Mile 28. Ugh. Three more to go. I crossed No Hands Bridge about 15 minutes ago, at least those folks at the last aid station were awesome. Are my legs supposed to hurt this bad? I feel like they may have hurt worse at one time in my life, like possibly another race- maybe even last year at Miwok. Or possibly Santa Rosa. I’m having a hard time remembering right now. I think that’s probably a good thing, although I literally can not recall them ever feeling this bad.
I’m actually having a hard time focusing on anything at this point. I know I have another Gu in my pack and that I should take it, it’s been about a half hour since my last, but I am so fucking sick of sugar right now. Not like sick to my stomach, like sick to my soul knowing that I have the energy to run, but my legs hurt so bad they’re simply refusing to cooperate. Unless that Gu has morphine in it it’s useless to me right now.
The coolest thing about all this is that it’s completely uphill to the finish. Yes, that’s sarcasm (I’m trying to keep the mood “light”). I do remember how good my legs felt coming down this at a mellow 8-minute pace to start the race, but that doesn’t do me any good right now. Hell, my legs felt great hammering down the descent into No Hands like 20 minutes ago. I could run downhill all day.
No, the actual coolest thing about this race is that you get to run 15 miles on the Western States trail (in the “wrong” direction) to the Auburn Lake Trails aid station, then come back on the Wendell T. Robie Trail and finish back on the last six miles of the WS trail. I had myself convinced last November that I was going to get picked in the WS100 lottery this year, so I signed up for this race and Canyons 100k to get as much time on these trails as I could.
Luck would have other plans for me however.
Thinking about my training since this last cycle started, I haven’t done anything longer than 15.4 miles, so yeah- the suffering was to be completely expected. Let’s just say I was well-trained for about a 20-miler. This brings up my first talking point: specificity. Or, without boring you with too much technical jargon; if you want to go long, you have to go long. That means your training should be specific to the distance. Maybe throw in at least one 24-miler in the build up to a 50k.
On a good note- I never once thought of quitting, and even during the hardest parts of those last four miles (which took a turtle-esque 55 minutes!) I was still having fun. I got passed by the third-place woman and we joked about how tough these things are. She said something to the effect that “here’s where the best walkers start to shine” and she basically out-walked me to the finish.
I also got hit on by a hiker, that’s a first. Usually when I get called a “hot runner guy” it’s… actually that’s the first time that’s ever happened. It was super flattering, and as shitty as I felt I had to laugh and blush and say thank you.
So yeah, you can have fun and suffer greatly at the same time. You can go into a race under-trained and still come out of knowing you did your best. You can make your season-opening race both a party and a shitshow. You can respect the distance, alter your expectations, take solace in the fact that not everybody gets to do this on a Saturday morning. You can stop explaining to non-runners why you yearn to run really long distances.
You can still learn.
Talking point #2: the main thing I learned from this race: the last 11 miles were great mental training. I can go deep into the pain cave and just embrace, nay- LOVE the suck. Buy a one-way ticket for a ride on the struggle bus and smile for the camera.
Because the Marin Ultra Challenge 50-miler next month is going to hurt.
The Boston Marathon in April, regardless of my ambivalence to race it hard or just run it easy, will probably hurt.
The Canyons 100k in May will definitely hurt.
…and the Bighorn 100 in June is going to really, really hurt.
And getting familiar with that kind of hurt, almost welcoming it into my life like a long lost friend, that’s what’s going to help get me through the toughest parts of races.
So, sorry if you came here for a detailed race report, like what the trails were like, how many creek crossing there were, when I ate Gu and took salt and how the race was organized, etc. I’m leaving all that minutiae out on purpose, because it’s secondary to the experience I had.
You can see all that stuff over here if you want:
Thanks for reading!