Tag Archives: Penny Macphail

Berkeley Golden Hills Trail marathon 13th Oct

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

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

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

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

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

Nose and nos

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

Many happy returns

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

The race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

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

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

And then..

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

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

This is how I met Resham.

The running was the easy bit of the day.

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

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

Damsel in distress. V similar looking.

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

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

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

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

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

Pardon my French several times today while looking for those keys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marathon results

50 Miler results


Big Sur Trail Marathon, Sept 29

The day I met Pete, at the Pacifica Foothills marathon in June. He performed his famous, bizarrely agile and high star jump for me and I became just one more in along line of fools who have aimed the camera too low to capture the moment properly.

With deep sadness, I have to dedicate this post to smiling gentleman of the trails, Pete Mingwah. Just two days after racing with many friends ( including myself ) at Mt Daiblo two weeks ago,  Pete suffered an aneurysm and died a few days later. He was 42 years young. An ultra runner, friend and Dad. I only met him recently – but, and I am so grateful for this, he just happened to pop up at almost every race I did in the last three months (we also realised we had done an uncanny number of the same races  before knowing each other), so I  got to know and love and respect  running Pete. We also became friends on Facebook  – and bonded over our other shared  hobby of loving and laughing at being a parent. Such a handsome guy with a distinctively beautiful smile, a fondness for  jettisoning himself  extraordinarily high up into the air to form a star, and an endearing habit of dining  upon baby food while racing.  To say he will be missed really doesn’t cover it. There was one small comfort at his funeral. His friend Janeth told me his doctors said running had probably extended his life.

Pete (left) with Tony and Chris after their 100 miler in August. That’s 300 miles of crazy right there!

Pete eating  baby food at Alva and Lynnard’s  Diablo aid station. The story of Pete as a runner is inspiring – for non-runners and runners with crazy dreams alike. Like many of ‘The Stamina on Toast Brigade’ such as Tony, Chris and Janeth who persist in belittling my running with vast flurries of races and daring distances. He changed his life by taking up running surprisingly recently -I believe his first marathon was San Francisco in July 2011. This summer he ran it again, his time sandwiched between his Summer 7 ( 7 marathons in 7 days) and a 100 miler!

We had a lot of fun pre-race at Diablo – I love this photo ..we are either being spiders or trying to scare them. Pete in red hat.

Pete’s own photo starting the final descent at Diablo. Who has the endurance to be on trails for ten and a half hours ..and then want to do it again next week? I know I may have used the expression ‘Raving Lunatic’ Pete  – but you know I meant awesome!

Big Sur Marathon

Pete was a member of Marathon Maniacs, and was rapidly moving towards Titanium status (your status depends on the number of marathons you have done). When he died his friends started running marathons ‘ for’  him. I pledged my Big Sur marathon. He achieved Titanium status the day after his funeral. Friends are now continuing to contribute races with the aim of hitting 4440 miles (his membership number) by the end of the year.

Pete on my race bib.

How far?

I booked in to do this marathon some time ago. I knew it was a wee ways away. We planned a family weekend in Big Sur. However, Pete’s funeral was the day before and  – on a much happier note  – my friend Speedy (Devon Crosby Zoom) was marrying Nathan Yanko..the only man on earth fast enough to catch her..the day after. So if I was going to do it I would have to drive there and back on the day. There was a shriek and uncorking of medicinal wine when I finally got round to Googling up just how far away it was the night before …which was the evening of Pete’s funeral. A seven hour roundtrip?  I went  for it. Pete and I enjoyed laughing at each other  – he laughed at my speed and I at his stamina. I freshly appreciated that stamina when it occured to me that driving there, running a marathon and driving back would take about the same ten and a half hours Pete had put in on Diablo. Thank you Daddy Macphail for letting me go and leaving you at the mercy of our children.

Coffee Disaster

I left home at 5am and drove for hours, constantly on the brink of stopping for coffee. Unbelievably, I found myself on a coastal road with mileage counting down to arrival  –  I had missed my last opportunity to caffeinate. I must have passed over 400 coffee shops. Staggering incompetence. There should be a  public information sign…

Billy No Mates   (translation for US readers  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_slang)

I felt a tad despondent  I didn’t know anyone there and everyone else seemed to swigging coffee and chatting in groups about how lovely their coffee was.   I thought about the  fun spider group photos we have of Diablo and started asking people in groups if  they’d like  me to take a photo with them all in it. I took pictures of nine groups.  Made me feel a little better.

Just before the race, organizer Dave Horn climbed onto a fire dept truck and addressed the crowd. He asked who had run the most marathons and established what he thought was a person who had run 170 of them. The man was indeed a clear and impressive winner but had actually said 107, it was deliciously funny to watch as he attempted to get a correction but was not heard over the cheering of the crowd. I was  also amused overhearing comments from perhaps a slightly less experienced guy who had ‘ simply drunk lots of water yesterday’ so he didn’t have to carry a water bottle in the race today.

