Thought 1: Sometimes getting to the starting line is the hardest part.
It’s cliche, but it’s so true. Focus and motivation have never been the problem for me, it’s controlling all the other variables in life that proves challenging when trying to be the fittest you possibly can on a specific day. Historically, injuries are the variable that i’ve struggle with the most leading up to a race. I’ve had my share of stress fractures, hamstring tears, glute strains, groin pulls, etc that have sidelined me in the last three weeks before a race.
Thankfully, in my “old” age, i’ve gotten better at detecting early warnings signs, taking necessary precautions, and just generally training smarter. But in my preparation for this year’s Way Too Cool 50km, I got thrown two curveballs in the 2-3 weeks before the race that had me wondering if I would make it to the start: Two straight weeks of stressful work deadlines, combined with two – count ’em – two nasty colds in a 3 week period. The second, which hit 8 days before Cool, was a real doozy. I ended up going on antiobiotics (for only the 2nd time in my life) 3 days before the race, and that thankfully got me over the hump enough to make the ‘go’ decision the night before.
I had wanted to run Way Too Cool for years but something would always come up that prevented me from, well, making it to the starting line (usually injuries…).
But there i was at the starting line on a beautiful sunny morning, a little worse for the wear, but there nonetheless… getting to the start was the hardest part, right?
Thought 2: I’d rather race my best against the best than win a race with no competition.
This year had Max King, Chris Vargo, Leor Pantilat and last year’s winner, Gary Gellin on the start line, so the challenge was certainly not over. Not surprisingly, the first three took it out hard and we hit the first 8 mi aid station in 6 minute pace. I decided to forgo my naturally tendency to be conservative, and hammered with them for those first 8 mi (“the end is going to hurt no matter what”, i told myself). After that, i let them go (not that i really had a choice in the matter), and settled into what would be a solo time trial to the finish, pushing my pace as much as possible. I felt on the edge the whole race, which in and of itself was an interesting thing to experiment with in an ultra. I struggled with GI issues a bit (i’ll spare you the details) but fueled right, never bonked, and held on for a solid 4th place (3:25:59 or 6:53/mi pace), under the previous year’s course record. I finished 4 minutes behind Leor, but a whopping 17 minutes behind Max King, who, as it turns out, was not hammering at the beginning, but simply running the same 6 minute pace he would continue the whole race! Incredible new course record for him.
So yeah, sometimes getting to the finish line is pretty tough too.
I feel fortunate to finally take part in it this classic spring event; it lived up to its stature as one of the best 50k’s in the country. Also thankful for the support of San Francisco Running Company, Injinji socks, and above all, for Kristin and Autumn!
Check out the Strava details here.