Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 26) - A Rest and Western States 100

Chocolate Factory OB: 5.0 mi (+320 ft); 8:59 pace
Ophir Short: 3.1 mi (+296 ft); 8:54 pace
Day at the Office: 5.5 mi (+819 ft); 9:44 pace
Cool - K2 Loop (Cool, California): 14.4 mi (+2,162 ft); 11:14 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+492 ft); 9:44 pace

Weekly Totals: 33.5 mi (+4,088 ft); 5:45:31 on trail

Although I hadn't planned it this way, after the fun of the Burton Creek Half Marathon, my training schedule (RFP #4) called for a slight taper, a week of relatively low mileage. Bryon probably put this in for a break in foundation building. It's probably good for me to take these breaks now, as I keep looking forward to the high mileages and I'm motivated to set new mileage records each week. There must be a reason, so I'll stick to Coach Powell's strategy.  And given that he crossed the Western States 100 finish line in 19 hours and 24 minutes and looked calm, focused, hot, and even happy when I saw him at Mile 62, I'll pay attention. But there's more to it that miles, and I continue to search for and mix those ingredients.

So here's to a bit of rest. My new definition of rest means abbreviated distances on my usual weekly trails. It seemed odd turning short of the water tank at Dayton but, again, there's a reason. I felt somewhat subdued and groggy, artifacts of my nice pace in last Sunday's event. Again, I ran into patches of "gravity dirt" that pulled on my feet as I made my way up a short run on Ophir Grade on Wednesday. In fact, I felt like I was just warming up as I finished the charted 3 miles. Do I need to be so literal with this?  

I discussed this a bit with Darren on Thursday morning as I realized I had been paying a lot of attention to "pace" lately (even putting PRs in my summary lines). It is important to have training measures in order to monitor progress, health, and expectations as I continue along this path, but an old voice kept telling me that this personal competition might soon get misplaced (and I might get disappointed). Most of my running has focused on finding peace in effort, creating mental strength, and developing my skills. It is not about being fast; I simply want to keep going. I can find added satisfaction in a good pace and use pacing wisely to help with skill and endurance, but I can't let it be a major factor in what defines a good day on the trail.

Sure enough, after meditating on this for a while, I went on a rambling, joyful run I've called a Day at the Office. I only wish it hadn't been a taper day because 5.5 miles simply wasn't enough. I have to put the thoughts to longer use in the coming weeks.

Temperatures reached into the high 80s this week, signaling the arrival of Summer. I've thought a lot about my weekly schedule and can't fathom moving the times of my mid-week trails because I really enjoy breaking up the day.  I work well in the mornings, and enjoy the refreshment of post-trail afternoons. I will keep it this way for a while. Occasional (two times a week) hot training days should add some endurance and teach me to stay hydrated. 

On Saturday, Darren and I drove down to Cool, California, where Darren had raced previously. Also we were in position to get up to the Forest Hill aid station, Mile 62 on that day's running of the Western States 100.  It was our plan to run a small, 2- or 3-mile section (at Hwy 49) of the great event while taking in 14 miles of trails around Cool.

We left the Yota outside the Cool Cafe were lunch would await us and headed north along fenced pastures and oak woodlands. Rutted, slightly technical trails led to the Hwy 49 cross-over where we joined the Western States route (no markers this early in the day - we are only 8 or so miles from the finish and runners are hours away). We dropped though dense woods on trails that shifted from rocky ruts to dusty paths. In particularly dense sections, Darren and I discussed the botanical attributes of poison oak, none of which we knew clearly. "Don't touch anything."  Last year it was on or near this section than Geoff Roes moved past Anton Krupicka on his way to becoming 2010 champion; this year, a momma bear and her cub would hold up the lead group of women, possibly influencing the outcome given that it was highly contested and this is close to the finish. Quite an important little stretch of trail!

No Hands Bridge
We crossed No Hands Bridge above the rushing American River, and with this marking our low point, we turned to climb the hill that local runners call K2. It's a bit of an overstatement given the lack of snow, falling rock, sub-zero temperatures, and what all, but it IS steep. Darren gave me a good lesson in trail walking as we worked our way up 1,100 feet in barely a mile.  We then wound through the growing heat, again traversing pastures and oakland trails that we shared with a few bikes and plenty of horse and rider pairs; Cool is also home to a prominent aid station on the original (equestrian) Western States 100. I felt good in the heat and concentrated on hydrating well.  It seems my two bottles are good for about 12 miles, longer than that will need another strategy.

