Monday, June 18, 2012

San Juan Solstice 50 Pre-Race Thoughts

Well, there's now nothing between me and the San Juan Solstice 50 next Saturday except two short, easy mid-week runs to keep my legs loose. I'm excited and I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

Tuesday: The view from the pass near Ball Mountain. (On the marathon and 50-miler course.)

This will be my seventh 50+ mile race. That's hard to believe. (I had to count them twice to convince myself of that number.) But though I have half a dozen under my belt, 50s (and 100s) are never easy-- there's always something to learn (often the hard way). And, honestly, I've yet to complete one without blowing up at some point during the race and staggering across the finish line in survival mode. The longer the distance, the more time there is for things to go wrong; the deeper the hole you can dig for yourself. If my experience counts for anything it's that it's allowed me to experience firsthand the amazing variety of ways you can implode after running for 6+ hours. Hopefully, with each race I have a better chance of recognizing the symptoms and correcting them before they become too serious. I heard a tongue-in-cheek comment once about what separates ultra marathons from mere marathons: in an ultra you have the opportunity to "hit the wall" multiple times!

In the week leading up to a race, I tend to become very analytical. Obsessively so. I try to gauge my fitness by comparing my current workouts to past ones. I start to question what gear I'll use, what I'll eat, what I'll drink, what I should wear. I peer at course descriptions, look at past results, memorize the elevation profile for the course, look at the weather forecast, estimate my splits, and (of course) settle on a goal time for the race. I try to be as prepared as possible. Is that bad? Eh... No, not really, I suppose... but I think I would also benefit from shutting off the computer, taking a step back, and relaxing.

It's just a long run through some beautiful mountains.

Wednesday: Climbing up to Mosquito Pass.

It struck me yesterday when I unfolded a topo map to take a look at the course. Not just any topo map, but the same National Geographic Trails Illustrated topo map (#141) that my wife and I used on our honeymoon thru-hike of the Colorado Trail in 2007. The Colorado Trail snakes its way across the mountains, a bright orange line stretching all the way from Denver to Durango. Scrawled on the top right hand corner of the map in permanent marker is the number "14". This was the 14th map we used on our hike. If I remember correctly, we mailed it to ourselves at Creede (along with other food and supplies). The 14th map! And next Saturday I'm going to be running around in just one little corner of it.

If I take care of myself during the race next Saturday everything else will fall into place. My training is my training. There's no changing that. My current fitness is what it is. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what I need to focus on is (as always) hydration and nutrition. It looks like it's going to be pretty hot (by mountain standards) in Lake City on Saturday-- 81F. Keeping cool, drinking lots of fluids, and taking plenty of electrolytes will be critical to staving off implosion. I plan to take advantage of every mountain stream and snowdrift we cross! If I can beat the heat, and stay hydrated, I should be able to consume enough calories to keep me moving for ~13 hours. My legs are ready. Is my stomach ready? That's the question. There is no bonk worse than a bonk at the base of a 4,000 ft climb! Trust me.

Earlier this spring I was able to run races at an ~11:00 min/mile pace. As my race schedule continued, and the races got tougher, my pace started drifting into the ~12:00 min/mile range. Next weekend I would be absolutely ecstatic to be able to average ~15:00 min/mile. Yeah, it's that tough. But, really, what could be simpler?

Drink, eat, run.

One particular Buddhist parable has stuck in my head from all my undergraduate philosophy classes. Roughly paraphrased, it goes something like this: First, the naive peasant sees the mountain simply as a mountain. He doesn't give it much thought. Then the overly-analytical neophyte monk learns to "see" the mountain as a symbol for some complex, abstract concept. He wraps himself in scholarly jargon. Finally, the truly enlightened one, returns to simply seeing the mountain as a mountain. The progression of simple, to complex, back to simple rings true to me. We first encounter things (like, say, running) in a natural, honest way. As we grow older we start to deconstruct things, breaking them apart, analyzing them, getting wrapped up in minutia. Hopefully though, with a slight change in perspective, we can recapture the purity and innocence of our initial experience. Ideally, all my spreadsheets, all my scribbled notes, all my past experience will ultimately allow me to run more simply. To listen to my body. To be in the moment. To enjoy the race.

Saturday: One of my favorite local runs: Native Lake (with Mt. Massive in the background).

1 comment:

  1. You gave me a good laugh with this one, "There is no bonk worse than a bonk at the base of a 4,000 ft climb! Trust me."

    I laugh because I know just how true it is. Especially with SJS.

    You're going to have an awesome race! Too many things have been going well for you and you seem to have just the right balance of planning/preparation and experience.

    While I don't like the heat, I'm looking at it as great prep for Leadville. There were some points when I got very hot last year during the LT100, and combining that with altitude, it presented some challenges to work through.

    See ya down there.