Tag Archives: Coastal Trails

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….)

 

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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


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)


Cinderella Marathon 12th May 2012

Once upon a time I attempted this Cinderella marathon before. It was not a fairytale ending. I did not go to the ball.

Last time- the cautionary tale:

When two rather plump hikers with a large fluffy dog affably pulled themselves to one side of the forest path to let me pass, they unwittingly concealed a sharp left turn fork in the trail. I  shot up a  horrendously steep section (let’s hear it for the Starflower trail) and continued unaware I was in error until I hit pink  ribbon. The brief moment of joy at the confirmation I was still on track was followed by an awful recognition. This is the top of a long fire road hill. And I am supposed to be going up it later, not down it now. I made the best repairs I could, I tried to retrace my steps but couldn’t be sure which of a cluster of trails I had emerged from so  I ran all the way down the fire road and back up again. As a consolation prize I found my friend David Schoenberg at the bottom and was cheered by his laughter at my misfortune. The really embarrassing thing is that I missed that turn on the second loop of a repeating course. The first time around I had had adult supervision, I was with David. We ran to the finish together and in the race autopsy it was clear that I couldn’t have a  finisher’s medal as I hadn’t done the right course and I was low on overall mileage. But in my mind it counts as a honorary marathon. Garmin information is not completely accurate in deep forest, but the fact that mine reported 11,000 ft of climbing  rather than the expected 5,oooft may hold the clue to why my calf muscles were moving around by themselves that night.

Cinderella II

The  gentleman in grey shorts must have been pleased with these official photos of the start.

So back I came. Hello Cinders …we meet again. Following last weeks’ disastrous late start at the  Western Pacific Marathon in Fremont, I arrived ludicrously early and had time to stroll around sampling the delights of all the different restroom facilities. At the first, the portaloo (full marks, nice and clean) I met my neighbor Johnathon Sonett from San Anselmo who was also doing the marathon. At the second, the permanent toilet at the park (quite beyond belief…people were leaving their cell phones outside encase they dissolved in the fumes) I met Sham and Stephanie. Recuperating from the restrooms, we entertained ourselves making a smiley face out of  Stephanie’s leggings and water bottles (see pic).

Stephanie’s smiley faces

Not only was Stephanie was wearing what I call  ‘creepy feet’ (shoes that look like feet and offer minimal protection), she was actually considering leaving them behind and tackling the half marathon course in completely bare feet. She is a young  mother. Has she not  trodden on enough pieces of lego to know better?  She insisted it could be done. I know she completed the race but couldn’t see a finish photo to check her feet…I wonder.

At the start. ooh I  can see my neighbour John and my hat

My feet were also causing me concern. My shoes offered plenty of  support  – I like as much puff and gel as  possible between myself and mother earth – but they looked kinda freaky. I have strangely wide feet  (circular like an elephant’s), misshapen toes of inappropriate lengths (following three toe surgeries) and a bunion the size of New Jersey.  So I accept that I don’t get to pick shoes  by appearance.  However, my friend Charles from the Marin Running Company in San Anselmo had forced me to sink to new depths when he pulled the cash out of my hand and kicked me out of his shop with the only pair of shoes in the place that I could wear…and they were these Nikes,  completely monotone in a disturbing light  turquoise  –  a  color I have always loathed. Joking aside, Charles always goes to a great deal of trouble not just matching runners to shoes but helping them to make their relationship work with various tricks. This time he had the novel idea of leaving the bottom part of  my right shoe unlaced  – giving New Jersey wiggle room but keeping the ankle secure. It didn’t help with the colour but I have to say I bought these shoes the day before the race and my feet were so comfortable they thought they’d spent race morning in a spa. On that colour though,some runners were helping me in my quest to consider then light blue when it was pointed out that they looked like Cinderella’s glass slippers  – which made me laugh out loud. I wondered now if I would retain both of them for the duration of the run. I have failed to do so before in mud.

