Thursday, February 25, 2016

The ITI Story, 2015 edition





The 2016 edition of the Iditarod Trail Invitational begins in less than a week and for the first time in three years, I won't be joining my friends up north. In fact, it's the first time since the 2011 Susitna 100 that I won't be participating in any northern winter events. Neither the sweetness nor bitterness of my feelings right now can be adequately put into words.

In many ways it's still just too difficult for me to walk through and share my memories of last year, but I do want to share something. If I cannot tell my story, I will tell someone else's--as best I can. And, it's a story worth telling.

Other than the very few of us who were out there, most people don't know how the race unfolded past the 350 mile point of McGrath after a storm had pushed through and wiped out the trail. Perhaps very few care. The event is about as far from mainstream as possible. However, some has been written about it, mostly focusing on Tim Hewitt. This is certainly understandable. Tim's name is nearly synonymous with walking to Nome and he made a right adventure of last year's race.

However, the above article does get a number of small details wrong and leaves out most of the actions of the racer whom—to me at least—is the real hero of the story. Beat is the only one of us who had the presence of mind to take extra food and fuel from the resupply, he also did the bulk of the trail breaking and he was with me in the end when my world fell apart. But, I'm getting a bit ahead in the tale.

I was attempting the full 1000 mile distance. I thought that Beat would push ahead since, with Tim opting for the bike, he was a shoe-in to win the full distance. But, Beat always says the first 350 is a warm-up so he stuck with me for the early miles for the most part. We bivied together above "The Wall of Death", had a nice breakfast at Yentna Station and even had a really good bit of sleep at Skwentna Lodge. After that I started to fall behind. Coming into Shell Lodge just as Beat left. Then, on the long trek to Winterlake the air warmed up close to freezing and filled with moisture. So did my lungs.

I was having difficulty breathing and was unable to lie down without kicking into a coughing fit. By the time Beat woke up, I hadn't slept and felt certain my race was over. He encouraged me to start on my antibiotics and see how it goes as I had plenty of time and could spend a day (or even more) at the lovely Winterlake Lodge. However, in truth, neither of us expected to see each other again during the race.  After Beat left, I managed to get some amount of sleep and miraculously felt better as Loreen Hewitt and Moses Lovstad came into the checkpoint.

Over the next 5 days my lungs continued to improve. I would get 8, 10, 12, 14 hours of feeling good. Unfortunately, I was walking around 16 hours a day. Beat remained pretty much around 1/2 day ahead of me. At each checkpoint I would find that he had left a few hours prior as I was ready to set down for some rest. I assumed that gap would grow once past McGrath, but the trail had some surprises for all of us after that.

I was hit pretty hard by a snowstorm crossing the Farewell Burn, but it was just a hint of what dropped further up trail. Beat was already in Takotna as Loreen and I were preparing to leave McGrath, but I don't think any of us expected to make it through. The trail we would be taking didn't see much traffic to begin with as the Iditarod dogsled race had opted to start from Fairbanks. Tim and another biker had gotten caught in the storm and the other guy had called for a snowmachine pickup from the on-trail food drop. Tim, being Tim, took advantage of the machine track and then went on to push his bike, breaking trail, past that. Beat followed on snowshoes.

Loreen and I headed out on trail expecting to make it only to the food drop and return. However, thanks to the technology of satellite phones and GPS trackers we were able to get relayed messages of what was happening up trail at least from Beat. Apparently, he kept waiting for us to catch up and share some of the trail breaking duties. Unfortunately, with temperatures now plummeting into the -40 range, Loreen and I were taking longer sleep breaks refusing to get up until the sun was overhead. These pretty much coincided with the times that Beat was waiting, hoping we'd make progress on him. In the end, it just meant that we all moved excruciatingly slow and Beat had to shoulder all the hard work himself.

Beat's a smart guy. He's also pretty meticulous in his planning so it's no surprise that he was the only one of us who thought to grab extra food and fuel from the re-supply drop. There was plenty there given the number of racers who had planned and then dropped from going to Nome. We all should have loaded up, but the going hadn't been too bad up until the food drop. The section between McGrath and Ruby takes about 5 days on foot during a good year. This was not a good year.  The trail got bad. Then it got worse.

