Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mind the gap

The results are in from the Big Basin Redwoods Trail Run and I came in 10th. Something about it just doesn't seem right to me. Another top-10 result? I mean, the last time I finished top-10 in a race was when I sprinted in track my sophomore year in high school. But, there were only about 10 people in the race back then. Just so people don't start thinking that I've become some sort of really "good" runner (or worse, I start thinking it myself), it should be kept in mind that these 50K races each only had a little over 30 finishers. I known, I know, fnishing in the top 1/3 is till nothing to sneeze at regardless of race size. I certainly would have been ecstatic to get such a result at a bigger race like Ohlone where I was already overjoyed that I managed to finish near the middle of the pack.

I suspect that at a larger race, with a deeper talent pool, a top 50% result is probably a more reasonable goal for me to shoot for. Looking at the results of these last two races, I've noticed a very interesting trend. At Santa Cruz there were six people in front of me. Aside from the winner who pretty much tore the course apart, all of the front runners finished within 10 minutes of each other. Then there is about a 20 minute gap and then me. Behind me are people every 3-7 minutes with no really big gaps until around 7 hours. Then, again when I look at the results from this past weekend, there is a sizeable gap between me and the group in front of me and a nice sized clump of people coming in relatively close behind me. I'm not sure where I'm going with all this or if there are any real conclusions to draw. I do know that when I compare these to the results of Ohlone, there are not any obvious big gaps other than between those first three, inhuman, running machines who ran that course in under 5 hours and the rest of us mortals. I guess that I just keep thinking that at a bigger race there would be a group of people filling that gap between me and the front runners and my placing would seem much more "real" to me.

I think part of my over-focus on this is that I am starting to look forward to my 50 miler which will be a much bigger race and my first at that distance. I've started to feel comfortable with the 50K distance and seem to be developing a sense of how I should be running and where I should be in the field. All of that will be going away when there is an extra 19 miles to run. It's so much bigger of a jump than going from the marathon to 50K. But, I think that's what makes it exciting. What awaits me on the other side of 31 miles? How will my body respond pushing past the 7 hour mark? Will I make early mistakes and pay dearly for them in the end? Will I finish wondering if I could have pushed harder? I should really put such thoughts out of my mind as none of it means anything until I am out there on the course. My real hope is just that I am able to continue pushing forward and enjoying as much of that very long course as my body will allow.

5 comments:

matt said...

A lot of those thoughts are creeping into my head as DC50 approaches, Steve. I can’t begin to fathom what those extra 19 miles feel like. I don’t think you can until you experience it and everyone keeps telling me that there will definitely be low points where you are struggling…at least on your first 50miler attempt. My big fear at the moment is missing cutoffs. I would hate to miss the cut and be taken off the course during sweeps. I wonder if this will stress me out during the race. I am excited for you and this race and look forward to your progress out there. What is your plan for training over the next month? What will be your longest run? Will you do back-to-back long runs over the weekend? I think you are going to have a great race. I look forward to seeing you out there and hopefully having a chance to talk with you before the race. It is helpful to me to see what your thought process is before this race. Thanks for sharing that here in your post.

Eudemus said...

Matt, thanks for the positive comments. While I am not too worried about missing cutoffs, I am still concerned with the "crash-and-burn" variety of DNF. One thing I do know is that letting yourself get stressed out will use more energy so remember to focus on the positive, even during the bad patches.

As for training for the next month, I'm being pretty anti-methodical about it right now. I do consider my past two 50K runs as training runs. I did them 3 weeks apart. I did almost no taper and they were each part of a 50+ mile week. I also only took 3 days off after each. I am toying with the idea of doing one more, but haven't comitted. I am not doing much in the way of back-to-backs like I did before my first 50K. I am however, still playing soccer on Sundays after a mid to long run Saturday and sometimes followed by a mid length run on Sunday evening.

My main focus is on mentally preparing for the race. I am getting up earlier (yuck) and doing some morning running. I am planning some runs on the actual 50 miler course. Also, I think that the fact I have been able to push it a bit at the end of my last two 50K races (even on sore feet) has given me some confidence. As long as I am able to take it easy there should be plenty of energy left to get me past 40 miles. The rest is mystery, adventure and (hopefully) a bit of race day magic.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

I don't have much to say, but I wanted to comment that I enjoyed reading this post. I'll be doing my first 50 miler in March, and have trepidation surrounding it.

Also - take the top 10, woo hoo! I came in fourth at my last race (out of 16) and top in my age group (out of 2), and I will treasure that always :)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

I don't have much to say, but I wanted to comment that I enjoyed reading this post. I'll be doing my first 50 miler in March, and have trepidation surrounding it.

Also - take the top 10, woo hoo! I came in fourth at my last race (out of 16) and top in my age group (out of 2), and I will treasure that always :)

Eudemus said...

Angie,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. If you had nothing to say, why did you need to say it twice :-).

I agree about the 50 miler. I had some feer going into my first 50K, but was pretty confident about finishing. 50 miles seems so less certain. So much more can go wrong. I don't like the whole "real ultra" debate, but for me personally 50 miles is the major stepping stone.

As for the finishing place, it definitely still feels good. It also gives me a chance to hang out at the finish line and cheer in all the people who may be fighting an even tougher battle further back.