August 8, 2015
A special milestone event for me.
I started running in April 1996, and ran my first marathon about 8 months later. It took me about 5 years to get to 10 marathons, but once I started doing ultramarathons, the amount of long races I did each year started to jump, including a streak of 30-something months where I ran at least 26 miles in a race EACH month (a few were DNFs, but I still covered at least 26 miles of the race).
I had known for a while that this milestone was upcoming, so of course, I used Skyline 50K as my goal event and was able to contact the Race Director, Adam Ray (an acquaintance of mine), and get the #100 bib to help commemorate my 100th marathon or longer distance race.
It turned out to be a very busy weekend.
Usually, Skyline is run on a Sunday and then I end up driving back to Southern California a few hours later. This year, because of scheduling issues, the race is run on a Saturday, and additionally, pretty much my entire family is in town, including my two nephews who live in Dallas (though Evan is at choir camp and we will pick him up on Sunday).
So, this means that I do not have a bed. Not a problem, because the upstairs couch is a bit longer and more comfortable. It’s fine.
Last year, I started an hour early, mostly due to the fact that I had run Harding Hustle a couple of weeks before and was not entirely recovered. This year, I wanted to have a regular “official” start. I know that I will have little problem in finishing under the time limit, but in certain circumstances, it makes me feel more confident when I am not at the back at all times… but starting on time, you do get the excitement of the crowds at the start.
I happened to spot the gal I ran with for about 5 miles last year, Meg Cheng (who definitely didn’t need to start early last year, but did so because she was AT the start early with some early-starting friends). I ended up catching up to her around 2 miles in and staying with her for about 5 miles again. It’s always nice to have some company of people that you know.
On the other hand, I create some conversation with other runners, as well as with volunteers when I show off my pace sheet (which since this race 2 years ago, I have dedicated the race to someone special – 2 years ago was supposed to be my high school friend, Brian Kelly, in his honor, but he died two days before the race, so it was in his memory).
Because this is my 100th, I wanted to do something special and honor 10 people who influenced or helped me in some way.
First, I give a lot of credit to my sister, Riva Rahl, who famously told me that if I put my mind to it, I could run a marathon. I thought she was crazy at the time.
Second, my college buddy, Kevin Krajewski, with whom I “trained” with to run our first marathon. We didn’t do a lot of runs together, but he always motivated me to do better (until I finally bested him).
Next, Habib Torfi, who I knew from my first full-time job. He worked at the Epithelial Autograft Facility and he got me into running with running groups.
Fourth, my running club buddy, Jennifer Aguilar. We DID train together a lot and she was always positive and helpful.
Fifth, another running club buddy, “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert, who was known as the ‘crazy ultramarathoner.’ We are similar… not really fast, but persistent. I always felt if he could do it, I could do it, and we did a number of trail runs together.
Sixth and seventh, Chuck and Laura Sohaskey. Laura was always my training partner and I got HER into ultramarathoning. Chuck has done a few ultras as well, and brings a certain je sais ne quois to our adventures, humor-wise.
Eighth is my running club buddy, Mitsuye Morrissey, who convinced me to run my first ultramarathon at Way Too Cool, a distance that I would have never considered. We also had a fun adventure at Javelina Jundred (Miler) where we both finished the 100K.
Ninth is my ultrarunning buddy, Rafael Covarrubias, who has motivated me to a number of ultra adventures, including Mt. Disappointment 50M, Miwok 100K, Bishop 50M, and Shadow of the Giants 50K. He is a better runner than I, and I try to run better so that he doesn’t have to wait too long at the finishline.
And lastly, but not leastly, my family, who support me and motivate me in all of my adventures. After 100 marathon-plus races, they KNOW I am probably insane!
The weather was on the foggy side and I want to take advantage because I know that once it clears, it could get quite warm, especially in the hilly sections. This next section is pretty flat, so I try to maintain a decent running and walking pace to get through. All of the cattle gates are open, so I don’t have to stop and unlatch them (coming to a complete stop).
At the end of this section, there is a sharp turn, a short (but steep) road to a dirt parking lot and the 2nd aid station. I am greeted by my Cool buddy, Sabine Gillert, who is volunteering/cheering. Always great to see someone you know cheering you on at the race.
One of the volunteers says she recognizes me. Says I look great. Way better than when I was so FAT! What? I don’t ever remember being fat. In fact, I weigh more now than I did when I started running, so maybe you remember me from the future?
I will make my way back to this aid station in about 11 miles, but for now, it’s a mile-and-a-half uphill and the same downhill. My hope is to finish this section in about the same time that I finish it, in reverse, on the way back (even though the downhill section (uphill on the return) seems so much harder on the return trip).
I get into the 3rd aid station after completing the 3.1 miles in 36 minutes. Now I cross the road and get into the single-track section, which is some uphill and some downhill, winding around to the hardest uphill section (steep and about a mile long) and then a continuous uphill fire road section up to the Skyline Gate aid station (aka Halfway, but really 14.5 miles) and where I may see some members of my family, depending upon if they time it right and can find a parking spot.
