This weekend was wonderful and disheartening. Kristen and I have been training for about 4 months now, leading up to our respective 100 milers this summer. This weekend we made the jaunt up to the bay to give a shot at the Miwok 100k, a very popular and very beautiful race in the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The goal of the race was to finish feeling tired but competent, rejuvenated and confident. None of those things happened.
A few weeks ago I had a great training weekend (by my standards). I came off the week of crossfit with sore legs and a slightly taxed body overall. I got about 23 miles in on Friday night, worked on Saturday (not really on my feet), and ran a local hilly (about 1000 ft gain) 10k on Sunday. I was tired at the 10k but ran well and was happy with my performance, finishing in 48:18. Then I re-ran most of the course with a friend before heading home for a nap.
After a normal week of cross-training following that, I joined up with some fellow SLO Trail Runners the next Saturday for a long run at Montana de Oro. The first climb of the morning became instantly brutal as my asthma kicked in hard. I haven’t had problems with asthma since elementary school, but something about this spring has caused attacks and allergies like nothing I’ve felt before. By the time we finished the first 11 mile loop, my knees hurt (this was my first run in the new Brooks Cascadia 6’s) and I was beat. I decided to head home, recover and try to get some miles in later in the afternoon. Well, one of my knees never really recovered and I never made it out for those miles. The weekend was a bust. However, I rationalized the failure by noting that this would have been my fourth high mileage weekend in a row (as a rule, I generally strive for three in a row with one easier one to recover).
The following weekend, I worked the FLUID booth at the Wildflower Triathlon (probably the biggest tri on the west coast). It was an incredible weekend spent with some very fun people. I met so many fans of FLUID and really got a good feel for what kind of a brand FLUID has become outside of the office (it’s better and stronger than I could have imagined). I even got to chat for awhile with Jim Felt, the founder of Felt Bicycles! But unfortunately I found no time for running. And I still haven’t decided whether three consecutive days of standing for 8-10 hours counts as ultra training, but I figured it couldn’t hurt!
So now you have a history of my running life leading up to Miwok. Kristen and I got to the hotel on Friday evening. My parents (who booked the room…so nice traveling with parents!) were already there. We picked up our race numbers, went out to dinner and spent some really good quality time as a family (Kristen is of course “family” by this point, and her family came down to watch the race and meet up with us the next morning). We even saw Dave Mackey (the eventual winner) being towed around by his toddler daughter who was cruising on her tiny tricycle (Kristen gushed at this). Kristen had been feeling her IT band for awhile and was basically prepared to DNF the race. She just wanted to get as far as she could without hurting herself, while keeping her eye on her ultimate goal: TRT 100. As for me, my energy levels had been low all week and I couldn’t tell if it was allergies or a cold. I could feel my left patella slightly but I really didn’t think it would be a problem. I thought a finish was very doable.
The next morning we all woke at 3:30. We got prepped, had breakfast downstairs (breakfast in the race hotel started at 3!) and my parents gave us a ride to the start. Their plan was to drive/mountain bike to as many parts of the course as they could throughout the day to spectate and get a little exercise for themselves. The race started fine with the first 7 mile loop passing quickly. As we climbed up and out toward the Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 11, I felt a little slow as I hiked. We were cruising slowly, not in any rush, but I still felt like I was struggling. By the climb up to Pantoll (mile 20), I was downright destroyed. I felt like I’m used to feeling at mile 45. My legs hurt some, but mostly I just wanted to go to sleep. This really put me in a bad mood and sucked much of my optimism for the day. I struggled to keep a happy face for Kristen and my parents, but I’m pretty sure it was obvious I wasn’t doing well. I drank some FLUID at Pantoll and we continued on. The next part of the course was pretty flat and simply gorgeous. At this point we saw the leaders on their way back to Pantoll. Mike Wolfe, Dakota Jones, Dave Mackey, and Hal Koerner were all within 10 seconds of each other. We yelled encouragement as they rushed past holding the equivalent of my half marathon pace. I wished I could just hover alongside them for the rest of their race and watch it unfold. But moving along, Kristen and I reveled in the coastal beauty and wonderful weather as we plodded.
The left-leaning slope in the trail caused havoc for Kristen and her poor knee and before long we were reduced to walking. I was in no hurry to rush off and we said we’d run this thing together so we just hung out, walked and talked. Looking back, it was really nice even though neither of us felt very good. As we neared Bolinas Ridge aid (mile 27), Kristen told me she was done and that I should go ahead. I gave her a kiss and trotted off. But as I left I must have taken part of her bad knee voodoo with me because two miles later, that old familiar ache of my patella scraping in its groove returned to me. I knew that was it, that at the next aid I would be done. And so I hobbled and run/walked my way to the end of my day. My spirits were okay though. Of course I felt bad about dropping. Actually, I recently read one of Dakota Jones’ posts about how he felt at a race he dropped from (read it here) and he echoes my thoughts exactly. It can be looked at from different perspectives, but it’s the decision I made and I’m happy with it. And typing this on Monday, I’m actually thinking I should have dropped earlier because my knee is still causing a limp (and I’m sick…boooo!).
