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Adventures: > My "Unofficial" Miwok 100k - 2006

  by Spartacus

      Warning: reading the following may be dangerous to your health and reputation. Being uncertain of my schedule early in the year I hesitated too long in registering for this race and thus failed to get in. A suggested alternative, the often hot and dusty Mt. Diablo 50-miler, did not appeal to me, and realizing that Miwok was one of the most beautiful courses on earth, and that life is short - and also recalling the diner scene from Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson (!), I concocted a plan to run on my own anyway, unaided, planting my own supplies along the course so as not to get busted having any association with the race. (For those needing a refresher course that famous scene goes like this: Bobby (Jack) : I'll have an omelet, no potatoes. Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat toast instead of rolls. Waitress: No substitutions. Bobby: What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes? Waitress: Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two - a plain omelet. It comes with cottage cheese, fries, and rolls. Bobby: Yeah, I know what it comes with, but that's not what I want. Waitress: I'll come back when you make up your mind. Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast. Waitress: I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast. I'll give you a English muffin or a coffee roll. Bobby: What do you mean "you don't make side orders of toast"? You make sandwiches, don't you? Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager? Bobby: You've got bread. And a toaster of some kind? Waitress: I don't make the rules. Bobby: OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee. Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else? Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules. Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh? Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees!).

      The way I looked at it, there was nothing wrong with being out on the trails any day of the year, and I would have my own food conveniently stashed near Tennessee Valley, Muir Beach, Pantoll, Bolinas Ridge, and Highway 1 in plastic bags, which I could pick up and dispose of on my way back, thus leaving no traces behind me. The authorities could “hold” the official time, t-shirt, goody bag, and aid station supplies, and my only connection with the race would be dumping my trash baggies in race-provided garbage cans at the Randall and Bolinas Ridge aid stations, and that shouldn’t merit crucifixion or life-time banishment. The plan seemed perfect, I would be like a phantom and to outsiders a mere observer of the race as I swept from point to point. The idea was exciting. True, I could have chosen to do the same thing the day before or after the race, but so what? It breaks no rules, does no harm, and leaves both race directors and the park officials who limited entries to 250 off the hook. (Just to be on the safe side, however, I had excuses and threats ready, and also chose to use a pen name when writing this piece. We may not need no stinkin’ badges, but those that do tend to think they must).

      I quickly became swept up in the radical appeal of this undertaking. And the immortal words of Bogey in Casablanca: “It doesn't take much to see that the life of one runner doesn’t mean a hill of beans in this crazy world...If you don’t run you will regret it - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life...” and the inimitable Mae West: “If you have to choose between two evils, pick the one you haven’t tried before”, got my motor running. I also didn't want to live with the regret that I coulda been a contender. So the afternoon before the race I headed out and planted well-disguised supply bags of water, Chocolate Ensure (350 calorie version), Mountain Dew, Starbucks Double Espresso, Endurox sports drink powder, and assorted munchies in the bushes in strategic locations. I improved on my sleep problem of recent years through the miracle of modern chemistry, and had less jitters because I knew I could bail at the last minute and not be out the hefty entry fee. My goal was to break 12 hours, a one hour improvement over 2004. (For a detailed account of that race, with pictures, those reading this on-line click here).

      My build-up this time to the race consisted of, besides bread and butter 10 and 15 milers, 8 weeks of long runs, including, from my house near McGuiness Park Golf Course in northern Terra Linda, to San Geronimo and back, twice, via Loma Alta and White's Hill (25 miles), to the East Peak of Tam and back, twice (25), to Pantoll and back (28), to Pantoll to Mill Valley and back (32), and to San Francisco and back (40). The second week out I ran just 15 miles, and the last week nothing but 5 miles of walking. I was ready.

      Like Bruce Dern in the running movie On the Edge I tucked in behind the pack, actually two minutes back, to be less conspicuous, and things started out well. The first supply bag I stashed was still in the grass at Tennessee Valley, the 11 mile mark, which I reached five minutes faster than before, feeling good. I blew by the Muir Beach aid station, having planted my next small cache of Mountain Dew and pretzels under some fronds just before the Franks Valley Road/Deer Park Fire Road junction several miles ahead. Unfortunately, I planted it so well I couldn’t find it (!) and went back and forth like a chicken with his head cut off for 3 minutes or so looking before giving up. This was only a small annoyance, however, compared with what was later to come. At Pantoll I hid a bag, both just before and after the campground, for both the outward (21 mile) and inward (49 mile) mark of the race, and to make disposal of my garbage easy with no backtracking to the trash cans. This part went smooth, although I took a chance with downing in rapid succession the new concoction of one bottle each of Ensure, Starbucks and Mountain Dew. That clogged the engine for a few minutes, but then the supercharge started to kick in, and I reached Bolinas/Ridgecrest ten minutes ahead of schedule. There were alot of hikers out on the Coastal trail this beautiful day, and as I passed a small group I heard one of them say, in hushed, almost disbelieving tones, "Did you see the sign at that last aid station? It said it was the 42-mile mark!" I realized that, inbred as we runners become, we sometimes don't realize what we are actually undertaking. ("Did you do a long run last week?" "Yeah, but only 20 miles - hahaha!")

