I threw caution to the wind, and decided to toe the line at the American Canyon 15k on February 6th. Race Director Harlan Reymont was kind enough to comp my entry. After a couple of treadmill workouts in the days before the race, I figured I should put my best foot forward, followed by the other one. At least until I returned to Auburn Dam Overlook Park. I have participated in this race every year since 2012, when it fell on my 40th birthday. As my first trail race, it will always be a special event for me. My annual birthday recognition would be incomplete if I missed it. Of course, if I had been 100%, I would have been racing Jed Smith 50k as my first PUSATF Ultra Grand Prix event for 2016. I'm glad I ran AC15k instead.
Harlan has made some improvements to the beginning/end of the lollipop course, adding miles of single track on the descent to No Hands Bridge. I had never been on this old railroad grade trail, and it was nice to not know exactly where we were or what was coming next. I kept up with friends Torrey and Clare on the descent, running a bit above my comfort zone. Once we got down to river level and rejoined the Western States trail I backed off, feeling my quads burning from the hammering descent. I grazed at the aid station and teased Julie about the additional mileage she had to run. "Haha, I get to go back now!" I joked.
I took it easy on the return, enjoying the much more runnable grade provided by the new course. I played with my pace/heart rate a little bit, and stopped to enjoy the views of the river and old coffer dam abutments. I finished in 1:40, about 15 minutes off my PR from 2012. The winners finished in 1:24, I think... At least my time will stand on the Ultrasignup top ten (9th) for another year.
I was happy that I could pull 15k out of my ass off the couch. Unfortunately, in the days that followed, my sore quads gave way to a sore back. Turns out the sciatica finally took up residence in the L5-S1 area from which it originates. Returning from injury is a bitch, no doubt about it. Baby steps, relentless forward progress, determined daily strength conditioning, positive attitude... It all makes sense in my head, but the stamina and endurance I have enjoyed in the past seems so foreign to me now. I never want to take fitness for granted again!