I’ve gotten cocky lately. Or maybe just gone crazy. But that’s what adrenaline does to you, you see. While running my half marathon in Nashville, the whole time I was thinking, “how the Hell am I going to do two of these back to back? One’s hard enough!”
Then, the feeling of accomplishing that is so great that it overtakes any aches and pains and thoughts of morose you had while running. The aftermath-–-once the nausea and occasional vomiting has subsided, of course-–-is so intense that you immediately forget how hard it was to reach that point. You just feel successful and fit and skinny.
Which is exactly why as soon as I got back to San Francisco, I signed up for the Mt. Tam Wild Boar Run, a trail race that was just 11 miles long and one which I figured would be a breeze. I’m getting to the point in my marathon training where each weekend run should be 15, 17, eventually even 22 miles, so I find it easier to accomplish these via an organized run than going out and doing them myself. Something about hundreds of others perspiring and wanting to kill themselves right alongside you is an excellent motivator.
The whole “Mount” part in the title of the race should have immediately been a deterrent, but somewhere on the page I saw “easy flat run” (apparently a description for another race later this month on the same flyer, but I often misread the fine print) and thus I quickly signed up online. The Mill Valley area is so gorgeous, I figured it would be a refreshing way to spend a Saturday morning.
As usual, SVV was willing to come along with me and play photographer—being his girlfriend is like having your own personal paparazzo!—and bright and early, we drove out to Marin County, past Stinson Beach and up Mt. Tamalpais.
The night before the run, I read the packet they sent me that said “No iPods or mp3 players allowed.” In case you haven’t been able to tell by now, I don’t like to be told what to do, so I almost rebelled and took mine anyway—in fact, I was going to print out a copy of the race homepage where it didn’t say anywhere that you couldn’t listen to music—as I took this to be some hippie-dippy purist way of saying “enjoy the scenery; be one with nature,” and I need me some Fergie and Queen to keep me going if I’m going to be running for a couple hours. Last minute, though, I handed over my Shuffle to SVV not wanting to cause a scene, and the second I stepped foot on the dirt trail that was miles four through 11, I totally understood the rule. Let me rewind.
The race began at the bottom of an outdoor amphitheatre with the director coordinating a singalong of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” (I so wish I was kidding), before he started the clock and we had to race up the stairs and off down the road (which was, um, normal pavement, not yellow brick at all, though ironically enough, as we drove up the mountain on the way there, San Francisco seemed to float above the clouds way in the distance and I did comment to SVV: “It looks just like Emerald City! Only, well, not emerald, but you know what I mean.”) The first two miles were very hilly, but not too bad, because every time you would climb up, you knew there was a dip coming soon. I befriended a marathon vet from Golden Gate Running Club and ran alongside him until we hit the mountain trail, knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him at the 7:30-mile pace we were breaking. Come mile four, we veered off onto a dirt path roughly half a foot in width at parts, with pot holes, rocks, and knee-high grass – none of which I was expecting. I’m still shocked I didn’t come home with chiggar bites and a hearty dose of poison oak.
Here comes the part where an iPod would have been the cause of my demise. On the other side of the trail, the land dropped off onto a steep slope, and anytime I tried to look down to admire the scenery and Pacific Ocean in the distance, I nearly went tumbling after the rocks my shoes sent scattering down the mountain. I’m not really sure how you can be running uphill for seven miles straight, with no downhill breaks, and wind up at the starting point of the race, but that’s essentially what we did. The course was brutal – there were some 70-degree inclines, trees to duck under in the redwood forest, rivers to ford, buffalo to kill for dinner. It wasn’t unlike Oregon Trail, only no one fell victim to cholera or dysentery (that I know of).
I met Autumn somewhere around mile 4.5, and the first thing she said to me (or really just anyone in the vicinity) was, “There better be hash in this banana bread!” (The flyer for the race said to plan on sticking around for Dave’s World Famous banana bread; upon sampling it, we all agreed it came straight from a box.)
I knew we were destined to be friends. A yoga instructor who sells medical devices for children on the side, Autumn does her share of traveling, having just returned from a month in Thailand and planning an upcoming jaunt to India. If it weren’t for her, I might not have made it through the next six-mile climb.
But a marathon vet herself – she’s run nine and hundreds of other halves and other races – she said if I could handle Mt. Tam, the San Francisco Marathon would be no problem (in terms of hills). I’m holding her to that and sending her my medical bill should I pass out on mile 22.
She also opened me up to this whole new niche of running that I never knew existed: the Hash House Harriers. Have you guys heard of this? They’re all over the world and promote themselves as “a drinking club with a running problem.” It’s basically a social/fitness organization with runners of all skill levels and just about the coolest thing I’ve heard of lately.
I did finish the race with no big impediments, other than the typical nausea that stuck with me late into the night (and I didn’t even consume any Accelerade this time around!). SVV got some stunning photos (as evidenced above), and although several days later while writing this, I’m still sore in the oddest of places, we got pampered that evening at the swanky, new InterContinental San Francisco-–-the aquarium-like edifice that towers over downtown SF just south of Market—which I was reviewing for Newsweek.
While SVV wasn’t as lucky, I was the recipient of an aromatherapy massage from the iSpa—perhaps not the best massage I’d ever had, but far better than the 20-minute back rub I got in Tullahoma a few weeks back in which the masseuse, excuse me massage therapist, proceeded to talk to me the entire 20 minutes and inquire about my job, when I graduated high school, who my parents were, etc.––and we later celebrated his graduation for the second time, just the two of us, with dinner at Oola in SoMa (we got our own private little balcony! It was a pretty cool, industrial space, and the food was divine). Then, there were lots and lots of cosmos at some dive bar around the corner, served to us by a 20’s-era-looking Maggie Gyllenhaal clone who I wanted to take home with me and a scrum-diddly-umptious brunch the following morning at St. Francis in the Mission, upon Moose’s recommendation. And really, you can’t complain about any of that.