Category Archives: Marathons

Berkeley Golden Hills Trail marathon 13th Oct

How sweet to stumble on the roots of life and bring the gift of laughter to others.

My current husband has long diagnosed me with  ‘Penny Macphail Syndrome’. This is where bizarre things happen to me  – always sparked by a  twist of fate but fanned to inferno by some agent of my own incompetence. His favorite episode is  the  time a light fitting bust in a poolside sauna just as I entered it. I was pleased with how dark and steamy it was, lay along a bench enjoying the anonymity of the dark and gave no greeting  when the door opened a few minutes later.  And then a large man in wet bathing trunks sat on my face. The events of today have made his list.

At start with Amanda. Looks normal huh? Nope – she knows Chris Jones (always  a worrying sign) and was running another marathon with him the next day.

This is the third time I have done the Berkeley Golden Hills Marathon. It is a distinctively exciting race – challenging, buoyantly social, beautiful. The marathon is a side dish to the meaty ole Firetrails 50 miler which celebrates local  ultra running legend Dick Collins . Marathoners start at 9am in Tilden park forest. They bounce over hills and plunge through fairy tale forests for 26.2 miles to finish at Lake Chabot Marina.  Hotdog  50 milers start at that marathon finish at 6.30 am, run to our start, shriek a little at the spiders and cobwebs they have dangling over the aid station there, turn around and marathon it after us. Both races are a blast, all sorts of people come to play ….slow, fast, fat, thin, sane, unbalanced ..it has the professional set up that gets elite juices flowing but the accessibility to secure the everlasting devotion of many who have made it their first marathon or ultra. AND these organisers know how to throw an after race party and splurge on the goodies, there are prizes galore ( I really hate it when prizes are stacked around the fastest runners who already have a cloak of glory to swoosh around in) Here you are knee deep in groovy stuff for everyone, oodles of age groups things, random spot prizes and little gifts to show their appreciation if you make a  spectacle of yourself at the finish. Everyone gets a wine glass. Those things really should come with instructions…what do you do with it?

Tis Himself – Dick Collins aka The Legend. Hope no-one else read up about his chronic back condition. Bang goes my excuse for not running his 50 miler.

Nose and nos

My sinuses and chest were  petitioning  to be excused from PE  this week. They messed around with quite THE most  irritating dry cold which  produced nothing sick note generating in the way of symptoms but successfully left me feeling ..meh, shut down the little air supply that ever reaches my weird nose and deposited what felt like a  lining of  warm cookie dough on my lungs.I  counteracted by slathering myself  nose to ribs with Vicks Menthol Rub.
My back was acting up too  – I had congratulated myself on completing several marathons with minor flare ups then strained it good and proper hoisting  a complete stranger’s portly runaway Labrador into my car  – so it marinated it in Icy Heat. Then on went the coating of coconut sun lotion. Now quite the  olfactory sensation, I strode to race registration,  leaving in my wake a trail of  runners, sniffing  the air and narrowing their eyes  suspiciously at each other. Here it emerged I had committed the unpardonable sin of not actually signing up for the race : and you cannot register on the day. Macphail? McPhail?  Muckfail?  “No.” Giddy from my  fumes or just keen to get this highly flammable greased creature away from their desk they gave me a race bib and their blessing. Thank you Julie.

Many happy returns

You are supposed to park at the marathon finish and take a shuttle bus to the start. ‘Were you too smart for this?’ you ask. YaHA. Get up at  5.30am , drive virtually passed the start to catch a  7.15 am bus?  To those cursed with genius there was a second option. Sip morning tea around 7.15 am, drive to the  start for 8 am and lord it over the restrooms for some time before the herds stampede off the shuttle. Run. Get a taxi back. I tossed my keys, some cash  and a taxi number into a drop bag (the organizers bring this to the finish for you). Eagle eyed, I  noticed several other people had reused their  San Francisco Marathon drop bag for the occasion. I thought it sweet. (We may revisit this.)

The race

Well it is a glorious course  – high scenic hills,  deep dark forest, broad fire roads, technical single track, roller coaster undulating stretches, stiff hill climbs, grand sweeping downs. A bit of everything.  The beginning of this race is truly memorable as runners emerge from the chill forest and the tension of a race start to find themselves winding  up exposed fire roads, positively  ablaze with golden light – I guess that’s where the name ‘Golden Hills’ comes from ( I didn’t see anyone digging lol).

I quite literally found myself going dizzy trying to breathe deeply and expand my lungs – hyperventilating I suppose. How ridiculous would it be to render yourself unconscious 5 mins into a race! My Dad actually blew a hole in a lung once while racing so, with this in mind as a possibility, I adopted a shorter staccato breathing which seemed to work for me and I kept it up for the whole race – all a bit odd and very different to my normal.

A group of fast men streamed ahead and I ran in the second  little clump of people which included  red hat man and red top lady. There was no chit chat beyond a friendly hello  – I for one  had to just focus on air.

We chipped up the hill overtaking each other now and then, I did my usual of overtaking on any downs. Once we crested the first main hill I stayed ahead of the lady and ran with the guy for some time until he was a very good boy and retraced his steps up a hill to retrieve a dropped gel packet. And then the fun started  -we started meeting the  front runners in the  50 miler.  They had done around 23 miles and we about 3 I guess. From this point I felt less like I was racing and more that I was in the front row spectating the 50 mile race. I exchanged greetings of some kind with virtually all 252 of them them, shrieked at familiar faces, detained a few for hugging (Chris and Janeth) and only stopped high fiving more  after a high powered mishit with  Tracy left me cursing and sucking my fingers…I might as well have punched her in the face, how unhelpful…sorry about that, I hope your fingers didn’t hurt as much as mind did.  (I would have enjoyed that had I been running behind me getting irritated by all the greetings.)

Huge thanks to Brett Rivers ( San Francisco Running Company) for this pic. I LOVE Brett’s work – he has some weird superpower thing going on….he captures such a sense of moment…the feel of the place/race and the personality of the runners. My camera wants to go and live with him.

I  altered  normal race etiquette (men often give way to women, slow uphill to fast downhill etc) and showed a certain respect by getting out of  their way. For the most part this just means I engaged in polite and at times perilous activity running off  the trail to let them pass far more than I would normally do but twice I gave the greatest gift imaginable and stopped dead to hold a gate for an approaching 50 miler. Yes I do rock!  I even looked behind me once and considered embracing humanity further…should I hold a little longer for the man in the red hat. Naw.

Considering the people who marked this course we were lucky not to be sent up a few extra hills. Running royalty Speedy Yanko (above)  and she of Grand to Grand 167 miles in 6 days fame, Sarah Lavender Smith set out many of the ribbons – neither of whom can be trusted to resist a long distance or sheer cliff face. Sarah had done the final check run, starting in the dark with a head light ..I encountered her (with joyful hug) heading towards the marathon start  a little into the race. A trim figure backlit with golden light, hair braids a-flying. She looked like a cross between an angel and a Viking.

I ran alone for mile upon mile. Where I could glance back I saw no-one or the man in the red hat. All was good, just a relaxing run. No pressure.  The first time I ran this race I  fizzled so badly at the end I woozily ran into a hedge around mile 23 and spent the last mile staggery walking while people I had long passed streamed by me, most with kind words which I appreciated deeply at the time   – one with a ‘ have you done this before ?’…which made me  determined to run the same race again …better…preferably beating them. Since then the organizers  have had to change the course. The last few miles still trace the side of lake Chabot but now reach it a little further down the lake and do so by looping over a few hills which I think made it harder.  So I wanted to keep something in the tank.

I reached the final aid station. They refilled my water bottle and set me off with the most encouraging words imaginable…

.‘oh look..there’s ANOTHER woman coming’ .

The psychological stain of being swarmed on that last stretch before galvanized me into action.  I chugged up a little  hill and streamed fast down the other side heading for the lake. Many runners celebrate at the sight of this water. I allowed myself a modest internal cheer but knew think ‘ rejoice for we are done’  now honey and those last miles will seem intolerable. I  pulled my headphones off ..couldn’t cope with music…and ran as hard as I could – I’m not a sprint finisher so steady force it had to be.  I have to say I am very cross with this  lakeside path  – it’s sounds  like a flat, relaxing, stroll with your toddler kind of thing but some giant has  bunched it up into really mean little hills. Moreover, you can see a great big elegant swathe of lake stretching out endlessly along the water ..on and on. A landscape gardener’s delight but marathoner’s dismay. If I was doing the 50 miler I’d be up for  blocking it in with concrete for a direct route at that point.

Finally the finish. They even put out a tape for me to run through  – I don’t think I’ve ever had that before …what a treat.

Oh joy.

First three ladies. Petra, Self and Rea. My time was  3.56.05 , Rea ‘lady in red’  was right after me in  3.59.13 She also fought for it on those last miles. We had each other to thank for  a pretty nasty 20 minutes :0) The big difference between us is in 20 years time she’ll still be doing it :0) Petra McDowell was third lady with 4.13.48  – all three top  ten out of 151 people.  I was 6 mins faster than in 2011  YAY! but slower than my 3.50.55 the year before, despite fizzling at the finish. (There was a little course change after 2010 which might add a little time.) Looking at the top ten best performers over the years list it’s still all hail Mighty Caren Spore who annihilated me in 2010 with 3.43.47! And who is this Ms Lavender Smith person also looking DOWN at me ..that’s my angel/Viking lol).Rea made the list too today:0)  

And at the finish line – treat of all treats – there was the high wattage smile of Ms Christy Bentivoglio (who had done the Horseshoe half marathon then come to see friends finish at this event) and the welcoming grin of Lucas Wojciechowski. Two of the nicest people and coincidentally silliest names of my recent acquaintance.  Lucas’  skinny 20 yr old butt had glided over the marathon finish line in 3.26.06  – nearly half an hour before me and in second place,  just 5 mins after the first man Noah Brautigam.

Picture of Christy and self by the vastly entertaining Margaret. Margaret’s pictures are sensational mainly because she is making people laugh so hard. Pse note lady in hat behind me who appears to be on fire/about to detonate.

#2 man Lucas, young, fresh faced, fast- helping old lady across the grass

#1 man Noah. I think the shirt was holding me back.

With Margaret. I had this expression for a while after my massage. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

At this point I foolishly approached the massage tent, ignored their name ‘Monsters of Massage’  and lingered not over their logo of a laughing devil. My back was sore and I thought they might help me. It was excruciating. I thought I was being deboned. (read their web site – it’s a gas) It turns out I was sampling Ve Loyce aka ‘Monster”s own  method of ‘Attack Orientated Target Massage’. Ve Loyce savaged me while his henchman Tom tortured people on a table  beside me. Tom’s first victim (Mr Orange  – see pic) shamelessly ran away pretending he needed the rest room. When his  replacement started whimpering as piteously as I was, we stretched out out arms to see if we could hold hands. I told Ve Loyce that I  preferred my ex husband to him and was just considering playing dead when  he released his grip for a second and I bolted …must say I was moving fast and felt  pretty darn good..but I may have been in shock.

Mr Orange who ran away from the massage monsters. Yes we shared a marathon  – but  surviving the massage monsters made us kin.

And then..

Home time. I saw the first 50 miler in ..didn’t speak to him, just asked if I could poke him. He was real. 6.46.26 ..WOW!

I trotted off to call a taxi. The number I had  didn’t work so I got the number for On Time Yellow Cabs from the guy at the Marina entry kiosk.

This is how I met Resham.

The running was the easy bit of the day.

