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  • New Year One Day 2012

    Posted on January 4th, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    So what does one do for birthday celebration when it falls on New Year Day? Well, I wanted my New Year/birthday to be unique, and a memorable day with someone special!

    On the last day of 2012, I went to this crazy, notorious, bad-ass and epic 6 hours Endurance race by Costal Trail Runs. It’s a looped course of 1.061 miles around the lagoon at Crissy Field, with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the San Francisco Bay, though I did not get to see much of the Angel Island in the dark. I would be running from 2012 through to 2013 surrounded by other crazy runners (6HR, 12HR and 24HR) like me and the best company Max on this special day.

    I have never done a timed race before, and the thought of running 6HR seemed crazy and scary at first, however when Max first brought up this race I figured it would be the coolest way to ring into a new year and also celebrate my birthday! Originally I was thinking that I could run couple loops and then just sit on a chair or nap in the tent while waiting for the over-achiever Max to finish his ultra race, then we would celebrate my birthday with champagne and fireworks. However, ever since Max got injured after the back to back marathons — CIM which he PRed and Coyote Ridge that he placed 2nd AG, I was having inner struggle about this race. I wanted to go with the run as planned, but I did not want to talk about anything related to running in front of him nor asking him to accompany me. I felt it would be too selfish to rub salt on his wound, and it’s like eating cake in front of someone who is on diet. My guilt was casting a showdown over the excitement and anticipation of this special New Year One Day run. However, the night before the race he assured me that it’s his injury and his frustration, and I should not feel bad or guilty about participating this, and he wanted me to have the best race experience and fun.

    Monday, Dec 31st , after that little  talk with Max, I woke up in completely relaxed and refreshed mind and was all hyper and excited about this special run that would take place in the evening. I first went to get some cupcakes from Sugar Butter Flour in Campbell to prepare for my birthday celebration, then packed my beanie, gloves, headlamp, vest, jacket, hand warmer, blanket…etc, on top of my usual running attire. I was definitely NOT going for long distance run at all, so I also brought my iPod Nano for entertainment. I have picked a neon pink vest to go with my neon pink PureCadence, thinking I would be as bright as the fireworks in San Francisco’s velvety sky 🙂

    At 4:00pm, Max and I embarked on our epic run after he packed the tent, folding chair, snacks and our bags into his trunk, and the drive into S.F. was smooth with only some minor traffic of New Year Eve party goers. We got to Crissy Field and secured a parking spot easily around 5:15pm, and immediately found ourselves surrounded by cold and misty air once we stepped outside. First checked ourselves in and got our personalized bid and timing ankle strap, and looked up the  live update of the 24HR runners. Max efficiently setup and finished our “rest area” near the Start around 5:40pm, and I was pretty useless as usual, so just walked around and admired those bad-ass and brave 12HR and 24HR runners who were running in dusk. Loren and Sopheak, new running friends whom I met at Coyote Ridge , were going to be there also, so I was looking forward to meeting them and sharing this unique experience together. I also got the opportunity to get a head-start at aid-station :-p There are plenty of usual trail mixes, crackers, pretzel bits, M&Ms, energy chew, broiled potatoes, and of course my favorite PBJ sandwich  along with coke and other soda 🙂

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    I did not notice there were missed calls from Michael at 5:30pm, so Vinh called  Max and letting him know that they were coming for race support. WOW!! Totally unexpected! I thought they would be sitting in their comfortable and warm living rooms, drinking and eating while watching fireworks on TV. I was thrilled when I saw them walking toward our tent! Around 5:45pm the race director Wendell assembled all 6HR runners by the Start, and gave us the simplest directions ever. Well, the journey of thousand miles must begin with one step, so promptly at 6:00pm off we went — Max and I started our run.

    For this and my very first ultra endurance race, I had no race strategy since it’s not going to be a “race” for me; therefore I planned to run at a very comfortable pace and just enjoyed the experience.  Didn’t take long for me to discover it’s impossible to stop running or taking break since it’s so cold, and I was wondering why and how other runners were taking break though. I ran the first loop at 11 minute pace, and went to our tent to get Michael and Vinh who were just going to run one loop with me. Vinh and I chatted gingerly except Michael, so I went “Michael, why are you so quiet? No words of wisdom from you today?” He replied “It’s too cold”… haha, I know!! And I love you guys for coming out on New Year Eve to this crazy run that you did not sign up for.

