Once in a Lifetime
It's been 3 months since I've posted on here. Since then I trained for a marathon. And I didn't get hurt. But it was summer (so, a little warmer than usual around here). And I wasn't really motivated. Because you see, it was a trail marathon. So when I didn't really get enough miles in, I shrugged and said, eh, no matter. It's just a fun run in the woods. Time will be ridiculously slow anyway, so, whatever.
So I enjoyed running and didn't push it when it got hard, and (not coincidentally) stayed healthy and happy. I maxed out at 17.5 miles and 42 mile weeks.
The race was the Skyline to the Sea Marathon. It starts at the top of the hills outside San Jose and runs mostly downhill to the ocean near Santa Cruz. It's all trails, mostly single track, and all shady and beautiful through a redwood forest. I'd been wanting to run this one for years, but needed the right motivation. It came when Mild Sauce agreed to meet me there and accompany me on this little run through the woods.
So I found myself in another part of the world, and I found myself behind the wheel of a large automobile, and I found myself on a beautiful trail, with a beautiful girl, and I asked myself, well, how did I get here?
It was a seven hour drive, that's how. Got to Santa Cruz Friday night and scouted the local establishments. Found one up to the Sauce's standards.
So we had a couple beers Friday. Saturday was open so we explored the area with a long cliffside hike.
Then of course we had to ride the circa 1924 Giant Dipper. A must for any Santa Cruz visit.
Sunday was race day. We had to ride the bus over an hour to get to the start. The bus driver took the loooong way around and up the hill, but we managed to arrive in time to pee and get our bibs. Then the race director talked to us in the parking lot and pretty soon said 3-2-1-go! We were still a jumbled mass in the lot and casually headed over to the trail. There were only 130 people, but the race got to the trail in 50 yards so it was a little crowded, but amazingly most of the fast and slow people were in the right place so it worked out pretty well.
It started out with a pretty steep downhill and I was full of energy so I may have gone out too fast. Saucy said so anyway. What do I know about trail running? I felt easy and was enjoying cruising along with a group at a pace that seemed effortless (about 9:00). But of course with an expected five hours ahead of us, I probably should have backed off.
Same as it ever was.
But it was fun. And beautiful! The course did not disappoint! Huge trees, narrow trails with rocks and roots, bubbling streams, water flowing underground... Here are some shots from the website.
So I cruised along. Saucy stayed nearby and by the time we reached the first aid station at 6 miles we had separated from the others and were mostly just running alone, the two of us. The shade kept it cool, despite temps near 80 in the area. The next section was mostly uphill for 4 miles and we did lots of walking. Then it would be mostly down the rest of the way. But, boy, those downhills were getting to my quads! Not just the steady decline, but stepping down over roots and rocks constantly was even more jarring. Sauce led the way most of the rest of the way, and I was working to keep up. Although she stopped and walked whenever I asked, I still felt the pressure to keep going, because it was a race, after all! I had a goal to break 5 hours, because, why not? And it seemed like it would not be easy. Gotta keep pushing! We hit half way in right around 2.5 hours. But mostly downhill now, right? Well, yes, but, those quads... We got to an aid station at 15 and I was spent. And then there was more uphill...
My God! What have I done!
Well, no matter. It's just a fun day in the woods, right? We walked and talked. When we reached downhill I ran, but it was steep, and my legs were not functioning properly. I tripped about ten times but never went down. But the later it got, the more nervous I was about it, so I slowed over the hard steps, just putting more pressure on my quads. I was getting more tired and between the shadows and my bleary eyes I knew I was one step away from disaster. And there were some steep drop-offs close to the trails' edge! But I persisted.
At one point about 17 I slipped on a rock and landed on my butt and felt dizzy, so Sauce gave me her stashed rice krispy bar. Apparently I wasn't fueling properly. Me! Shocking! I never eat enough. It helped. But after that there was even more walking. Oh well, walk in the park. Enjoyed the beauty.
At about 20 we reached a wider trail that was groomed. Basically a dirt road. So I was able to settle into a shuffle that didn't tax my legs as much and we started making better progress. That lasted 3-4 miles until the last aid station where they said the last 2 miles were mostly uphill and sunny. Ugh. But we were going to make it. Had to walk the ups, but then we finally heard the finish line cheers, and cruised down a steep hill (OW!!) and to the finish at last. 5 hours and 15 minutes of fun. Would have been good for a 3rd place age-group medal last year, but only 5th this year. Darn ten-year categories. All the winners were at least 5 years younger than me. But the finisher medal and shirt were quite cool.
The post-race spread was NOT impressive, sadly, but we went out later for pizza and beer to celebrate. My legs were thrashed, but I never fell, and I had a fun time with a buddy cruising through a beautiful place. I can check trail marathon off the list.
Now I'm recovered and I have a 5K, a 3 mile turkey trot, and a 10K on the calendar in the next 4 months. Next long one is a half in Atlanta 3/1. No more marathons until next Fall (Chicago is the plan, lottery permitting). Meanwhile I'm going back to enjoying my runs with my local group and running for fun.
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