|Headlands 50 Mile|
photo by Gary Saxton
Wake up. Glare at alarm clock and mumble incoherently. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee. Car pool to the "office". Punch in and zone out all day. Eight hours later, kick feet up and have cold beer. That pretty much describes my day this past Sunday at the Headlands 50 mile race up in Marin.
I signed up for the race a few months ago. I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to schedule two hard 50 mile races so close together at the end of a long hard season -- having just run a fast 7:10:23 fifty miler three weeks prior. Probably it had something to do with the fact that my training partner and good friend Joe Bistrain had signed up and would be attempting his first 50 miler (having previously only run two 50Ks). In any case, it was a bonehead move on my part.
Luckily I realized my stupidity, and rather than risk running myself into the ground or getting seriously injured, I made the decision to just use this event as a long training run. Rather than racing all out and pushing myself to near exhaustion for seven to eight hours, I decided not to even bother trying to battle pre-race favorite Karl Schnaitter for the win (it would have been a tall order anyway as he is faster than me and finished about ten minutes ahead of me at the Quicksilver 50 miler back in May).
Instead I planned to go out easy for at least the first twenty miles and then see how the day unfolded. If I was feeling good, perhaps I would pick it up a bit for a few miles and see how many people I could reel in. I definitely wanted to finish in the top 10, and I was hoping for at least a top 5 finish. If I could crack the top 3 and finish on the podium that would be ideal. But I wasn't willing to kill myself and try to outsprint someone down the mountain at the end of the race to do it.
|Whoa! 10K of elevation gain in 50 miles!|
What Actually Happened...
Thankfully (and somewhat surprisingly) I managed to keep my ego in check and execute my game plan quite well. I held back a bit on the opening steep climb, letting four or five guys run off ahead of me. Then, even more surprisingly, I didn't panic when another ten runners or so passed me during the next ten or twelve miles. I even kept my cool when teammate and buddy Adam Blum pulled up beside me (even though he was supposed to be taking it super easy and saving himself for The Bear 100 coming in two weeks). And I didn't even panic when Joe (who was attempting his first 50) pulled up beside, and then passed me!
I had warned Joe numerous time in the preceding weeks to take it easy on the first loop and to save his strength for the second half of the course, as this race would be 19 miles longer than anything he had ever run before. So when he passed me, breathing relatively hard and sweating profusely so early in the race, I assumed that his race was over and that he'd end up dropping at the end of the first loop at mile 25. Thankfully however Joe eventually settled down a bit and eased off the gas into a more sustainable pace. Nonetheless I was worried that the damage may have already been done.
|A perfect day for running|
photo by Gary Saxton
Somewhere around mile twenty, as we made the turnaround at the bottom of the Golden Gate bridge and began our climb back up to the mountain ridge, I began passing other runners rather steadily. Admittedly I had picked the pace up slightly, but I wasn't working that hard and was surprised to be passing so many people so quickly. By the time we hit the turnaround at mile twenty five I think I had moved up to around 5th place!
A Brief Moment of Drama & Despair
As I came into the turnaround point at mile twenty five I got a fairly excited and probably pushed the pace a bit harder than I should of trying to reel a few other runners in on the only real sections of flat runnable road on the course. And suddenly to my dismay, my right calf starting hurting -- really bad. I briefly thought about dropping out and calling it a day. I think the only thing that kept me going was that in case Joe was struggling I didn't want to give him any additional incentive to drop. So I decided to just slow down a bit and see if my calf would feel better (or at least not get any worse). And luckily, dialing back the pace helped and the pain subsided a bit.
|Karl Schnaitter and Jean Pommier tearing it up|
photo by Gary Saxton
On a side note, while I had moved up into 3rd place in the 50 mile race, I was actually still well behind two of the 100 miler runners including fellow Quicksilver teammate Jean Pommier who leading the 100 miler and on course record pace! Jean, who will be moving up into the 50 year old age group next year, is an absolutely amazing runner and I was only slightly embarrassed of the fact he was running twice as far as me and was still kicking my butt!
The Anti-Climatic Conclusion
I kept moving well and eventually reeled in the second place guy, Armando, on the downhill into Tennessee Valley at mile 37. He seemed to be struggling a bit with leg cramp and fatigue. I was still feeling great so I knew that I didn't have to worry about him catching back up to me. At the same time, I also knew that Karl had an insurmountable fifteen minute lead so there was no point in running hard to try and catch him. That was actually fine with me! It was so nice and mentally relaxing to be able to jog the last 13 miles with no pressure to run fast and no fear of getting caught.
Thirteen miles later I crossed the finish line in 8:03:25, securing 2nd place overall, about 16 or 17 minutes behind Karl. I bowed to the crowd at the finish line, collected my winnings, and then lhobbled off to the car in search of my camp chair and ottoman and my pint of Pliny the Elder waiting for me on ice. Not a bad way to relax after a long day of work :)
|Friend Joe Bistrain finishing his first 50 miler!|
My buddy Joe triumphantly sprinted across the finish line in 9:16:23, knocking down his first 50 miler (and qualifying for Western States if he is interested in putting his name in the lottery)!
Our other buddy Adam Blum got in a good training run but wisely called it a day at mile 37, saving himself for The Bear 100 coming up in just two weeks!
And special congratulations to Quicksilver teammate Mark Laveson who won the children's fun run (i.e., marathon) race!
For a very thorough and detailed account of his 100 mile victory and new course record, check out teammate Jean Pommier's blog and race report here: http://fartherfaster.blogspot.com/2013/09/pctr-headlands-hundred-100-mile.html.