I wanted to rerun the same course that I had done two years ago, start at San Ysidro and run over to Rancho Oso. But last year the marathon (which that course was) got switched to an out and back format, so it would be 13 miles out from Rancho Oso, and then 13 back — it wouldn’t even get me to the Grotto and would miss the nicest part of the run.
So I decided to do my own thing. I’d sign up for the marathon, but run with the 50 milers and just stop at the turn around.
And then the Gibraltar Fire happened, and they had to change the route. So when I signed up I didn’t even bother to check the course because I knew it would change. If I had, I might have noticed that the race started at Red Rock this year (rather than Oso) and the marathon actually climbed up to Camino Cielo and would cover most of what I wanted to see.
Then at the pre race chat Luis announced a 50K which would run out to Rancho Oso and then back and up to Camino Cielo, and that was almost exactly what I wanted to do. But then, 2 minutes before race start, it was far too late to change my registration to the longer run, and far too late to call Nichol who was to pick me up at San Ysidro.
A new meaning of Red Rock — Rocks on Cold Spring covered with flame retardant from the Gibraltar Fire.
I bribed my friend Joe to drive me to the start (he was racing the 50) by offering to lend him my Adventure Pass so he could park legally. Not much of a bribe really, but he graciously agreed.
When I picked up my bib I told them I was not coming back, they should just mark me DNF at the start. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was lost in the back country; I didn’t want anyone looking for me when I wasn’t findable.
When the gun went off I deliberately ran around the chip mat so that it wouldn’t think I had started either. When I came to each aid station I told them I was dropping out and not to count me, nor expect me to come back.
I thought that if I knew I wasn’t racing then I might take it easy and just run for fun. It didn’t work that way. I knew I wasn’t racing, so I didn’t bother the think about pacing or running advisedly. I went out too fast.
I had speculated that when I got to the bottom of San Ysidro I might run over to Romero and back (Romero being the new turn around for the 50M). I had even thought I might trot on down the 9 Trails route and so just run home. But when I got to the bottom my legs were dead, and I had no desire to go further. So those fancies vanished.
It was cold when we got to Red Rock camping area. Joe’s car thermometer read 38°F. Cold and dark. It was about 5am and the sun wouldn’t be up until 6:45 (down in the valley, we wouldn’t see the sun until later), so it was going to stay cold for a while.
I found the porta-potties and the place to pick up my bib and then waited. As we approached race start at 6am I realized it would still too dark to run and got out my flashlight. As time passed and nothing happened I realized it was now light enough to run and put away my flashlight. The start was only 12 minutes late, but that was enough to make the difference. So I’m actually glad for the delay, even though it was cold.
We were off along Paradise Rd. I placed myself near the rear in my attempt to avoid the chip mat. I wasn’t interested in my time. But… Once I saw people ahead of me… People running slowly… Well I ran faster. Most of the runners (the half-marathoners and true marathoners) had a short out and back section to do, the 50milers (and me) had a 5.5 mile out (and 5.5 mile back) to do. So after about half a mile most people turned back.
The 50 milers went up a steep hill, on single track. There was a woman who had passed me on the road, but slowed down more than I wanted on the hill. So I passed her. And some other people. After half an hour or so I noticed sunlight on the tops of the hills. But my phone was off and my hands were in gloves and by the time I had dealt with all that we’d have turned a corner and lost the view.
Um. Remember, I wasn’t racing? I could have stopped.
When we got to Arroyo Burro someone pulled up beside me but didn’t try to pass. She was Michelle from San Luis Obisbo and didn’t want to get lost. It turned out that she was signed up for the marathon, so I realized that she was lost. She should have turned back ages ago, I suggested to her that she run the 50K instead since she had just added an extra 10 miles to her marathon (the marathon isn’t exactly 26.2miles, and the 50K isn’t exactly 31.2miles. Luis doesn’t care why should we?) so now she was on track for the 50K.
Brian Toro passed us, running up hill. The first 50 miler to turn around. Then someone else did whom I didn’t recognize. Then… er… we were at the turn around. There was no way I should be in 3rd place. Clearly I’d gone out too fast. At the very least Joe should be ahead of me. (Michelle seemed pretty fast)
We turned round and ran back up Arroyo Burro. A bit more slowly than we had run down. It was now quite light and a bit warmer so I took off my gloves and turned on the phone.
Not quite as nice as it would have been earlier, but not bad. I find it surprising how sere the mountains are on the other side of the valley. There’s a fair amount of vegetation on our side (though without leaves in late november), but lots of bare cliffs across the way.
Michelle noticed other marathon bibs as we ran up the hill (I wasn’t paying attention). She said she was misdirected by the volunteers at the marathon turn-around. That’s unfortunate. I guess it happened to me on my first trail race…
Not much blooming. A few weird buckwheats and some local chicories.
Michelle seems to be running about 20 feet behind me. She doesn’t seem to get much closer or much further away. I’m not aware of having said anything offensive…
Maybe she doesn’t like the idea of running 50+K or something.
Eventually we get back to Paradise Road and run along it out to its end. I don’t like running on Paradise out here, there are lots of fords and each ford is paved with concrete rather than asphalt. Concrete is not kind to my Achilles tendons, and as each ford consists of a steep down section followed by a steep up section, I end up running “fast” which is even worse for them.
