Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ridgeline Ramble Trail Marathon

A month or so ago our friend Janet sent out a link to the Ridgeline Ramble in Eugene over Memorial Day Weekend. This race had something to offer everyone - a 10k, 20k, 20k relay, and a marathon. Adam and I no longer make climbing plans for Memorial Day so we decided we would give it a try. He registered for the 20k and I registered for the marathon. Alice also decided to join in on the fun, registering for the 20k. Jay & Janet were doing the 20k relay.

In typical Sarah fashion, I didn't do the best job of understanding the logistics when I registered. For some reason I was thinking the race as in Salem instead of Eugene. Salem is a 45 minute drive, while Eugene is a 2 hour drive. The marathon start time was 7 am. Since I wanted to make sure to build in a little time for getting lost and using the bathrooms upon arrival at the starting line it was going to be quite an early morning.

I got my stuff prepped on Thursday night in order to make Friday night a little bit easier. Friday night came, we had an early dinner, and were in bed around 10. The alarm came early Saturday morning - 3:30 am. I put on some coffee for Adam and hopped in the shower to loosen up my muscles a bit. We were dressed and ready to go by 4:20.

The forecast was for 70% chance of rain, and it had been raining for the previous two days leading up to this run. Since this was a trail run we knew that meant we were going to encounter a good bit of mud during the run. As we made our way down to Eugene we hit patches of torrential rain intermixed with long dry stretches. We had been in one of those nice long dry stretches until about 2 miles before our exit when the torrential rain hit again, and continued all the way to the race start location.

We were first to arrived, followed quickly by Jay & Janet and Alice. It wasn't raining too hard at this point. We were able to grab our race numbers and timing chips, although it made sense to crawl back into the car to put all the stuff on. We had arrived at 6:20, giving me 40 minutes to get myself settled before the gun went off. There were only 26 people running the marathon - by far the smallest marathon I have done - and I was quite intimidated by looking at some of them. They looked like marathoners - ridiculously strong legs, super thin, etc... - I was worried I was going to be dead last. They gathered us all together and gave us some course instructions. There were white flour arrows on the ground indicating which direction to go. The marathon was running the 20k course backwards, and then running back and tacking on a short 2k loop to make it a full marathon. We were to follow the flour arrows backwards to the 20k start and then follow them forwards. Seemed simple enough.
And we're off!
And then we were off. We had to run across the grass to start, and then we were on pavement for the first three miles. Within a mile we ran down a pretty good hills (would need to run back up it on the way back) and then hit an insanely steep uphill. I could pretty much see the entire field at this point, and it looked to me as though I had about 11 people in front of me. There were two people that took the early start (out of 26), so I figured I must have 12 people behind me. I felt pretty good being in the middle of the pack. If I could finish mid-pack I would be happy.

There were three aid stations in the first 10k. We hit the trails around mile 3, and started to do a decent amount of climbing. Topped out on a beautiful ridge, and enjoyed a bit of ridge running for about 1/2 a mile. Then a steep and super muddy descent. My shoes sunk into the thick mud and after 1/4 mile of running with what felt like lead weights on my feet I had to stop and scrape them off. The 10k aid station appeared as we came down the trail, and I followed a white arrow and took a right (going straight would have led us through a parking lot). We went down, down, down for what felt like a long ways. Then I found myself at a junction - there were three trails, one to the right (no arrows), one somewhat straight ahead (backward arrow), and one to the left (forward arrow). Knowing we were supposed to follow the arrows backwards I took the straight ahead path. In short order I found myself on a road. I was confused here. I could see an arrow across the street but I had a feeling that might be pointing me towards the additional loop I needed to do on my return trip. I hemmed and hawed here for a bit, I stood around confused. Finally this truck came barreling up the street, a woman leaned out the window, and told me to run down the street. I thanked her and kept moving.

