I signed up for this race as a "make-up" for the tragedy that was the Nanny Goat 100 (report). However, after doing this second loop course, I am certain that 100 mile loop courses are not my thing. I can see myself coming back to do a 50 miler, but 100 is such a mental toll that I do not find appealing. Yet, a loop course does provide a great testing ground for new gear and I took advantage.
Garmin 310XT / Garmin 910XT
Headsweats Supervisory Visor
Oakley Radar Glasses
Ultimate Direction Fast Draw Bottle (review)
Ink n' Burn Tech Tee
Salomon EXO Wings Twinskin Short
Newton Gravity / Altra Instinct 1.5
I decided to camp the night before this run for a few reasons but most importantly it was just to disconnect. After summer session my energy was zapped and my overall demeanor was that of burn out. I needed some reflection time and a little distance from the hustle of school to charge my batteries before the start of the new school year.
Camping provided the benefit of allowing me to feel the temperature rather than just scouting it via the web. I knew it was going to be warm (91 high) but feeling the 46% humidity on friday was huge for me. Although it did not alter my game plan very much feeling the temperature changes did help me stick to it more religiously.
The course is a two mile loop in San Martin, Ca. with a total elevation gain of 94 ft per loop and paved all the way around. There is a "trail" on the inside our outside of the loop. Many runners elected to wear trail shoes and run on the dirt path, which probably would have made my recovery easier but I did not know of its existence and only prepped for a road course so I stuck to the plan.
As a rule I would always have at least one bottle in my hand with nutrition and/or water. The race started at 6 am and when the runners took off I was finishing setting up my tent and did not have my bib number yet. Once I actually started most runners were completing their first loop. My intent with this run was to (1) sort out the nutrition issues that had bothered me at Nanny Goat 100 (only completed 81 miles, blacking out 2x), (2) test the Salomon EXO Twinskin Short which I may use at Headlands and finally (3) get a long run in.
My nutrition is Tailwind. Tailwind had done right for me for a very long time. The simplicity of adding your nutrition to water and going makes fueling thoughtless; no gels or remembering when you took the last gummy block or whatever other thing you are consuming. Furthermore, Tailwind does not give me sugar spikes like other gels do. The nutrition is a smooth source like an IV; steadily feeding what the body can reasonably (with training) digest while running. My standard is two servings (scoops) per 26 oz of water which equates to 200 calories as well as the sodium I need to balance my electrolyte levels. I no longer use as many salt caps because Tailwind contains sodium. I will take them on hot days or if I feel I am cramping too early into a run, but generally Tailwind takes care of it. Many people ask me what it tastes like and at this point I will date myself. Remember what Gatorade used to taste like? Gatorade tasted salty. Now it tastes like sugar, but before there was some sodium in it which made it savory, that is what Tailwind mimics. Because it is both sweet and savory it is palatable for many hours which is important since after consuming anything for 8+ hours you instinctually want to reject it, but this has worked for me so it stays in the bag.
When the heat of the day hit 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm, I eased up to one scoop per 26 oz of water. The reason is that at that point I was consuming almost one bottle per loop. At the original rate that have been 400-500 cal per hour; too much for me to process. I did not want to have GI issues so the modification during the heat of the day was planned out beforehand and was one of the many lessons I took from Nanny Goat.
Running for 12+ hours does not sound like fun to anyone, but this is a different type of community. We all suffer and succeed together. I have never met an ultra runner who is not happy for their fellow runners success or who does not empathize when anyone's day goes south. Instead of focusing only on my performance and my feelings/thoughts I chatted with other runners sooner than I would have otherwise done. My general racing style is not to chat at all for the first half of any race. Generally, multiple racing distances start at the same time (50m, 100km, 100m). The fields are small so it makes sense, but from a racing standpoint you could be keeping pace with a runner going half the distance you are and that just spells disaster. But, because I had a different goal for this race I was chatting with everyone thus making the monotony of the loop more bearable. Had I not chatted with other runners I doubt I would have made it past the marathon distance.
Naturally, what is said out there stays out there, but I did enjoy running with my friend Patrick who was doing a 50km race and helping him stay on his goal pace. I really like going to races because I get to meet a lot of runners I know virtually and/or have met at previous races and seeing familiar faces is always a positive. Strangely, despite the course being a loop, we did not meet up with P. until 17 miles after he started.
The biggest take away from this race was sticking to intent. I generally schedule a race and with the "racing" mindset I set of to accomplish it. However, this time I used the run for a purpose, a long run for Headlands. I originally wanted to complete the 100 mile distance, but after confirming how much reading I had for the first day of class and having achieved all the goals I had set out for myself I dropped down to the 100km version.
I think it was a smart move on my part because I stayed honest to my intention. We all have lives other than ultra running and sometimes the sport takes so much out of us that we loose focus. I do it because ultra running centers me and makes me a better person. I am more positive and my virtues (the few there are) tend to show up more often.
When I loose that focus and skew the balance other areas of my life take the hit. Basic rules of thumb, (1) do it because it makes you happy, (2) have clear goals based on your training and intentions, (3) remember what your priorities outside of ultra running are and let those priorities dictate your goals.