When Noel turned thirty, I wanted to give him the perfect birthday gift. After much contemplation I logically concluded the best gift would be registration for the two of us in a local trail race, the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty. At first we toyed with the idea of running the 50K (30 miles), but quickly came to our senses and decided we lacked the time and motivation to train for a race of that magnitude. We did our best to train despite the catastrophe known as the month of April. We took turns running, pulled out the double jogger a few times, and even convinced a few friends to watch the kids so we could sneak in a few trail run dates together. (Yes, most of our friends think we’re crazy, but I think they were glad we didn’t compete for the popular Friday night date slots.)
We’ve done marathons, half-marathons, Ragnars, and even a 5K where we wore Santa outfits and ate cookies at every “aid station,” but this race is by far the craziest that we’ve done. We started to get the feeling this wasn’t going to be your typical crowd when we started getting emails from the director about how we needed to bring our own hydration systems for the race and our own plates and silverware for the post race meal since they wanted to have a paper free event. Now, we’re all in favor of being green, but being responsible for carrying our own cups during a race sounded a little strange even to us. We ordered a fuelbelt for the event, but it of course was delivered while we were running the race (shame on us for not factoring Memorial Day into the shipping timeline I suppose). Instead, we used some large rubber bands to DIY some handheld water bottles which actually worked better than anticipated. We were worried we were going to look like crazy people, but we needn’t have worried about that. When we pulled into the parking lot where we caught the shuttle we started to laugh because the ragtag group of hippies wearing compression socks waiting outside of their Subarus was a dead giveaway that we were in the right place.
The race started with a quarter mile on a dirt road where everyone can get into position before heading into a single track hiking trail. Even though this was a race everyone was super polite and no elbows were thrown and no one was tripped. Heavy rains this last month had washed out parts of the trail which only made the technically difficult terrain that much more exciting. The race starts at a mere 7,700 feet above sea level (2,000 feet higher than where we live) so it was of course no big deal when we climbed and descended around 4000 feet. Okay, it was a big deal and we felt like big sissies when we finally gave in and walked, but as far as we could tell no one, not even the winners, ran the entire time. Really, the event was more of a speed hiking competition. The course was beautiful, but also kicked our butts. When we finished we enjoyed a nice soak in the creek before eating our post meal of grilled hamburgers on the plates we’d dutifully brought from home even though we were outraged to find they had a stack of paper plates for the taking. Everyone was really friendly and also in insanely great shape. (Seriously, we were starting to feel a bit self-conscious as 90% of the people looked like they walked off the cover of Runner’s World.) We were feeling pretty wussy as we listened to everyone’s ultra running resumes, but when we mentioned we had kids we found many people were impressed with us. It was a really fun environment with a good spirit of camaraderie. We were really glad we got to meet pink-tank-top, old guy, girl from France, guy-with-the-shoulder-tattoos, and guy-that-didn’t-move-his-arms among others. I guess we were all in such a kumbaya state of mind that names didn’t even matter.
Before the race started the director mentioned that they give a prize to the bloodiest participant so if you happened to fall you should stick around for the award ceremony. We had absolutely no intention of winning that prize, but when Noel took a somersaulting tumble down the mountain I may have gotten pretty excited about the possibility of him being a contender for the $100. When it came time for the contest of bloodiest battle wound Noel headed up to the front of the crowd along with a couple of people with bloody knees. The second Noel took his shirt off all the other contenders immediately dropped out and he walked away with a crisp $100 bill. For once, Noel was grateful for his unrivaled clumsiness. We also both won raffle prizes and got complimentary beer glasses, so we think we came out on top of this one.
After all the fun was over we decided it was time to end our date (Yes, we considered it to be a date, and an awesome one at that!) and rescue my friend Emilie who had kindly agreed to watch our children. We’re a little sore today, but we’re already thinking about doing the race again someday. Perhaps when I turn thirty. Noel definitely showed thirty that he’s still got it in him.