Right at the end of the street was another aid station. We then looped back into the trees. There was a short stream crossing and lots more mud. Then I was back at the trail junction. I was totally confused here. I knew if I followed the forward arrow I would end up back at the 10k aid station. But if I followed the backward arrow I would just repeat the loop I had already done. Even though I had scrutinized the map before hand I did not understand that there was an out and back section of the course. If I had understood that, the arrow would have made sense. But thinking I would never be retracing my steps I was just flummoxed. Thankfully, in 2 - 3 minutes a guy I had met at the Gorge 50k came up the trail. He thought the right direction was to go back up the hill. We both continued that way. Then about half way up he doubted this as well and he pulled out his phone which had a GPS map of the course on it. We confirmed that there was an out and back and continued up. All in all, I think I lost about 5 minutes on this section of the course due to confusion.

About 1/2 way up the hill I passed this girl wearing with long blond hair. I said three times "passing on the left" and she refused to move over. Her music was blaring so loud on her iPod that she couldn't anything around her. Finally when I was practically on her shoulder she realized I was there and moved over. For some reason this annoyed me and I made it a point to work hard to stay ahead of her.

Just as we were getting close to the top of the hill two guys pass us going downhill - they were flying! We were now going to be encountering the 20k runner's for the next few miles (they had started at 8, while we had started at 7). Once at the top of the hill and back at the 10k aid station, we crossed through the parking lot, across a road, and back on to trails. Some of the 20k'ers were just hauling. One woman yelled at me "good job 6th woman!" And that's when I fell apart. How was I 6th? I hadn't been passed by any women. When I had been able to see the full field up ahead of me at the beginning I had counted 5 women, and I had passed one. That should make me 4th - how did 2 get ahead of me? I got myself into a horrible internal dialogue at this point, going straight for my typical neuroses. "You aren't a runner, you are too fat to be a runner. You are slow. Slow and fat. Slow, fat, and ugly. Slow, fat, ugly and stupid." It just kept getting worse and worse.

I had figured would meet up with Adam and Alice somewhere along this stretch, and wasn't surprised when in another 10 minutes I spotted them. I was super crabby at this point b/c of dropping time getting lost and finding out how far back I was in the crowd. They looked like they were feeling strong, and they were right in the thick of a big group of runners.

After a mile or two I wasn't passing the 20k'ers any more and it started to feel a little desolate. I tried to keep the guy who had helped me with the GPS map in sight. Every time I caught site of his yellow shirt I felt a little comforted that I was either still on the right track, or I was lost with someone I knew. I figured I was at about the 10 mile mark when I saw the frontrunners (2 men) coming back my way. I asked them how many miles to the turnaround and they told me "a couple." Another 10 minutes went by and I started to see a lot more people. I counted 15 people coming back my way. Back to my original point, I hadn't been passed by anyone, how had so many people gotten ahead of me?

I popped out of the trail into another parking lot at an aid station, grabbed a cup of Gatorade, and asked the volunteer which mile we were at. His response, "I think we are at 3.2." He was figuring from the 20k point of view, which would have put us at mile 9.4 - I knew this was wrong and just continued on. I was trying to shake all my negative thoughts. I was out here for fun, not because I was trying to win. Granted, I wanted to do the best I could, but I was doing that. My pace was pretty decent, my legs were feeling good, etc...

It didn't take too much longer to get to the 20k turnaround - probably a mile and a half. The volunteer wrote down my number next to a number indicating what place I was in. I was 18th. Ugh... Still couldn't figure out how I had gotten so far back. However, this is where I finally seemed to shake the negative thoughts. I told myself that if I couldn't get out of the negative space in my head then I needed to stop racing b/c this wasn't worth it. I'm never going to be the fastest; never going to win. I'm out there to push myself and enjoy myself. So I just let it all go and decided to work hard and enjoy the next 13.8 miles.

I grabbed another cup of Gatorade and I continued back. As I was heading back from the aid station, blond ponytail girl was running opposite and one her way to the turnaround - probably 2 minutes behind. Now I was on known ground which is much easier. You can plan accordingly which helps and psychologically you know exactly what you are facing. I passed one guy not far after the turn around. It didn't seem to be too long before I found myself back at the 10k aid station and heading back down the long hill. On my way down I passed by a lot of the front runners coming up, sure enough I was 6th woman. I worked hard not to get down about that and pressed on. Back to the funky intersection. I ran it the same way I had the first time (which was backwards this time), then followed the arrow across the street (where I had turned left last time) to do the additional 2k loop. When I completed that I talked to the guy at the aid station who recorded my number. He told me I was supposed to run it the other way, but as long as I had completed the loop it didn't really matter.