Loreen and I stuck together, at least at rest and bivy points. We came upon both Beat's and Tim's tracks and tried to discern the story as the bike track were doubled. As we'd learn later, Tim had been pushing his bike through deep snowdrifts, got off course, ran out of food and headed back towards the cabin. He met salvation on the trail by way of Beat who had extra food and fuel. They headed on together, but even with Beat breaking trail with snowshoes and sled, pushing the bike was just too slow and Tim fell back. Beat left some extra food behind for Tim after dropping him, but alas it was just ahead of where Tim decided to collapse for the night, digging a hole and building a fire right there on the trail.

I believe this is the situation in which Loreen and I found him a few miles outside the ghost town of Poorman. Loreen sat down to join her husband while I decided to push on ahead, invigorated by the idea of catching my friend. I tried to use his snowshoe tracks as best I could even with his strides about 1/2 again as long as mine, but the wind kicked up on the Poorman "road" and his tracks were filling in fast. My pace was a crawl as I entered my 6th night on the trail since leaving Takotna. As 9pm rolled around, I told myself I had to find whatever shelter I could and just bivy on trail again within the next hour. As that hour came and went and nothing presented itself, I saw up ahead what looked like some sort of structure, a dilapidated cabin of some sort. Then I noticed the tracks veering off towards the cabin and, what was that in front? A sled!

I crawled into the cabin and found an empty spot on the floor amongst the mass of junked mining equipment. After a few hours Beat awoke, but I told him I was in no condition to head out so he agreed to wait until first light. In the morning we continued together taking turns plowing through the snow at a crawl. We were more than 30 miles from Ruby and at the pace we were going that would take at least another night. Furthermore, I was low on food and running low on strength. I don't think I really held up my end of the trail-breaking bargain. Things were seeming pretty desperate and I could only imagine what Tim and Loreen were going through behind us. Loreen's hands were in bad shape and while temps had warmed now, the damage was done.

During one of our short breaks to switch leads, Beat went in front and put his headphones in. I was spending my trail time deep in thought so kept the music off which allowed me to hear it. I yelled "Beat! Beat" He took his headphones off and looked at me trying to figure out what I was on about. "Listen. Do you hear it?" There was a faint, distant buzz that seemed to be growing louder. I think neither of us wanted to name it for fear the disappointment if we turned out to be wrong. Eventually, I said it. "Snowmobiles" Then we saw them coming around a bend further up trail. I could have cried. There was no point continuing to waste our energy because once they got to us there would be a trail. An actual trail.

When the finally arrived, it was two guys and they were not just plowing a nice track, they had equipment behind them which laid it down even further. They were heading out to one of the cabins to do some mining. We told them to look out for Tim and Loreen, but mostly we were just excited to get moving again. It was amazing. The feeling of going from 1 mph to 3 mph felt like the difference between jogging and an all-out sprint. On top of that our spirits were lifted. I didn't have to keep rationing my food. We were going to make it to Ruby. A few hours later another snowmobile came by. This one had been sent by Bill, the RD to check on all of us. We told them we were fine and they should get to Tim and Loreen who might be in bad shape.

We continued towards Ruby and after a longer time than I would have expected, the snowmachine came back with Tim and Loreen in tow. A sight I never expected to see, Tim Hewitt being pulled off of the Iditarod trail. We wished them luck then continued on into the dark. We had different BnB's in Ruby, but Beat and I agreed to meet up in the morning and make our decision about continuing then. Food, more food and a good night's sleep can do wonders. We were both moving slow in the morning, but we agreed to keep on. Despite our exhaustion, time was tight. I knew I'd be moving slower so I told Beat that if I couldn't keep up, he should just keep going. I would be happy finishing up wherever I finished. If I made it to the coast I would be ecstatic. Beat would have none of it and started working on a plan to get us both to Nome.

"OK, tour's over, this is now a race." With those words Beat began explaining that we were just going to have to go as long as we could and sleep as little as our bodies would allow. There were 50 miles of Yukon River between Ruby and Galena. We were going to have to take it in a single push. The trail was better since we were now on track with the dogsled race for a bit. We just had to follow the trail of "poop" and discarded dog booties down the river.

With Beat's long strides moving him at a solid clip it meant even less rest for me as he would generally already have been stopped for some minutes before I caught up. We only took one significant stop on the river. It was perhaps 3am and laying on our sleds drinking coffee we were treated to the most incredible light show in the sky directly above us thanks to the northern lights. The rest of the night was much more of a struggle and I had an emotional break-down just before dawn. In the end, the anger propelled me to push hard until light, but I was exhausted when we finally made it to town.

