Coyote Ridge, 1st Sept 2012

Always approach marathons involving Muir beach with humility and a hearty breakfast. Yes be lured by the sweetly named and picturesque, Muir,  Pirates, Rodeo and Bonita coves. But remember the mighty Pacific Ocean that carved them also left some pretty colossal piles of rock in-between.

Around 7am I was relieved to be clambering onto the Coastal Trails shuttle bus in Canyon Meadows field. It’s  just over a mile from the race start at Muir beach. Some people jog it. Not me. My warm up routine is drinking coffee. I had considered cycling- anything to elminate the extra layer of pre-race anxiety navigating a shuttle entails. But as I eyed the road now I was sure the  post-race me would have resented the cheerful person who had whizzed downhill to the beach earlier. The better plan – as recommended  – is just to arrive nice and early. For once I had. Pass the medals. Also. And if you’re familiar with my blog get your fingers into pinch position. I was injury free!

A Muir beach shuttle in1890. Returning to the Sausalito ferry. Here is a rather amusing history of the beach. http://www.bellobeach.com/history.html

I love this lady  –  Adona Ramos, the poster girl for 20milers. We stood side by side grinning  while her friend Dennis took picture after picture inwhich she inexplicably appeared to be growling or  detained against her will.  This is the best of them. I look like a celebrity stalker!

We had a perfect  running day – chilly but bright at the beach. The place was buzzing with atmosphere, the runners tops and event booths a lovely splash of colour against  the backdrop of stark cliffs. Runners doing the 10m 20m, marathon and 50K  races gather on a narrow wooden bridge leading to the beach just before the 8am start. There was a welcome moment of levity when  race organizer Wendell explained that in order to accommodate  all the distances (and there was a 7 miler later too) the marathon course was actually 26.3 miles instead of 26.2 –  a gruff male voice in the crowd called out ‘That better be on my shirt’. Best pre-race heckle ever! And then we were off.

Normally I stand at the very front (in order to have less distance to run…simples! ) but today the bridge was narrow and I was a few rows back, chatting with my friend Adona.  When we surged forward Adona being perfect in every way nipped gracefully off the bridge   I ran straight into a waist-height orange cone stuck on a wooden post which had been obscured by the first few rows of  runners. I think the cone was to stop idiots like me running  into the post.  I  pranged it twice, once by running into it and then again by rebounding off the people behind me. It got me right under the ribs. How ridiculous. It reminded me of an event  in England many years ago where  a runner found himself gashed on the arm and kneed in the groin within seconds of starting a race. He had tripped over a cameraman crouched on the ground. I’m afraid the groin injury was delivered by me..toppling over him.

I think this is the 7mile start- but it shows my orange cone and post nicely :0) Thanks Deborah for posting this picture

And off we went, heading up the cliff. It was glorious, the sea breeze cooling and invigorating, the scenery and the hill breathtaking in their own ways :0) This marathon is certainly a challenging one with 6, 250 ft of elevation. But hard to beat for beauty and a perfect race to do if you are visiting San Francisco and want to soak up the feel of the place. There is even a view of the Golden Gate Bridge – or fog containing it. Today we scored bridge and instantly forgave the hills we had had to climb to see it from such height.

Another picture courtesy of Deborah. Here is the start – I am just behind Mr 893 at the front

I like to divide the course into manageable bits and so decided with more creativity than science that I would be progressing around  a lady bug  sticking its tongue. You run up the tongue, up and over one side of the bugs head, up and over one side of its body, up and over the other side of its body and return via the other side of its head to return down the tongue. The head and tongue are the 7 mile orange loop, the body the pink c. 12 mile loop. Clear? Fun!  The hills are significant but if you enjoy downhill and don’t mind wiping out hikers on blind corners there are amazing stretches of prolonged down where this bug lets you fly!. Ladybug animated gif 1

Distance Elevation Gain Single Track Dirt Road Asphalt
7mi 1,900′ 21% 64% 15%
10mi 2,740′ 26% 65% 9%
20mi 4,390′ 32% 50% 18%
Marathon 6,250′ 29% 54% 17%
50 Km 7,130′ 30% 55% 15%

Christy Bentivoglio was there, smiling for California as usual and making everyone around her feel good – as long as they didn’t look up at the cliffs. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I’m sure she got a few dogs walkers to sign up for the 50K. “Have a go, you’ll be fine in Crocs.”Christy – bless her! This is the wattage of her smile AFTER 20miles. I think there may have been beer in the Camel Back

File:MarincelloTrail.jpg

The Marincello trail is actually the main Boulevard of the failed Marincello Development. This could look like downtown Sausalito today!

Before running I browsed the internet trying to find something to like about Marincello (the start of the pink loop after the aid station) As a former archaeologist I like to add meaning to runs with a dab of research, I Googled the name just because it was the part of the course that I most dreaded – a bleak, featureless  crawl of a hill that bores me.  Oh boy did I hit gold!  Marincello was supposed to be a vast hilltop community. The story of its demise is absolutely fascinating- and kickstarted the preservation of all Open Space in Marin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marincello

Janet Bodle (right) is an inspiring runner. I know through her grandson. Here she is finishing the marathon today..64 yrs young and two hours ahead of the next person her age. She recently completed her ambition to run a marathon in every state. I’d like to see us both on that start bridge in 20 yrs time!

