This run may go down in my history book as one of the funniest runs ever. Now, looking at the pictures, one might assume that I had the order wrong-- you win your division and THEN have a beer... but that would be an incorrect assumption. No, Jen and I had a pint in the middle of our run... and then found out we won our division! I'm not sure that this occasion would present itself again, because I don't know too many ultras that have beer at the aid stations, but based on yesterday's run, I'm thinking that maybe they ought to start....
This run is a ton of fun, and probably one of the only races longer than a 10K I would do on pavement. Basically, you get a map of the city with a bunch of point-valued checkpoints, and your job is to go out and visit as many as you can within a 3, 7 or 16 hour time period. I did this race two years ago with a group I found on Craig's list, but they stopped running 20 minutes into the seven-hour division. Not quite what I had signed up for.
Clearly, this year was a different experience. Yesterday was beautiful--clear and sunny with a slight breeze.
We headed out from Douglass Playground, down through the Mission, picking up various checkpoints along the way. We crossed the freeway and wound our way through Portrero Hill and down to the water. Incidentally, one of the surprising checkpoint locations was the cluster of houseboats at the intersection of 7th Street and Berry Street, right under the 280. I had no idea this little section of the city existed, which is why I love this race.
From there, we wound back toward Market Street, and headed to the Westfield Center for a panini from Bristol Farms for dinner. One of my favorite things about this race is interacting with people who are curious about why people are running around the city with maps and bandanas (the required piece of clothing for the race)-- we looked doubly suspect because we were dressed in matching baarbd jerseys. This led to an explanatory conversation with the counter person and another customer at Bristol Farms-- how many times do you explain (mid-race) what your race is all about?
My favorite race "sights" came after dinner--we ran down to the Embarcadero to one of the checkpoints, a huge spider by Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois has lately become one of my friend's favorite artists--she has a poster of this sculpture en large in her living room (a 30 foot version of this sculpture also exists).
Another "find" was the stairway leading from Sansome
up to Coit Tower. I'm sure many people know about it, but I had never approached Coit Tower from this angle. The stairs lead between houses who appear to be out-doing each other in their gardening attempts. Explosions of vines and flowers line the stairs and paths to the doors. Different floral scents waft through the air--it is so green as to appear almost tropical. The views, not surprisingly, are magnificent. A restaurant at the end of Montgomery commands a sweeping panorama of Alcatraz and Marin. (Apparently the quality of food is not justified by the exorbitant prices, but I want to come back one day for appetizers and drinks while enjoying the view.)
So now I'm sure you might be wondering--what's up with the mid-race beer? Are these two such tipplers they cannot wait until the finish line to indulge? As I have said in previous posts, my knee has been lurking about lately. It hasn't been painful, but it has threatened to hurt. Up until about 20 miles in, my knee was fine. If I made sure to run relaxed and focus on my stride, it was comfortable. A couple of times I stopped and stretched out, and carried on feeling much better. However, after about 20 miles, my knee decided that was enough. Stretching and adjusting my gait did not help, and I said to Jen after picking up the checkpoint in the Panhandle that I wasn't sure how much more I could run. (This was about 9:40 p.m., with an hour and 20 minutes left in the race...although not everyone in the group was aware of this, as we shall see later.)
Jen's comment? "Well, if we're going to be walking for the rest of the race, I'd be up for a beer." Considering we were very near the Haight, with bars a-plenty, I was amenable to this diversion. So we had (excellent) beers at the Alembic. The thinking here: If we're walking, we're not really competitive anymore, so why not have a drinky-poo?
Leaving the Alembic, it was about 10:20 p.m. We needed to get back to 26th and Douglass by 11:00 p.m. or we would lose points. I was trying to power walk as fast as possible because I knew we didn't have too much time and I did not want to hold us up because of my knee. We wound down to Valencia, trying to avoid hills, and somewhere around Valencia and 18th, Jen said something about getting two other checkpoints on the other side of the finish. I said that I didn't think we had time, and she said, "don't we go until midnight?" I said no, 11:00-- and what time was it, anyway? It was 10:45. We had 15 minutes to get through the Castro and Noe Valley all the way up to Douglass Playground. We started running-- and I do mean running. Most of the day had been carried out at a fast jog/slow run-- but not now. We flew down Valencia until 24th and then started charging up the hill. Up and up, past Guerrero, Dolores, Sanchez, Castro--when would Douglass appear? Jen said after we finished she kept thinking, "Don't throw up, don't throw up." Finally-- a left on Douglass and then 2 blocks of even steeper uphill. (The good thing is that my knee did not bother me on uphills or running fast--apparently when I run hard, my form is better and not as painful for my knee--just painful on the lungs...) We flung ourselves through the gate to Douglass playground at 11:01--one minute penalty.
As I said earlier, despite our adult beverage break, we ended winning our division. It's the first time I've won in my division, AND the first time I've ever taken a break in the middle of a run for a beer. I don't know quite what to make of this... maybe a keg on top of Rose Peak at Ohlone next year?
A thoroughly enjoyable day--lots of laughter, running, seeing new city sights, beer and winning--what more could you ask for?