Miwok 100K Race Report
"Did you say MEAT-WALK??". Ha Ha, my friend Shea, now THAT would be an awesome name for a 100K foot race.
Miwok 100K... It's always so surreal, coming home after these big adventures. Was I really just running through endless meadows of wild flowers and massive stands of Redwoods in California? Did I really push as hard as I could at the end? Was the pain really that bad?
The short story? It was hard. It was awesome. It was brutally awesome;) It was a wonderful mental game and another amazing human experience. The body and mind never cease to amaze me. I trained simply 'to complete' the distance. No speed or pace goals, simply to feel good and finish healthy. My plan was to race on perceived exertion and run my rule of thirds- first third easier than I wanted to go, middle third just right for the distance, final third with a hard effort to drain the tank at the end. I had no idea what time this would result in and was curious to find out. My 'secret' goal was 13-14 hours and I had these splits highlighted on my mini course profile to see how my pace stacked up throughout the day.
At the end of the day I finished in 12 hours and 38 minutes with hands in the air, eyes closed and a big old smile on my face. 100k and 12,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss) up and down hills and stairs and over miles of lovely single track. It was as beautiful as I had hoped it would be... Grassy meadows filled with wild flowers high above the sea? Check. Running through a Eucalyptus forest? Check. Yup. It was pretty unreal terrain. If you have 100k on your bucket list, then this is the one to fulfill it. (Just like Sun Mountain is my recommendation for your first 50k-its all about the scenery for me!). Scroll to the very bottom for stats, playlists, menu's of the day;).
That's the short version. If you want the play by play then grab a drink, put your feet up and come along for the ride...I write my post-race blogs as a way to process my experiences, relive the details and remember the moments. Just a heads up...I'm not going to try and make this one brief, lol. 5500 words...
"I've never gotten up at 2:45am for ANYthing.", says Kim. Alarm goes off, clothes go on, braids go in. Hot tea, dark chocolate and instant oats and off we go...
It was a wicked, twisty, switch backed, dark mountain road, but we survived the drive. We arrived at race central, slightly nauseous but ready to roll, in the quaint seaside community of Stinson Beach, around 4:15am. *Note: Stay in Stinson Beach to avoid the crazy drive if you can.
The party had started! Racers were doing their last minute preparations and zipping back and forth here there and everywhere. It was all headlamps and high socks and short shorts, drop bags and run packs, Gu's and salt tabs, race bibs and pins, pre-race selfies and nervous fidgeting and adjusting and adjusting...then suddenly and slowly we were off! Kim and I celebrated reaching the start line of the race with a quick hug and a moment of pure joy. Planes, trains and rental cars and we had finally made it...hurray! Let's go!
Leg 1: 4.5k and 400m climb up to Cardiac Hill.
Stop. We were slowed to a snails pace walk after about 20 seconds. Ha! We knew this bottleneck was coming but it was still a bit hard to handle after waiting to run the race for so long! The amount of anxious energy emitted by 400 racers crammed into a single track trail was remarkable. We all wanted to run. But we all knew that we shouldn't and in fact we couldn't. We knew we had to be patient and pleasant and wise and hold on for the long haul.
The race began by climbing straight up to Cardiac hill on a moderate incline that alternated between stairs and dirt. We trekked slowly and silently, running easily when breaks in the pack allowed. After climbing for about 10 minutes, I looked back to see a sparkling ribbon of tiny white lights winding below us far into the distance. Magic. We marched through the darkness in silent, rhythmic unison. I love starting races before dawn...it is calming and centering and peaceful. It is a rare experience to walk in determined silence with 400 other humans. It is the beautiful calm before the storm. Kim and I slowly drifted a part and fell into our own races. I silently wished her good luck and happy trails on her journey.
"No heavy breathing, no burning legs". This would be one of the big quotes of the day. I had managed to tattoo this mantra into both of our cerebellums and we were obsessively repeating it by race morning. When your goal is 'to finish strong and healthy', it is critical to stay 100% within your aerobic zone in the first 2/3s of the race. How strong you feel in the final 1/3 depends greatly on how you pace yourself in the early stages of the race.
