in for a seriously hard time. By mile 12 I’m wearing a bladder filled with ice and pouring ice water on my head _every single chance I get_…]
Mile 14 – “And they died because of the weather. And then my teacher told me about this other book by this guy named Backer, and HE says” – oh fantastic, Tim was back. Good for me (and him) he found others to attach to. I let them go.
Mile 16 – F@#k….. It’s uphill which is usually my forte but lack of fuel had turned my legs to lead. I imagined my central control room with all hands at their stations, the supervisor standing menacingly over the drive control engineer who had their feet up on the console reading a magazine.
Not even bothering to look up they drawl,
“I realize what you think we should be doing but the nutrition shipment we were suppose to receive never showed up so you’ll need to get in touch with procurement and work it out with them then we’ll need to process that…”
Smart ass. Who hired that clown? Downgraded to cranky hiking. [Trex: Yay! We have a same pace, The Cranky Hike! I wonder if she also has Hongry Shuffle? (Hot+Angry)]
Mile 20 – Everything in me screeches “No! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Why are you not dropping to the 37K?!?! You’re going the wrong way! The finish is this way! That way is death you imbecile!”
My body somehow walks out of the aid towards the 60K out and back while my soul scrabbles at every rock, tree and trail sign in a futile attempt to stop my forward motion, save my life and get me to run to the finish instead of the required bonus miles.
Mile 21 – The heat and lack of calories finally start breaking me down on a spiritual level. Another movie quote synapse fires randomly as I’m trudging. I hear Ed Harris from Apollo 13, “What have we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” Silence in the control room as everyone looks to anyone else to call out something functioning well. I felt as bodily able as that ship.
Mile 23 – Out in the beating sun. So this is hell. And there are amber waves of grain and a gorgeous sweeping view of the sea 5,000’ below. Damn Marie you’re in a state. Just keep moving.
Mile 25 – See Ken “All Day” getting a heat training run before he sweeps and he gives me the best news all day (pun intended). His wife Karen along with Victor and Lorna are at the turn around and with this news comes internal dedication to get there to see them. I also take note that many times, we know each other by our handles rather than birth names. Kind of like fighter pilots. Yeah, let’s go with that since it sounds cooler than I don’t remember your real full name.
Mile 26 – PSA: Gentlemen of the non-warrior class. If you should choose to court or settle down with a warrior woman, let it be known that she will teach you through eloquent and frequent use, how versatile and comprehensive the word “fuck” is. I meet one of my fellow female warriors and we weave together full sentences, with zero linguistic error, clearly stating the condition we are in, our goals for the near future, our views on global warming as well as whether we feel the left or right Twix are the one true Twix. We are the few, the proud, the sometimes frightening. [Trex: You know things are going south for me and Bunny when F#ck with varying numbers of !’s trailing it are the first word we use after switching back out of Hongry Shuffle to Lurching Jog modes.]
Mile 27 – Finally to the aid. I’m reminded yet again how much power a smiling face has and here I have 3. Karen, Victor and Lorna are there and putting all of us back on track. Since I’m not crying, bleeding, throwing up, pushing a bone back under skin or holding a limb at an unnatural angle, I’m small potatoes. In under 5 minutes they have me iced, reloaded and aimed back to the former aid station that would now be my gate to the finish. Heat and food or not, they put me back in a good headspace.
Mile 27.5 – “Is it suppose to be this way?!” My new running buddy of 1 mile, Scott, yelps as his eyes bulge out. I look at him in puzzlement as he explains he just had his first ever salt tab but rather than swallowing it, he pushed it between his gums and cheek and let it burst there.
“Uh…. I don’t think so.” I stammer and then explain that I’ve always swallowed them with a little food and liquid. This is quickly followed by a mental scramble as I realize that I’ve never read the directions on how to eat a salt tab “correctly”.* My confidence in my trail running expertise shaken, I make note to not say anything else to hang myself and study up next time I’m around the bottle. [TRex: Folks this is why I switched to the chewable ones, they can go down any way, suck, chew, swallow whole, you pays your money you takes your choice.]
