Tuesday, May 8, 2012

strolling jim

the strolling jim race report that i posted to the ultralist...

RD Mike gets us ready for SJ '12

Strolling Jim started off with thoughts of the hot hours to come.
Little did we know that it would be cold before it got hot.
Just a mile into the race, foreboding clouds swept through, and by the first water drop, water was dropping.
I wondered if anyone was going to wish they'd started with a jacket. And I kept my eyes open for barns and houses just in case we got hit with some hail.
(it turns out some did, but not bad enough to injure anyone).

at 5 miles I was behind the large second pack due to a pit stop, and hit that mark in just under 41 minutes.
last year, running my PR in my 10th Jim, I'd managed to cover every 5 mile split +/- 1 minute from 8 minute/mile pace.
This year I was doubtful of my determination and my fitness. A pathetic barkley attempt after a winter of hard training left my motivation severely wanting.

This rain was a glimmer of hope though!
If the temperature stayed reasonable I thought I might still salvage a SUB 6, and go home mildly satisfied.

Well, for the first 3 hours the temperatures were downright reasonable, even if the humidity was ridiculous.
I carried 8 packets of gatorade powder, and mixed those once in a while with the water from the race water drops.
Hitting the halfway mark in 2:59:59, I was pretty sure that as the sun came out things would slow down a bit, but even with the already strong discomfort in my feet and legs, I knew that a constant effort might yield a surprise negative split...it's happened before.

I reported to myself the good news and the bad news....
Good news: My legs aren't going to feel any worse than this all the way to the finish!
Bad News: My legs are probably going to feel this bad all the way to the finish!

Experience reminds us that even when the race is not half done, we may already be feeling as bad as we are going to feel.
It probably won't get much worse, so if I can handle this...I can handle the rest!
Comforting thoughts with just 20 miles left to run.

When the sun came out, somewhere on Hilltop Rd for me, it didn't feel so bad. There was water every few miles to pour over myself, and there was even a slight breeze to help with evaporation and cooling. I began to pass people. I knew the relatively inexperienced would be starting to hurt now, at the marathon mark, and the upcoming exposed section in the sun would be demoralizing to those whose enjoyment of the course was already waning. If I could hold steady until the blessed shade in the walls, maybe I could rack up a few more passes and finish with a decent place?
Well, I did hold on until the walls, passing a handful of people while "running in the sun", 
and passing no less than 3 other runners before the top of the first "gentle grade" in the walls.
Unfortunately, the mental images I'd been dreaming up, of me pressing the accelerator through the walls, did not play out as I'd hoped.
I soon realized that my legs were not putting the stamp of approval on running the steepest parts of this section. I pushed and pushed, but on 5 or 6 of them my slow jog deteriorated into a calf-quivering walk to get over their humps. 
Dang, I thought, SUB 6 ain't happening. 
What's the fallback goal to keep me motivated?
sub 6:20 seemed possible, but wasn't really very motivating...I've run that fast in all but 2 of my Jim's...been there done that, and it's not even a really appealing round number!

I generally am only concerned with how I do compared to my potential on the day, but these are RACES, and when my own time performance goals have gone out the window, I still need something to stay motivated and get to the finish line as quickly as possible. I switched from Time Trail mode to RACE MODE. I was gonna catch as many of these other punks as I could before we got to Wartrace!

Coming out of the walls I ran with Beth from atlanta for a couple minutes, she had pulled out of sight ahead of me near halfway, and my thought had been..."hmm, there goes the last one with a chance at 6 hours?"
Turns out she doesn't think she's fast enough, but I just told her, "we'll see." (i think we'll see her under that 6 hour mark sooner than later).

Coming into sight of the 35 mile aid station, I saw the red-shorted body builder. I had run next to him for a few hundred yards early in the day, before he took off near Normandy.
At that time I had thought to myself, "ain't no way that guy can carry all that muscle to Wartrace faster than me." 
Not catching him in the walls had me thinking that I might just be wrong....but now he was in sight.
If you haven't seen someone for a long time, and catch a glimpse of them after the walls....you CAN run them down.

Passing by the aid station and filling my water bottle, I noticed he was walking the next hill. I was determined to pass with authority and roll on to my next victim, there were still more than 5 miles to go! I caught him at the top of the hill, and kept jogging at a fair clip. Half a mile later, when I figured the gap would be demoralizing to him and energizing to me, I took a peek backwards....SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS!! he was just 10 feet behind me!
I didn't want it to be this hard! But I wasn't going to back down. I pushed harder, and rolled out. Passing Spyder's resting spot, and then the graffitti bridge, I dared to look back again....nothing in the rear view!

At pig manure central (aka the huge fields that were being fertilized at 3.5 miles to go) I kept hammering. More in fear of someone catching me up than in hopes of catching someone else....I looked back at the 5k to go point, and couldn't see anyone! wow, in a short time I had put some serious distance. I think you can see at least 1/4 mile back at that point. Cool. Now keep hammering.

Only, that little rise at 5k to go had other plans. I went from strong jog to deadlegs again!
"Oh No!" I thought....all my experience and cockiness thinking I was going to roll until the finish and here I have grossly overestimated my ability to hang on.
The discomfort in my legs was non-trivial. I walked up the slight incline with purpose, but I couldn't shake the crap out of my legs. I even thought for a second that I might have to walk all the way in. "No, don't be silly, you've got to walk to regain your legs for a little bit, but they will come back. You might not lose ALL the places you've gained."

So I walked. For about 350 yards. I couldn't believe my legs had dropped off so badly and I hadn't even seen it coming. Damn!
I looked back and saw an aid car, and 2 runners just 200 yards in arrears! unbelievable! How could I have judged so poorly? And now to suffer the indignity of getting passed so close to the end....

But wait...maybe I can mount another counter attack?!?
I slurped the last of my gatorade and lurched into a jog again.
with 2.5 miles to go I knew that someone gaining on me would have to have an epic surge to pass me...if I could just hang on.

It felt like I was having to lift the dead weight of my legs all on my own, but I lumbered on, up Cannon Rd.

I knew that if I could get over the first rise on the highway before these two pursuers saw me, I might have a chance. I chugged and tried to lengthen my stride, but things were still binding up. I poured cool water over my head at the last water drop, and pounded my feet into submission to gain that last rise. I didn't peek, just to make sure I kept pushing even if they weren't in sight.
I caught another struggling runner on the highway, but he was obviously dealing with severe cramping, stopping every few yards to stretch his legs.
I cranked and cranked. Sometimes I get frustrated when I have to push so hard at the end of a race (thanks John Price....)
It seems an injustice that you can push and push and push all day (or for more than one day!), and then at the end someone can still come by and crush your dreams.
But Saturday I had a smile on my face...it is, after all, more fun to beat people than to be beaten.

I derive no happiness from others' disappointment, but I do feel outright joyful when I know that, even for just a few minutes, I've summoned everything I've got.

As I hit the town limit sign, I looked back and saw that I had a very safe margin over the 2 pursuers, and there was no one else ahead to gain on. I walked. I smiled.
I jogged the last 100 yards.
my 3rd slowest in 11 Jims...but a fun day in the woods.

Oh God, did I pay a price! The ensuing post-race party and next day took me back to how I felt after races in my first few years of ultrarunning. So stiff that I didn't want to get up to go pee, even though I needed to really badly. That piece of chicken looked so good, but it was 9 feet away. Oh god, not worth it!

Glad to see everyone, and glad to share the roads again.