Tamalpa 50k Race Report

so, today i learned that the amount you sweat and the amount of liquid you consume during a 50k are second only to the amount of filthy you’re going to get.

i tried to go to bed early last night, since i had to be up at 4am.  and, i kind of succeeded.  i was in bed by 9:30…i just…couldnt sleep.  my neck was stiff…my legs were sore….and i slept like crap.  not sure if it was nerves or nerves combined with things hurting or what, but i definitely woke up tired.  but, i was still excited…a little nervous, but excited.  some tape, food, tea, and water, and i was off.

i got to the start line in plenty of time to pick up my bib and get ready.  everyone was really friendly…said good morning and wished me a good race.  my kind of expo..friendly, quick, easy, and no one stepped on me.  at 7:25, the race director called everyone to the start with a bull horn.  he made a couple of announcements, one of which was that .6 of a mile into the race we would be funneled into a single track trail…and to be nice and slow down.  we had 31 other miles to go fast, and if that was going to be our fastest mile of the day, we were in trouble.  and that there would be a volunteer at the bottom of old springs trail to make sure we didnt run into a horse….it’s a wide open space, i dont think i want to know the history behind that requirement….

the early miles were nice….nothing too crazy, though it was definitely a single track for a bit and we did need to slow down.  i was fine with that, i figured i could use the chance to save energy for later.  of course not even a mile in, the top strap on my bag popped….no idea why, i think it just came unhooked.  of course, i couldnt figure out how to fix it, so used one of the extra rubber bands on the side to fashion something together to hold it still.  we made it into muir beach, and i was able to run most of the way.  then we hit the muir beach hills, which are pretty bad…but, the training paid off, i felt really good on those hills.  i knew what they were like, and just as important, when they would end.  important lesson of the day – i need to train on some of the other trails i dont know as well (or at all) that will be part of the north face 50.

we hit pirates cove from the opposite direction i usually run….a little weird, but not as much of a mental game as i thought it might be.  it was actually pretty easy at the beginning, but got rough at the end where it’s pretty steep before you go down again.  and, it was really nice to be able to run down the giant hill leading up to pirates cove rather than up for once.

then we made a turn into an area where i havent really been….somewhere towards hill 88, but i dont think it was hill 88.  having not been there, i wasnt sure what to expect, and now having been there, im not so sure i care to go back.  the beginning was nice enough….some rolling hills, and i met two ladies from pittsburg and chatted with them for a few minutes.  then came the hard part…the hill to rodeo was awful…and never ending.  it just kept winding and winding and winding some more.  finally i got to the top….then it wound around up there for a bit before feeling like it was heading to rodeo valley where the first aid station was….not before i passed a few falling apart bunkers and hiked myself up a short steep peak.

after leaving the aid station, i was headed for miwok….another crazy hill, but i knew this one.  and actually made pretty good time power hiking up it.  i managed to overtake at least four people.  granted, they passed me later, but i know how to get up my hill…haha.  at the top of miwok came old spring, another favorite, and this is the descent in to tennessee valley where the next aid station was.  i had started to feel tired at that point, and my right hip had been hurting since mile 8, but im used to that, so pressed on.

coming out of the aid station, we got to climb miwok/miwok cutoff, another favorite trail…to go DOWN.  ive only gone up once and it was pretty bad….today may have been worse.  i was with another runner for a little while, and she said…dont look up.  i cant look up…theres just so much up.  it worked…kind of.

i finally got to the top, and we started going down again, but by then i was starting to feel it more, so kept power hiking and trying to insert running intervals.  at this point, i was pretty sure i was last, but i was on the pace i wanted, so didnt care.  at some point, we crossed highway one and there was a water/electrolyte aid station only….perfect.  as with all the aid stations, i downed a full thing of electrolytes and at least two things of water….a lot for me.

crossing the highway, i started out on another rolling trail.  i thought at this point, i could probably run for a bit.  so i started jogging and stubbed my left foot on a log before going flying/catching myself on a bush.  somehow, it kept me from going down.  thanks randomly placed grassy thing.  i took a breath and a few steps to sort myself out, then began running again.  until i rolled an ankle and went flying a second time.  at that point, i felt like a higher being was telling me i shouldnt be running….so i went back to power hiking.

right as i met the dipsea trail, i saw brian waiting to run with me.  just what i needed and i dont think i would have finished the race without him.  dipsea starts out not too bad, but then heads uphill for what felt like miles.  in reality, it wasnt, but i was desperate for some more downhill and the aid station that cardiac held.  we kept thinking we were almost there, and finally we were.  we passed two runners sharing some water on the side…i never saw them again, so im not sure if they were able to finish.