*Note: This really works.
We continued up and up, through a damp dark forest, alongside a steep flowing creek and finally out onto the open ridge to Cardiac Aid. I checked my watch and tried not to worry about the slow time to Aid 1- 48 minutes was well over my target. I knew it would be a very long day and was grateful for the gridlock pace that held me back off the line. Warm up complete, energy levelling out and ready to roll.
Leg 2: 8.3k and 400m descent from Cardiac to Muir Beach Aid.
We were completely socked in at the top with classic Bay area fog and the sunrise was a muted version of the dream. The off shore breeze hit us at the top of the hill and the fresh, open air lifted me up. I was feeling good and ready to run down the other side of Cardiac! Slooooowly.
Thanks to my friend Michelle, I had received some valuable course advice which included a warning NOT to let it go on the first descent off Cardiac. Both Kim and I are lovers of the downs and would have been tempted to hammer this first descent after being tortured with such a slow start. It was a long, relentless downhill double track/logging road and hammering it go would have certainly resulted in premature quad destruction. Thank you Michelle for forcing us to hold back!
Braking on descents can also wreck your quads so I chose to run down 'in neutral'. No gas and no brakes, just a lovely easy and relaxing float down the hill. It was rooty and hard packed and washed out in places. It was easy terrain for an Islander, but technical for many other runners. I ran down at a pace much slower than I wanted to go, but easily passing everyone I met along the way. It felt awesome. Two dudes opened it up and hammered down ahead of me. The sound of their feet just about made me cringe for what I guessed they would be feeling at about km 70...
At the bottom of the hill, the light began to grow and our headlamps were tucked away. The trail changed to easy undulating single track and travelled though some wet lands and marshy areas. In California? I was very surprised at all of the creeks and delicate wetland plants! I had no idea how lush it could be. It was fast and flat and I worked on staying light and holding myself back...always slower than I really wanted to run. "Let them go..."
I popped out of the trail and onto the road and was surprised to hear from a volunteer that I was 'the 15th woman through'. Really? Cool. There was a short run into Muir Aid where we got a chance to say hello to the racers just ahead of us. Naturally, I started counting them... 1...2...3... I could see at least 10 within a few minutes of me. Just observing of course! Not racing!
Leg 3: 9.3k with one 300m climb and descent from Muir Beach Aid to Tennessee Valley
I ran into and directly back out of this aid station without stopping for a moment. I had a full litre of water to get me to Tennessee Valley and didn't want to stop yet. On the out and back section I saw Kim coming into aid! Just a few minutes behind me, she was looking awesome. Leaving Muir Beach we had a good little climb up to a windy ridge and I switched to a trek at the very top. We ran back down the other side and right into Tennessee where our drop bags were waiting.
Leg 4: 7.7k and a 200m climb and descent from Tennessee Valley to Bridge View
We were at the 30k mark and almost 1/3 of the way! I chose to fill only one of my .5 litre soft flasks and use the chest pocket on my Salomon Skin Vest instead of refilling my bladder. I will admit the chest flasks won me over during this race! Yes, I am a late adopter lol;). Who wants to stop to take of their pack and fiddle around with it when you can just hand over your water bottles to the volunteers and you can take care of snacking instead? Worked like a charm. Drop Bags were set up here but I didn't need much- I just replaced the Cliff Blocks and Hornby Bar that I had munched on, filled my bottle and took off up the hill.
After a short climb we enjoyed a long single track ridge line and then a mix of logging road and narrow technical single track all the way out to the edge of the bluffs above San Fransisco Bay. Awesome views! The fog had lifted enough to give us a full view of San Fran, the Golden Gate and the wild Pacific Ocean. The low cloud cover hung around which was a blessing in the end. Cool wind, clouds and mild temperatures kept our hydration manageable and sun burns at bay!
