Sunday, June 07, 2009

May, I

Its the last day of May. I'm laying on my bedroom floor, feet propped up on the dresser, staring at the ceiling. The buzz of exhaustion still coursing through my body, I watch idly as my mind creates patterns in the acoustic texturing. I love this feeling. Eventually I will get up, clean up and perhaps cool off in the pool, washing away the last evidence of Ohlone trail dust from my legs. I've just capped off my biggest month of running to date.

The race itself went well. I entered on very tired legs, with no intention to push the pace, but still likely to attain a PR for the course. I'd run the Ohlone 50K two times previously, last year in the oppressive heat and 2006 as my very first ultra. I fared better with the heat than the lack of experience. Running a personal best was not really the goal. I was much more interested to see what sort of load my body could manage as the four week countdown to the big race begins. To assure I didn't start the race with too much enthusiasm, I'd done 12-1/2 miles the day before with about 2200ft of climbing, covering the first few miles of the course. I told myself that if I ran all the initial hills Saturday afternoon, I wouldn't be tempted to do so Sunday morning. Those previous day's miles as well along with the many miles preceding them weighed heavily on my legs throughout the race. A good chunk of those were done at the Western States training camp the weekend before.

I haven't yet written about the training camp. It was definitely a worthwhile experience. I drove up Friday afternoon with Harry Walther and stayed in Auburn. I'd been fighting a bit of a sinus cold so I wasn't sure how the first day's run, which started at 7000ft, would feel. Luckily, after an initial hike up through a snow field, it was a downhill start. The first day covered about 32 miles and included the canyons infamous for their climbs/descents as well as their their tendency for race-day heat. Harry and I would spend Saturday night up at Donner Lake, trading the full camp experience for a real beds, returning to Foresthill Sunday for the second run. Day two was around 20 miles and covered the part of the course from that descends to Rucky Chucky river.

I don't have time for a detailed report, but I will give my general impression. Basically, the downhill, especially the single-track into the canyons, was excellent. In fact, I would rate them up there with some of my favorite downhill trails anywhere. The climbs weren't nearly as bad as I expected. I think I had Coyote 2 Moons in mind and put myself into the mindset of "climbing for hours" once we headed up. None of the major climbs are that long or steep. Devil's Thumb is a good grind. I was handling it really well until I ran out of water. The training runs had only half the number of aid stations as the race. Most of those in the know filled up at the falls before the climb. I was not in the know. Other than the crazy downhills, I tried to take it easy, even took a dip in the river at Duncan Canyon for a spell. Overall, the canyons weren't too daunting. Of course, with triple-digit temps it would be a very different story.

The second day also started with a downhill section, including some narrow singletrack. We started in the back and it was a bit tough being caught behind lines of runners, not being able to run my normal pace. It almost always hurts more going slow downhill as I'm forced into continuously braking. Eventually the trail leveled out a bit, but it was obvious there was going to be more ups and downs so I pushed to get ahead. As I was heading up a gradual hill I thought back to a conversation Harry and I had the day before. I'd mentioned that there was a lot more flat or gradual slope trail on the course than I expected. Knowing myself, one of the biggest challenges to a good time in the race will be continuing to run these sections late in the race when I am tired. Since I wasn't going to run on Monday, I decided I would push during this training run.

After catching Harry on the last big downhill, I mentioned this to him. From there on out, the two of us stuck together running hard on the rolling hills. He pulled me up the hills and I, him, down. We cruised along making really good time. In fact, we made it down to the river in about 2-1/2 hours including the slow start. Probably an hour or so more than I expect to do on race day, but it was good to practice pushing on tired legs. The funny thing was that when we went down to take our dip in the river, it was pretty much all front-runners relaxing and cooling off there. I felt like I had snuck into a private party where I didn't really belong.

The last part of day 2 was just a climb out of the valley that isn't part of the race. Most people just treated it as a good hike with a nice BBQ at the end. We headed back to Donner after that and just chilled the rest of the day, feet up, enjoying the sensation of tired bodies. I ended up driving home that night in order to catch my son's tournament in the morning. They lost the game, but I got to spend the day at home with my wife until she had to be dropped at the office that evening. I got in a little 3-miler recovery run. I continued the tired leg running the next two days and then had to take a day off on Thurs. Friday I knocked off an easy 6 and then the aforementioned 12.5 Saturday. The Ohlone 50K would top off the week around 67 breaking my streak of 3 straight 70+ weeks. Still, it ended May as my biggest month ever. I was still just a smidge under 320mi for the month so, despite being wiped from the race, I did one more little two miler with my wife Sunday night. I really am a slave to the numbers.

Perhaps 320 a month isn't huge by some people's standard, but for me it represents very big numbers. With 5 weekends in May it was a bit easier to obtain especially since I don't get in a lot of weekday miles. For me, it's mostly about the weekends anyway. I managed four straight with 45 miles or more. The totals (with long runs in parens) were as follows: 50, 48(32), 52(32), 45(31). In fact, going back further, I've maintained a streak of weekend long runs of at least 29 miles for six weeks: 31, 29, 50, 32, 32, 31. Actually, since its taken a full week to finish this post, I've extended the streak an extra week finishing the Mt. Diablo 50K yesterday. I ended up taking two full days off last week so its clear the cumulative mileage is having an effect. The body's tired, but holding together. I'll do a recovery run today and then figure out how to structure the next 20 days.

May is done. June is here. I'm ready to start my taper. I'm ready to focus on the race. I'm ready.


Nick said...

Hey Steve,

You're putting in some serious training and miles. I'm just racking mine up (again) to my last-gasp ultra this coming weekend.

See you in Squaw Valley.


Jo Lynn said...

Good job at Diablo, Steve.

triguyjt said...

steve..thats great mileage....You are who I wanna be when i grow up..LOL!!
switching muchof my focus from tris to ultras...I just csn't gert enough of the feeling on the trails....and one day..hope to be in the class you are.....good luck at ws100