How I rocked the Quicksilver 100K

Now is not the time to be humble. I kicked that race’s ass.

Quicksilver 100K was the smartest ultramarathon I ever ran. Yes, everything went well for me on race day, and I thank the ultra gods for that. But the way I prepared physically and mentally for this race was completely different from my traditional M.O.

I went into Quicksilver having qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon at the Modesto Marathon two months prior with a time (and 5-second PR) of 3:29:31. A week later, I ran 75 miles during the 24-hour Barn Burner. Then, due to the hubby being out-of-state “launching freedom,” I took two (much needed) weeks off of running.

Other things changed for me during this time period, as well. I went from being a 99% vegetarian (I ate 5 or 6 meat-containing meals during the entire 11 months) to a 100% vegan as of April 1.

I also started a regimen of 30 burpees a day throughout the month of April, and continued with 20-a-day in May. I felt stronger, I dropped four pounds from my 5-foot-2-inch frame, and my arms gained some definition.

After my short hiatus from running, I began to train for Quicksilver, beginning with a 16-mile training run on the actual course — at least, the first several miles and last few miles of it. It was a huge wakeup call. The hills were brutal, and that wasn’t even the hardest climbing section of the course.

It gave me a sense of what portions of my home trail I needed to train on. I prescribed myself a hefty dose of Pincushion repeats, a Pa’san Loop and weekly Casino Hill repeats. But, like any average patient, I didn’t follow the orders to a T. Yes, I did the loop; yes, I did my Casino Hill repeats every Wednesday. But I never got around to climbing Pincushion, which, I think, most closely mimics Quicksilver’s dreaded Dog Meat climb.

My PT once again became my best friend as I went in for my pre-race tuneup. I had a trouble spot in the arch of my left foot and tightness of the right hamstring near the ischial tube (or something like that. I don’t really speak anatomy). Tightness in my left psoas also returned, a problem I developed while training for my first BQ in 2014.

Just a few weekly visits later and I felt as ready as I’d ever be. Things were still a little tight from all of the training I was doing, but I wasn’t injured injured.

As the other two Fresno runners prepared in the week before the race by looking at the aid station charts, elevation profiles and maps, I did my best to not research anything.  I didn’t want to see the climbs, I didn’t want to estimate neither my finish time nor the times I’d get to each aid station. I didn’t know how many aid stations there were or how far apart they were.

I had just one plan: run.

The realization that I should have drop bags waiting for me forced me to look at the aid station chart to see how many bags I should pack. I threw a buff, a pair of socks, a Gu and a single-serving pack of Tailwind in each one. I put an extra pair (of brand new! lol) trail shoes in one of the drop bags that I would see twice during the race. Maybe I’ll need ’em, hopefully I won’t. I labeled each bag with the aid station’s name and then hid the aid station chart, never to look at it again. (Until now, as I’m using it for reference to write this race report.)

Just run. 

The best change I made for this race was to book a quiet, cozy AirBNB all for myself. I love having my family at races to support me, but it was SO NICE relaxing on my own the day before the race.

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I picked up my race packet, shopped at Whole Foods for pre-race breakfast, bought some new batteries for my headlamp at CVS and dined at MOD Pizza, devouring an entire 11-inch pie stacked with every veggie and topped with Daiya vegan cheese.

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Back in my minimalist-style, tidy AirBNB with a private entrance, I had no kids to take care of, no one sharing the bed, no movements, no sounds… I slept a peaceful 6 1/2 hours, waking up at 2:50 a.m. to get dressed and head out to the Hacienda entrance of Almaden County Park for the 4:30 a.m. start.

My digestive system cooperated, allowing me to start the race with empty bowels and a tummy full of banana and a few bites of espresso-laced vegan dark chocolate.

I met up with Fresno friends Juan and Bobby, and we soon found Brandy, a former-Fresno friend who flew in from her now-home state of Florida. We were all in good spirits and prepared to have a great race.

