Running above the Golden Gate – Miwok 2013 Race Report

To recap Miwok 100km race day, let’s start with the ridiculous: my alarm was set for 3:10am. As in, the same time I’ve been known to arrive home after a night of gallivanting. Honestly. Just ridiculous. The positive to waking up at 3:10am was it’s SO early my body was entirely confused as to what was going on. Therefore I went through the motions like a zombie – wash face/brush teeth/contemplate getting back into bed/ignore that thought/ threw my race clothes on/grab pack and shoes/ out the door by 3:30am.

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I chose to stay in San Francisco proper as opposed to near Stinson Beach, which meant I had a 30ish minute drive ahead of me. Lucky for me, there was a fresh pot of gourmet (I believe all advertising) coffee brewing at a corner gas station, so I grabbed a cup and off I went. Driving over the Golden Gate bridge at 3:40am is a trip.

If it wasn’t so damn early I may have focused on the fear of running 100 kilometers. I had a decent amount of confidence I would finish the race, but knew it wouldn’t be pretty. Undertrained is a hard thing to overcome, there’s no cutting corners in ultra running. As we pulled into the pitch-black parking area just after 4am, there was a trail of bobbing headlamps walking towards registration. Time to get ready. 100 kilometers. 5am. This was really happening.Or…it wasn’t happening. We parked beside a group of guys who had already been to registration who told us a couple of things: 1) the race had been shortened to 60km. 2) instead of a 5am start, we would be doing an 8am start. We decided to walk to registration to confirm this first-hand (one of the national parks we were to run to was at high risk of fire, so the permit was pulled at the last minute). As the Race Director and her team scrambled to re-route flagging, move aid stations, do all the behind the scenes stuff I have no comprehension of -  we headed back to the car for the most glorious car-nap one could ever have at 4:30 in the morning.

I’m not sure if it was the non-running fun I’d had the day before, or the fact that I was undertrained, but the confirmation that Miwok 100km would now be Miwok 60km was FANTASTIC news to me. The race very easily could have been cancelled all together. I was likely in the minority but the first thing that popped into my head was “we can make the Giants game after all!” (turns out we couldn’t due to post-race traffic but…you get where my head was at). Shortening the race by 40k basically cut my expected time in HALF. That’s major. Instead of finishing near midnight, I’d finish in daylight. I took my headlamp and flashlight out of my pack. And the modified course would still take me through the beautiful Marin Headlands, above the Golden Gate bridge, and past the crashing ocean. Perfect.

The shortened course also meant I could push it (a bit). And so I did.



The congestion at the race start was unfortunate, as I started quite far in the back of the pack thinking I could pass people along the way. But due to the adjusted course, I was stuck single-file behind a lengthy group until the first aid station.

My race (like most races, really) can be divided into 3 sections. Feeling good, feeling like death, feeling-slightly-less-like-death. Fortunately the first section lasted the longest.

Miwok is a gorgeous race through beautiful terrain. Very little covered trails, and I had my trusty 60SPF block handy to keep my fair nose from turning bright red. The aid stations were well spaced out. Typically I’d leave one station hearing “5 miles to the next,” which helped divide the race into segments (perhaps it’s that the Death Race, a 5-segment race, was my first big ultra…but I respond well to sections/segments/pieces). I puttered along keeping up a decent pace (for me) and making sure to eat and drink along the way. It’s hard to truly enjoy the scenery when you’re slogging it out up a big incline (pick an incline…any incline) but I did appreciate the ocean views and at one point, seeing the Golden Gate in the distance. San Francisco is awesome.

I still use the same running mantra I adapted in my very first ultra race. In a nutshell, run when you can, walk when you have to. If you have to walk – walk with a purpose. This tactic leads to me power walking up major hills and this is the time I found myself passing a decent amount of people (also could be a side effect of starting too far back in the pack, now that I think about it…).

One thing that led to my eventual rough patch was going heavy on the Gu Energy Chomps and light on the real’ food (PBJ’s, Potatoes&Salt). I had no appetite in the heat, and the Chomps were quick, easy, and I could bring a few in the pocket of my handheld. By the time I hit the awesome Pirate-Theme’d aid station just over halfway through the race, I was starting to feel queasy. By the time I hit the second-to-last aid station, I entered the feeling-like-death stage of the race.
In the course of going up the final (excessively long) incline, I convinced myself of a few things: I was going to vomit, I was going to drop out of the race, I was going to collapse, and I was going to need an oxygen tank. In addition, I would never ever doing a race again, ever. From now on I’ll just do wine tours and yoga retreats. Running is the worst idea I’ve ever had. Yes, I’m slightly dramatic. But seriously – I felt like shit. Too much sugar/too much sun/not enough water.
However, I thank my media and journalism background for the great life tip that continues to keep me going: fake-it-til-you-make-it. I put on a smile and kept slogging. What I REALLY wanted to do was find the Park Ranger who pulled the permit and caused the race to be shortened. I wanted to kiss them. The greatest person on earth, in my eyes at that point.

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

The feeling-like-death-stage (also known as drama-queen-ville) lasted about an hour. By the time I reached the final aid station (2.8 miles to go), I had gotten over feeling sorry for myself. I grabbed a few saltine crackers, and  told myself to enjoy the view. At this point I entered the final stretch, the feeling-less-like-death stage. My stomach was still churning, and I didn’t have the usual energy burst to just get it done, but I definitely finished. Snuck in just under 8 hours, a far cry from the 18 I was expecting for the 100k version, and definitely at a faster pace than I was expecting too.

Finishing any race, be it a 10km walk or a 60km run, is a feat to be celebrated. It’s about determination, grit, tough love, and pushing yourself through the crappy thoughts. It’s always a learning experience and thanks to Miwok, I now know how to push through the shitty-hating-life-hating-running stage. Also – balance in food is important, especially for someone with a sensitive stomach like me. I continued to have no appetite for the rest of the night, and rocked the pale-as-a-ghost-look for most of it (silver lining – this allowed me to inhale the largest, most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had the next morning).

I hear rumblings that race organizers will be allowing those of us who checked in for this year’s race to come back next year and bypass the lottery. I know I’ll be back. San Francisco (and Miwok), you have my heart!


photo by Stacia Torborg

9 Responses to Running above the Golden Gate – Miwok 2013 Race Report

  1. Caryn Ouwehand May 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    You’re amazing Chelsea. Once again, CONGRATS Cuz!

    • Chels May 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Thank you my dear!

  2. TOTO May 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Looks like you came in ahead of a guy not wearing a shirt. You WIN!!!

    • Chels May 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Obviously! I did say I would win this race at one point.

  3. Melanie Grafton May 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    SOOOO proud of you Chels, one in a million you are! x

    • Chels May 14, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Thank you for reading Me’lanie, it means a lot! I miss your face by the way xx

  4. Alexes May 13, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Heck yeah … Awesome awesome awesome


  1. Expert Race Preperation: Fresh Steps Style | fresh steps - June 12, 2013

    [...] Miwok 100k (which became Miwok 60k at the last minute), I wanted to try something different. I was in a city I’d always wanted to tour, a city that [...]

Leave a Reply to Chels Click here to cancel reply.