Mile 29 – Encouraging side makes another appearance, “If you can do 28 miles on Priest Rock, with 8,000’+ of vert in over 100 degrees, you can do this!”
Alright! Let’s get this show rolling!
Mile 32 – I come to pass a younger woman who is a fellow 60K runner but clearly lost, walking very slowly and doing her best to win the hide and seek game with course ribbons. I apparently either talk a good game to instill confidence that I know where I’m going, or just look like I do. She follows close to the next turn then I lose her as she slows.
Mile 34 – At the last aid station, as I rally for the last 3M to the finish, a different woman jams right through sans stopping, calling out her number w/ the statement she’s fine and going for broke. My aggressive side’s head snaps around, hissing and bearing syringe teeth fuming over the fact that someone dare pass it. Security flies across my control room, pinning it to the ground while simultaneously whipping out every restraint it has to control the beast. “Oh no, you’re not invited today! Coach said TRAINING RUN! Really, you’re going to show up now?!?! We’re not through at this aid station yet and not chasing anyone down today!
Wait just a damn minute and let me get his ginger ale down.
HEEEEEEEEEEL!!!!!!” [TRex: I have no personal experience with Rabbit’s coach but if her #badassedness is any indication she’s either supremely naturally gifted at running on dirt or her coach knows a thing or two about getting a runner up to their peaks.]
Mile 36 – With the aggressive side successfully mummified in figurative duct tape, I am back to cruising. I pass a family group hiking up through the redwood grove and as soon as the kids on foot spot me, they fall in right behind, running down the trail and yelling gleefully.
The one child too small to make it far under their own power, riding in a hiking backpack, starts squealing with delight, smacking their Sherpa’s ears, hair and almost eyes. I’m sure the adults were glad to see me go.
Mile 37 – Dropping off the Dipsea trail I head down the ave to the finish in the Stinson Beach parking lot. Small finish line and welcoming committee complete with cowbells ended the tough grind of a race. The RD came over to congratulate me and it was then I learned that the 60K course only had about 6,000’ of vert rather than the 9,000’ – AKA the reason I registered for this race. I just started laughing hysterically. Of course it wasn’t 9,000’! Because that was the reason I signed up!
Confused the hell out of him…
So what did we learn kids? It’s only a waste of time if nothing is learned.[TRex: and/or you didn’t have fun.]
1. “Bad” races/runs show you just how strong you are. They make you think on the fly, create and implement new solutions fast, force you to really work for it physically and therefore forge stronger armor. These are the experiences you look back on when something else in life gets rough and say, “I did THAT. I can do THIS.”
2. Heat is still my arch nemesis and today it had lack of fuel to back it up. Pain I can take. Sketchy directions and markings I can figure out. Elevation is my “thing”. Put me in more than 100 degrees and take away food? The machine starts to lose its bolts. Something I need to continue to work on. Or get an air ratchet.
2. Seeing people I know and who do not judge me by my speed, weight, language, smell (at the time), whatever, can put me back together faster than anything else. They are fuel for the heart and you can’t get that from anywhere.
3. How f*&king fortunate are we to have the OPPORTUNITY to do this stuff? While the large portion of the planet’s population are worried about where or IF they are going to have clean water, a roof over their heads, not have themselves or their families under attack, we’re out PLAYING on the trails. We have nothing to complain about. N_O_T_H_I_N_G.
4. Hang on. I didn’t fall. Not ONCE! So maybe this song isn’t really applicable. Again, my apologies to Aerosmith.
5. Morning bus rides can kiss my ass. Yes sir.
*HA! You had to look down here because you didn’t know either! Go look at the label. I’ll wait…. 😉
With only 5 weeks into our 50 plan I’m half hoping Dead Horse Ultra has a DFL* award… I mean that only half in jest.
Right now in the middle of Oklahoma Summer, 6 weeks into a low carb lifestyle, and being a year older than when I decided I wanted to do a 50K this year, I’m not anticipating this being a fast run even for me.
But barring life threatening injury I do fully expect finishing it and since there’s a 50 Mile run going on at the same time with the same cutoff time for both and the same start time I don’t expect getting a DNF*.
