Monday, March 16, 2015

Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile 2015

Marin Ultra Challenge was basically my Facebook feed of ultra-running friends, all in person, running a race! Wonderful day…even though I was crew less, pacerless, drop bagless, and even rideless.

MUC started at the base of the GoldenGate Bridge at 6 AM Saturday. I’d had a hectic week at work and started packing my gear at 8 pm Friday night. No time to coordinate a ride or drop bags. So I planned on carrying everything I need, and taking a taxi to the start. When I got in the taxi, I asked him to take me over the Golden Gate Bridge. He said he didn’t know how to get there. Eventually he admitted that it was his first day. I gave him turn by turn directions. On Park Presidio the car slowed to 20 miles, and he admitted he’ d bought the car yesterday! and wasn’t entirely sure how to drive it. And oh by the way, the car was used & he hadn’t had a mechanic check it, as “dealers are trustworthy”. After a pit stop at the Golden Gate Vista for him to restart the car, we made it to the race start at Fort Baker.

Misha found me waiting in the bathroom line, where I still was 6:55 AM when the Race Director announced that he would wait for the line to clear before he started the race (phew). Saw Tawnya at the end of the line.

Then the start! Walked up Coastal Trail to Golden Gate Bridge, as Mike Weston passed me in the dark. Alina, Alvin, Jen and I talked about lactose-free cheese, and met Sam Hsu in the dark. Cruised down Coastal, past Rodeo Lagoon as the dawn broke. Saw a hapless runner utilizing the “bush” bathroom, not realizing or couldn’t wait that the real bathroom was ~20 feet ahead. I ducked into the Rodeo Beach bathroom for a pit stop. 

Up & over Hill 88, where a runner (Kim) said she recognized me from White River 50 mile. White River 50 Mile had also held the start due to toilet line, and the RD had told a funny story about everyone knowing that Scott Jurek was still in the ports-potty, holding the start for him while everyone chanted for him.

On Wolf Ridge, I just wasn’t feeling it. Christy crested down the hill quicker than me like a surfer girl catching a wave. uh-oh. Usually downhills were my strength. My coach Ann had said I could not finish if I felt like I had the flu. The flu had been going around the office, but I at least wanted to make it up Willow Camp, which I'd done so many times training. But on Old Springs I was just cruising along, falling into step with another runner. Two turkeys were standing sentinel as we entered the stable area before the aid station. I thought they would scatter as we approached, but instead they advanced. I learned the old adage is true - you don’t have to be faster than the turkey, just faster than the other runner. At Tennessee Valley, as I didn’t have a drop bag, I gave my headlamp to Rose who was there at the same time as me. 

Pirates Cove to Muir Beach, then Muir Beach up Heather Cutoff to Cardiac. Descending to Muir Beach, Brett Rivers and the SFRunCo group seemed to be going quicker UP than I was going down. Relentless forward motion, jogging the flats, walking the ups. Ahead I could see Alvin, Jen and Alina, but I just didn’t seem to be gaining on them - at best keeping even. At Cardiac the aid station captain said “you’re at mile 19!”. Wow. So much work, so much climbing to only be at mile 19.

Down the Dipsea stairs which are increasingly decrepit every time I see them. Passed a few more cautious runners. Willow Camp Aid station, then the true race began. Passed runners going up Willow Camp. Passed Alina, who was having a rough patch on Coastal Trail. As I came into Pan Toll I saw signs for Leigh-Ann, my training partner - was she ahead or behind me? At Pan Toll I saw Laura, who was waiting for her runner Alina. Before she could sprint away I gave her a sweaty hug. 

As I came into Cardiac I saw Emily & Jen. As quickly as possible I was in-n-out. This section I’d done so many times in training - down Ben Johnson, around Fern Creek, up Lost. On the climb up Lost, Jen caught back up to me, and she told me she’d tried to catch me at North Face 50K in 2011 but not been able to ! I thought she was right behind me but I lost her on the Dipsea descent into Muir Woods. Ugh…more stairs.

The bridge was still out on Dipsea at Muir Woods, so we didn’t go up Dipsea to Deer Park but instead around on the road to Redwood creek. The plus was avoiding a climb, the minus was traffic on the road. At Deer Park Aid Station, Leigh-Ann was leaving as I came in. Again, quick in and out. I caught up with a woman as we started the climb up Miwok to Dias, but as we climbed she took the lead. She’d jog the gentle ups where I was quite content to walk. When we broke out to Dias though…suddenly 12 hours seemed in reach. I put my timer on and caught up with Leigh-Ann, who said the heat had taken a lot out of her. It was hot, but I didn't mind - I just thought of it as heat training for Western States. I deliberately didn't get ice at the aid stations to intensify the "hot" feeling. 

Muir Beach Aid Station, refilled pack for last time. A lady talked about how hot it was. It didn't feel that hot to me - Overlook 50 had been 100+. This was a balmy 80s, and I was in the home stretch with only 10 miles to go. Again, I knew the course so well - I wasn't even looking at ribbons. The 'hot' lady paused at the Zen Green Gulch gate, looking confused. I said "unbolt the latch" as she fumbled around. When I caught up to her, I unbolted it, and she darted through, leaving me to close it. When I passed her again she looked confused "why are we in a farm?" "Trust me, this is the course." She passed me back up Middle Green Gulch, but I caught her on the technical single-track of Wily, then passed more runners on the steep descent of Miwok into TV. At TV I was on the hunt. Ate three bites of watermelon, then was on my way up Marincello. Ken texted me asking how I was doing. “Passing people!”. I texted back. “Get off the phone & finish!”, Karen replied. 

I passed about 5 more people. As I descended Coastal there was a guy in sight, but I just couldn’t push enough to pass him. Finished, laid on the ground for about 7 minutes doing absolutely nothing. Then I saw Mike Weston, who’d had a spectacular finish well before me! Well done Mike! He did me a huge favor and drove me home. 

So on the one hand, I had no crew, pacer, ride, or drop bags. On the other hand, on my home course, I had friends every step of the way to crew me, (virtually) pace me, give me a ride home, or help me with drop bags. Thanks!!!

Things did well:

Left enough time to get to race start that even after UberX had engine trouble and had to pull over multiple times.

Packed headlamp.

Waited in bathroom line, started toileted. 

Started at own pace, didn’t get caught up in anyone else’s race.

At every aid station, quick turnover in/ out - trash out of bag, calories regained.

Kept pack adequately watered.

Watermelon at aid stations. 

S-caps every hour on the hour to avoid thinking about when I’d taken them.

Carried pace chart with cutoffs, didn’t stress about cutoffs.

Said thank you to volunteers.

Said thank you and “great day” to hikers.

Said “Great job” to runners passing / being passed. 

Things to improve on:

Was trying brand new battery pack, which didn’t charge my iPhone all the way. Turned off phone to conserve battery, couldn’t get whole course on Strava. Fix: Get more robust battery pack.

Had all Cola Scoobies, got quite wired/amped at end. 

No drop bags, gave headlamp to Rosie, haven’t gotten back. 

Shirt really worn out - should switch from 2008 NFEC to 2014 NFEC as “lucky” race shirt.

Didn’t bring buff, but didn’t really miss.