      I imagined people must have thought I was some kind of macho man (or nut) as I ran through each aid station. Soon, however, came the first catastrophic snafu. I had placed a well-hidden double bag of goodies about 50 yards down Bolinas Ridge, with even a stick jammed in the road to mark the spot. The bags were covered with boughs of fir, and were not visible from the fire road. But no matter how hard I searched they were no longer there! Five minutes walking up and down, back and forth, pulling out my hair, cursing, and finally I saw about twenty yards farther into the woods a can of Starbucks and bottle of water. That was it. This was to be TWO aid stations for me, both out and back. There was no food, no Mountain Dew, no Ensure, and no electrolyte powder to mix with the water. Finally, I saw Scott Jurek, the early leader, pass by on his return, 14 miles ahead. The last time I ran this I passed him a couple of miles down the ridge.That meant he was going faster than before, or I was losing alot of time. Both turned out to be true. Anyway, Starbucks and water would have to do until I reached the turnaround at the bottom of Randall Fire Road, seven miles away.

      Between McCurdy and Randall, an enchanted wooded area and one of the most hauntingly beautiful parts of the course, I ran past UltraMarathon Man Dean Karnazes, who cheerfully said to me “you look too fresh.” Right. What do you expect from a guy who runs a 192-mile "relay" all by himself, kisses his wife and kids goodnight at 10 pm and thinks nothing of going out for a 50-miler, lives on a few hours of sleep, runs a major business, and bares his buns in Antarctica as a publicity stunt for his new book? Eh? I smiled and continued on, wondering later whether such an elite contact might come in handy someday.

      Along the way I also noticed quite a few runners like myself without numbers on, so I guess alot of my paranoia was unwarranted. But I’ll bet most of those rascals clandestinely and without honor poached the official aid stations. And I also noticed a strange phenomenon, that some (whose names I won't mention) who were not listed as registered on the Miwok website, and wore no numbers, still appeared in the official race results. Just how did THAT happen?!

      At the bottom of Randall, alas, another disaster awaited. Another crucial and invisible-from-the-trail supply cache was broken into. No Mountain Dew, no Starbucks, and my powder baggie was torn open and apparently eaten by some animal. Nothing to do at this point but to swallow my pride and beg some Gu2o sport drink from the race crew, while feeling some lingering trepidation about being officially exposed.

      Grinding back up the hill I passed a guy coming down who said he had enough - he had run all the way down Bolinas Ridge, missing the turn down Randall! I hoped he meant all the way down to the old turnaround, and not the very end of Bolinas Ridge, which would mean only 4 instead of 10 miles out of the way, in either case a major bummer. Near the top I met Cindy Goh who said she and some others had missed the turn, too. Those who had never run the course before or ran it before 2004 when the course was changed could easily have made that mistake. I feel somewhat responsible for this.

      The original course reached a turnaround 7.75 miles down Bolinas Ridge, past the woodlands and several miles through the cow pastures (where confrontation with the herd and an occasional bull is always a possibility), four miles from any paved road, but at the eleventh hour in 2004 the park rangers forbade service vehicles from using any fire road access, and the race directors was scrambling for a solution. Via email I suggested that they re-route the course 5.5 miles down Bolinas Ridge left onto the seldom-used Randall Fire Road which exited the ridge 1.7 miles below at Highway 1, thus solving the problem of how to set up an aid station in a rather forlorn and isolated location. The idea was approved and the only drawback was the steep 1100', 1.7 mile climb back up to the ridge immediately after the 35-mile turnaround. The previous route had only about 400 feet of climbing over 2.25 miles, a much more gradual transition. I anticipated taking a fair amount of heat from the runners once word got around who was responsible for this rather brutal change! A positive factor, however, was that the Randall Fire Road is in the shade, and as it turned out many felt it to be a welcome change that broke up some of the monotony of the previously long slog down the ridge.