One of the things this plan which is more than really needed for a 50K that I set it out to do was get us to a point where we can enjoy our first 50K. My first races of all types I didn’t really enjoy them as I attempted them right at the cusp of my ability to do them.
But 31.5 miles is a long time to be on a trail and not enjoy it because you’re at the edge of your ability to keep moving forward.
I did pick up a new travel pack on my employer’s dime. No I’m not ripping them off, we have a system where you can cash in awards that you’re awarded by other employees for doing your job and get gift cards at various online merchants.
Yes it’s an environment where just doing your job well is enough to earn an award due to comparison to people that half ass phone it in.
I am one of those kinds of people who fully embraces any opportunity to travel with open arms because of the excitement I get from thinking of all the different possibilities a new or different city holds within its borders. So when my job duties called for a trip to Silicon Valley I wouldn’t say I jumped at the chance since this is my third trip here in the last year, and frankly I don’t relish the idea of missing my family for a week; but since I can’t just quit my job and stay home with them, then I see no reason not to make the most of this trip.
Last year when it was Trex’s turn to make the journey for his job he went begrudgingly so, but luckily Karma overlooked his lack of enthusiasm, and he came back with a new found friend who is a lover of this crazy sport we call Ultra Running. She is not only a lover of the sport she is also a badass while doing it, and has certainly fanned the flames of my (our) interest in increasing my (our) distances, and venturing out to more scenic places to run than on paved city trails. So when the chance came for me to take advantage of a company paid flight to California I booked the earliest flight out of town I could reasonably take to arrive with just enough time to take her up on the offer to play tour guide through her ‘playground’, the Santa Cruz Mountains; and oh what a playground it is, I have the bite marks to prove it!
The text conversation leading up to the trip started out something to the effect of “I want someplace awesome to run that will make Trex greener with envy”– greener because well, he is already a green reptile; which was followed by some evil laughs and scheming to find a trail, elevation gain, and distance that wouldn’t kill me–since I am not quite the badass ultra-runner our friend is, but that would induce a fit of jealousy that might provoke a Trex to overcome his reluctance to travel. So full discloser, this article will contain considerable bias in favor of the latter statement.
It is obvious the second you step outside in San Jose why people pay the astronomical price to live here. First and foremost the weather is freaking perfect. Pleasant, sunny, mild with a light warming or cooling breeze. Just freaking damn perfect. Next would be the views. Flying in you can see the mountains and hills that surround the ‘valley’ and they are most definitely a far cry from our little Urban Wilderness reserve Turkey Mountain. Here you are in proximity to so many outdoor activities and options, coupled with perfect weather that you can truly take to the hills to unwind after a long day and really recharge. And taking to the hills was exactly what we did.
Now, like us, our Rabbit friend (her nickname earned proudly from her exceptional navigation and skill of popping up all over the trails), is currently in training for her next big race, so she had to clear the planned distance for my scheduled run with her coach since we were running on her ‘easy’ day. I of course laughed at this because I knew that my pace would be so much slower than her easy running pace that this would be like walking for her. But none the less time on legs and feet, while ascending close to 2K feet is wear and tear and the last thing we want is for her machine to become injured while she is in pursuit of her next big race, which is not just any race, it is none other than the Finlayson 100K. Look it up, it’s not for the faint of heart. So she, having “maps for brains” found us a good segment that was within my abilities and meet both her and my needs in terms of elevation and distance.
Our fair Rabbit friend picked me up after I arrived in town and took me for a bit of shopping therapy at her favorite local running store The Sports Basement. This is a fun store, think REI meets TJ Maxx. They have all the big brands for all things sports but are generally sold at a discount. Truly a retail haven for the thrifty yet serious runner. We weaved around the store where Rabbit found the items on her shopping list. Myself I restrained from going nuts and limited my purchases to consumables for on the trip. I wish sincerely we had this store in our area. Both eager to hit the hills we crammed a few protein bars in our bellies, that we picked up at the Basement–they have a huge selection, and wound our way up the sharp curvy Big Basin way to Skyline Trail. Once at the top, me a tinge nauseated from the curvy drive, with the usual preparations (water bladders filled, sunscreen and bug spray applied) we were off for our run.