Heading down the final stretch of logging road before 'Bridge View' Aid I had to stop for a little Self Care. I had a burning blister forming at the base of my big toe and I didn't want to deal with an angry mess later. So, I sat down, got out my little bag of tricks and taped it up with Duct tape, fixed the lump in my sock and carried on. One, two, three...the girls went by. Part torture and part whatever, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Leg 5: 11.8k and another 250m climb and descent from Bridge View Aid back to Tennessee Valley Aid
Out of Bridge view, we ran down to Bunker road via a mix of double track and logging road...then it was up a short .5km section of road before climbing back up to the ridge and completing a loop. Up Up Up Up Up...it was a long dry logging road climb. I ran easily, with short light steps, repeating my mantra and only switched to a trek when I could not longer keep 100% fatigue out of my legs. I was being uber cautious. I was not risking anything. I knew what worked for me in the 125K Canadian Death Race and I wanted more of that. This was not an inspiring stretch for me...logging road...logging road...luckily it wasn't hot because that would be a brutal section- exposed, dry, dusty and windy. Finally we reached the top and were rewarded with a fun single track trail that dropped us all the way back down to Tennessee Valley Aid again. Those two boys hammered downhill and past me once again like they were in a 10K race again...silly rabbits. I practiced my aid station plan in my head, grabbed my drop bag and put it into motion once I got there.
Leg 6: 6.7k with 150mish up and down from Tennessee Valley Aid to Muir Beach
40k into the race and things were going smooth so far! It would be another 40k until I saw my next drop bag, so I took a moment to get what I needed for the long haul. It had warmed up significantly so I swapped my tank top and arm sleeves for a t-shirt and my visor, slapped on some sunscreen, pulled out my headphones and tunes for the upcoming climbs, grabbed a bar and some gels then took off down the road. There was great energy at the aid station and plenty of on lookers clapping and cheering and pushing us on. So good! I ran out of Aid, passing the two downhill dudes who were taking a lunch break by the sounds of things;). "Come on boys!" I taunted the speedsters.
It was a short but steep climb up to the rocky bluffs above Muir Beach. It looked like a solid trek to me, so I pulled out my tunes and danced my way up the hill, hands on knees. There was a cross-country biker attempting the climb as well and he was just about to tip over because he was going so slow- so I gave him a little push for a few metres and we had a good laugh. I ran out of juice pretty quick though, and got back to the task at hand. Up Up Up. At the top, we were finally given that classic Pacific coast view. Waves crashed hard into the cliff's below us and the coastline stretched out for endless miles to the north. Beautiful. The trail pitched downward with a steep set of rocky stairs and I jumped with glee into the descent.
OUCH! ITB! Nooooo! With the first drop down, my IT band spoke up with a painful stab at the outside of my knee. No no no. Not now! It had been less than 5 hours on trail and I had a long day ahead of me. IT pain is one of those challenging sensations to ignore. During one of my longer training runs this spring, I experienced first hand just how challenging it can be to 'run it out' with a knife stabbing into the side of your knee. But, I had a plan for this worse case scenario and I stopped once again on the side of the trail for some more 'Self Care' (good thing I wrote that bog hehe) to deal with things before they dealt with me. I turned off my tunes- saving them for the next big climb and leaving my mind free to focus on the situation. One, two, three, four...a line of girls and the two downhill boys that I had passed earlier all cruised on by. A tylenol and a piece of Rock Tape and I gingerly made my way down the remainder of the stairs crossing my fingers...
Up the other side and feeling good on the climb I was taken by the beauty of the California coast line. I had to stop and snap a pic (only 1 of 4 I actually took all day boo!). I put my camera away, turned back up the trail and realized I was standing right in the race photographers portrait zone. Ooops! Looks like we had the same idea:). I tried to run tall and look fast and zipped on by their big lenses... From the top of the second climb we could see Muir Beach below and it was a quick run down to Aid.
Leg 7: 8.3km and 500m climb from Muir Beach to top of Cardiac.
We did our in and out section to Muir Beach Aid again but this time I grabbed some water and perused the snack table...my body wanted a few PB and J sandwiches (you just never know!) so I grabbed some squares for the road...they really hit the spot!
It was another flat run with a high turn over through the flat marsh wet lands below Cardiac. Over bridges and through wild flowers, the path was overgrown with greens in many spots. I swear everything I touched was poison oak. Having no idea what it actually looked like, I was running paranoid and dodging bushes left right and centre!
