There are times when we know the exact second our lives have changed, when everything truly transforms. There are experiences we all have when afterwards, we know that things will never be as it was. The Skyline to the Sea is one of those times. It was to be my first 50k, but that was not to be. And that’s perfectly fine.
My first 50k was going to be the Skyline to the Sea 50k, a challenging race from Big Basin State park to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a beautiful course and I completely underestimated how difficult it is.
The first five miles or so all was good. I maintained a good pace and thought that if things keep up like this, I’ll do great reaching the first cutoff at Gazos Creek Aide Station with plenty of time. If I did not reach the first cutoff in 4 hours, I would not be able to do the 50k and would have to instead run a marathon. But of course, things didn’t go smooth and wonderful, things never do on long races, something will always go differently than what we thought.
And just a couple miles later, there were a few people standing on the trail and in the distance I heard a buzzing sound. Uh oh. A yellow jacket nest! All the pounding runner’s feet stirred it up and they were angry! Lots of runners got bit. We chose to climb up the grade of the hill to the highway and climb back down, away from the nest. That cost a lot of time, but I didn’t want to get bit!
And then I started having GI problems. I had used the half dose amount of Tailwind previously and it worked out find. But not today. I felt nauseous for miles six through 15. It was bad enough that the food I brought with me, gummies and pretzels to get through when there were no aide stations, only made it worse. I was hoping there would be a bathroom at Gazos Creek, because I would have a huge problem if there wasn’t. Thankfully I made it to the park restroom in time and after eating some chips at the aide station, it was better.
But my hopes of my first 50k was gone. At that point I knew I would have never made it to the end even if they had let me through to the extra segment to make the 50k. (The 50k distance has an extra loop, with a very tough, steep hill.)
I accepted it and focused on making the final cutoff. There were a few others who also didn’t make the first cutoff, but, as far as I could tell, they didn’t make it to the end.
So much of this course is difficult. It includes climbing over boulders, crossing treacherous bridges and maneuvering root-laden trails where the roots seem to reach out and grab ankles. But it is spectacularly, magnificently beautiful. So much so I wanted to stop and breathe it all in. But I couldn’t. I had to keep moving, I had to make the finish in 9 hours.
Parts of my body revolted on me. My big toes, who seemed happy during my long training runs were in dire pain. My quads were tired and I stretched my back muscles to make sure I wasn’t slumping over. I was refreshingly surprised though that I had zero paid from my right IT band! Yippee!! All the work I’ve done in the gym did the trick! But other parts of my body hurt and I was tired! So….tired….
I kept going and made it to the end in around 8 hours and 20 minutes, well under the cutoff. But I also would have never made it if I had done the 50k. So, it’s a good thing that I only did the marathon and this race served to help me understand that I have more work to do than I thought.
The sounds of cowbells and cheers greeted me as I crossed the finish line. The wonderful people I knew and new friends I made were there and I was tired and happy. Pacific Coast Trail Runs always do great races. I thank my friend Michael for his support and getting me there.
And I look forward to doing the hard stuff. As long as I keep going, it will work out.
Keep moving forward!