Thursday, December 13, 2012

13 days after TNF 50M

Have not written anything post TNF 50M 13 days ago.

How did i do at TNF 50?
What happened?
What did i learn from it?

These are obvious questions that came to mind right after the race was over for me and so i decided to not write anything until i felt it all sink in and was able to digest all of what happened. 

 I didn't finish the race, on mile 12 i was already exhausted and thinking it was going to be a long, wet, and one with a lot of mind games. Like it happens in ultramarathons, you feel crappy most of the time and then there comes a tipping point and you start feeling better. I ran from 12 miles to 28 miles and never found that tipping point and at that point i decided to call it a day. 

My legs, although not injured, started feeling little pinches on the usual knee injury points and also soreness on other points which was evidence of not putting in the miles in preparation to the race. At that point i felt at peace with what i had done up to that point in the race and what i had learned from, not only the race itself, but the preparation i did or did not do for it. At that point i didn't want to risk getting re-injured and having to start over on the healing progress i had made up to that point in the gym and decided to DNF. 

I ran 28 miles at an estimated 8:30 min/mile pace in the conditions of the coarse and got a pretty good understanding of what it is to run TNF 50M. One of the fastest most exciting 50M races in the country which attracts the best of the best both nationally and internationally. 

I started the race behind a "platoon" of about 50 runners all running down the road towards Bunker Road heading to Bob cat trail. Right at Bob Cat the 50 runners somewhat dispersed and became 2 main groups and a bunch of scattered runners. The first group were the fastest runners, the Salomon dudes/girls and the Hal Koerner's etc... And the second group were also fast people but who decided to take it easier at this point and go faster later. Behind them were a bunch of runners scattered running their own race not really worried about staying with a specific group. I was here with these runners running my own race paying close attention at how the race started, what the pace of the fast guys&girls and just learning from these people. At mile 2.5 i already had lost visual with the first 2 groups and i was on my own, running in complete darkness with the fog and rain pouring on my face struggling to see 3 feet in front of me with my head lamp. Anyone who has driven their car on a heavy rain day can relate how difficult it is to see a few feet in front of you. At that point Oswaldo Lopez, who i had first met in person minutes before in the trucks while we waited for start of the race, caught up to me and passed me with a steady pace. It was unusual to see him using a normal flash light and not using a head lamp like EVERYONE else. 

The first 5 mile loop was difficult because it was there that it was raining the hardest. That and the fog made it difficult to see and the snapping back and forth of my headlamp made me freak out at some points where i was in complete darkness as i struggled to put it back on my head. 
From the 5 mile aid station to Tennessee Valley it was business as usual, already sunk in the idea that i was going to run in this rain the entire day made it easier to keep going. I had a good pace at this point and was starting to have my first energy gel and felt great. When i got to Tennessee Valley aid station i was surprised to see so many spectators there, considering the circumstances of the weather. 

From Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach i was still in a pretty good pace and felt ok. Nothing out of the ordinary happened at this point. 

On the turnaround from Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley however i started to feel like i was out of fuel. Weird because at that point i had eaten about 3 to 4 energy gels, started snacking on a protein bar, salt intake was business as usual and not to mention the water and the typical banana dipped in salt on the aid stations. I couldn't figure out what was going on. On the first uphill at Muir Beach i felt like i had nothing in me, i struggled to maintain a slow steady jog on that hill. At some points i had to stop but i made sure if i was hiking, i was going to do it as fast as i could to not fall to behind on my pace. From there to TV i struggled to keep going but put in a good fight and hardly stopped at all.

From Tennessee Valley to Fort Barry was a struggle, it was a constant battle of mind games. I wanted to stop but i didn't want to so i just kept going on a slower pace. When i left TV aid station i was passed by a girl with the most impressive physique i have ever seen. Her back and shoulders were probably a work of envy of the dude from Twilight. Crazy! At this point the idea of DNF was at the back of my mind. I got to Fort Barry with a great effort considering my energy level. I changed shirt, socks, shoes, positive attitude and set off to do the 5 mile loop once again. Two miles into this section and i knew i was done. Half a mile later i had to hike that down hill for a few minutes because i was sore, shivering cold and without a drop of energy. From then on the final 1.5 to 2 miles i slowly jogged, stopped, hiked and did what i could to survive and get to Fort Barry.

What went wrong was a couple things not just one.
1) Did not put in the miles at training. 2 months ago i was injured and ran the Headlands 50M and managed to run 46 miles before i made the decision to DNF. From then on i did a lot of gym work to get my knees healthy and i obviously tried to stay off my knees by avoiding running. I thought that maybe the cardio i did at Boot Camp and Spin was going to be enough to get me through 50M. I also ran 2 15 mile runs 10 days before the race that i thought would get me through. IT DIDN'T! That is a learning lesson i will never forget.
2) Nutrition before the race. I think i didn't eat enough food days before the race. I should have eaten like there was no tomorrow but instead i tried to eat super healthy food that obviously doesn't have nearly the same amount of calories than a burger or a bowl of pasta etc... Sweet potatoes and other vegetables are not enough even to cover the amount of calories i burn training let alone pack extra calories for the race.

At the end of my race i learned so much that i wasn't entirely devastated by my DNF. To see for myself how fast people go at the start line is priceless. Now i know why they do that. I also know that they don't keep that pace for the entire race, they slow down a bit later when their away from the chaotic crowded start line. I learned what kind of pace the fast guys do and i was able to see these amazing runners working their magic. I was able to run one of the fastest races in the country against the best of the sport and i think i did not do too bad. If i finished, it would have been a good result and that keeps me satisfied.
Now i know what i need to do to compete and move to a different level. I want to be able to compete with people and i cannot do that if i'm constantly worried about when my knee is going to blow up. Or not being able to push myself because if i do, my knees are not going to like it. As of the end of the race i made the decision not to race until i'm 100% healthy of any injuries. I will work hard at the gym and do a bit of running but i will focus on getting every injury eradicated and gone.