Monday, May 27, 2013

Bay Trail Runners Coastal Marin 50K

It's truly amazing how one can be completely miserable, in pain, performing way below ones capabilities yet have a great time and enjoying the moment while experiencing personnel transcendence and meeting some very cool humans who I had the good fortune to share a day of just being.

That thought just tumbled out of my head while I was sitting here trying to wrap my head around the thought of getting old, slow and a little worn out. With 60 long, hard years on this earth I need more and more reality checks to keep me from going off the deep end with my manic self.

It's very hard to keep my many passions afloat while watching the young fly by me and into the horizon as I slowly trudge forward sometimes stumbling and sometimes bitter. This is not just my running, biking but, in every way. The youthful thought process, energy and newness of life.
I sometimes think, we don't get old. We just get stale.

I live with regret that there are many opportunities and other things that I should have pursued when I was younger. The good thing is even though I'm late to the party, I am giving it a good try and still finding a lot of joy in those activities.

BayTrailrunners Coastal Marin 50K: (Link)

I got the opportunity through my good friend Mary who had just started running with "Bay Trail Runners" about this 50K run. Unfortunately I recently sprained my left ankle and still recovering. also the date of the run is very close to the San Francisco Marathon in June but, I just didn't want to miss this chance. Mary would be doing some running but mainly the object was to do some photo documentation. She asked me to assist and I jumped at the offer. If I was healthy I could probably run 32 miles. My plan was to do either 11, 18, or 26 miles depending on the way may ankle was holding up.

We met up by the Golden Gate Bridge where Robert Rhodes and his brother Eric would pilot a large van to cart everyone to the beginning of the run 33 miles to the north in the town of Olema. There were quite a few runners and Robert told me that he had to turn away a lot more so I was glad I signed up when I did.

It was a pleasant ride to the start with everyone excited about the day ahead. The weather was perfect. A little cool and a nice light tailwind from the north. Everyone gathered around for last minute instructions.
Ben would be marking trails and riding a mountain bike ahead of everyone.
We began the run and my ankle was immediately cranky. I thought it might be a long day. Mary was running ahead of the pack to take pictures. I did what I could but already I was falling off the back. Within 3 miles I was by myself with two slower runners behind me. They had recently done a big run and were in recovery pace.
I didn't mind being alone. I really had to run gingerly on the ankle. The trail was lumpy, lots of rough and off camber patches. I pushed away as much of the apprehension I was feeling about how much pain I'd be feeling soon and just tried to relax in my thoughts and enjoy moment. The scenery was quite stunning. Lot's of Cows. Cows always make me happy. They look like big puppies and just as friendly.

I met Robert on his way back to pull ribbon markers. I told him I'd go back to tell the runners behind me to pull them as they ran by them. I doubled back and it was quite a long way back. At this point when I turned back to run again I knew I'd be by myself for the day.
I was running very slow. 
After the five mile mark my left leg and foot were getting sore due to compensating for the right ankle.

One thing I experienced was that I always knew where I was and how far I had gone due to the fact I've ridden the past 30 years on just about every road in the North bay area on my bike. I could tell just by the terrain and foliage exactly where I was. Even with the pain I was enjoying myself and would periodically just stop, take pictures enjoy the sights and smells and mostly...the quiet! So peaceful.
At the 11 mile mark I met up with Eric manning the "Mothership". Chelsea was just finishing loading up her bottles and headed out. I talked with Eric, a couple of bikers, filled up my bottles and decided to go for 18 miles. I still had it in my head to make it to the 26 mile mark. That idea would change very fast.

