I thought it would hurt a lot more to DNF, but I had a bad cold and just didn't have it in me. Planned right for my first 100, had the gear, the training, the drop bags, the pace chart--but I had a cold and was energyless.
Prerace was stunningly lowkey. CoachKen, Karen and I arrived around 6:30 for a 7 AM start. The check-in lady knew me, and I felt bad I didn't know her. "You finished Miwok, you'll do great!" I got my long sleeve race shirt and a baggie with three Clif samples. At the last minute they'd added drop bags at Vista Point, but I didn't know. Mike gathered the small crowd for the pre-race instructions. The most relevant was on Coastal by Golden Gate, the downhill runner ALWAYS had the right of way.
Right from the start I didn't feel great. I continued, as I often don't feel good and then start feeling better. Never felt better--started feeling extremely drowsy and had a hard time keeping my eyes open. Carol & Larry were at Tennessee Valley, along with Karen. Carol said "I saw you on the front of UltraRunning Magazine". "No, you saw my BACK on Ultrarunning". Through the mist, I saw a bobcat on Coyote Ridge! I walked up Marincello with a non-racer who told me all about UTMB last year. Talking to her distracted me from my right IT band hurting with every step. I told myself I would finish 25 miles (a loop) and then call Greg from my phone in my drop bag and talk about "dropping".
I felt really bummed to look at my time 5:30 at mile 19--at Headlands Marathon I had FINISHED at 5:45. Then I saw Coach Ken as he came up SCA--he said don't drop, just slow my pace down and see if I felt better. Plodded down Rodeo Valley, and then I saw Greg! He'd driven from SF to bring my pack. I'd accidentally packed my extremely grody bladder instead of my brand new bladder. I'd used my backup bottle instead. Greg gave me a much needed big hug. I was happy to see him!
We met up again at mile 25, and Greg helped me fill my new pack. I wanted soup but the aid station wasn't doing it that early in the race. Then we sat for about 6 minutes looking at the birds on Rodeo Lagoon. I decided I wasn't ready to give up yet. I just felt so energy-less and blah. All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.
Walked over the 8 miles to Golden Gate (mile 33), feeling lifeless but slightly better. A fog covered the trail, along with a chill wind. I cracked a joke to the runners in reverse "you forgot your sunglasses". The sun never broke the clouds on a surprisingly cool August day. I could see the aid station and the sun beyond it in the bay. No soup at the aid but extremely yummy cran-razz Clif shot. I'd never had it before, and it was delicious!
I talked myself into continuing to TV (mile 38) and dropping there with my drop bag with shoes and clean clothes. As I started up the road to the bridge (famous from Saucony ads) two hikers asked the way to the trailhead. I grunted "that way". I felt bad about being rude, and chatted a bit. They were staying at Cavallo Point, and stunned when I said we were running a 100 mile race.
I couldn't even run down Marincello. Usually I KILL it on the downhills. Now I barely mustered a walk. I saw another bobcat, this time a bobcub so small and cute, but not enough time to get a picture.
I plodded into TV, and it was bustling with a cheer squad with an AWESOME sign, and a big family all wearing "Run 50 miles Christopher!". The 50 was taped over with 100 on some of the shirts-recycling from a shorter race! I sat down in a chair and ate yummy chicken noodle soup. In the chair opposite me was a faster runner getting his feet taped up. People would poke their head in and look at his feet and wince. I never got a good look, and the runner never said anything, just stoically sat while he was duct taped.
It was 6:30, and I didn't think I could do another 13 hard miles to make the 10 pm cutoff at Rodeo Beach. Even fresh, this section takes me 3+ hours. I called Greg to say I was dropping, but it rolled to voice mail. Randy (another endurable) was volunteering at the aid station, and he came to check on me. "Just drinking my soup, thinking about dropping." "Just remember, when the night comes, it's a whole new day". I started up Miwok, but the hill just seemed impossible in my state. Greg called me right then. I wasn't ready to quit yet, was I? I turned around and went back to the bathroom. Then I texted him "continuing…not ready to quit".
I looked at my watch. I'd left TV at ~6:30 and the sun set at 8:15.. If I got to Muir Beach by 7:40, I could make it over technical Pirate Cove before it got too dark, then I could make it to Rodeo Beach by 10 PM, the 15 hour 50 mile cutoff. Then it would be MY decision to quit.
Suddenly, at the top of Coyote Ridge, I was in the hunt. I ran down to Muir Beach, scampering quickly. Earlier, it had really irked me that the course got re-routed around Muir Beach, adding ~1.2 miles. This time, I just knew I had to run faster. I didn't even refill my pack, just grabbed pretzels and showed my bib.
I ran Pirates Cove! There was no sunset in the foggy gloom, but I made it to TV right as it got too dark to see. It was 7:45. An awesome volunteer helped me with my pack, then I took off. Old Springs was quick, but then Wolf Ridge was foggy. Once I got to the top, I knew 10 PM was out of reach.
I've taken wrong turns on Hill 88 in broad daylight--it's littered with use trails that end suddenly on steep cliff dropoffs. I took it slow in the thick fog. The steps agonized my tight IT band, unused to walking dowhill. I knew my race was over. I'd thought about dropping for the past 30 miles, and it was finally time. Greg met me near the bottom and we walked in together.
Things I did well:
I was super well prepared in course knowledge. Every turn I knew. I barely looked at the ribbons at all.
I packed a backup light & hat at TV, and I needed them!
Tried to thank volunteers, not sure how well I did at grumpy times.
Kept going even when race not going well.
Sometimes, your mind might be ready for a race, but your body has a cold. I still feel sick two days later. I know I have a 100 in me--just not this one.
I'm trying to not feel like a failure. I failed at 100 miles, but I succeeded at 50 miles. 5 years ago, I WANTED to do 50 miles, but it seemed impossible. Now, I'm bummed I got a PW of 15+ hours. However, I would have been devastated if I'd DNF'd at Comrades--I had so much invested (travel, effort, emotion). Headlands 100 will be there next year (I hope). And I'm so proud Coach Ken finished his third try at HH!