On May 7, the long wait will be over and the first goal race of 2011 will begin. For what feels like an eternity, I’ve been training for the 2011 Miwok 100k with little reward beyond the post-long run trips to In-N-Out. With the Lake Sonoma 50 cancelled and the first 2 months of the year yielding a few opportunities to train by running some shorter distance races (3 half marathons, 25k trail race, 50k trail race), most of my training has been alone without much more than my thoughts, my prayers, my music and the sound of silence. And yes, every once in awhile, the sounds of wildlife rustling in the bushes. The races yielded a mixed bag early in winter training; the trail races were steady and crisp while the road races seemed more erratic and lacking in consistent rhythm/speed. This was a bit of conundrum, especially since it would seem more difficult on the ever changing terrain in trails races to develop a rhythym than the flatter, faster road races.
All the while, I simply kept making my re-acquaintance with the Miwok course (http://www.run100s.com/miwok/), using it for all my long runs in order to brand its twists, turns, ups and downs into my mind. Like a NASCAR driver at a race course, I’ve seen every angle and hopefully understand where to accelerate and where to lay off the gas. I ran the old course to help benchmark my fitness against previous racers and ran the new sections (most of which are the old sections in reverse) to help benchmark the time and effort difference. To say I ran out of gas last year after reaching the turnaround would be an understatement. What felt so promising over the first half of the race to finish around 9 hours ultimately became a grind. My legs became heavy on the returning climbs with only the finish line helping to spur me on in the last segment. The encouragement from runners still marching towards the turnaround and the views of Pacific Ocean expanding limitlessly on my right just weren’t inspiring enough.
In setting my goals for 2011, I shied away from predicting placing or time. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a time in mind for this race, but it does shift the focus to the process of building a foundation and that if I did that, good things would happen in biggest races. I wanted to put together a string of quality runs and quality weeks that reflected an honest attempt at developing consistent excellence while digging deeper into the core of who I am. I want this race to serve as a benchmark to come back to one of the principle reasons I started this crazy running adventure; engage God.
Maybe in recognition of this and simply the need to block out things which tend to distract me, I’ve tended to shun running with other runners this year in favor of running solo. While I’ve had company on a couple occasions and had a couple folks come out to crew some runs to simulate the race, I’ve spent significant amounts of time just being by myself. I rarely carry my phone with me on the run, so there have been no running pictorials to show. I’ve put few blog posts about the substance of my training, apart from the occasional Facebook status update. I think the only true record about my training miles is in a small Memopad file on my Blackberry. It was a time to still my mind and find peace in a world surrounded by chaos and uncertainty, much like it was back in 2001 running in the darkness on the perimeter road around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.
I think in the midst of all this goal setting and experiencing the ups and downs of racing last year, I sort of lost track and kept focusing on what a clock or results sheet had to say about me. In the quest for faster times, I changed my focus. It showed up in ways that go unnoticed to most; the music I loaded into my iPod, the emotional swings during races and even in how I viewed the other racers. The things that I was using to focus myself were slowly pulling me away from reason I started this journey in the first place.
Sure, there are other reasons why I enjoy this long distance running, but none are as important to me as this one. In the Old Testament, I imagine what it must have felt like for Jacob wrestling with God and I see my own struggles with him played out in my everyday life as well on those select race days throughout the year. In my desire to engage God, there’s a desire to see the best in myself and the best in God played out on the landscape before me. All runners have their own reasons for taking on challenges like running 100 kilometers through hills of Marin County. Some want to see what their best effort yields, others may be wrestling with their own internal struggles and yet others may be simply seeing what’s out on the horizon. The answers to the questions may be coming soon.....followed by new questions, new journeys and new adventures. :) Godspeed.