Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dec/Jan - Avalon and Beyond

"Today, you have %100 of your life left." - Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys Coach 1960-1989)
The most beautiful sunrise.  Mile 10 of Avalon 50

I don't even know where to start, other than by saying that the last 6 weeks have been some of the best I can remember.  I've run farther and faster than ever before, and have spent quality time with family and friends.  I've been incredibly lucky, and am SO THANKFUL for my life.

I ended 2010 on top of a mountain with 20 AMAZING and INSPIRING friends, and started 2011 by running down that mountain in the dark.  That run was the beginning of an epic 39 mile weekend with 9500 feet of climbing that ended a 59 mile week.  New years day was spent on parts of the AC course with Dom and Katie, followed by a burger and a beer.  The next day I ran the Boney Mountain course with a bunch of Coyotes in the rain.

For the last few months I've wanted to run 50 miles, and on December 27th, 2010 I registered for the Avalon 50 Mile Endurance Run.  I'd been considering it for a while, but was hesitant because of the problem I've been having with my metatarsal.  After trying some new shoes and wearing my VFF's more often, I decided to give it a shot.  I knew that even if it dropped, I could probably handle the pain.  Also, it's not like I'm going to stop running completely to let something that doesn't even hurt most of the time heal.  Stopping wouldn't even guarantee that it'd heal, either.  I just can't stop.  It's stupid, I KNOW. Anyway, I consulted with Jimmy and decided to register for Avalon.  From December 27th until January 15th(Race Day), I couldn't stop thinking about the race.  Would my foot hold up?  If it didn't, would I permanently injure myself?  Would I run into other problems? CRAZY, but whatevs.

I had 2.5 weeks to prepare for the race.  I wanted to get in at least 1 50+ mile week before I ran a 50 miler, so as mentioned above that week I ran 59.  It was a big jump from my previous high of 46 but I was feeling strong, so I committed and made it happen.  The next week I scaled back, doing about 19 easy miles during the week and another 26 on the weekend for a total of 45.  My one solid run of the week was with Lukas Temer, when we pre-ran the 13.5 mile Boney course.  We started around 530 AM in the dark, which almost always guarantees some beautiful scenery when the sun comes up.  After we were done I hung out at the finish line and watched the Coyote crew kill it.  Notably, Jimmy's Boney course PR of 1:41 and Crispin's first trail race time of 1:43 - AWESOME.  Although the 45 miles this week were almost as much as my previous high, I'd done quite a few 40-45 mile weeks in November and December so I still felt pretty strong.

The week leading up to the race was a nervous one.  My metatarsal had started hurting a bit during my run with Lukas, but I decided not to worry about it, as it has been pretty inconsistent and there's not much I could do about it anyway.  I did the Tuesday night SPEED workout with the Coyotes, and posted my FASTEST ever 2 loop negative split, with a first loop of 14:35 and a second loop of 13:50.  The loops are 2.1 miles, so our average pace was 6:57 (1st loop) and 6:36 (2nd loop).  I ran with Kevin Chan the whole time, and he and I both nearly puked afterwards!  AWESOME!  I didn't understand why I was doing a SPEED workout 4 days before my first 50 Mile race, but I trusted Jimmy and ran hard.  Thursday morning's Coyote run was up Westridge, and I took it super easy.  Annie and I did a 5 Mile loop with an average pace around 10 min/mile.  I wanted to run to the top, but Jimmy told me it would be a bad idea so I heeded his advice.  HOLY SHIT.  2 DAYS LEFT.

Thursday flew past, as it was my last full work day before the race.  I was booked on the 2 PM Ferry to Catalina with Jimmy on Friday, so I was planning on leaving the office at noon.   Thursday night I packed my bag and made everything ready for the race.  I woke up countless times, and dreamed about my race.  All week I could see Catalina looming in the distance on my way in to work.  When I woke up Friday I was SO EXCITED (man.  I need some new adjectives.  but seriously, I was really fucking excited and that's the best way to describe it).  I opened the office and got as much done as I could so Ryan wouldn't have too tough of an afternoon, then texted Jimmy to get our plan straight.  I left my office at 1145 and got to Jimmy's in time to wait for about 15 mins while he finished getting ready to go.  We grabbed Baja Fresh curbside and hit the road down to Catalina.  I had a double steak burrito with beans and rice inside.  It was dank. 

