Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Miwok 100K, the minimalist approach.

My goal for Miwok was to enjoy a nice long run in a beautiful setting at a controlled pace.  I didn’t want to get caught up in the race, and really just wanted to finish.  My confidence needed a finish—not a failed effort at an unrealistic pace.  I was definitely not over-trained for Miwok, and questioned whether it was smart to go 62 miles on my base, which I had been building up slowly after taking November and December completely off from running, and much of September and October off, as well.  I also had a couple of nagging issues, a tender right ankle tendon and sore left hamstring, which I hoped to not make any worse.

In general, I don’t keep a running log, although I’ve started to over the past 6 weeks to keep track as I work my mileage back up.  I’ve started various logs at different points in time, but knowing my lifetime mileage has virtually no interest to me, and most logs I’ve started die out after a few weeks.  I also don’t plan what I’ll be running from one day to the next.  That’s not to say that I have no training plan.  I’ll admit, it’s not a strong plan, but it’s there in the back of my head, which is also where I log my mileage in the short term.  I typically keep a weekly mileage tally in my head, aiming to hit typically between 50-70 miles/week—it’s sometimes as low as 40 and rarely over 85.  My 5 week average working up to Miwok was about 55 miles/week;  I had done one long run of 27 miles, and just a handful of runs (4) over 20 miles in the past 4 months, after the long lay-off due to some angry ankle tendons.  I signed up for Miwok while still wearing a boot back in December, and was told by my chiropractor/graston guy that it was a “very unrealistic goal.”  Unrealistic or not, I need a goal in the future to deal with the frustration that forced inactivity brings.  So, I set a lofty goal and slowly worked my way back into it.  Over-trained, definitely not, under-trained, probably.

Leading up to Miwok, I had dropped out of the Peterson Ridge Rumble 3 weeks prior.  In dropping out of a 60K (for ankle issues—see previous post) I decided that running Miwok, a 100K, wasn’t a good idea.  If I couldn’t make it 36 miles, how could I justify making the trip to Miwok to run 62?  Logic doesn’t always win out.  I went out the weekend after Peterson and told myself that if I could make it 30 miles, I could justify running Miwok.  I made it 27, didn’t feel awful, and decided that I could probably suffer through 62 without permanent damage.  My doctor promised me that my ankle wouldn’t fall off, and I decided that I was a head case, and was just using it as a crutch, anyhow.  At the same time, the plans for the weekend away were already in the works.  I would run Miwok, and then take some time off to rest my new sore spots.  Another friend and I had started making plans to do ‘Tour de Hood’ on June 5-6, so I decided I’d make it through Miwok, and then give myself May to turn into a road biker and rest my right ankle issues and left hamstring, which had been irksome for about a month. 

I didn’t get nervous or really think much about the actual race until Wednesday night when I glanced at Gary Robbins’ blog, and then Karl Meltzer’s who both mentioned me as one of the top-ranked women (well, Karl gave me credit for the best chance the east coast had to break into the top 5—while I remain happy to represent the VHTRC, I moved from DC to Portland back in November).  I don’t really see myself in that category, and while it was nice to be mentioned, it caused a bit of an anxiety attack.  I had to remind myself of my primary goal, which was to keep my head out of my ass, and finish. 

This is already getting long, and haven’t even gotten to the race yet, so I’ll summarize quickly.  What went well:

1.  I stayed with my plan, and I went out slowly, but not too slow, and continued to pick off people all day.  I didn’t get sucked into racing early, and that was a good thing based on my fitness level.  I was probably solidly in 7th or 8th once the initial beach-to-trail congo line and first hill out-and-back thinned people out, and worked my way up to 3rd, albeit for about 5 seconds, as we headed into the mile 48.5 aid station.

