Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tunnel Hill 100- Race Report

I had lofty but realistic goals going into Tunnel Hill 100 on November 15, 2014.

I was in the midst of a decent year of running with three 100 mile finishes already under my belt, (or should I say "on" my belt in the form of buckles..heh heh heh)

Fall was shaping up nicely after a strong summer with performances I was proud of. Bourbon Chase in October didn't leave me completely wasted and I was still able to push myself in training and "life". My weekly mileage leading up to the race was a balancing act. I needed to recover from Bourbon Chase which left my legs more wrecked than I expected. Running 36 miles at 6:08 pace was a bear to recover from while still training. I ran a 77 mile week the immediate week following Bourbon Chase. My energy levels felt fine, my legs were just sore. Once again, the following week my energy levels were still fine and I bumped up weekly mileage into the mid 80's. Thank God for my PT who kept me loose during our weekly appointments.

I tried to focus on the now, focus on the moment, and not get wrapped up in weekly mileage goals since I knew I had been pushing hard all year in every corner of life. I cut all of my weeks short and ran what I felt like running. During the five weeks in between Bourbon Chase and Tunnel Hill I only ran one week over 100 miles. 

I tapered pretty drastically for Tunnel Hill starting two weeks out from the race. I direct a half marathon the weekend before Tunnel Hill which you should check out HERE. I only ran about 40 miles including course marking that week. The week before the race I felt fine, no real fireworks good or bad. I felt ready to run 100 miles. I felt pretty confident I'd hit my lofty goal of running a new one hundred mile personal best under 15 hours.

Race morning brought cold temps in the teens and good friends. It was awesome to hang out a bit with my coaching clients whom have all become great pals. It was one of the more enjoyable pre-race days I've had, low stress and chill.

The race didn't start on Saturday until 8:00 a.m. It was nice to sleep in.

I ran most of the opening miles with Traci Falbo and Mike Crowder. It was fun chatting with Mike about the Hawthorn Half Day race from earlier this year and past. We had a good crowd of folks all keeping pace. Traci and I run together at home frequently and we both wanted the same things out of the day. We knew we'd be good fuel for one another to restrain ourselves in the opening miles and push one another at the end. We've paced each other in hundreds and know how the other ticks.  

I focused on doing my own thing. I don't get wrapped up in running anyone else's race but we were all together at my target pace of around 8:45's for the sub 15 hour finish. The opening marathon left no solitude in the woods to gather my thoughts and get into the game.

I found it hard to break loose and get lost in the moment. I was subconsciously anxious and keyed up. I was completely focused on a sub 15 hour finish and mentally I was battling demons the whole first 60 miles and I didn't even realize it because I was so incredibly numb and without fight or passion. Stephanie said I've never been that quiet in a race before as I rolled through the aid stations. I wasn't miserable or elated. I was just numb. I didn't enjoy myself. I stuck like glue to a sold nutrition plan and held pace. I was robotic, but that's not how I thrive. I need to feel PASSION. I need to feel INSPIRED and I wasn't. I was clearly a little fatigued. I was fixated on numbers, goals, PR's, etc. I was focused on the future, and not the now. This is supposed to be fun. I was apathetic rolling through the course. I needed a heaping load of fight in me, and I had a double serving of complacency. 

By mile 40 I let Traci slowly and steadily pull away from me. I was running my own race and I wasn't concerned about someone else. Pushing harder would have caused me to blow and risk the best finish I was capable of on the day. There has been plenty of times letting someone go at mile 40 has meant that I reel them in later because they blow up. You have to do what's right for YOU. Traci continued to pull away though and I plugged away passionless, without power or drive.

My 50 mile split was 7 hours 22 minutes which was pretty much on target. As the miles went by I started to think about my life over the past few months and how I needed a break from myself. I kept thinking I need a break from myself...always pushing. I hadn't allowed any downtime. It's always "Push, push, push" and it was affecting my mood. I grabbed my iPod at mile 60 and ran in the dark. The path was lit by the sky well enough that it was safe to do so. Prior to the sunset I was already in a dark place mentally. I was battling demons. 

I was in a classic ultra mental state of emotional psychosis. It was pretty comical. I began to get tearful and choked up at the Edward Sharpe song Home. I can't explain it one bit. For those of you who have heard it (its the song from Where The Wild Things Are,) the part that messed me up was the talking part in the middle about him falling in love when the chick fell out of the window. Something about the concept of love had me disturbed. Yeah...I was jacked up. This actually set me straight and got me in the moment. I was able to finally see things clearly and understand what was happening and gain perspective. I didn't have drive and fight that day, and I acknowledged it. I knew I was having a sub-prime race, but I could be smart and salvage it by sticking to a solid pace and nutrition plan, so I did just that. 
I'm the dot in the opening of the tunnel behind Traci...

Traci continued to pull away, yet I stayed steady and passed the guy in second place. Traci and I have often talked about a dual win for us, she winning overall female and I with an overall male win. I knew it would happen when I took over 2nd place. We called it T&T, like dynamite. Ha ha ha.

I kept singing along with my iPod and just tried to embrace the misery. I was very disappointed I couldn't make myself hurt more. I just couldn't make myself hurt like I wanted. 

Blinded by the onslaught of headlamps I passed I still tried to cheer on the runners I passed by. "Good Job." I looked hard for the athletes I coach, but between the headlamps blinding me and my iPod volume I couldn't make anyone's faces out. I knew they were doing well from updates I had received.

I crossed the finish line with a 100 mile finishing time of 16:07, but missed the timing recorder somehow, so I walked back over for an official time of 16:08 something. It was the second fastest 100 I've run to date. I was 2nd overall and first male. 

I have a motto, "Placement is irrelevant". It was a good race for me, I managed the day perfectly and ran the best I could run on the day, but I know on a more recovered day I could have run much faster for my sub 15. I'm still pretty bitter about my performance but I can't have my cake and eat it too. I've been greedy. I've raced too much and it's time to recover and let the endocrine system system heal so I can build up my drive and fight to make it hurt the next go-round. I didn't sacrifice my goals outside of my personal racing and running to be at 100% for this event and it affected my ultimate goal. Alas, I accomplished a lot outside of running this year which is rewarding in its own.

Usually I try to be all upbeat and positive in these reports...but this time I just feel like telling it how it is. No context. Just truth. Here are the facts: I tried to do too much and it hurt my end goal, the most important goal, the one I really cared about. I managed the day well but could have done better. It wasn't a bad race. It was good, but I wanted great. Like I said, placement is irrelevant. I gauge myself based on my capabilities and I gauge my athletes on their capabilities. I've had strong runs in which I didn't win, some of them even better performances than wins against soft competition. It's all about maximizing personal potential and not gauging your success and self-worth on others or others opinions of you. 

The runners that I coach were inspiring! Maddy crushed a PR and placed 4th overall female in 19:49. Daniel Maddox finally got his sub 24 hour 100 mile run and did great. Rob Putz was steady and disciplined with a smile all day and finished his first 100 mile event! I couldn't be happier for these guys.

The volunteers at the race were top notch and I'd like to thank Steve Durbin for putting the race together. If you have a chance to run one of Steve's races, don't pass it up. The communal vibe is great, and he puts together a well run event with good aid and an encouraging environment.

Many congrats to Traci who blazed the course in 14:45, setting an all time American trail 100 record for females.