The Bay Area spoils me, with it’s temperate climate. I never need to run in the heat. Truly hot days are rare enough that I’ve got through two years of running without ever racing in temperatures much above 60 F.
I did have decent warning. It’s been in the forecast for a few days, so I drank plenty of water and hoped the forecast was wrong. It wasn’t. On the drive up the hill from Berkeley, there were heat advisories on the radio. Pre-start conversations with other runners could all be summarized as: “Wow, it’s hot today, this is going to be brutal”. 8am, and already in the high 70’s. Ugh.
I was quite close to the line at the start, and let the pack carry me along for a while. The early part of the course is an asphalt trail in rolling hills with a reasonable amount of shade. The signals were conflicting. The pace seemed OK, perhaps a little fast, but the stress level was way too high. The first mile took just 7:00. Dial it back Jim. Your job for today is to finish. Never mind the clock, or the other runners. It’s dangerous today.
I slowed and runners started to pass me. Hmm. maybe I’ll see some of you later. It was still stressful, but sustainable now. Loraine, who was handing out water at the 2 mile aid station, told me later that the runners looked frazzled on the outbound leg, about how they should have looked on the way back. So I wasn’t the only one.
The shade petered out, and my eyes started to fill with sweat. Good thing I had put on some non-running sunblock, or I would have been blinded completely. My singlet was stretchy enough that I could wipe my face with it. Take a small towel next time. After taking it easy on the uphills for a while, and allowing myself bursts on the downhills, things got a little more comfortable, and I wasn’t being passed any more.
At mile 4, we left the asphalt and commenced the tough part. Dirt trail with shorter, steeper hills. I was getting a feel for the pace now, and the cast of characters around me had stabilized. In the last half mile before the turnaround, there were two steep downhills. My lightweight Asics, which had served well on the asphalt, started to skid on the dirt. Careful, don’t go down this hill on your butt! I was gratified to see that many of the leading runners were walking up this hill on their way back. One was pushing his knees with his hands while wearing a bitter-lemons expression. Oh yes, I am so going to walk up this thing! And I did. Passed two other walkers while doing it, which seemed amusing somehow.
Back on the asphalt, the rewards of conservative pacing became evident. It was like the last miles of a marathon, where I was passing runners who had slowed dramatically. Then I came around a bend and saw a small group tending to a runner on the ground. I slowed. “It’s OK, they know, and there’s a truck on the way.” “OK, Thanks”, and I continued, glad that I didn’t need to sprint to the next aid station to raise the alarm. The guy on the ground had been near the front when I saw him last. Later, I ran on the dirt shoulder as an ambulance came by followed at intervals by some other emergency vehicles. A medivac helicopter flew by. Oh dear, It must be bad back there. It later turned out that this rescue fleet was all for that one runner!
An intermittent breeze was helping the comfort level now. I continued to pick off runners, but I really wanted it to be over. It had been evident for a while that a sub-80 shirt was not going to be mine today.
Final uphill. There’s a runner 50 yards ahead. I remember him. He passed me at mile 6 going at a good clip. I wonder if I can catch him? As the hill started to flatten out, I kicked. I blew past him at the top and accelerated downhill to the finish. I hope the photo looks good.
That runner I saw was evacuated by helicopter, and left hospital the next day. No one else needed medical attention, as it turned out.
I forgot to press my stop button, but my time was about 87 minutes. A little ahead of last year’s time, so it’s a PR I guess. Position-wise I did poorly. There are some hard-core trail runners in my age group who take this kind of thing in their stride. Good for them. I don’t want to run another race in those temperatures anytime soon. (but I will if I have to)