Friday, May 25, 2012

The road ahead

On Monday, I saw my doctor for an annual physical. I was convinced my blood tests were going to show something — low blood glucose levels, iron deficiency, something. Nope. Normal. The doctor asked questions about sleep, weight loss, and stress, which have also worked their way back to normal. Then my doctor had the nerve to suggest that the symptoms I described — general sluggishness, sudden bouts of fatigue in the middle of the day, and lower energy levels — probably had something to do with "the endurance exercise."

Bah.

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.