We had some good food and rest in Galena along with collecting our re-supply boxes. I would have been happy to just stay in that comfy apartment for the next week. As it was, we spent too much time dallying around and had to kick ourselves out of there before the sun went down. It was going to be another night with little to no sleep. Once again, the going was rough as the route we would take veered back off the dogsled trail and so we returned to breaking trail and postholing along. It was a little better when we finally left the river and we found a good spot to sleep and agreed to set alarms for 2 hours. I woke, but Beat snoozed on. It was cold and so I stayed in my bag for a while longer, but eventually I managed to crawl out. Beat was sleeping so hard I had to kick him awake.

We made coffee and then geared back up to push through the wee hours and into the dawn. I could feel a general fatigue moving over me and my legs were tired beyond belief. We'd been in snowshoes for the better part of 250 miles. Our trail eventually merged back with the dogsled trail near the confluence of the Yukon and Koyukuk rivers and just outside the small village by the same name. It wasn't a normal stop on the route and we were trying to figure out how quickly to get in and out in order to make it to the next two villages at the right times of day. Timing would be key if we wanted to get our food boxes from the post offices. My quads had a sort of ache in them I had never felt and I was slowing down even as we took the well graded road into town. I was already having my doubts, but willing to push along following Beat as long as my body would let me.

Unfortunately, fate had already made other plans for me. I won't recount the tragic events that followed again. However, since I started this tale focusing on Beat I will say a few things about him. I don't know if we would have made it all the way to Nome, if we had enough time or enough strength. But, I do know that Beat would have stopped it nothing. Nothing that is, except staying with a friend in a time of need. I tried to tell him to go on and that I'd get home OK, but he knew better. He stuck with me that night and made sure I got back to Anchorage and onto my flight home.

Events like the ITI are not really about the finish line and, while there was no winner in the foot race to Nome last year, in my mind there was a champion.


---

Beat will be back at it again this year.

I won't be joining in body, but in spirit I'll be following my friend down that frozen trail...

...perhaps a few steps behind.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Still, in this place

If you've come here looking for a race report, I'm sorry



Unfortunately, there will be no telling the tail of my 600 mile adventure along the Iditarod Trail in Alaska last winter. I am writing this only as a brief explanation of how it ended and why a part of me is (and may always be) still out there. In my mind there exists some alternate reality where some version of me, frozen in time, is just outside the small village of Koyukuk, AK. He's still scheming and pushing to continue the struggle, hoping to complete the final miles to Nome

It's reality where I, ultimately, return home to share with the people I love the story of not just the physical accomplishment, but the spiritual journey I'd taken along the way. And, when I imagine it, I see myself standing beneath the massive cliff looking up, ignorant of what awaits me. Alas, I am still just grounded enough to not allow that reality's existence (tempting though it may be) to shield me from what did happen.

In the real world, I continued on into the village and was met by a local official on snowmachine first asking Beat and then me "are you Steve?" After which I was given instructions for contacting the Alaska State Troopers. A year earlier at mile 200 of this race, I'd been delivered the news of my father's passing. Now, 400 miles further down that same trail, I was to learn that I had lost so much more. The woman with whom I'd been married, helped raise two amazing boys and watch them grow into men--my best friend of 20 years--was gone.

Six months now and I really don't have much more to say. These words have become no easier to write except, perhaps, that I am now able to actually write them. In all honesty, I am only doing so because it has become, in some sense, easier than not explaining or, rather, having to explain at random times and in unexpected situations. It's one of those things they never tell you about grief. The hardest thing is simply having to explain.

If I could wish for one thing, it would be for, somehow, the news to have been delivered in my absence into the ear of all but my closest friends so that I didn't have to be the one to do it. I'm not an especially social person, so having each of my infrequent interactions with casual acquaintance and family friends consist of the conversation-ending story of my personal tragedy is probably the most difficult part. That and the inevitable, but understandable flood of condolences that follow.

If I had a second wish, it would be to ask people to please, stop saying "I'm sorry". I understand the need to say "something" and maybe it is said more for them than for me. However, I just can't help thinking that, right now, sorrow seems to be this ever present theme smouldering beneath the surface of everything I do. Each time I hear that phrase along with the offers for "anything I need", no matter how well-meaning and sincere, it just seems to add more fuel to the fire. I've enough sorrow of my own, I don't really need more. The fact is, beyond my closest friends and family who have been and continue to be here for me, there really is nothing anyone can do.

