Way Too Cool 50k

Just getting to the starting line at Way Too Cool still standing, now looking back was a feat in itself. I left Seattle about a month ago and hit the road for Oregon, then SF, then ATL for work. While in Atlanta we worked liked dogs for about 10-14 hrs a day trying to get a huge project out the door. It was exhausting and I flew back to SF on Thursday before W2C so I could have at least one day in the right time zone. Going into W2C, I had a mixed bag of ambitions and goals. On the most fundamental level, W2C was a training run, a "controlled effort" as my coach Howard said. I wanted to run well and continue build up some confidence heading into my first "A" race of the season, Boston. That said, W2C is a highly competitive race and is one of the largest 50k races in the country, so I wanted to run well. I knew I would have to stay on top of myself during the race and manage my effort closely.

Hollis picked me up on Friday and we headed up to Auburn on Friday. I slept well and felt as rested as I could the next morning for someone who had averaged 4 hrs of sleep for nearly two weeks. I was feeling loose and limber and ready to run. My stomach was not really being my friend but sometimes that is just the way things go (and go and go and go, ok I'll stop).

We headed up to the start and I milled about saying hi to all the people I know. I felt like everywhere I turned there was another old friend to reconnect with or someone I know of to finally introduce myself to. It really seems to be a good cross section of "who's who" of ultrarunning, Andy Jones-Wilkens, Scott Dunlap, Dan Olmstead, Lewis Taylor, Eric Grossman, Karl Meltzer, Eric Skaden, Paul Dewitt, Rod Bien,Phil Kochik, Graham Cooper Meghan Arbogast, Bev Anderson-Abbs, Joell Vaught,Mark Lantz, Leor Pantilat, Caitlin Smith, Jenny Capel, Jean Pommier, Tim Twietmeyer, Mark Godale, Caren Spore and probably many more that I am leaving out. It is a huge field, 500 runners and the day was looking to have perfect weather, despite the clouds that rolled in early.

Before I knew it, we were lining up and I was saying a few last "hi's" before working my way up to the front of the pack. I wanted to get out early and burn a little bit at the start to get my legs going and give myself a little fun since I knew I would not be doing that for the entire race, in order to stick to my game plan. I hope someday I am able to come back to W2C and have it be more of a focus race since I think it would be fun to let it rip on that course. Off we went like a cannon at the start and I clipped along comfortably down the road behind the lead men and slightly behind Bev Anderson-Abbs and with eventual winner, Caitlin Smith. We went through the first mile at 5:59 which was pretty freaking blazing and didn't back of the pace much for the few miles except dictated by terrain.

The field thinned and we worked our way along the wide trail toward Highway 49. I fell into a comfortable pace and recentered on my goals and my ideal pace. The trail is absolutely beautiful and I just tried to find my mind, body, spirit space that I had found the week before on the AT. I just let myself float along and work my way up and up along the trail. Before I could blink, I had gone 15 miles and was heading up around the 7 mile loop turnaround. I saw Bev just slightly ahead of me and figured Caitlin was probably just slightly in front of her. I was surprised to see them since I thought I had consciously taken the throttle off and backed off, but took this as another reminder that I needed to slow the heck down. I am all for hammering at hammer time, but I also knew that I was hanging on by a thread to any semblance of energy and steam and if I pushed myself too hard I would end up paying a price in my recovery time and ultimately in running my goal at Boston. I decided to walk all the remaining hills no matter how much of a wanker it made me feel like it. The miles continued to clip away and I found myself wondering how and when that kind of distance started feeling "short".

Somewhere along the loop, Joelle from Boise, ID caught up to me and I said a quick hello and let her pass. It was funny, for as competitive as I sometimes can feel, I had no competitive instinct on this particular day. I was just doing my own thing and that felt pretty darn cool. I made it up the massive hill before the mile 21 aid station where I refilled my bottle for the first time and had a sip of coke. The VESPA was working its usual miracle and my energy was even and sustained. I was feeling generally run down though. My legs didn't feel tired, I didn't feel bonky, I just felt like I wanted a nap. I felt anemic. I felt the way I do when my iron is really low (which unfortunately, along with some other health concerns, seems to be pretty often), like my blood is just moving at a snails pace. Knowing I had just hammered out two hard weeks at work, I was not particularly concerned, but also knew there was not much I could do to aid in jovial resuscitation.

I ebbed and flowed with some runners in my relative pace window and we headed up Goat Hill to mile 26 aid station. I ate a Larabar and picked up litter as I hiked up the hill. My 100k teammate Meaghan came gliding past me and we chatted briefly before she danced up the hill like it was flat. Soon there after Nicola came along and passed me too. I recognized Nicola from her good performance at WR50 last summer. I kept up my systematic march up the hill and was very happy to see the aid station at the top. "Can we get you anything?" Came the question. "Yeah, the race finish would be good." I don't like feeling exhausted. Or more, I don't like feeling exhausted for reasons unrelated to what I am doing. It is just annoying.

I picked myself up mentally though and reframed my perspective as I left the aid station. Sure I was tired and not doing cartwheels down the trail since I was taking it easy, but so what?!?! I am immensely blessed. I am blessed to be able to physically, mentally and spiritually be able to cover that kind of distance. I am lucky to be able to go out on a beautiful Saturday morning and beat myself into a pulp and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. The last seemed more bareable, though I was no less tired, with my head on right. I knew that I had run the race I wanted to. I knew that I am primed and ready to have the year I want to. And on top of that, I still came in, in the top 50 of a very competitive race and 6th woman overall in 4:25:08 (though when I crossed the finish line the clock said 4:24 but hey who's counting?). It was a great day and after a bit of socializing with some great runners and my sponsors, Shannon at Moeben and Peter at VESPA, Hollis and I headed back to Sausalito. I am really happy I got the opportunity to run this race and definitely see myself returning in the future! Now, onwards to the big dance: Boston!

Meaghan, Me, Joelle, Bev and Nicola
Photo by Scott Dunlap