This past Saturday at 5 am I lined up in front of the Stinson Beach Communtiy Center with 494 other brave souls for the 20th running of the Miwok 100k. I was full of anxiety, based on the fact that I had not just one night of bad sleep but the two previous nights of tossing and turning. The course was so in my head, the elevation profile was gnawing away at my insides. I had done almost no hill training, very little trail running- I had logged a lot of miles but it was almost all flat, and fast.
I spent the first ten weeks of the year training for a BQ at the LA Marathon (missed it by ~12 minutes), then took four days off, then five weeks of super-condensed ultra training. Only two long runs of 25+ miles, a few 18-milers and four days of speed work supplemented with junk miles. My longest run in duration was 4:24, two weeks earlier at Ruth Anderson.
Ugh, Miwok is gonna hurt this year. Especially since my plan is to race it, and hard.
Last year I used it as my last long run before SD100 so I ran it pretty relaxed. Last year I had all the endurance training in the world, a great race at Lake Sonoma, a few Mt. Tam summits and some Diablos thrown in for good measure, last year I was ready.
But this is 2015, and there’s a lot of different things at play- good things, great things. Last year was a distant memory, and I’m a completely different runner now. I traded those amazing five and six hour slog fests in and around the East Bay Regional parks for fast tempo runs around Lake Merritt. I’m still way behind on so many podcasts.
So every time I run a race in the Marin Headlands, I think, “here’s what I want to do today…” and come up with some kind of plan, like running somewhere around 11:30 to 12 hours for this race.
The Headlands always has a different plan for me.
The Headlands demand your respect, and they will get your full attention right around the time you think everything is going alright.
It’s like, “you feeling good? Yep, that will change” or “feeling bad? Yeah, that will change, too…”
Such is the nature of the ultramarathon. The longer the distance, the more highs and lows. The ebb and the flow, the yin and the yang.
I have to also give mad props (or “hella” props, I still don’t feel quite right using that word since I’m from the East Coast) to the Excelsior Running Club- this is my first race in their singlet, and I’m super honored to be a part of such a fine crew. You guys were awesome out there.
So the race starts and all that anxiety just melts away, it always does. Easy pace, easy heart rate; I felt floaty going up the Dipsea, up over the Moors, up into the fog. We’re greeted at Cardiac by bagpipes. I wish I was more poetic; I feel like I’d have something apocalyptic to say about 5:30 am and bagpipes and fog and running 59 more miles today. I just laughed and thought, “that’s new”.
Down Deer Park as the sun is rising, these early miles felt effortless- I switched off my headlamp as I greeted the volunteers at the Muir Woods Road crossing. “You guys are awesome!” I would repeat that phrase at least another 100 times. And yes, I meant it every time.
Along the overgrown Redwood Creek trail past the huge Miwok redwood (for some reason I always wave at this tree because I appreciate its presence here), down to the road and into Muir Beach. I made sure to give the pirate directing us into the turn here a huge high five, because pirates are so dope.
In and out of Muir Beach aid, then back out to the Zen farm- here was Tehani pointing runners to that switchbacky climb up Middle Green Gulch, it’s always good to see someone that knows your name, I always get a boost hearing a good “go Jim!”
Then up and over to Miwok cutoff and down into Tennessee Valley. Quick pit stop in the porta-potty, hit my drop bag and up Marincello.
It’s nice to run up Marincello on fresh legs- right before the top I caught up to Paul, another Excelsior runner- we’d share most of the next 15 or so miles together. It was good chatting away, talking about races we’ve done, DNFs, aid station readiness, all that. We pulled into Bridge View together and out came my first gift for the aid stations: hand made greeting cards.
Yep, I made greeting cards the previous week with my preschoolers and I thought “here I am, racing all day, having these generous folks cater to our every silly whim and need, deal with our crankiness, I should do something nice for them…”
So I made every aid station captain an original Jimmy Mac greeting card. I literally have an endless supply of glue sticks and construction paper at work, so this is how I roll. Plus, the added bonus of thinking of others really keeps you from dwelling on your own shit, like race week anxiety and the fact that you might be just a tad undertrained.
Down that mellow long downhill- to the road crossing, across and onto Rodeo Valley, back up to Alta then over to Miwok and down Old Springs. It felt good to walk through the horse stables and into TV again. I got a fill up on water, hit my drop bag again and presented yet another greeting card.
Back down Coastal, futzing with my gear now (I had to grab two big bottles worth of UCan, my iPod and like 6 Gu packs because I wouldn’t get another drop bag for 23 miles) trying to get everything crammed into pockets and compartments and all that. Paul and I were still sorta running together, he looked back a few times and was probably thinking, “get your shit together, man!” I was starting to hurt a little bit now, having hit the marathon mark in about 4:40, just hoping to hold on to this pace as long as possible.
