Monday, April 22, 2013

Woodside Ramble 50k

I ran the Woodside 50k last weekend. It has taken me almost 2 months to come back from that nasty ankle issue I had back in February. While still a little sore after the 20th or so mile, I feel now it is as good as it is going to get. I can manage all the issues it presents me at this point. Since that injury I have made health the #1 priority over any fitness gains. I think I've turned the corner on that and really am starting to see the benefits of being healthy for an extended period of time. I'm now at almost 14 months of health and I have no intent on ending that anytime soon.

This 50k had a lot more climbing than I expected. I was shooting for a 6:30 race which would have been an hour faster than any trail 50k I've run to date. I left Reno Friday night and we got to Woodside around 8:30pm. A quick trip to Denny's for some fuel and back to the hotel and in bed by 10. My stress level has come down slightly since February and my sleeping habits have improved a bit. I actually got to sleep before midnight!

First off this race was 100% first rate. Completely marked, well stocked aid, tough as nails to run and a great vibe at the finish. A huge thanks to Inside Trail Racing (ITR) for the their efforts and giving the Reno runners a discount on the race.

As you can see there is really nothing flat on this course, long ups and downs were the name of the game this day. We started out climbing and within 25 minutes I realized I was in new territory. I was trying to take it easy but I kept finding myself starting to jog going up hill. I was not cursing the hills while I ran like I have so often, in fact I was actually catching people and passing them. I figured this was just early race jitters and my normal slow and steady would come back towards the middle parts of the race.

We got to the first aid station and I had just finally figured out the people I was running with were doing the 35k, this immediately sent up a red flag. I was running uphill with way I could keep up that pace so I better slow down. For the next 5-8 miles I settled into a very comfortable pace and tried to concentrate on eating and drinking. When we got to the next aid station I knew my time to shine was ahead of me. We had this massive 3-4 mile 1500 foot descent. I LOVE going downhill! I've been working on getting a fast tempo that allows me to recover and I set out down the hill. I passed about 15 people and at one point saw a 6:55 pace. I averaged between 7:45 to 8:15 on those miles and I new at this point nearly half way that I was having a good day. I also knew that what goes down must come back up on a loop course. I had a 4 mile slog back to the top so I reached down to grab a gel. Oh SNAP! I forgot to zip the pocket and I lost all my gels. I had not had one since the last aid station and would not get another till the next, so I'd be going almost 9 miles with no fuel. DAMN IT. I got a new waist pack 2 weeks ago and had not used it in a race, no other pack I have uses zippers and I just forgot this one did. Dumb move.

Starting back up the hill I see this woman running back at me waving her hands yelling we are going the wrong way. I asked if she was sure and she assured me she had just been over a half mile with no markings. I could not comprehend this as I had just seen one. Turns out she missed a marker and was mistaken but it took about 5 minutes of backtracking to figure it all out. Once back in the right direction and heading up the hill I got that feeling again. "I can jog some of this" I thought to myself. "OK to that tree then walk", I said. I repeated this over and over, it resulted in me running probably 75% of that hill and passing many people. I got to the top elated. I hit the aid station inquired about where I was in the race and they said top 25 or so.

That news got me all jacked up and I took off from that aid stop well fed but starting to feel the effects of the lost Gels an hour earlier. I knew I had about 30 minutes before a huge crash which would last about another 30 minutes. I tried to eat but I got to the point where I had more in my gut than I could digest, so I knew at that point all I could do was ride out the low point. I got passed shortly after by two older gentlemen who clearly had been holding back the first 25 miles.

I passed the last aid station and finally started doing the numbers. If I really hustled and pushed I could break 5:35 I figured. I set off like a bat out of hell down that trail. At this point the best I could muster was low 8 minute pace but it felt like 6. Then about 2 miles from the finish it happened, I'd finally pushed my legs too far and they stopped working. I had to walk some of the downs and all of the hills, my watch was telling me 5:40 was now out of the question but sub 6 was still in order. The last mile sucked, all uphill and I was wrecked with no energy to spend. I trotted into the finish in a lifetime best of 5:49 on the clock almost 2 hours better than my previous best. I was amazed. The training and extended health is really starting to pay off. I ended up 20th place and 6th in my age group.

About 20 minutes after the finish I got this huge blast of energy from everything I ate an hour earlier. My running mates from Reno started coming in and we all celebrated great days. We brought down 4 people all of whom placed in the top 40, with 3 50k PR's and the other non PR was a huge success as she came across the finish line stating she could "run another 20 no problem", which was her goal for the race.

I know now making health my most important goal has been and will continue to be the best bet for me. While I still regret choosing not to start that race 2 months ago, I am certain the result wold have been tragic to my goals for running this year.

My next race is Silver State 50 mile in May, I'm looking forward to us since I last ran that race in 2011. It was to this date the worst race I've ever run. I look forward to taking revenge on that course and running a lot of the hills! I think I have a shot at sub 11 hours if everything goes right.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Goal Setting and Why I May Have Been Going About It All Wrong

(I wrote this the day before my first 50k of the year in the middle of February.)