With Sham, resplendent in my glass slippers

The race started with lovely news  as Wendell the race organiser and his wife were celebrating the birth of their two week old  son. Then the start sounded and 50k, marathon and half marathon runners streamed into the forest.  It is an interesting start. As ususal on trail, you do need to get to the front if you are a competitve  runner as the path funnels down to single track fairly quickly and you don’t want to be trapped behind people slower than yourself. The immediate trail has some extremely steep sections but it is worth busting  lungs to get over them in a good position  as it soon  flattens out so there is plenty of time to recover your breath. And off you go on a glorious rollercoaster ride in deep redwood forest. Actually very like a fairytale…but definately the Grimms original version with a smattering of violence and suffering in it. During the first mile I was overtaken by a pretty blonde-haired lady in a blue top.  I later found out this was Andrea Warburton. I was pleased to have a lady to run with but she disappeared into the distance and I could see her darting through the trees ahead like a bluebird.  I knew better than to chase her. I have learned from experience to run at my own pace …my plan is to take it beyond comfort into one notch of suffering and keep it there with as little whimpering as possible. Many people are much better on uphill than me and though I have improved by watching the departing heels of ladies like Caren Spore on these very trails and then tried to emulate them in training (to do so properly would require surgical insertion of some form of motor) I know that if  I push myself to stick with  them early in a race  I am in danger of fizzling. Aren’t I Caren lol. I also had to remember I had raced last weekend too  – even more reason to just guard long term energy etc. So I plodded on waiting to hit a comfort level that never quite arrived. It is so beautiful, I wished I wasn’t so tired.

I saw  Bluebird again at the 8 mile aid station. This is where you emerge blinking from the delicious cool forest and face the ‘ant under a microscope’ feel of a three mile crawl uphill on fire road. I passed her at the turn around as she wasn’t carrying water and had to stop to drink etc. but it wasn’t long before she stormed by me on the hill. Shortly after it seemed  like every other runner in California did the same. I had eaten a gel already to prepare for  this hill but really faced a terrible lack of energy. I know the best way for me to  get up this kind of slope  is  little steps inching up on my toes but I found I could only do short bursts of those before resorting  to power-walking with long strides, then  regular walking when I tired of that. The little steps were also causing some mild cramping in my calves so I walked that off every time it twinged. I have had calf cramps later on in races recently but it was a tad grim to have them so soon. I was pleased I  had just invested in a pair of calf supports  in Charles’ shop and hoped they would work. So far they just made me feel very hot.

So Bluebird  was off on the horizon, it was oddly comforting to see her go,  it was clear this was going to be a survival effort not a race for me. I laughed to find myself sort of cheering her on..it’s not a great sign when even you are not rooting for yourself.  But I do like the ladies to perform well.  I forced myself to eat another gel  and chipped away slowly upwards. The vultures were circling in my head.

Once you are at the top of that hill there is some rolling up and down in the forest before you plunge back down to the start area. It is a terrific technical surge down in parts and I thought how wonderful it would feel to be doing that heading to the finish. So half marathoners stop here and marathoners and 50k runners repeat the loop. Until you get there you don’t know which course many runners are doing and I was alarmed to see Bluebird  dart into the finishing tunnel ahead of me. I lumbered passed and headed back up the trail. At this point I felt quite nauseous and dizzy. I genuinely wondered if I should call it a day. I had already eaten three gels now and still wasn’t feeling a foundation of energy. Perhaps my body wouldn’t cope, it certainly didn’t feel good. I decided to slow it down and see if I felt better by the first aid station.  Just then Bluebird  appeared looking all fresh – she was on the marathon but had just stopped at the aid station and had gone down the finish tunnel by mistake. That encouraged me. I  staggered up the steep bits behind her. Another runner (Nathan) came by and the two of them were ahead of me for a long time.  I could see glimpses of them through the trees  – always well ahead but not disappearing so I felt I had some company.

Nathan VanNortwick

Again I ate even more gel and waited for positive effects but it was like they were duds. I was really suffering and oddly my right thumb holding my water bottle had gone totally numb (never had that before) so I continued with a eerie sense that all was not good. I’ve never had a race where I spent so much time thinking about how tired I was, I just couldn’t get my mind on other things. I kept trying to squeeze the thought that 26.2 miles is a heck of a long way out of my head too. Not helpful. After a while I turned a corner and to my surprise came across Bluebird. We were starting the down hill section leading to the aid station and the base of THE hill and I went ahead, it made sense as I know I  tend to go fast downhill but I wasn’t expecting to catch up with her again. We had a friendly exchange, and both groaned about how tired we were feeling. I told her I was ‘on fumes’ and she said she felt the same but I doubted she did and wondered if she might soon stumble over my unconscious carcass and think …wow that girl really was on fumes. I told her she would get me on the hill and she told me I would get her back on the downhill after it. I doubted it. I was thinking of a rescue team removing me from that hill.