No so cool, near Cool, California
We were back at the car after 12.8 miles in about 2:30. I grabbed some water and we did a road run to finish with a little more than 14. As we finished, we purchased a sandwich at the deli where we learned that the lead runners were tearing up the Western States course. We didn't learn this from anything at the deli, per se, in fact it seemed very few knew this event was taking place. But we could sit with our phones and get the real-time feeds from the course. We crunched some numbers and figured we might actually be late if we didn't hurry to Forest Hill where the Silver State Striders hosted the aid-station.  Darren is loosely connected with the Striders and we might get good info hanging around that area. 

When we got to Forest Hill and began to hear news and rumors we knew we had plenty of time. In fact, when we arrived Darren decided to volunteer and help escort runners through the maze of booths at the station. The runners have medical and official checkpoints, along with food, gear, and hydration facilities  along their path through the station. A myriad of volunteers staff the booths, provide spectator information, shuttle services, etc.  Darren was assigned to a small group of greeters who would meet the runners just short of the station and guide them through, helping with supplies when needed.  There were also large crews, "teams", or family and friends just beyond the station where runners might provision themselves.  Forest Hill is one of the more elaborate set-ups on the Western States, probably a welcome and potentially overwhelming sight after a long day under racing conditions. And it was a good place to watch things unfold.  I decided against volunteering only because there where already so many helping out, and we were only staying until the 24-hour "cut-off" point at 6 pm.  More generous volunteers would continue to help the determined and dogged tired runners later that night.  

Here's some thoughts I posted as a comment on Footfeathers' blog where he got me thinking about the afternoon at Forest Hills:

Once Darren and the Forest Hill crew started escorting runners into the aid station on Saturday afternoon, I watched and cheered in amazement as each one or two hit Mile 62. It was cool to see the few leaders, but the rest simply amazed me.

I'm new to this, having mostly observed from a respectful distance by listening to Darren's stories of Antelope and other ultra exploits (your SD story, for one!). I've set foot on trails as a climber, biker, skier, but only recently as runner. I can hardly call it that yet, but I'm beginning to understand.

I thought I was tired and happy from our 14 miles that morning, but seeing the relative calm, strength, and focus of these men and women while fighting all the demons that only such efforts bring, motivated me to look forward to many more miles. I have no idea why, but there seems to be something out there you guys/gals find. I'm in.

Here's to Kilian, Ellie, and everyone who lined up early Saturday not knowing when (or where) it might end.

It was an interesting afternoon at Forest Hill. When Darren escorted Kilian Jornet, the first into Forest Hill and the eventual 2011 champion, through the station he seemed like any other guy out for a good run, no real signals that he had just completed 62 miles and had a meager 38 to go. In fact, each person through the station had a similar presence, though one could clearly sense a bit of personality in each competitor. Some smiled and acknowledged the supportive cheering, others were determined and focused on the tasks of the station. The heat and miles were taking their tolls (many had dropped out at shorter distances), and yet, each of these guys and gals were intrepidly, steadily, moving on. Everyone had many hours ahead; truly awesome.

I ran slowly Sunday morning, a bit tired from the heat and climbing of my Saturday "rest" at Cool. But I had a new idea on what it takes to go long. It's a foundation of talent and practice, but it's also, probably more so, the mental focus to keep going that needs to be strengthened. Ability is one component of endurance; it takes you the first few miles.  The intangibles of personality and mental strength lead you through the rest. Some folks drop out, each for their own reasons, but most will toe the line again, ready to test the intangibles, and do their damnedest to keep going...


  1. "It's a foundation of talent and practice...[and]mental focus..." Talent being the least important and almost unnecessary variable of the three mentioned; at least in runs of this ridiculous distance.

    I even wonder if talent can be a detriment at times. When things come easy is it more difficult to "push through" when times are hard (everyone has difficulties during a 100 mile run)?

    Was fun watching the race with you but even more enjoyable sharing the trails of Cool that morning.


  2. Insanity can be a talent under the right conditions. Although I agree with your take, there also seems to be "talent" or ability in maintaining forward motion under difficult conditions, and in training when you know your goals means passing through the demons. It's fascinating.