The first time round it was “definitely no”. But somehow I was there on the start line. I raced, I hurt, I cried and won and then promised never again. The second time round it was “probably no”. There I was on the start line. I raced even harder and faster and won and then questioned if ever again. The North Face 50 held on the Marin Headland literally just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. What is it that has got me intrigued? Is it that it is right beside a great city? Or that the course covers so many beautiful coastal, forest and open vistas trails? Is it the 3000m (10,000′) worth of climbing? The 6.56hrs (2010) – 7.45hrs (2011) running time on my feet? The big prize money packet? The pride? Or is it that I was just curious to take my mind and and body to another boundary. A new challenge. And why not? I only lost two toenails…and who needs toenails anyway?
I won’t bore you with all the preparation stuff (you can check out previous posts at my website), but basically the race review is simple. Run flippin’ fast: 1. to try and keep up with Lizzy (Hawker) and 2. to keep away from Ellie (Greenwood).
We set off as a snake of lights in the dark cold night…fast! Before I knew it we were over an hour in and on my favourite section of the course. Along the coast heading to Muir Beach. Lizzy had gapped me by three and a half minutes.
As the day light lit up the ridge lines we hit the zigzags up to the ‘Cardiac’ aid station and the fast start hit me.
Streaks of sun gave me bursts of energy as we reached the ‘out and back’ section giving the field a chance to see some of the action. Ellie was chasing fast. And we were now all within two minutes of each other.
I had just spotted that I was catching Lizzy and knowing I was soon to pick up my pacer Josh along with my new found confidence on downhill, I decided to crank up my own pace.
The next 15 miles I raced scared. Even with a fantastic support crew giving time checks, water, big cheers, and some determination…it is never going to be enough to take away the worry of what might happen up ahead…and from behind. I gave each and every uphill ‘hell’ and let no excuses creep in.
The only thing I looked at my watch for was the pace per mile and then made myself go faster.
The last 10 miles hurt. The last 2 miles really hurt. And the last 200 meters were excruciating. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line that I saw my race time of 6:56 and could finally accept and celebrate that I had just won.
Sadly, Lizzy had to pull out with her achillies injury, but a respectful season for her to bask in. Ellie came flying in with a magical smile and hug. And Joelle Vaught came in 3rd.
I won’t rub it in that we ‘chicked’ a handful of Ultra Running demons, but I will…just this once. And at the same time show my respect to those who dug deep, pulled on a shirt of pride, showing strength of character and finished with their chins high.
In the end…this was not about winning, it is definitely not about money, it is not for the media, but it is to share the hurt, the joy, the trails and the beauty of the unknown with so many of you who are just as passionate as I am about what we do.