A crazy couple of weeks leading up to this wonderful time at home. I have been playing catch up around the house, on the computer and out and about with friends and family, but not yet on my blog. Sometimes somethings have to give. I had grand plans of writing an Africa post each week... and I hope to get back on that schedule.
My thoughts now are about my final whirlwind of travel starting in San Francisco at Campsite 222 (really our friend's amazing home, not a campsite as many people at the race thought :)). The North Face 50 miler ended up changing routes and the once 50 mile course showing off some of the best trails in Marin ended up being limited to two 23 mile loops on the south end of the park, mostly double track trail. The early 5am start had us running with headlamps for the first 2 hours. The start happened while I was still connecting with Jen and I gave her a hug and chased after the pack of speedsters. I was amazed at how quickly everyone took off and rather than killing myself to catch up, I settled into my music and my own pace. Before I was through one song I teamed up with similarly paced Peter, shut off the Shuffle and we chatted each other through the darkness and stuck together nearly the entire first loop. It was so nice to run with someone and comment, laugh and complain a bit about the rain. I really didn't think it was possible to be that wet. Soaked through we would turn a corner, into the wind and then realize that it was indeed possible to be a bit wetter. I thought for sure my face would be pruned by the end of the first loop. The trails were quickly churning up under our feet and we could only imagine what loop 2 would feel like after so many runners (not only 50 milers, but also 50k'ers, and marathoners) had added their impressions to the trails.
On the first major descent we came across a down runner gasping for air. Ashley had twisted her ankle and was trying to weight it only to find that the effort to stand took her breath away. We stopped to try to help, told her to zip up her jacket to keep warm. She insisted that we carry on. We tried to help her stand, but saw that it wasn't the best just yet. We looked at our time and ran down the hill to the aid station to let someone know how far up the trail she was. Fortunately someone else had already alerted the aid station and people were headed up to gather Ashley. Not too much later, Jenny, Jen, Kelly and Topher were huddled under an umbrella when we came through Tennessee Valley. Certain that I would be freezing they offered a great selection of hats and clothing, but I traded water bottles, gave them a shrug and carried on. It really wasn't that cold when you were moving, just stupid wet.
After the first loop runners were able to pick up their pacers. There was a bit of an out and back so, amongst others, I got to see Bethany come back with Ben, Lizzy come back with Devon and as I rounded the corner into the starting field I saw Jen waiting for me with a big smile ready to roll and slip and slide. SO much fun to join up with Jen! She checked in with how things were going and we got to chat as we continued to move. On our way out we saw Joelle and Rory and Tina... most of these girls were definitely ahead of me and were now somehow behind me. Jen confirmed that people had gotten lost on some of the earlier loops in the dark. Bummer.
Kelly and Jenny were ready for us at Tennessee Valley again with another bottle swap and good cheers and as I recall now the second loop started and finished well, but I definitely had my lull for more than a few of the middle miles. Jen stayed on me, kept me moving and when we were within the single digits (miles left to run) my momentum picked up again and we were able to make up some ground. After passing through for the 4th and final time at Tennessee Valley Jenny and Kelly ran a few steps with me to trade a bottle and take my long sleeve shirt. In spite of the rain, it really was warm. I made it my goal to run the final hill while doing so on the first loop with Peter and Jen helped me achieve that with a steady clip up and over the crest. With the finish pretty much all downhill we let go for what were the last few miles of the year. Why not? Last race for 2013, slipping and sliding with a good friend, laughing a bit now that I was feeling a bit better. It was a great way to finish out a fun summer and fall of running and racing.
Fun muddy finish photos and a great greeting from friends who had endured the rain and mud all day to be there for myself and other runners. Special hot chocolate and a dry top were good for a bit, but with the weather as it was it didn't take much to tear me and our group away from the finish and back to Campsite 222 for a hot shower, hot soup and some time by the fire.
Perhaps my favorite part to the weekend was the opportunity to hang out at a runner party hosted by Dean followed up by dinner with a smaller group at a great mexican eatery. The end of the racing year felt complete having run a few hard miles followed by time away from the trails with people I love to spend time with on the trails.