it was only in 2011 that i did my first half marathon in oakland. i remember recently being turn on to the barefoot style of running and i was running the half in my vibram five fingers. For the first couple years after moving to the east bay, my running practice was mostly on the road and definitely more a form of exercise to manage stress. So, when i look back at this past weekend after completing my longest one day race, i mused at the slow progress i’ve made in the last 6 years. a part of me wants me to plateau at this level and not push myself to do the 50M Ultra. It’s been wonderful to push my zone of comfort and do longer distances but the time commitment and the addiction to that style of progress is bearing on me. I don’t have to prove anything anymore to anyone, especially myself. My intention was to train well enough so i can do long runs in national parks and see wonderful scenes beyond a day’s hike. So, i am there now and it’s time to just run to explore and take photos. I just need to figure out what the photo story is about as it’s the photos are just pretty images at this point.
i had this grand vision that i was going to kayak, run and bike ride in the mountains this long weekend. uma’s cold caught up to me and as i am leaving the bay area, i am sneezing and coughing my way into higher elevation. i get here around 10am, find that most of the sites are taken and drive deeper into the mountain to find something suitable just for tonight. by the time, i am all settle down and ready for a cold beer night cap. Finally, at that moment, when i am looking at the stars and feel the chill and hear the wind, i tell myself it was worth it. this trip pretty much wraps up an incredible summer of the most outdoor i have ever been in in a year. i’ve enjoyed the outdoors in so many contexts and this weekend of doing really nothing was just fine. sure, i did a few hikes to a lake or two and vistas were pretty regular too but the most part i barely sweated. i even sleep twice in the hammock looking up at the trees and smelling the forest around me and laughing as bingo numbers were spoken over a speakerphone. sure i wanted solitude in the forest but the bingo name and kids being loud didn’t bother me a bit. then tonight i sat on the world renown vista point watch the sunset over the mountains. the idea that this was the area where i should get land really just sunk in while i enjoy that moment. for the past couple years, i have been thinking about buying some land outside the bay area and be close to more trees/mountains/trails/lakes. it is precisely at the sierra foothills that all of these elements come together. it’s probably going to be like a 5 year plan but it’s coming together.
in my typical fashion, i didn’t think too much about the implication of signing up for 120 mile race at high elevation when in reality i was wholly unprepared for such a physical feat. As I spoke to other participants on how they prepare for the adventure, my suspicion was confirmed that I was mostly out of my league. Which is not to say that there weren’t other less prepared racers and when compared to them, i would have done fine. of course in hindsight, i did pretty good considering how little i train. pretty good meaning i was able to finish all the stages within a pretty reasonable amount of time without being super injured or wiped out. Also considering how sore I was from the SF Marathon a week prior to the race, i didn’t come into the race believing that i could be ‘successful’ in just a rigoius physical feat. still, i can’t say that i didn’t wholly believe in myself as i view the challenge as mostly a mental grit exercise and i was mostly correct in that assumption. physically, i may not have been as well train but i felt that mentally I ‘should’ be able to complete the challenge. for the most part. the scenario played out naturally and there were many moments that my mental toughness overcame my physical weakness.
i love these types of challenges and as i get older/more successful, they come more rare in my daily experience. previously, life just threw these mental/character challenges at you and nowadays, i have to seek it out. not to suggest that my life is so easy these days but the daily challenges are fairly minor and doesn’t build much character for the most part. intense challenges that consume your mind/body for short periods of time have a much more powerful impression on your character psyche. which is to say, after an experience such as this, my confident level went up considerably. the question becomes how will i apply that new level of confident. it’s been tempting to keep using this confident in the same channel but i am not sure that’s how i want to apply it. I think it’s fairly easy for me to fall into the idea of upping my running game into longer races and etc. Not that it’s a super bad thing as the health benefits are awesome, there’s just so much on my plate that i want to do and all preparing for ultra distances requires more time commitment than i am prepare to give at this point. for now, i suspect i will continue to do a few more races this year to close out a great year of running but not sure what the future holds.
Even though I wasn’t really nervous about the marathon the days leading up to it, it turned out the evening before, it wasn’t the case as I think i fell asleep around 3am. Wake up call was 430am and mentally, I was already setting myself for a ‘bad’ performance. Thinking back to my last marathon where I felt more confident going into it because I had actually done a 20 miler as part of the training. This time around, I never ran past 13 miles in my training. Still, the big difference in my training this time around was that mostly trained in the oakland hills with plenty of hill work. I think the trail training made a huge difference in this marathon because the hills on this marathon were pretty easy for me. It wasn’t all easy as the condition of the road/weather was pretty tough.
Although it wasn’t cold, the wetness/fog still through most of the morning and by the time I ran the golden gate bridge, my feet was soaked as my vibram didn’t provide much protection when it came to wet roads. My fueling routine worked out well as I didn’t quite hit the energy bonk that usually comes at mile 19/20. Blisters/chaffing wasn’t an issue as well so that felt really good because I knew those things of seemingly small things could have really have an impact on the emotion state of the run. Still, my body did not let me off so easily as I tripped twice and almost sprang my ankles in both instances. Again, I am going to swear by my vibrams as the injury sustained from those trips was minimized by the shoes. I know with regular shoes, i would have been out for 5-10 minutes before running again. My last physical challenge was holding in all the fueling products that i had taken every 3-4 miles of the race. Within the last 2 miles of the race, my internals were having a shit storm and my gag reflexes were kicking in. All I have to say was thank god, they didn’t fully make it back up from my stomache!
Performance wise, as i was getting audio cues from my phone on a regular basis, I was more aware of my average pace and heart beat. My mantra was pretty much slow but steady but even with an average pace of 10 min mile, I was constantly passing people for the most part. I guess starting at wave 6, I had plenty of people to pass! With my pace holding steady at the 2nd half of the race, I was beginning to get excited about potentially beating the time from my last marathon. At beginning, I was mostly thinking if i can finish under 5 hours, I would be happy because i didn’t feel like I train that well. In hindsight, the SF course was much easier than Big Sur Marathon. I just reviewed my Big Sur run and it had 2200 feet in elevation change compared to 1000 in SF. In addition, I my hill training in the past year really paid off. At the end of the race, I was mentally checking myself to see if I could potentially run another 5 miles and I think I could have done it. My 50K trail run goal this year seem a lot more doable after completing this marathon. By next week after all the running in the colorado rockies, I should just sign up for the 50K in september to take it off my bucket list!
Although I bought my point and shoot on the run, after the midway part, I was pretty much mentally focused on finishing the race. I wanted to take photos of your non typical people that race a marathon and show the courage that these people had. Least to say, the challenge of running and being present with my pain pretty much took over my creative desire. Still, I always find it inspiring to see all sorts of people take on this challenge.
A friend finally got some decent photos of me doing what i love most when i am out in nature. All the training in the oakland hills pays off on days like this when i am running up decent elevation and snow!