With everyone else, though, I really just want some semblance or at least remembrance of "normal life." Simply knowing that you know is enough. There truly is nothing more I ask, but if you do really feel the need to offer something beyond the usual platitudes (and, since this blog's readership consists mostly of runners and other outdoor enthusiasts), then if we happen to meet, please just share with me your upcoming races, next adventure, hiking plans or anything that represents those values that we might have in common. Values really are the whole point of life and sharing them the point of friendship.

As for this blog, I'm not sure if it will be continuing. It's been mostly silent for more than a year as is. I did recently finish Hardrock, but don't expect to write anything therein. I have been doing more writing on my other, older, even less-read blog. It's filled with random, sometimes philosophic musings and the occasional wine-inspired bit of poetry. I don't expect to garner readership there as its contents will likely seem foreign to even some of my closest friends, let alone those only casually acquainted with the extents of my thoughts and ramblings.

Thanks for reading. Happy trails.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Second look

For my second preview of the course, there weren't many options that offered easy logistics. The first two sections of the course were either too far away or offered pretty poor access. My friends would arrive on Monday and we agreed to check out the final section no Tuesday. That left either doing part of Leg 5 which was listed as the easiest section or some of Leg 4 which would represent the final descent from the climb I did on Saturday. I opted for the latter


Since I would be going opposite the race direction, I was to head up the Hope Pass trail and then hook up for a bit more climbing on Grainger Creek Trail. I planned for a shorter day so I wouldn't be hitting the steeper bits of the trail near the top.



If the Bonnevier Trail was a single-lane country road, then Hope Pass was like a two-lane highway. Though the soft ground made it feel more like a wide, padded track. In reality, it's actually a historic wagon trail.


Again the trail was in deep tree cover, but this one much more reminiscent of something you might see in the Tahoe area. Big coniferous trees, lots of shade, but with a more open feeling.


It was also a much more popular trail as I passed at least a half dozen backpackers heading in from one or other of the trail camps. However, as soon as I turned off the wide path around 4-1/2 miles in, I didn't see another soul.



Grainger Creek was a more narrow single-track trail winding its way up the side of the mountains. Where the previous day's path didn't follow any obvious topographical feature (in fact, it appeared as if someone just decided to make their way through the woods), this trail contoured along the side of the hill slowly climbing above its namesake creek (though it might be considered a raging river in California right now given our drought).

Many offshoot streams crossed the trail feeding down to the creek often creating short muddy bits to step over.


This well maintained trail, included bridges built over any longer sections of muck.


Of course, this meant for lush and green surroundings and an all around enjoyable hike up the trail.


While there once again was very little view due to the dense cover, I was always aware of it teasing just beyond the curtain of trees. I kept expecting to come out into a clearing at some point. This is probably why I ended up going further up trail than planned. In the end, I only ended up with one brief view of the surrounding area.


When I finally turned around after 8-1/2 miles (a mile longer than intended), I couldn't help myself. This trail was pretty much just the sort I love to bomb downhill. A soft, easy surface, but with just enough rocks, roots, twists and turns to keep it interesting. I did manage to reel in the proverbial reins, forcing myself to walk anything that was flat or slightly uphill. I also kept the downhill pace in check, but felt light on my feet the whole way.




With the two days combined, I'd covered well over 1/4 of the race distance. Unfortunately, though, since I had to do everything as an out-and-back, I'd only seen around 1/7 of the course. I'm also a little worried that I picked sections that were a bit easy, building a little false confidence. No matter, it will give me something to look forward to as I grind through the first couple climbs.

Also, I wouldn't want to have the race completely devoid of surprises (as if that would be possible in an event this long).

Saturday, August 09, 2014

First Impressions

I'm up in Canada a week before the Fat Dog 120 mile race. Since I'm typically under-trained, I thought I would come up a week before and at least get a bit of a preview. I haven't done a mountain 100 since Bryce last year and have only managed a few trips up to the Sierras this summer. Luckily, the altitude isn't a huge issue (high point around 7500ft), but it does have plenty of climbing (28,000ft) and there's that extra 20 miles. While there's not much I can do in terms of training at this point, I figured seeing some of the course and getting my head in the right space might help.



My friends who are also doing the race don't arrive until Monday and we agreed to check out the last section of the course (purportedly one of the most difficult) together. So, I looked for another section for my solo preview today. I chose the third section labeled Bonnevier. It was accessible right off the highway and starts about 41 miles or so into the race. With a 10am start time, that puts it squarely into the night hours for my pace. This would give me a chance to see some of it in the day and also give me some familiarity with trail that I'll be doing just as fatigue and sleepiness become part of the race experience.



