Stinson beach welcomes us with the unmistakable fragrance of the ocean. Dinner is complete. The crew crowds the table. Mom, Aunt, Cuz, Tara. Eager to learn. Demanding tasks. Boisterous. Foul-mouthed.
Tasks and nicknames are assigned. Mom will clean sunglasses and take headlamp. Tara will exchange honey flasks. Aunt will monitor hydration and sun protection. Cuz will help with potential blister issues.
4:00ish in AM on Saturday
Sunscreen applied, headlamp packed, the crew accompanies me out the door by 4:30. A five minute drive in the pitch black. Bob Marley flows through the car speakers. Calm, cool, collected.
Cuz and I exit the car to check in and get the race bib. Runners surround the community center. A sign on the door reads 'Race Delayed, start moved to 8 AM'.
I'm okay with this, just a later start, no headlamp needed. I enter through the doors into the community center. A large whiteboard is filled with red lettering. Other runners enter as a man standing next to the board speaks.
"The race has been cut down to a 60K due to a red flag fire warning...."
He continues to speak, but I've seen and heard enough. I'm momentarily disappointed. The crew won't be needed this year. Back to the car. Return to the beach house. Cuz brings me some Honey Nut Cheerios. Sleep resumes.
8:00ish in AM on Saturday
Daylight and community center is packed with runners. Various countries and states present, but most from CA. I'm half asleep still, not really knowing how to process the change in distance. This isn't the race I intended to run. Mental preparation is out the window. I'm prepared to enjoy some sun, some views, some company. I'm not really prepared to race.
I meet a couple of runners from the Seattle area, and in the midst of talking with them and my Mom and Aunt, the 350+ runners start moving without me. I speed up on the short stretch of road before everyone immediately bottlenecks onto the trail. (The run has been shorted to the portions of the race that are essentially south of Stinson beach, or the last 60K of the intended 100K. The trail is dry and runnable, and my road shoes - Saucony Kinvara 3 in wide - provide ample cushion, and I don't notice any difference in traction compared to some of the trail shoes I was considering.)
I get in with a pack of runners. A runner I met at White River 50. A runner who is also planning to do the Cascade Crest 100M, and only a handful of spots ahead of me on the wait list. A runner who gives some insight into the Pine to Palm 100. Normal chatter ensues and we run together as we approach the Muir Beach aid station at mile 13. At that point, I decide I need to push it, I need to wake up, I need to race this.
I zone out and start running everything. I slowly pick people off running the hills. The heat starts to get to me, and I feel my head burning. Pulling sunscreen my back pocket (Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts - with pockets, amazing), I slap it on my head and pass through the Tennessee Valley aid station. The climb out of this is made easier by staying with a runner from Seattle who owns his own shoe store. Upon driving over that morning at 4 a.m. and finding out he couldn't run the 100K, he decides to go out for a 2+ hour 'warm up' run, back in time for the start of the 60K. After we crest the climb, I separate a bit, to be greeted by the sounds of foghorns and views of the Golden Gate. I then roll into the most well run aid station I have ever encountered.
20-30 feet from the station a worker is already asking me if I want GU Brew or water, so they'll be prepared. The aid station is well stocked, and another worker asks what I want, and briefly describes the spread. As I ask for Coke, I've already had a full water bottle returned to me. Coke is provided, perfectly cooked potatoes dipped in salt, more water provided, PBJ sandwich grabbed, Payday bar consumed, M&M's down the hatch. On the way out, a volunteer stands next to a bucket filled with ice water and massive sponges. She asks if I want ice water on my head and I embrace it. Two massive sponges are squeezed over my head. Words don't do the feeling justice.
In the midst of another climb, I decide to apply more sunscreen while running. It's a mistake. I trip, and catch myself, but my left hamstring cramps hard. I stop and stretch it for a minute, a couple of runners pass me, and I'm frustrated. I slowly get back to running, and eventually catch the runners who passed me. I try to drink more and take some more salt, but once the cramps start, they seem to always be ready to pounce once again.
The views pass the time. I pass through Pirate Cove and get the typical 'Miwok' photo from Glenn Tachiyama, and head down to Muir Beach.
From Muir Beach, there is a mile or so of semi-flat running, and I'm able to move through well, passing a couple of runners who are walking. Then a strenuous, hot, exposed ascent of three or four miles. I can run this, I have energy, screw the cramps. The left medial side of my knee makes itself known. It's tight and doesn't want to fully bend. I'm reduced to a fairly efficient power-hike, passing other runners walking up the grade. The final aid station begins a 2.8 mile descent into Stinson. I drink some Coke, watch the Seattle runner I passed earlier zoom by (!!!), and take comfort that my knee does better going downhill compared to uphill. I pass the third place female. She's from snowy CO. We complain about the heat but know the finish is close.
The trail exits onto a brief portion of road. People cheer. Crew takes pics. Ultrarunners do ultrarunner things. Hugs exchanged. Beers shared. Food consumed. The end.
|Took off the shirt in case babes were at the finish.|
A great many things in life can't be changed or controlled. We can deny life and the circumstances surrounding us. We can give into anger, to frustration, to fear. Or, we can choose to adapt, to embrace, to enjoy.
Miwok was a little test to what can't be changed, to what can't be controlled. I'd like to think I passed.
|The beer is still good.|
|Beaches are neat.|
|Grateful to friends and family.|
|They deserved a drink.|