Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Surprisingly Tough but Fun Miwok 100k

Bolinas Aid Station. Photo courtesy of Victoria Folks who came out to pace and cheer on friends.

I thought it was better on the hills because the water drained off the trail. The fog was like this for the majority of the run. No views but you felt like you were in an enchanted forest, a movie set for the Lord of the Rings. For those who came for the usually spectacular views, consider coming back next year. Photo courtesy of Victoria Folks.

On my previous post I declared that I was "ready" for the Miwok 100K, well the race was ready for us too. It treated us to all the mud, puddles, cold wind, heavy fog, slick rocks, slippery roots and rain that we could handle. It's the kind of conditions that makes the outdoors more fun than the usual, a run an epic experience if you're prepared for it physically and approach it with the right mental attitude.

There was an estimated 50 no-shows at the start and by the time I left the race at 7pm, there were 60 drops. I heard a lot of people dropped because of hypothermia. The start wasn't that cold and soon many were shedding layers, tying jackets around waists. Some of these folks may have dropped off their layers at the aid stations leaving them ill prepared when the conditions got colder later in the race. Maybe that's what happened. As we made our way to Mt. Tam and Bolinas Ridge to the eventually turnaround at Randall the weather got worse or better depending on your frame of mind. Bolinas Ridge was a particularly tough place to be, neither a downhill or an uphill climb, it is a tight, narrow single track that meanders on the side of a ridge for several miles. There is no cover here from the elements and the path covered with slick mud, churned by runners feet. It was tricky on the way out, quite challenging on the way back. You could see spots where people just plain slid of the trail:) A swath of mud and clumps of grass going downhill. Here it is on a good day, here too.

Well like I mentioned, if you're prepared for it, you can have yourself a really fun day with these conditions. Part of what makes the outdoors the outdoors you know. Several friends were doing their first 100k yesterday, had no big expectations except to finish and had themselves a grand time. It was however a bad day to try and PR. A smarter runner would have factored this all in at the start and made the decision to try another day. Not me boy - "We can still do this!! Just run harder, you are in your element with the cold, fog and rain. What mud?" Hahaha my own idiocy amuses me to no end sometimes. I'm laughing right now as I type and drink coffee. I was in the wrong place mentally for the first half of this race. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to chuck all goals halfway through the run and just enjoy the day for what it was.

Physically I was fine. I was at home in those conditions with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. I shed my layers early and dropped off my gear at Jochen's drop bag. He was nice enough to let me do that. Just one of the advantages of living in San Francisco especially since I run after work in the evenings with the fog and wind. I was slipping and sliding all over the place though. Never fell. My strides are so short, I'm usually sliding with my weight centered above my feet. I was also careful around the rocky sections because they were slick with rain. It took it's toll sooner than I expected. After the 35-mile turnaround my legs felt heavy and stiff. They pretty much stayed that way for the remainder of the run. It was probably a combination of pushing too hard on the first half and not being fully recovered from the last race. No pain though, just fatigue.

My motivation flagged on the way back since I gave up on my goal for a big PR. Being passed when I'm usually the one doing the passing on the second half of a race wasn't helping either:) Thankfully Andy Benkert came along, we ran the last 15 or so miles together for the finish. He let me pace off of him, pulling me up the hills. On the last 6 miles or so, knowing that we still had a chance for a sub-11, I whispered on his ear - "pssst Andy, this going to put pressure on you but you can take it anyway you want. You have a chance to finish under 11 hours for your first 100k. You should go for it!" There was less talking and more hauling at this point. With a sense of renewed purpose my legs revved up for the last time and I returned the favor of his company by leading the charge home the last 4 miles. We hauled up the last hill and sprinted the steep downhill home. We got it! He did it! Andy Benkert pulled a sub-11 for his first 100k in challenging conditions. I'll be back again for a PR attempt when the weather is more conducive to it.

DSC02754.JPGAndy and I hauling past Jo-Lynn at the last aid station in Tennessee Valley - "Thank you! We don't need anything!" Thanks Jo-Lynn for being out there all day volunteering. Photo courtesy of Jo-Lynn.