I somewhat exceed my goals on this section. Usually on an uphill, I maintain 16-18 minutes per mile, but I was brisker and managed 14:20s.
When I get to the top, I don’t see anybody, but just as I am getting ready to take off, Riva, Marisa, and nephew Reagan show up. The gals take off to park the car, leaving almost-8 year-old Reagan with me. Now I cannot leave until they come back.
I considered, briefly, having him walk with me, and hope that my sisters would realize where I had gone, but it was probably only 6 or 7 minutes total waiting. I ate some food and we chatted for a bit. I also got to chat with Errol “Rocket” Jones, working the aid station, who I had met at the Santa Barbara 100K last month (he was volunteering). He is the co-race director of the Quad Dipsea, which I would like to run someday.
Now I head off to the right, which is mostly flat until it gets to the French Trail downhill single-track, on which I make good time, but have to be watchful, as it is rock-y and root-y and I am loathe to trip. The general path of the trail is downhill, downhill, downhill, with occasional rocks and roots.
When I get almost to the bottom, it turns and takes a steep uphill turn. I almost wanted to have not run the last bit to the bottom, if only to arrest my heart rate a bit and help out with the climb back up, but I just have to persevere.
This is the absolutely longest section (5.9 miles) and it’s often hard to tell how close you are getting to the end of the section, because you hear the road, but keep winding around and then, suddenly, you are there. My pace on this section is about the same as the long uphill. In other words, I am doing better because it is downhill, but worse, because I am getting tired.
Now I am back to the 3.1 mile section, where I would like to do something similar to the 36 minutes I did outbound. (I don’t really have that expectation, but would like to.) This is the first ultra that I have done in my new Size 14 Hoka Stinson shoes. I am feeling less of the rocks, but it isn’t necessarily the ‘running on a cloud’ feeling that everyone talks about. Maybe ‘running on a rocky cloud?’
I struggle on the inbound uphill section, as the sun is coming out and my feet are starting to hurt quite a bit. I end up losing about 8-1/2 minutes on this section and make it back to the aid station where they told me I used to be fat.
From here, there is one more aid station before I get to the end. It is mostly flat, but once you cross the Stone Bridge, you get back into the single-track and another part where you don’t have a clue of how far you have before you get to the aid station.
Part of this section I run with Julie Nye, for which this is her 15th Skyline run (this is my 6th). Most of the people I talk with today are doing their first ultramarathon (it IS a really good beginner race because it is not insanely difficult and there are enough runners that you won’t have many sections where you don’t see anyone (unless you are at the very very back).
I am hoping to get through this section at a faster than 14:00/mile pace because then I will have a chance to finish the race under 7 hours (which I don’t seem to do as often nowadays). I think the delay at Skyline Gate may prevent me from doing so, but I am not going to worry about it.
When I do finally make it into the aid station, I have left myself with about 35 minutes for the last 3 miles. While this seems doable in a regular road 5K, it will be close.
I do what I can. The first 1.4 miles of this is mostly flat and dirt, so I do a combo of running and walking. I get excited when I get to the suspension bridge (truly my favorite part, because it means that I am close to the finish and it is bouncy!), and then it is about 1.5 miles to the finish and it is paved.
I am passed here by my friend, Clement Choi. He and I ran together in the last few miles of the 2010 Dick Collins Firetrails 50M (with the same start and finish, but coming in from the other direction). Great guy. Today seems like a flashback of a bunch of my ultras. But it seems like that happens at every race. That’s what I love about ultras. It’s like running a beautiful adventure with friends you see every so often. You don’t get that with a big city marathon. You may even know a bunch of people at the race, but you may not see them at all, maybe not at the end, either. Bummer.
I make the turn across the little wooden bridge and suddenly remember that I still have another 50 yards to the “new” finish line. I come in at 7:06:27, which is 40 seconds faster than Cool (or, in other words, virtually the same pace as Cool)..
There is no roasted pig this year (I think the roaster is sick, so no one stepped up.).
I got my shirt, a couple of cans of this Yerba Mate Mint Tea. They also have a bunch of leftover items from previous Skylines (probably tired of putting them into storage year after year). They are giving them away for free, but if they don’t have the right sizes, then what would I do with them?
I end up with a pair of socks (besides the ones from this year), another tank top from 2010, and a woman’s shirt from a previous year (for Riva). I also pick up my shirt and then head back to my folks’ house. When I get back, I realize that they have given me a WOMEN’s Extra-Large shirt, with the V-neck and the tighter cut.
I contact the race director and he says they are all out of Extra-Large shirts. Crap. They gave all of the rest out to volunteers… but then later, he tells me that he has one for me next time I am in town. I will be in the Bay Area next for 2 days at Christmastime and again in March. Hope he still has a shirt for me then!
All in all, I am really happy with how my 100th marathon or longer race went. It took me 19 years. I wonder how many years it will take me to get to 100 ultramarathons (I am at 74 now) and how many years to get to 200 marathon-pluses?