 

Big Sur’s famous Bixby Bridge. This is the picture that lured me to sign up for this race. Sadly, you don’t get to run over it…it is waaaay too flat. But you do tumble down a hillside to reach an aid station by it, crawl back up to a turnaround and descend to it again. You also get to drive by it on the way home  and see poor souls still out there eating hill. History lesson – the bridge is named after the creek and the creek is named after New Yorker Charles Bixby who had a lumber business here in 1868. Before the bridge was built in 1932 the residents of Big Sur were often cut off in the winter, the 11 mile coastal road was often impassable. And the pour souls had no chance of reaching Starbucks.

I like to think of my races as a visual image. This one needed little imagination as it is clearly a set of teeth. Premolar (ok a bit pointy but go with it) , Canine and a little row of incisors, back to the Canine, Premolar and finish.

On the word go three men foolishly threw away the chance to initiate a deep and meaningful friendship with me and hurtled out of sight. Erik Stanley was to win the marathon in 3hrs 2mins. Faster than I could do a downhill road marathon on roller skates with a favourable wind behind me. Bet he had coffee. The other two doubtless finely caffeinated chaps Oswaldo Lopez and Sean Curry stayed together for the whole race and finished around 3.27.   But ..and let me shout from the roof tops…behind them strode a mighty pack of four strong ladies, one dressed entirely in pink..even her hair. (She was fun. I looked like a clap of thunder beside her.). Two of them fell back after a few miles but one lady crested the first hill ahead of me. I exerted myself more than I normally would at the start of a race to catch her  – frankly I just felt so sad for Pete. I knew I was supposed to feel I was running with him or honoring/celebrating him and like so many people that day I was running with flashes of very happy memories of him in my head  – but I couldn’t get passed a leaden saddness…and that feeling you want to do something about it/fix it.  This was an Envirosports event  – and they have  a no headphone policy,  I couldn’t lift my mind with audio..and today I wasn’t sure I had it in me to run in my own head.

When I got to the top of the hill I zoomed by her on the down. Darn. It looked like the best I was going to have was a  ‘Flat Stanley’ (someone who passes me uphill but I pass down hill so we only get to talk on the flat bits). Some time later she reached me I was climbing the next big hill and we got to talking.  And she was absolutely wonderful..so  perfect in fact that if you were going to put ‘the perfect woman’ into a movie this would be a bit OTT.  Her name was Kirstin Walter, she founded and directs Feelgood, a non-profit selling grilled cheese sandwiches to students in colleges across America to raise money to combat world hunger. She was of course beautiful to look at – long blonde hair..   perfect figure  ..and she has a ten month old baby. And she is young ..29 …nearly 20 yrs younger than me.  She hadn’t run a marathon for about 5 years ..however..when she did .she ran them in 3hrs 6. Not stopping for sandwiches then!!! (my pb is 3.12). Also …and a sensitive point for me..she was clearly not a klutz as she was carrying her phone loose  in her hand to monitor her running. We all know I would face plant and have that smashed up or arced off down an impenetrable cliff in seconds.  Had she not been such a lovely person I’d have pushed her over the edge to take the pressure off the rest of womankind. As it was I was keen to have her around so when we came to the next downhill I decided to try and teach her the way I run downhill. She absolutely nailed it!!! And we were able to run together for miles.

With Kirstin Walter

You too can dislocate your knee or tear discs by following my handy tips for running downhill fast.  1) Plant your heel firmly and lift it out or roll the foot over it depending on the terrain. Sometimes you can push off the toe to build speed.  2) If  you can see you don’t have to brake –  don’t. Many runners go down a long slope braking constantly rather than flowing down it. Chickens!  3) Hold your core tight and lean your head and shoulders so you fall down the hill with gravity. Do literally hold your arms out if you need help to balance 4) Get a strong breathing rhythm with a deliberate, long, calm exhale. 5) Don’t let your head micromanage your feet and legs. Lift your mind away from placing each foot and making sense of  each leg..let your subconscious figure it out. 6) Lengthen your stride, sometime it feels like you are running in slow motion. Spend as long as possible in the air.

At the third aid station my stomach suddenly cramped up. And I was surprised to find myself inside a Portaloo releasing a disturbing quantity of matter from my innards. What the..? Was my body reacting to the  long car journey or expressing outrage at the lack of caffeine? I Then recalled my misguided experiment adding Udos Oil to my Power Porridge that morning. All the grown up runners seem to swear by it but I’m not entirely sure race morning is when they consume it. Worse, I had only intended to add a drop and a whole lot whooshed in…and it’s awfully expensive so I still ate it. Ah. I emerged from the Portaloo and headed off downhill in pursuit of  Kirstin. So having just taught her how to run downhill so successfully, I was now struggling  to catch her. Eventually I did.

