Thursday, May 13, 2010
Black Rose for my taper
I’m not the biggest fan of the whole back-to-back weekend long runs. I prefer one big push followed by sweet spoils savored in a day of rest. However, this year's build-up has been all about more consistent running and a reduction of "zero" days (only 4 total in April and 2 of those were before/after our 100K effort). Thus, when the suggestion for dual long runs for the coming Saturday and Sunday was shot across the ether by friends, I thought it sounded like the perfect way to top off my last week before tapering for Massanutten.
All weekend runs begin with a strong dose of caffeine and chin-wagging. The caffeine is the host's responsibility; we each supply our own fuel for the bull session--a sort of BYOBS, if you will. Saturday's plan was to start from Beat's place. Beat makes an excellent cappuccino. The intent was to head through Ranch San Antonio up and over Black Mountain. Heather came over from Modesto to join us on this trip. As well as being a Black Mountain virgin, she was also nursing a chronic leg injury. Or, rather, she wasn't nursing it though she probably should have been. Either way, it was all the excuse we needed to temper our plans which had grown more ambitious over email exchanges throughout the week. That is the usual trend: leading up to the weekend, the mileage goals wax large, then, we meet in the morning and exchange our excuses for doing something a bit more moderate with final adjustments being made out on the trail.
The original goal was to repeat the start of our 100K route from the previous weekend. Instead, we took the more direct route up and agreed to decide on a final distance after reaching the peak. Upon seeing Heather limp off the singletrack, it was agreed that she and Martina would head immediately back after Black Mountain while Harry, Beat and I would continue on to Page Mill Road to get in at least 20. The rest of the run was fairly uneventful except that Harry was complaining of not feeling well – some stomach distress. Apparently, in Harry-speak this means that he will push the pace up the hills. I figured it was my last big weekend so I worked to keep up and then took the lead as we headed back downhill. It was a nice warm day bringing hope that the much-belated California warm season might finally be on its way.
I continued to push all the way back, arriving alone at Beat's apartment. I called upstairs expecting Heather and Martina to have arrived well ahead. No answer. This was unfortunate as they had Beat's keys. As Harry and then Beat arrived, we began to worry. We were also all a bit toasted from the 21 miles of warm-weather running with a bit less fluid than required. Luckily, a call to Martina verified that they were fine and on their way back thanks to a ride from a friend. Heather was expectedly bummed especially knowing that she was going to have to suffer stern words from the lot of us, most of which were various expressions of "rest, rest and more rest." Sometimes a person's innate toughness tends to work against her.
Sunday, the coffee was my responsibility. We were going to head out to Sonol and see how close to Rose Peak we could make it before turning around. Since Harry and I ended up turning back around ¼ mile short of the top on our trip earlier this year, I was focused on getting there. In order to better our chances, I offered that we should take the shortcut fireroad from Backpacker’s Camp on the return. That would also allow us a dip in the water at “Little Yosemite” on a day that was expected to be a bit warmer than the last.
In her usual fashion, Martina insisted that Harry, Beat and I go on ahead of her. The plan was to turn around after about 2½ hours of running regardless of how far we had gone. Inspirations were waning so after Backpacker’s we started to separate, going each at our own pace. Harry took his normal position up front as we climbed the initial hills. I managed to catch up to him on a short downhill during the mostly-uphill route to the peak. On this final long run, I decided another day of pushing the pace was warranted.
I felt pretty strong on the climbs so I turned my hike into more of a shuffle. A cool breeze sweeping the hills fueled me to press on. The more I pushed, it seemed, the better I felt. Not long and had surprisingly dropped Harry. We had discussed turning back just before the steep downhill that marks the beginning of the final grind up to Rose. However, by the time I arrived there I was committed to the full trip. Since I was going to be missing the Ohlone 50K the week after Massanutten, I knew this would be my last opportunity to summit for a while.
I could see Harry arrive at our agreed turnaround from across the vale. I tried to beckon him on, but he waved me off. A few more hills and I could see Beat arrive to meet him. It appeared he was up for the final trip, but I was not in a waiting mode. It was one of those rare days where I felt I could climb forever. I was either hitting my stride in training or simply peaking 2-weeks too soon for my race. Only time would tell. I figured I’d hit the peak and then meet Beat on the return. My made it at 2:15 in. When we met, Beat convinced me to join him on a second trip up which we timed right on target for our original goal of a 2:30 turnaround.
The trip down, I led us a bit astray trying to take an alternate route which caused us to have to crawl under a couple fences and shoot across some private land. After that, I had a blast cruising back down the route we came up. I caught Martina just after the camp heading to the fireroad. A mile later we found Harry waiting for us under a nice shady tree. We played in the water for a bit and then all headed back to finish up together. I came out with 19.5 miles for the day, 40 total for the weekend and 75 weekly miles to top out my 100-mile buildup. I felt good.
With a satisfying final weekend, I was mentally ready for a nice easy week. I just played it by ear and came up around 30 miles. Work was extremely busy and it was very tight taking this time off. The past week has been a mad rush to tie up loose ends. I guess the advantage is that it has kept my mind completely off the race, helping to minimize that dreaded “taper madness”. The down side is that the lackadaisical spell that always seems to settle in the final few days before a big event has been even further pronounced. As I sit typing this on the plane, I’m not even sure of all that I threw into my bag late last night. My shoes, a pair of socks, shorts, shirt and two water bottles are all safely in a sack above my head. My checked luggage is basically one big armful of “here’s what I usually bring to a 100” thrown into a duffel.
I guess I’ll stare at the map and elevation chart for a while to try and get my head in the game. In the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter because it’s all about being out there. Sure, my obsessive nature loves the process of visualizing the race, estimating splits, and analyzing past results. However, more than anything else, I enjoy most the experience of figuring it out on the course, making adjustments and taking whatever the day has to offer.