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The rocky, uphill start was illuminated by an almost full moon and about 200 headlamps. Starting off in the back of the pack, the four of us power walked for the first half-mile. Both seemingly a little impatient, Juan and I ran a few stretches, passing a half-dozen people at a time. We continued with these intervals until the course leveled out a bit. I started to run and didn’t see anyone I knew until a couple of miles later when Bobby shouted some words of encouragement during an out-and-back.

I wouldn’t see either Juan or Bobby again until I was about a marathon into the race — just after leaving Kennedy Road aid station at 25.8 miles. I never saw Brandy. (I found her after the race near the medical tent. She was injured around Mile 27 and couldn’t bear weight on her right leg, forcing her to drop.)

The first part of the race was a blur. I didn’t know where I was, placement-wise. I had no idea which climbs were coming up because I had refused to look at the elevation profile. I remember running into the first aid station, Hicks, and spotting my drop bag right away. Shalene, Bobby’s wife, said “Hey, Farin! You’re here already! You’re the first one.” I smiled, because, honestly, it’s kind of cool to be ahead of the guys.

She asked if I needed help finding anything and I glanced into my drop bag, realizing it was so early on in the race (6.1 miles) that I didn’t need anything. I grabbed three red grapes from the aid/station table and took off.

I grabbed a section of boiled russet potato from the next aid station (Wood Road), dipped it in salt and sped off again.

Just before I reached Lexington Aid Station, I heard the distinct voice of my Mama Gazelle, Audrey Crow, yelling “Yeeeaaaah, Farin!!!” I hadn’t wanted a crew. Remember, my entire methodology for this race was Just Run. But it was pretty nice to have a whole cheering section of Fresno folks who drove 2 1/2 hours just to watch you run for a few minutes every dozen or so miles.

I found my drop bag and Mikey sprayed my legs with sunscreen and helped apply some KT tape to my collar bone where my hydration pack had started to chafe my skin. Meanwhile, I asked Audrey to grab some grapes for me from the table. As I put my pack back on and prepared to head out, Audrey shoved an entire bunch of grapes in my hand. It was literally the size of my head, with at least two dozen ginormous red grapes dangling from it. “Dang, girl!” I said, an astonished look on my face. She met mine with an equally astonished expression. “You said to get you some grapes!”

I ran out of the station laughing, somehow picturing myself as Baloo, the bear from Jungle Book, as he balances a fruit salad on his claw while singing “Bare Necessities.”

To be honest, I ate about 10 grapes before I felt full (I’m telling you, these were HUGE grapes!) and had to toss the rest into the forest. Is it littering if it’s compost?

That’s when the toughest climb of the course came — Dog Meat. Four miles up and then four miles down. I had mentally prepared myself for this climb, picturing it as going up Pincushion x4. I guess the elevation gain wasn’t really as bad as that, but there was no way I was running up this thing. I slowly and steadily power hiked, hands on my knees, going up, up, up until I reached the top and saw a photographer. She snapped a few shots and then smiled at me, seeming a little annoyed. “You’re going to have to look up at me so I can see your face.”

I laughed and looked up, smiling for the camera. Looking up also forced me to see how much farther I needed to go. Thankfully it was only another quarter-mile or so to the peak. Then it was all down from there.

I LOVE going downhill. My stubby legs are built for it. They may suck at climbing, but my thunder thighs absorb all the shock while tearing down steep declines. I enjoyed every moment of the descent into Kennedy aid station, where I found my cheering crowd once again.

As we left, I chatted with JJ, a woman who I somewhat leapfrogged with on Dog Meat.

“From what I can see, we’re fourth and fifth,” I told her. “Were there more women ahead of those first two? They were far ahead.”

“No,”  she said. “You’re right. We’re in fourth and fifth right now.”

“That’s insane,” I said. “I’m normally not up here in big races like this.”

It was a little after this, I believe, that I ran into Tim from Sunnyvale, whom I had met during my one training run on the course a few weeks prior. He recognized me and we chatted a bit about how our training had gone after that run. Neither of us, it turns out, had returned for the second and third training runs organized by Quicksilver Running Club. I asked if he had any pacers or crew; he didn’t. I said I didn’t have a pacer, and I didn’t intend to have a crew, but my faithful teammates had driven up from Fresno that morning and it was nice to see some familiar faces.

