Sometimes we take risks and push ourselves to the edge, and sometime we hold back. Sometimes it is calculated, sometimes by accident. Sometimes it is necessary, and sometimes it is not. But one thing is constant; regardless of the outcome, learning occurs. Learning how much your body can take, learning how mentally strong you are, and learning what minor changes you can make for the next go around. This year for me is all about pushing barriers and learning from it, and that is what Ultra’s are all about!
When we were notified that the course was going to be changed from 62 miles to 37 miles, I started thinking about adjusting the race plan on pace. With Dylan, Gary, Ian, and Chris all on the starting line, I knew it was going to be 50K pace and then seeing who could hold on to give the strongest finish in the additional 6 miles. In reality, I knew Gary, Dylan, and Ian would likely be vying for the win.
Tia sent us on our way at 8:00am and the pace was as expected. We climbed Dipsea averaging 9-10 minutes miles, and then flew down the other side at 5:30 pace. By this time, there was already a gap between Gary/Dylan, Ian, and then me and Chris. We hit the flat trail heading to Muir Beach and we maintained a 6:30-7:00min pace. I was not thinking about anything other than nutrition as I paced off of Chris, chatting here and there.
As we hit middle green gulch, I was able to spot Dylan/Gary (~3 mins) and Ian (~2 mins) ahead of us. The pace on our climb seemed conservative and with about 400ft of climbing left, I decided to make a move and close in on Ian. I was within 30 seconds of him by the time I started the decent into Tenessee Valley and slowly passed him on the climb towards Rodeo Valley.
Heading up Bobcat, I realized that the effort I made early on was starting to take its toll on me. I slowed down and watched Chris reel me in. I was ok with this because I knew to continue to push as hard as I was with that heat would guarantee a blow up. Chris gained some distance heading into Tennessee Valley and moving along Pirates Cove. When I hit the turn into the Muir beach aid station, he was heading out. I was feeling ok enough at that point with 8 miles left and was thinking optimistically about the last stretch. I cruised semi-comfortable 7:45-8min miles between Muir Beach and the start of the last climb and as soon as I went from flat to ascent, I blew up completely. It is a roughly 2 mile climb and I immediately started a walk/run strategy, trying to preserve my spot in 4th. But that eventually gave way about ½ mile up and I ended in a death march up the remaining 1.5 miles. Ian caught me about ½ mile from the aid station and then as I hit the aid station Jean caught me. In retrospect only just a little more running would have kept me in 4th, but its that whole hindsight thing, and that’s my mental toughness lesson from Miwok. I downed ½ a coke and went on chasing Jean, when I kicked a root and saved myself from tripping. But, the cramps came on from the unnaturally movement. I walked up a few feet to grab my bottle and was passed by another runner. From there I cruised down to the finish, descending from Cardiac to the Finish Line in almost the exact same time as it took me to ascend… Yikes!
I’m happy with most of the parts of my race, but really suffered in the last climb. And in suffering, you can learn a lot! So what did I learn? First, the move I made up Middle Green Gulch and Tennessee Valley was likely too early. At that point I was not racing Gary and Dylan, I was racing Chris and Ian. There was no reason strategically to over-exert myself at that point and I paid the price. Secondly, I learned that I need to find a way to override that voice that told me I could not run at all in that last 1.5 miles of ascent. I for sure could have toughed out a strategy, like1 min run, 1 min walk, which I believe would have held my 4th place position.
A big thanks to Tia for her incredible flexibility after her permit was revoked to run the northern section of the course, and a huge thanks to the volunteers that make this race so fun (and possible).