As a side note, I entered the aid station in 3rd, immediately after catching up to Jenn Shelton, but Krissy and Darcy were right behind me, so we all came into Pan Toll within 5-10 seconds of each other.  I left in 5th, but downing a bottle of Ultragen had been on my mind for about 10 miles, and I took some extra time to do so.  I was pretty content with 5th, and feeling the fact that I had not done anything even half this long in 8 months. And the Pan Toll aid station flurry was stressful; it took a bit of wind out of my sails, and drinking 20 oz. of Ultragen had me in need of a slow period to get things settled in my stomach.  So, we plugged along, and I had some low points and lacked the motivation to try to catch up.  I had no idea that Darcy had gotten off course until we were about a quarter mile from the top of the last climb, when Alan mentioned that Darcy was right behind us.  Alan mentioned that if I had anything left, I should probably use it on the downhill, and I did.  The last 2 miles is almost entirely downhill along a popular hiking path.  And being close to SFO and Rodeo Beach there were many small dogs, families, etc, so I tried to maneuver my way downhill as fast as possible without flinging any miniature poodles out of my way in the process. There had been pre-race guidance that we were to avoid touching hikers at all costs.  So we sped downhill at what felt like breakneck speed; my Garmin registered 5:20 when I glanced down at it at one point—definitely faster than I wanted to be going after 60 miles of relentless climb and descent.  But it was fun to finish strong.  And to finish right in between 2 of my ultra running idols (even if only because one of them got off course).

2.  Having a pacer worked out really well.  I hadn’t lined up a pacer, but when I came into the mile 42 aid station, Alan Abbs told me that he was jumping in with me.  Sweet!  His runner had dropped and had encouraged him to jump in with me.  Having pacers in 100 milers to date hasn’t added much benefit, I don’t think.  I’m not sure why, but maybe because they were friends, and I felt no guilt for a slow slogging pace.  But having Alan behind me caused me to run more than I probably would have otherwise.  Regardless, the company and conversation made the last 20 miles infinitely more enjoyable, and his noticing Darcy behind us at the top of the hill, spurred a finishing kick I didn’t think possible.   

3.  Overall, I was happy that I could complete the distance in a time I was very happy with, without many long runs to date.  It seems to show that there is some muscle memory there, and that I haven’t lost too much in my time off.  I haven’t run a ton of 100Ks (Coyote 2 Moon, Fuego y Agua and Waldo), and comparing times on different courses is useless, but it was a 2-hour 100K PR.  4th woman in 10:02.  Pretty psyched based on the company. 

4.  My hamstring and ankle issues that had been bugging me leading up to Miwok disappeared during the run.  Let’s hope they’re gone for good.  I’ll continue to do my PT exercises, bikram yoga (for ankle stability) and more regular massages to encourage them to stay away.

5.  I was in surprisingly good shape afterward.  Definitely walking funny on Sunday and into Monday, but went for a 4 mile run on Tuesday and didn’t feel bad.  I feared that the sprint to the finish would completely trash my quads, but it didn’t.

What I need to work on:
1.  Not letting where people are around me change my rhythm and pace.  This statement is probably the opposite of what it sounds like.  I’m not saying that when I get in front, I back off.  I’m saying that when I’m behind, I back off for fear of passing.  Sound odd?  Well, it might be.  I can remember coming into an aid station early on, and Alan mentioning that I was closing on 4th and 5th.  My response was “eeks.”  Meaning, I don’t really want to close on 4th and 5th.  And when someone told me we were a minute or two back of Jenn Shelton and closing, my internal reaction was “oh crap.”  Competition has always scared the crap out of me, and while ultras are way less stressful than the mile, I still have issues.  I love the competitive aspect after a race, but during it, it causes a fight or flight reaction, that trends toward flight in a reverse direction.  

