Friday, June 12, 2015

2015 Western States Preview: The Hay is in the Barn

Shooting for a darker finish in 2015
This time last year, I was going to pieces. My anxiety levels were compounded by taper madness. Too much time to kill and not enough distractions. A year wiser, I feel better going into my taper for Western States. I only feel anxious when Sally McRae posts her damn countdown to Facebook:

"15 days. 20 hours. 38 minutes.  Heartrate: 107"

Knowing exactly how little time is left is almost as bad as trying to wrap my head around the whole course at once.

Knee issues did not derail my training, much. My peak training block, centered around the Memorial Day Training Camp, boosted my confidence; I felt strong. I know my goal is within reach, and I know it will not be easy.

Last year, uncertainty about the distance and my own instinctual self-preservation made my "A" goal of sub-24 hours easy to abandon soon after the shotgun. My best efforts to streamline my support ended up being a hindrance or simply neglected. This year, I have adjusted accordingly. I still plan to provide log sheets for my crew to document my progress, but my actual support will be simpler.

2015 Aid Station Worksheet

Most of the work sheet is for the crews benefit. The strategic, motivational language in the middle is what is important to me. At each aid station, I will have a zip lock bag filled with everything I need to get me to the next crewed aid station. That way, crew will only prepare a couple of handheld bottles with Tailwind. Barring surprises, this approach should enable me to trade bottles, drop my trash, grab the baggie and go. I can pack up the supplies on the trail, and having an extra baggie is handy at the other aid stations. Fill it up and take the buffet to go!

Another big change this year involves my pacers. In 2014 they also participated in pre-race festivities at Squaw and helped to crew me during the early stages of the race. This year they are off the hook until pacing duty. I ran Torrey into the ground last year, and David pulled almost as many hours awake as I did. Fresh pacers ought to help me sustain my momentum in the dark hours when I am trying to justify my desire for a silver buckle. Why is this important again?

And that brings me to the crux of this year. My "A" goal is a sub-24 hour finish. Last year I said it, but I knew it was impractical. Finishing my first 100, especially at States, was much more important than my time. This year, it scares the crap out of me. I know it is possible. I know it will hurt. I know I'd rather have two different buckles than two bronze buckles. I know I am ready. The hay is in the barn. Shaving off over four hours is not unheard of (see Pam Smith's ten hour improvement from 2012-2013), but it is a tall order.

This buckle needs a sibling
As always, I have a couple of other goals to fall back on in case the race gets away from me. My "B" goal is to improve upon last year's 28:06. During my crew meeting, I instructed everyone to not let me off the hook here. If I fall off 25 hour pace, I don't want to walk-in a 27:50 and call it a success. I want to put my best foot forward. I want a finishing time indicative of my training and preparation. I want to suffer for it.

And so my "C" goal is to finish my second 100. I imagine if the wheels come off this badly, I will be suffering more than the previous two scenarios. I try not to think about what may lead to me chasing cut-offs, or worse, getting cut.

I am returning to the WMS Medicine & Science in Ultra-Endurance Sports Conference, held on Tuesday and Wednesday of race week. I enjoyed the distraction last year, and it led to many changes in my training paradigms this year. The Alpenglow Festival is also being held race week, offering plenty of other activities to keep me occupied, such as a "pub run" sponsored by Salomon on Wednesday night (Salomon hash!) and movie night with JB Benna.

The home stretch is here. One more long run this weekend, lots of A.R.T. to keep the niggles at bay, some PT and strength training for my knee issue and one more Monster Massage on the Thursday before the race - then the big dance. I think I have everything under control, but then I remember it is the things outside my control which make this such a thrill.

See you at Squaw!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ignorance is Bliss

MRI of my right knee
I have long been a fan of quantum mechanics and the plethora of theories attempting to describe our universe. Some of my favorites stipulate that nothing exists until it is observed, described or contemplated. And so it has gone with my knee injury. Stemming from a fall during the Miwok 100k in May, discomfort in my right knee was the catalyst for a series of medical evaluations. My primary care physician referred me to an orthopedist, who took x-rays and then requested an MRI. I ran through all of this, building to a big ten day training block focused around the Memorial Day Training Camp for Western States.

Training Camp went well; I taped the knee all three days and kept the Vitamin I intake on the low side. I ran about 130 miles in nine days and never felt any significant pain in the knee, although my quads took a beating.

The discomfort abated, becoming more of a stiffness than a pain. The MRI results came back last Monday. I have a bruised patella and a torn meniscus. The doctor gave me the green light for States and prescribed some PT. The patella bruise, he said, will take up to four months to heal, but running should not cause any further damage. The meniscus, however, will not improve. Eventually I will have to have the damaged section removed. I had a similar issue with my left knee in the late 90's. I had it repaired during ACL surgery, and it has held up well.

So now I am hyper-aware of a torn meniscus every time I run! Niggles be niggles though, and knowing what's going on there doesn't change anything. Or does it? I'll be mindful, and take precautionary measures like taping and icing. I may taper a little more aggressively in the coming weeks to rest and minimize inflammation. 

In my experience, the niggles I worry about going into a race never end up being the niggles I have to deal with during the race. Hopefully that will hold true on June 27th.

See you at Squaw!