At one of the trail junctions
Then it was back up the hill. As I was climbing my way up I was surprised to see 4 or 5 people coming down that I had passed on my way down the hill (they had been on their way up). I asked one of them why she was coming back down - she told me that she had missed this section the first time around. Suddenly things started to make sense. A bunch of folks had hit the 10k aid station the first time and gone straight across the parking lot instead of down the hill, cutting appx. 3 miles of course. That's how so many people had gotten ahead of me.

Stupid as it may sound this actually perked me up a bit and I continued up the hill and passed another guy. Ran straight through the 10k aid station and got back on course. This is typically the spot in a marathon where I seem to get an extra infusion of adrenaline. It's a nice little perk and makes the last 10k go by a lot faster. I knew I would also hit that ridge run again, which even though it was a steep climb up it was super pretty. Those 3 miles went by pretty fast and I was at the last aid station. A great aid station with oranges, pretzels, gummy bears and more. I asked them how far to go - only a 5k left!

Now we were back to road running. I was hoping to increase my pace for this last stretch. My next mile was 8:09 and it felt pretty good. Then all of a sudden I saw blond ponytail girl ahead of me?!? How had she gotten ahead of me? She never passed me. I was never off course. It didn't make sense and it got me upset. She had to have cut some section of the course (intentionally or unintentionally) to get ahead. I figured I had two choices, talk to her at the end and see if we could identify where she skipped a section of the course or just pass her outright and not worry about it. So I kicked it into high gear and passed her. My last two miles were 8:06 and 7:52. It felt hard but good. I passed one more guy right at the end. One of my goals has been working on strong finishes and pushing hard at the end, so it felt good to find a different gear and really be able to finish with some speed.

I saw and heard Adam cheering me in to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 4:26:41 - a 10:09 pace.

7th out of 20 overall
4th out of 11 women
1st out of 3 in my division

Adam, me, Alice, Janet, Jay post-race
Apparently there was a lot of confusion out on the course. The first two guys that finished missed a section and so they weren't counted in the final results. Then there were a bunch of people that had to do the out and back section twice on the way back because they missed it. In the end I'm pretty sure blond ponytail girl wasn't trying to cheat, I just think she somehow missed a turn and unintentionally cut off a section of the course.

Overall, I feel pretty good about that performance. I'm thankful I was able to stop the negative thoughts and enjoy the second half of the run. I wish I hadn't gotten into that space to begin with, and definitely have some work to do mentally for future races. In the end it was a great day. Adam and Alice did really well in the 20k and had a lot of fun as did Jay & Janet in the relay.

We finished off the day by going to Janet & Jay's in Newberg, having some excellent grilled food, and lounging in the hot tub. A wonderful day filled with running and friends. Couldn't ask for anything better.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Day Off to Run

Had you asked me a year ago if I would consider taking a day off to run I would have told you you were crazy. I mean, day's off are supposed to be for tromping around in the gorge, the mountains, or lazily hanging out home. Last Thursday came with the promise of a beautiful Friday forecast - sunny, warm, dry - it was going to be a perfect day. I couldn't conceive of spending such a perfect day sitting in the office so Adam and I decided to take the day off.

Arriving home on Thursday night we talked over whether we should climb Hood. It would be a pretty day in the mountains so it would be a great day to do it. However, it was already 7 pm. By the time we packed it would be 8. Then we would lay down for 2 1/2 hours to "sleep," getting up at 10:30 to prep and drive to the mountain so we could start slogging up the Palmer around midnight. We knew there would be a bazillion other people on the mountain with the forecast, and, quite frankly, neither of us wanted to do it.

I came up with Plan II. I wanted to get in a long run and Adam was game for a long run for him as well. I put together a nice route that would give me 32 miles and him 16. We left the house at 8 am on Friday (perfect for hitting rush hour traffic) to drop a car on Germantown Road where Forest Park's Wildwood trail crosses over. This trailhead is mile post 24.62 on the Wildwood Trail which is a total of 30.2 miles long, beginning at the Oregon Zoo and ending at Newberry Road.

