Today was the Rodeo Beach 18 mile trail race. Unfortunately, I previewed the course map and I thought I knew where I was going. Sure, the map's crude, but that's no excuse. I have a better map I could have compared it to. Or I could have, err, read the course description. But I thought I knew the route.
But after descending Coastal Trail onto Bunker Road I didn't see any ribbons, which served as course markers. Weird. I ran up the road, where I was fairly sure the course went, and still didn't see any. I scanned to the right, where there was a dirt road paralleling Bunker Road. Nobody there, and no ribbons there either. Finally I saw a ribbon ahead on the left -- cool. As I approached, though, a runner appeared almost out of nowhere. When I got there I saw he'd come off a side-trail onto Bunker Road.
How did he get there? I thought back to the Coastal Trail descent and didn't recall seeing any junctions. Maybe there'd been a frontage trail I'd missed.
So I finished the loop, nominally 13 miles, then ran the 5 mile loop which was the second part of the 18 mile course. I felt decent at at the finish. There, I was told I'd gone under distance, and had to run out and back on the road on which I'd come to make up that lost distance. "Run to the caution sign", I was told. Then come back, presumibly -- I didn't wait around for further instructions.
But I didn't no where the caution sign was. I ran for awhile, to a stop sign, then turned back. Maybe the caution sign was further up the road, but I don't recall ever seeing one there.
Overall what should have been a personal victory, my longest trail run ever, my longest foot race ever, turned into a crash and burn. As far as I'm concerned, going off course is DNF. Maybe they'll give me a time, maybe not. I didn't wait around. I ate a few bagel pieces, filled my bottle, and was gone.
On the way back I stopped at the Coastal Trail to see where I could have missed the turn-off. Sure enough, marked in pink-and-black striped ribbon, was a side trail. I'd been so focused on what I was doing I'd somehow totally missed it. Incomprehensible, really. But I'd made many wrong turns before: at a 300 km brevet in Austin I rode an extra 20 miles. At Davis Double I'd ridden up an extra 8 mile climb, then back down when I realized I was lost. At Climb to Kaiser I'd descended back from the pass using the outgoing route instead of the return route, until I arrived, miles later, at a rest stop. They drove me back to where I'd gone off course. At Kaiser again, later, I missed the turn to the summit itself, until I realized my mistake and backtracked. That one only cost me a few miles -- 15 minutes? A lot of time, still, on what is essentially a race. I'm simply not very good at following directions.
So as a training run, a good day today. As a race: a total, unmitigated failure. I really may as well have saved my entry fee and done a run on my own. This after my last trail race where I forgot to register. Great.
So I ran something approximating 18 miles today. Under different circumstances, that would be a good thing.
Oh, one good thing today. I did a little hike with Cara. That was nice: up to a viewpoint, then back. The first hike since she injured her knee in April 2009. Progress.