THE Workout

Sunny, dry and warm like this, Sundays run was not.
Photo courtesy of Salomon Running.

Last year before I ran the WC100k, I had two phenomenal workouts in the course of 6 days. The first was a 40 mile road run in 4:46 and 5 days later I ran 35 miles at the same pace. Over my three years of ultrarunning, I feel like I have had a few of those workouts leading up to races but I never cease to surprise myself with those workouts. Pleasant surprise, naturally. Even though I knew I had been training hard, working at it, training smart, fueling and resting well, on a day to day basis I don't necessarily feel like I am floating effortlessly along, everything working in perfect harmony. I am more than happy to save that feeling for race day (hopefully). So when these workouts happen, I am always throughly tickled. Especially when they come in the nick of time, just when I am feeling downtrodden, dejected, demoralized and otherwise throughly destroyed.

Saturday was not one of those uplifting, feel good workouts. In fact, from the time we left the car I was skeptical about my body being willing to hang in there for the 26 miles we had planned. I was dragging. I felt exhausted, just spent. Done. Cooked. Over. I couldn't talk myself out of it. I focused my attention on just trying not to complain. After climbing the 900 feet up Rodeo Beach, I just wanted to lie down. As we turned down Bobcat, Nathan says (not knowing yet how terribly I was suffering), "Somedays just suck and don't feel good. Today is one of those days and I am okay with that". I responded, "oh thank goodness its not just me". In my head I was really thinking, "oh thank goodness, he has bad days too. I was beginning to wonder" and "I wish I could run like that on my bad days". We have a few in our core training group that make it look effortless and I am hoping some day that will rub off on me.

We continued on and I just hoped things would get better. I have been known to come back to life in the second half of a run and be a totally new person. I was hoping for that but not banking on it. And then I truly, epically fell apart. We were going up Coastal towards Pirates Cove and I just stopped and threw up my hands and declared myself toasted. We walked for a bit and all of my resolution to not complain fell apart and complaint gushed from my mouth. It's a downward spiral, you feel bad and then you feel bad about feeling bad and end up feeling even worse. It was bad enough that I physically felt spent, slow, fat and horrible, but then to feel mentally weak, unconfident and self-doubting is even worse.

At the top of Coastal, it would have been easy enough to just cut over to one of the numerous trails that would take us back to Tennessee Valley which would be just 3.7 miles back to Rodeo. But I didn't want my bad day to ruin our workout. So I lead us down Pirate's Cove and we opted out of "poison oak central" i.e. Redwood Creek and Miwok trails as per our plan and went back up Middle Gulch. I was able to run after my breakdown and got it together pretty well. We ended up with 23 miles. Not super quality or pretty but they were there. And we were both glad to be done with it.

After the run, I was a bit afraid though. I was afraid or worried because I knew that the next day we had planned a killer workout. I was afraid that if I didn't miraculously bounce back, it would be more horrible than it already inherently was. We had planned to do repeats from Muir Woods Road up to Pantoll Ranger Station and back. Four times. 3.43 miles, nearly 1500 feet of gain each time. Oh yeah and the weather report was for heavy rain, wind and cold. Afraid, yes, yes I was.

Sunday morning I was feeling okay but opted to drink coffee pre-run in order to give me some extra pep in my step. I have started only drinking coffee on weekends and usually just post-run. It was a nice treat and definitely had me bright-eyed and moderately bushy-tailed. We headed out to the base of Deer Park Road and began in earnest. I have found in the last year that I have to make a serious effort in making friends with large uphills. I have to tell myself I like it, I have to run it a few times and I have to be successful on conquering it well in order to achieve this. As this climb is the biggest in the Miwok 100k race in less than 3 weeks, I definitely wanted to have it tamed.

This workout would become THE workout. THE workout I was wanting, THE workout I was needing. It was an arse-kicker. Each time I would try and stay with Nathan as long as I could (say 200-300 meters ha) and then keep him sighted for as long as I could. The first climb up my legs felt amazingly better than the day before. It was lightly raining and cool but not cold. I made it to the top in 32 minutes, with enough energy to surge on the relative flat last 3/4 mile. On the climb up, I told myself to just tuck in and do the work. Don't be afraid of the work. Doing things that are the hardest are where the biggest gains come from.

I had anticipated that I would just be able to cruise back down hill at my usual downhill speed which is pretty quick for most, but Nathan said he wanted to work on his descents, so we hammered really hard down the hill. Under 20 minutes for the descent, we decided at the bottom that the others would be slightly more reasonable of a pace, especially since the trail was getting more and more muddy as the rain intensified. 

Having done a lot of loop races, I find motivating for multiples of the same thing pretty simple. I know how to talk to myself to get it done. Ascent #2 felt less peppy than the first but I tucked in and worked and worked up the hill, telling myself that at the top I would be done with half of the ascents! I put on my ipod but found the music distracting. I was trying to get in the zone and the music was either too mellow or too fast to work with what I wanted to do. I made it to the top within a minute of my first climb and grabbed a few sips of water and we headed back down. There is an exposed section at the top of Pantoll and we were getting blown to pieces and soaking wet. The trail was getting quite slick and as we descended my insoles in my shoes slid forward pushing the hard plastic under the ball of my foot. I had to stop and adjust it but minutes later it was forward again and extremely painful. We were again very quick on the descent but much more comfortable than the first. When we got back to the car, I had a Roctaine, took out my insoles (the inserts I wear under my other insoles that is) and changed my shirt. I was soaked to the bone and grabbed my gloves to try and help keep me warm.

Ascent #3 I felt great. I was in my groove and though I couldn't keep up with Nathan I bettered my fast ascent by more than a minute. I hammered it hard and left it all out there. I knew that meant the last ascent would really suck but I didn't want to play it safe. I tried to spend as little time as possible at the top so Nathan, who waited patiently for me each time at the top, didn't freeze to death. We jammed down the hill and I pushed it a bit more, hoping I might actually be able to tire my quads a bit. The trail was slick and there were rivers of water cascading down the middle of the trail. Hitting the bottom, it just felt so good knowing there was only one left. I sucked down another gel as quickly as possible and we set out for our final attempt. 

I could feel the cumulative effort as I headed up the fourth time. My foot hurt where the insole had been and I was cold and cramping from it. But I pushed with everything I had. I ticked off each marker or tree, grunting and howling the whole way. It was slow and it was not pretty but I dug deep and ran the whole thing. When I emerged from the wooded part near the top it was pissing rain and so windy and cold, I wished I could simply cease to exist right there but pushed up to the top. Nathan was there (freezing) and I had to kneel down for a second because my foot hurt. I was so happy to be at the top though. I had done it. I had made it four times up that damn hill. We didn't linger and headed back to the car. I ran my normal pace downhill, feeling good dancing and skipping over the now soaked and crazy terrain. I was motivated by the need for warmth, it was just miserable. Truly miserable.

When I hit the bottom, I opened up the hatchback, turned on the heaters and seat warmers full blast and relished in being done. It felt so good to get warm (though it took several hours) and even better, I didn't feel sore or tired. I did the 27 miles in 3:30. That is 6,000 feet of ascent and still that pace. Crazy. It was awesome. Miwok is not my goal race, States is. But this workout gives me confidence that I am moving in the right direction for where I want to be for that race. I will be going back for more leading up to the big day. Looking forward to bringing the pain!

And don't forget to enter the FRS giveaway. I made it easier than ever!