The first 2-1/2 miles are on a forest service road and mostly (almost*) all climbing. Then you take a sharp left off the road and onto trail that narrows down to singletrack in the next 1/2 mile.



This is "real deal" singletrack. In fact, with the significant overgrowth in parts, the path nearly disappears altogether. I would venture that this trail sees less traffic than even the least visited trails in most of California's mountains.


The trail was quite good. Beneath the overgrowth there were a few roots, but it was not super technical. There weren't many rocks nor downed trees across the trail. This last, apparently, due to the heroic effort by some volunteers. In numerous places along the trail there was evidence of recently cut trees that would have lain cross the trail. The area is quite ripe with downed trees.


The other thing that made the trail pretty mellow was the ease of navigation. The GPX track I downloaded (and Harry edited) was excellent, but almost completely unnecessary. The course was already marked and the markings were beyond superb. Almost excessive, even. If this section is any indication, if I don't see a ribbon for more than 2 minutes, I should turn around and go back.



Overall, the climb was not especially steep, accumulating just under 2000ft in the first 4-1/2 miles before dropping down a bit and climbing another 1200ft before I turned around after about 10 miles. Of course, that's on fresh legs in the middle of the day. We'll see what story those legs tell in the middle of the night after 40+ miles that include two of the biggest climbs on the course.


The views from up top were quite wonderful. However, the vast majority of the miles I did were completely contained within a thick forest with little in the way of grand vistas. I guess that's appropriate for a section that I'll be starting at night.



Overall, I took it pretty easy, treating it more as a hike than a run. Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty much incapable of not running downhill, but even on the downhills I kept it constrained and conservative. Keeping things easy a week before the race was obviously part of it. However, I was also running solo and I was the only person on the trail. In fact, after leaving the road, I didn't see another single human being in the 5 hours I was out there. Amazing to be just 10 miles from the road and feel completely isolated.



Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Frozen Tearsicles

The Iditarod Trail is an ephemeral thing, lasting for just one season each year. It is also essentially perpetual, renewed again the following winter after inevitable spring thaws. Unfortunately, the continuity of our own lives is never quite so certain and none of us knows exactly how many seasons we will have.


I arrived at the final checkpoint of the Iditarod Trail Invitational to learn that my father had passed away the previous night. He'd been dealing with a number of health issues with significant degeneration over the past couple years, but I did get to spend time with him before departing for Alaska. He had just been released from the hospital and we were hopeful to see this as just another minor setback. It was, apparently, not to be.

Encouraged by my family to finish the race, I knew I would not be able to get much sleep at that point so I headed back out into the night. Walking the frozen trail, watching the northern lights and, eventually, falling asleep in my bivy beneath the star-filled Alaskan sky, I thought about my dad.

The next morning, I continued down the remainder of the final 50-mile stretch with a lifetime of memories as my companion. There were some difficult moments and one near-complete breakdown, but I'm glad that I was able to spend this time "with him" on the trail.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

North

Well, it's been another winter of fits and starts. Since the "Fear and Loathing" race, I've had a setbacks on a number of fronts. With almost no training at all the rest of December and a single 50K race in January, I decided to go ahead with my plan to attempt a repeat at the Arrowhead 135.



It went well enough for the first 24 hours or so, toughing it through temps down into the -40s. Leaving the 72 mile checkpoint Tuesday afternoon my lungs weren't feeling great, but I managed to convince myself it was just the lack of sleep and it would work itself out if I could sneak in a bit of rest the next night. However, it didn't take long to realize that my hacking and coughing was not going to clear up so easily especially given that I only had a single hour on the cutoff time. After 2-1/2 miles I made the decision to turn back rather than risk a potentially more serious illness along with my plans for returning to the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 mile race less than 4 weeks hence.

Given my past history, friends of mine have always predicted that my first DNF would either be because I was dragged kicking-and-screaming from the course or carried off in a stretcher. In the end, it was actually a fairly easy decision. Every now and then I like to make the smart choice, but I don't generally make a habit of it. After around 90 ultra-marathons and 27 of them of 100 miles or longer, it was inevitable that I would eventually not finish one.