Adam then drove me to a drop off spot on Broadway Drive just on the south edge of downtown, right off of 405. Sadly I had realized on our drive that I had forgotten my GPS watch. I didn't want to lose the time of driving home and then back to the drop off spot so I decided to forego the watch and run "naked" for a change. My drop off spot was about .5 miles from the base of Terwilliger Hill. I started at appx 100 feet of elevation. I had about 2 miles of road running to do before hitting, and staying on, trails for the rest of the day.

I started running at 8:55 a.m. (according to my phone which I was carrying with me). I was wearing a running skirt, tank top, long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, gloves and my amphipod belt. My belt was loaded with two 8 oz bottles of grape drinking vinegar, one 8 oz bottle of Gatorade, one 8 oz bottle of chia seed coconut water, 2 packages of clif shot blocks (400 calories), and 2 gu's. The first 2 miles seemed to go by pretty quick. Unfortunately I realized in the first 1/2 mile that I was overdressed. I took off the long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist, stuffed my gloves in my skirt pocket, and pushed down my arm warmers. The climbing wasn't too hard and I was listening to my iPod for this stretch. Thankfully there was a bathroom about 1.5 miles into the run and I was very happy to be able to take advantage of it. In short order I saw the sign for the Marquam trail and headed into the woods. The turnoff is around 240 feet of elevation. I turned off my iPod at this point - it distracts me too much to listen to music while running trails. The trails through here are pretty narrow and the signs are just odd. It is super easy to get lost. I'm pretty sure I took a wrong turn somewhere but post-run even looking at the map I couldn't figure out what I had done.

The trail goes up, up, up and I was feeling it in my legs and chest. I made it up to a road crossing in about 2 miles, and was at 780 feet of elevation. I was very confused by this intersection and stopped and asked a few people for directions - they were of no help, so I just continued on hoping I was making the right decisions. Then had to drop down 260 feet, just to climb up another 520 to top out at Council Crest (1073 feet - the highest point in Portland). I took quick notice of the mountains, drank from the water fountain, and then found the path that would take me down to the zoo. This path was relatively well marked, and in another 2 miles I was at the zoo. I figured I was around 6.5 - 7 miles in at this point. I sent off a quick text to Adam to alert him to my whereabouts. Without my watch it was hard to figure out how fast I was traveling. When I had left Adam that morning I had expected to hit our meeting spot around 2:45 - 3 hours.

I made another wrong turn going through the Zoo area. There are so many side trails through here that it is challenging to stay on the main trail. But soon enough I found myself back on Wildwood and leaving behind the mayhem of the zoo on a sunny day. It was 4 miles from here to Pittock Mansion. You have to climb up about 200 feet from the zoo, then drop down 200 feet to the arboretum, and another 300 feet to cross Burnside street. From Burnside you gain about 400 feet in 3/4 a mile to arrive at Pittock Mansion. I was already starting to feel the heat.

I stopped for another bathroom break and ate a Gu. I was about 11 miles in at this point and had already drank 3 of my 8 oz bottles, along with drinking water at three water fountains along the way. I called Adam to let him know I was at Pittock. From here it was 5.5 miles to our meeting spot. I figured I would be about 55 minutes to an hour. Our phone call ended at 11:03 and I started off again.

These miles rolled by pretty quickly. There was quite a big downhill to start this leg, and then a gradually climb for several miles before settling into some rolling hills/descents. I drank the last of my liquid around mile 14 and was getting excited to see Adam and get some more fluid. I arrived at our meeting spot at 12:01 (Leg 1 of 16.25 miles had taken appx 2:55 of running time - appx 10 minutes in bathroom breaks/phone breaks). No Adam. I figured he had probably gotten stuck in Friday traffic and sat down to wait. 10 minutes, then 15 minutes passed. I started to get worried. I didn't have a contingency plan for him not showing up. It would have been very hard running back to civilization without having any more fluid on me. Thankfully he pulled up around 12:20 - he had gotten snarled in bad traffic.

I drank some water, ate a bar, resupplied all the liquid on my belt, dropped my long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, and gloves. Adam was carrying 20 oz of Gatorade in a handheld bottle along with several packets of Gu. We left the car at 12:35. We were at mile post 9.2 on Wildwood and were headed for the car at mile post 24.75.

