Hey guys, it’s been a while!
I’ve been sort of in and out of training for, oh, the past year or so. Once my stress fracture healed up I started the slow and steady build up to what I would consider normal volume. About six weeks ago I rolled and twisted my ankle on a nice run on the Western States Trail from Foresthill to Driver’s Flat, and the time since has been a mix of vigorous rehab and testing the waters on my injured Achilles tendon and sprained lateral tendons on both sides of the left ankle. I attempted to sweep Way Too Cool 50K on Laura’s birthday and made it through, although it set me back a bit. After some more time off and more quality time with a masseuse and lots of home rehab, I finally reached a point where everything felt ok.
The question was whether it would be ok for fifty miles.
Laura, Saucy and I sprang up at the stroke of 4am Saturday morning. Ok, more like staggered up in a fog. We had prepared everything the day before so all we had to do was throw on clothes and joke around until my folks (AKA Mastercrew) showed up at 4:30. The whole way there I tried to force myself awake and work my ankle around to loosen up as much as possible. I had felt a little stiffness in my first steps that morning so I was a tad apprehensive. I didn’t want to add to anyone’s nerves, but I was also certain I’d caught a stomach bug the night before and hoped I’d be able to run through it.
My plan for the day was to start the race and see what happens. Ultimately, AR50 was to serve as a training race, with my main goal being to arrive at TRT100 in July in one piece. If at any point it felt like running was causing any harm or further setback, I was firmly committed to step out. After all, its use as a productive training run would be gone. The girls were going for PRs, which was wildly different, so I planned to stick together for a while and fade back, taking pleasure in the fact that they were both running so well.
Even split into two waves, a thousand runners is a lot of bodies. The race began and the mob crowded down the paved road, thinned out a bit, then crammed onto the singletrack. We burst out onto more pavement and settled in for a smooth and fast first half. When we clocked off a couple 8:40 miles, I decided I was better off dialing it back a bit and wished the dynamic duo well. I was riding the nausea line and was paranoid about pushing my leg too intensely.
By the time the next aid station popped into view, I had decided two things:
1) I wasn’t going to be able to eat much, so I’d rely heavily on Tailwind for calories.
2) Since I didn’t need to carry food, there was no need to carry a vest.
Surrounded by the cheers and energy of the Buffalo Chips, who were running the station, I tossed my vest to my dad, snagged a new 26oz bottle of Tailwind, and for the first time in a race strapped on an iPod and jammed one earbud into my head.
I won’t lie; I had a really rough first half. My ankle cooperated fully, feeling better and stronger with every mile, but each time I ate something solid I soon… un-ate it. It became clear that I’d just have to focus on taking in at least a full 26oz every two hours, which held 300 calories. I figured that’d be enough to keep me going. I ran when I could and hiked when it felt too forced, trying to keep my walk hovering at least at 15min miles. Usually my “shit miles” are reliably miles 18-27 in a 50 miler, and this time they appeared to be miles 1-30.
With the help of The Gorillaz and Tool, I put one foot in front of the other until about 30-35, when I began to feel better. At that point the race is entirely on trails, and mentally I was feeling refreshed. My stomach was no longer revolting so I was able to eat a couple cookies, and my legs were finally waking up and firing on all cylinders. I had crossed the halfway point in 4 ½ hrs, so a 10hr-ish finish didn’t seem too outrageous to hope for if I could keep things going strong.
I ran into friends all day long, running the race, cheering trailside, or working stations. I saw my parental crew at each accessible station, and they were phenomenal. It was a major boost to see smiling faces, and it highlighted the fact that although I had been feeling like poo all day, I had still been having a great time. I guess that’s how you know you love something, when despite whatever obstacles darken the experience, the feeling of passion still lights your way.
I felt a little out of practice, having not run the length of fifty miles in approximately nine months. The steady mental focus I try to cultivate was waning. I had the following conversation with myself often:
“Well, this is a downhill. I guess I’d better run it.”
“But I’m tired. I’m hot.”
“Of course you’re tired, you putz. You’ve run 40 miles. Stop being a weenie and enjoy yourself!”
The last portions of the race are beautiful, enjoyable singletrack, and I was having fun. Most runners I passed were fading, but I seemed to be gaining energy as the mileage stretched out. I was lucky to be running strong, not puking, and making good time! I reached the last 3 mile climb at 9 ½ hrs, and hoped the girls were crossing the finish line any minute. Only three miles and 1,000’ climb stood between me and the end, and I’d be damned if I was going to peter out. Speed hiking and running kept a 12min avg pace, and when I turned the last corner there was a beautiful woman in a brand new finisher’s jacket waiting to run me in. A big ol’ grin spread across my face and I felt transcendent as I cruised through the arch with my baby among the cheers of friends into the arms of family.
10:06:51 Finish Time
33 minute PR
283rd of 826 finishers
22nd in AG
1 cool new Patagonia AR50 jacket
Run happy and healthy, friends!