It was not without a lot of sour taste though, and for explaining that I will mention some things briefly (and promise not to go into details), as well as some travel problems. But to those who are tired to read my long winded posts, I got my pie, surprisingly to me.
Friday night was quite a family disaster, and after close to no sleep and a condition between stress/anxiety and depression, I finally decided to go on the morning of Saturday. As I got on a plane, I dosed off, only to wake up to captain's announcement: "We've been circling around the ocean for 30 min and are out of fueling, San Fran is cloudy and doesn't allow landing, so we are heading to San Jose to refuel". Very nice. Initial panic set, half the plain decided to get off at San Jose since we still don't know when San Fran will let us land - only to discover San Jose airport doesn't have United gate and we are in the middle of the field attending to fuel pump and minor repair. Luckily, I had great passengers around, and we engaged into conversations about countries and politics (who would have though I actually have an opinion on politics, I usually stay away from those). In the mean time I am figuring if I can't make it to Cool on time, I'll go to Marine Headlands and pace Rick in a 100M. Lo and behold, we make it to SFO 3 hrs later, I run around air tram system (and get lots, and then leave my purse in there, and run some more), pick up my car (and leave my purse once again, so have to come back - apparently, I am not a purse person), and drive to Cool in traffic (it took me over 3 hrs instead of proposed 2), but still make it on time, even with an hour to spare. But all I want is to sleep - and to think about what problems I left home. That lead to a very unusual behavior for me, and I am not talking to anybody, hardly saying "hi". Bev and Alan Abbs park next to me, I take a picture (along with a couple more at the start area, since I am not planning my camera during the night run) and close my eyes as Nancy (RD) says her speech.
There are 80 registered runners, and 90% of them I don't know - it's a local party as they get. Gordy Ainsleigh shows up to help, and I wave. A couple of people ask me if I am ready to "rock-n-roll", and I just dismiss their excitement with a hand wave. I am deep inside my own trouble and not sure why am I here. At 7 pm off we go.
While I located myself towards the back, I quickly make my way around and move ahead in a first mile, even with walking the first hill, and settle in right behind the lead pack of men. At first I didn't realize it, and when by mile 3 or so I can still see them about 100 yards in front of me, I get scared. The trail is not quite trail for spoiled PNW runner - it is a very hard packed dusty dirt road, in parts a wash-out single-track, but mostly something like a jeep road with rocks. Besides choking on dust, my feet ache from the surface. My Odyssey have no cushion whatsoever. At 5.5M there is a single AS (rather second considering start/finish area) with Norm and Helen Klein (legends), but they don't serve HEED (they do Gatorade, something that turns my stomach eeky). I enter it with a girl Deb on my heals, and Norma seems to know both of us. We take off together, but soon she passes me. Good, I don't want to think about other runners right now. The night falls slowly, and on the last 2 miles or so I wished I had taken my headlamp with me, but alas, I still can make out the way.
First loop was done in 1:40, what was way too fast for me, but it was a good estimate of how the night times should go and a good scouting of the course for the dark hours. I pick up my cell phone and a headlamp and quickly leave.
Loop 2 is when I started making crazy phone calls to deal with what I left behind, with frequent stops. Not to mention all that dust in a headlamp light is completely fuzzy, and something got into my left eye, it feels like there is pus or a foreign body and I can hardly see with it. I think rubbing it with my dirty hands made it worse, so I left it along and used my right eye for navigation.
Just before Norm's AS I come up on that girl Deb again with a man, and as I pass, she asks me if I am scared to run alone. Hmm, never even entered my mind, although it's a mountain lion country, and later I heard many people teamed up, slowed down or stopped because of that. I guess my mind is so much into my personal life, I could care less, although it is my first official time I am all alone at night trail run.
I made second loop in 1:51, put a second headlamp around my waist (or rather around my hips, as I can never have anything on my waist) and take off again. More phone calls, more frantic once, I entertain quitting and driving rental car back home, but understand I will probably make it same time as if I fly after. I want to crawl into fetal position and cry. I consume lots of liquids, as in both bottles are empty before each AS arrives, and shoot a gel every 40 min. But I haven't eaten in 2 days and simple carbs upset my stomach enough to start diarrhea. I make 4 stops on loop 3 total, and finish it in 1:58 (I think). I am so out of this whole running thing, I keep forgetting to say my number to the computer guy every time, and have to apologize when he almost grabs me.
Off to loop 4. I haven't been using my headphones since started using my cell phone; they just hang on my neck. But finally before reaching AS on loop 4, whatever that was at home got, no, not resolved, but to some extent settled, and I turn on my music. I decide to have Gatorade too, and even ask for soup. The tables set up L-shape, Helen is bundled up and half-asleep on one side, soup is on another. She makes her way to pour it - and it's hot. Norm takes a cup and adds water. I gulp it and go - this was my longest AS stop of 3 min. Guess should do without...7 stops to tend to stomach and loop 4 is done in 2:03. Nancy (RD) yells to me I am looking great - and I kind of snap that I don't care. She knows why, but I make sure to stay a minute to apologize yet again, and go. I scream - last loop, and she responds - don't think so.
