10 December 2008

san francisco north face challenge 50 miler

sometimes, the things you want, despite being difficult or expensive, are really what you need to do in the end. i wanted so badly to do this race after meeting brad who told me about the beauty of the course, and the easy footing. i was so glad i did it.

i spent the day before the race wandering around san francisco, one of my favorite cities. i went to the knitting store to get some new knitting needles in the mission, had lunch in dolores mission park, went to city lights bookstore, picked up my race packet, carbo-loaded, and went to bed at 8:30p.m. i woke up at 2:45 to get ready for my second 50 miler.

i was freezing at the starting line, and gathered around a heat lamp with several other runners. my main goals were to finish, and to (if possible) finish with a faster time than vermont. little did i know how difficult the latter would be.

we started at 5 a.m. with headlamps. i was nervous, and went out with brad and john just behind me. we were chatting, going at an easy pace. it was pitch black, but you could see the progression of lights ahead and behind. it was really cool.

after only a few miles, the trail hit another trail, and we followed the other runners without looking -- only to have someone yell at us that we were heading the wrong way. i yelled at the runners ahead of us, and ran quickly to make up for lost time.

my headlamp began to bother me, as i was wearing a visor and to properly light the path, i had to crane my neck down. i eventually took my visor off, and began to loathe wearing my headlamp, and was glad when the sun came up.
as we ran down some amazingly beautiful trails (that were technical, incredibly steep, and i ended up losing brad and john for a few minutes as they sped ahead), a woman passed me running incredibly fast. that incorrect turn-off i had made earlier was made by her and others, and she ran an extra 40 minutes. she was upset, and ran quickly passed me. i wished her good luck.

it was a really beautiful race. i ran with brad and john, and they both knew the course incredibly well -- they told me where the ups were, where the downs were, where the tough parts are (everywhere), where the great views were. it was fantastically fun!

john hadn't been running much over the past few months (years?) but he was kicking butt on the hills. he ran ahead of brad and i as we trudged up the hills -- they were some of the hardest hills i've ever run. luckily, the views were amazing at the top.

i fueled up on strawberry banana gus (a total of 6 or maybe 7), pretzels (i ate multiple handfuls, and at aid stations, slathered peanut butter on pretzels for easily digestible and highly caloric snacks), two of my mom's monster cookies, an orange slice here and there, water between aid stations, and a cup of accelerade at each aid station. so yummy! my stomach hurt me a while after we got to the very top of this hill (which took forever, and which was incredibly windy and chilly), and then when i peed (which seemed like for abt 20 min!), my stomach felt MUCH better. don't hold your pee. unfortunately, i can't walk and pee like some people...ahem, brad...other ultrarunners....

i ran downhill stronger, and felt great. at the aid station at the bottom, i celebrated with one of my favourite poses.

while the race started out chilly (in the high 40s, windy, and i wore my thin long sleeved shirt until around mile 15), it got up to the lower 60s. it was sunny, and i was mostly exposed, but there were some fantastic covered periods (including my favorite section through muir woods, which had tons of downhill and i barreled down the hills, feeling great). the downhill sections were where i felt strongest.

i thought a lot during the race. while i often ran next to or very near to brad and john, i had a lot of thinking going on. this is the toughest race i have ever run in my entire life, but i have never felt so great. i had runner's high much of the race. this race ultimately defined for me my life and my love for running.
and the incredible views caught my breath.

a woman passed us, and we slowly caught her. "get her, cherie," brad urged me, and i took off. i passed her, fast. brad and john met me at the aid station a half a mile later, and we took off before she caught up. it felt good to be competitive.

the last few miles i felt great. i ended up leaving brad and john as i struggled to try to complete the race in a personal best. i ran as fast as i could, passing runners, pushing myself as much as i could. people were running slow, struggling, and i felt so strong. i had a huge smile across my face. i couldn't believe how happy i was.

i finished just a few minutes slower than my vt50 miler. this course was WAY harder, with 20,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. i felt happy with my time, and couldn't wait to do it again. it was an amazing, fun, and beautiful race; very well-organized; great volunteers; great aid stations. i highly recommend it to any ultrarunner. i am so tempted to move out to the bay area so i can run those trails every day...

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