I'll be the first to admit that I have a heavy racing schedule for the end of summer/early fall. I love to race, whether for a training run or for an A effort. There is so something to be said for pinning a race number on, going to incredible places, and testing your training.
I can't remember when I decided that Pacifica 50K was a good place to start, but I did and then convinced Beth that it was a great idea for her to join. Afterall, she needed a pick-me-up race after Boston and trying to motivate for the next goal...and what better place than the trails of California!
I have been training hard and strong lately, and so I was interested to see how it would play out. I had looked at times from past years and saw that I could do fairly well, if I ran a smart race. I had taken a peak at the course record, but more for reference of where I thought I might finish...5:15-5:30 was my goal. Beth and I hit on one VERY early challenge, I needed to run fast enough for us to make our 5pm Sunday flight. When we booked everything neither one of us had checked out the race start time: 8:30. It was going to be close if we wanted to be clean on the plane.
We headed to California on Saturday with the plan to check out the town of Half Moon Bay before settling into the hotel. We had a great time, and it was completely worth the trip to the old beach town to drive there. The drive was spectacular. One funny piece of this part of the trip to note was us passing the local vineyard, and Beth and I remembering our trip to Napa. I had never been wine tasting before in Napa, and it didn't take much for me to be drunk. We considered stopping in, but I drew the line.
By late afternoon, we were both fairly spent and went to the room to relax, eat, and get ready for the race. I kept telling Beth that I was a little nervous about the course. The 50K course read like this: Orange/Pink/Pink/Orange/Yellow/Pink. WTF. How was I supposed to remember this is the midst of a race. The was only one person who could help...Mike. I sent him an email asking for help, and he was a GENIUS! He said, quite simply: "Who's down with OPP, yeah you know me." And then he said something about OYP. Beth and I were laughing and laughing. We would, now, not easily forget the route!! And, I would have yet another Mike song stuck in my head.
Both Beth and I were up VERY early the next morning, still being on Central Time. It was kind of nice because we could be totally leisurely in our getting ready for the race. At first we might have felt bad for making too much noise getting ready, waking up our neighbors, but shortly before we departed we could clearly hear that our neighbors took advantage of the wake-up call. I will spare everyone any more details than that, unless you are on a long run with me and need some laughs.
We headed down 1 to Pacifica. WOW the views of the ocean as we drove in. And this is why I run in California! We got to the park, and were surrounded by incredible foliage and cool temps. Arm warmers...ready to go. The race consisted of a 9K, 21K, 30K, and 50K. Everyone but the 9K started together. We all lined up, and Wendell sent us on our way. I took off toward the front, chatting briefly with my friend, Lee, from Granite Bay. He told me that Saturday he had gone for a 5K swim in the American River for his birthday and needed to slow down on this first climb. I know he is historically faster than me, but I was really going conservative and pulled away pretty quickly. I had the plan to take the first round of Orange/Pink conservative to get a check of the course, and then pick it up on the back 1/2. I continued up the climb with Elizabeth. She was doing the 50K, and seemed to be a strong climber. After the first two miles, I had to let her go. I knew I would be at the edge if I stayed with her to the top. So here I was 2nd woman...long way to go. We climbed to the top of the peak about 3.5 miles up, turned around and went down. I LOVE downhill. My legs were starting to warm up and I was feeling spry. I hooked in with 2 30K guys and 2 or 3 21K guys. I got in front for the single track down. One of the guys, at one point, made some wise crack about me taking this first downhill too fast for planning to run the 50K. I was comfortable, so I ignored him. (downhill miles: 7:21, 7:14, 7:12) We came into the start/finish, I refilled my bottle, and headed out.
Pink loop had a smaller climb, a short stretch on a dirt road, a two mile climb, and then decent back to start/finish. This first loop of Pink seemed to take forever. I used the time to just collect myself and remember sections for repeating later. I got to the top of the second climb and then happily took it down (7:23, 7:16). My legs seemed to be warming up on this second decent and I was finally seeming to find some rhythm.
I refilled, again, and headed back on the Pink loop. I definitely felt better this loop. ..downhill and dirt road mile (7:42) It was here I caught back up to one of my initial 30K guys. I caught him right before the twoish miles down, and tried to drag him with me. He had some words that I was going to drop him and he was only running the 30K, sorry. Down I went (7:12, 7:08)
Back to Orange. I knew it was coming and this was going to be my test. My nutrition, my head, my legs...up I go. I actually felt great. I was almost 3/4 up before I even saw the 1st place male. I was getting a little giddy...where was Elizabeth? I kept saying to myself, if I can be 1-2 minutes behind her I can catch her on the downhill. Sure enough as I get to the top of the peak, she is 1 minute up...race on! I turn around and RUN. I thought for sure I would catch her on the downhill. I was flying for me (7:10, 7:04, 6:42...NO JOKE!!) I have so much momentum on the downhill that I am having to grab poles on the switchbacks to keep my balance. It was awesome. My legs were giving me all the gifts of all of my hard work, and I was grateful for every moment.
I came running hard into the start/finish for my final water refill only to find Elizabeth there. I was ready to push. My legs felt fantastic, and I knew I could run the whole last up and push the down. She takes off right infront of me, and I catch her. I tell her that she must have been flying down that last downhill because I couldn't believe I didn't catch her. She says she loves the downhills but she is tired. That was all I needed to hear. I pulled ahead, but knew she was back there...it was a good place to be. I like to run a little scared. I started up the final climb and about 1 mile up I get stung by a hornet...OUCH. It freaking hurt. I walk for just a second, but then reason to myself that if I have a bad reaction to the sting the best I could do was get to the finish quickly. So I start running. I get to the top of the final climb and know I have about 2 miles down to the finish. It is now for the first time that I look at the clock for real time. I knew the women's course record was 5:02 (Mike told me today that the men's was 4:58), and see that I have about 24 minutes to get down (I was looking at real time...not chrono, my GPS was being grumpy with me). So I take off at full speed down, once again. Somewhere in my head the math is telling me that I am going to be really, really close. This time I descend with everything I have. (7:04, 6:32) I am going down so fast at one point that I catch the switchback wrong and catch the side of the ledge of dirt and it gives way under my foot. I go sliding down. Before I can lose time, I am UP and moving again. My legs are loving every moment of this. I can't believe it. I hit the opening, and then the finish. 4:53:21. Elizabeth finishes 3 minutes after me, with a hornet sting in the exact same spot as mine...picture worthy :)
I finish muddy, joyful, and grateful. I am so grateful for all of the support I have going into the race. I feel lifted. I actually have moments of handing sections over to each of you and have you run with me. I am never alone on the trail because each of you is with me. It is an incredible feeling. I am so thankful to Paul for supporting me in my endeavors of running. It is not easy, but he let's me go. What I do is so different from a triathlon in that it is often more than one race a year, and I am so blessed that he understands what this means to me. There are very few words to describe what it is to have people in my life to lift me, to push me, to stand beside me. It is when it is time to go to the depth of what I have and what I am made of that I can feel you beside me...ALL of you :) God bless you all so richly for all of your love and support.