“They drove up from Fresno?!” he asked, impressed. “I couldn’t get anyone to drive 20 minutes from Sunnyvale to be out here.”

That’s just the Wascally/San Joaquin Running Tribe way… we support each other!

By this time I was tackling the “Dead Kennedy Rollers” — an up-and-down ride on steep, dusty, rocky trail. I had put on my Trekz Titanium headphones by then — they conduct sound through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open — and was listening to an audiobook.

“The Stranger In The Woods” is a true story about a man who disappeared into the wilderness one day and didn’t rejoin society until 27 years later, when he was caught stealing food from a camp and arrested. The author, a journalist, did a fantastic job researching hermits and an even better job of storytelling. It was a great listen for a long run.

I reached Hicks Road aid station for the second time and was slightly bummed that my cheering crowd was missing. Either they were lunching somewhere or they didn’t expect me to get there that fast. (I found out later that it was the latter.)

Grabbing a stick of Tailwind from my drop bag, I asked a woman at the aid station if she knew how many girls were ahead of me. I needed to know if it was true — if I was really that close to the podium.

“Three,” she said, in an English accent. “But that third girl looked weak.” She winked at me. “You look strong.”

A huge smile spread across my face. “Thanks for that!” I said. I took off, this time on the hunt for a girl wearing a skirt and toting trekking poles.

My book had ended, and during a flat stretch I started going through the contents of my pack that I could reach without pulling it off. I wasn’t really hungry, nor thirsty … I was kind of just, well, bored. I found a sample packet of sunscreen and thought, now’s a good time to put this on.

As I rubbed the cream over my face, ears and neck, I wasn’t looking at the trail. I also decided that I was wasting time by walking, since it was flat anyway, so I started to run while still applying sunscreen. Ten seconds later I was sprawled out on my right side on the ground. My right big toe had caught a rock, sending my supermanning it into the dust. The sunscreen on my hands mixed with dirt, and I had a light brown, powdery coating of trail all over my right leg, right arm and shoulder.

Idiot! I laughed at myself.

“Are you OK?” yelled a runner several yards behind me.

“Hahaha yeah, I’m just stupid.”

“You’re more badass now!” he replied.

I sat up in the criss-cross applesauce position, planted my feet on the ground and stood without using my hands for support, spinning to face forward on the trail. If my fall looked dumb, at least my rise could look kind of cool.

A couple of miles later I reached Hacienda, where the race started, without ever seeing the third-place girl.

But I did see Audrey, who jumped out of Shalene’s car to cheer for me as I ran through. They had just pulled into the parking lot. “You’re running too fast!” Audrey said. “We thought we were going to miss you again. We missed Bobby, too, at Hicks.”

“Look! I fell!” I told her, excitedly.

“You’re not the only one,” she said.

“I know, but this was my first time, like, REALLY falling! I’m kind of excited about it!” I said. The aid station volunteers laughed (and I think I saw some eye rolls). Yeah, I’m a dork…

I quickly grabbed a couple of sweet potatoes, dipped them in salt, shoved them in my mouth and took off, shouting back to Audrey that I was in fourth place I needed to find third. “Uh, hello?!” she yelled back, holding up her iPhone. “I know! I already told everyone on Facebook that you’re in fourth!”

Within a half mile I spotted her. Hi, third place. Do I keep her in my sights and then pass her quickly later? Yeah. I’ll just hang back here.

Then boom, she turned her head and looked over her shoulder directly at me.

So much for the sneak attack.

I caught up to her and we leapfrogged a bit on the rollers. She was a better climber, probably due to the trekking poles, but I passed her again on the downhills. After about a half-mile of this, I saw my opportunity. It was all downhill from there into the next aid station, Mockingbird, which would also be the finish line when we returned to it 19 miles later.

