"...In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or
brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."

~ Anonymous
(taken from Matt Erbele's, It Takes Time to Get Good)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Race Report:: Skyline to the Sea 50k September 20, 2008

If I was to sum it up my first 50k in one word, that word would be



since I am incapable of such concise thought I will drone on about all the minutiae of the day.

Mile 0

Jane and I got dropped off at the start and were immediately surrounded by seriously hardcore trail runners. We were the only ones in pink. We also were probably the only ones that hadn't eaten twigs and soil for breakfast.

These people were not your typical flashy tri-folk. They were sinewy, weathered and ready to pound out 7 and 8 min miles on trails with over 3,000 feet of climb and 5,000 feet of often technical decent for over 30 miles.

Holy shit.

Well, at least we look cute

Mile 1

The start was at the top of Highway 9 in Saratoga. The race director essentially said, 'have a good run' and we were off. Ultrarunning is very low key. If you want a lot of fanfare I would suggest that ultrarunning is probably not for you.

Within about 500 yards we were DFL. Don't worry I have photographic evidence to prove it.

Here is the back of the pack. Were we dropped so fast it was as if we had our own start.

I had been told that the first 6.5 miles were the most glorious downhill on a soft redwood trail that you would ever experience. It did not disappoint. It was beautiful and easy and we were feeling quite wonderful.

Wonderful until I suddenly felt a sharp pinch then burning sting on my back behind my right arm. Then we watched as a runner in front of us flailed and pawed at her hair. "Swarm of Bees! Run!" Jane screams. I am a little slow on the uptake and I get stung again. Christ, that hurts.

We were attacked again at mile 2 and then a third time at about mile 4. Then in the ultimate insult one of the little fuckers stung me at mile 28. Mile fucking 28! This, of course, caused me to swear profusely. Which I did (in my defense, unknowingly) in front of sweet, blue eyed cherub, his little sister, and their shocked parents. Whatever, that shit hurts!

All told I was stung 6 times. I still have to take Benadryl to sleep at night almost 3 days later.

I later found out that the attacks were by wasps. Yellowjackets to be exact. Now, as a biologist I should not wish harm upon an entire species, but I have done the research, and I see absolutely no value to these vile, spiteful creatures and am hereby calling for their elimination from the planet.

"But, wait they are important animal pollinators", the wasp-loving, twig eaters will whine.


Honeybees are cute, fuzzy, excellent pollinators, and only sting you if you are stupid enough to try to harm them first. They are not prone to chickenshit, unprovoked attacks. Yellowjackets consider yourself on notice!

Anyhoo back to the story.

Miles 2-7

Yellowjackets notwithstanding, it was a BLAST! Beautiful, easy, and we took every opportunity to take silly pictures: Jane and fallen redwood, RBR in redwood hollowed out by a lightning strike.

Miles 7-11

Here we started a long, slow, slightly demoralizing climb. Don't get me wrong it was still beautiful, but I started to wory about our ability to make it to mile 15.5 by the 1 pm cutoff.

By time we got to the top of China grade and the second aide station we had actually passed two people! We were no longer DFL! One guy looked pretty bad and said there was much more climb than he had bargained for and the other guy was demoralized by both bees stings and the climb.

The volunteer at the aide station said we had plenty of time to get to the next aide station where the cut off was.

Miles 11-15.5

Breathtaking views, childlike scampering over rock formations, quad frying technical downhills. I have to say I was giddy with joy. It was so AWESOME! Pictures: Me hamming it up as usual, Jane tearin' up the trail, Stunning view and stunning trail.

iles 15.5-20.3

Sucked plain and simple. We made the cut off but we had to push it and then we were treated to a celebratory climb for over 3 miles. I think this picture sums up our morale during this stretch.

Miles 20.3-29

After the aide station at mile 20.3 there was not another aide station for almost nine miles. There was one more big climb and the rest was downhill.

Jane and I separated during this stretch and ran alone. This part was equal parts hard and amazing. I felt like I just ran and ran. My Garmin was unreliable in the forest and I had no idea how far I had gone or how far I had left to go. I vacillated between wanting it to be done and I wanting it to continue.

I have to admit I felt a little super human during this stretch. I was tired, I was sore, but I was still running and enjoying myself. Picture: A bench made from a redwood log at about mile 24-25.

After what felt like hours, I finally reached the mile 29 aide station. I instantly fell in love with the volunteer and tried to woo him with my charm and wit. Oddly, he seemed unaffected by my advances.

What? Salt encrusted, foul smelling, babbling idiots, able to devour a package of red vines in one swallow aren't his type? Freak.

Whatever, I pressed on. There were just 2 miles left. The Marsh trail was the last half mile and you would have thought I found the Holy Grail when I saw the bridge over the marsh.

The finish line was orange traffic cones and a clock that read an embarrassing 8:52 finish time, but I finished. I survived it and I still had a smile on my face as I crossed the line.

I captured possibly the WORST finish picture EVER of Jane as she crossed the line, but we had done it. We ran 31.1 miles.

Regardless of finish time I am immensely proud of us both.


SWTrigal said...

WOW-you had me at the wasp stings-OUCH!! and you finished anyway. That is amazing! I think your time was very respectable considering the turrain and distance...good for you!!!

Willie said...

You are my fucking hero FOREVER! My god woman you never cease to amaze me and that's hot! I have quit 3 mile runs for less than you pushed through to finish a 50K! One bee sting and Willie would be back at home with a glass of Whisky in hand saying "screw it".

