Overall, the 2nd trip up north in 3 weeks was enjoyable and productive in a few ways. This spring I raced a little too much, and had some overly-aggressive training runs. Between the RR 50 mile (and pacing KD another 20 miles), running a marathon PR at the LA marathon a few weeks later, and another 50 mile at AR another 3 weeks after that, I was a bit worn out.. But somehow not too worn out to pass up the tough 20 mile, 5,000ft day at Badwater a week before Miwok..
I didn't know until after the race when Kyle asked me if I'd "lived up to Karl's forecast" as I hadn't even seen the prediction. Once I read it, I felt pretty sheepish that he thought I should be among the list of amazing runners. Karl is pretty good at picking apart race fields, and I think he thought the rested my rested and ready to race version belonged up there. I think the best gague of my potential to do well was when I ran 3:59 at Bulldog with 8k of climbing. There, I wasn't overraced, ran consistent splits, and showed both the required downhill and uphill strength to stick to a 8:00 pace.
Similarly, I think Mike Wardian could probably make the same arguement having raced well at TNF 50 but having run Marathon des Sables and Big Sur in the month before Miwok. Sometimes this can be a tough pill to swallow. The feeling of flowing perfectly over trails and hills for miles and miles is similar to the feeling a quarterback has in leading a perfect scoring drive down the field. However the human body (or mine at least) isn't quite capable of performing at that level that puts you on the biggest podiums every couple weeks. Performances at the national level take some time to specifically train and taper for. Quarterbacks may get to do this week in, week out, but ultra runners have to be patient and let the deeper levels of muscle recover over the course of at least a month or more(depending ont the previous race distance).
That said, my 9:21 on Saturday was relatively productive for me. I went into the weekend relatively calm (save for Jimmy's singing/screaming in the backseat on the drive up). We had fun jogging a mile or two every couple hours on the way up, and got some delicious fruit along the way at Casa de Fruta and coffee at Zombie Runner (not that I drink much coffee, but a taste of their liquid gold is enough to energize both your metabolism and soul) (see Katelyn Benton's Miwok videos)
I got to talk with Tony at check in and pick his pick his brain a bit about shoes, Killian, WS, and everything else inbetween. We then hooked up with Brett and Larissa (two of the most hospitable people in the bay area) and had a leafy dinner at Plant and then went to their place to pack and sleep for a few hours.
Race morning came, and there was a bit of confusion with who had what keys and clothes, but the race started smoothly and I got out just enough to avoid the early bottle necks, but let the legs warm up naturally. Mike and Zach took off pretty agressively, but weren't too far ahead for the first 6 miles as the field settled and negotiated a few out and backs.
I had promised myself that I'd let the race come to me and avoid blowing up early, and that's what I did. I saw Erik Skadden on the first real climb and let him go as I tried to figure out what my legs could do. As we began to crest the first false summit, I felt a rumble in my stomach, and had to tone down the downhill running into Tennesse Valley. Luckily I made it to a bathroom just in time and came back out to join the Kami-Devon duo for a bit. I felt much lighter and began to build a little buffer off Kami, but eventually began yo-yoing with her on the downhills as my mt100's required a little more effort from my quads to stay in control.
We hit some absolutely beautiful and delicious single track into Muir beach, and proceeded through without much incident over to Deer Park fireroad. On the traverse next to Muir Woods Road, I realized that I couldn't count on my legs to run fast naturally as Kami was starting to pull away even in the flat. I put my head down and worked hard up Deer Park Fireroad passing Kami, coming in just under 3:00. I saw Topher and Kim and felt a big boost knowing they were cheering for me. I was roughly chasing Topher's sub 9 splits as a gague for what I thought I could do that day.. Unfortunately I proceeded to fall off them once I saw him, but the course was non-negotiable.
The traverse along Bolinas Ridge was beautiful, euphoric, and a little tough on the ankles with the slanted footing. I came in slow into the Bolinas Ridge aid station, but still a few minutes ahead of Kami. Leaving the aid station, the singletrack became fireroad and I lost focus. I needed to take some extra Gu on account of all the vigorous climbing I'd done so far, but I waited too long, and didn't have enough water to put it down and ran a pretty slow stretch feeling exhausted. Even still at this point, I was only 30-40 minutes behind the leaders as they came back out of the turnaround. When I got to the turn around, I was relieved to see Kate and Stan and have a chance to get some more Strawberry-Bannana Gu's and extra food in me.
I motored up the 1.5 mile climb just fine, but once again found myself starving on the rolling fireroad. I ended up giving up a few spots and eating 4 Gu's, but finally made it out to the Bolinas aid station to have my water bottle filled by none other than Scott Jurek. Maybe he put something special in my water, but I headed out energized and attacked the traverse back to Pan Toll. Along the way, Brett Rivers began to catch up talking up a storm with his pacer. I don't know if it was a mind game, but it feels pretty bad to be running hard and hearing people talking casually behind you.. and laughing!
At any rate, it worked and I let them go as we left Pan Toll. I wasn't looking forward to the extended downhill stretch, but I managed to keep a even pace, and reached the bottom maybe a minute behind Brett. As I began the climb up to the highway 1 aid station, I put the jets on and worked hard to maintain the 1-2 minute gap off Brett. I knew there were more runners behind me that were ready to attack, and I promised myself that any spots I gave up would have to be earned. I maintained the gap, and when I got to the aid station, Victor described the remaining 7.5 as "a big downhill, and a big last hill". Knowing Victor's resumee' I took the description like a death sentence, but put my head down and motored along the gentle uphill out of the aid station. Brett had really taken off, and just attempting to stay within 5 minutes of him, I caught Joel and Mike both suffering from the previous hot climb. Joel's pacer warned me about the steep downhill, and when I hit it I wanted to cry. Luckily it was just a couple minutes of pain, and soon I was back at Tennesse Valley.
I anticipated a much larger final climb, but felt strong and motored past Joel again. Once we hit Wolf Ridge, I had to laugh. It was a relatively short section, but so steep that it made you want to have an anxiety attack. Luckily I motored through it well enough to hold back Joel. The final descent in was dangerous and tricky in a few parts, but short enough to keep things simple. Finishing in 9:21, I was just grateful to be off the course.
Overall, I was proud of making the worst of a bad situation for me. Dead legs on a couse with 10k of climbing (and 10k of descent) with just about every type of trail was an accomplishment of sorts for me. I didn't race my heart out, but I made few mistakes and fixed them quickly when I realized them. My hip extensors and abductors were too worn out to attack the course like I really wanted to, but I kept a level head and negotiated the course as best as I could.
I recovered just fine, and am beginning my official Badwater training. I am injury free and am confident in my racing ability to say that I am ready to go out and run a competitive time in July. I am jealous of the other runners who didn't race so much this spring and have had more consistent bases built up, but I feel like I am ready for the next step with higher performance results at BW and hopefully AC if I recover well.