Well, even if the North Face 50 didn’t go as well as I thought it should it was still a fun weekend. I spent the week in Austin at the Running Event, a trade show for independent running retailers, checking out cool new product that pertains, on a daily basis, to my lifestyle and profession so it’s always fun to check out what other people are doing to try to make our lives more fun, or interesting, or whatever.
There’s been a lot going on lately, starting with a trip to Hawaii for the Xterra World Championships to Thanksgiving with family down in Sacramento, then down to Austin and immediately to San Francisco. Lots going on and theres a chance that contributed to just not being on point this weekend.
Up until about 3 wks ago right before Xterra training was really clicking along. Runs were going well, I was running fast and I was getting in 100-110 mi/wk. I got a little niggle of a partially torn calf muscle (so says the PT), worked it out and took two days off then started running again. This was a couple days before Xterra and I had a few runs leading up to the race but for some reason my legs were totally out of it at Xterra. No go in them and I can’t figure out why. I should have been feeling great but maybe the slight injury just threw me out of whack. I don’t know.
Anyway, then I got back to training a bit but with only two weeks to TNF 50 I wasn’t going to throw in a bunch of mileage so I basically started a taper like you would for a marathon. But a general feeling of blahhhhhhh continued in my legs and they just wouldn’t come around. By now I’m sort of panicking so I started to do whatever I could to get them to come around. I started rolling every day to get them worked out, my hamstrings had been feeling a bit tight, I took two Epsom Salt baths and that works pretty well when a malaise infests my legs, and I just started running less.
I did a 10k race on Thanksgiving day in Sacramento and ran 30:17 which I thought was a good sign and showed I was at least in some semblance of fitness, although in hindsight probably not the best predictor of mountainous 50 mile shape.
But the malaise continued through Austin and I did everything I knew how to do to feel ready for this weekend. By Thursday before the race my legs had actually begun to respond and come around and on Friday they actually, for the first time in three weeks felt kind of poppy. (Poppy is a technical running term meaning good) So that was good but I still, (wow, I’m coming up with so many excuses that I feel like degrading myself but this is just how it was coming into this race) kind of felt under the weather a bit like when you’re just starting to catch a cold or you’ve got one lingering and on the verge of a sinus infection. Just not feeling “normal”.
Friday I headed in to the Mountain Hardwear HQ for a talk about running and climbing presented by my good friend Dakota Jones who has high aspirations of melding the two disciplines into many more adventures. (Dakota, I want in by the way). I skipped over to the GU HQ where they were in the middle of their holiday party and met many new faces of the crew there that I’ll be working with as a GU athlete this next year. Pretty stoked to be working with GU this year. They have great product that works phenomenally well for us ultra runners.
The morning of the race I got up at 3am because they have a ridiculous starting time of 5am, I was hopeful as my legs felt decent, meaning I didn’t feel completely crippled like a 90yr old until the blood moves around a bit. Having been in an unknown state of fitness the past three weeks also hadn’t made me super excited to race a 50 miler either but on this morning (even at 3am) I was at least in a good mental state before the race and ready to go. It was go time.
The race is run in some of the most beautiful areas that you’ll find, especially when you consider it’s right next to a major metropolitan area so I was looking forward to that. After running for 2hrs in darkness the sun began to rise off to our backside and cast sun beams on the grass slopes of the Marin Headlands. It is such an awesome view to having rolling grass hills with the bright Pacific Ocean stretched out in front of you. Tough to enjoy in a race but I was trying. After 20 miles of feeling like the pace was easy and I was comfortable with good climbing legs I was actually starting to have some fun and excited for what that meant for later in the race. But of course either the lack of fitness, the lingering cold, or whatever just had to rear it’s ugly head and in the span of about 100m I knew that this race was going to get real ugly, real fast. I started cramping, not a normal thing for me in a race either. Especially after only 27 miles. The rest of the race would be punctuated by bouts of cramping with just general fatigue in between. The electrolyte capsules I was injesting weren’t doing anything so I started to chew them, yes, actually chewing up large amounts of electrolytes in my mouth, to get some relief. Luckily this did in fact work to fool my brain into thinking I was now sufficiently electrolyted up and I would stop cramping for about 30min or so. I ended up having to do this about 3 more times. I suggest you try this at home or in a race of your own so you can commiserate with me on this one.
I staggered to the finish line in a not completely unrespectable 6:54 and an 11th place finish. Not a finish that I wanted but everything considered, not so bad. I don’t suggest doing a race at under 100% capacity unless you’re looking for a perseverance medal rather than gold medal. I know that there were some folks out there a lot longer than I was that deserve a much larger perseverance medal than me however so I applaud you and your efforts. Trust me, this is just a blog post and I need nor want any sympathy.
Today, I’m sore. Which is to be expected. This week starts the beginning of a very long break for me from training. My body needs a recharge so this winter I’m running a little and trying to ski more and enjoy some other things like teaching Micah to ski (hopefully) and watching Hazel start to walk (she just took her first steps on Thursday) and just generally spending some good time with the family. I’m returning back to Bend where it is now currently 3 deg and 6” of snow on the ground. This is a perfect time to take a break. However, first up next weekend are the USATF Club XC National Championships and I’ll run those probably not very fast but I did build the course so feel some obligation and desire to run them. It will be fun…as long as most of the snow melts.
Most photos credit to Galen Burrell – nice shots man!