Saturday, April 03, 2004

"Trail by fire" - The Golden Gate Marathon, April, 2004

What? So now I’m doing marathons?!? A trial marathon with 4k vertical feet to boot. Well, I guess this is one way to find your limits.

Well, here’s the logic (not saying it’s right, but here’s how it worked out) – if Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series points are counted based on mileage, then I better do a couple of marathons. So I signed up. Now, of course, I’m at the starting line wondering how one should go about running a marathon. "Trail by fire", so to speak.

The Golden Gate Marathon is put on by Envirosports, and takes place in the Marin Headlands starting right at the beach. This course doesn’t kid around – you go 400 ft and immediately begin the first 1,500 vertical foot climb over the first two miles. It’s worth the climb though – from that point on you run along the ridge tops with spectacular views of Marin, Sausalito, the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco. This race attracted a lot of ultra runners – post-race conversations had a lot of “hey, I saw you at the Western States 100 last year”. I got that sinking feeling I was in WAAAAY over my head.

Given my past Envirosports experience, I packed a fanny pack to be self-sufficient with water, G3 sports drink, some Power Bites, and a Snickers Marathon bar (well, it says marathon right on the package, so it must be right). My past fears were unwarranted – Envirosports put on a great race, and there were plenty of aid stations. As I crossed the first peak, I was in third running with these two guys in their early 40’s. Was I going too fast? Should I worry? I asked the guy next to me, and he said “you look fine…just don’t go lactic” (lactic meaning, don’t push yourself to where your lactic acid builds up in your muscles faster than your body can eliminate it…otherwise known as “going hard”). This guy seemed to have a good pace, so I started chatting with him. After a few miles I thought I was hallucinating, because he was telling me about running 200 miles at a time, how to place at the Badwater 137 mile race in the desert, and how he had done a marathon to the South Pole last summer….wha?!? I figured maybe I should slow down, and did, letting the two others break away. I later found out that guy was Dean Karnazes (http://www.ultramarathonman.com/), one of the craziest ultra runners on the planet, and one of OLNTV’s 10 Most Extreme Athletes. I don’t feel so bad now. ;oP

After 20 miles, I started to walk up the steepest hills, but seemed to have a lock on third place with nobody in sight ahead or behind me. Either that or I was really lost (definitely possible). After 23 miles, my legs started to go jelly and I got the most insane runners high. But I laughed my way through it and crossed the finish line in 3:38, all smiles. Dean and his family were there at the finish line, cheering every runner as if they were family.

I asked the Envirosports folks when they were going to send results to TRM – they had no idea what I was talking about. I feared I might not get points, but I didn’t really care – I just finished a marathon!

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