The first weekend of December was another no-climbing weekend (it rained, anyways). Usually, no-climbing weekends are “rest” weekends. This was not particularly the case, because we are not quite ridiculous enough yet to find running considerable distances on hilly, muddy trails relaxing. It was, however, incredibly awesome. Luke and Julie ran 50k (~31 miles), I ran a half marathon (13.1mi), and Josh was an excellent support crew.
Josh and Julie drove up from LA on Friday and we all piled in to the trusty RAV and drove up to the race hotel in Sausalito. We turned in early, because the next morning was going to be an early wake-up (although the 50 mile started 2 hours earlier, so I can’t complain too much).
After a little bit of last-minute freaking out and getting lost, I successfully dropped off Luke, Julie, and Josh at the race start and drove to the first aid station (~4 miles into the race). It was still dark when I got there, but 50 mile runners were still coming through (with headlamps – pretty awesome). Luke and Julie started running at 7am and reached the aid station ~40 minutes later. They were through quickly, so Josh (who had taken a race shuttle to the aid station from the start) and I hopped in the car and drove to the 2nd crew-able aid station (3 out of 7 were crew-able), which was another ~10 miles of running for Luke and Julie.
We waited in the rain while 50 mile runners came through (I think this was ~19 miles on their course). This was pretty awesome to watch all these ridiculous people come through. I mean, they still had really far to go at this point, which is also pretty ridiculous. Luke and Julie finally came through, within 10 minutes of each other. They seemed ok, but the rain and clay-ey soil were clearly not doing good things for the trails. Julie runs in FiveFingers, which have especially bad (as in no) traction in mud, so she was not so happy about that.
At this point, it was time to get back in the car and head back down to the first crew-able aid station, which Luke and Julie would pass through again at mile ~25.5. We knew we had tons of time to get there, so we made a detour by Starbucks because it was not particularly warm outside (especially when you are standing around getting rained on). This was a Good Idea, especially because Luke and Julie both took considerably longer than expected to reach the aid station.We kept getting excited about the shirt color of the very small dots running down a distant hill, only to find that said dots were not Luke or Julie. They got there eventually.
We swapped out Luke’s wet socks for a dry pair and Julie’s muddy FiveFingers for actual shoes, then they were on their way for the final 6 miles (separated by ~40 minutes at this point), which included a final climb and descent.
I shuttled myself to the finish with plenty of time to see Luke finish, and Josh did the same in time to see Julie finish. Luke’s time was 6:35:03 and Julie’s was 7:09:19. That is a lot of time to be running, if you ask me. I think they are pretty awesome. Showers, dinner, and relaxing were in order, with another early bedtime.
Sunday morning was my turn, so we all piled into the car at early-O-clock and drove to the race start. I’ve actually done a decent number of races this year, so I was accustomed to the pre-race nerves and followed my usual routine (which makes me feel moderately prepared). The only depressing thing was when the announcer called our race a “sprint”. Ouch.
Anyways, I started near the front and focused on not running too fast in the first mile. Just because other people are passing me doesn’t mean I need to expend all my energy to not get passed. This might seem obvious now, but in the heat of the moment, I do have to actively remind myself of simple truths like this. My course had ~2300ft of elevation gain spread approximately evenly between 3 “mountains”, the first of which I encountered in the 4 mile stretch to the first aid station. This wasn’t too bad, although I still walked a little, and I focused on not going too fast on the descent (I’ve learned that running fast downhills irritates my IT band).
I gave my long sleeve to Luke at the aid station and ran through, heading off for the 2nd (steepest) climb/descent. This one was definitely more challenging, both uphill and downhill, because of the grade. Mr. IT band was not feeling very happy after that downhill, even though I leaned back as much as I could.
Nevertheless, there was only one more mountain before the finish, and on the way I got to see Luke, Julie, and Josh again at the aid station (mile 8). My legs were much more tired on the final ascent, so my walking:running ratio was much higher. And it was raining. Oh well. I was happy to finally reach the long downhill, although not so happy when the last aid station said I was at 10.5 miles and my Garmin said 11. I tend to believe my Garmin…
Those last 3 miles were about gritting my teeth and just keeping moving. There was a very small amount of slight uphill before the finish, where my tired legs begged to walk, but I was just focusing on the shirt of the woman I’d been passing back and forth for the past 4 or 5 miles because I knew I should be able to keep up. When I finally saw the finish line, I was super psyched and somehow my legs had the energy for a nice finishing sprint! My time was 2:36:14 (for 13.85 miles, according to my Garmin), which I was really happy with. My quads were tired from my modified downhill running, but my IT band was substantially less painful (and recovered much faster) than Nike Women’s Half, which is even more awesome considering this course was much hillier. I also ran a 22k (~14mi) 3200ft elevation gain trail race in Malibu in ~3:05 back in May 2009 (which involved approximately zero training – I was just happy to finish), so this was a considerably better effort and result than that.
The course was challenging, but I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was really cool to be part of an event with such serious ultra-runners and to do a half marathon so completely different from the Nike half. Since my current super-stealth long-term goal is to do a Half Ironman (and by do, I mean be well-prepared for and hopefully crush…) in summer 2012, I’m hoping to get a fair number of half marathons on a variety of courses under my belt so 13.1 miles can feel like “no big deal” after swimming 1.2 miles and cycling 56 miles. I’m not there yet, but I still have a lot of time.
In the meantime, I’m really enjoying running and I think it’s been great cross-training, for both motivation and fitness. We did actually climb outside this past weekend (gasp) and I’ll be skiing next week, so no need to fear that this is turning into a running blog. If, on the other hand, you want to read more about the Endurance Challenge, you can check out Julie’s blog about the weekend, or the excellent coverage on iRunFar.