Folsom Point 50K
October 28, 2012
To be honest, I really wasn’t sure how this one would pan out. DW and I had been taking a “This will kill us or make us strong” approach to training, doing two fifty milers in the previous month with two week intervals between, during which we did lesser mileage and focused on recovery. Add the previous day’s Hilloween escapades into the equation and the result was a whole heap of unknowns. We both felt pretty good, surprisingly, and really wanted to push the pace for this race. The feeling in my heart was optimism as we parked next to Folsom Lake, but sometimes the legs have other plans. You can plan and hope, but ultimately the race is run one step at a time, and you’ve got to be able to adjust and adapt in the moment.
The course was relatively flat, according to the elevation profile. As some of you know, flat races are not exactly our usual routine. Ordinarily, the crazier the profile the more excited we get about it. This was a different day with a different goal. A trail race by the lake with a flat-ish course was the perfect opportunity to test how our legs would respond to being pushed hard while carrying a massive amount of fatigue from the past few weeks (This was also part of the reason we ran Hilloween the day before). The goal was simply to maintain a hard effort for the entire duration.
I kind of like races where different distances start together; you get more of a feeling of comeraderie than if the piddly number of ultra-weirdos start by themselves. In this case, there were a bunch of marathoners who started at the same time. We all formed a mob and attacked the trail out of the park and along the levee, then gradually spaced out as we all found our stride. For the first 6 miles or so, there was always someone else in sight.
This being a more intense race for DW and I, we spoke a lot less than usual. I’ll often make conversation with DW and any runners with whom we share a pace for a few miles (which is probably why we run into friends at nearly every race we run in the woods. This area’s trail community is awesome!), but on this day each sip of breath had a purpose: to fuel forward propulsion. I soaked up the experience of gliding over river rocks embedded in the soil and feeling the faint breeze come in off the water of a gently rippling lake. Being completely immersed in the moment, engaging nature with every footfall, gives me a great amount of something I can’t name. It feels like recharging batteries, like a collaboration between the earth and I in which the sum of the experience is more than the parts. I find a zest for life out there. It’s like eating an incredibly delicious meal with no end to my hunger and no limit to its quantity. Soul enriching is the best term I can think of.
Quite honestly, the race felt shockingly smooth. Fortunately, my legs had responded well to the recent arduous gauntlet of races and felt strong. All 8 cylinders were firing and the engine was humming along nicely! This is a piece of imagery I summon when I’m feeling choppy. I pretend I’m a vehicle and the goal is for each stride to have a smooth flow, not using less energy but employing it more efficiently, focusing it into forward motion and wasting none on vertical or lateral movement. It sounds strange, I know, but it keeps me smooth and gives my mind something to wrap itself in for a while.
As we hit the turnaround, I felt pretty ok. I had fallen a little behind on calorie intake, and needed to catch up. Down the gullet went a gel and a few M&Ms from the aid station (the AS worker had her adorable children giving out Halloween candy, but I just couldn’t handle a candy bar at the speed we were going) and we pressed on!
The entire second half of the out-and-back course went as I figured it probably would. It gradually felt tougher to maintain pace, so I gradually increased my effort to keep it consistent. When we walked, it was more to recruit a different set of muscles than to catch our breath. Overall, things were going pretty well. It was awesome to see our friend P working the last aid station, still wearing the butterfly wings she had donned for Hilloween!
As we departed from that station, it seemed as if a sub-6hr finish might be possible. We cranked up the heat and really tried to burn up the trail. It was getting warm out, so hydration became more important. I had been consistently doing a systems check throughout the span of miles, evaluating my current state and keeping tabs on what I needed to eat to head off possible trouble and deficiencies. It had paid off and I felt strong in those final miles, even if the wheels were getting a bit creaky under me.
As we left the levee for the second time that day I realized 6 hours wasn’t going to happen, but we’d get damn close. I was so proud of Californian Runnin’; she fought through a sharply painful calf problem in the final miles and sprinted with me to the finish, where ample runners, volunteers, and cowbell-shaking spectators were waiting!
Official Time — 6:01:22, a 19 minute PR!!!
A few minutes later I ran into the RD as I pulled two IPAs out of a cooler, and he lamented, “What?! I missed the Matzes’ finish?! I step away for one minute!” I guess that’s a sign that we race a lot, haha.
Californian Runnin – 1st in Age Group
Santiago of the Sea – 3rd in Age Group
A few things I learned from this race:
– Mexican food and margaritas can be excellent prerace fuel.
– Jumping headfirst into crazy things is the only way to find out what you’re capable of.
– Compression shorts are awesome.
– Having a racing partner is very helpful mentally and emotionally when you’re pushing hard for six hours.
– Lagunitas IPA is heavenly. (Well, I already knew that)
– My legs will not break down from fatigue. I may have to attend to the occasional imbalance, knot, or small tear, but they will not stop working. They just get numb and keep doing what I ask of them.
– This is pretty long. If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cookie. Go ahead and get yourself a cookie.
As always, run happy and healthy, Loop friends!!!