What I noticed first and foremost was the clean fresh smell of the air. Unlike our trails the air was dry and fragrant with natural vibrant plant smells. Nothing reeked of rotting vegetation or stagnant water. It was just fresh and cool. The trails are mostly single track packed dirt with occasional up-cropping of rocks and roots just to keep you on your toes. It is not too rocky or gravely, and a nice mix of a few interesting technical areas with long stretches of rolling trail which is perfect for running. There is a great mixture of sunny areas and shaded areas that wind through the amazing tree canopy created by the mighty Oaks and Sequoya that cover the mountains. The vegetation that lines the trails stands out to me as one of the more memorable and enjoyable aspects. At several points along our route we encountered trees that were hundreds of years old with huge trunks and crocked limbs. There is a plethora of poison oak along the side of the trail that in a few places requires stepping carefully through where it has crept over the path. There were small riveletts and gulley’s and even a waterfall or two. There were very enjoyable sections where climbing rocks and actual stairs were required and rather steep deadly drop offs which fueled our vertigo just a tad and restored a healthy sense of respect for natures boundaries.
But the absolute best part of this run of course were the vistas. Around the bends and through the trees you could come to vast views of the expansive mountains with a birds eye view of the cities far off. I was told by our fair Rabbit friend that the trail we were on runs through to the ocean and at several spots we could see the vast blue sky that touched it below the other side of the range. The feeling that over took my senses was a general sense of my own insignificance. When you stand next to trees so large they feel like buildings or look out to the cities below made microscopic by the height of nature you simply feel microscopic yourself. It is a feeling I rarely encounter in my area of the world, and it is a good reminder to the ole ego to know just how unimportant I am in the grand scheme of the Earth. Now that’s not to say I don’t consider the importance of being a good citizen on this planet, but as a singular person I felt quite negligible.
Along the way we passed several “civilians” as Rabbit likes to call them. Day hikers who carried clunky water bottles and cellphones in hand wearing sandals and street fashion athletic shoes and clothes. At least one needed directions and most had no clue about proper trail etiquette. I am sure most of the experienced trail runners had already come and gone during the cool of the morning, likely positioning themselves to see the sunrise over the valley. That’s what I would do if I had these mountains to play on back home. The temperatures varied quite a bit along the trail. In the direct sun on the rocky sides of the trails it was on the warmer side, but nothing compared to the heat back home, but just about the time I was feeling hot we would slip back into the canopy and the temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler in the shade. But in general through the heat of the day the weather was simply perfect. Perfectly warm, perfectly cool, and perfectly sunny. Darn you Californians with your perfect damn weather.
Rabbit and I bounded through the trails at a leisurely pace, walking much of the inclines and clipping down a few of the downhills. We covered approximately 10 miles with 1900ft of elevation gain. That is comparable to the first segment accent we will cover for our 50K, so when I frankly wasn’t really all that sore the next two days it was a relief to know I am in much better shape than I thought I was preparing for our biggest race yet. So except for the times when I nearly fell off the side of the trails whilst being bitten on my ass and neck (and not in a good way) by a few hungry yellow jackets which were attracted to my “fatty meat” smell due to my Keto diet, I would say the run was by far the best trail run I have experienced to date.
I managed to fit my two scheduled training runs in the morning before work on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of the 30 degree cooler temps, and the clean freshness of the air of the Lower Guadalupe River Trail that I ran on, these were very pleasant and enjoyable morning runs compared to the 104 degree temps I will be returning to for our evening runs.
Now as I write this from the middle seat of a Southwest flight back home and look out my window at the vast land formations, I feel the pull to get out there and give those yellow jackets a piece of my mind, but I miss my family more and am happy to be heading home. I count myself fortunate to have “broken trail” with our fair Rabbit friend and look forward to the next opportunity to hop around the mountains, whenever that may be. And maybe just maybe I can convince Trex to come too. (Not holding my breath though).