I set my alarm for 3:45am, but I was awake at 3:15. East Coast jet lag helped me out (though the tenacious East Coast winter was a huge impediment, overall)! Waking up earlier allowed me to take a shower and generally dawdle over my coffee and chocolate-peanut butter nut bars as well as the application of Glide to any clothed body part. I was calm. I had read the book “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll on the plane. Overall the book was just okay (he strongly lobbies for a plant-based vegan diet, which I just can’t get behind in general but especially because he promotes his supplements as essential), but I kept repeating it my head what his wife told him before his first Ironman: “The race is already done. You just have to show up.” In other words, I did the training, now I have to execute.
When time came to leave the hotel, Mr. P carried Little Boy to the car and we drove 30 minutes to the starting line. At the recreation center, I told them to go back to the hotel and sleep some more. I got my number bib, used the portapotty and then sat in the recreation center with the hundreds of other runners waiting for the 5 am start. I talked to a few other runners — one, a girl from Virginia, I would later end up running a few miles in the second half of the race while providing mutual moral support. But we didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t know what would happen.
At precisely 5 minutes to 5am, the race director called for everyone to go outside to the starting line. The first 2 miles are straight uphill on a narrow path of stairs, so when the race started, it was essentially a lot of standing around. “Looking good!” a spectator called out jokingly to the group of stationary runners waiting to funnel onto the uphill trail and everyone laughed. I was near the back of the pack, slithering up the conga line of headlamps behind an older woman who was talking to herself — about her advanced age (65), about how she prefers to wake up at 7am, about how she should’ve got a brighter flashlight. The constant stream of grievance coupled with the trail’s darkness and busy-ness was making me distressed. We finally made it to the top on the climb and starting running along a thin band of single-track. I passed the woman at the first opportunity. Honestly, I love most people in ultras, but she seemed a bit crazy… but I guess everyone in that race is crazy.
I didn’t enjoy the single-track — the grass encroached on the trail and it was uneven, at times. The pack was still pretty tight. Soon we reached a woods with big trees and it was gorgeous. The trail turned into a fire road, so there was room to pass people, and be passed. I felt good at the first aid station but it was mile 6 and almost 2 hours gone. I knew the first climb took an inordinate amount of time but I was already fretting about the cutoffs. The 16-hour time limit was scary to me; it took me 15 hours to do the VT 100K and that course has less elevation gain. So I knew I would eventually have to make up the time, but I couldn’t figure out where, because another long descent/ascent happened around miles 10-12. The second climb and it was a doozy.
Meanwhile, at the hotel…
We headed back on the single-track. I started talking to a somewhat crazy (but then again, we’re all crazy) guy who helped pass the time. We ran behind a girl who was going at a slightly-slow pace. It was a good pace, and one I should have stuck with. But I was still concerned about the cut-offs, so after the crazy guy took off I passed her too. It was flat and I flew. I flew, I flew, and then I turned my head to take in the view, and I literally flew. Over a rock.
Ouch. My toe caught a rock and I sailed onto the ground. My left elbow suffered the worse, with a large bloody abrasion. I also picked up some lovely cuts on my knees. My right knee seemed particularly wonky. Two guys stopped to help me up. I felt stupid, ridiculous. I continued running until I found a stream, where I washed my wounds, pressing my pack cloth into my elbow, which was gushed. Fortunately none of the cuts seemed that deep, but it was alarming. When I reached the next aid station, the volunteers were pretty freaked out. One woman did a great job covering the wound with a gauze pad. I headed on. The next aid station at Muir Beach
was the halfway point, and I expected to see Mr. P and Little Boy there.
And they were! What a relief. Little Boy documented the carnage while Mr. P pressed ice on my knees, and I changed my socks and shirt.
Muir Beach -- halfway point
"Mommy's Boo-boo" by Little Boy
After I filled my hydration pack, change my shirt and socks, and applied sunscreen, Little Boy ran into the aid station with me, to the delight of the spectators. “Good job, pacer!” one woman shouted. “Take care of your runner! Make sure she hydrates!” This cracked me up. We ran into the aid station so I could check in, then headed right back out. “In and out, job good pacer, keep her moving!” the woman called.