And then I reached THE climb.
"This is the start of the climb to Cardiac?" I asked the marshall. "Yes! It's 3.something miles to the top". 5kms. I had created a monster of this Cardiac climb in my head. Pouring over the race profile for months and creating training runs to mimic this section, I had built it up in my mind and made an entire race out of it. It's going to be a beast. It will take an hour and a half. Steady, relentless trekking. Just put your head down and suck it up. The race doesn't start until you get to the top of Cardiac. I was ready for a diabolical climb.
Oooh baby "Time to get out the tunes!". In moments I was dance trekking my way to the top and having the time of my life. I LOVE my tunes and saving them for the treks makes them that much sweeter. Hands on knees, hands on hips, arms swinging, trying not to sing out loud, hands in the air to the beat, snapping my fingers and just having a wonderful time power walking in the woods. I was passing boys who didn't have tunes and weren't smiling so I tried to cheer them on...and suddenly we came out of the woods and arrived at Cardiac Aid!
"What? That's it? This is the top?" 35 minutes. 67k into this thing and I was feeling like a rock star. Sweeeeet! Expect the worse and it never seems so bad in the end. I filled up ONE (note I said ONE) of my .5 litre flasks, grabbed another PB and J and cruised on up to the very top of the summit above.
Leg 8: 11.2kms of pure bliss rolling single track through Sound of Music scenery...cue the birds and California poppy's.
I was flying high and ripping along on the single track- we had a few twists and turns in the woods before breaking out onto the mind blowing Bolina's Ridge. Sun on my face...strong legs under me...and an endless ribbon of buff California single track stretched out through the grassy meadows as far as my eye could see. Green grasses and golden California poppy's swayed in the breeze. The side cut trail was the perfect undulating grade- likely built for horses- neither up nor down, but simply rolling along for 10 magical kms.
I was filled up and overflowing with goodness. This was definitely the highlight of the course for me. My legs felt strong. My tunes were rockin. The scenery was huge. Big sky, warm sun, endless fields ahead, beautiful sparkling sea below. I was in heaven. Not saying I had to run 70k to get there, but this spot was magic. You should go. Just drive up instead;)
It was at that moment that I realized I felt nothing. No pain in my feet. No pain in my ITB. No pain in my legs. Nothing. Even though I had been running for 60odd kms, and actually starting to push my pace, I felt nothing. I was catching and passing racers who looked tired. At least, more tired than I was feeling. My patience at the start of the day was beginning to pay off. One hiker stopped to tell me how strong I looked. "You're going to pass a lot of people at that pace" he said. Yikes. That isn't usually a good omen 35k from the finish line... "I feel great, though. I hope I can keep this up...", I thought.
Then I ran out of water...
At the end of the Ridge I passed the first place racer, who was already returning from the final out and back stretch to make his way to the finish. Wow. It really is hard to grasp how much faster the leaders are running than you over that epic distance.
I was getting real thirsty...and I was late on my electrolyte schedule cuz I didn't have any water to get the salt tabs down. I was eyeing up racers to see who might be the type to spare me a drop or two of liquid...I was trying to stay calm...can't be THAT much farther...I wasn't wearing a GPS...
The trail ducked into the woods and the shade was good timing after spending an hour or more on the sun drenched ridge. Thin green and brown leaves padded the trail under my feet. A beautiful smell swirled in the air around me. It took me a moment to realize that I was running through a freakin Eucalyptus forest. Yup. Added that to my Bucket List and ticked it off at the same time. It was so awesome. You should do it:) Just drive up there, instead.
I was getting really really thirsty...it had been 40 minutes since my last sip of water...Then we heard the cheers- hurray! Bolinas Ridge Aid was like an oasis for me!
Leg 9: 10.7kms with a 400m descent (over about 3.5k) from Bolinas Ridge down to Randall Aid.
I chugged half a litre and devoured a cup of watermelon in no time flat. I refilled BOTH of my .5 litre flasks (not making that mistake again) and got the heck out of there. Downhill and I was beginning to count down the kilometres to the finish! Only 32k to go! The final third...it was time to push a little. It was supposed to feel hard from here on in according to my race plan.
