Monday, December 10, 2012

The North Face 50-Mile Race Report

Winter finally arrived last week so instead of blogging, I was out playing in the snow. Now that my hip flexors are begging for a day off from the unfamiliar motions of skiing and snowshoeing, I can catch up on other things, like writing race reports...

Trying to take our family Christmas photo with an uncooperative dog!

Our flight to San Francisco on Thursday night included a plane change in Seattle. Because of bad weather in the Bay area, our connecting flight was delayed several hours and, as a result, we didn't arrive at our Mill Valley hotel until 4am Friday morning.

After a few hours sleep (this princess is used to eight minimum a night so I was a growly bear), we went for a short run, grabbed some breakfast and then headed into the city to pick up our race packages. Throughout the day, the rain kept falling and we were notified that the 50-mile and 50-km courses would be altered to protect both runners and the trails. The new 50-mile route would be a two lap course, which isn't as appealing as the original, but at least they weren't cancelling the race.

We had an early dinner with friends in Berkeley and then headed back to the hotel to organize our race gear (Dave ran the marathon) and get some sleep. When my alarm went off at 3am, I felt surprisingly fresh. I got dressed and then chowed down on a big bowl of oatmeal. I don't usually have much of a pre-race appetite so took it as a good sign that I ate it all.

Soon it was time for me to leave and let Dave go back to sleep as the marathon started later. I allowed myself plenty of time to park the car, shuttle to the start and get my warm up in. Then I joined other runners huddled around the starting area trying to stay warm in the light drizzle while we awaited our 5am send off.

Although this was my first race as an "elite" (whatever that means), I didn't feel very elite standing around in a garbage bag. But it kept me warm(ish) and dry(ish) until we started. (And I got my superhero moment later when I ripped it off Incredible Hulk-style.) 

I started with about 100 other runners in the first of three waves. After a brief stretch on the road we began climbing, our path lit by headlamps and glow sticks. Driving rain and dense fog made for poor visibility and I resorted to carrying my headlamp in my hand to keep the beam lower to the ground. Eventually the sky lightened enough that I didn't need a headlight which made life much easier.

There has been much talk about the race conditions. Yep, it was muddy; very muddy in some places, and I was loving it. There's something about running in the rain and splashing through mud puddles that always makes me smile. My Brooks Cascadias gave me great traction on the climbs and pretty good control on the descents. My only mishap occurred around 50km when I lost my footing on a slippery downhill and twisted my ankle quite badly.

The pain was bad enough that I considered dropping out but I didn't do all that training and travel all that way to end the season with a DNF. So I walked for a bit and then started jogging again and eventually it didn't hurt as much so I was able to run on it - albeit with less speed and more caution!

While I suffered some in those last 20+ kms, overall I am very happy with how the race went. It's the first time that I really got my nutrition figured out (12 gels and 2 packages of bloks, plus electrolytes at the aid stations) and I didn't feel at all unwell after the race which is a huge change from my other 50-milers.

My time of 7:38 was over an hour faster than last year (although it was a shorter course for 2012) and while I dropped a few places in the uber-competitive women's race (from 11th to 15th) I do feel like a stronger, smarter runner. And I'm still having fun!

Photo credit: Brett Rivers
Click here for the full race results.

I enjoyed reading these TNF San Fran EC race reports and you may too:

P.S. Dave placed second OVERALL in the marathon. It was his first running race since having back surgery just a year ago. Amazing!