May 5, 2012
Attempting my 5th ultra in 5 months, and it’s a tough one, but one that I have finished twice. However, the course has been changed a bit from the past… something to do with complaints about people crossing the road (I don’t know who complains, since I never saw any cars while running down the road)… and the RD says that it’s a better course because the parking is more plentiful.
Maybe the parking was more plentiful but it was a hairy drive in the morning on a very twisty road in the fog. It feels like the race started earlier in the morning as well.
So… on the old course, you start out along the coast on the sand, do a loop by the barracks and then work your way over to Tennessee Valley, then Muir Beach, then up to Pantoll, across to Bolinas Ridge Trail, down to Highway 1, back up, back down from Pantoll, up the Miwok Trail, and then work your way back from Muir Beach and Tennessee Valley.
Today, we start from Stinson Beach and head straight uphill to the start of the Bolinas Ridge Trail. It is extremely slow going and I am thinking that I can hopefully make up some of this lost time when I go back down the hill. The first 6.3 miles take me 1 hour and 48 minutes, for an average of 17:08/mile. I need to average 16:20 to finish under the time limit.
From the top, we follow Bolinas Ridge across and then down to Highway 1 (like before, except that the turnaround is Mile 10 here and Mile 29 on the old course. I know that I have to run this section harder because of all of the time lost on the initial climb. This 6.4 mile section takes me 1:23 (or 13:00/mile), and then I turn right around and do the 6.4 miles back in 1:55 (or 17:58) – yow! I am losing time!
Now, it’s time for the downhill and “making up time.” Unfortunately, it’s the Matt Davis Trail, which takes a bit longer to get down the hill (7.1 miles instead of 6.3) and it is full of root staircases, stones and low lying branches. For the most part, unrunnable. I meet up with a gal who is having similar difficulty to me, Donna Braswell. I guess we will get there when we get there! By the time I get to the aid station by the Fire Station, I have covered the downhill miles in 18:00/mile. Downhill miles! The aid station is low on water and completely out of soda (which I am craving now)… this is because the temperature is unseasonably warm and they didn’t count on that. Quite a few people have dropped here because of the weather and the fact that they will probably be unable to make any of the cutoffs. I think I can still make it, but I cannot lollygag at any of the aid stations.
From Stinson Beach, I head up the Miwok Trail (steps galore… steps galore that you cannot really run up because they are steep and also spread out). It is rolling hills and it is getting to be on the HOT side. I am really struggling, but I catch back up to Donna just as we reach the Muir Beach aid station. We covered another 7 miles at 23:00/mile pace. It dawns on us that we have ZERO chance at finishing this race under the cutoff… but we would still like to get to 50 miles, just to say we did it. The captain of the aid station says that we have to move straight through right now if we want to continue. We tell her that we will continue, but we realize how slowly we are proceeding and that we know we will probably (definitely) not finish.
It’s just 4.3 miles to Tennessee Valley, but of course, it is steep uphill out of the Beach and then rolling hills down to the farm. If we can cover it in an hour, we could still be ahead of the cutoff – that’s a laugh, given that I only was under 15:00 pace on the mostly downhill section. About halfway up the hill, I have to stop completely, sit down and try to regain my breath. I know it’s all over at this point. It’s going to be a DNF (did not finish).
I do manage to get to Tennessee Valley Aid Station (38 miles). The 4.3 miles from Muir Beach takes me almost 2 hours (26:30 per mile!). Now the trick is that we need to get back to the start where our cars are. The volunteers look around for someone who is cheering on their loved ones that can drive us back sooner than when the aid station closes up. We find a lady cheering on her husband, but she says she is going to stop by Muir Beach on the way back. Fine with us.
So, we drive to Muir Beach and wait in the car while she awaits her husband. After about 15 minutes, she comes back to the car and asks if I can drive the car back to the start, because she is going to pace her husband in to the finish (7.1 miles from that point, Tennessee Valley was not quite the turnaround). She tells me to leave her keys at the finish line and hopefully she’ll get them back. Uh… OK.
So I drive back the car. Donna is in the back seat and pretty miserable. The car is small, so my legs are cramping quite a bit. I am steering on narrow roads with my left hand and pushing on the cramps with my right… but we do make it back and then drop the keys off.
I see a bunch of friends (mostly drops – like Jan Maas, the Georgian gal who dropped at Rocky Raccoon just behind me when she missed the 80 mile cutoff) and get a report on the racers. The winner is a repeat winner, but his time is 1 hour and 40 minutes slower than the year before. When I ran this race (twice), both times I finished less than 30 minutes under the time limit, so if the winner is 100 minutes slower, there’s NO WAY I would have finished.
Later, when I reviewed all of the finishers, I saw that they let anyone who made the final course cutoff finish the race (even if they were over the 16.5 hour time limit). Several of the finishers were close to 2 hours over the total time limit – that is, EVERYONE struggled.
Although I was not disappointed with how I did, given a hot day and a difficult course, I was now in the unenviable position of not being able to complete my goal of 12 ultras in 12 months. I suppose I could double-up, but it’s tough enough having only 2-3 weeks in between long races as it was. On the other hand, it was STILL early May… maybe I could find a race at the end of the month…