Do Not Pick a Fight With This Woman

Did you have a tough run last Sunday?  Here is how Mieko’s run went up in Washington –A very tough 50 mile trail run in the elements:
 
I could not stop writing...  I had so much fun this time...    But here is something to share with the club.
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Mieko's journey continues... Yes, AGAIN, I missed the cut off time by 13 minutes at mile 37 (Needed to pass the 37miles check point within 9 hours and 40 minutes).
Thank you to Ernie, I was so confident to go through the river crossing, muddy trails and horizontal rain coming straight into my ears.   Now I need to train myself to eat dirt properly.  I ate dirt twice and rolled down once… According to Stan, the best person to teach me how to eat dirt is Bryan.  I will learn from him—the Dirt Master. 
How I missed the cut off time AGAIN?????? This time I did not get lost.  The course was very well marked and there were course marshals guiding us in the right direction.  BUT this race had a very strict cut off time enforcement due to the newly cut “No-One-Ever-Run” course.   Also it was very technical.   I found an article from Trailrunner Magazine about the race:
 
……“The Bellingham course meanders its way amongst rock-climbing areas and bat caves, punctuated by breathtaking views of Mount Baker and the North Cascades to the east. The views of the San Juan Islands to the west, plus the vast Skagit Valley to the south add to the beauty of the course. Elevations bounce between 200 and 2,500 feet, but do not include any huge, sustained climbs. Traverses of broken ridgeline require nimble feet while highly technical sections demand mountain goat skills, with two roped sections to aid in a climb. Overall, the Bellingham courses should be an impressive trail-running test that delivers a balance of fire roads, single track, and double track.”
 
