About a mile and a half into the Woodside Crossover 35k endurance run I had already begun brainstorming titles for my race report – “Crazy Blonde Takes on Huddart Park”, “If It Could…It Did”, “One for the Books”, or a personal favorite…”I’m Glad Sean Missed This One.”
There are days in everyone’s life where a little exaggeration sneaks into your stories, perhaps to make it a bit more fun, or to get a better reaction out of people, but today is not one of those days. What follows is exactly what happened, and while some of these things seem like small and inconsequential annoyances they definitely set the stage for the day.
Here is the timeline, start to finish, of getting to, and racing the Woodside Crossover 35k, and while these are not my finest moments, they are the truth, hand on heart.
5:10am – Woke up and got dressed.
I went to the dryer to get the socks I planned to race in that I intentionally washed and dried the night before to realize that I dried Sean’s instead and mine were still in the washer soaking wet. It’s not like I only have a single pair of socks, but you know, you have that perfect pair that stay in place and just feel right… so just grabbing another pair was not an option. Then genius struck: I could wear my wet socks on my hands during the drive to Woodside and hold them in front of the heater vents to dry them. It was going to be a two hour drive to the start… That’ll totally work. Disaster averted.
5:30 – Left the house!
One of the many things I love about running races, versus triathlon, is they are so much easier to pack for. I mean… grab your running shoes (wear your socks on your hands to dry them out on the drive down) and go, simple as can be! Saturday, however, that was easier said than done. I forgot my shoes and had to double back! Luckily I didn’t get too far…
On the road again and now pressed for time!
With about 40 minutes to the race destination I determined that it was going to be tight but I should get there by 8:00, race start was at 8:30. Not a huge time cushion but I was relieved to know I was going to make it…That was until I realized I missed my Bay Area exit and was stuck taking the long way or doubling back. So, back to panic mode I go, yelling at other drivers to myself with my windows rolled up… because that definitely helps.
Estimated arrival time 8:10. Luckily it is a long race so I can get by without a warm-up.
8:10 – Arrive at the park entrance to see the longest line of non-moving cars ever!
There is one person working the pay booth and he is moving slower than molasses. And then BAM!! Someone just rear-ended another car. I sat in my car for over 20 minutes. As each minute ticked by my level of frustration, anxiety and blood pressure increased by ten-fold.
8:30 – The race start.
In case you are wondering… I am still in line in my car.
8:32 Finally made it to the pay booth.
I handed the ranger my credit card. He states they only take cash. Well, maybe that’s standard in Woodside but ALL the parks around where I live take credit cards. Also there is nowhere to park outside the park so I was not pleased. I looked at him and in a voice somewhere between normal and yelling blurted out “My race already started. I’m parking right there if you want to ticket me!” I drove into the park, parked the car, grabbed my water bottle and bolted only to find out I was nowhere near the race start, so I started running for what felt like forever.
Finally and I mean finally I reached the start…so I thought anyway.
I actually reached another parking lot with a bunch of people and cars. In a panic I was yelling “Where’s the start?” The answer: At least a half a mile down the hill. Yes another half a mile! This is where I absolutely lost it! I took my water bottle and threw it like I was Joe Montana throwing a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game.
I stood there for a moment in disbelief -first, at the fact I threw my water bottle, second that I had to go get it, and third I still had another half-mile before I actually reached the start. What can you do? I hiked to my bottle and proceeded to run down the hill with water leaking everywhere. I ran over to the check-in table to get my bib. When I told them my name they said they didn’t have me registered. A complete emotional break occurred and I just started crying. I couldn’t even stop… It. Was. Ridiculous. I look back now and laugh, but at that moment I literally had exhausted every emotion I had. I stood there for a bit and then I pointed to the list and said – “That’s my name.”
8:42 – I started the race.
12 minutes late! I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew my trail marker colors were ‘yellow-pink-yellow’. It is about now that it registers that my hands are soaked and the fabric on the hand held bottle holder was dripping. I realize that the top of my bottle popped off a bit when I threw it. Great.
8:52-ish – I came to a fork in the road.
My two trail marker choices were orange and blue. I did a few 360s and then just stood there staring. A few minutes later two hikers came off the hill that was marked with orange. I asked them if they had seen any other runners and they said no. I explained how I was looking for yellow etc… Their reply – take orange it is pretty. Pretty wasn’t really what I was going for here plus it is not how this game works. You can’t just chose your own adventure! I told them I was just going to quit and wallow in my own sorrow for a bit -which is what I did until the realization hit me –If I quit I will have to drive 3+ hours home and still have to get in a 20-mile run.
So… I doubled back, found the ‘yellow-pink-yellow’ markers (which was well-marked…for the record) and off I went sprinting…yes sprinting uphill because burning all your matches on the first climb to catch up to runners who had over a 20 minute head start seemed like a good plan…until it didn’t. I soon found myself walking. I stopped, regrouped, composed myself and proceeded at an appropriate pace.
9:39 – Caught the last place finisher.
It took me over 46 minutes to catch the last place person in the race. Shortly after this I started to get thirsty. I held my bottle up to the light to see what was left and there wasn’t even a drop! The first aid station couldn’t come fast enough. I arrived at Aid Station 1 third to last. I filled my bottle and shoveled in some Mike and Ikes, because at this point tasty sounded way better than nutritious.
After Aid Station 1 I slowly began working my way through the field and the rest of the day was rather uneventful except for the occasional wondering if my car was ticketed/towed. J
1:00-ish I finally crossed the finish line and finished 2nd in my AG; 9th female overall.
I logged 25 miles for a roughly 22 mile race. When I went to pick up my t-shirt and award the kind and understanding gentleman asked me my name. When I told him he laughed and said “Oh that’s right!” Luckily the 4 hours of running turned my bad day right around so I gave him the go-ahead to make fun of me, after all what fun is it to have a horrific day if you can’t laugh about it!
Aside from the huge pre-race debacle the biggest thing I learned was it is time to get some trail shoes. It rained pretty much the entire time I was out there and my road shoes didn’t help me on the up hills or down! Oh, and of course don’t throw your bottle and nutrition –those are pretty important on a 35k+ run.
1:10 Begin the climb back to my car.
The death march (20 min walk/+1000ft elevation gain) to my car, and more importantly coffee, began. I could have been happier. As I slowly hobbled up the hill I wondered about my car, was it there? Was it ticketed? When I finally rounded the last bend I was pleasantly surprised to see the car was still where I left it and that the rangers did not ticket me after all.
Despite all the mishaps I drove away with 25 trail miles/5000 ft of climbing under my belt and I’m still looking forward to the next one so I guess it wasn’t too bad after all.
Photography: Jesse Ellis, Let’s Wander Photography