I don't see anything wrong with eliminating a species. somethings were just put on this earth to be eliminated. I'm Ok with no more Yellowjackets, could you add spiders too? Hate those little shits.

Anyhoo, GREAT job as always. Keep this up and I may have to move to California... I'm really loving those trail pictures, could absolutely get used to those.

Jane said...

Your photos are much better than mine. I'm gonna steal them.

Wasps! No wonder my sting is still all swollen and itchy.

Go Mom Go said...


Congratulations! Keep doing tough stuff like that and you are going to be able to LAUGH at Ironman!


Southbaygirl said...

Awesome. Mind you if I had been stung 6 times I might have said fuck this shit and turned around. Shit I just read Willie's comment-he said about the same thing....funny, I would have been drinking beer not whiskey!
I'm super impressed!!! You are my HERO!!!!

Aileen said...

Holy CRAP that's amazing! I really want to get into trail running, but I think I'll try and find something of a smaller distance first!

Sorry about the yellow jackets. I agree, they are a plague upon the earth and should be wiped out, post haste!

Anyway, GREAT work...if I had been stung by ONE bee, I would have stopped and called it a day.

Stef0115 said...

Oh.My.God! Reading this almost made me think I would do one too. And it's because of the brilliant scenery and the comeraderie. For me the time would be an afterthought since this type of run is so FREAKING HARD.

WOW. You guys are tough as nails to push through after being stung multiple times! Unbelievable. Doing it with a friend seems the way to go -- even though you separated after awhile you were both still out there.

Congratulations! So you think you will do more ultra running in the future?

Anonymous said...

Wow, you make it seem so easy!!! What an accomplishment - well done to you both.

ShirleyPerly said...

Ha! I just got stung by a wasp today while out mowing my yard and was on a All Wasps Must Die rampage. I emptied a can of Hornet/Wasp killer on their nest (mwahahaha).

But exc. for the wasp part, now you've got me thinking twice about doing an ultra. That trail looks tough but beautiful. Everyone has told me that ultra running is actually more fun than marathoning because it's off-road and now I'm beginning to believe it.

Great pictures and excellent job!!

E said...

Congrats to you both! YOU DID IT! I'm so proud of you!

S. Baboo said...

Welcome to the club ultra-girl! That sounds like a sweet race.

Tyger Lily said...

Don't know if I have ever commented but I love your blog!

Congrats on the race! Both you and Jane rock!

Lou said...

You are AWESOME. I would have quit at the first bee sting. I am so impressed that you were barely phased by that. Congrats! I love your race reports. Keep 'em coming :).

Karen said...

Holy crap. A 50k and bee/wasp/yellow jacket stings. You are my hero!

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

You (and Jane) are amazing! Way to kick butt. Loved the race report and pictures!

Lindy said...

you're just awesome.

Aka Alice said...

At first I was thinking... YIKES! Wasps...trails...hills...not a ringing endorsement for doing a 50K...

Although the pix and your smile do make for a good sales-pitch!

You are a rockstar for powering through it! I'd have stopped at the bees. (I agree, wasps are vile!)

Pokey said...

AMAZING pictures and an AMAZING race!! I think after getting stung by 6 wasps I just would have sat down and cried. No....make that after ONE wasp sting.

GREAT job!!!!!

Reese said...

Great job, your first ultra. Tri's, ultras, superwoman.

Unknown said...

you got attacked by wasps/yellow jackets and *still* managed a smile at the end?

That would have probably caused me to have a medical dnf. I have some sort of bad reaction to bee stings and 6 of them would be tooooo much.

Herself, the GeekGirl said...

Okay. I am just insanely jealous of this run. I'm going to have to do this one, if not for the wasps, then for the scenery.

Herself, the GeekGirl said...

PS: Has it sunk in yet, that you covered 31 MILES in one DAY?

JenZen said...

What an amazing looking race. How gorgeous! I can't believe that you were stung that many times and kept going!!! You are a superwoman. I swell up like a balloon whenever I get stung by the punks. {clapping my hands in awe at you!!} Great job!

Steve Stenzel said...

GREAT PHOTOS!! AND NICE RUN!!! Way to go! Those first few miles sound GREAT, and then it looks tougher....


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your first 50k! You are definitely a hero in my eyes. Absolutely breath-taking trail photos. I will have to go there sometime. Keep up all your great work (I know you it's all for the t-shirts) and maybe sometime when I have the guts to do it, I will join you!

Anonymous said...

You had me laughing at "twigs and soil for breakfast!" OMG!!

You and Jane make this look like a breeze. You both did amazing, and now you make me want to do one. And, the trail pics are gorgeous!

It's nice that you really seem to love trail running and enjoyed your ultra :)

Formulaic said...

Another Great post!

Wasps, milage and beauty that goes on forever!

Sign me up! (well...maybe. Maybe I should actually try running first!)

Anonymous said...

Wow. You so rock. I am impressed and inspired. Ditto Willie - you are my fucking hero!

I think we should eliminate chiggers along with the yellowjackets.

Marie said...

That is so awesome that you did this! How many people can say then ran 50k?

Love the blog!

Ahmed Pierstorff said...

I know it's been a really long time, and I know (from your blog) that a lot has gone down since. But I just wanted to thank you for following through on your commitment to run Skyline. I've cornered a few guys into running it with me this year (also our first ultra) and we're getting a little nervous. Reading you helps.