Chimera: reloaded

Last year I signed up for the Chimera 100 miler. You may ask why the hell would I do such a thing and I guess the simplest answer is: well, I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into. I trained, had some setbacks because of the injury in the San Francisco marathon but I went for the race and, from the perspective of one year, did rather well: I had to stop after 70 miles because my right knee had enough, but other than that I was in high spirits and determined to finish (I considered walking but 30 miles is a hell of a walk ;).

Fast forward few months and I again signed up for Chimera, which will take place in 2 days. The excuse of not knowing what I'm getting myself into does not work this time around; I knew exactly what I was doing when I signed up. So why? Am I a masochists? Perhaps, to a point :). But I think the real answer is: I like running. I like challenges. And what better running challenge than running 100 miles?

Btw. if there are any non-runners (or shorter distance runners) reading this I know that it can be difficult to imagine what running 100 miles involves. Let's start with something that more people are familiar with: marathon. Most marathons take place in cities, on roads and are relatively flat. But now imagine that same marathon happening on mountain trails. If you have any experience with trail running then you know that the difficulty of the whole enterprise just increased very significantly. And now imagine doing that almost 4 times in a row. That's Chimera :)

Obviously the fact that I signed up for the very same race is no coincidence. Last year Chimera beat me. This year I'm hoping to get my revenge.

I signed up early so I knew for a long time that this was going to be the highlight of this year's racing season. That's not to say I did not do other races. True, I stayed clear from road racing this year, but I did do six 50k races. Only one of those I also did last year (and even there the weather was very different last year), so making comparisons is difficult.

So I knew for a long time that this is the race to focus my efforts on. How did I do preparations wise? Not perfect but not too bad either. I did zero running in January and very little in February but since then I was slowly picking up mileage. In the last 3 months leading to the race I did over 300km monthly, which requires a decent effort (I was hoping to come closer to 400km/month but it's easy to make such plans but in practice...).

This mileage includes a couple of longer runs; in the last 3 months that would be:

  • 3 August: 54k night run in Ohloe wilderness (blog),
  • 8 August: Crystal Springs 50k (blog),
  • 30-31 August: 75km over two days in Lassen Volcanic National Park (blog),
  • 7 September: Diablo 50k (blog),
  • 20 September: Coastal 50k (blog),
  • 26 September: night run from Morgan Territory Regional Preserve to Mount Diablo (Strava),
  • 19 October: 11+ hour long run in Henry W Coe (Strava)

... and then at the end of October something went terrible wrong. I got a cold. No big deal, right? Sore throat, runny nose, the works. Except that it quickly turned into something I'm all too familiar with. I don't get sick often. But for the last couple of years, approximately once per year I get this annoying cold that ends in me coughing for weeks. And I didn't have much time left; the race was mere 4 weeks away.

I was debating whether to try to run through the cold or to take some time off. I went with the latter option (for the most part). Good thing is that I recovered pretty quickly: within a week I was almost up & running (literally).

However now I faced another problem. I went for few runs and I felt so bloody tired and my legs felt like lead and I didn't feel like running and.... I guess all of those are not entirely surprising symptoms in someone who has been running hard for the past few months. Thing is that before I had the training momentum going and all was well. And now that I lost it, there was no way to get it back. (Still I guess I should not complain: Yohann, with whom I did almost all of the long runs listed above, busted his knee, which is a much more serious problem...)

All that meant that instead of the planned 2 week taper I essentially had 4 weeks. This is how my training intensity looked like all the way from January until the end of October, few weeks before Chimera: (charts borrowed from Veloviewer)

Especially in the elevation department the story looks much better than last year. That's in large part due to my frequent visits to Black Mountain (which is why all the photos in this post are from Black Mountain). I scaled in 19 times this year and my top 10 times on that segment are from this year (50:26 best this year VS 54:30 last year). Once I even did it twice in one training; I wanted to do it three times but that was in the post-cold I-don't-feel-like-running period so even twice felt like an insurmountable effort (hey, it was tough, ok?!).

I am very upset about this enforced super long taper (missing in the charts) and I wish my weekly mileage was somewhat higher, but to be fair I put decent amount of effort into preparations. Will it be enough? We'll see. Soon. Now it's time to talk about...

Goals

For a while I entertain this crazy idea of trying to finish under 24h (it's just such a nice obvious goal, right?). But then I realized that last year this would place me in the top 10. Plus this year the course is slightly different, slightly more difficult. Plus the cold that ruined my last weeks of preparations...

Long story short, I do not plan to aim for 24h anymore. Ideally I'd like to not think about time at all, but I know myself and I know it's not realistic so probably I'll be shooting for something like 27h? But quite frankly, if I finish in any time at all, and that means within the 34h limit, I'll be super happy. So let's make that the only goal for this race. To finish.

Will I make it? I'll know soon. Tomorrow I'm flying to LA and from there driving to Lake Elsinore where I'll be spending the night. Then on Saturday I'll have to wake up at 3am to drive and be on time for the 4:30am check in at the start. And then at 6:00 we'll be on our way.

If all goes well then around 9am on Sunday I'll be done. Sleeping time? Not quite. I'll need to drive back to the airport and catch my evening flight back to San Francisco. If you're thinking this is a crazy plan then... you're probably right :)

Anyway. Wish me luck. The beast is approaching!

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