We settled into a good rhythm pretty quickly. Even though we don't talk a whole lot while running it was very nice to have company. I also find it really nice to run with someone that I don't need to keep up a steady string of conversation with. Sometimes I find that pressure to be stressful, and since I run to relieve stress, it isn't a good thing for me.

About 10 miles in we ran into a couple that had their one year old beagle of leash for the first time. They were walking the opposite direction of us. The pup saw us and got scared and started running in the direction we were going, not the direction his parents were going. So we had to stop and they had to go try and catch the beagle. It was pretty entertaining. She was a cute little pup - clearly quite terrified of the scary runners.

The heat was starting to get to both of us about 12 - 13 miles in. There is a good long climb from mile 21 - 23. We were both low on fluids. I had started the run that morning at 58 degrees and it was up to 75 by the time we got home. Having had such a cool spring so far we just aren't used to the heat yet. We picked up the pace for the last couple of miles, drinking our last fluids about a mile from the car. That leg of 15.75 (we tacked on a bit extra at the end) had taken 2:53:13. Total distance 32 miles, total running time - appx 5:48, elevation gain - appx 4500 ft.

Overall a great day. I think if I had had enough fluids for a resupply and if Adam could have gone farther (we are taking it slow ramping up his miles b/c of a knee issue) I could have done another 8 - 10. It wouldn't have been easy, but I think I could have done it. Since I have my sights set on a 50 miler at some point that was a good sign.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Avenue of the Giants Marathon

Coming in to the finish line of the race.
Running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon was the brain child of my friend Alice. She wanted another shot at qualifying for Boston and she thought it would be awesome to run through the Redwoods. It just so happened that her friend Ingrid lives in Trinidad which is only about 70 miles from the start of the race. This allowed us to have one night of free lodging, and for us all to get to spend time in beautiful Trinidad and with Ingrid and Sweet Pea (Ingrid's adorable pup).

Lee, Alice and I all signed up for the race in late December to get in on the early registration fee. Celeste, Lee's girlfriend, wasn't going to run but wanted to join us on the trip. We planned to take two cars, Lee & Celeste would drive one and Alice, Charlotte (Alice's 14-year old daughter), Rudy (Alice's 12 year old pup) and I would head down in the other. Alice made us a hotel reservation in Eureka for the night before the race.

We left town around 11:30 a.m. on Friday April 29. To get to Trinidad involves driving a couple of hundred miles south on I-5 to Grant's Pass at which point you turn off on 199 which leads you to the coastal highway, 101. There are truly beautiful sections to this drive. We hit lots of heavy rain on the way down, but overall made pretty good time, arriving in Trinidad at 6:30. Ingrid's place is adorable with a great view of the ocean from the front window. She was a goddess being willing to put up 5 people in a dog in a two bedroom house. She made us a great dinner and we all got to enjoy hanging out for the night.

The next day I was up at 6:30. Lee, Alice, Celeste and I went for a pre-race short run along Scenic Drive which gives you an amazing view of the beach below Trinidad. Ingrid's friend Amy was also running the race - this would be her first marathon - so she offered to pick up our race packets. The remainder of our day involved a trip into Arcata for a native plant sale that Ingrid was keen on going to, a visit to the Arcata farmer's market, a hike up and around Trinidad head, and a pasta dinner in Arcata.

We got ourselves tucked into bed by 10 pm and the hotel was thankfully quiet enough that I didn't need to sleep with headphones on. I slept soundly for the majority of the night and woke 2 minutes before my alarm on Sunday morning. I was in the shower by 5 am getting my muscles warmed up with the warm water. Many other racers were staying at the hotel and we saw lots of different running attire as we started packing up the car at 6 am. We all packed in to one car for the drive to the race. The start was just about 40 miles from Eureka and the race website warned racers to get there by 7 am to avoid a traffic jam. We were turning off into the race site at 6:55. We still hit a bit of traffic, but the parking monitors were doing a great job and it only took us about 10 minutes to get us parked.