My actual family

As we approached Bixby Bridge Kirstin asked if anyone was meeting me there. It was such a charming idea I was smitten with a mental  image of my children lined up with home made posters, their father nodding sagely and offering strategy tips. (I’ve run my way to exhausting the family’s interest ..though the 3 yr old does like  rating medals for how well they make imprints in playdough). It turned out that this quite delightful young lady was accompanied by the winners of Most Lovely and Supportive Family In California. We had her ten month old baby Wendy (named after her mother who had died just a year ago), her divine  husband, his surfing friends, her father and his friend from work. They even staggered themselves along the hillside leading to the bridge so as to  hit her with numerous little boosts of support. But here is the most awesome thing… both she and every single one of them  made a pronounced effort to include me in all their happy greetings. And from then on I absolutely shared them with her.

Kirstin dancing towards her support team :0) I’m seething in the Portaloo at Bixby Bridge right now.

Even more exciting, they didn’t stay at the bridge….once we saw them there they proceeded to pop up in unusual places (again in splinter groups to give her …and now us..more hits of support). Her Dad took her water bottle at the bridge in order to refill it for her. We both expected him to return it to her the second time we reached the bridge …. but miles before the bridge he popped up in the forest!  I think he may have actually run up the hill with it…and done it pretty fast.

Back at the bridge I was again detained for some time studying the interior of a Portaloo.  Aaarrgh!   Kirstin was a good way ahead of me as I started back on the return leg…but her support team were out if force and cheered me on as if they had come for that express purpose. Normally other people’s families make me miss mine. I just  felt like an honorary member of theirs for the day.  Certainly makes a change from the type who yell ‘get her’ to someone behind you.

Self and Bixby Bridge (pic by Kirstin’s family)

I had suffered unspeakable horrors with two more restroom breaks (one au naturale which was expressly forbidden…I thought no judge would do me for it considering I had used all the portaloos on the course too)  When I got to the top of the penultimate hill  ‘the Canine’ (see map of race as teeth). The man at the aid station just had two words for me ‘Good luck’.  I was perhaps not looking my best?  But my stomach seemed to say “I’ve toyed with you enough now run along home and don’t do it again”.  I dug deep, inhaled the glorious breeze and  positively thundered down the wide rocky fire road.  Had Kirstin not been ahead  I wouldn’t have done it at half the speed..I seemed to be airborne for a lot of it. She heard me approaching …or possibly feared begin run over my a herd of elephants ..and waved behind her enthusiastically.  We were  both very happy to be together  as we hit the last hill ‘the Premolar’ and  – as expected –  it was a tough old crawl up. The conversation kept us both going.

This picture really capture the heat and terrain (pic of Kirstin by her family)

Finally we got to that last aid station  – with just a  2.5 mile blast downhill to go. We stayed together and were keen to  finish together. Envirosports is the company that awards a chicken purse (handbag) and a bottle of wine to the female winner. Could we squeeze two chickens out of them? I was especially keen to snare a chicken today as I had promised my friend Speedy (Devon Crosby Helms) it should be hers if ever I won one again …and she was getting married the next day. Devon’s bridal trousseau  bulges with far more glittering prizes from very scary proper races..like the US Marathon Olympic trials…but it needed a chicken purse.   We plummeted down fast but comfortable. I soaked up the sweeping view, salted breeze and golden light. Few people who ran race in Pete’s name that day will have done so dry eyed, but I was very much filled with joy as well as sadness as tears came to me there . I literally started flapping my arms in the air like a bird and  ‘flew’ along laughing with Kirstin – we kept passing  people completing shorter distances  – everyone was enjoying exchanging greetings,  marveling at the light and the view and the fact that our hills were done. There could be no finer way to celebrate friendships  made on the trails.

Two first ladies (Photo from Kirstin’s family)

Suddenly we turned a corner and there was the finish- a colorful gathering of people across the path (I jokingly asked Kirstin if they were all members of her family). We crossed the line together hand in hand, Kirstin greeting  the race official with “we want to split the chicken” . The time was 3 hrs 39 min.

Urgent message for Devon..

Of course all of my new family for the day were there  – and once again I was just blown away by how they all included me. It was quite the most joyful end to a race. They only had one chicken bag and one bottle of wine, but could mail out a second bag so we agreed I should  snap up the  chicken  for Speedy  – and team Kirstin claimed the wine. We parted company. I felt overwhelmed again.  Pete had won a marathon in style – a lady on each arm. I climbed into my car to start that looooong drive home, and was startled by a tapping on my window. Kirstin’s husband, positively beaming….they had found a bottle of wine for me too :0) Officially the perfect family!

Stuff diamonds – we have babies and chickens

I drove away feeling good, the expert marathon runner who had smiled upon the comments of novices earlier and tutored others in downhill technique during the race. What a pro. Off I went completely forgetting to pick up my T shirt and medal.  Thank you Envirosports for posting them to me.

http://results.us.eventdirector.net/4843

And finally …after a bit of a scrub down

honoured to be with Speedy on her big day :0)

Congrats to Devon and Nathan. It’s amazing what you can pick up on these 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….)

 


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


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