Tuesday, May 10, 2011

10:02:41, again.

Heading up from the beach on the second big climb. (photo by Brett Rivers)

I am not a superstitious person, but I do like to paint my toenails bright red and pink and sparkly, consume gnocchi in the days prior, and wear my lucky red undies the day before any race.  So, I could tell the Miwok weekend was off to a shaky start, when in unloading the car in Ashland on Thursday night post cinco de mayo margaritas, my lucky undies mysteriously vanished. They were in my hand, and then they were gone. I looked in the trunk, on the road, on the sidewalk, etc, but they were nowhere to be found. Sean was drunk--did he take them? Could I even justify running on Saturday?  Luckily for me, Darla came to the rescue on Friday morning, when while taking in the lovely landscaping found them under the neighbor's fence. That would have been fun for someone to explain. Regardless, while I had been questioning for weeks whether or not I should run Miwok because of a calf strain, I could not back out on the grounds of losing my lucky undies.

I went into Miwok with few expectations.  My 5 week training leading up to Miwok looked something like this:

April 3: calf strain
5 weeks out: 22 miles
4 weeks out: 5 miles (re-strain)
3 weeks out: 30 miles
2 weeks out: 54 miles (including 22 and 10 milers the weekend prior)
1 week out: 12 miles

I don't know what your training log looks like, but averaging one-third of my usual mileage is not what I hope to be doing 5 weeks out from a big 100K, and during what would be my big training push for Western States.  I did do more than just lame attempts at running during those 5 weeks, with a bit of spinning and walking, and bikram yoga 3-5 times/week.  I also saw my massage guy twice a week, as he worked out the issues in my calf.  But, one can not run a 100K on massage and bikram yoga alone, and my training log might have implied that a fast 100K was not in the cards.  The miles I did run were purposefully slow and flat, as I had re-strained my calf early on during an attempt to run uphill, so I had avoided all hill running until a couple of trial runs 2 weeks out--one of which was a hilly 8-miler, and the other, a hilly 22-miler the Saturday prior.  The 22-miler left me confident that my calf was on the mend and could handle hills.

My goals for Miwok were simple. First, to survive with calf intact, and second, to finish. Deep down I hoped that the 5-week taper was going to be the new hot training plan and demonstrate that training was truly over-rated, but I kind of knew that was a long shot.  I also needed to finish if I wanted to stay in the running for top-3 in the Montrail Cup, as Miwok would be my 3rd race in the series, with Western States my fourth, and four races score.  If I didn't finish, I couldn't score 4 races.  There is a small cash incentive hidden in there, which could equate to a long weekend in Hawaii if I get top-3. I also needed this long run as training for both Comrades and Western. A little close to Comrades, which is a little close to Western, but at this point, I'm out of shape and trying to get back into shape in 7 weeks.  Throw in 3 weeks in Africa for work (including a side trip to run Comrades) in a destination where running is potentially dangerous, and my Western training is pretty much screwed. Alas, I digress....

Last year I finished Miwok 4th in 10:02:41.  I had been gradually building back from a long lay-off due to a torn ankle tendon--my first real injury since college (it sounds like I'm always injured these days, but really, I've been pretty healthy for 25 years of running!), but had been running consistently leading up to Miwok. It was also my first big west coast race since moving out to Oregon, and I went in a bit starstruck, and nervous to be running with the big dogs. I ended up finishing between Krissy Moehl and Darcy Africa and was happy to finish between 2 ultra running stars I'd always admired.

Rather than go through a blow-by-blow of this year's version, let's just say I wasn't feeling great for most of the race.  My hamstrings were tight for the first 15, and my quads were trashed before we even got to the descent down into the turn-around at Randall.  If there is one lesson I learned from the 5-week forced taper, it's that while fitness doesn't fall off too much, quads seem to forget all downhill memory quickly.  I plodded through the first half, and was a little shocked when I wasn't that far behind heading into Randall.  However, my quads were already trashed, and weren't in any shape to make up any ground in the second half. Luckily, I didn't lose much ground either, except to some guys like Jimmy Dean and his training buddy Lukas, who both smoked the second half.  I had passed Helen at the turn down into Randall around mile 32 to move into 4th, and I managed to hold onto 4th until the finish. I was running, for the most part, but walking inclines I should have been running. My mantra for the second half hills was, "Me walk Miwok."  I need to work on a more positive mantra for next time....

