The road ahead
But as much as I can understand what's going on with my own body, I really do feel like I'm starting to emerge after several weeks under water, and the Ohlone 50K was my first hit of fresh air in what feels like a while. I suspect that my "fun" spring of biking was a lot more difficult for me than I was willing to admit, and the "short" bikepacking race — the Stagecoach 400 — required me to dig a lot deeper into my reserves, and therefore required more recovery, than I wanted to believe. For example, on day two of the Stagecoach 400, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. in Fish Creek Wash and spent the next fifteen hours making my way to Alpine, which was 70 miles away. I had one hour-long breakfast break in there, but for the remaining fourteen hours I was struggling at the crumbling edge of a sustainable pace, in temperatures that topped 90 degrees, for an average moving speed that essentially matched my Ohlone 50K pace. That was just one day of the 400-mile race, and not even a full day, because I continued beyond Alpine for three more hours in the late evening.
The Ohlone 50K, by comparison, was a lot smoother. I'm actually thrilled about how well that race went for me. After feeling like lukewarm road kill for most of the morning, I crossed the threshold of more reasonable daytime hours (for me, the hours after 9 a.m.) and didn't experience much of a struggle for the rest of the day. I was near the end of the line during the climb to Mission Peak, and slowly moved up in the pack during the race. I ended up finishing 71st of 230 starters, and 14th of 67 women ... which, I think it's fair to say, is solidly top third. And although my failure to train for running meant I wouldn't have been able to run it much faster, I do feel I could have run a fair amount farther. If someone told me I could win $1,000 if I turned around and ran the whole course backward for a full 100K, I might have been willing to give it a try. Yeah, I know, it's easy to say that now. But I felt good at the finish of the Ohlone 50K, and recovery runs since haven't even shown the same levels of sluggishness that I was feeling before the Stagecoach 400.
I'm still slow. BUT, I feel like my long-distance endurance is actually pretty good right now. Which, give my aspirations for a potential 46-hour death march at UTMB in three months, is a good place to be.
Good rest and regular fun bike rides are still a priority for me right now, in hope that I do finally dig myself out of my springtime slump. But I at least feel slightly less gloom and doom for the next "benchmark" event I've gotten myself entangled in, the Laurel Highlands Ultra. Beat signed up for this 70.5-mile trail race in southwestern Pennsylvania because his friend Tim Hewitt — the godfather of human-powered Iditarod Trail travel — told him it would be "fun." I admit I have a different opinion about the potential agony of 70 miles of rocky, rooty, steep East Coast trails, but I agreed to sign up as well because I need mental (not to mention foot) conditioning for UTMB. Given the technical aspect of the Laurel Highlands Trail and the race's fairly tight time cut-off that will require me to move faster than my "all day all night" jogging/hiking pace, I still have heavy doubts that I can finish that race. But at least I'm slightly less convinced of my imminent demise on June 9.