Before the start, when everyone’s wandering around downtown Mill Valley, people kept telling me I was going to kill it. And, I was like ‘I guess, if aiming for top 100 is killing it.‘ People are misled by the fact that I look sort of fit and don’t realize it’s different than running fast. One guy gave me a high-five and said, ‘Here’s one of the favorites!’
I told Steve this and he said, ‘Favorite for what??’
Another guy saw me active stretching and doing some strides and he started going on about how I was so fit that the race probably wouldn’t even hurt. I probably wouldn’t even feel it. No, no, that’s not actually how that works at all.
This girl who’s a 33-minute 10K runner was in my start group (19-39-year-old women and some 60-year-old guys I think). A number of people in our group didn’t know what they were getting into, so they tried to go with her at the start. It was a bad idea for them. And, pretty quickly I was near the back of the group. That’s when I decided my race strategy: make the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard. It was a strategy dictated by necessity. The heat was dripping and pushing the climbs too hard would have resulted in me being the girl who passed out while running and fell into a poison oak bush. (Fortunately for me, that was not me. Unfortunately for some other girl, it did happen to her.)
This plan, however, dictated that I smash the downhills. So, after sweating up the 670 stairs and then the rest of the first climb, we started the descent to Muir Woods. And, I had to crush it. The key to running fast downhill is to 1. stop caring about the possibility of falling and 2. don’t ever let it be easy, keep pushing it. I did the flinging yourself over steps and weaving through people and destroying my quads thing and passed dozens and dozens of people down to Muir. It’s a testament of how hard I ran the downhills that the only times I wanted to throw up were when I was running downhill.
The climb up out of Muir is a blur. A hot blur of sweat in my eyes. I power-hiked when it was steeped, jogged when it wasn’t too steep, and ran when it was flat enough. I had no idea if I was making it too easy and was going to come out in 500th place (ugh) or if I was still going too hard and was going to blow up. It wasn’t until halfway to the top that I suspected I was having a really, really good race based on who I was catching from the groups that started before me and who was catching me from the groups of fast guys that started after me. Near the top of the climb I saw a fast friend, who had started in my group, up ahead. I gained on her as we crested and was running behind her as we hit the singletrack flat section before you begin the long descent.
Someone on the side said I was in 127th place. Yes! I passed another 5-10 people and was ready to run up next to my friend and say ‘let’s go, we can get this, top 100!’ I had it. That was the only time I looked at my watch. There was only 10-15 minutes left. All I had to do was smash the descent.
And, then I wiped out. I had landed hard on my right foot at some point earlier and felt it roll slightly — but didn’t care. When I hit something (no idea what) while running hard downhill this time and smashed into the side of the trail, I didn’t care either. I jumped back up, ready to chase down the guy who had passed me when I fell. I made it a few steps and the ankle rolled and I fell to the other side of the trail. This time I stood up and couldn’t put weight on the right ankle. Shit.
I stood to the side of the trail — as best as possible on a singletrack — and tried to shake the ankle out, test it. A large group went by me and I almost immediately went into shut-down mode. No top 100. Don’t hurt yourself worse. Get to the finish. I hobbled down the trail after the group, but kept stumbling on the stupid fucked up ankle. Someone fell as they tried to pass me; someone else crashed into us; the whole thing caused a pile-up. One of the women in the group I was stumbling after was worried I was dizzy and going to be a Dipsea casualty.
Slowly, the ankle went a bit numb. The stumbling turned into a jog. Eventually, I was able to kind of run the parts on the road or the smooth trails, where I didn’t need my ankle to be too stable. But, there were a lot of parts down stairs and down rutted singletrack and straight through brush. I couldn’t get out of people’s way fast enough as they passed me. I tried to not care. I wasn’t going to be top 100. This wasn’t going to be my best Dipsea ever. So, why did I care if I was 130th or 150th or 170th. But, not caring is hard when you’ve been working so hard to care. When we came out on the final quarter-mile stretch on the road to the finish, I ran as hard as I could and I still couldn’t catch the old people in front of me.
I ended up 153rd — which is more or less what I was last year — after running a 1:10:30 (subtract from that my 8 minute head start for being a woman). The heat was brutal and everyone was slow. Last year, I was 150-something and ran 1:08. Yesterday, 99th place was almost exactly 3 minutes faster than me. Was I on pace to run 3 minutes faster before wiping out? Maybe. I’ll think about that as I continue to ice my ankle — which is mostly walkable today. I’ll probably think about it especially as I plot eventually training seriously and exclusively for this race. Someday!!