Secret Beach, Getting Ready!
Setting out on the race, Michael and I agreed we'd be running it "together, alone." We knew our paces were going to be different. We knew that being out on the course we'd more and more need to focus on our own status. Our own determination.
We also knew that we'd be running a different race than just about anyone else out there. For many regular runners, this is the end of the season, especially in the Pacific Northwest where the dark and rain often lead folks indoors for training. They're in shape, ready to go and know what to expect. Also, this race, like most, has support. The trails are marked; there are signs; and staff at key junctions to point you the right way. There are also aid stations with food and drink. If you want to have a drop bag, staff will take it out to the stations and have it waiting for you. Want to use poles? Sure, why not.
That's not quite what Michael and I were doing or aiming for. First, this was our first official Ultra. Ever. Also, the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC) is it's own special kind of suffering. Not only are the trails not marked and no staff, you have to run the trails backwards. The signs will be facing the other way, the main thread is crisscrossed with spurs and you need to stay on course or face backtracking and re-running. There are no aid stations, and drop bags or "donkeys" of folks taking your backup material along, are not allowed. Finally, No! Poles!
Therefore, I was running the Secret Beach 50-mile as much to learn as to finish. Also, I hoofed my pack of around a 20-pounds, with water and food for the day, like I would have to in the HK4TUC. I was trying to run from memory, having studied the course. Poles? Well, that is one thing that came easy. I never use those!
It was a learning experience, then? Well, no. Finishing was really important, too. We had been added to the HK4TUC wait list for 2020, with the proviso that if we were to finish an official race, before the cut off time, we would be allowed to enter - we'd be qualified. So, more than *just* learning, we were under the gun. One of our own making, to be sure - but one just the same.
So it was when we got to the pre-dawn race briefing at the Pacific Reef Motel beach, and mulled around with the other racers, waiting to get started. We had already gotten the word that the course had been changed due to unusually high water on the beach, so that wasn't news. Neither was the fact that "cliffs are cliff-like, be wary near them!" It was good to know that that some trail clearing had been done, especially in some place called the “jungle." No one mentioned the active landslip. Suddenly, the last sentence of the briefing was uttered, and immediately "we'll start in 5...4...3..." What? Now? Yes. Now. We were off.