Post-Firetrails 50, the preparation for the Javelina 100 didn’t involve too much in the way of running. Firetrails was a harder effort, which took a few days afterwards to physically recover from. Instead of running too long, I focued more on the tempo runs and speedwork that are the staple of my marathon training. It would allow me to push my body in shorter, focused efforts to get ready for CIM in December without taxing myself too much and compromising my fitness for Javelina.
What I ended up with, race-wise, is a hodge-podge of a lot of things. I enjoyed the warm weather in the desert north of Phoenix and ended up with a race that I can build upon. 20:31:45 and 8th place out of 250+ starters ain’t that bad.
Since I don’t have time to post a full report, I do want to touch on the positives and lessons from the race.
Positive 1: As always, the "crew" and pacer were awesome. Thanks to my wife Wilma, Rick and Lori for putting up with me. They got me what I needed in a timely manner and kept me smiling. Lori also had to put up with my stupid dry heaving 2-3 times over the final 20 miles. I sounded awful but hey, great ab workout!
Positive 2: My first 4 laps were right on target. I planned to come in at the 10:25 mark and ended up coming in at the 10:32 mark. I had banked a little bit of time over the first 3 laps and used it to slow myself on the 4th lap when the heat was at its most intense bearing down on people. While I think a change of clothing (going long sleeve to limit sun exposure or desert hat) and a little better electrolyte management on the 3rd lap could’ve yielded much better results, I was still able to clock a 3 hour lap (+6 min. break at main aid station). I allowed myself the space to slow down during the most intense sunlight, which resulted in a much faster 2nd half of the lap than 1st half.
Positive 3: My placings at the end of each of the first 4 laps were 20th, 16th, 12th and 9th. You can’t always use placing as a measure of strength, but consistently moving up the board in a race which always has folks blowing up later on was a good indicator that I was on the right track. I left myself more than enough room to make a run at 2nd or 3rd place based on my pacing and the eventual final times.
Positive 4: Even in a distressed physical/mental state, I still finished in 8th place. This is probably more a function of survival and grit than it is anything else. Battling most of the day with some top notch runners (and people), it’s good to outlast some of those folks (including some well-known names) even if it was a struggle. Top runners learn how to grit it out when things don’t go right.
Lesson 1: My NUUN tablets go everywhere with me. There is such a thing as not being flexible enough as far as food/drink, but considering the results of this race, a consistent flow of NUUN could’ve kept my GI from getting distressed. Instead, I allowed myself to go out there and take in the Gatorade mix they had at the aid stations. The beauty of using NUUN is the ability to accurately control electrolyte intake. While the aid station volunteers do a great service by providing electrolyte mixes, it may ultimately do a disservice by not giving you what you, the individual, properly need. The distress ultimately increased my lap times on the crucial 5th and 6th laps, where I should’ve made a good push for 3rd place instead of floating in 7th through 9th place. By itself, that should’ve gotten me back in the 18:xx:xx range. The constant flow of NUUN throughout Firetrails is definitely a big difference between the stronger finish there and the grinding finish that Javelina became.
Lesson 2: Now that Javelina is over, I think there are positives as well as key areas of improvement that I’ve already identified as I look at what kind of running goals I have for the next 12 months. I haven’t raced much as far as volume since the San Diego 100 slogfest, but each time I have raced has been a good result: Angel Island 50k: 5th place, 4:25. Badwater: 16th place, 31:33:13. Firetrails 50: 5th place: 7:25. Javelina 100: 8th place: 20:31:XX. Good, but not great. If my closing at Badwater (final 12.2 mile climb to Whitney Portal) and Javelina had been more on par with the rest of the race, the finishing places and times could’ve been much better. But, the fact is that at the time, maintaining a good time by not having a bad blow up and setting the foundation for ’10 was more important. I’ve done that and considering the brutal 2.5 month stretch with shin splints earlier in the year, I can be happy about that. I chopped 6 hours off my time in ’08 at Badwater and 5 more hours off my time in ’09. If I do it in ’10, what should I shoot for? Not sure.
Now that ’10 is fast approaching, it leads more into a discussion about what I need to do in the next 6 months to make ’10 the best year yet:
1) First Things First: Running 2:49-2:52 at CIM is clearly the first priority. 2:50 is around the upper marathon time limit for winners of 100 mile races as far as having sufficient leg speed to pair with top-level endurance in order to compete well. It will be tough, but some of my most recent tempo runs and interval times grade out on target in this regard.
2) First 100 Mile Race of ’10: The Rocky Raccoon 100. I’ve internally debated this quite a bit over the past few days. Admittedly, Rocky is not exactly a scenic course and with some course alterations put in place this past year, there are less and less of the clear views to enjoy the night sky. In addition, there is less of the “race course straight” trail which has been replaced by some much windier sections. This should lead to a relative increase in times for those pushing the envelope. BUT, I seem to respond well to resting the last half of December and getting off my butt in January to train. Plus, I owe this race a much bigger effort than I’ve had the 2 times I’ve run it. Because of the very real possibility of running sub-18 hours on this course, I would probably judge my performance on some different time metrics as well as overall placing. Still, I can’t accept setting my sights on anything slower than 18 hours. It would be a good opportunity to work on the racing aspect of ultra-running.
3) Miwok 100k: Regardless of whether I get into Western States, I will go all-out there (assuming I get into Miwok). It will be Firetrails^n as far as the intensity with which I plan on racing. I have never done Miwok but considering that the race is run on trails that I frequent all the time in training, I should be able to test myself against pre-defined small sections of the course prior to race day. Course knowledge should be valuable as far as understanding how to best use my energy. I’ve already started studying splits for the race and will test those splits to get a better idea of just how low I can drop it at this race. Right now, a rough baseline would be sub-9:45 hours, although that’s my starting point which can be adjusted accordingly.
4) 0 DNFs: This one is the most important goal of all, because even if I blow up at any race, I can not quit. I can’t let “I was going for it” be an excuse for mailing it in ever. Granted, if the injury was bad enough that a doctor/nurse seriously told me to stop, I would.