Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sliding into first base

A start. An actual start. That's how I felt driving home last weekend after the Los Gatos Overgrown Trail Marathon. That fatass event topped off a week of 67 miles. Having run 15 the previous day from Mission Peak to Sonol and back, the marathon was a nice finale. I was quite satisfied having finished the 26.6 miles (and 6000ft of climbing) in just under 5 hours. My hip was not so happy on Monday after a weekend total of 10,000ft up and down, but I still managed a nice little recovery run to loosen up and some time on the foam roller. Tuesday, unfortunately, I awoke with a scratchy throat. Always some fits to go with those starts.

Luckily, I wasn't down too long. I eked out a meager 15 miles during the week and then got out for 10 miles of steep hill repeats with Harry and Beat yesterday. Today I sit inside snuggled in a lack of motivation, watching the rain fall outside. I really should get in at least 5 miles, but it's too easy to comfort myself with reassurances that I shouldn't push it based on how I felt this morning. I did sign up for the Sequoia 50K next weekend. So I am, at least, guaranteed more miles next week.

It's funny, I seem to be more paranoid of injury, illness and whatnot this time of year than when closer to my goal races. If I have my fitness where I want it and am laid up for a week or so, I know that it is just a matter of recovery to get back on track. However, if I am put out during my buildup period, I start worrying about failing to get into shape in the first place. I'm not sure if the analogy holds, but it's sort of like sliding into first base. Risking too much on a play so early in the game doesn't make sense. Well, it sounds good anyway.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mudside 50K

A muddy mess! A sloppy, slippery, beautiful, muddy mess. That pretty much describes the Woodside 50K course that I ran last weekend. I signed up pretty late in the game based on my son having a game that night in a city not far from the park where the race is held. Besides, I wanted to start upping my weekly mileage and it is always so much easier to commit to a long run when you've already shelled out the cash.

The weather, like my schedule, had been sporadic the week leading up to the race. However, Saturday was calling for showers. The rain started almost right on schedule with my pulling into the parking lot in the morning. After check-in I mulled around, caught up with a few friends and tried to stay warm before the start. It wasn't raining hard so I stuck with my super-lightweight Brooks LSD jacket.

While it was my first time running this event, I had run most of the trails aside from the section through Wunderlich Park. Being on the peninsula, these its a beautiful course run through big redwood trees. It's probably a good race for a first-timer as well since it has less climbing than many PCTR events (4500ft in the 50K), its not very technical (some of the trails are essentially paved) and it doesn't have multiple loops.

Personally, I didn't have any intention to race this thing hard, but wanted to push myself a little bit and get in a brisk run. Less than 5000ft of climbing for me generally means I should be able to finish in the low-5 hour range. I thought something around a 5:15 would be a good target, but the weather was not calculated into that estimate. I tried to take it easy at the start, but in truth, probably should have held back a bit longer. The climb up to Skyline is so gradual and runnable that its hard to take it too easy.

I enjoyed the new section to the turnaround loop down into Wunderlich, but my calves were pretty tight on the climb back out. The cold wet weather wasn't helping and was probably sweating more than I realized since it was so cool. I took an extra salt at the aid station and looked forward to the final downhill even though it not being "real trail" didn't play completely to my strengths. First, though, I had to get through the rolling Skyline trail. I'd run this a number of times and it can seem long. I was hoping to just go on autopilot, but the trail was much worse than on the trip out. Not only had it been raining the whole time, but, between the 35K and 50K, a couple hundred runners had run through it. I went ankle deep a couple of times.

Eventually I made it through and was actually not to bummed about the "paved" trail. I took every advantage of the downhill I could, passing a number of runners including a couple of 50K racers who I thought had dropped me on the previous climb. The final stretch is actually on road and it seemed to be much longer than I remembered. The 5:15 time went slipping on by so I set my targets on 5:20 to keep myself motivated. I ended up a little under 5:19 which was actually good enough for a top-20 finish probably with some help from the no-shows.

Running your first race is always good motivation for the upcoming season. I did a nice 6 mile recovery run the next day to top the mileage above 50 for the week. Sunday was also the Hardrock 100 lottery. My chances of being selected were pretty slim, but I was both hopeful and worried about the prospect. The laws of statistics held true and I was placed #74 on the wait list; basically, no chance I will get in unless over half the accepted runners decides not to run. I guess the good news is that I don't have to spend all my vacation days acclimating for the race.

I hadn't given too much thought to what I would do in exchange. I'd been considering perhaps a long through-hike. I've thought a lot about doing Bighorn 100 again (and finishing without having to limp the final miles). There were also a number of new races including an intriguing run in Montana called Swan Crest. Harry and Beat agreed to join me for Bighorn, but then Beat started talking about doing both. I should know better than to listen to him. When he sent me the note about having to carry bear spray and the mandatory watching of a video about what to do in the event you meet up with a grizzly bear, I was hooked. The 24 mile section without aid and the initial 4000ft climb were just gravy.

In my exuberance, I failed to check the calendar. I've just committed to run five 100 mile races in less than a 6 month span. I realize there are those out there who do much, much more, but I'm not generally one to race again too soon after a big event. The only good news is that the shortest time between is 5 weeks. I guess that's what I get for hanging out with a guy who is training for a 200 mile race in the Italian Alps this fall. I'm sure he'll be trying to get me to add something in August during our next run.