At the conclusion of my run to Auburn in 2012 I spent a couple days thinking about my life, where it was going and where it had been. I had such an amazing journey to Western States, there was so much I learned about myself in the three years I had been running. I  learned at a young age that when it comes to performing, I am going to go to the farthest depths that I can to get the result I want. I can push farther than your average Joe. Despite physical or emotional pain I have always had the ability to focus on the task at hand and get the job done. In my youth, I felt this was one of my best qualities. It made me feel studly and it gave the appearance to others that I was a tough SOB. These things were important to me because at the time I lacked self worth (am I worthy of that which I'm trying to attain or have been given) and self esteem (confidence that I can achieve). A double doozie for any young man to have.

I got a grasp on my confidence once I left the nest and went to college, as I suspect a lot of young men do. However, I still struggle daily with self worth. One reason I set so many goals is because I constantly feel unworthy. If I achieve, I must be worthy. If I do not, then I am not, pretty simple.

I had a revelation of sorts last night. I've never felt that my goal setting could be in any way unhealthy. How could it be? You set a goal, you achieve it. You move on to the next one. Setting goals in and of its self, is not a bad thing, but I now suspect the way I use those goals to make myself feel better is not the healthiest of ways to go about it. I make every goal so important that in many cases I continue on down the path of achievement against better judgement. I once viewed this as determination, and a positive thing. Now I'm not so sure.

Two weeks ago I injured my ankle at a race. I've been nursing it ever since, taking off Monday through Wednesday, lightly running Thursday, and getting long miles in on the weekend. I've kept the intensity of these workouts under wraps. Still, my ankle is giving me some trouble. I'm also apparently coming down with whatever bug has been going around and I'm generally feeling a little lethargic.

I have my first 50k of the season tomorrow.  My goal is a sub 6 hour run. I made that goal because I want to feel like all the training I have been doing is worth it. I've been busting my ass since December first trying to actually run up steep hills rather than walk. I have this need to feel inside myself that I am worthy of the praise my friends and family bestow upon me for my running exploits. I consider myself an average runner at best. My family and friends do not, I am special to them. I just do not see it that way. My reality (perception maybe) is, I am part of a very small percentage of people, who for what ever reason, choose to run distances most people do not even like to drive. Of those people who do it, I'm average, and I'm working on getting better. To me, my special quality in this sport is pain and suffering, or rather dealing with it, not my running ability.

So how does all this fit into a revelation while sitting in bed at midnight unable to sleep last night? Well, I hurt enough and felt sick enough, that I had to start pondering if going to the race tomorrow was a good idea.
As recently as a year ago (I in fact had this same conversation with myself last January) I would look at this decision and consider it an easy choice. You go, you run hard, you succeed. You signed up, paid for it, told everyone you were live up to your word. The outcome of that decision a year ago, and most of the others like that in my life to date, has been the same. I do go, I do succeed and I also end up broken.
Each and every time I pushed through relatively small issues only to find on the other side I made bigger ones. Just looking at the last three years of running, 4 times I have downplayed the importance of my health for the achievement of a relatively minor goal and each of those 4 times I was left sitting on the couch for months at a time mending wounds incurred.

It is funny, but last night was the first time I've put all this together. Do my self esteem issues hinder me in placing an importance on my health? Surely if true, I must do this in other non athletic endeavours. After some thought, I would say there are many parts of my life I downplay my health (mental or physical) in order to meet some arbitrary want.

I woke this morning to a familiar feeling, a sore ankle and a sore throat. I left for work positive it would all pass and made my plans for the race the next morning. My hour long drive to work affords me a lot of thinking time. I recalled my thoughts so early that morning and realized I may not be 100% unbiased in making this decision. Fortunately I have an ace in the hole. I'm fortunate enough to have for the third year in a row, a massively qualified ultra runner as a coach and mentor. After talking with her we both agreed that the goal of the year is TRT100 in July. She acknowledged how hard I was working and put a new spin on it. Basically, I know I'm in shape and the time to show that is when I am healthy. Pulling out a great race tomorrow is no where near as important as doing it in July. Skipping this weekends run will not instantly make me a sloth on the course, but going and getting seriously injured will. The benefit to staying home and swallowing some pride is worth more than being stoic, determined and injured.

So with that, I'm taking another step of growth. I can complete the race tomorrow, of that much I am sure. However, the risk in doing so is now too much for me to ignore. I'm going to stay home and recover as much as I can and push back the effort I was going to unleash tomorrow until next weekend, or the one after that. It is a tough decision for me to make. It sorta feels like quitting, but the reality is as bad as I may feel making this decision, I'd feel a whole lot worse for a lot longer if something happened in the race. Especially if I ended up hurt like so many other times these last couple of years. So with that, I'll take the DNS tomorrow and live to race another day.