I finished 4th in 10:02:41--the EXACT same time and place as last year.  Bizarre, no?  Last year I was happy with my run, and I should be ecstatic to have run the same time this year with my calf still intact considering the past month, but I can't say that I feel happy about the race. Instead, I mainly still feel frustrated.  Frustrated for where I am right now, and for what is coming up.  It's like cramming for a final exam, which you have a sneaking suspicion you could fail at miserably. 

On a more positive note, I was super excited to see Pam in the lead coming out of the turn-around and to hear at the finish that she'd run a strong second half for the win. It's great to see Pam win a big one, and get some of the credit she is due. And with Meghan in second, Oregon took 3 of the top 4 spots on the women's side--not too shabby.  Also, many thanks to Jimmy Dean for his kind words on course.  Most runners are friendly and positive while out there, but Jimmy went above and beyond and was a super positive influence out there. I was psyched to see him kill the second half of the course and finish well under his 10 hour goal. I just wish I'd had it in me to go with him.  Also thanks to my pacer, Sean, for putting up with grumpy Amy. And to the Oregon driving crew--Chris, Darla and Sean--for making the weekend a fun and memorable one. I'd rather drive the 11 hours with you all than fly any day--seriously. I'm looking forward to many more fun weekend adventures in the coming months. 

Next year I'd really like to run Miwok and kill it.  Screw 10:02:41.  


Ellie Greenwood said...

Love the report Amy and if nothing else, a fast and hard ramp up of the mileage to go towards Comrades and WS - see you in Durban!

Anonymous said...

Being "grateful" paid off! I'm so glad that you finished strong!

Unknown said...

So happy the calf is all good. Did you make out without any itchy oak? I have a tiny bit.

Nice work on Darla's part for finding your lucky underwear but I still am suspect of Sean's part in their disappearance. He has been seen wearing a pink vest.

Oh, and that time thing, that's sort of cool.

Gretchen said...

Great report, Amy, and I'm so glad the calf didn't give you any trouble! Yes, you should be happy with that time, but I totally get why you're not. The human heart can be a tough thing to satisfy. Using Miwok and Comrades to race your way into shape for States is really not such a bad plan though, and I think you're in contention for more than just 3rd in the Ultra Cup!

Anyway, nice job out there, good seeing you, and have fun in Africa!

Gretchen said...

PS - If it's any consolation, you guys probably won the carpool award. ;)

saschasdad said...

Wow, it took you long enough to finally figure out what really happened to those little red undies!

My pleasure to finally be able to pace you, Amy. You're a tough chick out there.

Thanks for being part of the cool carpool! Super fun weekend, indeed.

Olga said...

Wow, same time, same place, same seconds! That is creepy! You better make sure next year you don't get any ankle/calf/crap stuff that will put you into same training of 1 run per month! Amy, I think you did awesome, totally surprised how you can power it on so little serious training, speaks volums about your natural talent. I agree though, lets have that talent unleash and show what you've got!

SteveQ said...

Same exact results, both after injuries... let's hope next year goes injury free and you crush the course, but I'd say you did amazingly well for the training you could get in!

Melissa Schweisguth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sea legs girl said...

Amy, you have such a great, understated sense of humor. No, you are not superstitious in the least ;). That is absolutely wild you ran the exact same time. But I can't help finding it even more amazing that you recovered from your calf injury so quickly. Congrats on an awesome race, finishing right on pace with all of the stars :). I'm sure I'm not the only one who considers you among the great running stars and I often set the (unrealistic) goal of one day trying to keep up with you in a race. A girl can dream.

ultrarunnergirl said...

Funny how sometimes it feels like we are running hard and fast and other times like we're sucking wind - but our times don't match our perception.

Sounds like all the "rest" you had made up for the lack of mileage. Interesting.

Either way, congratulations on a fine finish!

Can't wait to hear all about Comrades.

ALM said...

I think I am going to initiate some lucky panties into my pre-race list of things I must do before the race! That is very funny.....
Great job at Miwok, especially since you have not been running your usual mileage with the usual effort. I, too, wish I found somewhere that training is over-rated, especially when injured. It has not worked for me either though. At least you know that you have not lost any fitness it you can perform this well under said circumstances. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Great report! Glad to know others are also "not superstitious" but take note of what to wear, eat, etc. before a race- I'm not alone. :)