Capping off a disappointing year with a mediocre race isn’t exactly the sort of thing you look forward to, but I’d rather try and fail than never try at all. Of course, losers whine about trying to do their best (or so Sean Connery said), so I’ll just say that this year is one big series of lessons.
Number 1: gastrointestinal issues have become the main obstacle for me when racing. Ultras are in part a test of your ability to refuel over long distances, so it should present some difficulty. This race was really a kicker, as you’ll read, so I’ve decided to finally give in and go the route numerous others have and just take Imodium before the start. It’s not an issue with my stomach – I had no sloshing or anything like that, so my hydration and amount of calories ingested is fine – it’s just one really messed up GI tract.
Number 2: an Achilles injury takes a long time to heal. I’ve been dealing with it for nearly 2 years now, and it has been healing. Slowly. I still felt it at North Face, albeit for a short 4 mile stretch, but it’s amazing to me that it can be so insidious and crop up when you least expect it. If you ever feel a stiff or sore Achilles, back off immediately or prepare for years of physical therapy and sub-par racing.
So, the race. I hit the porta-potty at every aid station; it’s not possible to just run faster between aid stations to make up for the hour you waste crapping water away. It’s also quite hard to stay hydrated when you are losing copious amounts of water to the blue-brown depths. This probably comes off as gross, but I think it’s better to be honest and just illustrate how much of an issue your butt can be during a long race.
Besides this, I had a good time when I was able to actually run. I love the Marin Headlands. The trails are just technical enough in spots to keep you on your toes, but they are infinitely runnable.
Not a great race, barely scraping in under 9 hours, but whatever.
Fighting a rebellious stomach around mile 12, photo by Nate Dunn.