I then also passed Nathan on that downhill. As I did so I commented on how wet he was. I asked him if he had stopped for a swim somewhere. Looking back this may have been a little rude (sorry Nathan) as the guy was just sweating a lot, but I was  actually thinking he may have thrown water over himself at an aid station (I have done so myself before, sometimes deliberately, sometimes trying to drink the stuff).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a  runner so drenched and you will probably need to be a runner on a hot day to understand how much that state is to be admired. My own body was clearly retaining all H2O for critical organs and of course the need to keep my incessantly streaming nose going strong. That thing needs a hose pipe ban!.

I  turned around at the aid station, filled up my water carrier with sports drink, considered eating everything there ..fingers hovering over bits of potato and banana …and rejecting it all (feeling a little rude to the hosts….sorry it all looks lovely its just that I would throw up if I ate any of the things you have so thoughtfully displayed here)  and I just knew gel was the only thing I could keep down. Good news, I’d snagged a raspberry one ….they are quite invigorating! I’ve never eaten so many gels in a race before, I was begining to lose count. (Normally I bring and eat three, I have my own little entertainment going wondering which of the three flavours it will be when I eat them …always secretly hoping for chocolate espresso.) I wondered if my calorie intake might exceed the output.  And I  headed towards the hill.

Now something inside me changed.  In a funny way I felt good about going up this hill on the second loop, because I remembered all too well the horrid feeling of running down it knowing I had gone wrong and was out of the race before. I thought of  David and made a note to email him after the race. He is injured this year as I was last year and I am looking forward to running with him in the fall. I smiled remembering  his horror when he understood where I had gone wrong. It had helped that someone was sorry for me. Gradually the  gels gathered together in my stomach and decided to get the party started. I pulled my hat down, put some music on and thought lets just chip away and see how much I can get done before Nathan and  Bluebird swoop by me.

The heat was absolutely intense by now and it was a tough old climb. It is a sneaky hill as it keeps saying: ‘well done, welcome to my summit….step forward to refresh your drink at the aid station round the corner ……..PSYCH!!! ..here’s a really steep bit  instead..ha ha haaaa’. I was surprised when I had been on the hill for a while that I hadn’t been overtaken. Three thoughts kept me going:

1) How I regretted mentioning Nathan swimming. I kept dreaming of jumping in a pool.

2) I wasn’t sure if I was drinking too much water or if I was dehydrated. I wasn’t thirsty but I kept wanting to drink. I had perhaps drunk too much too quickly as I kept getting flashes of a cold chill.

3) Should I  look back down the hill to see where they are? I was worried that as soon as they passed me I might find it more difficult to keep going as I suspected they would completely disappear out of view, so I was getting myself ready for it mentally. I was also wondering if by any chance they weren’t right on my shoulder  – but I knew that if I looked and saw that for sure it would also be more difficult to keep going. Some of those shady patches looked tempting for a bit of standing still. In the end I promised myself I could look if I got to a particular spot ahead and kept moving the spot when I got to it. I never looked back.

I got to the final aid station and fell on the sports drink. I actually filled the water carrier, ran off, stopped and drank half of it and ran back to fill up again. I was getting significant cold flashes down my arms and back now – I decided it was  just the effect of the sun and I needed to drink more.  I was now worried about the two behind me, I had noticed neither of them had hats or a water carrier and that hill was on fire. Still, they might be just round the corner……go back and save them or nip ahead….mmmm… so I headed off, actaully still not feeling great but so happy to be on the last and mainly downhill stretch.