Pals Jessica and Samantha were there at the finish with an open beer at the ready. The finish was warm and welcoming after a trying day. It was good to see the mud in the other runners along with their tired smiles. Hung around for several hours at the finish enjoying the company of friends, sharing stories and joking around. Mark Lantz I will no longer be taking your advice about running through big puddles. I almost had to swim across the one I tried your technique on. I'll be back with more photos from the event.

It was a good day for a big run. I never stopped smiling and thanking my God for the privilege. Congratulations to all the finishers. Thank you to the race organization, volunteers and cheering spectators. Big thanks to my friends who came down.
San Diego 100-mile is next, June 6-7. Lot's of time to recover and wrap up final preparations. Scott Mills the race director ran the race and he looked happy about his day.

Miwok 100k
Approx. 10,000 ft. (3048 meters) of total elevation gain / Same for loss
Cold, foggy, windy, rainy, mud and puddlefest adventure.


  1. Nice job Ricky Boy! I was able to get a couple shots of you but they aren't great. You were moving way too fast for my camera.

  2. You would be one to PR despite rough conditions. But you can save it for another day with even worse conditions, like oh lightening? :D
    I love reading your race reports and I always feel inspired and honored to be your slow trail running friend!

  3. Another inspirational race report Rick. It makes my 10k race today like a leisurely stroll in the park, as compared to the rain, mud,cold and fog of Iwok 100k. A 100 miler next? Wow!

  4. Thank God we can do such things - was my thought process today out in the Gorge. And thank God we are no virgins in understanding things happen, and it's up to us to make the best out of it. Still toying with idea of coming to SD, but mostly just that - toying...

  5. Wow - looks like it was crazy out there with the cold and weather ! Great job and great report my friend.

  6. Congrats on finishing strong, Rick! And more importantly, keeping it in perspective. It IS the outdoors and if we truly embrace our love of that then we take it rain or shine, hot or cold, PR or no PR. As always, it was awesome to see you out there.

  7. Wow. Great job, Rick. I can see how that would be fun ... but I think it would get kind of old for me after 8 or 10 hours or so. I guess it's all about mindset, and you've got the right one.

    It also doesn't surprise me in the least that you pulled a newbie to an outstanding finish in the final miles. Not one bit.

  8. Awesome job Rick! It definitely looks like it was a tough day. I'm glad you were able to adjust your expectations mid-race and have fun. I was definitely thinking about you guys as the rain was pouring down, knowing how it is to be out there in it all day long. You are a rock star! I think I'm glad I ended up at the bottom of the waiting list for this race. ;)

    Thanks for the report, and I look forward to more photos!

  9. Great run! Sub-11 hour under treacherous conditions. Wow. The will to persevere and the maturity to adjust accordingly during the race are hallmarks of a veteran runner.

    A BIG congratulation!

  10. Nice job out there.

    Rain and wind can slow down the times but are still a lot of fun if you stay positive. I say the nastier the better. I hope SD has a bit of that next month.

  11. Rick, it really was great to run with you yesterday, and I can't thank you enough for your help in those last miles pulling me in under 11 hours. You represent one of the great things about the ultra community - really nice people.

    Take it easy for a little while, give those legs a rest, and have a great time at SD100.

  12. Great attitude.

    Congratulations, Rick.

  13. Great run and awesome accomplishment. Congratulations! More power to you in your next ultra trail races.

  14. I have to admit...sounds like a kind of race I would love to run in...Congrats on the finish. At times like that, it's best just to dicard any goals and to have a good time. Good grace at San Diego 100M

  15. Fantastic race, Rick! Wow, those looked like some sloppy conditions. And how great to be greeted by friends with beer at the finish! :) Way to go, and keep up the great work. You continue to impress and inspire all of us mere mortals!

  16. Great job Rick and nice race report. Glad you chucked the goals at the half and managed to have fun! Sounded wet and cold. Brr.

  17. You had such a great attitude out there! It was one to tell the grandkids someday.

    Best of luck at the SD100!

  18. Good report man. Here's mine. I dnf'd for the first time. Sucks!