I let loose on those downhills, sometimes skidding recklessly. Instead of slowing down, I just giggled and made little noises like, “Ah!” “Whoa!” and “Oy!” I was having the time of my life — and I was in third!

At Mockingbird I realized I was hungry, and as the volunteers added water to my hydration pack, I grabbed a big scoop of sweet potatoes into a cup. I set the cup down to put my pack back on, but then I turned and saw that the five people I had passed during that 2-mile downhill stretch were now making their way into the aid station. I took off, leaving my meager lunch there.

I realized it as I ran up the hill, just as I looked into the eyes of the now-fourth-place woman. She looked tired. Now was my chance to put some distance between us; I didn’t want to risk going back down to the aid station to grab my cup of potatoes.

The race was pretty uneventful after that. I continued to fuel with Tailwind and Gu, which I brought, and watermelon, potatoes, sweet potatoes, grapes and oranges, which I picked up at the aid stations. The first three I dipped in salt.

I popped five salt capsules throughout the race and stayed hydrated with plenty of water and Tailwind. This combination kept the cramps away, and I admit I was a little proud that I was eating healthy doses of fruits and veggies while racing. Vegan diet for the win!

I fell into step behind Paul, a runner from Sacramento. We talked about our previous ultra adventures and races we aspired to do. For a second I thought consciously about how relaxed I was. I was genuinely having fun and felt no pressure or nerves. Was this a 100K or a 10-mile training run?

Audrey ran about a mile and a half with me out of McAbee aid station and we chatted about how the race was going for me, Bobby and Juan. “I’m in LOVE with this course,” I told her.

I really was! Although I hadn’t run it before, it felt so familiar. When I was alone out there, I talked to the course sometimes. I literally said, “Oh, hi, Wellbarn!” during several stretches that reminded me of my usual stomping grounds. At another point I said, “Oh hey, SJRT!” That stretch was exactly like the second and third miles of the San Joaquin River Trail Half Marathon.

I looked forward to telling everyone back in Fresno how perfectly compatible SJRT and Quicksilver are. Even the volunteers at the aid stations made it feel like home. You had the sense that everyone knew each other and I didn’t have a single bad experience or come across a single nasty attitude the entire day. This was all smiles and rainbows and butterflies! Endorphins, much?

At Enriquita aid station, I found Stuart, the leader of the Quicksilver training runs who had graciously stayed back with me when I found myself alone behind the fast training group but ahead of the slow training group. “Hey, Farin! I haven’t seen your buddy, Juan,” he told me.

“He’s having some issues today,” I told him. “He’s behind me.”

I left my pack at this aid station to be refilled as I made a .6-mile descent, marked my bib with a Sharpie and returned on the .6-mile ascent. I felt so FREE without that extra weight. I wish I could’ve run the rest of the race that way, but alas, I had five miles (and probably an entire hour) left to go.

“I LOVE this race,” I told Stuart before taking off toward the finish. “It feels like home!”

It just wouldn’t be me running an ultra if I didn’t call my coach at some point. When I found a stretch of hike-inducing climbs and three bars worth of reception, I called Brad.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’m freakin’ killin’ it,” I told him, still focused on power hiking as fast as I could.

I could hear his smile before he even spoke.

“No way!”

“I’m going to get the podium.”

“Yeah?” He sounded like he hadn’t heard or comprehended what I’d said.

“I’m in third!!”

“What?! No way!” Now he understood. 

“And I’m not giving up that podium! There’s no way I’m going to let a woman pass me at this point. I have five miles left.”

He laughed, told me to keep kicking ass, and we hung up.

Alright, let’s finish this.

At the final aid station I popped another sweet potato and a slice of watermelon into my mouth.

Three miles left! 

I checked my watch. 12 hours and 3 minutes? No. Freaking. Way.

Not only was I going to PR in the 100K distance, I was going to smash my first-ever 100K goal: breaking 13 hours. I’m pretty sure I smiled all the way to the finish line.

I thought I might make it in by the 12:30 mark, but the final mile wasn’t all downhill like I had anticipated. I crossed the line in 12:31:45, crushing my PR by 41 minutes.

