Tell me three things you did right, three things you learned, and three things you would do differently. – Ann Trason
My coach, Ann, had suggested I start doing “race reports” on my long runs describing three things I did right, learned, and would do differently.
“Why?” I asked, “It’s not a race.”
“It’s good practice.” Well, okay then.
Dog Meat and the Kennedy Rollers
I went down to San Jose to do repeats of the Priest Rock, Kennedy, and Limekiln Trails that form mile 19 to 30 of the Quicksilver 100k course. As if doing that once during the race wasn’t enough I decided to attempt 3 repeats (33 miles) but I had my fill of “Dog Meat”, the Kennedy rollers, and the heat after two. I cut the run down to 27 miles and 2-1/2 loops.
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.
In 2013 a drinking fountain was installed on top of Cardiac Hill, one of the infamous climbs on Mt. Tamalpais. It’s dedicated to local runner Sam Hirabayashi. I like to think of it as the Magical Fountain. It seemed to appear out of nowhere one day to provide cooling sips of water after a tough, often hot, climb. I didn’t know the story behind it until recently. I had read a New York Times article written by Sam’s widow Eve Pell about their touching love story then discovered through my trail running friends that the fountain on Cardiac Hill was Sam’s.
Four days before the 4MPH Challenge I found myself hiding in a conference room with my head against the wall. Why did I sign up for a race where the point for me was to go until the wheels fell off? I wasn’t scared or nervous. My week wasn’t going well and the mounting to-do list to prepare for the weekend was daunting. I felt overwhelmed.
The 4MPH Challenge is a variation on a timed event. Instead of seeing how far you can go in a set amount of time like 12 or 24 hours, you must complete 6 miles in 90 minutes. If you complete 6 miles in less time, you have to wait until the full 90 minutes has elapsed before you can start the next lap. If you complete it in more than 90 minutes you time out and it’s over. Essentially you get a starting gun every 90 minutes with a 90 minute cut off.* There is no defined end until your body or your brain chooses it for you. Even the race director says he’ll stay out on the course until there is no one left standing. The concept intrigued me.
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.
I’ve never written one of those “my year in running” reviews. I thought I’d give it a shot but as I was looking over my writing I realized I had essentially done that already with the posts I wrote around Javelina so rehashing my races felt redundant. I did, however, set a Personal Record in terms of the number of blog posts – ten related to running and one obituary to a cat. My previous PR was five in 2013. Considering it takes me much longer to write a report than it does to do the actual race, writing has become a significant part of my overall running experience. I thought I might try and throw a spotlight on that instead.
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.