(17 of 35K)
You know what's really annoying? Thinking that you face one significant problem in your race, finding out that this is not a problem, feeling great about your progress in the race... and finding out a whole DIFFERENT issue is what brings you down.
I spent most of this week feeling rather crapola, and worrying that I would be too sick to run today's race. 35K felt long, and I was worried that I would die en route. I was vacillating between the 17 and 35K distances until Friday afternoon, but I started feeling much better on Friday and decided to do the 35K. I woke up this morning, saw some blue sky and was quite happy with my decision.
When I arrived at the start, there was so much good running energy (excuse the term-- remember, I'm from California and we're allowed to use phrases like "good energy"-- part of our constitution, I think) that I got happy thinking about the 35K. Mike was running the 35K as well, and I knew several people in the 50K group.
We took off in the last group-- 45 minutes after the 50K group and 15 minutes after the 10K group. I made a big effort to go out slow and steady, and I think I succeeded. I felt great up until the 1st aid station-- the first picture was taken just before the 1st aid station, and it shows the absolutely ideal running conditions of today. Running through the redwoods, cool temps (but not raining!), not too muddy despite yesterday's rain-- perfect! Until the 1st aid station, the trail leads pretty much relentlessly upward, and I kept a steady pace that felt neither too fast nor too slow. I was trying out one of the philosophies I have heard about running ultras-- think of the race as separate races between aid stations, and I was also trying to focus on my "run calm and relaxed" practice that worked so well (until the foot breakage) in Skyline to the Sea.
After the 1st aid station, the trail gently rolls up and down until the second. I had a second mental breakthrough on this section-- I started to feel tired and wanting to stop, and I could feel my thoughts turning negative, but I remembered something else that I read in a blog (or article) of wisdom about ultras-- someone said that the one piece of advice he had for newbie ultra runners was to remember that however they felt at a certain moment, it would change. It's amazing what mental comfort this gives, and I relaxed into the tiredness, had some food (key as well) and felt better within the next mile or so. Again, I was running very smoothly, and I was looking forward to the turn-around point, because I had told myself I would not let myself push it until I was done with 10 miles--and I was definitely feeling like I HAD something to push.
However, my knee had other ideas. Right about mile 9, my knee decided that it was not ok with my lack of attention to the exercises the PT told me to do last summer, and it decided to make its presence known. It shouldn't really be so much of a shock, as part of the reason my left knee has tendonitis has to do with the long-time weakness of my right leg from knee surgery 10 years ago, now compounded by being on crutches for a month in October. Have I been doing all the work to strengthen the right leg? No. Was the PT right? Yes. My knee HURT.
So I dropped at the turn-around, felt annoyed for a minute, but then came back and hung out/helped at the start/finish. It's hard to be bitter about not finishing a race when it seems like a big town-hall social hour at the finish line. People cheer others on as they come in, chat about running, upcoming races, where to go for sushi next weekend... Sarah and Wendell (RDs) are well on their way to developing not just a great race series (well, they've already done that), but a real community of runners--much harder, and in my opinion, when I think about the problems of the world, much more important and lasting.