This was about 20 times muddier and more slippery than the Mud Race at Camp Pendleton.  It seemed 50 times longer and steeper than Ernie's Westridge  course (where we go down to Sullivan Canyon). The course description said, “Mountain Goat skills”. Now I know what they meant by "Mountain Goat Skills".  There was no easy way up.  (FYI: there were no two roped sections to aid in a climb.   I had to grab trees, rocks or anything to keep me up.  Basically, I was crawling uphill).   There were only 49, 50-milers. And I know when I was checking in at the  16.6 miles Aid Station, officials  were confirming all the others behind me dropped out.  I was the last runner. There was no one behind of me. This race course clearly separated those runners who will complete and those who will not in first uphill ascent to over 2000 feet in 5 miles.
This is my second ultra.  I am still learning, but I know what to expect.  At 4:15am, I checked in and got my time chip.   I could see there were many elite ultra runners.   I am a no name beginner to trail running, but the race director remembered me from San Francisco(my 1st 50-miler).  When I was getting ready, she came by to welcome me back and wish me luck.
The Race started at 5:00am, within 100 yards we got on a single-track trail uphill. It was dark and the only light we had was our individual headlamps. All 49 runners lined up on this single track, and if some one wanted to pass, too bad.  We kept our line for about 10 minutes, and then we got to the first stream. Luckily there was a photographer taking pictures. Each flashlight he used helped us to see what was there. Just imagine you are running the beginning of Santa Ynez Canyon in pitch darkness with a lot of wet roots and rocks.
Within the first 2 miles, I tripped over who knows what and tasted my first dirt. It was soft and was not wet yet.  Ascending and descending more than 1000 feet three times, by the Mile 16.6 Aid Station drained the strength from my legs.  My legs were so tired not only from going up and down those hills, but also going through the muddy, gooey, and slippery trails, with roots and rocks sticking out from every where on the trails. Yes, I ate dirt again. This time it was muddy and wet. Then it started raining.  What to expect?   I was in Washington.
Then going downhill in the woods, I tripped again over some roots and rolled down. One good thing-- the ground was very soft. When I was lying on the ground, I was considering not getting up anymore.  I looked up at the trees standing so tall into the sky and I thought,“Okay.  No one will find me, so I better get up.”    I was alone in the middle of nowhere.  Basically, I had no choice but to get up and start running to the next Aid station.   Trust me, at every Aid Station, I just wanted to give up.  I just wanted to tell them that I had enough...
Every time I left an Aid Station and got into the woods, I looked up the mountain where I had to climb, and I kept telling  myself, “just one more uphill”.  And when I was in the woods, I kept talking to myself, “just till the next marker, just one more, then I can quit at the next Aid Station…  
My mission was not getting lost.  I was so focused on the marker and then I realized the marker was guiding me to the edge of the cliff. I laughed to myself “No way.  They are joking, right?  But I followed the markers. I had to step up on the rocks where one side was a death-drop cliff.  But I had to go through because the next marker was the other side of this sheet of rock. Some parts, I had to climb up rocks about my height.  Why???  Because the marker was up there.   I told myself  “Let’s play Connect the DOTS”,   and I just kept chasing the markers.
After the mile 16.6 checkpoint, volunteers and staffs knew I was the last runner. When I reached  the Aid station, they were so nice and cheered for me. “Go Number 29.  You still made time!!”   So, I drank my Mountain Dew and kept going.
Like the last race, after mile 30, it was counting down.  I was checking in about 20 minutes before each cut off time.  I was enjoying a nice long fire road down hill (yes DOWN HILL!!). One truck drove up and stopped on the trail. A man stuck his face out and shouted at me “I saw you in California!!”.... Gee, I gave him my evil “who-are-you-weird” face.  At the same time I thought “What a pick up line.  Give me a break...”  I ignored him.  Then again he shouted, “You did San Francisco, right??!!”... Oh yes; now I remember him.  He was the checkpoint staff who was trying to let me continue against the park ranger. It was so nice that he remembered me… So finally I gave him a smile and waved my hand.
I was running alone for about 8 hours, and I was so tired, but I told myself, just make it to the 37 mile cut off, then I can continue to finish 50 miles.  Only 2 more Aid Station to mile 37.  It was not physical strength anymore, it was mental strength…
The toughest miles were from 32 to 37; this was the very newly cut No-One-Ever-Run course.  When I left the mile 32 Aid Station, 50K runners were coming from the opposite direction.  By my bib color, they knew I was running the 50-miler.  Every single one of them who passed me cheered me up.  I LOVE this sport!!  Then as I was going uphill for about 5 minutes, one of the 50-milers was walking downhill.   She looked like a very hard-core trail runner.  She told me that all the markings were mixed up, she went all the way up but  could not find the way so she turned around.  In my head, "No way... Not again..."    I told her let's go together, and maybe we can find the way so we could make the mile 37 cut off.   But she said she had enough and quit.  I could quit with her, but for me there were very visual markings everywhere.   If I got lost again, I wanted to find it out for myself.  I wanted to try to see how far I could go. 
I started running uphill again and then I saw an arrow pointing to the trail.  I focused on the markings.  The marking tapes were tied on the tree branches. So basically I had to keep looking up to find one marker at a time. At the same time, I had to look down to avoid tripping over roots, rocks, branches, and dead trees. It was about 3 miles or uphill and very steep downhill in the woods. Stop and run, stop and run, and finding markers one by one took me more than necessary.  Plus I did not want to eat more dirt or roll down.  There was a course marshal with a walky-talky.  I confirmed with him the right direction and he was announcing to the headquarter that Number 29 just passed.  Yes, I was the last one, and I know they didn't want to loose me somewhere in the woods.   So I started playing "Connect the DOTS" game.  When I looked my watch, it was 2:24pm... Cut off is at 2:40pm. It was downhill in the woods.  I looked far down but there was no sign of an Aid Station.  I did not want to give up.  I just kept going.  I kept telling myself, I still have a chance... Finally, I came out from the woods and headed downhill on the fire road.  It was about 2:43pm.  I knew I missed the cut-off time, but I hoped they would let me go.  On the long fire road downhill, I stuck my head to the side on every turn to see if I could see the Aid Station.  Finally, I saw the blue tent, people AND a van.  At that moment I knew they were there to pick me up.
Mile 37 took me 9 hours and 53 min. When I reached the van, the man who shouted at me was there. We exchanged  smiles and he gave me a big hug for well done. Then I told him “Oh well, so I will see you in San Francisco then...”
It was sad that I missed another cut off time, but I was very proud of myself that I did not quit. At the finish line, the Race Director gave me 50K finisher’s medal. And I told her that I have to come back again to cross the finish line.
YES, I will do it. Just have to keep trying.
Overall, it was a beautiful course, a lot of trees, Cascade Mountains, and the view from the edge of Razor Ridge.  The ground was so soft and very friendly to our legs….. But nothing came close to our club Sunday run course, going through the rush of greens, rocky hill with cactus, then suddenly, we see the deep blue Pacific Ocean between the canyons. Standing at the top of the canyon, a nice breeze cools down our sweaty bodies.  And the beautiful sunrise.  We see rabbits, deer, coyotes, and snakes. The dynamic of our Sunday course!  It really made me appreciate how lucky we are.
So, we need to tell Mr. Governor not to close Topanga State Park. There is nowhere else we can find this beautiful nature.
I did not break my arm but I pat myself on the back.. “Good Job, Mieko.”
Anyone who wants to join me this December for another 50-miles in San Francisco, let’s do it.