This weekend was the “never-ending pursuit of forward motion” cheering weekend. It wasn’t just running that I spectated, but feats of downright determination and perseverance as both the North Face Endurance Challenge (NFEC) and the California International Marathon (CIM) faced torrential downpours and gave runners a run for their money.
First up was Aron and Jessica’s big day at the SF NFEC. Aron would be after her second 50-mile race and Jessica was attempting her first 50K. Both races took place in the Marin Headlands, known for the gorgeous trail running. On any other day, this race would be any trail runner’s dream. But on Saturday, it was hell.
I met Aron on Friday night, we ate pizza in the hotel bed, chatted and were up by 3 a.m. to get her to the start line by 5 a.m. As we made our way to the start, the wind, rain and cold were brutal, and I wondered if this race was a good idea at all.
We parked, took a bus to the start, and sogged our way through the mud and dark, only to wait in two big Penske trucks to stay warm and dry. As 5:06 drew near, we headed outside to send her off. I smiled and reminded her to stay relaxed, but silently I wondered who in their right mind would want to run in the dark, cold, extremely muddy hills for 50 miles. Not only would it be tough, but dangerous! All I could think about was, “I hope she doesn’t sprain her ankle out there!”
The waves were tiny, so tiny in fact that I stood right next to her as she took off. With a “good luck” the runners were off and I shook my head in disbelief. Those tail runners are crazy I tell ya. (But I secretly want to be one.)
I hobbled back to my car and made my way to Tennesse Valley, where I would stay for the rest of the day, watching, cheering, waiting and crewing for Aron. I am not exaggerating when I say that it rained the entire time! And I’m not talking a light sprinkle, but massive downpours (that photo doesn’t do it justice). You could infer each runner’s story as they passed by the mud pattern all over their body.
That girl just face planted.
That guy must have slid down his back for 5 yards.
That chick totally ate it.
If you weren’t covered in mud, you looked out of place. In fact, this race my friends, is what a REAL tough mudder looks like.
I made sure I was out for Aron every time she passed (which was four or five times) for her dry clothes, food, etc. and Jojo was a stud pacing her in. I was also excited to spot Jessica on her way to dominating her first 50k. They were both insane troopers, but I’ll let them tell their stories.
Post-race, Jessica, Aron and I all made our way back to Aron’s house for beer, food and a little slumber party. But lights were out early as we had to be up again at 5:30 to head to Sacramento to cheer on friends at CIM. Marjorie was nice enough to pick our tired asses up and truck them all the way to Sacramento. It’s a good thing she did because we hydroplaned enough times that I would have said, “Forget it. It’s not safe to drive.” Thanks for getting us there alive, XLMIC!
In our finest rain gear, we made our way along the course to cheer everyone and their mothers on – seriously, the entire Bay Area running crew was there. You could tell by the looks on their faces some of them wanted to say F-IT as running in the flooded streets of Sacramento wasn’t worth it, and others buckled in for one hell of a race. Either way, anyone who even started that race is stellar in my eyes. (I would name them all but there are so many I’m sure I’d miss someone!)
All in all, I had a great weekend cheering for great people at my favorite sport. Spectating is fun, but man, standing in the rain for two days straight can take it out of ya…and I didn’t even run!
Congrats to everyone who ran this weekend – you braved some crazy elements!