The 2 PM Ferry from Long Beach was ALL runners.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM knew Jimmy, and as we all talked, I couldn't help wondering what the next 24 hours had in store for me.  Would I even be finished running by 2 PM the next day?  PROBABLY NOT.  I was excited to see what this new distance held for me.  Excited about being a part of a race with so much talent.  Just STOKED (there's one!).  We got to the island and checked in to the hotel, an easy stroll from the port, and headed down to get some pizza and check-in with the race organizers.  These few hours on Friday evening moved so fast, even though we were all pretty relaxed.  At dinner we celebrated Sean O'Brien's 48th B-Day, had some laughs and talked about goals.  It was nice being around so many runners who were so supportive and had so much experience, as it really calmed my nerves.  I had no clue how much pain I would be experiencing in a few hours.  Kam and I went back to the hotel after dinner to make some PB and J sandwiches around 9 or so, and afterwards said goodnight.  I set my alarm for 4:15 and hit the hay, and didn't stir until that sucker went off.

And we're off!
I got dressed pretty quickly, grabbed my hand-held and backpack, and met the crew downstairs.  Jimmy had given me a "lucky bandana" to wear around my neck and soak with cold water when it got hot.  I had my headlamp, I was ready to rock.  I just want to re-iterate that I had ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING CLUE how hard it was going to be to run 50 miles.  I was jokin' around, having fun.  Woohooo, headlamps!  Hey Jimmy, who's SHORTS are SHORTER.  In 7 hours I'd be death marching up a hill in the BAKING FUCKING SUN and not able to drink enough water.  But I digress.  It was super exciting, and we all sort of milled around and chatted while we waited for the race to start.  We lined up behind an imaginary line, and the RD came to the front and said "OK, everybody ready to go?  Alright, GO." and that was it.

We morphed into a line of headlamps running up a hill and into the night.  We ascended approximately 1700 feet over the next 4 or 5 miles, and I took it easy.  I walked 2 mins, ran 2 mins.  Did this for what seemed like forever.  I never really got into a rhythm.  All I could do was listen to people chatting, and focus on my pace.  It was WEIRD.   Almost every run I go on now will start out with a pretty good feeling.  I love the feeling of moving, of my feet hitting the ground.  I used to dislike running, especially the first few miles, but that's gone.  This run was different, though.  I wasn't nervous, per se, but I just didn't feel that feeling.  I was focused on pace.  I got a weird competitive feeling.  I was getting passed by a lot of people who looked slower than me, but kept my ego in check and followed my plan.

The SUNRISE was the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise I've ever seen.  Seriously fucking serious.  I laughed.  I laughed out loud to myself when I looked back over my right shoulder and saw an indescribable array of colors.  I almost tripped, because I couldn't stop looking back.  A truck with a camera guy on it passed me, and although I had my headphones in and didn't even hear what he asked me, I said "did you see that SUNRISE?!?!?!?!".  Anyway, for the first 30 miles I just tried to take it easy and deal with things as they came.  I didn't have any too serious stomach problems, but my energy remained low and my feet were hurting.  The metatarsal thing started happening a little at mile 12 or so, but eventually the bottoms of both my feet hurt uniformly, so it was bearable.  I changed shoes at mile 18 into my Lunar Glides, and didn't feel the ground for the next 3 or 4 miles, then they started hurting again.

On my descent towards the mile 25 aid station I saw Jimmy on his way up the hill.  I'd been nervous for a while about what he would say when he saw me reaching that point an hour ahead of schedule, but at the same time was overjoyed to see a friend.  Having a tough day and knowing you still have another 4, possibly 5 hours left of running is a tough thing to deal with.  I used the toilet at mile 25 and was REBORN.  For the next 3 miles, I ran pretty quickly, at around 8 - 9 minute pace.  I felt pretty good, comparatively.  I saw a bunch of people on this out n back section, including Kam, and cheered people on their way out as I passed.  I briefly stopped at the a.s. again at mile 28 and then began the steep ascent back up the fire road.  I passed so many people as my headphones BLASTED "Separate Ways" by Journey, and I sang along accordingly.  Later, after the race, a dude came up and was like "Your singing was motiviating!".  Sweet.

