Week 21, 2013: Ambitious plans... go south.

First part of the week: recovering after the race. Ok, not completely recovering because on Tuesday and Wednesday I went for CrossFit. On Thursday I wanted to go as well there was only one minor problem: I could hardly move :). Did I mention already that I'm a total CrossFit convert? ;)

I also did a faster run on Thursday but I didn't expect my pace to be too impressive and, well, it wasn't.

And then it was the weekend. Long weekend in fact, as Monday is off -- Memorial day. My initial plan was to use this rare opportunity and go to Grand Canyon, but I came up with this idea too late and the plane tickets were already super expensive.

So no Grand Canyon this time. Instead I came up with an interesting idea. In November last year I went to Yosemite and run 100 miles over 4 days, sort of as a preparation for the upcoming 100-miler. This time I didn't have 4 days. I had 3... :)

This time my base was at home and I decided to explore some places that were a bit more remote and where I wouldn't normally feel like driving. There were two that came to my mind: Henry W Coe State Park and Point Reyes National Seashore. So the plan was to spend the upcoming three days in those places, running approx. 54km daily, so that it would add up to 100 miles over 3 days.

If that wasn't challenging enough I was hoping to do that a pace comparable to my target pace for the 100-miler, which ideally I'd like to do in under 24 hours. That sounds like such an easy task: it's just 6.7km/h, which means almost 9 minutes per kilometer! (or almost 14 and a half minutes per mile). That sounds almost like walking!

Well, there are two problems with such off-hand calculations. One, they tend to ignore the fact that along such distances you get tired. Extremely tired. Comparing pace during such runs with your weekly 10K runs just doesn't make any sense at all. And then there's problem number two: I tend to do such long runs in the hills, where I face a lot of elevation gain (just like in most ultra-running events). Now, if you don't know how much hills can slow you down then you probably have never really done any running on them.

So on Saturday I went to the Henry W Coe State park. The drive was smooth and at the entrance I met some bikers who recommended me the route to the Missisipi Lake and back, which was a total of around 30 miles, although they seemed skeptical that I'll do as much.

So I set off. There was one problem that I did not have in November: it was hot. I had 3L of water with me and taking more didn't seem very practical but I was wondering whether that'd be enough.

It was a pleasant run. First it was down to the China hole, a deep spot in the Coyote creek, where kids were splashing about in water. From then on it was mostly uphill, almost all the way to the lake.

I was planning to take a different route back and, even though it was longer, I thought the whole trip would still leave me somewhat short of the planned distance, so I was considering taking a detour. However, the way back turned out to be much more challenging.

For the first few kilometers the trail was barely visible and I lost it once or twice therefore also missing the detour (thankfully, as it turned out later). When I got back on track and was approaching the 30K mark I realized that I'm low on water. I was trying not to overuse it but it was a warm day and I was almost constantly feeling thirsty.

From then on the trip was a drag. I didn't have a good map so my distance measurements were just wild guesstimations. Given how tired I was and my water situation I decided to forget the original plan and just take the shortest possible route back. I thought this would bring my total to around 40K and, though that was quite a bit shorter than the original plan, at that point I didn't mind that in the least.

But I was wrong. At 40K I only reached the Coyote creek basin. I still had a good 7 kilometers to go. Big part of which was a 400m climb. And I had almost no water. Those last few kilometers I mostly walked and they were dragging on forever. When I reached the park HQ and bought a cold Gatorade I felt in heaven :).

In the end I did 47km in just over 7 hours. That means that I just barely kept the pace needed on a 100-miler event to clock it under 24 hours. Frankly, now, I think it's too ambitious of a goal and I don't think I'd be able to do that...

Needless to say I also gave up my original 3-day running plan. I was exhausted. I refined the plan to take Sunday off or do an easy 15K run (it was a day off in the end) and only do one more long run on Monday. When I look back at what I did in Yosemite I wonder how I pulled it off. I suspect that it was mainly a mental thing: I was there and essentially didn't have much choice. Now I'm at home and it's just too easy to call it off. Once again I learn that our heads are at least as important in long distance running as our legs; probably more so...


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