And then I was lost in the joy of running through a flipping Redwood forest. Yup. Giants. I had to take off my visor so I could look all the way to the top of these beauties. Waaaay up. Filled up with forest joy and tunes and hammering down the hill as quick as my legs could safely go. I let it go on the downhill. It would hurt tomorrow whether I went fast or slow, so I figured I might as well get it over with. No reason to save anything now- let it rip! Down down down and hi 5s and smiles and cheers with the out and back racers on this section. Loads of inspiration watching the front runners ahead of me making the climb back up. It was fun:).
I cruised into Randall Aid and was filled up with the cheers of onlookers, support crews and volunteers! I grabbed my drop bag to fill my pockets with caffeinated Gu for the final legs of the race. I didn't realize that I had managed to drop my little bag of precious salt pills, however..
Leg 10: 10.7km and back UP the same 400m climb over the same 3.5kms. I was ready to dance trek my way back up that beast. I alternated marching and running up the steep grade but suddenly had to slow my pace due to overwhelming weakness. I was very light headed, dizzy and feeling just plain weak. I was sleepy. My eyes were actually trying to close. I crammed in a Gu with caffeine and as many other calories as I could. I guzzled water. I wanted to lie down and take a nap all of a sudden. A girl I had just passed on the descent, trekked off ahead of me like I was standing still. I WAS standing still. I was bent over with my head between my knees trying not to tip over.
"What the heck is going on" I wondered? My mind ran through the list. I was working hard yes...but I was in the shade...it wasn't even very hot. I had eaten more than enough calories. It had to be the salt. I figured that I was behind in salt and water after the screw up on the Ridge and I was already in a deficit after so many hours. I reached for my salt tabs only to discover them missing. Oh crap. I had to get to the next aid station. Fast.
I trekked on as fast as I could, running as long and as fast as I could when the terrain allowed. My legs started to hurt but it didn't matter. It hurt if I went slow. It hurt if I went fast. It hurt if I walked. So I started to play my mind games.
"I feel nothing... Who cares about pain... Just pretend..." This became my mantra. It was just plain old muscle pain. It was just the first 10,000feet of elevation returning the favour to my quads. I wasn't going to break anything or scar myself for life. This was the kind of pain that needs to be packaged up and sent off on a holiday during the late stages of endurance racing. Adios. "Just pretend..."
I had my hat pulled down, my tunes plugged in and was rudely ignoring all of the happy cheering downhill racers on the out and back. I wanted to be present and cheer them on but I couldn't. I need to save my energy and channel it up the hill to get to those salt tabs at Aid 11... UP UP UP...Just pretending...
It was during this section that I happened to catch a glimpse of movement in the woods to my left. "KIIIIIIIM!" Wow, she was only 10k behind me and I was stoked to see her on the home stretch as well. "I lost my phone!" Uh Oh. She was frantically rummaging around in the bushes. I was in no shape to be helpful. I was in my hermit mode obsessed with getting to the next Aid station. "How are you?" She was still rummaging around... "Not good". Uh oh. "Just pretend!" OMG can't believe I said that to her but I was in my little mental bubble and it was all I could think to say. I was still hermit marching along... "Do you need help?" I paused to find out the seriousness of her situation. "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO". Ok, I know what she means.
She meant "Yes I need help. But No I don't want you to stop". She meant "Go and do what you need to do. I will figure this out. I will be fine". She gave me the gift of carrying on and finishing my race.
I marched off and silently wished her luck. Then I dug out my phone and tried to call her number to give her a clue. I wasn't sure what was happening in Kims world, but I had to leave it behind me and focus on not tipping over or passing out on the way up to Aid.
Leg 11: 10k undulating then a knee crushing 600m descent over about 5kms. Randal Aid to the Finish.
I was sooooo happy to pull into Aid. I grabbed the first volunteer and told her my situation. She wanted me to sit. I wanted to keep going. I took 2 salt tabs and downed another 1/2 litre of water and marched on out of there. 10K baby! I can handle running 10k through wild flowers! I feel nothing!
Check out more awesome race pics from Glenn TachiyamaKm 90 and feeling awesome!
