It’s six days before Western States. 105 degrees today.
I headed up Sunset Trail from Chaney Trail head, running some, trudging mostly, 1pm, sun directly overhead, HOT. Two miles up and that was enough. The cold water I’d started with was hot in the water bottles, and the run down was very restrained.
This is the first real heat we’ve had this year. Up until now, my heat training has consisted of a few runs in the low 90s and lots of time in the sauna trying to meditate in 170 degree heat while the old men, mostly Armenian, who attend the Foothill YMCA grunt softly and make weird squishy noises as they move around. These are not race day conditions (I hope), it’s the best I can find down here in LA in May and June.
I got to the bottom of the hill. My truck was blocked in by Search and Rescue. A hiker had collapsed in the heat, and they were tending to him. I offered some GU and some electrolytes. I had to offer it to the guy directly; Search and Rescue couldn’t do it on my behalf. Liability, I guess.
I was feeling a little wasted myself. 105 in direct sun at high noon is no joke. I swooned a little when I stood up after having sat in the shade.
I’m worried just a little about the heat in the canyons. I’ve been reading about it, which isn’t nearly as good preparation as running in the heat but much more accessable. Pam Smith’s excellent race report from her winning 2013 run is full of great suggestions, at least some of which directly contradict Andy Jones-Wilkins suggestions here.
“Throw your splits chart out the window”
Andy Jones-Wilkins does have one suggestion I very much need to take to heart: “Throw your splits chart out the window”.
This is important because I am one of those guys who really struggles when things don’t go according to plan (Aspies struggle mightily with this) and my plan has some pretty ambitious splits. I have a hard time shifting from plan A to plan B. The fact that I need to signifies failure, to me, which is ridiculous because thinking that everything will go according to plan in a 100 mile race is idiocy. It has become my habit to set the bar extremely low in my plans, to ensure that I have the broadest possible parameters, maximum wiggle room before things are no longer going as planned. But this means I am constantly underachieving, and I’ve gotten a little tired of that.
For Western States, I’ve gotten ambitious with my plans. It’s a race that plays to my modest strengths, such as they are. I’m an okay downhiller, and there’s a lot of downhill. Too much, maybe; I need to make sure I rein it in and keep things relaxed. It’s a hot race, and while I’m not exactly good in the heat, I generally seem to suffer less than many others when it’s 100 degrees out there. The climbs are short, steep, a little brutal, which I like much better than slow, long, and gradual. It’s runnable. I’m a pretty decent runner when I’m not being lazy. What I’m not so good at is 100 miles. That’s a distance that I just can’t seem to get the hang of. I fall apart mentally in 100 mile races. I fall apart mentally in 50 mile races, too, but I’m able to push through that most of the time, even if it isn’t pretty. It’s a bummer for anyone around me when that happens (I apologize in advance for anything I might say on the trails next weekend) because I am not a radiant beacon of good cheer when shit happens.
Why the f**k not?
I was the third-from-last name pulled in the lottery. This is probably my one and only chance. Maybe I should run a conservative race, and just try to finish, since the odds of getting a do-over are pretty slim. I don’t want to go for broke, blow out, and drop. I drop a bit too easily in races. I’ve made a deal with myself this year: no quitting. After watching the Old Man’s struggles to stand, to eat, to talk, to understand, his helplessness, his fear, I decided there’d be no more quitting for me.
The temptation, then, is to take no chances, to run so cautiously I’ll not feel I need to drop. I’m cautious by nature and an underachiever anyhow, as much as one can be cautious and an underachiever and still finish 100 mile races.
The Old Man died in January. A month ago I was back in Canada to scatter his ashes in the Drumheller Badlands, hear what was in his will in a dingy little downtown Calgary law office, and try to find peace with it all in the Canadian Rockies.
That ambitious plan I have in my head? So what if I don’t know how to run a 100 miler. So what if it’s hot. So what if getting back into this race is nearly impossible. I’m not getting any younger. Why the fuck not?