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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Best and Worst Run Ever

The first and last rays of an early morning touching the skirts of a pending storm.

My elevation chart for this run - totals 4300' in elevation gain.

The Alhambra Valley Rd. Train Trestle

The route started at Rankin Park in Martinez, and proceeded basically out and back through the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, Mt. Wanda, and Briones - summiting the high points of everything along the way.

The run was 23 miles long and took just under 4 hours and 30 minutes. Actual running time was closer to 4 hours with me stopping to refill bottles and spending a good deal of time standing in the handicapped porta potty at the Briones Bear Creek staging area, trying to wrap my phone in a piece of plastic trash bag to keep it away from the rain.

My last view of the sun near the top of Mt. Wanda - a stiff breeze is pushing the clouds east.

Yeah, it rained. Hard. Winds were 30+ Mph at the summits and the trails went from fair to very poor in under an hour.

When I left Rankin Park the stars were dimming and those that remained were being snuffed out by a bank of clouds racing the sun for the eastern horizon. For nearly an hour the clouds piled in dropping slowly. As I began the ascent of Mott Peak in Briones, the pregnant clouds gave birth.

To that point, the run was much like a dance; avoiding the muddy hollows left by a week of unsettled weather. Now the choreography was challenged and dancing gave way to sloshing. The storm hit with such intensity that I was soaked within minutes. No longer obligated to avoid the mud, I enjoyed a few moments of freedom running straight through the marshy areas. Unfortunately that could not last, as soon the soil, liquefied by the deluge, could no longer bear my weight. Imagine attempting to run up or down a bobsled track - and you have the basic idea of what my run was converting to. With a total of 4300' of elevation gain, there were very few miles that were not either steeply up or steeply down. Eventually I was forced to abandon the trails altogether and run along the sloping edges of the trail, and when possible, through the shin high grass in the meadows.

And then there was the wind. Cresting Mott Peak I was facing rain driven by winds in excess of 30 Mph. At times I was blown off (or onto, as often the case was) the trail. Fighting my way into the wind or staying upright against a cross wind was dicey, but running down the steep slopes with a tail wind was harrowing. Imagine strapping on a jet pack and jumping onto a frozen lake wearing tennis shoes. Yeah, exactly. What your mind's eye just saw - was exactly how my arms were flailing.

I managed to not fall. Not all the way anyhow. If this tells you that my running was not as intense as it could have been, then yes, you are correct. I managed a 3 point landing on the way down Mott. My feet conspired against me and each headed a different direction - in the general direction of the bottom of the hill. Remember that image you conjured up a moment ago with flailing hands and wild eyes? Replay that now, and add a power bar in my right hand which I desperately want to eat without mud icing. I was doing a sort of skiing, but lacked the ski tails to provide counter force and allow a "center of gravity" correction. The sacrifice was unavoidable - I firmly planted my left hand backward into the mud. Alas, my glove turned brown, but I had forestalled the shame of sitting in the mud for yet another run.

I truly had fun on this run. None of the cramping came along for the party this time. With the help of good planning and a little osmosis, I was thoroughly hydrated for the entire run. As I neared the final hill, it was great to feel that I had more in the tank.

This was by far the hardest run I've ever faced. Even my soggy Marin Headlands Marathon last year didn't measure up to this. In one sense it was the worst run I've ever had. In another sense it was by far the best. And either way I look at it - I'm glad it's over.

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