12 miles on the Miwok Ewok trail

I must confess
That my loneliness
Is killing me nooowwwww
Don’t you know. I. Still.  Believe.
That you will be here
And give me a sign,
Hit me baby.  One more time.

I blame it on 101.3 FM.  I had pulled into the Tennessee Valley parking lot and was stretching and preparing for this week’s long run when they chose to play Britney’s song.  And sure enough it got stuck in my head and stayed with me for the entire run.  Below I’ll go into some of the details of the run and if you want to really follow along, you should play her song while reading (link at the end of this post).

This week’s long was on the Miwok trail in Tennessee Valley, an area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.  It’s one of seemingly countless trails in the area all of which connect and stretch on for miles and miles.  We were running a 12 mile back-and-out, so 6 miles in and then retracing the same 6 miles back.

The weather was pleasant enough in the morning and the forecast was calling for a 70 degree high so I went with shorts and tshirt all the way.  Since there would be no place to fill up our water along the way, I brought along two 20 oz. handheld bottles which was a first for me.  The extra weight definitely takes some getting used to but it wasn’t all that bad.  I also brought a couple packets of Gu, one strawberry banana that tasted great and another by Stinger brand that tasted so awful and felt so heavy in my gut that for a few moments I thought I would wretch.

Fortunately, that was the worst part of the entire run.  Towards the end of last week’s run my right knee was definitely screaming out for attention and so I swapped out my road running shoes with a pair of trail running shoes.  The difference was definitely noticeable as the trail shoes made me feel more balanced and able to step on pebbles or other non-smooth surfaces and feel like my feet wouldn’t slip out from under me.

We began running at 8:15 a.m. and as always the first couple of miles were tough and basically…ugh.  Not fun.  Body feels lethargic.  Lots of thoughts in my head that went something like:

  • “seriously, we’ve got 11 more miles of this?”
  • “i can feel a shin splint in my right leg.  is this a bad idea to continue?”
  • “this uphill sucks and it has been going on forever.”
  • “hit me baby one more time.”

It’s a pattern that happens every week.  At the start we’re usually battling a constant 2-3 mile uphill climb running with a cold body that needs some warming up.  The terrain was quite steep at the start as we ran up the side of a hill with a couple of switchbacks.  Thankfully it eventually did flatten out and then the trail wound its way around a series of hills for the next couple of miles.  It reminded me a lot of the treks I did in Nepal where the trail was carved out of the mountainside and you could always see the trails in the distance.  But without yaks and quite a bit warmer.

At a certain point the run turned into a game of Frogger as we had to cross Highway 1 to get to the other side.  Beach bound cars behind us, we continued on and soon came upon a single narrow trail that wound down, down, down.  I have a love hate relationship with downhills.  I look forward to them but when it’s an out-and-back run, I know I’m going to have to climb UP them on the way back.  There’s a group of four of us, Marissa, Amanda, Phil and myself who run at the same pace and always end up running together the second half of these runs and it’s been really great running with them.  Somehow it makes the hard parts of running suck less when you know other people have to do it too.

We eventually reached the bottom of this little valley we had been descending and entered a completely covered area where the ground was very moist and even muddy in some parts, and large green leaves shaded us from above.  It reminded me of a Panamanian rainforest, which is really interesting because I have never been to Panama.  But I’m sure this is what it would be like.  We crossed a couple of rickety bridges (no horses allowed!) and finally, FINALLY, reached the John Muir road.  We stopped, Gu’ed up (strawberry banana is sooo good), chased it with some water, then turned around and went back on the same trail we had just come down on.

The run back was certainly not easy as there was a lot of uphill but there’s something about knowing you’re already halfway done that gives you an extra boost.  And the tough neverending uphill at the start was now a steady downhill all the way to the parking lot.

An interesting thing Phil noticed was that the Miwok trail reminded him a lot of the terrain the Ewoks used to run around in in the Star Wars films, and that this may have been where George Lucas got the inspiration for the characters.  He did it with the AT-AT walkers from the Oakland ports so why not here?  I say “good observation Phil”.   And who said ultra marathon’ing didn’t make you wiser?   Britney certainly wouldn’t say that.

As you may know, I am running an ultra marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Please consider making a donation.

a very happy post-run team