Sunday, May 08, 2011

Miwok 100K -- 10 hours 49 minutes

Short Version

I successfully ran, or power-hiked uphill, all 62.6 miles of the Miwok 100K. It took me 10 hours 49 minutes which is about 18 minutes faster than last year. I struggled from around mile 30 to 35 but I recovered (was dehydrated probably) and had a real strong finish, running almost all the uphills and flying on the downhills. The trails are tough and so all things considered, I'm really happy with my finishing time. I'm uninjured, I didn't fall (a couple close calls), and my feet came out looking about the same as before the day started. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was cool and partly cloudy (perfect!) and all-in-all, I'm very pleased with how the day went.

Thanks to Jennifer for being a co-captain at the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station all day. Thanks to my running buddies (George, Eric, Franz, and Gary) for driving in with me in the morning. Thanks to my friend Robin for running with me for about the last 21 miles.

Longer Version

The day started early, waking at 3am, to get some calories in my body and digest the food prior to the race start of 5:40am. I met my friends at 4am at my house, to carpool to the race together. George and Gary were volunteering all day. (Nice!) Eric and Franz were running the race. We picked up another runner along the way in Pacifica.

I felt somehow both calm and excited -- the day was going to be an adventure and it was impossible to know exactly how the race would unfold. But I was calm because I felt prepared and well-trained and ready to put myself to the test, the challenge of basically running non-stop for 10 to 11 hours, covering over 62 miles of mostly dirt trails, many of which are steep.

I knew I could look forward to seeing my wife and friends at our running club sponsored aid station, the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, at mile 27 and 41. I knew I could look forward to running with my friend and fast marathoner, Robin, from mile 41 onward. I thought about how I had fallen apart the previous year and had been forced to walk even the gentle uphills. I did not want to repeat that experience and wanted to have a strong finish this time!

The Plan

I was going to try for a near constant heart-rate for most of the race, around 135 beats per minute. (My max is 186 bpm.) Hopefully this would let me run at about 10 minutes per mile on big hills. From a couple of training runs, this seemed like a very sustainable effort. If I felt great towards the end, then I would pick up the pace. I would carry two 20oz hand-held water bottles. The longest distance between aid stations was 8.9 miles, but this part of the race would be in the morning, so 40oz should be fine. I would take a salt capsule every 30 minutes and an energy gel (100 calories) every 20 minutes, plus eat some aid station food. I would drink the sports drink about half the time and water the other half.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and we're off!

Tia Bodington, the race director, gave a short speech about us needing to respect the course, each other, the volunteers, and the other users of the trail, and then we were off! 5:40am sharp.

The race starts on the sandy beach of Rodeo Lagoon and we quickly log-jammed at the trail head. I had positioned myself about 20% back from the front, and had to wait for maybe a minute before I could resume running on the single-track trail. Those runners not wearing gaitors (sleeves that go from the ankle down over the shoe to prevent small rocks and sand from getting in) probably got quite a bit of sand. One guy stopped to empty his shoes of sand right at the trail head.

We took a hilly and pretty tour around this Marin Headlands area, seeing the rugged coastal beauty, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, and the old military buildings here. Right away, I decided that my heart rate goal was impossibly low, and that I would end up walking too much, so I decided to keep it at around 141 instead, with more effort on the uphills and less on the downhills.

After nearly 7 miles, we returned to the starting area, again running across the sand beach. The first aid station was so inconspicuous, being set up on the back of a van mostly, that I went right by it before realizing what it was. I seemed to have plenty of water, so I decided to skip it. The first aid station didn't offer food, but I knew that, so I carried enough energy gels of my own. I was feeling pretty good, having run a bit over an hour, and climbed and descended about 1,280 feet.

Then we headed up a very steep hill with switch-backs. This was last year's finish. The race course was switched around a bit this year. I walked most of this stretch and then got to run again on the descent to Tennessee Valley. Somewhere along the way here, I started feeling a warm spot on my left big toe. Fearing the development of a blister that might cause serious problems later in the day, I opted to try to fix my shoe. It felt a bit loose and my foot was sliding around a bit on the steepest downhills. Unfortunately, after tightening both shoes the feeling persisted.

Climbing up and down a ridge (+900 feet and -700 feet), I arrived at Tennessee Valley aid station, refilled my water bottles, picked up probably 5 or 6 energy gels including a pineapple flavor which was new to me and quite tasty. The blueberry version I recalled as tasting bitter, but I wanted a variety, so I took a couple of those, too. Yes, they still tasted bad to me.