While reaching the top of  Marincello today I had the first of three awkward moments in the race. I came across a  guy running the 20 miles. He wasn’t up for a chat but asked what our average pace was. I didn’t know. “But you’re wearing Garmin aren’t you?” he said. How unfortunate. What are the chances? No one has ever asked me the pace in a race before – and now I had to explain that although I was indeed wearing  a brand new top of the range Garmin I had not been sufficiently competent to turn it on properly. I told him I was steeling myself for the disparaging remarks my husband would have later – he had paid hundreds of dollars for  it as a surprise gift ..and I had fumbled pressing one button. I expected him to laugh but no. Awkward. Did he think I was withholding the information? Some runners do get awfully serious about this stuff. To smooth the situation  I offered a sporting estimate which seemed to make sense to him. I passed by. Later it hit me though – the estimate I had given was  hopelessly inaccurate, more of a current pace on the gently undulating ground we were on than an ‘average’ pace he had asked for – bearing in mind the hills we had covered.  I pushed from my conscience the possibility that he may have slowed down on account of my terrible guess!

Alexandre finishing his 20 miler. We ran most if it together. The poor man will never know how close he came to witnessing my gel pack retrieval rummaging

My second awkward moment came when I was galloping down the last section of pink loop and suddenly received a series of sharp pains in the vicinity of my underwear.  It turned out I was being slashed with the sharp edges of  empty gel packets. When I eat them I tend to shove the packets down my top rather than littering or  negotiating opening a pocket to put them away. This time a number of packets and tops had worked their way down a hole in my top. There was absolutely nowhere to hide even if I had been prepared to stop (and that is against the grain). Tantalizingly, I didn’t know how close the people behind me were  – but I did know they were all men.  All I could do was keep going, running as fast as I could but jolting with pain when the packets stabbed me and then  rummaging in my shorts on every turn when I should be out of sight to the people behind me until I had located all of them.

The third cringe of the day occurred when I was on the orange loop repeat.  Two attractive ladies were returning from the aid station I was headed to.  They smiled, pleased for me rather than bothered for themselves that I was 7 miles ahead of them. Like most runners they were just out there having fun at their own pace. I smiled back and intended a warm  “Hi guys” as we passed by but inexplicably  “Hi gays!” came out instead. Their smiles dimmed a little  – probably just in confusion  or in response to my frozen expression. But I was tortured with the  possibility that they were gay (I don’t think they were)   – and now not only believed I  had a problem with that (I don’t) but also that I was enough of a  jerk to go around issuing bizarre taunts.  And of course you can’t turn around and run after them and sort it all out  – as to do so would surely seem to say ..’I’d like to publicly raise the question of whether or not you’re gay’.. or ..”I’m a crazy person”. Possibly they dismissed it as my Irish accent.

Edvard Munch was inspired by this marathon

But more importantly, I also had an endearingly silly moment that will stay with me forever.  As I climbed up from Muir beach to repeat the orange loop I crowned the hill to a faintly ridiculous  sight. Two middle aged hikers were standing beside Wendell’s course marker  – this pointed at the spot they were standing on and said ORANGE  in bold orange letters. They were obediently eating an orange. I laughed out loud.

David Altena – The Supplier!

Thank you to David Altena who helped me when my legs started to seize up after the  finish and gave me a lift back to my car and my   Icy Heat gel so I didn’t have to sort out the shuttle thing. If my legs had been working I would have kicked myself for forgetting to  take my usual anti-inflammatories before the race , I didn’t even have them with me.  Urgh!  To my glee David offered me some  painkiller. When  I accepted he made me laugh by producing  a  carefully wrapped bundle of anonymous red tablets. He said he had just decanted some from a  large container but  did wonder what the Police would think if they found them. What amused me was how many he had in the bundle – enough to fell an elephant. I’m glad his 20 miler went so well!

I assume they were Advil. Two of them and a slathering of Icy Heat  – and I could feel no pain within the hour. Possibly under the influence of mind altering drugs, I signed up for my next Coastal event shortly after returning home  – Mt Diablo in two weeks time.

This time I know in advance the place is a breeding ground for  Tarantulas. Hopefully I will scream a little less.

Todays results: http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/cr_smmr_results_12.htm

Now this is the real Adona.  How lovely to share a day like this together again- winning the  ladies 20 and  marathon, both  female course records. Try not to notice that she looks like a mannequin in a sports shop and  I look like roadkill. I can hear my parents groaning” Penny you’re a messer”.

With somebody’s thumb and first man in the Marathon Dan Nahrwold. Everyone else ran over the hills, Dan stepped over them. This was his first trail marathon, he did it in 4 hrs 13!!!! I was 4 hrs 22.29

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4 responses to “Coyote Ridge, 1st Sept 2012

  • Allen Lucas

    I love your race reports (and that so many are at races I was at, albeit at much shorter distances and for much longer periods of time). And I agree that Christy and Adona are treasures. And that that pole has to go.

  • Anne Cottrell

    Penny, I have finally found your blog – and what a post! The highs and lows of life and trail running, all in one column. We ran together (except you kept going) at the Pacifica ITR run in August I think – and I’m hoping we can do that again sometime.

    • pennymacphail

      Anne how lovely to hear from you – I remember you well. What a scorching hot day!! And what a great chat we had :0) I mentioned you in the blog of that one if you saw it. If you’ve glanced at my last blog you will notice that a wonderful running buddy Pete Mingwah passed away recently – he was running that hot day too …you may remember him ..he was carrying a water bottle the size of an office water cooler refill :0)

      Would love to run with you again. What do you have lined up? P

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