Audrey, just pulling into the parking lot like she had at Hacienda, was able to see me finish from the car. The race director congratulated me and handed me a belt bucket. Sweet!

I pigged out on a vegan burger, fruit salad and hard cider served at the super impressive post-race barbecue. Their spread was amazing. The club must’ve had a dessert potluck, because there was literally every type of cookie, cheesecake, cake, cupcake and any other type of sweet you could think of. Plus snow cones! And a dozen varieties of beer! And they didn’t even mark your bib! ALL YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK!! WHAT!?!?

But I digress…

I splurged on the post-race massage, posed for a photo with the first- and second-place women, who finished about an hour and a half hour ahead of me, respectively. My sweet mining pan award will be mailed to me, and I also snagged an age group medal.

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Almost two hours later, Bobby finished, securing his Western States qualifier for the year. More than two hours after that, Juan finished, crossing the line in the dark with his supporters running in behind him.

We came, we saw, we finished.

 

Results:  HERE

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Race Report: Montara Mountain 50K

Disclaimer: This is REALLY LONG. I didn’t intend for it to be, but once I started typing I couldn’t stop. This is a real, honest look into my head. LOL! If you want to know what I’m thinking when I’m running an ultra, this is it! 

This all started when I had a really good 20-mile run two weekends ago. I felt strong and injury-free, and those 20 miles didn’t even make me as sore as I’d expected. I knew I could go — and needed to go — farther the following weekend in preparation for my 24-hour race coming up on Easter weekend, along with Miwok 100K on Mothers Day weekend.

But running 25+ miles on trail by myself and self-supported didn’t sound too appealing. So I looked at the trail marathon that I had almost signed up for last-minute when I found out that I had childcare (it ended up being the wrong weekend so I just ran the 20 miles locally instead).

Montara Mountain trail marathon boasted 5,500′ of elevation gain in Pacifica, near San Francisco. It’s put on by Coastal Trail Runs, which happens to be the organizer of my first-ever half marathon, the ZombieRunner San Francisco half. (Yeah, back then I didn’t know what an elevation profile was, and I hadn’t run a trail before. Rude awakening.)

I had a few friends running the MM marathon that I could carpool with so I felt it was the perfect opportunity. Then I realized that the 50K was only $5 more. Five bucks for an extra five miles and about 1,000′ of gain? Count me in!

I registered with every intention to use it as a training run. I was looking forward to a lot of climbing, breathtaking scenery (selfies!!) and not having to self-support. Plus I planned a side-trip to IKEA with the family!! Perfect weekend 🙂

To get to Pacifica on time for the 7 a.m. packet pickup, we had to leave at 3:45 a.m. Which means I woke up at 3:10 a.m. to get ready and drive to the carpool.

Thankfully the ride was dark and peaceful and I got to sleep for a couple of hours. When we arrived I was excited to see how pretty it was. Then I stepped out of the car.

“It’s COOOLLLLD!!” I wailed.

I shouldn’t have complained. It was actually perfect weather for running. I never overheated and I never felt cold once I actually got moving.

After I picked up my packet and left my drop bag at the one aid station (it’s a loop course) I went to the restroom and met a woman from New York who was running the trail marathon that day. It was her 250th marathon! How badass is this 60-year-old woman?! All I could think was I’m among my people!

The girls and I had trouble finding the start of the race. That was soon explained: the start line was being carried around in the arms of the race director. At 7:50 we followed him about 200 meters from the finish line where he laid down the cones and began explaining the course markings.

Half marathon does an orange loop and a pink loop. Grab a rubber band at the top of Montara Mountain so that he knows you made it to the turnaround point.

Full marathon does orange-pink-orange-pink. Montara Mountain is on the orange loop, so full marathoners will grab two rubber bands total, one on each trip up.

20-mile race is orange-pink-orange. Those runners should also grab two bands.

50K is orange-pink-orange-pink-then pink again but with a yellow shortcut. Two rubber bands.

