Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Pleasure of Pain: Santa Monica 50K Report

"The Obsession with Running is Really an Obsession with the Potential for More and More Life"~George Sheehan

My friend Joe T has a rule that you shouldn't say something unless it is informative or funny.  I don't think bloggers generally follow that rule all of the time, but for your sake, I hope this race report will be both.

Although every race that I've run has been an exciting journey both leading up to and during the event itself, this race meant more to me than the previous 3.  It's hard for me to remember sometimes that I'm new to this sport.  Whether that even matters depends on who you ask.  Everyone has goals - short term or long term, professional, personal, spiritual, physical - it doesn't matter.   Everyone's got 'em.  I choose to set more goals than the average person, but not because I feel the need to have achievements.

I think I set more goals because I want to live a fuller life.  I want to have as many experiences as I can, and setting goals forces me to push my limits.  When the alarm clock goes off at 4:15 AM, and a choice has to be made, if I didn't have goals I would choose to sleep in.  I could just run a little after work, or not run as far.  Or not run at all.  But then, what would I do?  Just go to work feeling tired?  Afterward go and have some drinks somewhere, then go home and do it all again the next day?  I'm gonna give that idea the dolphin. You know.... eh eh (Dolphin noise?  No?  Not feelin' it?).  Whatever.

I choose to set goals that require me to live almost every day to the fullest.  Although I love running, in order to be driven to do what I love I need goals.  For me, the less achievable the goal, the better.  The harder I have to work, the farther that goal will take me on that journey.  For this race, my goal was to finish in the top 10 overall and in under 5 hours.  For someone with my running background, those goals were quite lofty.  In my mind they were attainable, though.  I mean hey, I'm a stud, right?  Don't answer that.

Anywho... I'd finished Bulldog in just over 5 hours, and felt more confident before this race in every aspect of my running.  Even though I took a month off from late September to late October, I'd gotten a few 45 mile weeks in leading up to the race, and ran strong at the end of my back to backs on the weekends.  At some points, Bowman and I had been running sub 7 minute miles on the downhills deep into our long runs.

The week before the race, the forecast for race day was cold and wet.  There was a 60% chance of precipitation.  Much of the course is on exposed hillsides overlooking the Pacific, so chances are it would be windy, too.  I still had high hopes, though, and wasn't too concerned with the weather.  What I WAS concerned with was the DUMB decision I'd made to buy a bed a week before to race instead of registering.  The registration fees weren't that much, but the bed was expensive, and I couldn't have both.  I figured that it was a smaller race and that it probably wouldn't sell out, so I could just register the Friday before the race when I got paid.  Thursday night I logged on to Facebook and saw a friends post that the race was SOLD OUT.  I was DEVASTATED.  I'd wanted so badly to run this race, and now it looked as though there was no chance I would be able to.  All because I chose to buy something that I didn't absolutely NEED, instead of registering to do something that I absolutely LOVE.  DEVASTATED.

Luckily for me, my friend GABI SCHENKEL knew the race director, and sent her an email for me.  Because of Gabi, I was able to run the race despite my poor choice.  Gabi, THANK YOU!  I was so relieved when I found out that I could still race, and I returned to my anxious and excited state of pre-race existence.

The day before the race, I relaxed.  I cleaned up my apartment a little bit, ate a lion's share of gelato, had a beer or two and went to sleep around 930.  The race wasn't until 830 Sunday morning, so I got a full 8 hours before waking up at 530 to eat breakfast and start my routine.  My roommate, Elya Beer, had given me a 25 dollar iTunes gift card on Saturday that he didn't need.  I bought some music that I'd been wanting for a while, loaded it up on my iPhone, and hopped in the car for my drive out to the Bu (Malibu).  It had been pouring rain when I woke up, but as I drove, the clouds started to clear up.  When I got to the start area it was gorgeous outside.  It was a little bit windy/chilly but comfortable racing weather.  I registered, met up with Bowman, and we put our drop bags at the pass through.

Pre-race pump up song:

The SM 50K course is two loops on the La Jolla Canyon/Valley trail, one loop in Sycamore Canyon, and one out and back on Ray Miller.  We started on time at 830, and Bowman and I settled in behind about 15 or 20 runners.  There was a 30K race also, which started at the same time, so we figured that most of the people ahead of us were in that race.  We ran the first mile a little fast at a 1030 pace (it's up a fairly steep hill in a canyon) but both felt pretty strong.  I was hanging behind Bowman, just watching his feet as we ran.  There was still a lot of mud on the course from the rain, and it weighed down our shoes as we ran through it.  Regardless, we kept pushing up the hill to Mugu Peak and didn't let it slow us down too much.  We were careful about our food and salt intake, eating every 20 mins and taking salt every 30.  There was one guy ahead of us for most of the uphill, who we ended up passing on the flat section through the valley.  He'd made some snarky remarks about our howling.  We didn't let it bother us.  We ran at a pretty quick pace back down the canyon but didn't push too hard.  When we got to the aid station at the bottom we both felt strong still, although my stomach had started feeling a little rough.