But while the race may have been a bust, the weekend was as I said before, wonderful. I got to spend time with Kristen, my parents, her parents, and her little brother. We all went out to dinner Saturday night (we would have still been running if we hadn’t dropped) and again to Mother’s Day breakfast the next morning. I had a lot of fun hanging out with my families (I love that I have two of them now) and we can’t wait to head up for the Western States training weekend on Memorial Day to see them all again.
Now on the other hand, looking to the future of running, I am quite unsure. My knee feels different than it has in the past and I don’t yet know what to make of it. I know my training will be significantly delayed. And with less than two months to go to Western States, I have accepted the fact that I will not be ready. I have one new goal: to get to the starting line fully healed and with a good deal of some form of fitness, even if it means a major lack of running fitness. That race is going to be an incredible adventure. I get more excited/scared by the day. All I can do at this point is prep my mind as well as I can and simply go for it.
Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. But if I don’t put myself in situations where failure is highly possible, I’ll never really know how far I can go right? I think this will be the first true mental test of my life. I’m honored to have the opportunity to give it a shot.
As Cody said, I went into Miwok knowing that I would’nt make it. Kind of a sad way to start a race, but like I told the aid station volunteer where I did eventually drop, “I have bigger fish to fry this year(referring to TRT in july)”. The weekend before had been spent backpacking, where I hardly made it 10mi before I started to feel the ache of my knee. The week leading up to Miwok was filled with attempts at rest and recovery, to no sucess. I wasn’t even able to find a sleeping position that didn’t bother my IT band!
At the start, every step was a moment of uncertainty as I waited for my knee to give me the cues I knew were inevitable. I was amazed when I made it through the first 7 mi loop. I was focused so hard on keeping a perfect stride that I barely even realized that we were back at the start and headed out onto the rest of the course. At this point I started to have more hope. I was beginning to think that if I could keep this even stride, I may be able to make it pretty far! I knew my parents wouldn’t get to the race until later and would be waiting at mile 33 for me. I had every bit of me set on making it to that point.
Cody wasn’t feeling great so I took the lead to let the good feelings that I was having about the race and the trail flow freely. We were winding inbetween redwoods or rolling along wildflower-studded hills. What a great course! I was amazed at the number of trails and open space in the area. At this point, my hopeful thinking began to stretch farther and farther. When I get an idea in my head, I tend to take it too far and run with it(remember my battle with the lion king bushes?). My knee was still feeling somewhat ok and the rest of me felt great. I thought about the next aid stations in sections. This is how it was in my head: I’ll get to the turnaround at mile 33. I’ll prob want to atleast make it back to the Bolinas ridge aid station and get in an even 40. But then it’s only 7 more to make it to where the trail splits up again from being an out and back. Then it’s only 15 to the finish-even if I’m hurting at this point I’ll still want to push to the end when I’m that close. This line of thinking is usually how I break up long races into manageable segments but this time my logic wasn’t exactly reasonable. I was only at mile 20.
In the stretch from mile 20 to 27, my dreams came crashing down. The cambered singletrack did not get along well with my knee. Having to tilt my hips to match the ground set me up for some serious pain. It almost immediately got to the point where I could hardly run. Cody and I played leapfrog over and over again with a few runners as I continually had to stop and walk for a few minutes to rest. I knew that the Bolinas aid station at mile 27 would be my final stop.
I was greeted by the kindness of the aid station workers with blankets and jackets (the aid station was very shaded and cold) as they searched to find the directions I could relay to my parents so they could pick me up. I waited almost an hour for them to make it up the twisty road and had a lot of time to reflect on my run from the day.
Yes, I was disappointed. I had signed up for Miwok with the plan of finishing the race and testing my overall fitness. Even during the race, when all reality told me it wasn’t possible, I still wished to cross the finish line. But this isn’t my race for the year. And even if it was, I still have so many more years and so many more races to do well on and be healthy for. I still got to spend an amazing day out on new and fun trails, mingling with my favorite types of people. And, I had my heart in the run and really enjoyed myself out there, and I think that’s really crucial.
I’m ready and motivated to heal. My plan is to rest for a little while and then take charge of my IT band. I hope to do some massage therapy or chiropractic treatments and then focus on building strength in my glutes, hips and core to make sure that my stride doesn’t falter from lack of strength. I’m going to put my focus much more strongly into healing and srengthening than worrying about the miles. I still have some time before my race and know that being healthy at the start will serve me much more in the long run.