when we got to the aid station, i had never been so happy to see pb&j.  another runner mentioned the same thing, and we shared a laugh.  i guzzled more water and electrolytes and tried some coke too – i was starting to get the weird gu acid reflux issue and i thought maybe something different would help.  then we were off…up a little further to pantoll and then finally down matt davis.

matt davis was a nice trail…single track, mainly down with some rolling hills.  it was great to have since my shins, especially my right shin, had started to cramp up…or something.  at some points, it was feeling like the muscles?  tendons?  i really dont know whats in the front my leg, but dear god, i thought it was trying to break my leg.  but, the gentle downhill helped loosen them up.  toward the end of the downhill, we had to push harder, since we had to get back up to cardiac by a certain time.  i ran into non-racing runner and talked to him for a few minutes – he had just finished his first 50k a few weeks ago.  he said it was great…and to have a good run.  i told him i was pretty sure i was last, but just wanted to finish.  so, i struggled on….shins cramping….gu acid in the back of my throat…

we hit another aid station, more liquid and then of course, back up.  once we hit dipsea, i really wasnt sure i was going to make it.  the shin issue had gotten so bad, i could barely walk….i thought for sure i wouldnt make it to cardiac in time, but i also thought that i may finally have gotten to a point where i wouldnt be able to continue, no matter how much i wanted to.  i cant remember the last time i cried, but i was pretty much ready to.  i had found a couple of other runners at the aid station, but lost them once we hit dipsea and i had slowed down so much.

we hit steep ravine, and i felt a little better.  i also knew steep ravine better….brian and i had done it once and it was pretty memorable.  brian did a great job keeping me going…telling me i had this and i could do it.  i kept putting one foot in front of the other and ignoring the pain in my shin…and the time i rolled my ankle.  thank god for rock tape, but i am afraid to see what it looks like tomorrow.  he pointed out being able to hear the cars….and the end of the stone steps..and the last bridge.  and the ladder….which, i climbed at mile 25.5ish….so, today i learned that i can make it up the steep ravine ladder 25 plus miles into a race.  then, we were almost there.  and we were on the heels of two other runners….

we got to pantoll and brian told me we had to jog down to cardiac so i would have time to get something to eat before it closed/i got pulled out of the race.  so, jog we did….somehow i figured out how to do it.  and i wasnt planning to run down the final hill….too afraid i might crash and burn.  we were talking about that as we ran past some hikers.  brian told me i could do it, and one of the female hikers yelled out, ‘you can do it…you just past two guys!’.  yup, the guys we had in view coming up the end of steep ravine were now behind us….where they stayed for the rest of the race.

we got to cardiac and the aid station with time to spare and the rest was downhill…3.8 miles…downhill. i could do this….wow that was a great feeling.  i grabbed a sandwich and a ton of liquids and we were off….and, we jogged almost the whole way to the finish.  other than dodging mountain bikes and hiking through some loose stone, we did it.  we picked up another girl for awhile and got her going again, which was fun.  and then the head of the final trail came into view.  brian point it out, and it seemed so far.  but not…before i knew it, we were there.

then came the million switchbacks of heather cutoff….luckily still a mild downhill….and we jogged.  again, it felt like i might never get there – we could see the finish from the top and it seemed so far away.  but, i kept jogging, and really started to feel better.  and before i knew it, i was there.  well, about a quarter mile away…brian stopped and said, ‘my work here is done…go finish your race…but, dont think you can start walking now….jog it in’.  and i did….even through the scary grass that tried to kill me this morning.

the finish line was short and simple….some poles and colored flags and a small group of people cheering.  in reality, it was perfect.  they called my name as i finished and said, ‘you are finishing the Tamalpa 50k….congratulations’.  then a volunteer gave me a medal and said, ‘looks like you earned this’.  i smiled and thought…yeah, yeah i did.  i did it….for a good while there, i didnt think id make it and get pulled at cardiac.  but, i never gave up….and learned that sometimes, the impossible just might be possible after all.  that, and i had one heck of a husband as a pacer.  he ran his own 50k this week and still came out for 20 miles.

we hung out at the finish for a little while…had some water and electrolytes and watched other finishers.  the girl we got running again at the end came over and said thank you.  took some photos of me to show exactly what running 50k does to you….haha.  then we headed out.

driving up the road out of muir beach, which is the same place i got picked up by some nice lady and her kids during a failed bike ride last summer, i realized that despite the struggles i faced today, i loved it.  i learned a lot…where my training gaps are…how i should fix them, and finished strong.  so, i thought, if i know i like this, i should go with it.  100 miles…here i come!  ironman, maybe i’ll be back someday.  maybe.  but for now, im going to go with this new goal….after i eat my weight in pizza and maybe some ice cream.  after the roof of my mouth stops burning….damn dehydration….

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