Friday, November 30, 2012

Have swimsuit, will run

This week has been an enjoyable one for running — empty trails, slopping through peanut butter mud, splashing into shin-deep puddles, skidding across wet wooden bridges, and feeling the cool caress of misty rain on a warm November afternoon.

This week has been a wet one in the Bay area. I'm not far enough displaced from my life in Juneau to be all that impressed by coastal California weather quite yet (60 degrees and steady misting rain for days? Southeast Alaskans call that "July.") But this particular weather system is the largest winter storm I've seen since I moved here 21 months ago, and may be the largest one here in many years. Scientists are calling this an "atmospheric river" — a conveyer belt of torrential downpours that threaten to soak regional hills and mountains with double-digit inches of rain and send flooding into the valleys. Scientific American ran an interesting article about "Megastorms" and the extent of damage such storms are capable of causing. It's a sobering reminder that even California's splashy fun storms are not to be taken lightly.

This storm also coincides with the largest trail running event of the year around here, the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship. It's a 50-mile money race for fast runners, and a high-participation event with multiple distances for the rest of us. There was a time when I considered signing up for the 50-mile or the 50K event, but decided that I prefer to run low-key trail races, of which there are abundant options around here. However, my friend Monika decided to put together a team for the marathon relay, and recruited me to run the fourth leg. Three women on our team are mainly road half marathoners, and I can't promise anyone an amazing or even adequate 10K, so this "endurance challenge" falls squarely into the "fun social outing" category for us.

Still, despite its short distance, this race feels eerily similar to UTMB — the NFEC 50-mile and 50K races were extensively rerouted due to flooding and safety concerns, so now all of the runners are going to be crammed into tight loops of fire roads in Golden Gate National Recreation area. And by the time our marathon relay starts, six hours after the 50-miler, the course likely to be a morass of mud as shoe-sucking and soul-crushing as those churned-up trails in France. Granted, running that kind of terrain for 110K is maddening, but for a simple 10K, it's likely to be more like splashy fun. Still, maybe this wet weather is just my bad luck. Maybe I should stay far away from anything deemed a "trail running championship."

I hope for the sake of California and its economy that this doesn't develop into a Megastorm, but I do think the severe wetness will make for an interesting experience for every runner involved in major races this weekend.