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Then with a “Go!” from the bullhorn, we were off. All of the half marathoners, 20-milers, full marathoners and 50K-ers scrambled down the dirt path onto the trail. Most of the single-track trail was actually wide enough for two people to run side-by-side, except for in certain stretches. There were also areas where it widened large enough for a large truck to fit.

I happened to be in the front of the pack at the start, so that’s where I remained for the first mile of the race, since we were mostly running single-file.

Here is where I should say that this was my first 50K. I had no idea how to run this race. For the one 50-miler I ran, and the two 100Ks, I knew to pace myself. I walked most of the uphills and saved my legs for the long distance. But a 50K… how do you run that? I run a full road marathon as fast as I possibly can. Should I do that with a trail marathon? A 50K is only five miles more, but on a trail that could mean a full hour longer. Do I hold back or just let loose and see what happens?

I flip-flopped the idea in my head but couldn’t decide. The race started off with an unrelenting climb to the top of Montara Mountain. When I got a mile and a half in I looked up to see runners zig-zagging above me along endless switchbacks. Holy shit. This is not going to be easy. I took my phone out of my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta and snapped a photo. It was blurry so I stopped and took another. They both sucked, so I put my phone away and kept moving.

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One of the crappy photos

Then I got passed by one of the girls I rode up with; she was running the marathon.

I can pace with her, I thought.

But then we neared the turnaround point and I got competitive.

As I approached the top of the mountain I could see people already running back down. Plenty of guys flew past me on their way down the hill, but not many ladies.

I reached the top, grabbed the first rubber band my fingers touched, and then tossed it back. It was small and green — wouldn’t fit around my wrist and one of my least-favorite colors. I nudged a few bands around until I uncovered the perfect one: light purple, just big enough for my wrist. With a smile I turned and started my descent.

One by one I passed runners who had been ahead of me. Good job! I said to each one as I flew past. I may suck at climbing, but give me a downhill and I’m all over it.

It was something like a three-and-a-half mile climb up to the top of the mountain and I had been hitting somewhere around 13 minutes a mile. As my watch beeped for every downhill mile I glanced at the screen to see 7:xx. Making up time! I thought.

This is where things went somewhat sour. My new UD Ultra Vesta started bouncing around on me. It was partially because I hadn’t adjusted it to my outfit that day so it was slightly loose to begin with. But it was also because the downhill was so drastic that I’m pretty sure any pack would’ve been jumping around on the wearer. I could feel it rubbing against my collarbone.

This is why I brought a handheld. I thought. Just in case. 

I reached the starting line and saw three men pointing this way and that, asking which way to go. I paused for a second, looking at the markings and tape on the ground. Obviously we need to get to the aid station because we’re just over 7 miles, and the aid station is near the finish line, and the finish line is that way, guys, so come on, stop making me doubt myself! I thought.

“We have to go this way! To the aid station!” I yelled. One (smart) guy followed me. The other two dilly-dallied and kept asking hikers and spectators for direction. Sucks for them!

I came into the aid station and immediately unbuckled my pack. Bye, vest. I grabbed my packet of Green Tea Buzz Tailwind out of the Ultra Vesta pocket and shoved the rest of the pack into my bright yellow High Desert Drop Bag. I retrieved my handheld, already full of water, and ran off to begin the pink loop.

High Desert Drop Bags are awesome!! Mine looks like this, except it’s yellow 🙂

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As I ran I opened the Tailwind stick. I put way too much muscle into it, apparently, because it ripped halfway down the side, releasing the fine white powder into the wind. I got the lid off my bottle and tried to pour the remaining Tailwind into it. Some of it made it into the bottle, the rest made it all over my hand. I closed the bottle and squeezed the wrapper into the handheld’s zipper pouch. Then I stuck my hand in my mouth to lick off the Tailwind powder. (That shit’s expensive, man! I can’t let it go to waste!)

I ended up with white powder all over my lips. I probably looked like Dave Chappelle in the crackhead episode.