Too soon I had to keep going. I was still concerned about my pace and the cut-offs, as was Mr. P. If I hit a “bad spot,” I would be cutting it close. It didn’t help that there was a giant climb out of the aid station. The sun was hot. I put on my earbuds for the first time — just one, actually. The scenery was still gorgeous and I knew it was only going to get better. My body still felt good, although the downhills were starting to tweak my right quad. I actually looked forward to fast-hiking uphills. I passed a lot of runners on the uphills; they usually passed me on the downhills. I talked with a lot of great people. I marveled over the views of San Francisco, which made not having any skin on my elbow seem like not a big deal.
Around mile 41 I realized that I was in great shape for the cut-offs. In fact, I calculated it out with two women that we could walk the rest of the race and still make it in 16 hours. But we still ran. We were all having issues. One woman’s back was killing her on the uphills; the other woman was having stomach distress; my right quad made every downhill a dread.
Eating-wise, I craved and ate copious amounts of PB&J sandwiches from the start, with the occasional handful of peanut M&Ms. I only drank water (after the Vermont 100K, I realized soda and other energy drinks made me nauseous). When I reached Tennesse Valey for the second time (mile 48), Mr. P and Little Boy were there waiting. I was almost 2 hours ahead of the cutoff for that aid station, so we knew I was in good shape to finish. I iced down my quads and enjoyed some pizza –
the best piece of pizza in history.
Around mile 50, one has no shame
After saying goodbye, I continued onto the most beautiful section of the course, which overlooked Pirate’s Cove. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I could not take pictures (and after my previous fall, I was scared to lift my eyes from the trail). I was mostly alone for this stretch. I kept passing the woman having back issues on the uphills; she would flew past me on the downhills. It was a shame that we could not run together for company, but we were physically unable to.
In a 100K, the halfway point is 50 miles. This is so true. Every mile after that feels like 10 miles, and every one is a victory. I counted down each mile. The last climb out of Muir Beach to Cardiac Hill I took with surprising vigor, and passed more than a few people. When I reached the last aid station on Cardiac Hill, they told me “2.8 miles, mostly downhill” and I told them I loved them. They told me they loved me too, and I looked great. Ha. Liars!
I wasn’t thrilled about the downhill, but I was running at least. Two men (with sturdier quads than me) past me. Then a man and a woman passed me, the woman telling me in a lightly patronizing voice “You look great!” Ha. Then I passed a girl who had obviously blown out her quads, as she was inching down the steps on the Quad Dipsea sideways. Well, I wasn’t that bad. I began to get the hang of the steps and accelerated. One miles to go. I got excited and ran. I began to pass volunteers, who directed me to the finish. “Just around the corner,” one told me. I passed spectators — not a lot, but enough to almost make me cry. There was the end.
Mr. P and Little Boy were waiting for me. I was so happy. It was over.
After getting a real bandage for my elbow from the medical staff, I ate two sausages from the BBQ, collected my goody bag, and Mr. P drove us back to the hotel. He got us a half-bottle of Cava, which was the best. Cava. Ever. And I ate half a chocolate bar. And I showered. And I crawled into bed. My Miwok was over. Time for a month of rest, yoga, swimming, and walking.
Miwok was truly the most beautiful race I’ve ever run. La 6000D in the Alps is a close second, but the cityscape of San Francisco coupled with the wild flowers, redwoods, and dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean made Miwok the experience that I dreamed it would be.
I’d like to thank Mr. P and Little Boy for supporting me both at the race and during my training. I’d also like to thank the aid station volunteer who bandaged my elbow up with temporary gauze skin; the two guy hikers who clapped and danced for me during a long climb; the woman runner who stopped me from blindly following another runner down the wrong trail (and then helped me yell and scream for the other runner to come back, which he did); and Rob Zombie for getting me through miles 54-58.
437 starters, 358 finishers under 16:30 hours — a 82% finish rate
204th place (39 out of 90 women)
From goody bag -- Miwok 100K Beer!