The decision to race was made on the day before the race. I had minimal training, a recovering injury, and the possibility of my wife going into labor at any moment. My mind was clouded with doubt, even after I convinced my wife to approve of my little adventure (which was not easy!). Next, I had to convince myself that I could run this race, have a good time, and not wreck myself in the process.
I attended a Bikram Yoga class the day before the race. And after class I found an "Angel Cards" booklet. Each page contains a word like abundance, grace, beauty, enthusiasm, reflection, integrity, gratitude, and patience. And with each word is a description of the word that is more like a horoscope reading. I randomly turned to a page (page 47), which gave me the word "silence". I would use this word as my mantra for the race. Silence can mean many things. I planned to run in silence, where I would run gently and quietly. My muscles should not be crying, my feet should not be pounding, and my heart should not be beating outside my chest. I planned to retreat into the silence of nature, meditate, and commune with God.
I left home at 4AM, and got to Cool, California at 6:45AM. I listened to "Born to Run" on audio CDs on the long solo drive. It was "Born to Run" that originally inspired my dive into ultra running about 16 months ago. And it inspired me again to run "on the earth, with the earth", and to take whatever my body and the muddy trails would give me.
My race number was 447, which matched my "Angel Card" number, which I took as a good omen. I lined up with the back of the pack, and chatted with my good friend, Harlan, who I had met at my very first ultra, the Rodeo Beach 50K. My main goal was to have a good time and simply finish the race, without any exploding body parts!
It was a dry week, so I was hoping the course would have dried up by race day. Wrong! The course was still very muddy and there were still a ton of streams to cross. At mile 1.75, we hit our first stream crossing. Since I'm out to just have fun, I planned to take my time crossing streams, without soaking my shoes if possible. I got in a log jammed line to carefully cross on a line of rocks. And on the last rock, my foot plunges into the stream. So much for dry feet! I would repeat this again two more times on easy stream crossings, while crossing more difficult streams with relative ease. I think I must have had the driest feet in the race!
In the first half of the race, I took my time, and took plenty of pictures. In the first few miles, I couldn't walk as much as I would have liked because we were on single track trails and I didn't want slow to anyone down by being a trail blocker. But since I started with the back of the pack, most of the runners I was with had a comfortable pace I could just flow with. I spent very little time at the aid stations; usually just to top off my one handheld bottle with water and grab a PB&J square or a cup of soup. I must have averaged only 15 seconds per aid station.
Then after 14 miles, my camera locked up and wouldn't turn on, so I stopped taking pictures. So with one less thing to fiddle with, I decided to run more seriously. I started hammering most of the downhills. I'd walk on all the uphill portions or anytime my heart rate got too loud.
Then I started to pass people. And because I didn't want them to pass me back during my walking breaks, I ran fast and walked fast. And anytime I heard footsteps, I would run again. I passed a ton of people, and no one passed me. My calves started to cramp after about 25 miles, when I hammered any steep section too hard, but it was in areas of the calves that didn't involve my previous soleus injury. The steep hills near the end helped me keep other runners from passing me. No one in the "back of the pack" was going to pass me on the hills this late in the race.
I enjoyed the last few miles. I remembered how miserable I was last year on this course, struggling with an ITB flareup, hobbling in to the finish in pain. This time I finished with my head held high. I finished in 375th place out of 564 finishers, with a time of 6:33:47.
My Garmin recorded 30.62 miles, with 12:51 overall pace. I hung around for about an hour to eat, chat, and recover before driving home for 2 and a half hours, without stopping for a break, partly because of "Born to Run" and because I felt pretty good about how the race day went.
This gorilla popped out of the bushes at mile 1 to scare runners.
19:27 (biggest hill of the day)
6:45 (0.62 miles, 10:50 mp)
12:51 overall pace
The Way Too Cool 50K course was changed this year. It was shortened and one of the big hills (Ball Bearing) was cut out. Last year I ran it in over 7 hours (7:02:18). Caitlin Smith, our doula came in as the second woman at 4:03:57, one and half minutes behind 1st! She was in 19th place, overall. Is that awesome or what!
I took one serving of Vespa 45 minutes before the race, and another 4 hours into the race. It helps reduce the amount of calories needed, since fat is being burned more efficiently. I also had two scoops of Perpetuem in my handheld to start the race. I used kinesio tape on both calves and along the IT Band.
My longest run was 12 miles, done a week before the race, and just on flat asphalt. I had not hit a trail since my DNF at the TNF Northface 50-mile in December, where I ran about 25 miles. After that race I had taken off 6 weeks to rest my torn soleus, before a series of 5 Graston Treatments, and 3 Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Treatments (EWST). I ran with a pair of Asics DS Trainers which I found to help with my soleus injury.
A week before the race, my wife sent me an email with the subject line: "Grace or race"... stating that she would never forgive me if I missed our daughter's birth. For that alone, I could have quit. But I got a positive opinion from her doctor at a prenatal visit, and finally convinced my wife that I could have the race AND Grace...