      Feeling better at this point than two years ago, I felt 12:30 was still within reach. I even managed to run most of all the uphills on the return, something I couldn’t do in 2004. By this time, however, I had achieved a total of three full face-plant falls, and my right hand would not stop bleeding, making my water bottle hard to hold, but my legs felt pretty good. Anyway, on returning to Bolinas/Ridgecrest, still not believing my large bag of supplies was gone, I spent five minutes searching again before finally conceding defeat. Since I was on my own clock the time spent tromping through the woods in vain didn't matter, but once more I compromised my principles in the interests of survival and mooched another bottle of Gu2o and a few potato chips from the aid station. All in all, I figured by now I owed the race committee about $1, which unfortunately travelling incognito I would have to overlook. When taking my drink at the aid station, the peanut butter and cheese English muffin I had been clutching in my hand ever since Pantoll fell in the dirt. A volunteer picked it up and asked if I still wanted it. With some dejection I resignedly said, "yes." I could take an antibiotic later but I needed the calories right away. I also found a discolored, almost unrecognizable piece of Cliff Bar deep in my pocket that I swallowed even though it brought uncomfortable images to mind.

      Nearing Pantoll (mile 49), a Japanese man was gaining on me. After he passed I said, “it’s just about here that I start to ask why I am doing this.” He said, “my excuse is that I need to get in the miles for Western States. At least, I think that is an excuse.” I thought of pointing out that THAT itself required another excuse, and another, in an infinite regression, and that the answer must be because he, like me, had too much time on his hands, or was frantically running away from facing a gigantic void inside, but decided that I was mostly just in dire need of my next shot of caffeine and sugar. Here I wasted several more minutes, with decreasing mental clarity, desperately searching while arguing with myself, before remembering that the day before after careful deliberation I had finally moved my supply bag to another location, from some bushes to under a big pine tree, and it fortunately was still there. This time the Mountain Dew tab broke off, however, and such a minor problem caused several additional minutes delay manuevering a small, pinhole stream of soda into my mouth.

      Back down Hogsback and across Frank’s Valley Road, I again looked for the mini-aid bag I stashed there, but still couldn’t find it. Not a huge problem, because I had also placed a drink and trail mix atop the Miwok trail just before Highway 1 for a quick pick-me-up. And the all-important second cache at Tennessee Valley was also still there. Everything was going about as good as can be, then, when on the flat saddle between Old Springs and Wolf Ridge (59 miles) I stubbed my toe and face-planted for the fourth time, with the added amusement of dislocating my left shoulder!, which had me petitioning the universe for mercy. This was nearly the coup de grace, and I began hallucinating dramatic rescue operations. Soon afterwards two runners showed up, including Ray Scannell of Pollock Pines, whom I calmly instructed in helping me reset it. By holding my arm GENTLY above my head while I relaxed as much as I could, it took them a little practise with me only having to yell once, “NO, DON'T PULL IT, PLEASE!!”, and it gracefully went back in place within a few minutes. I said another brief prayer, and found I could manage a good run after that by holding the arm carefully tucked into my side. All in all, I figure I finished somewhere between 12:35-12:45, after subtracting for food searching, retrieval and disposal, and the bone-setting procedure. I felt much less tired than in 2004, which means Dean was probably right, I didn’t bust my ass like a proper runner should do. I know I didn't hammer the downhills as much as usual (four falls will do that to you,) although I did feel like I was moving petty good. Still, it was hard not being totally demoralized comparing my time with 51 year-old Mark Richtman’s phenomenal 8:47 - arguably the best run of the day, just a few minutes behind national-class leaders 20 years his junior.

      To make the overall experience even more complete, while I did save money on the race fee, along the way I lost my wedding ring, possibly because of the blood on my fingers or during one of the four face-plants, and with the recent 3-fold price increase in gold I am now probably out $500 or more for a replacement! (Which brings to mind the following, something I have thought of lately: Running isn’t that cheap. I calculated how much it costs versus driving and was shocked at what I found. At $80 and 400 miles per pair of shoes, I get about 5 miles per dollar, or at the current price of gas, 15 “mpg” - not counting drinks and food! If I didn’t own a car at all it would be a slam-dunk in favor of running, but simply saving on gas doesn’t work out).

      Returning home and after seeing the multiple abrasions and lacerations on both my hands, knees, elbows, right forearm and thigh, and a gimped left arm held close to the side that made me look like Bob Dole, my caring, adorable, long-suffering, non-running wife insisted, “you’re not going to do that race again!” I replied, in my best John Lennon voice, “You know I work all day, to get you money, to buy you things; and it’s worth it just to hear you say, you’re gonna let me, do my thing.” I followed with “Every man has a dream” (Earth, Wind, and Fire), “Semper fi”, “Don’t tread on me”, “Live free or die”, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do”, “Wanderers forever” (“I’m the type of guy, who likes to roam around”), and finally, “So let it be written, so let it be done!” We discussed the issue calmly, after which she determined , “there’s something wrong with you, you don’t know what you’re doing, and you can’t remember things.” I mumbled a few words under my breath. Then, ignoring my immediate impression of and reaction to her words, I humbly said, “you’ve got the first part right.” That made her smile.