Saturday, March 12, 2011

Canyon Meadow Marathon

Yes, I know, I am a little out of sequence here.  I usually don't post the victory shot until the end of the race report, but there is some rhyme and reason to the deviation from my norm.  Look how feverishly happy Ultra Woof and I look in this photo.  One could infer that the sheer elation is due to the runner's high from being inches away from the finish line.  Well, that is definitely true, but there is so much more.  My running mate and I experienced runner's high throughout Canyon Meadow.  For a challenging trail race up in the Oakland hills, we managed to smile all the way through.

This marathon travels through Redwood Regional Park where we got to "enjoy spectacular views along the East Ridge and West Ridge trails and wind through tall redwoods on the popular Stream and Bridle trails."  Oh yeah, there was also quite the elevation.  Check out this chart:

This isn't too bad, right?  Right???

By now, I show up to every Coastal Trail race expecting hills, so this chart didn't really phase me at all.  What did concern me was the fact that it rained the previous night.  I was relieved that on race day there was no sign of precipitation, but knowing that Mother Nature decided to water all the plants on this good earth the night before, I dreaded the fact that some of these trails would be muddy.  Mind you, I didn't worry so much about slipping and sliding and skidding into the mud, it was more the fact that I was going to get my new trail shoes dirty!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that last statement sounded very diva like, but hey, I paid big bucks for those Salomons, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get all messed up!  What can I expect though, I am running a trail race.  These shoes are made for trail running, and that's just what they'll do.  One of these days these shoes are gonna get mud all over you.  Today was that day.

Once Ultra Woof and I got over that first hilly hurdle, we chilled out and started having fun.  We sauntered through the forest like happy smurfs.  The two of us skipped down the slopes of Canyon Meadow and frolicked across the muddy plains.  The only thing missing from this picture of serenity was the jovial choir of "la la la la la la la la" from the mushroom dwelling Schtroumpfs.  Wow, those last few lines sure made it sound like Ultra Woof and I got high off of Smurfette's magic mushroom house.  Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun.  I know that I've ranted in the past that trails are not my surface of choice, but they really are growing on me.  I do believe that nature does bring out the best in me.  Of course, we documented our glee via photos.

I'm going for ethereal here.  See it?  Feel it?
GU.  That's what gets me to the finish line.  Try it!

As Ultra Woof and I trekked through the meadow, we kept ourselves entertained by cracking jokes and reminiscing about past races.  Of course, the one we always revisit is the New Year's One Day.  How could we not?  This was the epic 40 mile finish with only 22 seconds to spare before the clock struck midnight!  The more I think about it, the more I felt like Cinder-Fella that day, and that I had to cross that finish line with 40 miles under my water belt before 2010 sipped away or else my Mizunos would turn back into Homer Simpson slippers and Ultra Woof, Race Director Wendell, and all my DSE running mates would morph into little white mice with long pink tails.  

I was a man on a mission that night, and I wanted nothing more than to have that 40 miles on my finisher's tile.  At the time, so much adrenaline pumped through my system that I really didn't think there was anything that could have possibly stopped us.  That is, until "Waldo" turned the corner.  "Waldo" was a runner who ran the 24 hour event.  He went through quite a few wardrobe changes throughout the day, and at one point, he sported a very Where's Waldo-esque red and white horizontal striped shirt.  Ultra Woof and I didn't know his name, so this moniker worked.  In any case, with only .4 miles left to go, I sense Ultra Woof drifting off.  I tried to get her to stay focused, but once Waldo turned the corner, she gravitated to him in hope of escaping the militant Asian Dad in me.  For those not familiar with the "Asian Dad,"archetype, this is the very strict paternal unit who never allows his daughter to look at a member of the opposite sex, let alone date one.  His motto is "books before boys." 

Apparently, I broke into Asian Dad mode when Waldo appeared.  I just needed Ultra Woof to keep her eyes on the prize, and when I felt her pace drop by two seconds, I had no choice but to be stern.  I abruptly turned to Ultra Woof, unleashed the Ginsu knives from my Asian Dad eyes, and scorned, "Alva, I need you to stay focused.  We're almost there.  This is not the time to socialize."  I spoke very calmy, but the conviction in my voice pulled Ultra Woof away from Waldo and back on track.  During our hike through Canyon Meadow, Ultra Woof revealed to me that she feared for her safety and she worried that I would have grabbed her by the tech shirt and dragged her to the finish line!  The two of us had a very good laugh recounting that moment. 

When Ultra Woof and I hit the mile 10 marker, I glanced at my Garmin and did the mental dance of joy when I realized we were on track to a sub-8 trail marathon finish!  I guess the serenity of being at one with nature, compounded with the fact that we were having so much fun schmoozing, made us quite the efficient pair.  In fact, we were so fast that no one had passed us yet!  Since this course was a double loop 13.1 miler and we were in the back of the pack, I calculated that the runners in the front of the pack would have passed us by this point.  No one did!  That only meant that we were able to keep up the pace with all the runners!  Feeling like elite ultra trail blazers, the two of us continued to skip along.  

Unfortunately, that feeling of trail invincibility was short lived.  When we reached the half way point, my Garmin mysteriously fell two miles behind.  The two of us tried to rationalize that the Garmin could have lost satellite, but it just didn't seem likely.  Somewhere along the way, we missed a turn.  Ultra Woof and I just couldn't figure it out. We checked every pink ribbon on the course and we were certain we followed directions accurately.  It turns out we missed one whole section of the course because of a sign that read, "Trail Closed."  The problem was that we didn't read the sign carefully, as it actually read, "Trail Closed To Equestrian."  As a result, we completely missed that turn, even though there were what seemed like a thousand pink ribbons taped on that sign!  When Ultra Woof and I realized our error, we corrected it by nailing that trail and going an additional two miles to make up for the miles that we lost.

Yup, that's the pink ribbon.  We're back on track.
Yup, we are invincible, what can we say.

So much for our sub-8 trail finish!  Ultra Woof and I finished this marathon in a little under 9 hours.  I'll take it!  We finished in the time allotted and had a whole lot of fun along the way.  I am especially proud because this was my first marathon back since being on the injured reserved list.  Getting across that finish line always puts a smile on my face, but this one made me cheer out loud.  Not being able to get out there and run due to pain is no fun.  I am very grateful that I was able to do this.  The weather was great, the company was awesome, and the self-confidence is back on the radar.  Life is good.

Titanium Scoreboard: 7 down, 45 to go!


  1. Cool! My friend and I have hiked every single trail in Redwood Regional Park, East and West Trails and all that fun stuff. And yep, the climbs will kill you even at a hiking pace.

  2. WOW those hills looked like hiller hills but you two made it like the champs you are!!!!! CONGRATS on another run closer to your goal.

  3. Ever since I started running trails, I've never looked back. I love the variety and challenging hills (at least once they are done). That was a killer course you did - great job (and fun post!).

  4. Canyon Meadow was, indeed, fun. I'm finally getting used to the trail races. I'm all about the big city races and all the pageantry behind them. I guess that shouldn't surprise any of you. I mean, I do wear a cape and all!


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