Resham has little to teach about speaking English, deciphering those inflicted with a Irish accent, or grasping the geography of the Castro Valley and surrounding regions.  At first, these being the primary offerings I was rating him upon, I thought he had little to teach. I was wrong.

It took 15 minutes to communicate where I was, and another 20 for him to find me…anxiously glancing at my watch. I was late. I had to get home for our family outing to the kids’ Octoberfest. Then my heart sank when he had never heard of Tilden Park or of the main freeway leading to it the I -80. He was keen on the similar sounding 880 but was talked out of it when I helped him plumb the marathon start location into his GPS gadget. We set off,  him encouraging me to join in with the directions as the lack of a house number on his GPS was worrying him. This is because the race starts in the middle of a forest not in someone’s house. It was when I fully realised that  the  concept of a running race  –  my entire little world at the time- was not something we were ever going to clarify – that I started seeing the situation from his point of view and being rather touched by him.  He was never going to be impressed I had run let alone won a marathon, always going to wonder why I left a car in Tilden and  how I got  to  Lake Chabot (I mimicked running and pointed at my number but he thought I was dancing). What on earth did he make of what I was wearing?

Damsel in distress. V similar looking.

We live some way from here, and my grasp of the area is kinda  limited to trails none of which I hoped we would be driving on this afternoon, so I fired up location services on my iPhone in order to concur or compete with his GPS . As has happened before, this somehow killed my battery dead. His GPS took us on a strange route,  c. 50 minutes later  we closed in on the park.  He was clearly hesitant as we entered forest but believed in me enough to keep going and layers of anxiety seemed to peel from his face when I pointed to my car – which endeared me to him. We parted in a friendly manner  – me hesitantly saying his name to pronounce  it right  …and ..a smart move….giving him a healthy tip on top of the $60 fare. I was so late – but I could still make the last hour or so of Octoberfest.

I rummaged in my drop bag (we said we’d revisit this) and discovered my key was missing. I recalled when I’d  picked the bag it had been opened, a shoe, a make up bag  – still containing $100 cash  – and some clothing was lying on the ground nearby. At the time my dearest concern was that the Castro Valley should not be exposed to the sight of my  underwear so I scooped everything up quickly and grabbed the bag. It never occurred to me to check for the keys. Doh!!

Now …..forest glade, no cell phone, no key, miles from home. I sprinted after Resham’s car screaming his name like a banshee. He skidded to a stop.

I couldn’t call  anyone at the finish to ask them to check the ground near the drop bags as my cell phone was dead. After some tough communication Resham understood and was up for me recharging my phone in his car –  then he had no cable.  He was fine with me calling using his phone but he had no internet connection and I had no numbers. So I called my husband on his phone and we decided the only thing to do was for me to taxi it back to the start. I spent a long time on that phone call. During it Resham sat quiet and patient, not interrupting or motioning for me to get on with it ..and not running his meter. I was stressed but I did notice it.  I also went back to the spot where the drop bags had been held at the start of the race  – now a completely unmarked piece of scrub land and checked the grass and noticeboards around there for  keys. He sat patiently. He didn’t understand. He didn’t run his meter. He watched me pointing at the trail and ‘dancing’ and smiled, calm and patient. We established I had had fun in this area earlier. All in all he had sat in Tilden Park with his meter off for at least 25 minutes before we left. Off we went.

Resham was more confident with return directions as he knew the ultimate destination but something strange happened on the I-580. One minute we were on it. Suddenly he  discover himself  on the 980 then eventually calmed at the 880. This  will make you rip your hair out if you live there and know the roads. It took well over an hour to drive back and cooked up c. $75. Back at the entry kiosk Resham had trouble trying to explain our mission (and why we shouldn’t pay as we were not parking to stay at the marina) so I leaned forward, spoke to the  man who had  given me this taxi firms’ number nearly three  hours ago and explained the key problem. He threw his head back and guffawed openly…… no pretense of concern, no social nicety just sheer exuberant joy ..’oh that’s priceless’ and waved us through dabbing at his eyes. We made his day.

Pardon my French several times today while looking for those keys

Back at the finish. I asked Resham to wait in the taxi while I ran down to the finish and started the process of looking for the key. I had hoped it would be right there on the ground where my bag had been  – no. I started to feel panicky. Several people helped me search, we lifted every bag up and checked beneath it, we checked the bushes nearby and under the tables where a key might have been kicked. I returned to the Monsters of Massage  to see if I had clawed it out of the bag whilst in the grip of agony. They liked the idea but the key wasn’t under their tables. The race organizer enlisted people to check the cars the drop bags had been transported in and some kind souls were starting to scour the ground of the route from car to drop bag deposit.

Just then a voice said -‘ yes someone found a key’.

While I had been searching two wonderful people had just set off around the finish area asking absolutely everyone  if they had found a key or heard of someone finding a key  – people manning stands, runners and supporters. Unbelievably someone had JUST found a strange set of keys in their drop bag and asked a lady manning a stand what to do with it. Now she was running around trying to spot them again.  I waited ..a quivering mess ..most grateful for the calming aura of Mr John Brooks who proffered his cell phone so I could let my husband Hamish know what was going on the second we saw those keys and if they were mine. They were. I hugged everyone who didn’t bat me off and fought back tears of relief.  OK I blubbed. My guess is that my key somehow fell out of my bag, either someone handling a pile of bags dropped mine upside down  or someone who also used a San Francisco drop bag opened mine to see if it was theirs, pulled out some stuff then …possibly in shock having encountered my underwear- moved on to the next bag. After that, either this person tried to make amends or a separate person spotted the key  – and chucked it ‘back’ into the wrong  bag. Today I learned that drop bags should have zips and padlocks.

Had I checked my bag, noticed the key missing and searched for it at the finish when I came in I would never have got that key back. I wouldn’t  have been there looking four hours later when the owner of the golden drop bag plunged a hand in and thought ..now what is that? Suddenly the hours spent driving around with Resham seemed rather poignant. I am also  so incredibly lucky that a person actually noticed alien keys in their bag.

So now I had to get back to my car. Many people tried to hook me up with a lift but it is a long and awkward journey whatever route you take and no-one was leaving immediately. I also had the nasty problem that I had run up $75 on Resham’s clock ..and that was before getting out of the car to search for the key about 20 minutes ago. Mr Brooks galloped up to the taxi with me on a fine white charger, threw me a bag of gold ($40 cash he had in his car) and even thanked Resham for his patience. How amazingly patient Resham was. Not because he was making easy money either. He had  stopped his meter when I got out. I gave him $80 ( $40 I had and $40 from Sir John). I told him it was all the cash I had and asked him to take me back to my car. He took time to fold the money carefully and drove off with an encouraging smile. Did he understand I had no more cash?

It was another good 40 minutes before we got back to my car. By this time the clock said $150. I offered to write him a check for the amount I owed him – but he gave an enchanting smile and said ‘I am happy.’ I shook his hand warmly and gave him a Cliff bar I had picked up at the race finish as I got out of the car. As I left he had parked up, opened his Cliff bar with great care, divided it into neat sections  and was eating it while gazing at a meadow in Tilden Park. He used to have a rice farm in Bangladesh and misses his fields.

Thank you Berkeley Golden Hills Marathon, Sir  John Brooks – who turns out to be the new owner pumping race experience, customer focus and infectious enthusiasm  into the recently demised running event company  Pacific Coastal Trails ( and has since declined repayment …so if you see him at a race, sell him a sob story and see how much you can get lol ) and of course Resham.

Wore my running for Pete sign today. Saw some of your best friends being awesome and met many who knew and missed you. xx

Marathon results

50 Miler results

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Mt Diablo Trail Marathon, Sept 15th

Alva Woof (fantastic name!) took this photo of me at her aid station

Last time the tarantulas absolutely freaked me. Now I was going to scare the hell out of them! I attached a ridiculous spider to my water bottle and headed off to Coastal Trail’s Mt Diablo race. Heh heh. People asked “‘Are you really going to run with that thing?”  But the spider was still making up her mind.

Hello ladies ….
It turns out their bite is no worse than a bee sting unless you are allergic to it. (How do you know if you are?)  They’ve got a bad reputation by hanging around with tiny unseen black widow spiders –  whose victims often collapse rasping ” it must’ve been that big fat fluffy one..get ‘im” . And oh yes there are plenty of black widows here too.

When I ran this marathon in 2010,  the revelation that Mt Diablo is a breeding ground for tarantulas was quite the pulse jolter. Moreover, this race’s September date coincides with their mating season – when Mr Fluffy and pals drape themselves seductively on the trails. I greeted my first amorous hopeful around mile three with a gentle smile. I assumed it was a child’s toy. It was not until there was an identical toy around mile ten and soon after a third that  curiosity drew me in for a closer look.  I bent over him. How cute. His fluff blowing gently in the breeze. And he moved. I rocketed in the air with a scream normally reserved for childbirth. I had no idea you could get tarantulas here, I thought they lived in Africa or something. A polar bear wouldn’t have surprised me more. Worse – I absolutely believed they kill people. No-one was around to tell me that wasn’t true.

Endorphin Dude’s pic ‘Fun before Facing The Devil

Pic from aid station volunteer Alva
When a park invests in such a fancy fire danger sign you guess it gets used  quite a bit. Try not to think the bear is grave digging.

Last time it was an unusually cool day. Course records abounded (including ladies marathon for me) and I thought the race logo of a moutain on fire was something to do with the name Diablo /devil. But no – the mountain actually is on fire normally around now and the day before the race was forecast to be 97/55 F. Chance of precipitation said ‘only if you cry’.

The course as a squashed eyeball Moving animated eye looking back and forth with pupil dilating

The course is fairly tough. The elevation is considerable with a 6, 760′ elevation for my race, the marathon and the way it plays out is kinda mean. The downs are so long they bang your knees into your rib cage. And the ups are  just asking for a slap. On and on and on …no sense of humanity.

Now I like to break the course away from geography and into a visual image I can cope with in little chunks. To me this one is clearly a stomped upon eyeball. Everyone runs up the optic nerve, 4 milers peel away before it becomes a hill, 10 milers climb to the first crest, Juniper Campground (where insane/unwitting people are camping knee deep in tarantulas) , everyone else continues into the eye ball to the blue trail (which clearly outlines the iris). Half marathoners get to the summit and plummet back the way they came. Marathoners and 50kers return the same way for a jot then take a left to complete the circle of the iris then its off for an adventure around  the vitreous sac. Marathoners hit optic nerve after that,  50kers loop around the iris again first. Now the pupil – that black hole – is the option considered by Allen Lucas (see pic) in his weepingly funny blog notthatlucas@blogspot.com.  When you get to the very summit and it’s all been a bit much, you can just ask a confused tourist  to help you up the railings and leap off.

Allen Lucas and his wife Diane. Do look up his blog. , So  modest about his running skills he is anxious he will not be allowed on the  Coastal Trails shuttle bus.

The race started. Last time I  felt rather  empowered by the start – two miles of  flat on a generous fire road. It isn’t going to win any beauty contests but has a lovely personality. There’s ample time and space to go at your own pace and find a good breathing rhythm before you hit hill. Today I felt meh.  It was just 8am yet the air we were  sucking in held a foreboding heat. “Quick chat about working conditions when you’re ready love” hissed my lungs.

At the start.I am 419 -Lady in yellow is giggling at spider

Adona gracing the 50k …..uh words fail me,make up your own caption or just fall on your knees

When I hit the hill last time I floated up it. This time not so much, just an off day. I slowed it down to find some sense of wanting to be there. I waved my spider around and had a few giggles. That helped. Part of me wanted to be running with my friends doing the 5ok (and pacing themselves behind me accordingly). Not only were fun people like Janeth, Endorphin Dude Tony and Pete running it, Adona ..Queen of the 20 miler had thrown her cap in the ring. There I’ve been trying to bully her in to running marathons and she goes all ultra on me. Honestly, I be feeling pretty darn pleased with myself if it wasn’t for these crazies putting the JUST in my marathons lol. (Their fellow cohort Chris Jones was running 100 miles elsewhere).