Once parked, we scrambled a bit to figure out what exactly we needed to bring with us up to the start. It was a very cold morning, made that much colder by being surrounded by huge trees and close to water, but we knew it was supposed to warm up to 70 at some point during the day. Celeste was willing to take a bag for us back down to the car so we got to wear our warm layers up to the start and shed them just before the gun. Celeste had decided to sign up for the 10k that morning. It didn't start until 9 am (the marathon start was 8 am) so it gave her time to get ready for her own race once seeing us off.

So began the usual wait for the porta-potties and then hanging around and freezing until the gun went off. Against my better judgment I decided to keep on my long sleeve top. My teeth were chattering so violently at the start that I couldn't imagine taking it off. We said goodbye to Celeste and got ourselves lined up. Soon enough the gun went off and we were on our way.

This is the smallest marathon I have done. There were 566 participants. Unlike the bigger races where it can take a long time to cross the starting line, in this race we were across 11 seconds post-gun. This is a double out and back race. You run out 6.5 miles to a turnaround and come back hitting the start again right at the halfway mark, then you turn down a different road and do another out and back. The goal for the race was to pace Alice to her BQ time. Originally she wanted me to pace her right to the 4 hour mark. Then she decided she wanted a bit of cushion so we were going for a 3:55. Then she altered that down to 3:50 and by race day the goal was a 3:45. That meant running right around 8:35's.

The road on the first out and back is twisty. Lots of turns as well as the road surface was pretty poor. I found that I had to keep a pretty close eye on my feet for this stretch or else I would most likely go head over heels. I talked to Alice about trying to run the tangents as much as possible. On a course this twisty I figured you could probably save quite a bit of energy by hitting the tangents instead of following the road. I was hot less than a mile in and stripped off my long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist.

Alice went out a little fast and I kept working to reign her in. By the midpoint I stopped trying and just let her run her pace. I knew it meant it was going to be a rough second half, but after repeated attempts to slow her down I figured we would just see how this strategy worked for her. We were doing a pretty good job of walking the aid stations to conserve a bit of energy and get fluids down. Alice's big problem tends to be not eating or drinking enough electrolytes during a race causing her to bonk. Today she was working hard to stay on top of it. The biggest problem with the pace in my opinion was that it was erratic. We would drop to a 7:50 pace and then go up to a 9:30. We were staying right on target with our splits, but I felt there was going to be some burnout from doing bursts of speed and then slowing down as opposed to trying to hit a steady pace.

We lost Lee around mile 9. He needed to stop to stretch out his knee a bit. He had been struggling with a knee issue for a couple of months and it had caused him to drop out of Vernonia a the half-way point three weeks earlier. We hit the half way point pretty much right on target at 1:52.We saw Ingrid, Charlotte and the puppies and they were doing a great job of cheering us and everyone else on. I handed of my long sleeve shirt and arm warmers to Charlotte but decided to keep my gloves as it was still kind of chilly.

This was a great section of the course b/c there were so many spectators. Since we were back at the start it was easy for folks to get here and they were lining the road and the bridge that we crossed. Now we started on the second out and back section. The second out and back was the part of the course that was used for both the 10k and half-marathon so all of a sudden we started seeing a lot of people. Team in Training had a huge presence at this event and they all had great energy and were heartily cheering each other on.

Right around mile 14 we went down a steep incline that we knew we would have to come up at mile 25.5 on the return. This section of the course was interesting. We kept feeling like we were going downhill. It was gradual, but if felt and looked to be downhill. Alice was getting herself into a bit of a negative spiral here. She was tired, not feeling so good, and stressing about having to go uphill the whole way back. I did my best to motivate, encourage, cajole, and basically keep her moving. I knew the stretch from 13 - 20 would be where she needed me to keep on pace. I always find this to be the no-man's land of marathon running. You are done with the first half, but not yet in the final stretch. You kind of just try to keep yourself moving through these miles.

The scenery helped to keep us going as did the energy of the other participants. I think this course would be very challenging if you were one of the front runners as the return side of the course was filled with the slower half-marathoners. The lead marathon runners had to work to fight their way through the crowd. A couple of the top runners just ran right back through the out section of the course b/c there was less traffic on that side than the return side.

