Dragon 2019 3×3
|April 2, 2019||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Before I get started with my 3×3 post, I need to give a solid recommendation for SS Mountain Racing, who put on this race with race director Martin. Take a look at their mission statement from their website:
“SS Mountain Racing strives to produce low-key trail running events in the Sierra Nevada foothills with affordable entry fees. Fun, challenging courses. Distances of 10K to 50K and beyond.”
Pretty cool huh? Pair that with running in the northern California foothills in spring which is drop dead gorgeous, and now let’s add a sprinkle of luck because we had perhaps the most perfect weather I can remember for the day of the race. The alpine meadow landscape (think lake tahoe) may take my breath away every time, but my heart belongs to the California oak foothills in all seasons. (google “northern california spring foothills” and click on images to get a feel of the landscape I’m talking about)
As always, the 3 best things, the 3 worst things, and then some additional comments. And also like always, you can ask me your burning questions (or curiosities) about this race, running, or whatever and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.
Especially after last season, this deserves to be first and foremost. I finished. I showed up, started the race on time (barely) and got across the finish line in no danger of being pulled for cut offs. THAT, my dear Reader, can never be taken for granted.
Long time readers of the blog may remember that my very first endurance season (the horse kind) I didn’t finish a single ride. I tried multiple rides and got pulled over and over. A horse injury that was predicted to be 6-12 months of rehab ended my season. It was horribly discouraging, but as cliche as it sounds, that string of failures back-to-back was incredibly important to me learning the sport of equestrian endurance and cementing certain values. Looking back, that first season was absolutely essential.
I had incredibly early success in running ultras (and before that, finishing marathons). I think I needed a season like last year. You can learn a LOT of lessons from success, but perhaps not all of them. I’m sure I haven’t even realized all the impacts of my “failures” last season yet.
But, feeling like *you’ve failed isn’t fun and it felt really really good to finish.
*notice I’m not using the phrase of “Feeling like a failure” here. This is deliberate. Good friends have told me to stop using words like failure to describe myself. Sometimes I still want to. Just this morning I called myself a “dumbass” and those friends totally called me out. IMMEDIATELY. Reiterated that I wasn’t a dumbass. Words have power. Framing and the stories we tell ourselves unconciousely are important. Likely you aren’t a failure. I’m not a failure. Sometimes, like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs and a lot of other really successful people, we fail. We are not failures. Say it. Believe it (eventually).
I worked through a bonk and ran to the finish
The last 3 ultras I did (again, all last season), this didn’t happen. There was no reedeeming moment of glory where super Mel got to come out in Act 3 and fly down the trail. There was pain and suffering and more pain, and optimism that things would turn around and a LOT of hiking….but to come back from a bonk where I felt broken and be able to RUN again at this race was very special.
I’m getting really good and listening to my body and going with the flow. A McMuffin a couple hours before the race start with a black coffee. A chocolate milk in the first 10 miles. A combination of apple sauce and other snacks, combined with aid station food (mostly craving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) powered me through this one. When I finished around 4pm I was craving a grilled cheese sandwich, which the hamburger grilling team graciously provided me. No problems with my stomach or gut this race (but it also wasn’t super hot, or smokey). It isn’t normally a problem for me….but after last season I can’t take anything for granted!
The uphill/downhill simple race rule
My simple rule since FOREVER has been that I run the downhills and flats and hike the uphills, then if I feel good in the last 1/2 to 1/3 of the race, I can run whatever I want. This works because I’m a pretty good downhill runner and I can make up speed.
I think this maybe/probably needs to change?
The other “rule” I hear is don’t run anything in the first 50miles (for a 100 miler) that you also won’t be running at mile 80. I’ve always thought smugly that this is exactly what I’m doing with my simple rule.
Turns out I’m sorta wrong.
Near the end of the race when I let myself run whatever I want, I can often run up hills better than down hills.
I’m not talking about monster uphills – more like “moderate inclines”. The slight uphill inclines that are kind of annoying to hike because they aren’t very steep. In training I would run up them in a heartbeat. In a race, trying to be more conservative, I force myself to walk them for at least the first 2/3.
Perhaps it’s time to give my simple rule a second look.
I have strong quads and have never had issues with the quad muscle cramping or complaining in any way, as I hurdle myself downhill. But, I think it’s playing havoc with my hip flexors. Which are connected to my quads. Sore hip flexors probably the price I’m paying for the down hill pounding early and mid race. Downhill at fast speeds is also dicey for my IT bands.
What if…..I started running up some of the hills in the beginning of the race? Not anything crazy, just running up the little bunny hills and reducing my speed on the steep downhills to something of a brisk efficient jog?
I don’t like this because it’s less black-and-white. But, it’s more true to effort.
The Problem is is that I have ZERO time to test out this theory on a longer race effort before the Quicksilver 100k. On the other hand, I’m almost certain that Quicksilver won’t be a qualifier for me even if I have a perfect day and I’ll be happy to finish before the cut off. So why not try? It’s almost a guarantee I’ll be doing another 100k or 100miler later in the year for a qualifier and then at least I’ll know.
Hoka Speedgoats are OUT. I’ve known this since last year but with no other options, I’ve still been training in them. My really worn out pair has been OK on training runs, but I put on my newer (less than 100 miles) for this race and all the old issues with them came flaring back. What I love is that I don’t trip or stumble in them. The cushioning is adequate. I could probably make them work for me if there wasn’t the reoccurring problem of the heel cup being too deep, putting pressure on my achilles. I found a local store that carries a newer shoe brand called Topo. I bought a trail cushioned version that is designed for ultra races and I look forward to trying it out. It’s wide like an Altra, but lighter and more cushioned like a Hoka. The bad part is a 5mm drop (I prefer 4mm or below), but it’s close enough to risk trying it. I’m going to try and put about 50 miles on the pair I have, and if they seem to work I’ll do Quicksilver in them.