    Since it’s so cold, the two of them decided to run couple more loops with me before we returned to the tent for the cupcake celebration. We discussed a little about race strategy for timed race like this one, and Michael said he would start the first hour as fast as possible, then slower pace  for the remaining of that 5 hours. Vinh said he would do a ladder pace, while I would run even pace then pick up at the end. When we took a short 5 minutes break to share the red velvet cupcake, we were all shivering like crazy, and then I continued with my solo long run before they even took off.  When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end., so it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it and whom you are with!

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    On our way to Crissy Field, I was telling Max that this 1.06ml loop probably would drive me crazy considering how impatient I am, and how can anyone look at the same thing over and over again for 20, 30 or more times? I probably would lose my sanity after finish, so it would be very tough to write this race report and definitely no words of wisdom from me. But surprisingly I did not notice my surroundings during the race, once my body was in motion I just wanted to keep going. Sure at the first hour I saw the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of Fine Art light up in the dark, and reflections of lights on lagoon and ocean gave this New Year Eve a very romantic feeling. I took a break to have half slice of pizza before finishing the second hour, and 9 loops checked. As it got darker and darker, I found my mind quieted down and cleansed by the darkness, and I was not thinking much except how cold my ears, nose, hands and feet were, and how secluded and lonely I felt.

    By the time I had covered 3 hours/14 miles, my body and hands were cold and stiff and I started having running nose. I stopped at aids-station for some boiled potatoes and coke, and ran into Max who was snacking on M&Ms as well. Max and I only passed each other few times during that 6 hours, and I smacked his butt  jokingly at each encounter — it’s very easy to spot his cute ass even in darkness (shhh… don’t tell him that I say that.)  My headlamp and iPhone were about to die, so I just shut them off and ran in the dark. When I checked off 4th hour, I was going for my 19th loops and that got me thinking that our life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations, just like tonight.

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    After 5 hours of running at this super cold ocean front, my whole body hurt and got terrible headache from the coldness, but I had done 22 loops already and decided to fuel myself with more coke and then pick up my pace in the final stretch. It struck me at this point that I had exceeded my goal, and I was very close to a marathon distance already. Before the final right turn, I heard the announcement of “30 seconds till New Year” and that made me to sprint faster and accidentally bumped into a guy right at the last turn corner, and slowed me down a couple seconds. I heard the crowds shouting “10, 9, 8…” and I pushed myself toward the megawatt lights by the timing scanner while my vision was blinded. Beeee…..Crossed the finish line right on time when all the noise makers started to rattle and runners greeting “Happy New Year” left and right.

    Couple guys came up and high-five me offering “congrats”, “great job”, and I was overwhelmed in disbelief that I actually did it —  I actually ran 6 hours and did 27 loops; I became an Ultra marathon runner on my birthday. My vision was trying to adjust to the lighted Finish area and body was still shaking from the excitement, so I had to grab Max’s arms by two hands to steady myself for our  New Year’s kiss. Loren and Sopheak came up and directed me where to get my champagne so we could toast Happy New Year together! I brought that box of cupcakes and candle over to a nearby picnic table, and Sopheak invited runners around us to sing Happy Birthday together while I made my birthday wishes. And with that personalized bib, some runners were able to identify me as that Michele from Facebook, and they came to say Happy Birthday — runners were just totally awesome!

    Then the most unexpected thing happened – “… Michele Sun”, what?! I heard my name being called and it’s for the race award!! OMG!! I screamed in disbelief – I placed!! I was 3rd place in my AG division. OMG!!! I went to the podium and accepted my “3RD” medal from Wendell and it felt so kick-ass!! So not only I started as a marathon runner and finished as an ultra-marathon runner, I placed for the very first time and it’s on my birthday! Is there any better way to ring in 2013?!


    p.s. On our way back to South Bay, it was so cold that I had to wrap myself in blanket and placed my arms under my armpits as Max instructed me.  While shivering uncontrollably another reality hit me — Max has finished three races in Dec. one Marathon, one Trail Marathon and one 6HR Endurance race, and I did one Marathon and one Ultra-marathon; all these took place in Dec 2012. Wow, what can I say?  No road is too long in the company of Max, and we sure wrapped up 2012 in high note 🙂






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