This was supposed to be my first official 100 miler. With a 32 hour time limit, an asphalt surface, and an easy 2-mile loop course, Run-de-Vous should have been the perfect race for me. And it no doubt would have been ideal had I not begun the race with a couple of injuries. The shin splints from my previous double marathon in San Antonio a couple of weeks earlier had essentially subsided but I was still limping because of a tight piriformis muscle, with the result that I experienced a nagging pain in my right thigh every time I took a step. This was an ominous sign and all my attempts to ice, rest, and stretch that sore exhausted muscle were to no avail. Still, I was eager to begin the race and hopeful that my excitement (and perhaps my insanity) would overrule the pain. It was not to be.
My husband and I left in the wee hours of Thursday morning for the 2 hour drive to JAX airport. We boarded the first of the three flights that would take us to San Jose, California. We knew it would be a long tiresome day but it turned out to be much pleasanter than expected because we were upgraded on all legs of our trip (thank you, Delta). As a result, though we were tired upon arriving in California, we were not starving or exhausted. Our Hertz rental car was waiting for us and we quickly loaded our luggage in the trunk and headed out to our hotel in Morgan Hill. We were staying at the Hampton Inn to take advantage of our Hilton Honors points but there were a number of other hotels close by. The neighboring town of Gilroy, a bit further to the south, had other hotels as well.
After checking in and unloading our stuff in the room (the hotel was undergoing remodeling but our room was clean, spacious, and quiet), we decided on an early supper so we made our way around town to a nearby Red Robin (I had a hankering for their sweet potato fries). The long day of travel soon caught up with us so we made it an early night. We woke the next morning refreshed and ready to explore. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we drove to the race site to check it out. The course is held at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park in San Martin, about a 20 minute drive from Morgan Hill. There are a number of paved loops and paths in the park, but the races are all held on one 2-mile loop right near the entrance. Darcy and I walked the entire loop once to get a feel for the course. There was no worry about getting lost here. In the center of the loop was a large area enclosed with a barbed wire fence; several cows grazed and occasionally moo’ed at us. On that Friday morning, we also saw several coyotes frolicking off in the hills (so THAT’s why it’s called Coyote Lake!). Signs also warned of the presence of wild razorback hogs. Thinking about the presence of wildlife was a little unnerving but I figured that with all the people – runners and supporters – animals would be sure to give us a wide berth. It was another early night for us.
After a light lunch at Betsy’s Diner, we spent the rest of the day at the hotel. I prepared my two drop bags, figured out my strategy for the race, and tried to relax. And unwind. And mentally prepare for the race. I was excited but not especially nervous. I thought that this race was well within my capability to complete. I would not get lost and there were no roots or rocks to trip over. Still, there is always an unknown quality to every race.
Packet pickup was officially held on Friday evening at a location in San Jose, but we opted to get my race packet early on Saturday morning. We arrived at 4:45 am, just in time to help our friends Joyce and her husband Ray help set up their tent and table. Joyce was doing the 100 miler with me and we had promised to help each other get through this. At 5 am, the race director, Rajeev Patel, and his corps of friendly and helpful volunteers, were ready for us. Our goody bags included several water bottles, a short-sleeve blue tech tee shirt, and a black polyester jacket. I pinned my bib to my crops and was ready to go. I tried to be patient until the 6 am starting time.
Promptly at 6, everyone lined up behind a mark on the ground. There was no chip timing here but there was a computer monitor that was supposed to give real-time results. I never actually saw my name on the monitor so I am guessing that it only including the very top 20 people in each race. Two or three people were on hand at the results table to take our numbers as we shouted them out every time we passed by. There were two portapotties at the start/finish and three more evenly spaced around the loop. Just past the timing table was the single aid station. There was plenty of food and drink here, along with some specialty items like mushroom risotto. The full complement of usual ultra fare was available, including pizza at 5 pm and plenty of sweet and salty foods. At some point during the evening hours my stomach was queasy and I was eager for some ginger ale. They had none at the aid station but the volunteers were making frequent grocery store runs and someone kindly got some for me. In fact, the next time I went by, a wonderful volunteer poured me a cup of ginger ale and ice and handed it to me (he remembered I needed it). Very nice!
My plan was to try to do the first 25 miles in 6 hours, the next 25 in 7-8 hours, and the remaining two 25 mile segments in 8 hour increments. It would have worked out wonderfully if my legs had cooperated. I did complete the first 25 miles by noon and was looking forward to accomplishing the next 25 well before 8 pm. Unfortunately, my right leg had troubled me from the beginning but I managed to ignore the pain. This was possibly unwise because I must have changed my gait to accommodate the pain, and soon an area behind my left knee began to burn. I kept moving forward but could definitely feel the pain affecting my pace. My energy level continued high and though tired, I was alert and mentally sharp (or as sharp as I could be at that point). However, I was beginning to be troubled by my unaccustomed leg pain.
As darkness fell, I slowed considerably. This was partly due to the pain in my legs but it was also normal for me because of the lateness of the hour. I don’t see well in the dark and, since I am usually in bed by 8 pm, this was my sleeping time. I had my knuckle lights and backup headlamps to help me see the course. More troubling than the dark was the fact that I had to stop and stand still every half mile or so because the pain would cease only when I stood still. Once I began to move again, the pain returned. You can see in the photos of me at the beginning of the race and at around 6 pm that my pain level, posture, and even my mood had changed during those 12 hours.
The Run-de-Vous event consisted of several races: a 50k, 50 miler, 100 miler, and relays for the latter two. RD Rajeev had sent out an email stating that 100 mile participants could drop if necessary to 100k (62 miles) and still get an official time and a 100k buckle. I was aware of this option and by 11 pm Saturday evening it began to loom as a legitimate way to finish the race without a DNF (Did Not Finish). It was a struggle for me to do the final laps to achieve 62 miles but I managed. I don’t think I could have made it 38 more miles at that point. I have since asked myself over and over if I should have hung in there and tried to finish the 100 miles; possibly not and then I would have ended up with a DNF anyhow, but with my legs completely trashed. I am just not sure. I think every racer at some point faces that question about whether to go on or quit. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity here to avoid a DNF, finish the 100k, and come home with a buckle.
My friend Joyce also decided to drop to the 100k. For her, it was a result of the day’s heat; she does much better when it is cool. The weather was not a problem for me since I prefer the hotter temperatures. However, there is no shade on the course, so I appreciated the occasional cloud cover and breezes. I noticed that there were several other 100 milers who made the decision to drop to the 100k as well.
At some point during the evening hours, there was a mix-up with the numbers and some confusion as a result. In addition (or maybe as part of the same problem), results of the 100 milers and those of us who dropped to the 100K were not accurately recorded. Rajeev is aware of the problems and is working to resolve them. I believe I finished the 100k in 18:45.
Would I do this race again? Yes, if I lived on the west coast. If I do sign up for another 100 mile race, it will be closer to home. If I had an injury or a problem of some other sort, it would be easier to opt out without risking airfare penalties. It could be that 100 milers are outside my scope. But we’ll see.