October 17, 1999
I did a week-long taper leading up to the race. My one run during the week was with my friend Karine Brooks. She was a loyal member of AREC, who didn’t really run. For the most part, she was just supportive to her son and husband. I told her that the next time I was recovering or tapering, that she and I would do the 5-mile course together, so she could see what her abilities were in running.
We ran nice and slow and even took a few walking breaks. Afterwards, she asked about the kind of time she ran, thinking it was 70 or 80 minutes, which would be VERY slow. Our time was 52:30, and she was shocked… but realized that she had some running ability, too, and that she maybe run some races in the very near future.
I flew up to Sacramento on Friday evening and then reconnoitered with my GVH pals. We were carpooling up to the Humboldt County area in a couple of cars. Most of our group was planning on running the half marathon, but a few of us would be doing the full. In a sense, this was the conclusion of three races run on three birthdays (SF – Laurin, Napa – me, Humboldt – John Zarella). I was particularly looking forward to the beautiful and serene scenery and just hanging with some old friends.
We stayed in our usual haunt in Garberville, and ate at our favorite homemade pasta restaurant on Saturday night. I wanted to do all of the right things, and have a chance at a PR.
On Sunday morning, we arrived at the start probably an hour early. There were about 3500 people there – 150 in the marathon and the rest in the half marathon. John, Laurin and I made a plan to run together most, if not all, of the way. We also wanted to stick to a very specific pace – around 8:30/mile.
We managed 8:30 very comfortably through 12 miles. Our 13th mile, seemingly inexplicably was run at about 7:30 pace. None of us felt we had accelerated that much in the past mile, and then it dawned on us – we got caught up in the acceleration by the half marathoners, going to finish!
As soon as we passed the halfway point, the “crowds” thinned out – but that’s the result of going from 3000+ to 150, especially when the 150 are spread out all along the course.
The second half of the course is similar to the first, only the elevation change is an extra 100′ (over 6.5 miles). There is also more scant tree cover, and it was close to 10:45am when getting to this section. Although the slope is gentle, the constant incline slowly gets to you.
By mile 25, I had long ago let my compadres take off without me. I suffered a few cramps, and ultimately decided to go for a PR and just try and finish under 4 hours. I came in at 3:53:26.
The medal mirrored the shirt. Each year, they give out a shirt with a different local bird on it. The 1999 bird was the crane, and the medal had the same crane on it.
The half marathoners from our group were milling around, waiting for us. We waded out into the Salt River together to try and provide ourselves with a cramp-free drive home.
Even though I did not PR, Humboldt Redwoods Marathon was one of my favorite events, both because I got to hang with some wonderful friends and also because the course is beautiful, peaceful and a great meditative run.