I’ve pinched this picture of you Leigh-Ann :0) This is where you get the first really amazing view and your body says ‘well done, you were right, it was a good idea to run up that hill after all”.

Then we climbed high enough to get a view. It is staggeringly beautiful. Perhaps the most striking of all Coastal’s events I have done. My spirits lifted, I started to have fun, my pace quickened and I began working my way up the field. The air also cleared, the valley floor seemed to trap warm air ( I noticed it later going down too). ,Up higher we even had a breeze. At one point  – just around where Leigh Ann is photographed (see pic), I wanted to soak in the view so much I started running up the hill backwards. I said ‘wow’ out loud as I turned. A  man a little down hill from me laughed. I guess it  looked like I was admiring him. We exchanged a smile as I did a little double take and hurriedly turned back so as not to overtake the next guy while  laughing and running backwards.  If someone did that to me I’d thump them for sure.

The summit – and my former shame

It was even more satisfying for me to reach the very summit  than most because well  – ahem – last time I missed it. My name is only on the course record for the ladies marathon by the grace of race organiser Wendell (and he had to add  time to it  to counteract knuckleheadedness.)

Just before the out and back to the summit there is a car park around mile 6. You emerge from bushes to cross this and can see Coastal markers for marathon and 50k runners disappearing down the other side of the mountain. To the left of these are directions for the out and back to the summit. I was struggling with an errant contact lens and whether that alone  was it or some vehicles/people were in front of the additional signage I don’t know – but though I pointedly looked for some higher echelon all I could see were two  fairly small rectangles of car park and those markers.  David Schoenberg  was just enough ahead of me to be out of sight, running up the summit,  and no-one was behind me.  This must be IT, what a let down. Wendell had told us to look for a message at the summit to check we had been to it. I frowned at the bleak car park and squinted at some  tiny letters on some metal thing but couldn’t make them out …I was expecting a sign he’d written.. odd.  Frankly rather disappointed with the summit, I shot off down the mountain, timing it to be just out of sight when David descended.

Prepare to Cringe

Neither of us saw the other again until the end. He had a fair idea what I had done but was too polite to air suspicions. It wasn’t until the conversation turned to the summit ….and my disappointment over it  raised a Coastal eyebrow that David  gently mentioned he had not had the pleasure of encountering me on the out and back . And the goof was uncovered. Awful – oh put my head in a bag!  And the worst of it was I knew I had done a really good run- now it was hard to tell what was speed and what unfair. I’m still cringing. After this when navigational slipies have added to my mileage and even cost me a placing or two I have been very content. I’m happy to be thought an idiot but not a cheat. Oh horrid feelings.

Just when you think it can’t get worse

You see – tiny monument, easy to miss

When I stepped onto this car park today all hopes that two years of cringing could come to an end evaporated as the size and clarity of the  summit return directions burned into my retinas. I literally covered my face and groaned. I recalled a small rectangular car park but here was a whole new world, my car park was a little overflow to the main one and  – as if designed to humiliate me – there was actually a  summit monument …a sizable, elegant  building with grand stairs.  I thought I had missed some tiny little single track hidden by bushes. They must have thought I was completely insane.

When I got to the top the view was outstanding. Today we had elastic bands instead of a message and I put mine on the end of one of my braids. If you have read my blog before you may remember I now avoid putting these on my wrist. I did it once and an hour later my hand started to  look like a plastic glove on its way to being blown into a rubber chicken.

Marathon
Elevation Gain: 6,760′
(Per Avocet Altimeter)

The summit is a chance  to interact with people (much mock horror at and waggling of  spider etc)  and to check out the field – who is ahead of you and who just behind…but  it is a guessing game who among them is running the marathon or longer.  The majority will be doing the half marathon  – they turn right as they come off the summit and return to the finish the way they came up. As I turned left myself I felt sure I was at least pursing  Dan Nahrwold (who won the Coastal Coyote ridge marathon two weeks ago…as his first marathon)  and one bright smiley lady in blue with those funny feet running shoes.  They were both well ahead of me but I hoped I might  catch up with them or at least see them as I was running better now and knew we were approaching a big downhill.

But it wasn’t to be. I saw Dan dwarfed by the mountains  in the distance but no-one else (I guessed funny feet girl must be a half marathoner).  Still the down was glorious. It is worth suffering the rest of this marathon just to experience this bit, I felt humbled by the beauty, it is more like flying than running..effortless and fast….and it goes on for 4.6 miles! At one point you pass through a distinctive section of rich dark soil scattered with quartz. I adored almost every second of it…

This is where I saw the moving tarantula last time. Then as now I was completely alone. Suddenly  – a  sharp pain in my right ankle. I froze and could hardly bear to look down I was so scared there would be a  spider attached to my foot (apparently if severely provoked they can jump on you…..maybe Dan had been rude to it lol)… but there was nothing to see. The pain was significant and I could see a sore on my heel but it went away after a while, I guess it was either a bee or a sharp stone. Nasty moment. It could have been an odd task for some coroner, prising a giant  fluffy spider from the hand of a runner for whom her  severe allergy to tarantula venom had been an unwelcome last minute discovery.

Mt Diablo – or is that Diabolical

Endorphin Dude Tony was not alone in a DNF (did not finish) today – but only he would run a half marathon the next day!

After the  4.6 mile blast down  I dropped in on Coastal volunteer black belts Alva  and Lynnard (who recently ran a 100 miler) and their cosy little aid station at North Gate. They were perhaps disappointed  not to be manning the really busy Juniper Campground station but this one has it’s own special thrill delivering runners at high speed as they plummet down what Alva called her ‘Wall drop’ and torch across a road to reach them. Never has an aid station said RTA pending quite so clearly to me. It is also a great position to have a good laugh at people. The down is over OOOOOOOOOOOver. Now we are up. Alva took the photo of me at the top of this blog at this station. They told me there was just one guy ahead of me – which was Dan. Later it emerged there had  been another lady but she had managed to get lost poor thing. She must have been way ahead of me too.

Now comes the up. I found this quite intense. I was well hydrated  – I’d been  drinking ahead of my thirst with such aggression I was probably making swishing noises- but the heat started to get to me. I battled to stop myself slipping into staggery walking too often or for too long – it can become a habit once you give in to it especially when you are running alone. By the time I reached the Rock City aid station I was feeling dizzy and getting cold flashes down my arms and neck.  Like the summit this is also a little out and back so you get to see other runners ..and I was surprised to see Dan leaving the station as I arrived, sad for him he had dropped back but pleased to have a person close by. Also to be honest it helped me not feel so bad I had been struggling. It was VERY hot. I was certainly ready to refresh my water bottle but not particularly thirsty and my mind was on the  woozy feeling  so I made a good decision in nabbing  a couple of salt tablets but a bad one in filling up my water bottle and heading off without also drinking stuff there.  My water was gone long before the next station.

Now I had two surprises. First a lady appeared running up behind me. A pretty awesome elite runner type with abs I would not cover in church . Where did she come from? I smiled and said hello in a ‘trying not to be

Evolution of calf sleeve usage. None, boring black, hot pink Waahhoo Janeth ones…50Ks worth of hot today!

horrified you are so close behind me’ sort of way. A monetary flicker of competitiveness sparked in me but meh. The strategic thing to do would be to hoof it now and be out of her sight by the time she returned from the aid station …not visible as an achievable quarry. But I was shut down to survival mode. Running not racing. Really worried about the dizzy thing. Anyway she was a fair bit behind me.

Then the second surprise came along. A whacking great cramp flashed up my leg. I’ve not had cramp since I started wearing calf sleeves. I stopped and tested the leg, if it was going to snarl up I wanted to head back towards the aid station and get someone to push against it. It was ok. I continued and every now and then a little flicker of cramp traced my calf. I ran/walked with that foot tensed, holding the lower leg like a wooden stump ( I might as well have put the spider on my shoulder and shouted ‘pieces of eight’ ). I really wondered what would happen. I was scared of being alone when a big cramp hit. I realised of course the very best thing I could have done was to have just eaten those salt tablets. Go Salt tablets!! It was an internal battle  – would they get into my bloodstream before the cramp hobbled me. This was a low point. My Garmin shows it took nearly 18minutes to cover the next mile.

Now there is a moment in this race where you know for sure people have snorted beer through their nose planning it. You have done a lot of uphill and the terrain has a ‘top of the ridge’ feel. You are ready for a left turn any moment now taking you  back to good old Camp Juniper and a joy dive downhill to the finish. Instead a corner reveals a trail akin to a rocket trajectory. At least I knew it was coming. I knew Dan didn’t. If only I’d been able to catch up to him I could have let him cry on my shoulder.

I did reach Dan after a while and we had a good old moan about the heat. It’s a terrible hill. I thought the stunning abs lady was coming up behind me but I turned a few times and didn’t see her. On we went, both suffering, walking now and then, the cramps flashes were frightening. Then Abs glided by us and disappeared. Wow.

Cautionary Tale at Aid Station. 

By the time I reached the Juniper Campground aid station  my cramps had finally finally petered out and my biggest concern was raging thirst. The worst is over – not. I proceeded to make a terrible mistake.

I had been dreaming of ice cold coke in  little paper cups for some time. My plan was to knock back two or three of them when I was filling my water bottle – but when I got the the station there were absolutely no little drinks ready. Normally there are lots of little cups filled with a range of drinks. There was a can of Coke on the table but it was empty so a lady headed off to find a new one. I could sense time ticking away and decided to cut my losses. I had to  drink something in addition to filling my water bottle so I plumped for water.  I attempted to lift a single cup from a stack of them with one hand but it wouldn’t come so rather impatiently,  I clamped the stack of  cups to my chest with my spider and bottle hand in order to claw a cup off the top. A grizzly would have made a neater job of it, cups everywhere. (by the way Grizzly Adams use to live on Mt Diablo in the 1850s) The lady returned with the Coke  and I felt a little  ashamed of my cup scattering, especially as she was being nice to my spider.  So I accepted a freshly poured cup and another and another and another straight from the can.

It was then a massive ball of gas formed under my rib cage.

I tottered towards what should have been a joyous victory dive downhill for two miles in excruciating pain. I threw up a little immediately (I hope those hikers can just remember the lovely view)  but the pain was horrid for miles until I surprised myself with a salute of burps as I neared the flat.  I had been dreading those last two miles of flat and I didn’t exactly enjoy them – but oh boy did I appreciate being pain free.

I crossed the finish, Wendell made sure to check I had an elastic band.  If I had been him I’d have submitted it to forensic examination to be sure it was legit. My time was of little interest, I just wanted to go home but when I found out it was  4.40.38  I rallied. That was  better that expected considering the heat, agony,fear of impending death etc. Dan was right behind me in  4.43.26. (I might add he had run a 20 miler the weekend between our last marathon together …I had tapered). The next person after us was 5.23 – and only five people were under 6 hours.

Special thanks to the Coastal Trails team and volunteers, and hugs to the two ladies who were talented enough to be ahead of  me but obliging enough to let me win. One by running off course too badly to be recovered  (and I think it was the poor funny feet lady as I don’t see a finish  picture of her) And one by running the  50k- Julie Neumann aka the stunning abs lady, see below.