But eventually we come to the end and head up the dirt road there. I glance behind to make sure that Michelle isn’t lost. She’s not. She’s about 20ft back. She runs quietly, and I can’t tell that she’s there.
Hunh. Another route change. We don’t take the little short-cut trail here, but follow the road.
Starting to see half-marathoners returning. Dan Rudd flies down the hill.
I realize I’ve run about 12 miles in the last 2 hours. That’s fast or me on the trails. But then this is the section with lots of roads so maybe that explains it.
Up over the ridgeline here, and then down, down, down into the valley with the Gibraltar dam. We’re seeing lots of half marathoners.
Then up out of that valley, Michelle still twenty feet behind me.
As we approach the first aid station I unstrap my camelback to get it ready to refill. I forget that my gloves are looped over the strap. They fall to the ground. I’m unaware of this.
I fill up my pack. Michelle asks the people at the aid station what she should do to recover from her going too far the wrong way. What can they say? Luis is really the only person who could make that decision… She decides she’ll run out far enough so that she’ll have done 26.2 when she returns. (This seems wrong to me, the extra 10 miles we ran in the valley are bumpy, but they are nothing like the mountain the other marathoners will have climbed to get to Camino Cielo. And it’s not as if this marathon is 26.2 anyway. Oh well, not my decision).
We set off.
I’ve failed to seal my camelback properly. I realize my gloves are missing. I turn back.
Someone, very kindly, picked up my gloves and put them at the aid-station. I also left my phone there. I’m a klutz. I get the camelback properly sealed. I set off again.
But by now several people have passed me and Michelle is out of sight.
I’m running more slowly now. Someone catches up with me. It turns out he’s the guy who rescued my gloves. He also recognizes me “Didn’t you pace the SB marathon last year? 3:30 or 3:25?” And I realize who he is. He is the guy who had done a 100K race the week before SB, then ran SB. He started with the 3:30 pace group, decided they were too slow, caught up with me and ran with me to the bottom of the hill, then decided I was too slow, and zoomed up the hill. I couldn’t have done that a week after a 100K.
He passes me.
Gibraltar Reservoir from my favorite viewpoint (near Mercury Mine) I can’t see any water. I think that’s a first.
At mile 17 Joe passes me. OK, things are getting back to normal.
Someone else comes up behind me.
Then Tyler Hansen, the first marathoner comes zooming by. I jump off the trail into a clump of (dead) star thistle to let him by. I set out again, but there is star thistle caught in my sock and I stop to get it out. The guy behind me passes me.
Shortly after than Michelle comes running back. She’s in second place for the marathon if they accept what she’s done. She’s fast, but I don’t think she’s that fast… I would be much further behind Tyler if I had run what he ran…
Now there is just me, alone in the landscape.
The sun has not reached down into the valley of the Grotto. All the Dunn’s Lobelia which covered it are dead now, and most of the leaves of the trees have fallen, but it still has water.
It’s very steep here and I’m walking.
I’ve forgotten to eat for a couple of hours (another sign I’m not paying attention because I’m not racing)! No wonder I’m feeling tired! I eat some blocks and fairly soon I’m running again (it’s not quite so steep now, that helps too).
Lots of marathoners are returning now. The trail is narrow. Gets a bit tricky.
Last time I was here, less than 2 weeks ago, I saw some liverworts starting to grow. I see none now. Is it because I’m racing and not noticing, or have they died in the drought?
I realize I’ve now run 22 miles in about 4 hours. So first two hours were at 6mph pace, then next 2 at 5mph.
At Forbush I see the person ahead of me running off route (presumably to use the pit-toilet there). Yay! I passed someone.
A little beyond that I find two marathoners stopped on the trail. I ask if they are OK. “Just taking a rest.” I’ve run 22.5 miles, they’ve run about half that…
Finally I get to Camino Cielo. It has taken me half an hour to do the last two miles (admittedly steep miles). So now I’m down to 4mph.
I make sure Karen and Stephanie at the aid-station here know I’m not continuing. Someone runs behind me and zips through the aid station. I remind myself I’m not racing. I climb up to the watertank to look for a plant that was blooming there two weeks ago (It has a single, sad bloom today).
Then back on course along CC to San Ysidro. And downhill again. The top section is nicely runnable, and for a bit I’m doing 5~6mph again. I pass 26.2 at 4:55 or so (not my best marathon time!).
The “waterfall” on San Ysidro. A few drops if you get up close
I pause to look at the so-called waterfall and then the trail gets tricky and I slow. The hikers all seem to know there is a race going on and happily get out of my way, which is kind of them. They ask me how far I’ve gone, and what place I’m in — I don’t know, but seems like there are an awful lot of people ahead of me.
When I get to Nancy’s aid-station I learn I’m in 5th place (or would be if I were racing). I think some of the people who passed me decided to run the 50K and turned back (and I assumed they were marathoners).
I chat a bit and watch 3 people go through the aid-station. Then I go down the final .8 miles to the road. 5:34 for ~29 miles by my watch, 5.2mph.
Nichol drives up. She wants to go see Nancy, which is fine with me, so we go back up. Um. I move very slowly. It takes forever to get there.
I see Joe on his return journey and Nash on his outward journey.
As a race I planned and executed it poorly. But I had fun.