2.  I’ll admit—I could probably benefit from a more strategic training plan.  I might work on that in the coming months.  I've considered getting a coach, but go back and forth on that one.  I think I know enough about training plans to write my own, but there is also something about being held accountable. But I think there’s something to be said for not taking things too seriously, as well, going out when you feel like for paces and distances that feel good.  In ultra running, where so many of us seem to be life-long runners, keeping the fun in it, and keeping it light might promote longevity.  But a plan might lead to some faster times.  It’s interesting to compare approaches, and think about whether someone that takes a 70 mile/week approach to training is at an advantage or disadvantage to someone that takes a 110 mile/week approach. Is one better?  After a certain level of fitness, are ultras over a certain distance enough of a mental game that if you have the base and muscle memory to complete the distance, is it more mental than physical, and higher mileage approaches don’t reap the added benefit?  Of course, as I’ve mentioned, my mental game needs some work, as well.  I’ll never be a 100+ mile/week runner, but I guess that’s all about personal choice and what one’s body will allow.  Mine seems to reach the break-down limit at about 80.

3.  Learning what poison oak looks like and more careful cleansing with Technu afterward to avoid the pain I'm in now.  I used it, but it didn't seem to help my left arm which looks like a burn victim at this point (that's my arm pictured at right after about 3 days on drugs).  I'm on Prednisone, and it's clearing up slowly.  I'm super susceptible to poison ivy, but this was my first introduction to poison oak.  It sucks, big time.  I never thought I'd say that I miss poison ivy, but I do.   

Overall a really fun day on a beautiful, beautiful trail with a great group of people. The volunteers were really top notch, the race was extremely well-run and the course well-marked.  I will definitely be trying to get into Miwok again and again.


Ronda said...

Nice job Amy. Obviously your current plan works. Glad your injuries adapted on the fly!

Unknown said...

Amy, great race report and reflection. Awesome race. So much of what you say rings true with me.

I've also considered getting someone to be accountable to as my training tends to be erratic and inconsistent. I overdo it, underdo it... finding a balance with everything else in life is difficult.

Olga said...

I think it's your longest post ever:) It was awesome to see you move up, especially after your email about ankles and lack of training. Re: mental competitiveness. I hate passing because it puts a starin on me to keep ahead. I rather not have any strains:) Re: coach/training plans. Most of us do enough to write plans (not to mention I've been coached a couple of seasons before), but it's that "accountability" that keep me honest. On my own I usually start, and fall off in a couple of months. Now, about that "long term fun" vs "faster times"...I guess that's why I go cycles, laly-gagging then training. I get bored with eigher if lasts too long:) Welcome back! Send me positiive thoughts next weekend!

amy said...

Thanks Ronda and Ayarella.

Olga, I am sending SO many positive vibes your way for MMT. What a great event--I'll be anxious to read your report and hear what you think of it--some of my first trail running experiences were on those rocks and it's a personal favorite.

ultrarunnergirl said...

Hooray! Glad you got your finish, and stayed near the top to boot. So happy for you. I'm excited to hear all about your cycling in the coming months.

sea legs girl said...

Hey Amy. Wow. I have to say when you commented on my blog I didn't realize you were the famous Amy Sproston. And how exciting also to realize that you have a blog! Congrats on such a solid and really impressive race! Must feel great after dealing with injuries for a while now. It was an interesting detail that running with your surprise pacer Alan helped so much. Also, I can't help but be amazed that you are such a successful runner without a specific training plan. But I agree with Rooster, whatever you are doing obviously works :). Well, you've got me intrigued now and I hope you don't mind that I link from my blog to yours.

Scott Mason said...

Looking real strong Nannie,, wow,

Nice work!

amy said...

Hi SLG, thanks for the comment, but famous? ;) I've linked your blog from mine, as well.

Thanks Kirstin and Scott. I'm starting to feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope to have an injury-free summer.

Anonymous said...

I loved the report ~ racing is scary to me too! Great work ~ I knew you'd do good!

kelly said...

You ran a great race, Amy, and it was great to finally meet you. I hope your recovery has gone well and you have an injury free season. Take care and I hope to see you out on the trails.

Meghan said...

Hey, you have a blog! Nice to meet you at Miwok! It was fun to hear this debative internal dialogue and to recall that you looked calm and collected out on the course. Seems as if our minds are always trying to wrap themselves around something. :)

Oh wow, that poison oak looks terrible. I hope the suffering is about done now.

Congrats on running strong, and best wishes on an awesome running season! See you again, hopefully!