Monday, March 17, 2014

Not So Cool

Two weeks ago was the Way Too Cool 50k (WTC) in Cool, California. It was my target race for the first quarter of the year. In 2013 I'd finished 17th in a good field of 850 runners. I felt that a top 10 would be an improvement and evidence that I could ALMOST mix it in a quality field. Last month I ploughed through the mud to 4th at the Hagg Lake 50k within touching distance of some good (albeit local) runners.

Sunrise in Cool, CA
Rather than stay nearer in Sacramento I decided to spend a few days in San Francisco, do the tourist things and hopefully enjoy some sun. I haven't been to SF since 1992 when i arrived in the middle of the Rodney King riots. It was a more relaxed trip this time!

I walked and ran and enjoyed being in a bigger city again. Maybe too much walking, running and enjoying it seems.

On raceday I drove the 2 hours to the start and felt the chill morning air common in the Auburn area. WTC utilises some of the immaculate Western States 100 miler trails, most of which I'd ran at night when pacing UK friend Dave Ross to a sub 24 hour finish last June. The weather was cool, but warmer than last year with a promised late morning high of 68 (20c). I was feeling good as I warmed up.

Beats GU as a sugar rush!
The first mile or so of the race is downhill road before you hit single track. It thins the field out, but also ensures you go too fast. My first two kms were 3.44 and 3.54, more like 21km pace than 50km pace. But, i knew from experience that you can just about get away with this as the trail will slow you down and hopefully you wont blow. As we hit the single track I settled into a nice position just ahead of the leading women and churned out the 8 miles to the first aid station. I was running 'naked' with no water bottles or hydration pack as the aid stations were marked to be 3-5 miles apart after the first long stretch.

This wasn't really uphill, that's my late race shuffle
I felt good. I was keeping my place and knew there was a long flat stretch coming up, as we came off the mountain and onto the flat. As we dropped down to the river and onto wide jeep track I hit the accelerator and pushed. I took maybe 7 or 8 places in those 5 miles or so and felt strong. But the next aid station didn't appear where I thought it would, or for the next 3 miles. My decision to run 'naked' was starting to look very dumb, and the sun was breaking through the clouds. Suddenly I was labouring and losing places. Two women flew past me as we made our way along the Western States single track. The Speedgoat Karl Meltzer was on course and told me I was 19th. 19th! I wanted to be in the top 10. Normally, this would have spurred me on, but my legs were heavy and I wasn't going to blast these last 10 miles, so I kept my head down and just prayed a gel and water at the long awaited next aid station would help restore some vooma. GU'ed up I crawled up Goat Hill, one of the two steep hills and ambled along towards the finish. The tank was empty, literally and it was a relief to see the finish banner and the chance to just STOP. The clock said 4.03 compared to 3.59 last year. Not a disaster by any means but a dent in my racing ego as I felt that I should have been in the low 3.50's which would have secured top 10.

I take racing seriously, but its seems I'm a novice when it comes to pre-race, and should have learned by now that walking all day for two days and running in a race without any instantly accessible fluid is just dumb. Winner Chris Vargo (an amazing 3.16) has it better tapped, as he writes HERE

This must be one of the bigger trail races in the US with 1026 finishers this year. Its easy to see why. A great course with a variety of terrains, no massive climbs, great support and everything you can want at the finish; massage, beer, pizza, fruit, soup, more beer, comfy seats. Somehow they manage to accommodate this many runners without it ever seeming crowded or congested. I'm loathed to do the same race three times given the variety and number of races here, but this is one of the best, and I want that top 10...

1 comment:

  1. Top 10 is always nice and in racing there are always hard lessons to be learnt, and it doesn't matter how many races you have under the belt.