Paul stayed a decent distance ahead up the climb to Pirate’s Cove, and I switched on the iPod and settled into a decent enough power hike. It was still really foggy so the view down and through the cove wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped. I got passed by Alex Varner out on a training run, he said “nice socks” and then asked how I was doing. “I’ve been better…” was all I could say, and he came back with “well keep on truckin’ then” and I thought, yeah! I will most definitely keep on trucking. At that very moment I wished I had the Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ on my iPod. Damn. But that was kinda cool.
So I hammered down into Muir Beach aid, caught up to Paul. Gave out another greeting card and was on my way, now up to Cardiac.
Paul was much stronger than me from here on out so he dropped me along Redwood Creek- I would briefly catch up to him at the bottom of Deer Park but that was it. He had a great race, we saw each other briefly before the Randall turnaround, he looked really strong.
I ran (walked) with this guy Saul from Colombia for a minute, he told me how much he loved racing in America and that they had really great 3000 meter (9000+ feet) mountains in Colombia but no one dared go into the mountains for fear they’d happen upon a coca processing plant or some other shady activity and never be seen again. Made me really appreciate the Bay Area.
At this point I decided to start motoring, get up to Cardiac and get my shit together. I was having a little pity party and thank the good gods of ultra running my homey Tony was out on a training run, coming down Deer Park Trail. He selflessly turned himself around and paced me up to Cardiac as we talked about our impending births (his wife is due end of May, mine is due October). Talking babies and life got my head back into the race and out of my ass.
Cardiac was a blast, it was being run by the SFRC crew and the indomitable Brett Rivers. I relished seeing him and the loose, fun vibe they had going on up top. The sun was finally out and it felt like a race (after only 35.5 miles). I handed Brett another card, ate some watermelon and banana, got a huge fill on the H2O and was out.
I knew I’d have a chance to settle into a nice rhythm for the next 14 miles, this is by far the most runnable part of the race. So out along Coastal, just soaking in all the sun and insane views. As much as I want to hate on this trail because it’s slightly cambered all the way out past McKennan Gulch, there was only one-way traffic so none of that silly yielding to runners like in the North Face 50. Talk about jamming your rhythm.
Then I see another friend, Dustin, out on a training run for the Quicksilver 100k coming towards me on Coastal. Quick high five, some words of encouragement, once again I’m feeling better, but…
…now my mind started to really wander. I’ve been out here seven, maybe seven and a half hours, just running. Then it hits me: I haven’t peed in like three hours. Great. I should probably start figuring out what I want written on my headstone so I can gasp it out with my last dying breath. Yeah, something like: “Here lies Jimmy. Just had to run the Miwok today” or maybe: “Hypernatremia with dehydration, y’all. The silent killer.”
Then I thought, “Shit. I don’t think I set my fantasy baseball lineup today.” That’s just great. But then, yay! I peed. It was basically the color of iced tea, which is not ideal, but it’s a start. I was trying to remember that chart from the S!Caps website about what to do when you’re having issues with hydration and electrolytes, I thought “better drink a lot of water starting now…” I’d really like to thank my kidneys for not shutting down right there; you’re supposed to be an involuntary organ, I’d appreciate it if you just worked all the time.
Then I started thinking all kinds of silly shit, like “I wonder what Allyson is doing right now?” and “Did I lock the car?” then “Holy shit I love Van Halen! Yessssss! Hot for Teacher is my jam!” Before I knew it, I was at Bolinas Ridge aid station.
Sometimes being a little crazy is a great distraction, and also a form of meditation.
It was great to walk into an 80’s party here, and to see Nate Dunn. He greeted me with a hearty “dude, you’re rockin’ it!” I had covered 42.5 miles in 8:09- I wasn’t feeling great but damn was I having fun and still moving well. Bolinas Ridge gave me a huge boost, felt like I had wings flying out of there. I knew it was more or less a long downhill into Randall and I was starting to hurt, my feet, my quads, hips, yeah.
I rolled into Randall, and that place was rocking as well- pacers were waiting to pace, crews were eager to help anyone and everyone- mad props to Jenny Maier for grabbing me a Mountain Dew and helping me sort out my drop bag. I gave a volunteer another card and said “please make sure the aid station captain get this” and changed into my super cushy Bondi 3’s, my dogs were barking after 49.2 miles of pounding. I love my Altra Lone Peak 2.0’s but couldn’t see myself going one more mile in them.
