I have a dubious track record with the 100k distance. The first one I did was Miwok in 2012. If two legs that work means 100% then I was going in at 50. I got pulled from the race after missing a cut-off. The second one was Bryce in 2013. It played out like some otherworldly dream sequence when I developed Acute Mountain Sickness after mile 10 and dragged my ailing body to the finish line in 30:43. Really, 30+ hours. Considering how things had gone in the lead up to Quicksilver I wondered if it would be another entertaining (for others) but ultimately disastrous (for me) experience.
I had made two attempts in 2010 to achieve a Boston Marathon qualifying time, known in running circles as a BQ. I gave it my all and failed. Ten minutes too slow on the first try, five minutes on the second. In my pursuit I grew to hate the track workouts, the tempo runs, and the numbers game that’s part of the search for speed. If I continued down this path I was going to burn out and eventually hate running itself. I turned my back on Boston and never made another serious attempt at a BQ. I told myself it wasn’t important to me anymore. It wasn’t entirely the truth but it helped ease the disappointment of letting go.
Never Say Never
I swore on a stack of bibles that I’d never do the Quad. I’d flirted with the idea of it from time to time. It seemed like something that should be on one’s trail running résumé if one hailed from Northern California. I’d done the Double once back in 2012 and afterwards felt that was already one Dipsea too many. I’d had enough. To add to my reluctance, I would often find myself on chunks of the course in other races, usually hating my life and indulging in bouts of self-loathing. It affirmed the thought that always hovered at the edge of my consciousness – no, not going to do the Quad, ever. Besides I could always pull the North Face card, which is a race I was usually in, that takes place the following weekend. I’m not strong enough to do both like some of the runners I know so I had a convenient, easy out.
I was also interviewed for the Running Stupid podcast if you’d like to take a listen.
It’s nearing 6am, pre-dawn on November 1st and I’m in Arizona, specifically the Pemberton Tailhead in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park which was the main staging area for the Javelina Jundred. My first 100 miler was going to be over with one way or the other sometime in the next 30 hours. A blink compared to the many hours I’d invested in training for this race. I felt as ready and as confident as I’ve ever felt on a start line and yet somehow I found myself hiding in a camp chair crying.
The Lake Sonoma 50 is an out and back race that follows the Warm Springs Arm of Lake Sonoma. I’d heard that it was a race that can sneak up on you with its unrelenting up and down nature. It also had three significant climbs that were clustered around the turn around point at mile 25. All told, it had over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. It had plenty of creek crossings, it could be hot, and it was also beautiful. I’d wanted to run this one for a while and when registration opened last December I jumped at the chance. Good thing too because it sold out in 37 minutes, yet another race that will probably be going the way of the lottery next year.
How To Do a 43.5 Mile 50k
I am in the middle of a Mad Max inspired post apocalyptic hell … by choice. The only thing missing is full body armor and a shotgun. I can barely see in front of me and any attempts to look up is rewarded with more sand irritating my overworked, bloodshot eyes. Sand and debris swirls around me and it feels like the pin prick of hundreds of tiny needles as it slams against the exposed skin on my legs. It hurts. A large tumbleweed sails across my field of view only to disappear mid-air in a gritty fog of red and brown. I can’t even see it land on the ground.
What have I gotten myself into this time?
For me, some races are for personal best attempts, some serve as supported training runs and some are to have an adventure surrounded by spectacular scenery. Antelope Canyon fell into the third category. I’d fallen in love with the American Southwest after I did the Bryce 100k and I had wanted to go back to explore a new area. This was the inaugural running and the first time an organized race had been run through the canyons. In fact the first two legs of the race were on tribal land so I felt honored to be able to spend my day in these special places. About 30+ people had signed up for the 50 mile and an equal number for the 50k. It was going to be nice and cozy.