Sunday, January 03, 2010

Back and Forth

This is the part of the story where I;m supposed to wax poetically over the previous year's accomplishments and then blather on excitedly about plans for the new year. I finished off the final week of 2009 or the first week of 2010--whichever you like better--with the Epiphany Run, a fat ass run based loosely around the birthday of Ultrarunning Magazine editor John Medinger. Finishing the run with a little over 50K due to my own creative course creation, I then topped off my week with a short recovery run the next day giving me 76 miles. I definitely felt like I was in the flow of training, but my over-enthusiasm created some back issues the following week ending in less than 35 miles. The back is better, but training is still sporadic. However, mentally, I am in the right mode so plans is underway.

I'm only going to say a few words about last year; if I let myself think too much on it, I know there is far too much to say. In short, from a running perspective, it was my most accomplished year yet. As with the previous year, I finished 4 100-milers. Each of these races represented a milestone of one sort or another.

Looking back, here is how they stack up in my mind:

Coyote Two Moons
This was a repeat race for me and one that I didn't really need to repeat for any reason other than where it fell in the year and the fact that a couple of good friends were going. The course is tough, but the format of going through two nights makes it a bit ridiculous. It ended up being my most epic event yet. Starting at 11pm, I had about 8 good hours before I started feeling bad. The second day and night was one long continuous deterioration--physical, mental and emotional. The last few climbs were arduous and I kept telling myself and others that I was going to drop at the next aid station. Looking back, I still can't figure out what kept me moving through the night except maybe that my mind was too addled to come up with a convincing reason to stop. It's the closest I have come to a DNF yet. It made me realize that, for better or worse, I am unlikely to quit a race unless I am physically unable.

Western States
What can be said about this race that hasn't already been said. Like most people, this is the first 100 miler I ever learned about. I'd thought about it for years. I had good confidence in finishing, it being my 8th 100, but I really wanted to go for the gold--or silver as it were. I had a plan and I was totally on it, at least for 60-70 miles. After that, it became more about getting the mark on the checklist. I loved the idea of such a classic event with its history, but, ultimately, it wasn't really the type of race that moves my spirit. I enjoyed the early mountain miles much more than the more famous sections with big packed aid stations.

I don't recall exactly when I first learned of Plain. However, I do recall that it captured my imagination immediately. The adventure, rather than the competitive, aspect of ultras is what attracted me the most. The idea of traveling 100 miles under one's own power intrigued me, being able to do so while carrying all one's own necessities, drinking from mountain streams, following an unmarked course, that was a whole other level of self-reliance. I'd intended to write more about this race, but life got busy. All I can say is that it retains a distinct position in my memory. I'm sure there are plenty of low points whitewashed by time, but no other race has given me such a feeling of belinging out there.

I've spilled more words on this race than any other. It being a loop course and my most repeated 100, the 15.4 miles of this races main trail is as familiar to me as anything I run. This familiarity presents both a level of comfort as well as a certain pressure to perform. I've managed to beat my previous results upon each return, but I've no idea how long I can keep that up. I plan to return for at least 5 finishes. if I can keep my streak of sub-24s alive, perhaps I'll keep going.

That's about all I have to say about last year. This year is, again, focused around the 100 milers; perhaps even more so. It's not that I've lost any respect for the shorter distances. In fact, I often find them tougher; feeling the need to push myself much more than in a 100. I'm never going to be competitive in them and I'm not getting any younger either. The real motivation, however, has more to do with limited time and a desire to focus on events that fill my spirit with a sense of renewal. On that slightly melodramatic note, my plans for this year will again are really only set for the beginning of the year.

The first is a quest for a new experience. I have entered and been chosen in the lottery for the Massanuttan Mountain Trails 100. Any race on the east coast would represent new territory for me. This race has a reputation for toughness; a toughness very different from the mountain altitude or steep climbs that mark the hardest races in the west. Extremely technical trails and rocks galore will be the new order of the day.

Next, is another lottery, but with a fairly slim chance of selection. I will find out about Hardrock 100 next month. This is still the only race that really scares me. I haven't traditionally done well at altitude, suffering in anything above 8500ft. Elevations up above 10K are completely new territory for me. If I am selected, I will need to acclimate properly and it will still be a risky proposition. This race will be my new challenge. I am still thinking about what I might do in its stead in the likely event that I find July open in my schedule. I am thinking about some sort of fast pack, a long solo trek, perhaps.

I plan to finish the year with both Plain and Javelina again. Plain, because I want to see if I can repeat that most singular experience. Javelina, for all the reasons I mentioned before. I will fill in with other races as opportunity permits. I am also going to try to add in more long self-supported runs. I rarely go much beyond 25 miles in my training runs, but I'd really like to plan some 30+ milers of my own design.

That's it. Nothing particularly special this year, but a gradual progression, I think. There is a certain transition underway, but right now I'm not looking that far ahead.

1 comment:

olga said...

I sure hope to see you around!