When she said that, I begin calculations. I haven't done it yet, I was actually praying to be done at, say, 5:01 am and not allowed to go for another loop. But I don't see it happening, as it is 2:30am and I am moving. I mean, I am moving really well and running many more inclines than I did even on first loop, with only difference I have to carefully pick my feet on rocky steep downhills. I decide not to look at my watch at all and just give it to faith. If someone sees me to run more, then be it. Stomach on this loop felt better too, only 3 stops. I have no idea of who is where, but I pass what seems like dozens of people on this loop. Somewhere on last mile of this loop I catch and stub my left foot, and although I didn't fall, I said goodbye to my big toenail - one that was just about to begin recovering from Bighron abuse. It is over in 2:01.
4:30am. there is no way they’ll let me sit it out, besides, my mind finally tuned into racing. I almost want to ask where is the next girl and should I even bother going out, but I don't like this kind of information during racing and always try to rely on myself and run my own grounds. The stop is insanely quick; I drop one bottle, one light, grab 2 gels and leave, yelling to Nancy: I can't believe you make me do it! She responds something, but I already don't hear, all inside the run.
Music is loud, and with only one light and one eye making a way, despite that I know it by heart, is difficult. The only good thing is I have 2.5 hrs to make this loop, I think" may be I can relax? No nap anyway. But body is still in top shape, sans hot spots on my feet and shin splints with all the trail surface and stomach acting up again (6 stops this time). I think of Lisa and her last run. I think of Rick and his 100M race. I think of when was last time I pushed my race - I can count handful, but with over 60 long races it is not much. I am a lazy racer. But I keep running hard. Norm and Helen are turning AS down, so I hardly get a bit of Gatorade. The light comes up, and I turn off my headlamp finally. Last 3.5M, those have the most hills, I think I can ease off and walk - but I can only power-walk hard, this is my staple. Somewhere here I pass Gretchen who is pushing to make 5th loop on time (and she does!). We exchange a few words and I go. I look at my watch and can't believe it. Seems that this second part of the loop is just magically weird - every loop I make it in 45 min flat, no matter what. I see familiar curve before Cool fire station and pick it up. I can actually pick it up! I run, and think how interesting that I still hold a good running posture. I smile, bend a last turn and finish, loop in 1:59 and 54 miles in 11:30.
I walk to Nancy, give her a hug for making me run (ok, she didn't "make" me, but you know what I mean), she gives me a headlamp for a win (I guess a proper prize for this race). I walk to Robert, my time keeper, and thanks him for bearing with my absent-minded self. He is very nice. I loop around for food and water - but they turn their breakfast down as I do it. Most people had breakfast as they finished, and only a few of us were on the course past 5 am. Bummer! I congratulate Alan Abbs for his amazing run (7 loops, 10:30, only 5 more people went for 6 loops, I was the only gal), put a clean t-shirt and begin driving back...
Not an easy task on 2 sleepless nights. My eyes are closing on a highway, so I call Bobby and he entertains me for a long period of time. He is a nut! and helps me a lot, this is not the first time. I call Gail and Sid, then Lisa Bliss, then try and find Rick - he responds some time later with a great news of his best 100M finish in 24:37!!! Woot for Rick! Then I snooze and veer and decide to stop at the parking lot for a power nap. I am there for 30 min, and after that make my way to San Francisco.
As I entered Rick's place (quite neat, by the way, although he cleaned it for me 2 days prior:)), I want to lie down, but he shoves me to a bathtub (and takes a nap himself, traitor!) Then we go to a waterfront and meet our friend Jason for a bite and a chat. Life is good, although sleeping in bed seems to be a much better option.
I don't quite remember my flights back home, but I do know I set next to a young teen that came with a scout group from Russia, and we talk about it. I am crying inside - this Far East city in Russia still lives by Soviet principals and kids have so many opportunities to do things in that huge Community center we used to have in every town before (and now they are all demolished and kids roaming the streets with beer and cigarettes). I am practically ready to move my kids to Magadan...but right now I need some sleep.
So that's what I do once I am home.
p.s. Just to be honest, there was plenty of food at the AS, I just don't eat during a run, especially race, so never had a chance to sample all the beacon, sausage, pancakes, pizza and whatnot. Also it was not very cold, although there were pockets on the course when it seemed like an arctic air would blow over. My skin receptors would register the chill, but body worked hard enough to not want to put on a long sleeve shirt, or even sleeves I got from Shannon and was looking forward to try them. I ran the whole time in sleeveless Montrail shirt while most of people wore jackets:) not Alan Abbs though, I remember him passing me on loop 5 still in the same Sunsweet team shirt. On the drive out though I got hypothermic and dehydrated big time and continued dry heaving - something that I deal with every race, but never had afterwords. And one more point - I ran more inclines at night than during ligt hours, and I think it is due to not been able to see how steep the grade is and how long the hill is. I believe for me it is all a mind game, and once I size up the uphill - I get scared right away and start walking even if capable of running. In the dark I don't have this proprioreception and keep running as long as my legs can take it. What may be makes me a good night runner:) if only I don't get blisters last part of a 100M race.