Next up cold drinks. I opened the drinks cooler actually contemplating a diet coke (this is why I have three children…no pain memory) and paused for a moment. It was half full of icy water but had surprisingly few drinks in it. What a day. Would anyone notice if I jumped in and closed the lid?

Here are the results http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/d_results_12.htm

Self and Dan at finish. Seconds later Spidey had snatched that watermelon.

This is the Amazing Abs lady, Julie Nuemann. She won the 50k in 5. 36.41, half an hour ahead of everyone else! I wonder what her marathon time would have been, certainly waaaay ahead of me.

finish photo

tarantula1 Wildlife Guatemala   8 Facts About The TarantulaDid you know

 Males have much shorter lifespans than females. Female often live for 30 years. Go girls! Few males live long enough for a post-ultimate (‘the deed’) moult. Most males do not live through this moult as they tend to get their emboli, mature male sexual organs or pedipalps, stuck in the moult.

 (We shouldn’t laugh ladies….)

 


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


Cinderella Marathon, 18th Aug, 2012

Husband Hamish and friend Dave being sensible

Buttons made my day. Prince Charming  disappeared on me.

A tough week for my liver. Gorgeous UK friends Dave, Penny and family blessed us with a visit. And it was the last week of our kids’ summer holiday- time to spoil the darlings to assuage  guilt over my joy I will soon be free to run while they are detained at school.

It had been a long summer for Mummy Macphail

I focused on partying and trying to get them all to emigrate to America – and very  little running  occurred. So I called it a taper and reported for my second Coastal Trails marathon in a week, ready to atone for sloth, gluttony and wine consumption – and a little lighter thanks to the chunk missing from my left knee. Last seen before I knelt on a  Champagne flute in the hot tub. (Yes the left knee AGAIN!).

Hideousnessification of shoe. I hate turquoise.

Bizarrely, I was running this Cinderella marathon once again wearing ‘glass slippers’. The last three times I have bought running shoes the only ones that fit to the satisfaction of my huge, cantankerous bunion are monotone turquoise. This time I drove to a new store and was excited to learn they DID have size elephant in a wide fitting in an attractive shoe with pink and green on it. I tried them on. Sigh. “I think you’ll find you have something in monotone turquoise that is more comfortable”. They rummaged in the back and found some. It was lovely to hear my children laughing together.

To me this is one of Coastal Trail’s toughest courses. http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/cin_smmr_cinderella.html Its medium  elevation (the marathon climbs just 4, 740 ft) is deceptively do-able, and much of it is  shaded in Oakland’s lovely Joaquin Miller Park.  But then there is this one eyeball-popping hill ‘West Ridge’ which starts at mile 8 and outstays its welcome for around three miles. And marathon and 50k runners claw up it twice!  On hot days like this you’d  need to be a snake to enjoy how exposed it is.

Soon after the start I encountered lively spirit Anna Zeilaski. She was doing the 50K but was steaming along with me (doing the marathon  – which is 5 miles shorter) and even flew ahead pursuing some of those cheeky  half marathoners. Was she was an awesome runner or an inexperienced one?  Sporting instincts wanted a lady to kick ass… but motherly instincts worried …I’ve seen many runners start like Tigger and end like Eeyore. I minded my own but mentioned that her pace was awfully fast  for the 50k a few times every now and then.

After a while she did settle to a pace behind mine. I wished her well and missed  her company, she was infectiously smiling and bouncy.

The forest  trail lives up to its fairy tale name.  It isn’t a tame roller coaster type single track here though. The ups and downs can be long and I fear I irritated a few runners by doing my usual of blustering by them on the down and presenting an obstacle to be passed on the ups. Must learn to run uphill faster! Eventually my down work exceeded the ups of the gang I was coinciding with and I was alone for a stretch.

There is an advantage in knowing the course here for two reasons.

First of all,  I  recognized  I was on the final descent out of forest and around 5 mins away from ‘The West Ridge Experience’.  Time to dine. Fuel up.  A lesson from her majesty, running royalty Speedy Crosby-Helms- you want that stuff in you about 5 mins before a nasty hill. And this is quite the nastiest hill I know.

Secondly, I know this is pretty steep single track but you pop out onto fire road at the bottom, so you don’t need to be cautious about gathering too much momentum. I shot out of forest with an involuntary whoop of exhilaration  – you really can go fast there! – and found myself in sudden close proximity to  four startled  eyes and two gaping mouths. Two older gentlemen had been strolling along the fire road. I shouted : “catch me!” as a joke and swerved to avoid them and …. it was very cute….four little arms shot up in the air encase I really needed stopping. I do love that kind of  little exchange during races. Americans are so very uniformly supportive and friendly, they could easily have been annoyed.

Stephanie Queren..speedy on the 30K
On the way towards the Fish Ladder station I saw two very fit, strong looking ladies positively hammering it back towards the hill. They appeared to be locked in mortal combat so I checked the results to see who had won- but one was doing the half marathon and the other the 30K ..I wonder if they knew that :0) They both set female course records.  I raised a hand to high five them and they shot by without interest. A little embarrassing lol (still, contact at that speed might break an arm )

Mr Shoenberg …coming to a marathon near you this fall

And  – THE hill arrived. I did my best, remembering facing it on different race days and casting my mind back to race acquaintances especially David Shoenberg and Andrea Warburton (aka Bluebird) both of whom I knew were temporarily unable to run marathons today – David recovering from injury and building mileage up gradually with a steely patience and calm I will never  possess,  Andrea sentenced with disgust to the swimming pool in the late stages of pregnancy. I wished them both well. I hope they have the decency to pretend to be out of breath when they glide uphill by me here  in the future.

Shortly after getting to the final, actual, no psych, definite top of  the West Ridge climb runners stream downhill to the Moon Gate aid station – which you also pass near mile 3. Here was the  Buttons of my Cinderella marathon.  I don’t know his name but he was wearing a Coastal Trails Grizzly Peak shirt so is clearly a runner himself . He was THE perfect aid station helper. I passed that station four times  – every time he was alert and looking out for runners in every direction ….he saw me approach ( I had unscrewed the top of my water bottle ready for a fast refill). He took the trouble to shout at me to find out it I wanted water or electrolyte mix in the bottle,  selected the one I needed and was tipping it toward my bottle as I reached him. As it filled he gave  clear, brief details on mileage to the next aid station and asked if I needed anything else all with a sense of urgency that reflected how I felt. When I did need a gel he pointed to them clearly so I could find them quickly. It doesn’t help when well  people do more –  if they hand you one it might be  a flavour you can’t stomach, if they start listing flavours like  restaurant specials it burns time.  It was like a formula 1 pitstop – and all topped off with smiles and words of encouragement. He should hold aid station classes.

As I looped the start/finish which marks the halfway point and headed up into the forest again I encountered Andrew O’Connor. He had been ahead of me but had spent 2 minutes refreshing at the aid station there (some people like to change their shoes and stuff when they get the chance to leave a bag and revisit it like this. It amused me that he was so specific with the amount of time it had taken). I felt very sluggish at this point – just as I had the last time I did this race. Then I was  motivated by chatting to  Andrea Warburton then watching her flitting between the trees ahead of me  – her blue top reminding me of a bluebird. Andrew was inconsiderately only  wearing black shorts so he was more tricky to spot but I strived to keep him in view for a few miles. Later, I told a lady it had been exciting chasing a half naked man through the forest. It was his mother.  Oops.

By the time I lost sight of him I was feeling fresher again and was not lonely for long before Danny arrived at my shoulder. I decided he was the Prince Charming of the day as he approached  in a distinctively  gentlemanly manner- he  actually ASKED  if he could run with me for a while. How nicely put and thoughtful.  No-one would answer “no” – but it gave me the opportunity to be clear I welcomed company (as I did) or subtly indicate I would prefer staying in my  zone/not talking.  Had I not been overtly welcoming I am sure he would have put a spurt on and run ahead then settled back to his pace. I liked him. We chatted away, running comfortably at a good pace until we came to that steep downhill leading to the fire road and the  Fish Ladder aid station. I was not able to wow him with my insider knowledge of this being a good time to fuel up before the hill etc as he was a master Garmin user/map genious. Although he wasn’t familiar with the race, he had this point and all sorts of other key points plumbed into his device. How you do that I have NO idea. Either my Garmin is an inferior model or I owe it an apology for underestimating its capabilities.

Danny didn’t share my glee at reaching this point though. To my surprise he said legs had completely gone for downhill. I didn’t realize how serious he was  until I flew off down the hill alone. I did the Fish Ladder  aid station thing, doubled back towards the hill and was surprised how far back he was. But he looked great and I said I’d see him on the hill  – which I did. He caught up with me easily. It was amazing  – his legs really were rock solid on hill but shot for downs. He passed me but stayed in view and I was grateful to have a friendly back to focus on  for miles. There was a nice moment when  I encouraged a  bunch of giggly Chinese lady hikers to heckle him for showing off  at one point.  He waved back down the hill and we could hear him protesting.

Indian lady I helped, listed as ‘unknown runner’. She certainly made a full recovery here she is completing the half marathon..good for her!!

That West Ridge was getting very hot by now. I reached an Indian lady doing the half marathon who seemed to be really suffering from dehydration and exposure. I gave her the little water I had left, grateful for the chance  to do for someone else what a stranger did for me during the Pacifica Foothills marathon.  Now I started dreaming of Buttons shouting  of  ‘water or electrolyte’ at the Moon Gate.

I caught up with Danny. I had forgotten his issue with downs but clearly his legs hadn’t. He said ” Kill it sister” and I ran off laughing, thinking he would be right behind me, again not fully appreciating the extent of his discomfort. Buttons was his wonderful self and oh my goodness did that ice cold water taste like heaven. Such a happy moment, thirst gone, water in hand and off you go for just  1.7 miles of shady, predominantly downhill forest trail.

The last time I did this race, I paused to see if Bluebird might be there so we could finish together. Today I turned to check if Danny was there  – but he wasn’t. Both of these people helped me get through tough times on the course and both had been well ahead of me  for long stretches. I wasn’t going to  dash to the finish just ahead of them.

With Andrew O’Connor, second and semi naked man

I finished and finally caught up with Andrew (the  half naked man I had been chasing) He was stretched out on the grass surrounded by fans- one of whom took this photo of us. He had been second overall in the marathon, a full 5 minutes ahead of me ….that would be why I couldn’t see him. I was third with a time of 4 hours 6 mins and an average pace of 9.30/m. (This was  also a female course record…perhaps those speedy ladies  would have high fived me now had they not gone home over an hour ago).

Danny- Prince Charming- kill it brother!
I began to worry when Danny didn’t appear. I pestered the race organizers to find out what had happened to him but  had to leave without knowing. When the results came through I saw it had taken him c. an hour to cover those last 3 miles..before which point he was ahead of me. I  guessed he walked, probably in considerable discomfort  – he could easily have dropped out at Moon Gate. Brave with a dash of insanity. Well done Prince Charming. The people that inspire me most and I remember most take part with that kind of spirit.

When Wendell handed out awards we  met  Dominick Layfield who won the marathon in 3hrs 54.37. Not only did he put us in the shade with his speed, he proceeded to  outclass us by waving away  his second medal (one for being a marathon finisher and one for being first man), saying one was quite enough for any marathon.  I tightened my grip on both of mine, ran to my car and drove all the way home wearing them with with pride.

Thank you Coastal Trails, thank you Buttons!

