Sunday, March 22, 2009
Attack of the Leopard!
PCTR Pirates Cove
Oh, more pre-race silliness!
As you can see, I DID end up getting some leopard print arm panties. I have matching gaiters as well, but they did not make it into the picture. However, based on the number of compliments I got on my outfit (no joke-- one guy actually told me the leopard print was inspiring!), I'm sure this combo will make it into more race photos in the future.
For some reason, insomnia (which I have perhaps one time a year?) decided to strike Friday night, and by the time I got to the start line, I was running on about two hours of sleep. I *know* it's supposed to be the night before the night before that affects you the most, but I was definitely mentally ill-at-ease with so little sleep.
I got to the start, checked in, hung out with Jo Lynn and Rick (totally classic shot), almost forgot to put my Garmin on before the start, said hi to everyone and then took off at a brisk uphill walk at 8:30.
As can be seen on the course map, the 50K does two loops of the 20K course, with a little (10K little) extra loop added to the first 20K loop. I have never done a loop 50K before today-- Ohlone and Skyline to the Sea are point-to-point courses, so once you get through a particularly grueling climb, you know you'll never have to run that piece of the course again in the race. Knowing I would have to come back and run the 20K loop again did interesting things to my mind. On the one hand, I think it helped me go slower at the beginning, knowing I would have to deal with the climb out of Rodeo Beach after completing 18 miles already. On the other hand, I think I was a little too focused on how I would need to run that section again, so I would hold back more than I really think I needed to.
As I said, I did a better job of holding back at the beginning. When I started the extra 10K loop after Tenessee Valley, I felt great, and continued to feel pretty strong until the top of Marincello. For some reason, even though the next section was downhill, I started thinking about how I had at least 6 miles left of THIS loop, and then ANOTHER 12 miles. My legs immediately began feeling more tired, and I would say that miles 12-15 were rather painful. I picked up a bit after the Conzelman aid station (all the 30K runners speeding it up for the finish helped), but then felt like I came to a dead halt at the top of the hill out of Rodeo Beach, and took a good mile to start feeling decent again.
Leaving Tennessee Valley for the last time, I dragged myself up Marincello. I started to try a run 1 minute/walk 1 minute alternation, which worked for about 15 minutes before I succumbed to walking. I do think this was a good idea for me though, and I'm going to try it at another event in the future. By this time it was raining and cold and wet, and I was half-tempted to run just to get warm. Emphasis on the "half" part of that sentence.
At the top of Marincello, things switched again and I found a huge reserve of energy I didn't realize I had. Don't get me wrong-- I was not moving super-fast, but my mental state went from "this is SOOOOOOO long" to "Hey-- you have 6 miles left, and most of it is flat or downhill. You can absolutely do this!" While my legs did not suddenly feel light and limber, everything seemed much more possible and I really enjoyed the last 6 miles. I even ran more of the uphill than I had run the first time I came through the same section.
I also started looking at my watch and thinking about if it might be possible to break six hours. I didn't have any kind of goal time, but I had figured somewhere between 6:00-6:30 was reasonable. When I hit the last aid station, I had exactly 30 minutes to finish 3.6 miles. 1.5 was downhill, but the last two miles were pretty flat with a tiny bit of uphill grade at times. I decided to go for it, and I ran HARD the last few miles, even holding sub 8:00s on the flat part. I broke six hours (well, I think it was a little shorter than 3.6 miles), but what amazed me is how much faster I could go at the end than I had thought I could. Let's not get carried away-- I was in pain and I couldn't have gone another 10 miles at that pace, but I really didn't know I could go that far and still have energy left over at the end. While I am definitely nervous about AR50, I think this race taught me two things:
1) I am stronger than I think I am. Don't get me wrong-- I am still probably under-trained for AR50, but I had much more in the tank left than I thought I did. My goal for AR50 is still just to finish, but I'm more confident about that now than I was before Saturday.
2) Running ultras is SO mental. Again, see #1. I know adequate training is necessary-- but I've been fascinated lately by the difference my mental outlook has on my performance. As I've pointed out before, running relaxed helps a lot. When I'm feeling good, I know that talking positively to myself helps a lot as well. This time I kept trying to remind myself (with some success) that however I felt at that moment was not permanent-- if I felt bad, I would feel better soon but also that if I felt good, it didn't necessarily mean I wasn't going to feel bad again. It's the dharma of running, I suppose. (As a side note, it's been fascinating to me how applicable Buddhist teachings are to long-distance running. I feel a post forthcoming in the next few months.) What I want to start playing around with is keeping myself positive when it hurts and I'm starting to feel like I can't do it, whatever "it" is. The "feeling bad" moments, when I think about it, were more mental feeling bad moments than feeling physically bad. Of course my legs were tired and tight and of course I was hungry--but that didn't change after about mile 12-- what changed the most from mile 12 to the end was my mental state.
I have also discovered my superpower secret weapon race food-- candied ginger! I ate some at the top of Marincello (round two) and it was amazing how much the spiciness of the ginger acted as a pick-me-up and calmed down my slightly complaining stomach. Definitely going into the belt in future races.
Finally, I think I'm becoming a reluctant convert to ice baths. I didn't sit as long as I probably should have last night, but it helped. I'm going to slog a recovery run this afternoon, but overall, I feel better than I ever have after a 50K.
Plus, I got a coaster for my efforts! I think these are the coolest things ever-- if you are a 50K finisher at a PCTR event, you get a coaster with the logo for the race on it and the date-- and if it's your first ultra, you get a really special one commemorating that as well. I kid you not-- one of the things that kept me from stopping at the 30K (which I was greatly tempted to do) was getting a coaster. (And pride as well, but the thought "I want my coaster" went through my head more than once...)
I think from here to AR50 is some mellow runs, maybe one longish run next weekend, but then... Victoria attempts 50 miles! Aack!