I hit the top of the hill and focused on hydration and food as I ran down toward the Wacko aid station again (the place where I'd changed shoes earlier) which was now at mile 35.  I was pushing an 8 minute mile in some places, and passed a few people.  Somewhere along this stretch I remember thinking to myself that I was about to pass the 31 mile mark (the farthest I'd run until then) and that I was still able to jog.  When I got to the aid station I poured cold water all over my head, soaked my "Lucky Bandana" and WL headband and began the hike up the next hill.  This is when the race became brutal.  It's hard to comprehend how far you've gone, and how far you have to go.  The sun was beating down, I was power hiking every steep uphill, sore on the downs.  I couldn't drink enough water.  I kept wondering if I was doing better or worse than I should be.

Mentally, this was the hardest part of the race.  I was by myself, and when the hills were steep, all I knew was that there was an 11 mile climb.  I couldn't imagine being able to climb the way I was for 11 Miles.  LUCKILY I didn't have to.  The ascent became much more gradual, and life sorta became better.  I was hurting all over, still feeling dehydrated, concerned about water and salt intake and my stomach felt weird.  I couldn't really pee, but felt like I could.  Just generally uncomfortable for this entire climb.  There were a few times that I felt ok running in the shade, but then sure enough I'd get to a point where I needed to hike.  HOWEVER, as I continued moving forward I knew that I was getting closer and closer to the finish.
It hurt to WALK, it hurt to RUN.  Everything HURT.  But, the miles kept passing by.  Or I passed the miles.  At one point - I think it was about mile 39 - I passed a Buffalo.  I was so tired that I didn't really care.  I just thought:  Hmm.  If that Buffalo wanted to gore me right now, chances of me out running it in my current state are... slim to none.  Please.  PLEASE. Buffalo, don't charge.  And he didn't.  At some point I passed a super cool aid station where there was music, people drinking beers, a grill.  All sorts of stuff that I was too mental to take advantage of.  They filled my pack and I enjoyed some more of the cool water before moving along.  I was so happy to only have around 10 miles left.
Feelin AWESOME mile 45 ish.

Very pained smile @ Mile 47 or so.
The last 10 miles seem sorta blurry.  I don't remember that much in particular.  Only that at one point, I was upset with my shuffle for shuffling though the same music over and over (that I loaded it with) and not putting on what I wanted.  This was shortly before the last aid station, where I was nearly moved to tears by the people working there cheering me on as I approached.  It was maybe 5 miles out, that felt like 3.  I hit the paved descent (which I'm told was 2.5 miles) and passed a guy who looked pretty beat up.  I didn't know if I was going the right way or not, but by the time I thought I wasn't I'd descended so much that I just said FUCK IT.  Who was I kidding?  I wasn't going to run up any more FUCKIN' HILLS.  I cruised. and cruised.  and cruised.  Jesus.  Is this hill ever going to END?  Then I came around a corner and saw the most beautiful thing ever.  A little town called AVALON.  A BOARDWALK.  A FINISH LINE.  I started HOWLING at the top of my lungs.  Nobody could hear me, but I didn't care.  I cruised down the streets passing houses and such.  Hoping I didn't have to avoid a car.  I turned on to the last hill, and started sprinting down.  I saw Jonathan Bernard at the bottom and figured I'd toss my handheld for my sprint to the finish.
Dude!  SWEET!
As I got closer to the finish line, I heard bells ringing and people cheering and it was all a blur.  I was looking for my dad (who couldn't make it) and for Annie.  I saw Jimmy running towards me and I reached out and slapped him 5 as I ran past.  I heard people cheering my name and I crossed the finish line and Jimmy and Kate and Annie surrounded me and gave me hugs.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I was so happy to be finished.  I was so happy there were people there who cared about me.  I was so happy that I wasn't running.  It was UNREAL.  Kate almost immediately asked me if I still wanted to sign up for AC.  Jimmy said "Dude, now imagine feeling exactly how you feel right now and running another 50 miles.".  I told them I was still going to do it.  I tried to soak in the freezing water of the pacific but it was too cold.  Annie brought me a coke and a beer.  I sat down next to Jimmy, and it was FUCKING AWESOME.
The next 3 weeks were spent recovering.  My race performance and training earned me the honor of being the first ever COYOTE OF THE MONTH, and Coyote of the week.  I won 3rd in my division at Avalon.  I got a super sweet tile and some Moeben sleeves.  Basically, EVERYTHING that I could've asked for at the beginning of this year has happened.

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