The first trip up Ray Miller felt pretty easy.  Although my stomach was still upset, we were running a lot of the uphill, and it was fun seeing the 18 K leaders coming down the trail.  At the top, I tightened my right shoe for the 2 mile-ish trip down the fire road to the next aid station.  This is when we made our first fairly large mistake of the day.  Even though we were only 10-11 miles into the race, we somehow let ourselves run at a sub 6 minute pace for much of the descent.  Although it didn't hurt at the time (it was actually super fun!) our mistake caught up with us on our way out of Sycamore canyon.  We decided to run the last section of fire road before the Firetrail started, and then recharge as we hiked up the single track.  Although we both said we were feeling good, I think we both knew we were more beat up than we should've been at that stage in the race.  Additionally, the end of the single track is up a super steep section of trail that neither of us were looking forward to climbing.  We pushed on, and hit the 15 Mile mark at around 2 Hrs. and 28 Mins into the race.

We were a little behind our sub 5 hr goal, but at that point we both decided to say "Fuck It" and just run the best race we could from that point on.  At this point, I could feel my 3rd metatarsal in my right foot when I ran.  It's been "dropped" since I got over the plantar fasciitis, and although I'd had some adjustments done by the chiropractor, it dropped again during this race.  Although it didn't cause major pain, the concern would weigh on me for the rest of the race.  It was actually pretty F-ing annoying.  Moving on.

We bombed it down Ray Miller (one of the most beautiful and run-able trails in So-Cal) and got to the aid station feeling pretty good.  I put my shirt back on to try and warm up a bit, and Bowman and I started our ascent back up the La Jolla Canyon trail.  That's when we really started feeling SHITTTTTYYY.  My legs were tired.  Every running step was hard, and I couldn't run for more than 2 minutes at a time uphill.  Maybe less.  Adam was getting lightheaded, and we were passed by a few people, including the 2nd female.  During our ascent up Pt. Mugu Adam told me to leave him, as he was really not feeling well and didn't think he could even run the downs.  I wasn't feeling great myself, but I pushed along into the abyss by myself.  Along the hillside overlooking the ocean I ran into the wind, dealing with the annoyance from my right foot and trying to stay hydrated.  Things weren't great.  I didn't want to run, but there was another guy who had passed me and I decided I wanted to make a race out of it.  Once we got to the slight downhill before the flats, I slowly moved closer behind him before he moved over so I could pass.  I ran ahead of him for the next two miles or so, and then stopped to take a pee.

This is when I knew that things were not so good for old Jorge.  First, peeing was difficult, then when I did my pee looked like Cholula.  Ok, maybe not that bad, but it was orange.  Around this time, the one guy passed me again (yep, while I was "peeing").  I knew I was dehydrated, and had been paying attention/was worried as shit about my water situation for the last few miles.  Well, I was now out of water, and was 2 1/4 miles from the next aid station.  DOUBLE SHIT.  Luckily for me, I had pride and nothing but downhill to keep me going.  I let my legs go and allowed the hill to carry me down.  I passed the one guy and saw people just starting their 3rd loops as I made my way down.

FINALLY!  I arrived at the aid station where CRAIG SLAGEL (the man, the myth, the legend) was dishing out delicious treats and GLORIOUS, GLORIOUS WATER.  He told me that I didn't look so bad, in fact, I'd be fine if I chugged a few bottles of water there at the station before starting my final climb up Ray Miller.  Additionally, my roommate ELYA BEER appeared outta nowhere to cheer me on.  I'd expected my little sisters to show up, but they forgot (what a surprise), so it was a great surprise to have a fan section.  Anyway, the one guy had rolled into the aid station a minute or so after me, and I wanted to get a head start going up Ray Miller.  I tried to leave the aid station looking strong to intimidate him going into the last climb, but I don't think it worked.  About 400 yards up the trail he passed me as I was taking in some calories.  BUMMER.

I asked the one guy how old he was to see if he was in my age group, and in fact he was.  I gave him a little congrats for running strong up the hill, and he replied that he had to get as much of a lead on me as he could while climbing because I would surely pass him on the downhill.  Well, I surely did.  Even though he ran every step of the ascent up Ray Miller (a truly impressive feat after running 26.5 hilly miles) he didn't gain enough distance on me to maintain his lead.  I ended up passing him halfway down the hill, and finished strong in 12th place in 5:46:06.  My legs were quivering, and I was wrecked, but it felt SO SO GOOD.

The Pleasure of Pain

That feeling is one of the things I love the most about running far.  To push through.  To do what I want .  That is freedom.  It gives a sense of confidence in all areas of life.  That regardless of what may happen, you can get through it if you want.  I haven't been in every situation, but I'm sure that practice doesn't hurt.

No comments:

Post a Comment