With Christina Dietz. 2nd marathon lady, 1st in age group. ( It is a looooooooong time since I was in that age group!). Her family and I were so proud of her, great time on a toughie for her first trail marathon. The next day she was off to college to study psychology. Maybe she will figure out what is wrong with us…why do we keep running marathon

AND FINALLY

And here is my Cinderella of the day. Anna – the lady who I worried had started the 50K too fast. Boy did she go to the ball. She was overall winner of the 50k and now holds the female course record of 5.29.55! Strange thing – doesn’t she look like the 30k winner Stephanie Queren?

Marathon

Place

Name City

Bib No

Age

Age Group

Time

Pace

1

Dominick Layfield Park City UT

423

40

1 M 40-49

3:54:37

9:01/M

2

Andrew OConnor Eureka CA

430

28

1 M 20-29

4:01:03

9:16/M

3

Penny Macphail San Anselmo CA

425

44

1 F 40-49

4:06:53

9:30/M

4

Christopher Bair Oakland CA

402

29

2 M 20-29

4:25:02

10:12/M

5

Maxime Petazzoni Sunnyvale CA

431

25

3 M 20-29

4:25:35

10:13/M

6

Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins Davis CA

440

28

4 M 20-29

4:29:29

10:22/M

7

Steven Hofmeyr Oakland CA

419

44

2 M 40-49

4:29:44

10:22/M

8

Christina Dietz Tustin CA

409

21

1 F 20-29

4:36:36

10:38/M

9

Joshua Bergstrom Oakland CA

403

37

1 M 30-39

4:51:28

11:13/M

10

Natalie Martineau Vacaville CA

426

19

1 F 13-19

5:02:53

11:39/M

11

Daniel Zielaski Missoula MT

441

28

5 M 20-29

5:11:09

11:58/M

12

Michaela Burgess Citrus Heights CA

404

32

1 F 30-39

5:17:25

12:13/M


Crystal Springs Marathon, 11th Aug 2012

Firmly clasping Ms Devon Crosby Speedtastic Helms

Such a happy little race. Despite a death threat, a live, laugh, love kinda morning.

A treat today. I rarely know people at these races but today Huddart Park glittered with cronies. Towering above me was running royalty Ms Devon Crosby Helms (aka Speedy)   – the blurry thing that shot by me  on her way to win the San Francisco Marathon two weeks ago. My race strategy was to surreptitiously grab hold of Speedy and drag along behind her (concealed in the dust cloud as she torched the trail). You can see me  just closing that grip on her at the start in this photo. Also present were various members of the certifiable ‘Stamina on Toast’ gang, Chris Jones (aka Mr Moonlight) and his cohorts  Pete Mingwah and Janeth Siva. I am pondlife compared to these lunatics in terms of mileage. They had come to play with marathons and 50ks by way of tapering into a 100 mile race, Run De Vous the next weekend. The cherry on the cake was a new acqaintance, race organizers Wendell and his wife had brought along their ridiculously beautiful new baby. How sappy am I? As I was finishing the race I found myself hoping that baby would still be there just so I could have another peek at him. SO gorgeous. (Note to self  – remember the pain of childbirth!)

Pleeeease can we bring Pumpkin?

Injury -wise? The ‘in the soup’ of the day was yet again my left knee. I’d spent the week  camping by myself with three children and a dog.  Let me just add the dog  suffered from diarrhea in the tent one night. So it would not be fair to say I done nothing all week   – but I hadn’t done much running. This pleased my left knee, recent pain eased and we were set for a strap and worry free race. However,  my son gave the car door a jolly good slam to capture a pile of billowing sleeping bags…and watched his mother sink to the ground clasping her left knee, shrilling obscenities. Knee had a car door shaped bruise on one side and a car interior shaped bruise on the other. In the middle there was some disturbing puffy stuff. Today I pulled on my calf support sleeves and observed knee ‘muffin top’. I consulted Mr Mingwah who would doubtless run had his leg been removed at the shin by a shark  – and he thought it needed strapping. I attempted to do so but it was all a bit strange. Normally I strap to stop the puffing. This ship had sailed. Had it been sore I really would not have run but it was just bobbly. I strapped it up and hoped for the best.

Pete after his relaxing 50K

Before we left Miss Rebecca Yi approached and shook me warmly by the throat, issuing a death threat if I beat her in today’s race. Gulp.

We do have  rather unfortunate history. Last year when I couldn’t run (due to torn discs in my back) Rebecca ran many of these marathons (often in pretty grim conditions) and set course records. This year she has returned running faster and beating her own course records but having me juuuuust ahead of her to spoil things. She has been very sporting about it but needed to clarify her limits as she was running a shorter distance than me  today (the 22mile race rather than the 26.2 mile marathon). Beating her would be unpardonable (and fortunately impossible) – but the message was clear. I tugged her pony tail jovially, pretending not to be scared. After that there was just a brief time for everyone to laugh at Chris’ strange new beard before we were off.  (This beard gives  me flashbacks to dealing with members of the Victorian Military Society during my days in PR at the National Army Museum in London. Elite members do NOT require false beards during  reenactments).

Chris with Nancy at finish, torch ‘im sister!

Good Morning Huddart Park. This sparkly skull denim hat belongs to my son but was all I could find stumbling around in the dark before leaving the house. I fear the dog may have taken my lucky marathon hat for a traumatic jaunt in the garden. It was not intended for extreme sweat and I left with a slightly blue head.

As planned, I clung on to Devon for dear life and was scuffed along the forest floor at her feet for the first mile or so chatting about bakeries and weddings until I fell off on a sharp turn. Devon had not realised there was a hill on this section :0) and glided out of view like a gazelle ice skating. I wheezed uphill  a tad slower. After a while it was clear  pollen or whatever in the forest was having a  laugh at my expense.  Both eyes filled up with water making my contact lenses float around. Nasty when you are speeding over roots and stones, I tried squeezing my eyes shut then wiping the  water. It  worked on the right eye.  I ran cyclops-style for a bit, gingerly opening the left eye now and then to see how it was doing. The lens was still doing a Micheal Phelps. I know from experience not to wipe the actual eye  with a hanky as it can make the lens fall out. So I did, and it did. Horrid feeling. Stopped dead at the beginning of a marathon when you are not even benefiting from a rest, trying to breathe calmly so you don’t puff the lens off your finger as you try to shove it back in your eye. All the time little figures nip by you on the trail.  To add insult to injury my knee strap was already dangling off. This is outrageous as I am awesome at strapping and have all sorts of exciting waterproof materials to construct fortifications with. But the thing was just too darn puffy. Still not sore though. I ripped it off, improved my cleavage by stuffing it down my top and forgot about it. My eyes remained a problem for the rest of the race, good in a way as it occupied me mentally. I wobbled over on my ankle a few times and lost the lens in the right eye a little later on too but coped. There is always something to cope with!

I love this marathon course. It looks a bit like a dumbell. Two circles with a straight line between them. You go uphill to form one side of the first circle, do the straight and if you are doing the marathon you complete another circle at the end before returning along the straight bit and reaching the finish by completing the other side of the first circle. 50K runners do an extended version of the second circle, 22milers turn around at the end of the straight and get a matchstick instead of a dumbell.

Distance Elevation Gain Single Track Dirt Road Asphalt
5mi 710′ 48% 40% 12%
11 mi 1,890′ 73% 22% 5%
22 mi 2,990′ 87% 11% 2%
Marathon 3,790′ 72% 26% 2%
50 Km 4,530′ 72% 26% 2%

Devon at finish. Right a couple of hours to burn and I’ll meet up with Penny

Everything went well  – the forest is exquisite. The straight bit made me nervous as it wasn’t marked (as there is only one path and you can;t go wrong) and I ran most of it alone. My legendary navigational goof up abilities render me vulnerable to moments of self doubt. I would have liked some  ‘yes you’re on the right track/we love you’ tapes.  Finally, I approached the aid station at end of the straight, knew I was in the right place,  greeted  22mile runners on the return with Crusoe-like enthusiasm. Surprisingly,  Speedy appeared.  Had she done the 50k loop already? Or maybe just the marathon loop? Was that possible? Proper runners will and do laugh at my bubble headed approach to running. To me, without a firm grip on mileage or time it was just possible that Devon had turbot charged it  (she is one of the fastest runners in America!) or  that I had been really dawdling..that can happen when you run long sections alone..or a combination of both. But it turned out that she had decided to turn around and do the 22 miler. It was very hot and the 50k loop is exposed. She had run 24 miles the day before, was feeling tired and decided it wasn’t right for her body today. Yes that rare creature does exist … a sensible runner. She has to focus on do what is right for the big grown up races she does. It hit me (correctly) as she slipped away that she could have done the less frazzling marathon loop but didn’t want to take away what might be a win for me. In running terms this would be taking candy from a baby. I was kicking myself for not encouraging her to play marathon with me when an icy chill flashed my spine. Devon  would now be taking candy from a different baby…a baby running 22miles…….would Rebecca Yi consider this assassination-worthy by proxy?

Rebecca Yi – bringing a whole new meaning to ‘killing it’ in a race :0)

The marathon loop is rather lovely. The best courses have clear sections.  It is nice to feel high, a little more exposed. The  first half of the four mile circle is pretty much spent plummeting downhill : ‘Relax and enjoy it’  –  you say to yourself – ‘don’t bother your little head with the harsh reality that what  goes down must come up’.  And oh joy I got my eyes back – whatever lurked in the dark body of the  forest didn’t bother me here. Then you crawl up the ‘ harsh reality’  straining to hear the musical laughter of people at the aid station signalling  you’ve completed the loop.

Me at finish (see trail of injured children in background)

I ran home pretty much alone. There is a super nasty shoot down a fire road at the end. It goes on for years and is miserably ugly compared to the forest. And then….oddly…. you pop out at speed in a children’s playground, behind which you can see the finish tunnel. The chance to wipe out/terrify small children is certainly a fun bonus and in my book definately makes this the most entertaining Coastal Trails  race finish to spectate. I especially warm to the way inwhich  runners tend to come through sporadically. There is often just enough time for one distraught child to be lead away and  a new, unaware family to take position before the next sweating, gasping , goggled eyed monster crashes through the trees. It is also pertinent to note that many people running are themselves parents or fond of children. And yet…how few of us make good choices when facing a split second decision here.  1) Swerve a few inches to ensure the happiness and safety of  a toddler staggering to a play structure OR  2) Thundering straight at it bellowing “MOVE!” in order to make an absolute beeline to the lights, lentil soup and medals of the finish and save a nanosecond on your time.

Devon had changed, done a weekly shop, built a sand castle in Half Moon Bay and was waiting in the shade to greet the mortals.  Rebecca spared my life. My knee was a little sore but signifiacantly less swollen than it had been at the start!! (ie running is good for you).  And once in the open air I found myself crying and winking at people less and less.  A bunch of us had a lovely time just chilling on the grass, chatting about Udo’s oil (which everyone but me seems to be consuming) before heading home. Who is Udo?

My time was 3.53.32 and I was first overall ……..thanks to Devon :0)  I did the same race in January with a time of 3.39.25 though mmm. Age may be getting to me. Hilariously … and only momentarily as there are many many runners who would annihilate me…..I hold the female course record for both the January and August events.  I must say it was a pretty comfortable run. I didn’t get to the point where I promised myself never to run a marathon again (which I often do around mile 18) and I didn’t have to choke back tears or vomit near the end ..so perhaps I should be pushing myself a bit more.  Still  – heat and sporadic blindness does make quite a difference.

What a fun day. Thank you Coastal Trails and runners http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/cs_smmr_crystal_springs.html

PS the baby was still there. I was hoping I had won him but they said no :0(

Nancy, self, Speedy and a gentleman from the Victorian Military Society.

