In retrospect, the whole thing was ridiculous: running TNF EC in San Francisco, a hilly 50-mile race, for the sole purpose of qualifying for the 1-in-3 chance of running the world-notorious mountainous 102-mile UTMB in the Alps. I need 8 points to enter the UTMB lottery later this month, and TNF EC San Francisco was the most palatable race to give me my last 2 points. The race takes place on many of the same amazing trails I ran for last May’s Miwok 100K. I could fly out to San Fran fairly cheap on Friday morning, get a hotel, take a shuttle to the starting line, and return to Boston on the red-eye later Saturday night, bringing me home to Boston on Sunday morning so I could spend the day with Mr. P and Little Boy. Perfect plan, but ridiculous!
What Went Right
- I finished the race in 11 hours and 14 minutes, well within the wide range I projected (when asked beforehand by incredulous non-runners “How long will it take you!?”, I said “Between 11 hours if I’m having a dream day, and 13 hours if it’s a nightmare.”) I believe this time is better compared to Miwok, which took me 14 hours and 18 minutes. Granted Miwok was 11 miles longer, 3000+ feet more elevation, and much warmer, but I definitely moved better in TNF despite the muddy course… and:
- I didn’t fall. After taking a very bloody dive during Miwok, I was extremely cautious on every bit of course. Especially when I neared the exact spot where I lost the majority of the skin on my left elbow.
- I paced myself well. I went out a tad too fast at the beginning and probably rankled my quads unnecessarily. But after mile 10, I calmed down and kept a steady, relentless pace as I slowly picked off more than a few runners in the mid-pack. After mile 35 I started passing lots of slower runners in the other races (50K, marathon, marathon relay) and I flashed back to TNF Bear Mountain marathon that I ran more than 3 years ago, when I was a plodding marathoner being passed by the fierce 50-milers at the end. I craved and ate copious amounts on PB&J sandwiches and drank only water, which really seem to work for me in races, and drank only water.
- No travel travails. I planned the whole trip with military-like precision. I woke up Friday morning at 4:30am, took a bus to the subway, to the subway to a bus, took the bus to Logan airport, took a JetBlue flight to San Francisco, took a train to pick up my race number near Union Square, walked to my hotel, went to a corner store for food, watched guilty pleasures on the Bravo channel while eating pre-race guilty pleasures like Ramen and beer, fell asleep at 6:30pm, woke up at 2:30am Saturday morning, got dressed for the race, packed, ate, checked out of my hotel, walked in the rain to the shuttle to the starting line (and I got street harassed 3 times in the 12 minutes it took me to walk there, which was scary), got on the shuttle which was slowly loading with other runners, drove to the starting line across the Golden Gate Bridge, dropped off my aid station drop bag and my gear bag, ran 50 miles, retrieved my gear bag (but NOT my drop bag… see below), took the shuttle back to San Francisco, took a taxi to the airport, and retuned to Boston on the red-eye. Precision!
What Went Wrong
- Quads. I know my quads are my weak link. I pass people on the uphill, only to have everyone plus more scream passed me on the downhills, as I plod along, beholden to my weak quads. After Miwok, I did thrice-a-week quad exercises to try to build some strength in the pitiful things. These helped… maybe a little? The downhills massacred me.
- Mud. A huge swath of the trail was essentially a river of mud. Luckily, I wore my Innov-8 Gore-Tex shoes, a heavy but protective and tough choice that allowed me to power through the glob while others struggled to gain traction and stability. So the mud didn’t suck for me nearly as much as it sucked for the saps in their airy minimalist shoes.
- Headlamp. Note to self: replace batteries.
- Drop bag. TNF events are well-oiled events, yet when I reached the finish line, my drop-bag was not there. I wound up leaving a nearly brand-new pair of Innov-8 at the event because my drop-bag was not there and the kindly volunteer could not tell me when it would arrive. Shame on me, for even leaving a drop-bag in the first place, but those where the clean shoes I was counting on for a socially-unnoticeable flight back to Boston. Without them, I was left with my mud-drenched race shoes, so I bought a 15-cent bag, threw the shoes in and tied the bag up tight, then plodded through the airport and airlplane shoeless. And exhausted. And dying for a freaking drink.
Season’s over! Where’s the wine?