Friday, May 9, 2014

April and Miwok Postmortem

Closed out April just shy of 175 miles over 19 runs. The meat of the month consisted of Hell’s Hills and a 33 mile HSP run a couple of weeks later. It was a pretty successful end to a more-or-less successful 4-month training cycle ahead of Miwok. No lengthy downtime meant decent consistency. More hill work would have been nice, but a sore foot and quad after Hell’s Hills shelved those plans.
The good training base instilled cautious optimism going into Miwok. My concerns (in order) were: (1) metatarsal pain in the left foot, (2) trashing the quads too early, (3) nutrition/stomach, and (4) plain old endurance. The foot was at the top of the list both because it was such an issue only a month earlier at Hell’s Hills and because I knew that once it began to hurt, it would not go away. Unlike the other concerns, the foot was a problem that could not be solved during the course of the race. But, knowing that there was essentially nothing I could do about it, I didn’t dwell on “what if” too much.
Race morning started with a 2:00 a.m. wake up, after a surprisingly good 6 hours of sleep (yes, thanks to the time change, I was able to fall asleep at 8:00 p.m.!). The trip to Stinson Beach was easy and I found myself milling in and out of the Community Center with another 400 or so anxious runners. The weather was perfect – cool but not uncomfortably so. I positioned myself in the back 1/3 of the start pack and at 5:00 a.m. sharp, we started. Well, sort of. We rolled forward for about 20 seconds until the pack was force-fed into the narrow Matt Davis trail.
"You want 400 of us to go there?"
This process was not quick, and I found myself standing around for at least a couple of minutes until I was drawn into the singletrack climb. With so many people, the going was very slow, but it turned out to be a nice way to warm up gradually and slide into the day. In fact, being enveloped in the conga line made the biggest climb on the course go down almost painlessly.
After maybe 45 minutes, we emerged above the dense undergrowth of the Matt Davis and onto the exposed hillside Coastal Trail. As I expected, the trail was super thin, cambered, and somewhat overgrown. In short, a real mess. But for whatever reason (maybe because I had dreaded this section for so long), I was pretty blasé about the shitty footing. It was what it was. After about 30 minutes or so, the trail entered the trees, widened, and took a noticeable downhill trajectory. The combination was wonderful, as I was finally able to let the legs open up a bit. That lasted all of 3 minutes before I caught a root and got up close and personal with the trail. Hard. But other than scraped up palms and torn up knees, everything was intact. A few minutes later, we emerged at the Bolinas Ridge AS, where I was a little miffed to find that I was already 30 minutes behind my planned pace. After a brief stop to re-tie my shoes, I was off down the very runnable Bolinas Ridge fire road. Yay!
The joy was cut short by the first inkling of pain in the left foot. Not bad at first, but not even 7 miles into the race, it was enough to cause a lot of concern. And, unsurprisingly, it didn’t fade away. In fact, it just got worse. By the time I hit the descent down to the Randall Turnaround, every step hurt. For a bit, however, the fun of the descent (nothing like it around here) mitigated the pain. I hit the AS 34 minutes off my pace, which meant I had estimated the Bolinas-Randall section pretty accurately in my planning. On the long climb up I noticed that my legs still had pretty good pep. But, oh, the foot. Climbing hurt like hell, as the flexing of my toes exposed the metatarsal heads to full impact. Even the super-cush Olympus didn't help. So, while the climb wasn’t all that bad from a physical endurance perspective, almost every step of it ranged from moderately painful to excruciating.
Back on the ridgeline, I decided not to wait any longer and, in a last-ditch effort to turn things around, downed 3 of the 4 Advil I had budgeted for the race. But an hour or so later when I made it back to Bolinas AS, I couldn’t discern any difference. So I sat down, took off my shoe, rubbed my foot, and waiting for fellow Houston runner, Michael Dino, to show. My plan was to maybe run the long Coastal Trail section to the Cardiac AS with him, both as a way to keep moving and to help distract from the pain with a little conversation. But when Dino rolled in maybe 5 minutes later, he was having stomach issues and wisely was in no hurry to get back out until he solved them (Dino went on to a gutsy 16-hour finish). I decided to take off at a walk and figured that he would catch up at some point. After a bit, I glommed on to a group that was running at a nice, easy clip (interspersed with a bit of walking) and just focused on enjoying what I could. Dino eventually caught up and we continued down the narrow (but beautiful) trail. I knew my day was over, as the foot continued to kill me and, even worse, had led to some overcompensation issues on the right side. While the initial plan was to gut it out to Cardiac and head back to Stinson via the historic Dipsea, when we hit the intersection with the Matt Davis, I made the executive decision to call it a day there. I told Dino I’d try to meet him at Muir Beach, bid him farewell, and hobbled down the steep 1.6 miles back to Stinson.
Back at the Community Center, I officially dropped and was about to begin the trek back to the car when co-RD Stan Jensen told me to hold on while he got my swag bag together. I protested that I didn’t need one, but he wouldn’t hear it and loaded up a quality collection of stuff, including the traditional bomber of Lagunitas brew (this time a mighty fine IPA). Class guy who has done a lot for the sport over the years. Not a terrible way to close out a disappointing race.
So, what to do now. . . . With another Houston summer ahead, the running focus will turn to consistency and quality over quantity. I’d like to be able to log 35-40 mile weeks for the next 4 months, working in some regular harder efforts to improve leg speed. Ideally, I’d like to roll into September in the sort of shape that will provide lots of options for the Fall/Winter racing season. Also, while entering a big race provides motivation, the most satisfying part of the last few months has been the mundane stuff – just getting out there every day and clicking off the miles. For some reason, the last couple of summers have invited that kind of consistency. Hopefully, this summer will be no different. Time to sweat. . . .