Still laughing at Chris’ beard at the end :0)

 

Marathon

Place

Name City

Bib No

Age

Age Group

Time

Pace

1

Penny Macphail San Anselmo CA

878

44

1 F 40-49

3:53:32

8:51/M

2

Ahmed Hassan Palo Alto CA

871

33

1 M 30-39

4:02:36

9:11/M

3

Elizabeth Weil Portola Valley CA

890

30

1 F 30-39

4:03:46

9:14/M

4

Georgia Young San Francisco CA

593

35

2 F 30-39

4:20:10

9:51/M

5

Chris Jones San Francisco CA

874

40

1 M 40-49

4:20:10

9:51/M

22 mi

Place

Name City

Bib No

Age

Age Group

Time

Pace

1

Sean Handel Moss Beach CA

127

41

1 M 40-49

2:58:55

8:08/M

2

Devon Crosby-Helms San Francisco CA

559

30

1 F 30-39

3:04:27

8:23/M

3

Daniel Nahrwold San Francisco CA

365

33

1 M 30-39

3:07:08

8:30/M

4

Ruben Espinoza San Jose CA

275

26

1 M 20-29

3:16:25

8:56/M

5

Kristi Rossi Burlingame CA

335

44

1 F 40-49

3:36:36

9:51/M

6

Clarence Butz Berkeley CA

238

52

1 M 50-59

3:37:38

9:54/M

7

Rebecca Yi Fremont CA

364

37

2 F 30-39

3:38:39

9:56/M


Pacifica Foothills trail marathon, June 16th

Course map – of course!

I bade farewell to my husband at 6.30 am. I would be kissing a strange man at the top of Montara North Peak by eleven. The pre-marathon disaster this time was a knee problem. I dislocated my right knee c. 4 yrs ago. I’m gung-ho running through colds and stomach upsets but if my knee doesn’t give me permission – I don’t run. Imagine then how I laughed when a gentleman swung a heavy metal briefcase behind him on the Larkspur ferry and absolutely smashed my right patella from the side.  The knee that had survived 25 marathons without complaint now  ballooned.  The week before this race it was clear the only exercise I was going to have would be tossing  anti-inflammatories in the air and catching them in my mouth.

I am evangelical about how to strap knees for running. When recovering from my knee injury I experimented with every knee strap on the market – my knee specialist used to give me samples he had been sent to try out. Many are great for walking but absolutely none of them could stay in place during a long run, most of them move around and start squashing the patella instead of supporting it. The only solution I found was hand strapping using materials and a technique a physio showed me. I made a trip to the specialist medical supply shop in San Anselmo and got really good strapping stuff. You pull the patella to one side with three strips of waterproof tape then cover the lot with BSN Medical cover roll stretch adhesive tape. Any other materials get soggy and fall off. These ones survive a swimming pool and look better after a run than the rest of you.

The day before the race it suddenly felt ok again- but this was a hilly course  – well over 6,000 ft climb and I was absolutely prepared to drop out if the knee was at all uncomfortable. I had the knee strapped lightly and added a Cho Pat knee strap  – this just runs under your knee and helps the patella with tracking  http://www.cho-pat-store.com. I didn’t know how it would feel running and hadn’t been able to test that  – but unlike many knee devices it would take seconds to rip off and be easy to carry it if was a nasty mistake.

Knee strapped, looking silly but ready ..

And so I arrived at the San Pedro Valley park in Pacifica. I had run this marathon course before with Coastal Trails ( their Montara race is virtually the same) so I knew the race. This time the organiser was Inside Trail Racing http://www.insidetrail.com/, a relatively new company which is run by ‘the two Tims’.

(The local running world has been rather rocked by the demise of one running race company PCTR, the continued success of spin off competitor Coastal Trails and the rise of this one by ‘the two Tims’. Here is a blog that outlines the story – http://www.atrailrunnersblog.com/2011/12/delicate-fate-of-pacific-coast-trail.html)

The web site didn’t disclose details of entrants but I could see there wouldn’t be a huge field for any of the distances (50K, marathon, 30k, half marthon and 10K). Fine by me..less pressure on the restrooms and possibly less self enforced pressure on my patella. Everyone at check in was absolutely charming, I felt at home immediately and recognized a few names and faces among the entrants. These included ‘Mr X’  aka Pete Mingwah who I recognized from photos on FB posted by my certifiable  friend Chris Jones. His running is very different from mine, like Chris he runs at a steadier pace but does a lot more races and longer distances. His ambition is to run 52 marathons this year (they have  a week in which they run a marathon every day coming up this summer …aaarhh). His party trick is to spring into the air forming an X so I asked him to do one and I must say I was shocked at the speed, agility and height. I nearly chopped his head off in the photo as I was pointing the camera at the spot I thought he would occupy in the air.

Pete grounded

Someone who had not done this course before asked if it was very exposed as he was worried about he heat. I didn’t want to depress him so I replied ‘ it depends if you’re crawling or not’ . These words were to return to haunt me. Several others pummeled him with the grim truth. It is almost entirely exposed and it was going to be a HOT day..80sF.

Pete X

The race starts at the Old Trout picnic area. As former archaeologist I always love a bit of history. It is not named after Hamish’s ex but after a an ill fated trout farm operated by John Gay. It flourished until 1962 when destroyed by extensive flooding – you can still see some structures. The south of the area is still a seasonal water source for the town of Pacifica and the area is known for growing artichokes and pumpkins. The theme of water was to continue in today’s run.

One of the Tims waved us off  at 8.30am. Behind him a surprised family gathering was setting out a picnic. A striking balloon depicting a chocolate dipped strawberry bobbled in the air. If all went well I would pass that balloon 4 times. If not perhaps I could join them for lunch:0). The course was very much as I remembered. There are three hills. I named them before  The Face, the Pimple and the Zit. The Face is by far the largest, a 1,900 ft long jaunt through forest and then stone fire road to the top of Montara’s North Peak. You go up in forest on one trail then head up the mountain and back before returning to ground level on a different trail. I don’t know why I love it so much but I do, especially the top section. The views are spectacular and it is just a place to enjoy being.

Rather cool graphic (nothing to do with this race) shows the route up North Peak and gives you an idea of how cool the views are

You pass by the carpark and aid station before starting The Pimple- this is a fairly nondescript and to me just lightly annoying hill to get over – and then there is The Zit.. innocuousnessly named Hazelnut.  For some reason it just does not fit in with my running, it is worse than a steeper climb would be to me, it is an uncomfortable and featureless rumble around an uphill trail that has the audacity to force you through 19 switchbacks – the last 5 or 6 of which deliberately conspire to make you think they are  the final one causing tentative celebrations only to dash your hopes. My plan today was to try to ignore it as much as possible, pretend that I didn’t care how long it went on for while surreptitiously observing recognizable features so I would keep false celebrations to a minimum. Begrudgingly, I will admit that on account of being so awful Hazelnut does give you a moment of sheer delight when you DO  reach the top as it is a glorious protracted swoop for miles downhill,  interspersed only with  a gentle hurtle through pungent, shady Eucalyptus grove. It makes for a great finish. This is the end for half marthoners. Marathoners repeat the course.

Oddly enough the knee didn’t give me a moment’s concern during the entire run. Incredible.I absolutely could not have run on it at all three days ago. So lucky! But there was a big problem  – and that was the heat. I have never had such a tough race in my life. The first section up and down North Peak was good. It was warm but  I enjoyed the heat and I felt hydrated. I met up with a lovely lady called Anne Cottrell on the way up. She passed me and glided uphill with ease. I overtook her on the way back down and then we ran together for quite a while. The descent of North Peak can be very fast but I was cautious not to  hammer it on the first go for the sake of that knee …just incase ..so it was a very sensible and social time as we plummeted downhill talking. She had a lively sense of humour and we had a lot in common, it was a treat to have a like-minded companion. I appreciated it especially today as a wonderful person, Joanna Hawthorne, had just passed away in Northern Ireland after a long battle with a brain tumour and she was in my mind a good deal as I ran. Here were Anne and myself, both in our 40s, both with three children, both healthy, both enjoying meeting new people and exhilarated by our run (a run I couldn’t have attempted before the age of 39)   – the sense of personal challenge and accomplishment/appreciating the beauty of where we were/feeling alive. How unfair life is. How important it is not to take it for granted.

Joanna – who sadly passed away just before this race. She and her husband Corin were very much in my mind during this run.

Anne was doing the 30k  (around 19 miles) and, being great on the old uphill left me for good when we hit Hazelnut ( The Zit). I was delighted to see she kept up the charge and was first lady in that 30K with a time of 2.58. 12  – just 8 mins after the first man. The lady at the aid station old me she didn’t want to stop when she was done.  I look forward to being pulverized by her in a marathon one day!

There was only one aid station – and you reached it every six miles or so. The first time I reached it returning from North Peak I was certainly ready to refill my water bottle. The second time, coming down from Hazelnut I was REALLY thirsty. I refilled my bottle, drank a couple of little cups of coke and started up North Peak again  – but to my dismay hadn’t got very far when I discovered my bottle was already nearly empty. This has happened to me with dehydration before, you quench your thirst but it sort of pops back again. The liquid equivalent of being hungry after Chinese food. It was so hot and I had at least five miles of the North Peak circuit to run up and down – should I turn back to the aid station?  I couldn’t face that  –  it would add a good 20 mins to my time. When I got to the point where you meet the return trail I left my water bottle on a stump. With my hands free perhaps I could run up and down this thing a bit faster. People were really suffering in the heat, a guy running with me had two water bottles – and he was getting low already too.   They looked awkward to carry ( I can’t bear carrying two of them ) and I considered offering to carry one of his bottles for him as I had free hands but he might think I would expect payment in water.  On and on up the mountain, passing discarded clothing and one especially forlorn dehydrated lizard corpse. I tried to push the idea of water out of my head  – an unhelpful image of a surprise aid station at the top of the mountain kept springing up, a smiling lady offering  a jug of pink electrolyte drink…it was clinking with ice. What a joy it would be if I discovered some kindly soul had come across my water bottle at the  return spot and filled it with ice water as a little surprise for me!

I carry baby wet wipes with me and sometimes freshen my face and arms with them during a race. Today I wouldn’t risk that  – the sun was burning down on my skin  –  I would be really foolish to risk removing any sunblock that hadn’t slid off already. I still opened my pocket to considering they might be useful for something. If I squeezed them out just how horrible would it taste? No  – that was a non starter. I pulled one out to wipe my hands and  laughed out loud as it was so hot it was like a heated towel – how sophisticated.  Well I had a fresh clean paws now  – all the better to grip water with when I got to it.

The man with two water bottles slowed down and mumbled something disconcerting about not liking what his heart rate was doing but he looked ok so I passed him. Now I didn’t even have his water to look at.

Crawling up the last few miles of North Peak I started to feel quite dizzy. Soon I came across a couple who were hiking. The man had a large  water back pack and the lady’s  waist  was encircled with a water belt, featuring no less than  six pretty large bottles all still completely full of water. Feeling quite ashamed of myself but sensing a medical emergency, I tried to score some water. Yes I actually begged. “Excuse me..would you have any spare water?”.  They looked at me blankly.I had expected a sharp refusal from which I could run away, a lecture on my not carrying water which I could explain or …most likely a ‘delighted to help …what’s the race etc’ response. What I got was two unsmiling people who didn’t speak English. ‘What is washer…we do not know the word washer..what are you saying’?  The conversation was eating precious time and my attempts to point at the girl’s water failed to communicate anything beyond a mild cause for alarm. I think they were looking on the ground for a snake when I threw them a parched ‘never mind’ and lumbered on, really feeling a little shoddy for asking.  On I went. It was going to be at least another mile of uphill and then several downhill before I could drink. And then I met an angel……

I came to a group of three people hiking up the hill, they turned round as I approached and one of them immediately reached for the drinking nozzle of his water pack and offered it to me. Considering what I had just been through and how deeply unpleasant it would be for the average person to have a creature looking and smelling like me drink from something they would not have the opportunity to sterilize before needing to use again themselves,  interpreted it as a joke. My mind was full of how I could say ” actually I am quite mad with thirst would you mind …a little sip might stop me having a siezure’  and wondering just how odd that would sound. Perhaps I should faint and keep my mouth open in the hopes they might squish some water over my head to resuscitate me?  And I staggered on by them.