When I got to the very last part I stopped and turned to look behind me. I thought I might  see  Bluebird and I didn’t want to run in just ahead of her, I thought we could finish together because  she had been a strong lead for most of the race and had really helped to keep me going, but there was no sign of anyone and I ran out of the forest into the clearing where the finishers tunnel lay ahead. An amazing feeling to have done it. I have honestly never been so close to quitting a race, I have never felt so bad and have a recovery late on (normally I feel steadily worse towards the end). How wonderful to challenge yourself  and come through. Nathan came in next, then Andrea and after her Rebecca. A great day for the ladies, we had all broken the female course record (held by Rebecca herself).  Nathan and I weren’t a million miles away from the male one either. It turned out that there was no-one in the marathon ahead of me (it has to be said it was an extremely small field compared to the half marathon runners, and of course many people were doing the longer 50K) but it was cool to find out  I was actually the overall marathon winner. I noticed in the results  there were some amazing older runners in there. How many of the four of  us running today would accomplish that? I felt about 70 yr old at times, one male finisher actually was…and not hanging about either.

With Nathan and his friends at the end. Thank you Jen for the photo!

Andrea, Rebecca and myself. Three ladies in the top four.

Name City

Bib No

Age

Age Group

Time

Pace

1

Penny Macphail San Anselmo CA

413

44

1 F 40-49

4:22:40

10:06/M

2

Nathan Vannortwick Oakland CA

427

26

1 M 20-29

4:27:55

10:18/M

3

Andrea Warburton Lodi CA

428

30

1 F 30-39

4:39:22

10:45/M

4

Rebecca Yi Fremont CA

432

37

2 F 30-39

4:40:14

10:47/M

I checked the results to see if my neighbour John had triumphed (he has battled with injury and had to pull out of a marathon recently which is gutting) and he certainly had.  I absolutely love his finishing photo.

John at finish – I love this picture, just says it all

As always in my life, a position of confidence and competence is never long lived…

I was having some trouble breathing and feeling dizzy at the finish and sat down at the Coastal Trails aid station picnic tables, threw my soaking hanky and salt rimmed hat on the bench and held my head down to my knees. There may have been saliva streaming out of my mouth too as I was feeling quite nauseous. Very gradually I became aware that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. There had been a double booking on that picnic area and the Coastal Trails event area was now further down the meadow. I was surrounded by  ladies in their Sunday best who were smoothing linen table clothes out and setting up vases of flowers and fine china for a graduation ceremony.Fortunately one of them (an 80 year old) was a keen runner. She patted my back comfortingly while also firmly lifting me  up,  passing  me my hat with the very ends of the fingernails and pointing out where I should go.

Picnic tables at the start- I was a little slow to understand they were turning into a graduation party when I finished

So I located the actual Coastal Trails recovery area and caught up with some other runners.  Stephen Itano had done the Western Pacific Marathon last week too, and though he stuck at the Marathon he was attempting the 50K  (love it, another person who makes me look normal). Wendell did his little prize ceremony – and I strode away with two medals jangling around my neck  (finishing and overall winner)….a much jollier scene than the year I limped away with  none. As always, I wore all bling (medals) on the drive home and was feeling pretty good about my morning when I decided to slather some Icy Heat balm onto my back as it was aching. At the finish I was alarmed to find my  iphone  capable of  nothing other than displaying an orange temperature alert triangle (it recovered after a while thank goodness). Perhaps a more intelligent person less caught up in the glory of finishing a marathon might have wondered what effect extreme temperature might have on Icy Heat balm. I held the pot between my thighs and unscrewed the lid with one hand while driving away from the park. My intention was then to scoop the thick balm out with my fingers and smear it on my back. What a surprise it was to have liquid Icy Heat slosh out of the jar like water and completely drench my lap…immediately turning solid again on contact with my body. So here we have little Miss Two Medals, breathlessly concentrating on the road,  genitals on fire, covered in glutenous wax. I decided not to stop for coffee on the way home. Thanks for another memorable day Coastal Trails http://www.coastaltrailruns.com

Sadly these runners turned back into a dog and a horse just inches before they reached the finish


Grizzly Peak Marathon

Oops. Performance more grizzly than peak. Saturday 7th April 2012, Tilden Park, Berkeley

Melanie, Myself and Melanie's poorly ankle

Coastal Trail’s Grizzly Peak marathon shirts are awesome. They have a bear going grrr on them. I’ve always wanted one and it was an adventure earning it. This is a gorgeous course. It is challenging with 5,700 ft elevation in the marathon but the route is brilliantly designed to help you get there and back  alive. With a complexity of twists and turns and opportunities to play chicken (road crossings), the route ‘rollercoasters’  more than I expected from the elevation maps and mixes types of terrain so you are never bored, never slogging away at an unforgiving and endless mountainside, but mentally occupied and  keen to see what is over a crest or around the corner. Above all the views are  unbeatable from dramatic panoramas of San Francisco/The Golden Gate bridge and Marin to stunningly pretty hillside and beautiful deep dark glorious forest. When you get to the half way point your head is full of highlights to look forward to on your second loop –  the finest praise you can give a  repeating course.

