Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reno and SanFran 5/16, 5/17

Congratulations to Point Positive athlete, and new runner Tiffney Crumby Beckloff on rocking out and finishing strong at Bay to Breakers today in San Fran. This was Tiffney's second running event. With a solid game-plan in place, Tiffney paced well and got the job done with style. Coach is proud and looking forward to tackling the next "mountain." More details on Tiffney's experience at B2B to come. Also, another hearty congrats goes out to fellow Windsor Middle School 6th grade math teacher, Brett Daniel, and his dad, for gettin' after it today at the B2B. : )

Silver State 50/50-

In the words of Alanis Morrisette, "I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone." I share this sentiment with Alanis probably not because we were both born within 3wks of each other back in '74 but perhaps because of the process of realizing something I've committed to might just be a bit out of my reach, only to later realize that 100mi journey begins with the first step. Inevitably, you come to terms with just what you've (in my case) signed up for--100 miles running on the Tahoe Rim Trail in July, with lots of hills, at altitude. Anxiety increases as the days and weeks pass. And then, you deal with it. You do what any "reasonable" person does when faced with a complex task--you solve an easier problem to help you understand how to tackle the bigger problem.

Silver State 50/50 is part of my problem-solving process. Fellow ultra-runner Michael Cook (now preparing for Race Across America) suggested months back that I might consider running Silver State because he felt--having run it--that it was great preparation for Tahoe Rim in July. Silver State 50/50 "boasts" high altitude, heat, and 10k feet of climbing over the 50mi distance (there's a 50k run too). Reality got the best of me and I signed up knowing that there was nothing I could do here in Sonoma County that would be as good of "training" for Tahoe.

The race started at 6am with a handful of 50mi runners and we soon began our ascent of the first big climb. My heart-rate monitor soon reminded me that altitude would play a factor in my performance this day. My time at the front ended at the first aid station where I decided it was in my best interest to say farewell to the leaders and run my own race. The altitude factor was not incapacitating but simply made me feel like I was operating at a 15-20% reduction in my aerobic capacity; the ol' heart was pumping just a bit harder to get the precious O2 to my hypoxic muscles.

And so it went. This was my first true 50mi trail race. I've done American River 50 twice, which transitions to trail from paved bike-path after 26miles. And with this year's AR50 in my legs, and some key training runs since, I was confident I could make it through a difficult and untested Silver State, one way or another.

There's the usual mundane (but critical) race details I could discuss; my pretty solid nutrition/hydration, the longs ups, the tricky downs, but I now find myself wrestling with most curious issue of running ultras--the mental component. Like any race, of any distance, the early miles are fun and exciting, and then comes the point where the body sends out its distress call, and the fight with the mind to stay positive begins. When you've been racing for a few years, the ol' coping strategies gradually surface in your consciousness. I have my helpful acronym, "A.R.T."--Attitude, Relaxation, Technique that helps me to stay present and focus on those things I have control over. You have the aid stations to look forward to. You have the camaraderie of fellow athletes, which I believe to be invaluable the longer the distance. Misery loves company and it's just good to chat a runner up while you're hiking up an 8000ft climb. But it's important to keep pushing yourself to reach your potential and so you find yourself either looking at the back of your competitor or hearing his/her footsteps grow fainter as you press forward. Either way, you find yourself alone, again. Walking is a new thing for me in racing. It's a lot easier than trying to run when you have 35mi of running in with 15mi to go. So, you go back to your mental bag of tricks to find it empty. What now? This hurts, that hurts, I somehow missed my drop-bag back at the last aid station...

Necessity being the mother of invention, you find new ways to motivate. You think of a song, a quote, a person that will motivate you to continue on. I thought a lot of my girlfriend, Amanda, who would be waiting at the finish line, expecting me to crawl in at about 2pm--nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my feet. I also thought a lot about a guy I'd gone to dive school with a long time ago who went on to become a Navy Seal and is now competing in every endurance event on Earth to raise money for the families of members of his SEAL team lost in Afghanistan--Cut-n-paste a cool Slowtwitch article about David Goggins into your web browser or visit David's site listed under Point Positive Places:

Back in Dive School, David literally pulled me through the final 250yds of a required 1000yd bay swim, which I had already failed 3 times before and was in danger of being booted out of the school. Actions speaking louder than words, I looked to David's actions, as a SEAL, and now also a fellow endurance athlete, to provide me the mental fuel to "pull" myself through this day and the confidence to hopefully pull myself through my first 100mi in July. It was clear in Dive School that this was a guy (a Ranger) that possessed a huge amount of honor, integrity, and drive to get himself and everyone else to the finish line. That's the good stuff right there. Since that time, I've only seen David once, parachuting from an airplane moments before the start of the 2007 Ironman Triathlon in Kona (which certainly provided a bump to my swim, though he didn't make himself available to pull me that day).

Finding something that will make you run when you don't want to is essential. The trick is to stay positive. As soon as you stop believing in yourself, you're doomed. You start justifying why it's okay to walk (walk, that is, when you could run). The hills killed me yesterday. But the hills didn't get the best of me. Naturally, there was an equal amount of downs, and lots of flats to motor on. We like to feel strong, in control, fast. At the end of the day though, you gotta look back at your event, objectively, and reflect on what where you were weakest, not to wallow in despair, but to inform the training you will conduct to specifically address your "limiting" factors. This way, you get caught up in the philosopher's "continually accelerating vortex of self-actualization." In other words, you get hooked on your own continuous improvement. Ultimately, your actions are justified: you understand why it's important to, every once in a while, bite off more than you can chew.

I finished up Silver State yesterday feeling pretty good compared to just a month ago at AR50. I came in around 8th place at 8:23, well over an hour after winner, Jasper Halekas (7:11, new CR). A little worse for wear but with an informed grasp of how I will approach my first 100 in July. There's some work to be done between now and then, to address those limiters that are in my control to improve. Believe. Believe. Believe.

My Garmin GPS recorded most of my run yesterday. :) Check it out at: