Thursday, February 17, 2011


I wanted to laugh this morning at 5:30 am. There we were at the parking lot on the Northeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge for our weekly early morning run in the Headlands, waiting to see who was going to get out of their car first. It was dark, raining, cold and windy. The walk to my carpool was with an umbrella, the drive to the bridge was with the heater on and I had three layers - the last thing I wanted to do was shed those layers and head out into the rain and muddy trails. Thank God for the group because I would not have done it on my own. Roughly five minutes later we were off, a smaller group than usual but joined by three new runners. Two of them I knew of by their reputation. They were sisters, twins, one of them won the female race at my first ultra - Headlands 50k back in 2002. I remembered her because she was local and ran for the club who hosted the race - Tamalpa. I didn' t remember the name of the male champion except that he was from Idaho and also broke the course record.

Headlands 50k what a blast. The website then clearly stated that it wasn't recommended for a first 50k but I signed up anyway. It was less about courage and confidence and more about ignorance about what seven hills and over 7000 feet of climbing really meant. I showed up to registration in my super baggy college jeans, hoodie, knit cap and deer in the headlights look. I must have looked so green and painfully new. The guy who parked next to me was surprised I finished the race, he actually said "oh you finishted?!" I don't blame him, not at all. I wouldn't have bet money on me either.

I didn't know what to expect but I finished and came away wanting more, the rest is history. Until that day at the Headlands I had no idea the place even existed despite having lived in San Francisco for nine years at that time. Seeing Mary Fagan made me remember that day all over again. When I got home I pulled up the results from the run and was blown away by all the familiar names on it. Wow! So many friends, so many people who inspire me now. I didn't know them then but they were there. The name that jumped at me the most was my pal Carrie Sisk's, 5th female with a 5:01. Back then she ran for the Vasque Ultra-Running Team and she was quite the ass kicker! I've seen pictures when she used to race competitively, focused with great form. I wish I had known her then but I would not have been able to keep up anyway. She's pacing me at Western this year, one of two pacers. I paced her in 2009.

It was a busy day today work wise but in the quiet moments in between I've been thinking about that first ultra. Nothing like your first right? When I started running in the gym treadmill I never imagined it would come to this. Glad to be here!

Headlands 50k 2002 results.


  1. Have I mentioned how happy I am to see you blogging again? ;)

  2. Did I get it right that you made it to WS100 this year? Big congrats then! So cool.

    Yeah, nothing like your first ultra. There was always that fear that we were biting more than we can chew and of course, the rest is history. Cheers.

  3. From your description it sounded like you probably finished near the back of the race. So that's the first place I looked for your name when I clicked on the results link. You ran it in 5:38! 77th place out of 200! In jeans! Not bad... (:

  4. I don't have a first ultra (yet!) but I have similar memories and sentiments about my first ever TRAIL race. It was part of my prep for my first ROAD marathon (Big Sur). And... it was also in the Marin Headlands. And the rest is history, with the vast majority of my running and "racing" miles after that, other than my 2 Big Surs, being on trails....
    So I can also say:
    "When I started running [to prepare for Big Sur] I never imagined it would come to this. Glad to be here!"
    Thanks for the memories, Ann

  5. Hey, hey J-Lynn. Yes, yes you have.

    Jon, I am in this year. It has been a 5 year journey to get another shot at this race! I'd like to add to my 27.5 hour painful first experience with a much better run sub-24 hour finish.

    Steve, it did sound like that didn't it and no I didn't actually run the race with jeans, I just walked around in them at the start. Believe it or not I still have pair, with holes now, and I've started using them as warm up for some of the races. I can wear them over my shorts even when they are filled with gels and whatever, that's how wide and baggy they are. No need to take off the shoes when putting them on or off either.

    Trailturtle, we have the Headlands in common. Did you hear? We had snow on Mt. Tam this past weekend. It was even on parts of the Miwok course which is just over 2,000 feet. It's rare to have snow up there right? Unfortunately I missed it as I was in San Francisco running not so hilly miles but the snow was visible from Ocean Beach/Land's End.

  6. 2008 Bulldog 50K was my first and I was at the bottom list but I enjoyed the experience and everything is history. how i wished there were "big guns" in my 1st ultra run as compared to yours. good luck on your 2nd WS...sub-24 this time! whoaaa!