Good news

Before this year’s race the female course record was 5 hrs 20 . We needed someone to to strike a blow for womankind by reducing the disparity between this and the mens record of 4hrs 10 . And  hurrah for Maria Monks who smashed it down to  4 hrs 35. (Congrats also to speedy Chris Randall who moved our disparity goal posts setting a new male record at 3hrs 52). Second, third and forth ladies, myself, Lisa Hughey and Melanie Mecham also gave it a little dent with our times of 4hrs 42,  5hrs o1 and 5hrs 12  respectively.

Bad news

I did not do anything to improve the fairer sex’s reputation for navigation.  With not entirely uncharacteristic lousy luck (or as the race organizer Wendell would prefer me to phrase it sheer  incompetence once again)  I missed one liiiiiiittle super critical turn and helped myself to a spot of extra mileage and uppy bits. (See details of my race below-  including advice on how not to run this marathon)

Top Ten observations

Ah - how refreshing

1) Ladies often enjoy the sight of a queue for the gents and not for the ladies at these events. An hour before the start it was so here  – but the pressure on the facilities for the both sexes was too great as we neared start time. There were a  few distressed people still in line as the runners passed the toilets at the start of the race.  Be prepared to cut your losses and find a natural solution ladies.
2) This course is tough but beautiful and do-able.  Don’t be scared of the elevation or the long run times. There isn’t an inch of it you won’t enjoy thinking back to. Right up until the point when I messed up I was having a lovely time.

3)  Wear shoes with good grip and tie them tight. Think  – will this  part company from me in thick mud? Don’t waste too much time picking a dry path  through mud at the beginning. You are going in eventually.

4) The course IS very well marked  – and doing so is a tough old job. However, I was not alone in messing up and the two danger spots appear to be around the aid station on the marathon return – just before it and just after it. Before it, you complete a glorious downhill to reach road and a parking bay. Ahead you see an uphill  fire road. Don’t go up it. Your view may be obscured by parked cars/hikers milling around but you should see a fluttering of pink ribbon urging you to round the corner on the road to find the aid station. Then as you travel uphill after the aid station expect a sharp left, taking you off the main trail and onto singletrack. You may be distracted if there are a lot of runners coming downhill on your left or if you are an air head like me. NB: Although you have just passed a sign saying ‘Marathon Return’ don’t expect all the signs facing you on the return to say ‘return’.

5) Messing up is ok.

6) Don’t let messing up spoil your run.

7)  The shirt has a growly bear on it and is awesome.

8) There isn’t a physical turn around feature like a cone at the start/finish line. Don’t waste time staggering around asking people where it is, just run away.

9) There are at least 26.01 miles of this route I followed flawlessly

10) I want to do it again.

http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/gp_grizzly_peak.html

Learn now not to run this marathon. 

So I messed up at the second of the ‘danger spots’ mentioned above’. However, my cautionary tale involves more than just missing a turn. Read and weep/laugh/learn. So you pass an aid station bearing the joyous sign ‘marathon return’. Soon after there is a sharp left …I shot by this and proceeded up a challenging climb.  The race is effectively a circle with some  parts of the return sharing the outbound trail and others deviating from it  – so  it wasn’t a red flag that this was new ground. However, you should really look out for the confirmation pink ribbon which just says …yup you are on the correct path. I often do look out for these ..and rejoice when I see them …but I guess I let a lot of trail go without worrying about it because my mind was occupied with the climb. Also,although I am often running alone, here there was at least one runner coming up behind me. (rule # 1 never follow me. rule # 2 never assume anyone else knows what they are doing). Then I came to a fork in the path with coastal trail markings in both directions. mmmmmm. Effectively I had come to Gillespie Road. By sheer fluke I had come to a point where the trail I was on met a trail the actual route used both out and back – and I recognised it from the outbound trip. Just then  two runners arrived coming downhill on the left fork. (These were the lead marathon/ultra men – overachievers who could both run fast AND follow directions)

It is a great idea to turn on to Lupine trail after the Big Springs aid station

 

Now for some truly rotten luck. 