I stopped a second time a few minutes later to try to address my left big toe, by adjusting my sock. Again, to no avail, so I decided I was just going to have to live with whatever was going on there with my toenail and the corner of my left big toe.

Arriving at Pan Toll aid station, at mile 20.0, I had climbed 2,700' and descended 1,400'. The trails somehow seemed tougher than I remembered them and I just couldn't maintain a consistently fast pace, yet I was still working harder than I wanted. My average pace was around 10:50 minutes per mile, but reviewing my watch's data, it shows that my average moving pace was around 10:20. Interesting! On each of these legs, I was losing 2-3 minutes to various stops (fixing shoes, aid stations, urinating).

The scenery was especially beautiful between Pan Toll and Bolinas Ridge, especially the green hills and the views of what I think is Stinson Beach. This trail is still somewhat difficult because it's so narrow, often like 9 inches wide, and I really have to watch my step. As I got closer to the Bolinas Ridge aid station, I saw the inspirational signs that were put up. Awesome!

The volunteers who marked the course also did an especially good job here, even taking the time to flag the metal poles that were part of an old handrail, but were cut to within a few inches of the dirt. I kept on having the mental image of what would happen if I tripped and fell right on a sharp metal pole on the ground. Yikes!

Finally, I arrived at the Bolinas Ridge aid station (+1600' and -1500'), to the welcoming cries of my friends and wife. Yay! 26.7 miles and 4 hours 43 minutes have elapsed. I knew I was late; reviewing the data shows that I arrived at around 10:23am instead of my predicted 10:07am. I said "hi" to everyone and was quickly on my way.

Bolinas Ridge Aid Station, sponsored by the Coastside Running Club, at mile 26.7

Maybe 3 or 4 miles later, I started feeling much more fatigued and sore. A few people I was running with (Suzanna Bon, Tracy Dimino, David Goodin), quickly left me behind. My heart rate fell to the mid-130s. My thinking went something like this:

"I'm falling apart, and I'm not even at the half-way point. This, in spite of running harder than planned, I'm also running slower than planned!" From there, my thoughts just took a downward spiral. "I suck. I'm over-the-hill. All of that hard training didn't make me any better of a runner. Why am I spending all this time running and away from family, just to be a failure at it? I'm going to give up running as a hobby. Entering that 100 mile race in August was an expensive mistake. Argh! What a loser I am."

I trudged down a steep 1.7 mile hill to the Hwy 1 and the Randall Trail aid station where we turn around and head back to the finish line. At mile 33.9, it's a bit more than half way through the race. Garmin says that I climbed 480' and descended 1,638' on this leg.

Heading back up the hill, I tried to assess my condition. I liked the taste of salt and food. Mentally, I seemed to be fine. I wasn't excessively sore. I hadn't urinated in a while, so maybe I was dehydrated? I figured I couldn't be over-hydrated or I'd be peeing a lot. I walked fast nearly every step up the hill, running only a couple short bits, taking this time to drink lots of water and to keep my heart rate in check. I saw my friend Eric Vaughan -- awesome!

At the top of the hill, heading back to Bolinas Ridge aid station, I started feeling better. I wasn't running fast, but I was running steady. I saw my friend, Franz Dill! We cheered each other and bumped our handheld water bottles. I saw my friend Mike Weston. And then our new friend, Janeth Siva. Somewhere along here I was feeling chafing develop along my thighs, from the inner lining of my shorts. I tried adjusting my shorts a bit, but to no avail. Bummer!

Finally, I arrived back at Bolinas Ridge aid station. I was feeling OK -- tired and a bit sore, but I was holding everything together. Friends said afterwards that I looked great. My friend and running club member, Robin, was to be my pacer and would run/walk with me for the last 21 miles. I think without a word, she just handed me a stick of Body Glide. Awesome! I had told her that I might need this but then I said it would be too much trouble for her to carry it. I was so glad she had, though. I tried to discretely apply this dry lubricant to my thighs, I quickly refueled, said "hi" to everyone I recognized, and was off on the last big section of my adventure.

