This is what I learned from my 2nd Miwok 100K
- Don't listen to other people
- Right at the start I saw Meridith whom I had met last year at this race where we helped one another push through some tough bits. Meridith insisted we were both going to break 12 hours. While I'd claimed to have given up on that goal, it was obviously still there in my head and this probably fueled my pushing more in the early miles than I should have.
- OK, sometimes listen to other people
- I also met Olga at the start and spent some time with her early in the race and then again later before the turnaround. It was great to meet her after exchanging blog comments over the years. We also both had original 12-hour goals, but she was dealing with her own pre-race issues and we both agreed that today might not be the day. At one point I remember her saying to me, "you know, you do sound like you are still a bit sick." This was early on and probably should have been a clue.
- Listen to your body
- Early in the race I decided to work on my uphill pace. Specifically, my poor power-hiking speed. I felt like I was doing well and keeping close to people who would normally drop me on the uphills (I usually then catch them on the downhills). However, by around mile 12, my hamstrings were feeling very tight and both them and my calves felt on the verge of cramping. I tried upping my electrolytes, assuring I was hydrated and focusing on my fuel, but the feeling pretty much never abated. This basically hearkened back to last year's Mt. Diablo 50K where I had also been ill the week before the race. The cramping feeling stuck around that whole day there as well. Sometimes, your body is telling you that it just isn't up for effort and nothing you do is going to let you push it beyond that point. At least, not without paying a price.
- Listen to yourself
- I did say, even publicly, that I was letting go of that 12-hour goal and I remember thinking that if I needed a goal to focus on that 13 might be a bit more achievable. My focus was supposed to be on feeling good and enjoying the day. And, truth is, there was much to enjoy and many things that did go right. For the second race in a row, I anticipated and pushed more smoothly through the 4-hour barrier. I had a descent recovery after the turnaround (though not as good as last year) and I even hit Pantoll Station on the way back at near the same time (10 hours). However, I knew there was much less "there" in terms of overall energy and my body was just not in the same condition it was last year. It is pretty much as I said going into the race.
- Remember what you've said in the past
- At the end of last year's race my initial thoughts were that, unlike at the end of some other races, "I did not immediately think that I could come back and run this better next year. Just finishing Miwok in whatever time I could is such an accomplishment that coming back and doing it again would just be icing." I probably should have read my race report from last year before hitting the starting line this year. Last year I approached Miwok as a goal race for the season. I had run a couple of 50Ks and one 50mi which was three weeks out. I was healthy, tapered and focused. This year, I've already run a tough 100-miler and two 50mi with the most recent one being a PR performance just two weeks prior to Miwok. Furthermore, I came down with a nasty cold immediately afterwards and was sick for a week. Now, why exactly did I think I might actually be able to better my previous performance?
- Listen to your wife
- As well as being the voice inside my head that pushes me through some of the tough spots, my wife usually sends me off in the morning before my races with two very important pieces of advice: "Don't hurt yourself and have fun." At the end of the day, these two goals should be all that really matters. While I did take one nice fall and I have the sorest post-race legs I have had in a long time, I didn't do anything that I would consider "hurting myself". I also definitely did have fun out there despite the discomfort. In fact, no moment will stick better in my head from this year's race than having Craig hand me an ice cream sandwich at the mile 49.5 aid station. Though not an ultrarunner, my wife is a fellow ice cream lover and can certainly appreciate the pure child-like joy of receiving this unexpected gift of sweet-milky-icy-goodness. Craig is my hero!
- Occasionally, listen to your kids
- Sunday morning I was hobbling around as my son came home from his friend's house so I could drive him to basketball practice. He asked me how my race went. I said, "20 minutes slower than last year" probably sounding more dejected than intended. He just gave me a funny look and said, "you've been sick" with the "what'd you expect" added by the tone in his voice. It was kind of a "duh!" moment and all I could do was smile. It was the role-reversal from the times when he'd be down after a bad game and we'd try to lift him up, but still provide the necessary dose of reality. Sometimes, I just need to take my own medicine.
Final thoughts. 100K is a tough distance, especially on trails. Even though someone like Dave Mackey, who crushed the course record this year, may be able to finish in under 8 hours, for most of us mere mortals this is one long, all-day affair. I heard a certain sentiment echoed by a few others during the post-run BBQ that I agree with even though it may sound rather strange to the uninitiated. In some ways, running 100K is actually harder than running 100 miles. Don't get me wrong, 100-milers are tough. They take more than just physical endurance and I have never felt so completely drained, physically, mentally and emotionally as at the end (or even the next day after) completing 100 miles. However, there are times in a 100 mile race when most of us take a more relaxed attitude. I definitely force myself to take it much, much easier in the early miles. I never worry about the minutes. I often take a little extra time at an aid station if its warranted, especially during the night hours. If I find I am really not feeling well, the idea of just walking for an hour or so is not out of the question. Finally, there are times during a 100 miler where ALL that matters is making forward progress; a 20 minute mile may bring me to near delirium. On the other hand, in a 100K, the possibility to really push myself from start to finish is a reality. In a race like Miwok where there are plenty of hills, but all of which would be runnable in a shorter event, the desire to "go, go, go" is ever-present. Starting in the morning and wanting to finish before dark (or not too far into dark for some) is a further added incentive. Basically, outside of the elite group, the 100K is about the longest standard race distance that most of us can run in a single day and so, to me at least, it's the longest distance that still feels like a race. A very long, hard race.