View from North Peak. Oohh water…

The guy who had gestured his water then asked if he could run with me. His friends were hiking a pace that was too slow for him and  he felt like a little burst of running. He immediately ran off at a hell of a pace, simultaneously asking how far the race was. As soon as I whimpered the word ‘marathon’  he dropped to my speed in a second, understanding that my current crawl was the topspeed of the moment.  It was a relief as it has happened to me in races before that people who are not racing have joined me, started chatting and I have found myself struggling to keep up with them in order to find out the end to an interesting story or avoid seeming rude.  Then he turned round and said ‘are you sure you don’t want some water’?  A heavenly chorus rang in my ears……………I hadn’t asked ………and I persisted in making sure he was sure ..and then I fell on that water. It was ice cold. Unbelievable. Quite the most magical moment. On we ran up the hill. He was just lovely, a young guy called Nick- in his twenties I guess. What a luxury to have my mind lifted by talking to him. I don’t remember much of the conversation – there was a lot of laughing and some stuff about his sister’s horse. I could tell he was just one of those thoroughly nice, caring, people. Without being asked he offered me more water two or three times as we climbed the last bit of hill and when we got to the turn around point we stopped. I’m not sure why, but on this course they don’t take you to the very summit of North Peak and despite his attractive water supply I didn’t want him to miss out on running to the top so I sent him off to do that. We stood together at the turn around and I thanked him again, and told him he was an angel. Rather than accept the praise he started wondering if I might also be  hungry because he also had some trail mix in his bag lol! I told him as nicely as possible that the very sight of that would make me throw up and cost me all the water I had acquired from our meeting. He then insisted I took  some more water before going back down and I accepted it gratefully  -laughing because it seemed so oddly intimate, like breast feeding. I told him he was an angel again,  kissed his cheek and turned to zoom downhill.  Minutes later I was thirsty again but the memory of that iced water and the great pleasure of meeting such a lovely person kept me going. I ran by his friends and yelled at them ‘your friend’s an angel’ and they smiled and waved …not looking especially surprised. I passed Mr two bottles on the way down and told him about my angel. I told him to say ‘hi Nick’ if they met too to freak him out.  This is an old running trick I enjoy playing on my Dad – asking a complete stranger to greet the person running behind you by name. It works best when you are 6,000 miles away from home and don’t  know anyone.

My two black big toes are feeling more comfy after some TLC from this man. he was very calm and polite but I think he may have needed a little lie down after tackling them.

By the time I got to my water bottle I was very seriously dehydrated again, sadly it was not filled with iced water and I plummeted down to ground level as fast as I could just waiting for that aid station. It seemed to take years …’come on where are you strawberry balloon?’…and there it was. I filled my bottle and drank it down straight, I filled the bottle again and began experimenting with the array of little drinks in cups on the table. I started wanting to giggle a lot and heard myself say ‘ mm my these are all delicious’ with an odd chuckle. It all seemed very funny to me at the time. I think it was euphoria.  I told the lady this was going to be my longest ever stop at an aid station and indeed it was. I knew I had to drink, wait for that thirst to hit me again and drink again. She suggested some  salt tablets which I took- I’ve never taken them before but it seemed sensible. I still had 6 miles to go. Off I ran. I was worried that I might have drunk too much but there were no swishing noises or cramps. As long as I didn’t fall over and land on my stomach and pop it, I’d be fine. Just then there was a noise behind me – a guy from the aid station was calling me back and pointing in the direction of North Peak. It turned out he thought I hadn’t done the second loop up there yet. There was a tiny, nasty  flicker of self doubt but then I assured him with confidence that I had done it twice already. When  I spoke to him later I added that I had been  prepared to knock him unconscious if I had to  rather than repeat it again today. It was impressive though that he chased after me. People manning aid stations aren’t always so clued in to what people are running – or indeed care so much if someone’s race get ruined by making that kind of mistake. I tackled The Pimple. Hot, hot, hot. How quickly my fresh water bottle emptied itself yet again! It was gone before I faced Hazelnut, The Zit,  for the last time. As I dragged myself along I was overtaken by two extremely fresh looking fast runners. It shook me  a little. Look at them..running along this as if it is a normal trail and not  Hazelnut! I couldn’t figure out what distance they were racing. How could they be so much faster than me but not be ahead of me before now if they were doing the marathon – it turned out they were unbelievably fast 50k runners. Leigh Schmitt who did the 50K in 4. 30.09 and Bret Rivers who did it in 4.30.44. The next person to finish the 50k was two hours behind them! I was also passed a while later by another man. As there were no photos with this event I coudn’t figure out who he was. I wondered if perhaps I was crawling on Hazelnut so badly that the entire marathon field was going to come storming by me. It was possible. I pushed myself as much as I could, arguing myself out of reverting to staggery walking instead of running, reminding myself that I am lucky to be able to try a challenge like this, pushing long term goals like water out of my head and hanging in there for the moment due any time now when I would  reach the top. And there it was. If I had had any moisture to burn I might have cried. Whooshing down I passed the last man who had passed me and kept going. That downhill took an awfully long time …………but soon the finish line glittered ahead ..and after it the aid station where  the guy who had chased me earlier kept the ice water flowing until I had downed three full bottles of the stuff . A hot day. A thirsty girl.

475 bottles of water and 26 miles later I drove home with all these goodies

The results were hilarious. Good news, I had come in first in the marathon with a time of  4.37.27.  However, there were only six people in the race – and none of them were women.  So I was first lady – and  last, lady most likely to become President, lady with best behaved children, cutest dog and sexiest elbows on he day . I’m so glad I didn’t know, it would have been far more difficult to keep going if  I known for sure I was racing against myself. I looked back at my result from the Montara marathon on the same course earlier in the year  – I did it in just over 4 hrs. My blog did say ‘we were rather lucky with the conditions, it was a perfect day  – I can imagine the course would take a great deal longer with extremes of wind, rain or heat’. lol A Tim gave me an exciting array of goodies  – a medal with a big Number One on it, a beer glass (nicked by husband…considering the kissing of strangers I’ll let it go) a cool water bottle that you can put Gu gel in and a really nice T shirt..lovely shape and material.  I hope this company keeps including the marathon distance in its races, I’d love to run with them again. Thank you Inside Trail and thank you my angel Nick. (Oh and thanks for 12 teriffic years of marriage Dear)

Marathon

Place Name City Bib No Age Gender Age Group Total Time
1 Penny Macphail San Anselmo CA 454 44 F 1 40-49 4:37:27.0
2 Scott Kunz Pacifica CA 452 30 M 1 30-39 4:55:08.7
3 Chris Eide Palo Alto CA 355 36 M 2 30-39 5:26:51.5
4 Ron Little Montara CA 453 41 M 1 40-49 5:28:34.3
5 J.R. Mintz Hercules CA 456 45 M 2 40-49 6:59:59.0
6 Peter Mingoa San Francisco CA 455 42 M 3 40-49 7:10:47.3

Canyon Meadows Marathon, 3rd June, 2012

So tempting…

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble …and that’s just before the race.

Good news. I had finally shaken the cold that had been bugging me for the two weeks since my last trail marathon. Bad news. I mean really rotten luck. I had picked up the stomach bug our family had been gifting to each other. Urgh.  On race morning  I woke up at 5.30am hoping to find myself recovered only to spend  30 depressing and memorable minutes in the bathroom. Here was a tempting Coastal Trails race –  one I hadn’t done before which is always a treat. Images of  beautiful forest were calling to me and the relatively low elevation at  just over 3, 000ft was converted in my mind to something gentle and manageable for a sick person- amd it was just 40 minutes away. I deployed all the advice I had gleaned off the net to see if there was any way I could conquer the ‘D’ word before the 8am start.

They reckon 25-30% of long distance runners suffer from ‘runner’s trots’ – where the combination of body jiggling, nerves and dehydration causes them to suffer from attacks of the ‘d ‘ word mid race. I have suffered myself on some normal race days. On trail runs there are plenty of bushes to run in to but whether bush or restroom is the solution, loss of time is always an irritating problem. Now I was facing the force of a bug on top of the force of nature …

So here was the advice:

1) I cut out my usual race day morning tea followed by very strong coffee, instead forcing  myself to drink four large glasses of water. My research had told me ‘D’ is exacerbated by as well as the cause of dehydration. I actually made the coffee and sniffed it. Sad addict.

2)  Clearly I couldn’t race like this so I took some Imodium. A horrid risk as I’ve never taken it before but there was nothing to lose. (no pun intended).The net is full of grateful runners swearing by it – not for daily use but for long runs/races.

3) Read all packaging. In a comic moment I turned the packaging over in my hands after swallowing the pills and read the possible symptoms for the first time. ‘May cause drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness’. Nothing that should pose a snag when running a marathon then. Lol!

4) If you want these things to work well you take them on an empty stomach and don’t eat for 2 hrs after. I had taken them just before 6am and the race started at 8am. I normally fuel up an hour before a race. What to do?  In the end I ate a quarter of what I normally do before a marathon and planned  – if I started the race – to take in more Gu gels very early on.

Around 6.00am I drove off  through the morning light feeling much better and considering shares in Imodium as it appeared to have produced a miracle instant fix. I turned on the audiobook I had been listening too – the biography of Steve Jobs and soon came to the very end of it. I had spent the entire book really not liking the guy but at the end the biographer gave Steve the last few words and in them he discusses the possibility of life after death. I won’t spoil it for you but suffice it to say my face was streaming with tears and I thought …he ‘got’ me or rather I ‘got’ him at the very last minute. It helped my get the minuscule nature of my problem into perspective. I’ll just get to the race and see how I feel. If I can’t start never mind, it’s good to be alive and all that.

About two miles from the race location in Redwood Regional Park I suddenly had an urgent need for restroom facilities. I looked for somewhere to pull over and seek relief in privacy but there was nowhere. It seemed sheer lunacy that I had left home. How was I going to transport myself from car to toilet without some form of explosion?. I paid my $5 and drove through the park entrance around 7am. I felt ludicrous. Have I really just driven 27 miles to use a restroom ..possibly  several times ..and go home. Fortunately, oh joy… I was directed to park right beside a restroom…and there was no queue. One high speed sprint and I was saved.  I remained there until I was sure it was safe and suddenly felt pretty confident again. I strolled up towards registration (might as well) while surfing the net with my iPhone trying to find out how long it takes Imodium to work.

I dare myself to register..

I might as well get my race bib just in case a miracle happened…and gradually it seemed possible it had just happened. But no – as I returned to my car the torrent continued. I hightailed it to the restroom and proceeded to pay a visit, rejoin the queue and repeat this for 7 times. What was I thinking coming here? Running certainly didn’t seem an option. I was more anxious about coping with the  drive home. During this time I received the gift of a friendly and familiar face  – Adona Ramos.