We kept ourselves moving. Our pace was slowing a bit, down into the 9's and I tried to keep up the string of positive energy. I'm starting to feel like I am not such a good motivator b/c I think I was just annoying Alice at this point :)  I kept her on track of eating and drinking and I think that helped a bit. We hit the turnaround at 19.6 and I thought this might perk Alice up - knowing that we were now just heading for home. The next couple of miles were rough. I continued being positive and upbeat but this wasn't working. So tried tough love. That also failed. Then I tried quiet.We saw Lee at this point on the out-and back. He wasn't too far behind and was looking strong.

We got to 22 and Alice told me she wanted to slow down and she wanted me to go ahead because she didn't want to hold me back. We had talked about this ahead of time - how to know if I the other one was serious about wanting to be left alone or if we should ignore their request and stick with them. We had done San Francisco together two years earlier and I had started cramping at mile 12. She wanted to stick with me but I had told her to go, telling her that it was going to be mentally easier for me to suffer on my own than with her. So I told her that my goal for this race was to help her get her BQ and I didn't care about my own time, but if she really wanted me to go I would. She told me that this was like San Francisco for her and she would be best on her own.

It was hard to go b/c I  was feeling like I had let her down. That if I was a better motivator, coach, friend that she would have wanted me to stick with her. But, I tried to push that out of my mind and just run for the last 4 miles. My legs were feeling good, I had gotten a surge of adrenaline at 20 and I just wanted to run all out. So I got to let my legs loose and go. The hills we had gone "down" on the way out never seemed to materialize as uphills. I am not sure how it is possible but the second out-and-back felt like it was downhill both ways. Impossible I know and yet that is how it felt.

I passed a bunch of people on this final stretch and got lots of "good jobs" and "keep it up" from the the other racers. This is what I like about small races is that you tend to be close to the same people for the majority of the race. This was the first marathon that I had not worn my headphones and I really like the experience. Even though the last two marathons I ran I had worn the headphones but had never turned on the music, I had still isolated myself from the other runners b/c they thought I was listening to music - thus we didn't interact. For this race the organizers had actually stated no headphones and the majority of the racers had complied.

When I hit mile 25 I turned on the speed. I was realizing that the cramps might actually not materialize this race and I might truly be able to sprint the finish. I kept picking it up through that final mile and was truly running on adrenaline at this point. I passed over the bridge and heard Celeste yell good job, and then heard Ingrid and Charlotte cheering. I had a singular focus of the finish line and just brought it in as fast as I could.

I looked down at my watch - 3:43:45 - 2 seconds off my PR! I have since looked at the official race results and they put my finish time at 3:43:43 (I wasn't sure which mat was the starting one at the beginning and I think I started my watch 2 seconds early). So I officially TIED my PR and got my second BQ time. I am not sure what the odds are of getting the exact same finish time on two marathons in a row is but my guess is it isn't high.

I was feeling good at the finish. I grabbed a water and my medal and walked over to where Charlotte and Ingrid were. I knew that Alice had the ability to finish strong and I wasn't surprised to see her coming through the finishing chute a few short minutes later. Finish time was 3:49:42! A PR by 11 minutes and she was smiling when she came through! I walked over to the finish and gave her a big hug. Her grin was ear-to-ear as she realized she had made it with plenty of time to spare. She grabbed some water and her medal and then we rejoined Ingrid and Charlotte and waited for Lee. He wasn't too far behind - coming through in 3:56:10 and looking happy as well. This was a PR for him by 6 minutes and he did it on a bum knee - no small feat.

We hung out for awhile longer - enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather and waiting to see Ingrid & Alice's friend Amy finish her first marathon. Once she came through we packed it in and headed for the cars. It was a bit of gridlock trying to get out but soon enough we were back on the road. We stopped at the hotel in Eureka to drop of Lee and Celeste at their car. Celeste had gotten an extension on the room checkout so she and Lee could shower post-race. Alice and I then headed for Ingrid's so we could also get in a shower.

We quickly got cleaned up and went for a quick lunch at the Beachcomber in Trinidad before hitting the road. Left Trinidad at 3:30 and pulled up in front of my house at 10:15. It was a long day. Knowing what I know now I would have scheduled an extra day. It would have been lovely to spend the rest of Sunday hanging out on the beach in Trinidad and just relaxing.

Overall it was just a great weekend with great friends. Happy to have done it.

Overall - 101/566
Gender - 24/253
Division - 4/41