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Yup, That’s me ^^

At this point my hand was sticky, my lips were sticky and I looked down to find my tank top, shorts and legs covered with white powder.

Get this crackhead girl off the trail! I thought, and started laughing to myself.

Ah, well. Gotta keep going.

I made it up the first hill of the pink loop, then enjoyed the switchbacks all the way down. I ran across a gravel road to the second hill of the pink loop. Switchback after switchback, up and up and up and up some more. Whenever I passed someone, I again said “good job!”

Then I started thinking about the word “job.”

Is this a job? I wish running were my job. It’s not a job, it’s what I do for fun. Fun. “For every job that must me done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and *snap* the job’s a game! Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go do-own, medicine go down…”

And for the rest of eternity, I shall call Pink Loop Hill #2 “Mary Poppins Hill.”

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As I finished the first half marathon of the race I looked at my watch. 2:12. Would I have won the half marathon? I glanced around, looking for women in the finish area. Didn’t see any.

2:12 is a good pace. That’s less than 10 minutes per mile, right? If I ran the 50K in 10 minutes per mile, that would be 310 minutes. That’s 5 hours and 10 minutes. What was the course record for women? 5:20? Can I do that? 

Let’s go legs, we’re breaking the course record today! 

Hit the aid station again and filled up my handheld with water. There was still enough powder floating in and around the bottle that I figured I’d be fine.

As I left the aid station I thought, For the last 6 miles I’ve been telling myself I’d rinse my sticky hand off when I got to the aid station. And did I do it?

Nope.

Dumbass.

Headed for Orange Loop #2, back up to the top of Montara Mountain. With the half marathoners nowhere in sight, I knew that counting the women ahead of me would give me a better idea of where I was, placement-wise, in the race. Marathoners and 50Kers were still in the running.

As I neared the top of the hill —damn, this is way harder the second time around — I counted the people coming back toward me.

Thirteen. All men.

No women! I’m winning! And I’m breaking the course record today, guys. I’m doing it. Course record holder: Gazelle. Damn straight! Doing this. I’m DOING THIS!

Then a woman came up behind me and passed me going uphill. Shit.

My first question would have been “Which event are you running?” But thankfully, so that I wouldn’t look like so much of a paranoid beezy, she broke the silence.

“Have you run here before?”

“Nope, I’m from Fresno.”

“Sacramento.”

Now’s my opportunity. “Which event are you running?”

“The 20-miler.”

“Oh, cool.” Whew! “I’m doing the 50K.”

Small talk as we leapfrogged up the hill. She reached the top first. I poked around for another great rubber band: a dark purple this time, and again, perfect size for my wrist.

Then I chased her down the mountain. She was just as fearless on the downhills as I was, so I never caught up to her. She was the first female to come in for the 20-miler. As she turned into the finish line, I ran straight to the aid station to begin my second Pink Loop. But first: grab another stick of Tailwind and a Gazelle Gear Finite (aka snot rag).

Headed up the (unnamed) Pink Loop Hill #1. I guess I should name it Crackhead Hill. Or maybe Chappelle Hill, since Pink Loop Hill #2 is named after a person, too.

OK, so I headed up Chappelle Hill and tore open my second Tailwind stick. Naked flavor this time. This time around, things went way better. All of the Tailwind made it into the bottle and I didn’t look like a crackhead.

I sucked some down and thought Dang, this Naked flavor really IS good! Mark really knows his shit! (Running buddy had recommended it.)

Again, I sucked on the climbs but made up for it on the downhills. Couldn’t help but smile as men stepped to the side to let me fly by them. Yeah, that’s right, you just got chicked. Haha! … Shit, don’t catch back up to me. 

I saw a huge doe licking the dew off of the tall grass in the middle of the meadow that separated Chappelle Hill from Mary Poppins Hill. I really wish I’d had my camera, but my cell phone was in the Ultra Vesta that had done me so wrong. (By this time I could feel the abrasions burning on my collarbone.)