Looking back I guess when I  posed the question ‘marathon return?’ they thought I was asking if that is what they were doing. ‘Yes’ they said this was marathon return and ‘yes’…to them an entirely separate point, thinking they were speaking to someone who was  still crawling up the hill outbound on the marathon…yes we should now head up this hill. Let’s add a cherry to the cupcake now and have man who had been behind me catch up and  – with the best intentions – completely erroneously  recall there was an extra out and back bit on the marathon return so off we went up the hill in search of it. I thought it odd I hadn’t notice it on the map. If only I had realized at this point we  could have turned around and headed straight back downhill to the Big Springs aid station relatively quickly. Instead I traveled up Gillespie Rd, over Vollmer Peak and was half way down Lupine when it became clear there was no extra out and back. And oh dear here were all the  people that had been behind me in the marathon coming in the opposite direction. The man behind me vanished, he must have realized and turned around with them or jumped off the peak in horror at our mistake – but I pushed on to return to that aid station to be sure I knew what I was doing still. The nice lady calmed me down and sent me back for another go at finding my way back to the start.

HOWEVER 

Here’s the thing.Right up to the point where I messed up I was having a lovely time. And by the end I was having fun again.


It was a little sad when I realised the enormity of my mistake. Off my head went on a moaning and gnashing of teeth exercise (much along the lines of the bear on the race shirt) until my body joined in and started to fall apart too – my calves kept flashing those horrid little spasms threatening to cramp, my back was aching. It is amazing how the mental and physical work together (or besiege each other) in long distance running – especially when you are running alone. After a while the  car insurance phrase ‘accident forgiveness’ popped into my mind. I  stood still for a minute, literally slapped myself on the head and just thought I am going to be happy with where I am now.  I’m here to have fun, enjoy the run.  Also just appreciate this mistake is a long cut not a shortcut. Like many runners I have done the latter before (we all do it unintentionally of course) and have always said nothing is worse, so this is better. I must have looked nuts.

Then things brightened, I met two greyhounds who were so cute I stopped and patted them (awesome doggies always gives me a boost) and I happened to run by a couple of the nicest runners ever. The first, the wonderful Jim McCaffrey, was running bare chested with sweaty long hair streaming down his back. He was saying ‘hello, good morning, what a lovely day’ to everyone and greeted me warmly as I approached. He was infectiously buoyant. Later I told  his partner he put me in mind of  Jesus of Nazareth . She  said he is always the same  :0).

The wonderful Jim McCaffrey

Hoover - first dog

A little later I came across ‘Mr Moonlight’  (Chris Jones who was running with a shirt on about a moonlight race). He was such fun and so clearly appreciating just living in the moment he also lifted my spirits. I loved the rest of the run then and very much enjoyed the last few miles scampering downhill, sploshing in mud and keeping my eyes peeled for what was for many people the single most beautiful sight of the day….the toilets. Once you see them you are home.

After the race Mr Moonlight  produced his dog Hoover who hoovered up a few snacks and posed for this photo as ‘first dog’ wearing my medal. As I write this Chris is running a half marathon. Not a man for tapering!

What will surprise people who know me is  I was not the most  accident prone person on the day. To my knowledge one person was bitten by a dog, Ms Carrie Martin appeared to have broken two fingers…ahhh they looked nasty, and – very much in a style I can relate to – Ms Melanie Mecham waited until she was at the half way turning around point,  maximizing the size of her audience and selecting the only truly flat and completely safe surface on the course to  twist her ankle. Melanie also had a bit of a slipsies on the navigation. Despite her injury she headed back out again to make up her mileage. We are pictured in the first photo together above, kindred spirits.

Thank you Coastal Trails! 

http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/gp_grizzly_peak.html

With Mr Moonlight at the finish