I've always dreamed of running the single track trail that parallels Ridgecrest and the "Seven Sisters". As soon as I headed through to the trail I caught a stump with my toe and jarred my ankle and flipped head over feet. I was more concerned about someone seeing me than the pain. I jumped up quick and kept running. My ankle was searing by now and then I hit the single track which was horrible. The grass was thick and I had a hard time seeing the uneven trail beneath. Within the next 2 miles I  would roll my ankle again. Every time my foot hit the ground I would get a nice jolt of pain. It made me think of Scott Jurek running the Western States on a seriously sprained ankle and winning the 100 mile race. What I was experiencing was really nothing compared to that, so I sucked it up best I could and kept going. At one point I climbed my way up to Ridgecrest and tried running on the pavement but that was off camber and dangerous so I climbed back down to the trail while getting chased by angry bees and stuck by prickly bushes. 
I stopped more often to admire the crazy little lizards running around and stopping to look at me. They had such self-important little attitudes. I felt like in a way they were bigger than me. Humbled by a lizard. I wonder if they have comparatively complex, roller coaster lives like humans. Do they sometimes have to push through pain and darkness to find transcendence  Do they feel joy when they push beyond their limit...? Probably not but this lizard was getting a lot of human attention and appreciation and I wish I could communicate that to this little creature. I did see a snake slither across in front of me but couldn't tell what kind it was.
After a time I began to run into more hikers coming towards me and had to stop a few times to let them by. I passed a car that decades ago had been rolled down a cliff. An older couple was standing and admiring the huge lawn decoration. I jokingly ran up to them and inquired, 
"Are you two OK? I can't believe you survived that crash"!
They laughed and we chatted for awhile and I moved on.
I was looking at my gps and only had 3 more miles to go and I was going down fast. My hip flexors were giving out, my back was hurting from being tense but a part of me was enjoying the moment.

At about a mile from the next stop I realized I had stopped running and I could not get moving again so I walked. I thought about the time when I'll be healed healthy and get an opportunity to come back and crush it. It is one beautifully scenic and challenging course.
I also knew there was no way I'd be getting a Marathon out of myself today. I was actually happy getting 18 miles out of my ankle.
I came up to pan toll and started limping down the stairs to the Mothership.
I was toast and sat I down on the asphalt and just let out a groan.
I didn't even have the energy to take pictures. I was pretty much useless to Mary. I wouldn't be any help. We had to wait a long, long time for the last two runners to come into the stop. It was decided we would drive to the Tennessee Valley stop and by pass the Highway 1 stop. 
When we got to Tennessee Valley everyone was waiting for us and needed water and snacks. At this point Mary grabbed her heavy camera equipment and headed out towards the bridge to run back with the pack. I don't know how she did it. She's slight and petite but like an ant she can carry 50 times her own weight and has endless energy. I was supposed to help her carry her equipment but I was a useless blob at this point. 

We hopped in the van and as I felt some remorse that I had let Mary down, I was really proud and impressed with her. she's quite an amazing woman. 
All these kids were quite impressive. Chelsea had completed her first Marathon distance and was demanding that we drop her in Mill Valley for brunch. She wasn't taking no for an answer.
Chelsea (photo courtesy Mary Bernsen)

We got back to the Bridge area parking and waited for everyone to show up. I wish I could remember all their names but, I'm old dammit!
I talked with Roberts brother Eric for long time. Great guy and huge help to everyone. It was a long day for him too.

Finally everyone started showing up after crossing the bridge.

Danielle and keli (photo courtesy Mary Bernsen)

Danielle was first and then the rest of the group followed along with Mary bringing up the rear and taking pictures.

We hung around and talked for awhile. Keli had brought a cooler with beers which was so great!

I'm looking forward to running again with this group and I'll make sure I'm in shape to somewhat keep up. The run was beautiful even through my pain. I have no regrets and can't wait to run again with these wonderful people and enjoy the great Bay Area trails. We are so lucky to live here.


Robert Rhodes said...

What a great story Peter! Glad you made it out there to experience some epic trail running with us. Hopefully you will heal up quickly so we can do this again. Rest up my friend. Rob

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Great perspective: "I live with regret that there are many opportunities and other things that I should have pursued when I was younger. The good thing is even though I'm late to the party, I am giving it a good try and still finding a lot of joy in those activities."
I'd say, "better late than never!" I'm going to email you some advice about your ankle -- you need to take care of it to keep running in the coming months and years! Keep blogging; I'm enjoying your stories and witnessing your progress.