And now, since my main motivation for accepting those three letters was for a larger and more fulfilling goal, I am about to head north to Alaska. I don't feel at all prepared and trail conditions (though quite the opposite of what we experienced in Minnesota) are not looking great. Alaska experienced a significant melt down in January followed by a re-freeze the course is more ice and frozen ground than snow. However, the Iditarod trail is never the same any two given years anyways so one simply has to take it in stride.

Despite significant reservations, I'm looking forward to being out there on the trail, moving forward through the last great frontier. At least the time pressures won't be what they were at Arrowhead and I'm excited about returning to the "expedition mentality" that is an integral aspect of this event.

Updates will be infrequent, but available here:
http://iditarodtrailinvitational.com/


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fear and Loathing in the dead of night

The Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing 50K/50M is one of those classic ultrarunning events that's been on my "to do" list for some time. It's been around for around 30 years and follows the San Francisco 49 mile Scenic Drive as it winds it's way through the city. Running 50 miles on roads certainly doesn't sounds like it fits in my wheelhouse. However, I really love events that have a certain "organic" aspect to them and the idea of a long race that tours the city I've lived near most of my life, is simply irresistible. Now that I live in the San Francisco and the route goes right by my place, I had no excuse not to join the fun.

Well, I actually did have one excuse. I wanted to run the entire course, but I had some things I wanted to do in the afternoon and didn't want to kill my entire Sunday. Not only would it likely take at least 9 hours to run the course, but I would have to travel to and from the start at Twin Peaks which is about 5 miles from my house and an hour by public transit. So, rather than opting to just run the 50K route, I hit upon the somewhat crazy idea of starting my run in the middle of the night from home so I could finish there the following morning.

Leaving my house near Fort Mason right around midnight, it was interesting to be running such common paths while dark and empty. Coming out of the Presidio I saw a coyote running in the middle of the street with something in its mouth. Further on the path in a residential neighborhood heading towards Ocean Beach, I was surprised by a group of raccoons that came tumbling around a corner in the midst of a fight. A bit more wildlife than I expected especially since I wasn't even in the park.

The path along the beach and up and over The Great Highway was quite peaceful with nary a bit of traffic which would be impossible in the daylight. After that it was out and around Lake Merced and then on towards Golden Gate Park. The normally-crowded Sunset Blvd also devoid of vehicles in the wee hours of the a.m. However, once the route took me into the Park, the solitude turned from pleasant to creepy. Its one thing to not see another living thing that isn't scavenging for leftover morsels. It's quite another to be continuously haunted by the thought that that emptiness might just be an illusion and you may just wake someone sleeping in those bushes next to the path. I opted to run in the middle of the street instead.

I was glad to finally be leaving the park and heading up towards UCSF Medical, but looking at the route to the "start" had me a wee concerned. The official race began at 7:00am. It wasn't even 5 yet and I was only a few miles from the base of the final climb up Twin Peaks. It was around 5:30am when I arrived at Portola Drive. It was Sunday and I imagined myself cowering in a doorway for the next hour. Then I noticed the Starbucks across the street with a light on and someone going in the door. I hustled across and smiled as I headed inside. A much better venue to spend my waiting time.

Despite overnight temps in the 30s, I hadn't really been cold for the entire run. Taking over an hour break and then heading back out took care of that. I cowered at the top of the hill with everyone else anxiously awaiting the start. It was good to get caught up with old friends though once we were underway, the extra miles on my legs kept me far in the back of the pack. No problem. I was still enjoying running solo as the morning came upon us and we headed mostly downhill through Dolores Hights to Cesar Chavez and towards the bay.

I knew the night was taking a toll when I was running along the Embarcadero and needed to use a bathroom. I stopped at one of the little public stalls, but then read the sign reading "vacant", uttered a "damn it" to myself and ran on. It was about 1/2 mile before I realized that my brain had translated that to "occupied". Of course, every other one I came upon either was occupied or out of order. Figures.

Just as I was really starting to feel the fatigue, I was lucky enough to hook up with another runner, Billy McCarty, who is a really interesting guy and helped pass the time as we wound our way through the shopping district, Japan Town, China Town and then up to Coit Tower before descending down to Fisherman's Warf and then back towards home.

I finished up about 11 hours after I started with my GPS registering around 48 miles for the full 49-mile Scenic Drive. I'm not sure if I'd do it again, certainly not in the same fashion. However, it was probably the most fun I've ever had running that many miles on road. My legs definitely felt like they do after a normal 50 miler, but my feet hurt much, much more.

In the end, the goal was accomplished. I got in some solid miles and made it back home in time for a nap before the start of the 49ers game :-)