6:35AM start - Lynne Cao
For the 3rd time in three years I headed off down the curvy and flowing 21 mile candy store loop to start the Old Goats 50 mile. In my three years of running the race, I've struggled to close well but enjoyed some good early miles on the rolling and technical singletrack. This year was no different and my legs felt effortless and I enjoyed setting the pace and occasionally singing Prince to Chris and Jesse.
Candy Store Aid Station, mile 11, photo: Ivan Buzik
On the climb up to Trabucco I started to feel a bit of fatigue that wasn't entirely logical. I'd eaten my gels every :25, I was hydrated, I hadn't been out of breath in the first 21 miles, everything should feel fine. I had a lot more miles raced and trained on my legs than last year, but this was part of my plan for the year. Race myself into shape, and hopefully reach a break through with fitness. I went back and forth in my head with the pain in my knees and the exhaustion flooding my body. Chris floated by and I entered the Trabuco aid station as he was taking off down the rocky singletrack.
I'd ran the singletrack down Trabucco a few weeks ago at Baz's Winter Trail 21k and felt awkward on it. I like to pride myself on aggressive downhill tactics, but the trail is part of a strange category I call technical douche grade. The footing is rough and rocky, but the grade and lines of the trail beg to be sprinted. The combination feels awkward, like you're never giving the trail the speed it deserves. So I approached the trail with the best attitude I could, but felt my knees tighten and ache and my body overexert to maintain a mediocre pace. By the time I'd reached the bottom, I had lost 5-6 minutes to Chris.
Holy Jim is perhaps one of the best trails in the Saddlebacks for running fast downhill. It's buffed out, has a gentle grade, and is in a beautiful sunny canyon. Unfortunately, the course goes up it, and my attempts to inject more energy into my body at the Holy Jim aid station was in vain, as I took off with a mouth of salty potatoes and one water bottle for the slow 5 mile climb to Bear Springs. I might have ran a bit better with two bottles, but my body felt heavy and tired. I persistently ran the lower part of the climb knowing Jesse was near, and held him off for 4 miles. Eventually my legs begged for a walk break and I let Jesse go.
I got into Bear Springs aid station and had to sit to down soda while I watched Jesse take off out of the aid station. Though I didn't know it until afterwards, we were both at a low point, he just appeared way stronger. I thought about all the racing I'd already done, all the muscle fibers and joints I'd burned out to fight for one more spot in a race. Those experiences had built character and toughness, but they'd also exhausted that cushion to supersede fitness with grit. I put my head down and tried to run as long as I could up Santiago Peak, but the fire road just kept going and going. Miraculously, I was only a minute behind Jesse, and 12 minutes behind Chris.
The 13 mile stretch back to Blue Jay is mentally exhausting. If the race had been 40 miles, I would've been overjoyed. Instead I had 10 more miles of steep, dusty, exposed, rutted out, rocky, SUV/motorcycle infested Main Divide. The race was thirty-five miles of lovely singletrack, and fifteen miles of despicable fireroad and now I had to pay up. Chris knew what to do, Jesse knew what to do, I knew what to do, but I found no motivation or energy. Though I was running some of the most painful miles I've had in the Saddlebacks, my legs were clicking off 10 minute miles and I'm keeping within striking distance of Jesse and equaling performances from much better days of yesteryear.
Horsetheif Aid Station, photo: Geoff Cordner
Thanks for crewing me Panda!
Photo: Garry Wang
"That was bad" Photo: Gary Wang
Recapping the carnage
Talking with Zeke last night about running logs, he mentioned he doesn't record any info because he doesn't want to know when he's "not doing enough". That's definitely been a hard thing for me because I get embarrassed when just getting 50 miles in a week isn't easy when I'm beat up. I think that's normal for competitive runners because we like to always be either "attacking" or "holding myself back" when it should be distinct rest for several days. The laws of equilibrium are pretty clear about rest: if you go hard for a long time, you've got to take more than just 1-2 days off.
So, that's my plan, to be unashamed of two easy, embarrassingly low mileage weeks that let my tendonitis settle down and to be ready to come off Zane Gray ready for my high mileage build for AC through May and June. I'm tired, but I'm excited at the thought of just running 100-150 mile weeks with no races to immediately worry about..
70 mi, 16,500 ft
Interpol - NYC