I caught Robin up on my status and my schedule for eating and taking salt. She caught me up on her life and our mutual friends. I tried to keep a good steady pace, remembering that last year, there were periods where I felt great and would run faster only to soon fall apart and have to walk. I tried to consciously drink lots of water. I can't quite remember when I took my first ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, like aspirin), but I was feeling quite sore at the time, so I decided to take a chance. These medicines can be hard on the kidneys, but when muscles or joints are swelling, reducing the swelling can make a big difference in what I'm able to do running-wise. I started feeling quite good. So, some combination of having more water, ibuprofen, and Robin's company was working pretty well.

Arriving in Pan Toll again, at mile 47.8 (1,450' of climbing and 1,550' of descent), my average pace was around 11:35, average moving pace was 11:09, and best pace was 6:38! I felt really good.

From Pan Toll, to Muir Beach, I picked up the pace some more. There was lots of descent, which certainly helped. My average pace was 9:25 with average moving pace of 9:16. We had 234' of gain and 1,723' of descent. Robin kept me focused on short term goals and was very positive, pointing out that I was going to be much faster than last year.

Somewhere around here, I had weird heart rate incident. My watch suddenly was reporting a huge increase in my heart rate, as if I were sprinting towards the end of a marathon. Yet, I felt exactly the same! I wasn't sure if this was a battery problem or maybe a heart condition. (Yikes!) I started asking Robin "What's our heart rate now?" because I could estimate my effort based on her effort. Eventually, my watch reported what I considered to be the correct heart rate. Hmm....

Leaving Muir Beach, I started pushing even harder. I started passing people. Robin kept me focused on finding our next "victim". I caught up and passed people I had been running with many hours earlier. Even with some big climbs, like the stairs leading up from Muir Beach, I ran almost all the uphills and averaged 10:36 (10:15 moving pace). On one steep downhill, I just let loose and let my legs go as fast as they wanted, which was 5:53 minutes per mile according to my watch. I did that whole mile in about 7:22 according to Robin's watch.

Arriving at the last aid station, Tennessee Valley, I felt great and was in and out quickly. I ran nearly every step up the next big climb. Robin doesn't like to eat while running and our downhill sprints and uphill steady runs were taking their toll. Without any second thoughts on either of our parts, she said she had cramps and I kept on running. (Robin, if you're reading this, I so very much appreciated you taking an entire day to be there with me. You rocked!) The next couple miles went by quickly and I passed many more runners until I hit a short steep climb on a trail and then seemed to lose my momentum. Then I hit a strong headwind as I neared the Point Bonita YMCA. I could hear the cheers in the distance. Wow! I was within earshot of the finish line! Yay! I saw the volunteers waving me in, saying "just one more turn" and I turned on the speed and gave the last quarter mile just about everything I had left, sprinting in. The exhaustion and relief started to overwhelm me and I felt close to tears as I raced in the last half-block. Whew... that was tough! Damn tough!

I got my goodie bag (a nice vest, shirt, and Miwok bottle of beer!), took a hot shower, hung out and saw Eric and Franz finish, was joined by Jennifer and George and Gary. Ate a delicious BBQ. Ahh... that felt good.

Eric, George, and Robin (l. to r.)

Things that went well

  • Am uninjured. I wasn't even very sore afterwards and could walk downstairs with only minor difficulties the next day.
  • I successfully completed what for me was a long difficult race.
  • For the second Miwok in a row, I had an excellent pacer, a friend to run the most difficult miles with.
  • I managed to do a mid-course correction of problems that I was having at the mid-way point and had a strong finish.
  • Only minor chafing. I started developing a blister but it disappeared after a couple days. That hotspot I felt on my left big toe was nothing -- just a sensation of my toenail slightly digging in to the skin.
  • Taking two ibuprofen, maybe 90 minutes apart, seemed to have a large positive effect by reducing swelling and soreness and letting me run faster.
  • My salt and food consumption were probably as good as I can get.
  • No cramps.
  • No falls.
  • Didn't have to poop during the race.

Things to improve upon

  • More training? I only had one 30+ mile run, although it was followed the next day by 19 hilly miles, as I recall. I don't think I necessarily need (or want) to run more miles, but if I could have done some slightly longer long runs, that would probably be ideal.
  • More fluid intake? I only urinated 3 times during the race. After the race, my urine was yellow-ish, but not dark. *shrug* Not sure.
  • Had a few small tinges of poison oak on my shins. Maybe if I had brought or sought out Tecnu, this could have been prevented.
  • Tighten my shoe laces a bit more next time.

Random Data

As usual, I need to thank my wonderful wife for making it possible for me to train. Thank you, Jennifer!