Just then, I was greeted by aid station captain Chuck Wilson, a veteran of 200+ ultras, a veritable NorCal legend. He told me in all of his years running and volunteering he’s never gotten a greeting card from a runner. He shook my hand and thanked me- it was an amazing moment.
I was beaming, visibly, because coming down into Randall as I was beginning that long climb out was John Trent, President of the Board for Western States. I know who he is because 1) I’m an ultra nerd so I have to read all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts and watch all the YouTube videos and 2) last year at San Diego 100 RD Scott Mills gave John the floor for a minute during the pre-race briefing Friday night so I recognized him.
“Hey that’s a great smile!” he says, and I blurt out “Thanks! You’re John- we ran San Diego 100 together last year, well, you ran a few hours ahead of me, but yeah…”
“Just keep going, man! You’ve got a great attitude!” Wow, any more ultra legends today and my head might explode.
So here’s where things went really south for me, about a mile later, just after the top of the climb- all that Mountain Dew in my tummy wasn’t sitting so great, and having been right on the edge a few hours before I felt like it was a good time to puke. I had that watery mouth sensation for the next 4-5 miles, barely sipping water and just slogging away, shuffling really. Waiting for either my stomach to calm down OR puke so I can start eating again because I just wasn’t able to generate any power and had been pretty good about taking something every 30-45 minutes all day and here I was going on over an hour not eating. Shit.
So I decided to take a Gu Roctane salt capsule and wait it out. Felt better in literally five minutes. Placebo effect? Who cares, I quickly gobbled a Salted Caramel Gu and drank as much water as I could. I was able to drop the hammer going back into Bolinas Ridge. This would be the last “good” running I’d do all day, but hey- 55.9 miles is a long way to go.
I gave Bolinas Ridge their card and got hugs and high fives, the aid station captains Jennifer and Franz were awesome, all the volunteers were so rad. It was good to see Nate again, and I grabbed some potato chips and a hunk of banana and was out. Here we go, all downhill to the finish.
Felt great through the cool shady woods but soon as I emerged into the sun I wilted. It wasn’t that hot, maybe 72 but it killed me. Here my pace was a solid 12-something per mile, which must’ve looked like I was running in sand, because I felt like I was flying but I was basically walking really fast.
So you’ll notice how low my hat is, but you’ll probably notice my sweet mustache (which you’ve no doubt seen in the other pics).
I grew a mustache for Ruth Anderson and kept it on for Miwok to not only protest the rise of the “ultra beard” but to honor all the legendary ultra mustaches of not only yesteryear, and all those that carry the torch today.
Here’s a quick list of amazing ultra runners with amazing mustaches:
Tropical John Medinger
Seriously though, I’m trying to make the ultra mustache a “thing”. Just like FKTs, summit tagging, trucker hats, crew socks, 200 mile races and beards are all things now, I genuinely want mustaches to be a thing.
Please, won’t you help me? Next time you toe the line at your local 50k or above, try a mustache. It’s like a party on your face.
Anyway, back to the race. I’m basically trying to finish without puking. I knew that once I hit Matt Davis it was a 2-mile downhill to the finish, but like 70 switchbacks. As the crow flies it’s probably like 500 feet but you basically have to run back and forth down the mountain to Stinson Beach, which equals 2 miles.
I needed something besides Taylor Swift’s awesome music to get me down this trail, I thought, “I am Jimmy Mac, runner of the ultra marathon, slayer of burritos, master of friendship and karate (not really the last thing). I can do anyth… dammit I am so close to puking.
I’m skimming the top of every rock coming down this trail, I’m probably going to fall and die. This is just great.
Just then I hear cowbells! I’m there, I can suddenly run, I see the opening to the road- there are people! I turn down towards the Community Center finish line in a full sprint, so many people! They all look happy and good looking and it’s kind of like a Budwiesrer commercial! Remember Spuds MacKenzie?
I still feel like throwing up, but I finished! 62.2 miles done!
I hand my final greeting card to Tia Bodington, the RD, and thank her for an awesome day. She’s so happy to get a card and hands me my finisher’s medal. Just then, Stan Jensen comes up to me and shakes my hand, thanking me for his card I gave to a volunteer at TV. Another awesome moment in a day full of awesome moments.
Sorry this report took so long to finish, but like I say “the longer the race the longer the report”. There’s also a long list of thanks: I’d like to thank my wife, Allyson, for letting me disappear for 18 hours to go run this race. I’d like to thank Excelsior Running Club for being awesome and inviting me to join their team. I’d love to thank all the volunteers and aid station captains for being out there helping me party all day. I’d like to thank personal lubrication for keeping me chafe-free. I’d like to thank Gordy Ainsleigh for accidentally inventing this silly yet amazing sport of trail ultra running I love so much.
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.