Within 5 minutes I felt like myself again. Grounded and ready to push to the end. I worked on catching everyone I could see. I picked my targets off one by one. I felt nothing (HA!). It was 2.5 miles on the ridge and then another 2.5miles down to the finish...I knew I would make it. I was ready for the end.
And there it was- the turn downhill and I let out a big WOOHOOO! "This is it!" I hollered at the guy behind me. "Home stretch!" The trail tucked into the woods and turned from rolling butter single track to sticks and stones and steps and gnar. Of course! Evil race director! They always do this. I could handle the downhills but the big stairs didn't quite fit my knee mobility at that time in the day. I tuned it out and played my games. "Its your quads throwing you a big party! They are cheering you on! It's fireworks and a celebration in your muscles! Go Sarah Go!". HA!. Now you know what goes through my mind. Don't hold it against me.
"Woah! Someones still got legs!" a friendly dude called out. He was hobbling down the steps and not moving too quickly. "HA!" I said. "It's all mental. I feel nothing. Just pretend!" He laughed...and I ran on...
A few more high 5s and cheers and 'We are so close!" conversations with other racers on the stairs and suddenly I could hear the finish line. I popped out on the road and the finish line was kindly placed mere metres from the trail head. I exploded with joy! Hands up, big smile I did it! Happy and healthy and YAY! I had reached my goal and then some.
I heard my name and saw Kim on the side line...My heart sank. Knowing something awful had happened to her and she had pulled out. Oh Kim. Bittersweet.
Post race we walked and talked and ate and drank and shared our day together. We celebrated our health and our friendship with Margaritas and waddled around the flatter streets of San Fransisco. Kim will have her own story to tell so I will let her do so on her own blog.
It was, for me, a wonderful day. There was pain yes. But there was also joy. Did I need to run 100kms to get those awesome view? Nope. Would I do it again? Hmmmm. Most of me says, nope. Stick with shorter distances (80k or less haha). The cost:benefit ratio just isn't there - for the time and energy I put in and what I get out of in in return. But there is also a part of me that wonders how it would go if I actually trained to run these beasts at a specific pace. Rather than just finishing- what would happen if I trained to run it at a faster pace? I AM all trained up. The hard part IS done for the year. I HAVE always wanted to check out Fat Dog...hehehe. The human body is an amazing machine and I am fully intrigued by what it can endure and how it will respond to training via adaptation. This curiosity keeps me interested and contemplating future challenges. I DID, qualify to enter the Western States Lottery... Just sayin...
For now, I will take the time to let my body heal. It has done a lot for me! I have many more fun adventures planned for the summer and want to be strong and healthy for them all.
If you need to reach me this week, I will be eating like an ultra marathon runner, napping, puttering in my garden and laying about with my feet up.
Happy Trails...you are seriously procrastinating if you are still reading this...thanks for enduring my antics;).
My Splits: http://www.ultralive.net/miwok/webcast.php
What I ate:
1 Hornby Bar
12 Cliffe Blocks (margarita)
1 PB & J sandwich
1/2 Pro Bar
2 Vega gels
3 Gu gels
14 S-Cap salt tabs
2 antacids (finally figured out how to prevent 80k heart burn!)
What I listened to: I had a playlist of about 60 songs but kept going back to a few of my faves that got me dancing on the trail...
Honey I'm Good- Andy Grammer
Whistle While You Work It (Smile if it's hurtin!) - Katy Tiz
Time of our Lives- Pitbull & Ne-Yo
Levels and Wake me up- Avicii (thanks John)
Sail- Awolnation (thanks Karen)
Inner Ninja - Classified
Rather Be - Clean Bandit
Get Lucky - Daft Punk
Budapest- George Ezra
Hello - Martin Solvieg
I Lived- One Republic (thanks Kim)
Something Big- Shawn Mendes
Talking Body- Tove Lo
Best quotes of the weekend:
I'm not going to lose a toenail! Ugh. I'm going to lose a toenail.
Fifty K is EASY.
I figured out how to get rid of the pain in my legs. I'm going to stay drunk for the rest of the weekend. You can drive.
Good times...good times;)