Monday, July 15, 2013

Pre-Golden Gate Trail 50K

I was nervous going into this race.  First ultra-marathon.  Tough course.  And I'd been gaining weight over the last few weeks.  Yeah, I know a lot of people would scoff at the idea that four pounds is a lot, or that someone like me is actually worried about their weight.  But on someone my size (especially my height), gaining four pounds in only two weeks is a lot.  And I'm not worried about weight for any vain reason, but just because I want to stay competitive.  And for what it's worth, most good (collegiate or better) long-distance runners are about four inches taller and ten pounds lighter.  I have plenty of room to work with.

I didn't have a lot of good options to stay in San Francisco the night before the race.  There were a few places I could've stayed, but I knew that going to bed by 10:00 and expecting a quiet night of sleep was out of the question.  So I figured I'd just go to bed early and wake up a little early to get to the race on time.  Would have to stop and get gas on the way, but no biggie.  And minimizing the driving in San Francisco is a major positive.

Early in the morning, when I got into my car, it didn't start.  Oh no, not NOW!!!  I knew what might be wrong with it (I've been due for an oil change for a while now), but there wasn't a quick way to fix it.  I ran upstairs to get my bike pump, pumped up the flat on my Volkswagen (yes, I have two cars, and the VW has a tire with a slow leak), and rolled it out to give it a push-start (it's a pretty old car, and if you don't drive it often enough, you have to push-start it).  For whatever reason, it was really slow to be pushed this morning.  Normally, I can do a push-start by myself pretty easily, even without a hill.  But as I rolled it down the slope that leads from my apartment's parking to the road, I couldn't get enough speed going.

Where the alley meets the street, there's a dip, and the car got stuck.  So now not only can I not get the thing started, but I'll have to move it out from blocking the alley, and I can't do it by myself.  I waited a solid 10 minutes before someone went by, and they explained that they were late to work and kept moving.  Would've taken less than five minutes, and I'm late for a race, but hey, you can't always expect favors.  Five minutes later, a jogger went by and helped me out (I think she had sympathy for my late-for-race situation).  We tried to push-start it again, but no success, so we just moved it to the curb.

At this point, the Toyota became my best option again, so I got on Freebird (my bike) and rode to a gas station to buy some oil.  Went ahead and checked the oil before I left, and it looked OK, but I couldn't think of anything else that would be wrong.  It wasn't until I got to the store that I realized there is more than one kind of motor oil; I had no idea what all the numbers meant.  I bought one that had numbers that looked kind of average and headed back.  Only used half the bottle, since I was worried it wasn't the right kind, and half a bottle would probably at least get me there.

Still didn't start.

Finally, I Googled the problem, "Car won't start, fast clicking noise."  More than one source said it was a dead battery.  Well, had I known that...!  I gave the Toyota a push-start, which worked flawlessly on the first try, and headed to the race, over an hour later than intended.  Google Maps said it would take 1:04 to get there.  It was 7:00.  The race started at 8:00.

I decided not to stop and get gas.  I might make it, and if I don't have enough, I'll know by the time I get to San Francisco, and I can just stop there (I'd be off the highway anyway).  I hauled ass down the highway, glad it was still early on a Sunday.  Then I got to San Francisco.

I HATE big cities.  HATE them.  And San Francisco is the ONLY one I know of where you simply can't drive through without getting off the highway.  Think about that again for a second.  For all the times you've ever complained about bad traffic in any city, you were probably on a highway, moving "only" 20-30 mph, with no stoplights.  And that's at rush hour.  San Francisco makes you WISH you were sitting in traffic on the highway.  Because to get through San Francisco, you spend at least 10 miles on a street with a speed limit of 25 mph with stoplights every 1/8 of a mile.

10 miles, 20 minutes, and a lot of screaming at San Francisco later, I was back on a highway, crossing the Golden Gate bridge.  I was very low on gas.  But it looked like I was going to make it to the parking lot before the race started.  I'd just worry about gas - and push-starting the car again - after the race.  As soon as I pulled in, the bus was about to shuttle us to the start.  Perfect timing!  I had just enough time to get my bib, pin it on, and make it to the start area with less than 30 seconds before the gun.

To be continued...