Thursday, October 29, 2009

Early Departures

This time tomorrow morning I should be at the airport in San Jose awaiting a flight to Phoenix for my final scheduled race of 2009. I like to take the month of December off from races and, given last years post-Javelina calf explosion, I am not planning anything for November either. The season is ending a bit early this year. I'll figure out what to do with the last two months when they show up. For now, I am focused on the final adventure of this excellent year of races.

Javelina is the only 100 miler I have run that just feels like "pure fun." Even last year when I had my eyes set on specific time goals and splits, it was still a consistently enjoyable run with few low points. It will be interesting going into this race for a 3rd time. With just under 15-1/2 miles of trail, I can pretty much envision the entire course in my head, step by step. I always enter races with some specific goals, but I am fairly casual about this one.

It's always possible I'm being a bit too casual. I'll pack my gear at the last minute tonight and training since my last 100 has been minimal. That's not to say that I'm taking the race lightly. I don't think that running a 100 miles could ever become routine. It is still a great adventure and there are so many things that can turn over such a distance no matter how many times you repeat it. From the start, one of my goals in doing ultras has been to bring my mind and body to the state where I could undertake these epic runs with a certain simplicity of intent. Distilling life down to just the bare essentials of "eat, drink, move" is perhaps the most appealing aspect to me.

I mentioned my training--or lack thereof. Since Plain, I have had only two weeks of 50+ miles which included just one 21 mile long run and a 50 mile race. Dick Collins Firetrails 50 is another perennial favorite, though I missed it last year. It always falls near my birthday so I get to participate in the traditional "run your age in miles" thing without having to do much planning. This year I really just wanted to see how my fitness had held up since Plain and get a 50 miler in before Javalina. I was hoping to break 9:30 as I did 9:33 two year past. However, a bigger goal was to practice my pacing, especially my strategy of going much slower in the earlier miles and retaining some push for the later miles.

The night before Firetrails, I was about to charge my GPS watch and breifly considered ditching it altogether. Well, the gods of electronics must have been listening because about 10 minutes before race start, I tried to turn it on and it was "no go." I had go0d success at the Mt. Diablo 50K earlier this year running sans watch so I just smiled and went with it. I've started to really enjoy going slow at the start. With a familiar course, I especially savor the knowledge that there many people ahead of me going out too fast whom I can use as motivation later in the race.

I took things very easily in those early miles. Despite my inability to keep from charging the big downhill on MacDonald or crushing my favorite Golden Spike trail, I still felt very much at ease as I approached the climb up to Skyline Gate at mile 15. I continued to feel good even pushing up the big monster hill to Sibley. I saw the 20 mile slowdown coming and eased off bit heading up to Steam Trains, letting go my old man fantasies of being able to keep up with that woman a decade of younger and a much better climber than me. I was looking forward to the long, gradual downhill to the turnaround, but my hips had a different idea.

Things started tightening up. After the turnaround I tried stopping and stretching, but it was going to be a long slow climb. I hooked up with Brooke Stasiak whom I'd met at Quicksilver, but, unfortunately, my memory failed me at the time and she had to re-introduce herself. I missed her at the finish, but I really have to give thanks as it really helped to have someone to hang with during this low point. After some of the steeper downs and ups, I was moving a bit better, but still felt pretty tight coming into Skyline again at mile 37.

I succumbed to temptation and accepted a couple of Ibuprofen at this point. Whether real or perceived, they helped and after cruising the downhill, I was able to move well along the flat (and least favored) section through Redwood Park. I caught back up with Victoria Folks who had passed me during my low point. She was hitting hers with some knee pain so I suggested the same remedy that had me moving better now. I was now on autopilot planning my strategy for those final miles.

I know the trails through Redwood and Chabot like the back of my hand. I had joked earlier of running all out on mil 40-41 for my birthday since it was on Golden Spike, a trail I pretty much have "wired." My real plan was to start my push there. I would hit that trail and exercise my knowledge of every up, down, curve and bump in the trail to take it at a maintainable push. I knew that the key was to still keep something in reserve for the climb back up MacDonald.

As I headed up the big climb, I had a distinct strategy in mind. Many people are reduced to just walking this entire section. However, if you haven't completely spent yourself, there are plenty of sections to jog or shuffle. These are also key spots to pass people and get that extra mental boost from dropping a competitor late in a race. Over the top and down to Bort Meadows, I felt excellent. I did a time check there and was told it was just minutes until 3:00pm. With 6 miles left, this was it. Time to test the tank. I pushed down the hill and decided that the only someone pushing much harder was going to get an easy pass.

I hit the awesome Stone Bridge and headed into the winding, rolling section heading towards the final aid station. There was a guy right on my tail and I committed to see how long I could hold him off. I knew if I made it to the start of Columbine, there was a good steep descent that would allow me to open it up. I pushed, passing a few others having there low spots late in the race. By Bass Cove, and the final 3 miles, I decided to keep pushing though I had "gapped" anyone behind me at that point. I just had to maintain it over the final couple of climbs before the dam and then see what I had left for the last road section. I caught one more runner down the final hill and then just put it in cruising gear. With less than a mile to go I could see one final competitor in front of me, but I didn't have the wheels or the will to push more.

Without a watch I had no idea the time I was tracking, but I knew I had 9:30 in the bank. I didn't think 9:20 was quite possible. As hit the grass I could see the clock and the seconds ticking towards 9:22. That seemed plenty good to me. Not only had I beaten my goal time, I had also bested my Quicksilver time from earlier this year and, best yet, had run the final 6 miles in under an hour. I guess I accomplished the goal of having something left at the end.


Well, I hadn't intended this post to be a full Firetrails race report, but there you have it. OK, I guess it's not time to focus on Javelina. I don't have much to say going into it, but I'll just lay out the goals I have for this race. In order of priority, here they are:
  1. Finish my 10th 100 miler
  2. Keep the sub-24hr streak at Javelina going
  3. Beat my 22:41 time from last year
  4. If the the stars all align, the desert smiles on me and the moon's bright light fills my soul, hit something around the 22 hour mark.
Well, that's it. Have a great Halloween. If you stumble in from your festivities and want to flip on the computer to check out where all us desert dwellers are, they are supposed to have live results this year.