Adona, lovely lady. Finishing – first lady and course record in the 30k. 2.36.37.

Beautiful looking lady with an amazing petite figure resplendent in bright purple. This is what I would like to look like as a runner- I always seem to look more along the lines of a Russian shot putter who has been roughed up. We have raced together before and run about the same pace but she prefers the 20mile/30k distance. As she did the last time we shared a race she won her distance that day and set a new ladies course record. And looked chilled and immaculate at the finish. We started chatting about my ‘challenges’ and eventually the line of ladies were joining in and roaring with laughter. The conversations  and good humour kept going as people came and went but I remained. The  spirit of those ladies really helped, I had at least 20 people committed to creating a distraction if they found me in a compromising position on the trail. Two of them even sang for me during one visit to cover embarrassing noises.

Ten minutes before the start I suddenly felt good to leave the restroom. Am I now protected by the  power of Imodium I wondered?  I  took myself on a bouncy jog to see if anything disturbing happened.  A couple of ladies who had been at the restroom earlier applauded my effort which made me laugh..also a valuable test and also successfully passed. It really seemed ok. Either the worst was over or it would suddenly hit me again in about 30mins. That seemed to be the pattern. I watched myself join  the top of the  start line 2 mins before kick off  – nothing seem quite real. I was on auto pilot. Somehow I had decided to have a go.

If things went wrong  I was equipped to deal with disaster and I had a plan  – namley  run into the forest , hide, and emerge after everyone had passed and sneak back to my car. Off we went.

This course starts with a very challenging hill. I thought it had quite a nerve being on a c. 3,000 ft elevation course (this now looking something like a bowling green in the expectations of my imagination). Unlike many trail races though, this remains  a generous fire road so there is no need to kill yourself to get to the head of the pack for fear of bottle necking. I took it fairly gently and tried not to be alarmed by the number of people passing and ahead of me. It is important to remember people are running shorter distances, here  there were 5 milers, 30k, half marathoners and 50k runners all masqueradering as fellow marathon competition.  

After a while the hill continues steadily up but is broken by a few little downs and flats and I felt myself recovering and getting into a rhythm. At the turn off for the 5 milers I had no problems re. ‘ you know what’ and was filled with gratitude to be able to follow the pink ribbon marking the half  marathon course. I smiled to notice it was one of those rather mocking turns where the 5 mile yellow points to a shaded whoosh downhill while the longer distances face an arid steep uphill. The 30k and 50k runners were going to love the moment when they got to zoom down that on last leg! Eventually, we got to pretty forest trails and after a while I got to overtake a number of runners on downhill sections. As often happens I found what I call a ‘Flat Stanley’  – that is a person who is great on uphill but not on downs, the opposite of myself – and for mile after mile we separated on hills and met up again on flat sections which was rather amicable. There is a odd ridge top section on this run which was to me unexpectedly covered in deep sand.  The hot sun and flat sand combined to make me feel rather relaxed as if on a jaunt to a beach. I was just thinking ..how  nice to dig in and eat away a few easy miles on this stuff when I became aware there was a young lady creeping  up behind me. This turned out to be 27 yr old Nicki Wells. I am pretty good at knowing not to chase ladies ahead of me this early in a marathon – over exertion beyond what is right for you can often lead to a fizzle later on. But it is another thing entirely to resist speeding up a tad to ensure someone doesn’t over take you. When we all took a sharp right turn off fireroad into downhill single track forest the two of us absolutely shot down it. I felt quite a whoosh of adrenalin. I never allow myself to take risks and run fast on technical downhill like this when I am training and it was a blast, my body was comfortable, I was hardly breathing with the concentration and the lady, Nicki, was right behind me the whole way. It was terrific fun.  When we reached a more undulating section we passed a group of hikers who said ‘ well done, first ladies’.  This was cool as up until then I had known there were women in front of me but you never know who is doing a shorter course, it appeared all of them must have been 5 milers. The next burning question for both of us was  of course was …is this lady doing the half marathon or the full?

Nicki Wells – first lady in half marathon 1.47.23.

I normally don’t allow myself to ask but this time I did- and  she was doing the half. We parted company at the aid station at the bottom of this long down section. She was steaming off towards victory and I needed to fill up my bottle with electrolyte drink and grab a Gu gel…only one of us had ‘that’  long and challenging hill in our near future. Then I suddenly felt very weak, nauseous and dizzy… and my stomach which had been no trouble at all up until now started cramping.

The last section of this half marathon course is cleverly designed for a wonderful finish. After a section of straight fire road you return to undulating forest trail with a  few challenging ups on it  – but the exciting bit is that below you can see a forest road …and on it runners headed towards the very finish. You know you must soon come to a turn-around spot where you pop out of forest onto this road and hammer it home. But my stomach was cramping. I might have to stop at the half marthon stage.  I got to the road and could see a wooden shack ahead of me which I guessed was a restroom. I had to sacrifice the time and take a break. Were these cramps the precursor to another torrent of hideousness?   I opened the door feeling deflated and laughed out loud. Inside was quite THE  most beautiful, clean, sparkling white toilet. Moreover, oh joy.. it became apparent I had no need of the facilities at all. Yeeeees! The time I had wasted was nothing compared to the sense of confidence I had gained. My friend John McKinney tells me Imodium can stop a horse. I think this day it was more along the lines of thousands of stampeding Bison. What is IN that stuff?

The Gu gel had given me more energy by now, the cramping eased with a few Winnie the Pooh stoutness exercises (touching toes) and I sailed through the last section of the half marathon course, over a bridge, by a playground, passed some trees, turn the corner and the finish is right there. I soaked it all in knowing how I would savor each part when I was finishing my second loop. As I passed the finish/start area  Nicki was there eating watermelon – she had indeed won the ladies half marathon with a time of 1.47.23. This just missed beating the course record by c.5 mins.  She gave me a cheerful send off and I started the long trudge up the hill to do it all again.

As before I took it slow and steady. Two  men overtook me with such grace and ease they appeared to be gliding on a moving walkway but I didn’t give chase, I was just in it to survive now and I was oddly content.  I felt like  thanking my former self  who ran up here nearly two hours ago for being brave enough to start the race and was so grateful to be there. Now a funny thing happened. I did this big bad wolf of a hill, I passed the 5 mile turn off, I headed up more hills that someone had slipped into the course while I had been away and I waited patiently with tiring legs for the undulating bit and the lovely stream downhill. Had it not been for the pink ribbon I could have sworn I was running an entirely different course. Hill after hill after hill. I came across the second man who had overtaken me, Nick Cifuentes (who was to win the 50K) at an aid station and it turned out he was also baffled by these seemingly new  hills. Finally, we came to a  noticeable down in pretty forest and I had a few seconds rejoicing that the worst of marathon was over when a problem I had dismissed as unimportant suddenly took a turn for the worse. I had two black big toe nails.

And ‘these’ little piggies went to a marathon. Market next week.

This had happened during the Horseshoe Lake marathon I did two weeks ago. I had been unaware of them until I took my shoes off , they were not painful, there had been no trauma, they just must have been rubbing on my shoes. Now for some reason as I started downhill each step downwards gave me a stab of pain in the toenail. I guess my toes had swollen a little after running for a while and on downhills they were striking the top of the shoe.  My back was also starting to feel sore and I was developing a stitch in my left side so when I spurted out onto the flat sandy bit I was uncharacteristically relieved the downhill was over for now.  A little relaxing beachy bit would be nice for a while. And here it is…and more of it…and more. Just like the hills, my memory of this bit was nothing like so long. I was just waiting for that sharp right turn into single track forest down. While waiting for it I considered my toenails.

I had to prepare myself psychologically for the long steep down I knew lay ahead. There are kinds of pain. This is like childbirth I told myself. Let us view this as a positive pain..I am just loosening these nails and though it hurts it is not damaging me. This is how cute new toenails come into the world.  I also diverted my attention to the fun I would have posting whichever nail came off first to my great friend Emma Dell in the UK.  Yes really. Many years ago when I was an IT PR consultant and she the Head of Comms at neural networking company Neurodynamics,  I had attempted to shock her by first adding a weekly update on a toe blackened from running to our weekly PR report ..and then by mailing it to her once it came off. Not to be outdown  – and earning my undying love and admiration – she decorated it with varnish and rhinestones, placed it in presentation packaging and mailed it back to me.

Yay I won a dog. With Chris’ friend “Endorphin Dude’ at the finish. Dude indeed- he ran 88 miles last weekend.

Hands up if you’re a complete nutbar. Chris ran 100 miles followed by a marathon last week end. He then tapered into this marathon with a 22 miler yesterday.

I found the turn, jumped into the forest and coped the best as I could but my back , toes and stitch rendered me a  piteous wreck compared to the splendid duo of myself and Niki streaming down this track before. Just when I thought self pity could not deepen, I  turned a corner to find myself at the base of a steep climb  the top of which featured  three ladies on horseback. It all  looked rather precarious. Three shall we say not slight ladies supported by twelve skinny horse legs on a very rough, narrow, uneven, steep single track…a stumble could have them dominoing each other down a hell of a drop ..or have me end my days looking flat, pulpy and covered in horsehoe marks. One lady took command ” ….Now I know you’re racing but you have to stay where you are while we come down’.  The voice was not apologetic. It seemed to imply that this might be a good lesson for me in some way. Three and a half years later they glided by me without thanks and I ran off without wishing them a lovely ride. It is of course not the case that runners have right of way when they are racing in an event in regional park land, and you do have to remind yourself of that. Overwhelmingly people cheer you on, remove themselves and scoop dogs and children from your path – but they are not obliged to. I think perhaps I should have been a little nicer. It emerged they had just had a similarly charmless encounter with Nick before getting to me  – and doubltess had many more after me.  There is a distinct possibility three horse riders in Oakland now think runners are jerks.

When I reached the final aid station I was elated. There is always a point in a marathon when you know you can do it. This is the point where I suddenly felt weak the first time around and Niki sprinted off ahead of me. Now it Nick who slowed down here (he had a lot of running still to go being on the 50K) and it was my turn for a last hurrah. Bounce bounce along the straight fire road waiting for the last section of single track to begin. Now on trail looking down waiting to glimpse the forest road where you will be in the last few minutes of running. Then waiting for that turn off the trail and onto the road. I could see a flash of white slipping between the trees …a guy running well ahead of me (this was Andy Burnes) and I gradually closed the gap. He was my homing beacon. When I was on the road I could see him vanishing around a corner and I found myself sprinting towards him…I probably wasn’t moving very fast but if felt like sprinting. Over the bridge, passed the playground, round a corner and there was the finish. Andy finished in 3.54.11 and I was 3.54.19. What a glorious experience, to feel fit and strong, to be able to thunder through the last stretch. It seemed inconceivable that my stomach problems had been the same day. Thank you Imodium! I shall not be ashamed to bear witness to your help.

‘Pieces of Eight’ pose at finish. Feeling a bit emotional at this point.

I was so grateful to have been able to run. It turned out that I was first lady, forth overall  (it is a very small field I hasten to add – 38 people running, 17 women) and had set a new course record ….by an hour ( this is not as splendid as it sounds as we had a perfect day while last year’s runners has a mud bath!). First man, Stephen Souch came all the way from Montreal to humiliate the lot of us  – he  torched the course to finish in 3.19.59, also setting an new course record by 50 mins.

With first man Stephen Souch.

Thank you Coastal Trails. Thank you Imodium (blush)! http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/cm_spr_canyon_meadow.html

http://www.imodium.com/diarrhea-myths-facts/index.jhtml

Since this post I emailed Imodium to thank them and have received a bounty pack of vouchers :0)