Mary Poppins Hill was uneventful, other than I really enjoyed the scenery. The dirt was packed down from the previous day’s rain, with just a few areas of slick mud. At the end of the Pink Loop was a mile and a half of gentle downhill covered in bark. Huge slabs of pliable bark covered the ground, with several hard, dead branches buried beneath them. It was like a game — step on the wrong piece of bark and a branch would stand up and hit you in the shin. Step on the good bark. Good bark … good bark … good bark … goo- ah! ouch! Bad bark! 

I checked my watch as I finished Pink Loop #2. 4:42.

So much for that! I’m not breaking the course record. Who was I kidding? I came up here for a training run and mid-race I just decide I’m going to break the course record. Stupid. That’s not happening, obviously. But I can still win. Winning would be good.

I passed by the finish line and headed straight on toward the aid station.

If I were running the marathon, I’d be done. And my time would be 4:42. Would THAT be a course record? Doubt it. But I’d be the first female. Can I change events, please? I’m tired.  No? OK… 5 more miles.

I  filled up my water bottle with straight water this time. No more Tailwind. No need. Just 5 miles to go. I ate a small slice of potato. I didn’t notice there was also a bowl of salt to dip it in until it was already in my mouth. Dammit. I can’t double dip… Wait, is anyone watching? … Damn, he’s watching. OK, no salt. 

“See? Potatoes! They work!” I heard the guy say to the guy manning the aid station. He must’ve brought the potatoes.

Hey, there are my kiddos! Hi kids!

I waved and my daughter and son came running toward me from the finish area. They brought me flowers they had picked from the trail. Aww my babies!!

“Save them for me, I’m not done yet. I have five more miles.”

Off I go! Damn, that chili smells good. Is that barbecue? What are they barbecuing? 

I took the Yellow Shortcut down the gravel road toward Mary Poppins Hill. No more Chapelle Hill. Dang, that was the easier one, too… 

Hey look! Deer! Three of them! 

No Audrey, I’m not hallucinating this time. There are really three deer right there. They’re just lying in the meadow, chillin. 

All I did on Mary Poppins Hill was mental math, trying to calculate my finish time, trying to calculate how many more miles I had of uphill, then how many miles of downhill, recalculating finish time. Calculating how much faster I’d have to run to break the course record. Impossibly fast. That’s not going to happen. 

Then counting down the miles.

Three miles left. That’s just a 5K. That means I’ve run 45K today. 5K to go.

OK, 2 miles to go. Only 2 miles. That’s like 16 minutes. 16 minutes left and then I’m done with 50K.

One mile left. Wait. I smell barbecue. Maybe the course is off. I’m not a mile away. I’m gonna end at 30.5 miles. No … 30.3? There’s the finish line! 30.2?! I ran the tangents. It’s the tangents.

Sprint in! Stop my watch! I’m done! 

Where can I sit down? Oh, ouch! My legs. My legs are going to fall off. Guys, really, I need to sit down because my legs are … I sit down.

Ow! It still hurts. My legs! What the hell have I done to my legs? 

My legs have NEVER felt that tight after a race. Must’ve been the 6,817 feet of climbing.

I collected my gold medal, my coaster, my finisher medal and finally a Styrofoam cup of chili. Mmmmmm….

That was an awesome race.


 

It was really fun to push myself to compete with each set of participants. I ran the first half marathon as if I were racing the half marathon. Then I ran the second half marathon as if I were racing the full marathon. Playing these mind games forced me to push myself so hard. I threw “pacing” and “take it easy” out the proverbial window. I just went all out, every mile, giving it my all. My all was 5 hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds. Just 15 minutes off of the women’s course record. I hold the third-fastest female time for the course. Had I run just one minute faster, I’d be the second-fastest female. Damn. Maybe next year!

I highly recommend the race to anyone who loves a good trail. There are distances for every ability (there was even a 10K, but they started after the half, 20, full and 50K). The course is almost impossible to get lost on. It’s brutal but beautiful. The amenities are great. Awesome event put on in an awesome location.

Montara Mountain 50K, I’m coming back for you … and your course record, too!

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