I’m nervous they aren’t cushioned enough, but I had a revelation while I was in Loma Linda.
*All those articles that exist to convince people they are going to die if they don’t stand every single moment of the day they possible can, probably don’t apply to me.
Yes, I commute in a car while sitting. Yes, when I write I’m sitting. But, if I’m not commuting or writing or sleeping, I’m on my feet moving around. Strictly considering “time on my feet”, I get more than enough even if I’m not trying to stand up for everything. I don’t have a desk job. The reason my feet feel SO beat up on runs is because THEY ARE BEAT UP. My feet are trashed after long races and long runs, not because I need to “be on my feet more to toughen them up”, but because they are begging for mercy and some respite. Being off work for 2 months was eye opening. While running at Loma Linda my “job” was writing magazine articles and I sat for most of the day writing with only some casual moving around. I was far less active overall and on my feet less. My feet had never felt better on long runs. So, perhaps I can sit sometimes during surgery and it won’t kill me or hurt my ultra training. And maybe, if my feet arrive at the start line less fatigued and beat up, I can get away with a shoe that isn’t quite so cushioned.
*Side note. It took me at least 3 years to figure out that the calf pain at the end of endurance rides were elyte cramps and not just under-conditioned and weak calves. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t walk at the end of rides and just figured that I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought and I was jealous of all the other people who could walk. “Gotta do more calf strengthening”, I would tell myself. *rolling eyes*. Or you know, fix the elyte imbalance that is basically giving you rhambo of your calves at the end of every ride. This whole situation of “my feet always hurt so bad, maybe I need to spend more time of them because I sit down for TWO HOURS A DAY on my commute”, reminds of a similar flaw in my thinking.
My Start was a ClusterEFF
I got to the start 30 min early. I really really really had to use the restroom, so I grabbed my race bag and headed to the start area. It was about a 3 minute walk and I didn’t want to have to depend on returning to my car. It was a good thing I had grabbed it. The bathroom line was TWENTY MINUTES line. I’m not exaggerating AT ALL. I starting changing into my clothes and pinning on my bib *in* line. By the time I got out of the bathroom I had 5 minutes to throw my shoes, put my pack in and stuff some crap into it, throw my bag under a picnic bench, and start the race.
I had not prefilled my water bottles, the water was in the car, and there was none at the start area. First aid wasn’t for 7 miles. I had a chocolate milk with me, so that was something, but not ideal.
I guess I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse (ie leaving my bag of stuff in my car thinking I had time to return), but I still felt like if I had been more prepared, I wouldn’t have had to scramble. Laying out my pack the night before, including filling water bottles has to happen.
My gear wasn’t that exciting, and you can look at my past 3 3×3 and pretty much see the same things, so let’s talk about something that is truly ugle.
There’s no way I’ll qualify for the Western States 2020 lottery at Quicksilver. I’ll be happy to finish.
Their absolute cut off is an hour faster than Black Canyon (the 100k that I qualified at in 2017). The qualifying cut off time is also an hour faster than Black Canyon. I finished Black Canyon with a mere 30 minutes to spare before the qualifying cut off (1 1/2 hours before the absolute cutoff).
The bottom line is that I’ll have to finish Quicksilver at LEAST 30 minutes faster than Black Canyon (my fastest 100k to date) to squeak into a qualifier.
It ain’t going to happen.
If I had thought there was a chance, it was before I ran Red Dragon on Saturday. To run a qualifying race at Quicksilver, I’ll have to maintain my Red Dragon pace (or even a tad bit faster) for double the distance. Over terrain that is going to be slightly more challenging. In weather that is probably going to be at least 10 degrees hotter.
Honestly? I’ll be lucky to finish, never mind qualify.
Let me reframe that. A finish is likely on the cusp of my ability right now. I imagine I’ll need some extraordinary luck to qualify, but for a finish, I need everything to go right – and sometimes it does.
I thought about not even starting Quicksilver. Why run it if it wasn’t going to count for something like a Western States Qualifier?
The pushback in my mind was immediate. The point isn’t Western States. The point is to run ultras for myself.
Then also comes the negative thought again of how I’ll probably be overtime anyways. Why go to the bother of going out of town for a weekend, and taking a day off work to just fail and add one more DNF on my record?
This one was harder to dismiss because it carries pride with it. But in the end I remind myself that the only one looking at my “record” is me. I’m the only one that cares. Playing it safe isn’t the point. Western States isn’t the point. A perfect ultrasign up record isn’t the point. Go out there and try my hardest on some new trails in a race I’ve never done before. Go and savor the moment no matter what the outcome. Share the stories, own my failures, and own the successes too – especially the ones that came because I was brave and risked failure.
Let’s end on a happier note.
For you locals, and the curious, here’s the Red Dragon course. The start is at Skunk hollow, which I’d never been to, but hooked up to the trails at Cronan Ranch which I’ve done a couple times in training.
(below screenshots shamelessly stolen from the event’s website linked above)
Here’s the elevation map. About 4400′ in the 55k (125’/mile) which I don’t consider *that* much climbing for races I do in this area. Most of my races are over 150’/mile.