Wednesday, June 11, 2008

San Diego 100 - Race Report

About 58 hours after finishing the San Diego 100 Miler, I was out on an easy training run. I didn't regret the decision I made to save my body by walking the last 14 miles instead of pushing to break 24 hours. It was at mile 86, the Milk Ranch AS, when I realized that I was very close to hitting the 24 hour mark. However, It meant that I had to keep the pace and push my body to the max in order to achieve it. I had 2 hours and 52 minutes to cover the remaining 14 miles. I had been very conservative right from the start; and had kept a very steady pace the whole way. I had no low spots, no foot issues, and I took care of myself in hydration and nutrition. Had I pushed, I really don't think I would be able to resume training so quickly. Besides, I needed to collect a bronze buckle anyway, since I didn't have one. I can always get the silver buckle (sub 24 hours) next year.

I have to admit that I was not ready physically for this race. The wear and tear of racing 6 ultras (four 50 milers and two 50K) in 8 weeks was catching up to me. On the eve before race morning, I still had a nagging sore spot on the outside of my right hip. Without any tapering, I was just not feeling fresh at all. It was not that I didn't know how to taper and get ready for a race, but that this was for getting more racing experience at the 100 mile distance in preparation for AC100 in September, which is my big race of the year. I was content to just do as much as I was able.

I started out from the very back of the pack. At one point, about a mile after the start, I think I was the very last runner of the 81 brave souls who attempted the race. I purposely kept a very slow pace, about 2 minutes per mile slower than my 50 mile pace, and just kept going. As I went along, I gradually picked off runners and moved up the standings. The course was very runnable, the four climbs on each loop, which we did twice, were gradual and from 3-5 miles in length. It was an easier course than AC. To give you an idea, this was how I moved up:

Sunrise 1 (5.9M): 73rd place
Pedro 1 (12.6M): 67th place
Camp 1 (19.3M): 65th place
Paso 1 (25.3M): 54th place
Big Bend 1 (30.4M): 47th place
Milk Ranch 1 (36.2M): 41st place
Sweetwater 1 (42.4M): 36th place
Camp 2 (50.0M): 31st place
Sunrise 2 (55.9M): 19th place
Pedro 2 (62.6M): 18th place
Camp 3 (69.3M): 16th place
Paso 2 (75.3M): 14th place
Big Bend 2 (80.4M): 14th place
Milk Ranch 2 (86.2M): 14th place
Sweetwater 2 (92.4M): 15th place
FINISH (100M): 16th place

Since I started slow, I got to run with people I don't usually see. They were surprised to see me so far back and were wondering what was wrong with me. There was nothing wrong, I was just executing my strategy. It was good to see so many familiar faces.

As I started, my sore right hip bothered me right away; so I kept rubbing it with my hand whenever I took a walking break. This kept going for about twenty miles and then the soreness went away like magic. I was very glad. I was feeling good, and it was as if my body had adapted and grew out new muscles to tackle the loads I was putting on it. I don't know how else to explain it. One moment it was there, and then it was gone. And I don't have that sore spot even now as I write this. Someone must have been praying for me.

As I moved up through the field of brave runners, I kept the same pace. I was not speeding up, but people were slowing down. It turned out to be a hot day, and 38 out of the 81 starters dropped out, including some seasoned ultra runners. After the first loop (50 miles), I started to move up very quickly as I pickup off many runners going up the climbs. I was still feeling strong at the 70 mile mark. I remember thinking to myself, "I have seven and one half hours to do the last 30 miles." I said to myself, "now the race starts." I tackled the climb up to Paso (75.3M) even a little faster than I had done on the first loop.

Up to this point, I had no low spots. I was really enjoying the run and having a lot of fun. I made up even more time as I ran down to Big Bend (80.4M). I really thought that I had no problems going sub 24 hours. I made it over yet another climb and got into Milk Ranch (86.2M) and started to feel a little tired. Here, to make 24 hours, I had almost 3 hours to cover the remaining 13.8 miles. I thought I could do it, but I would have to push hard and it would be close. The choice was between grinding my body down to the ground, or to take it easy and be able to resume training much quicker. I made the later choice.

I didn't hallucinate, I never got sleepy (I think all the coke I drank helped), I just plodded along slow and steady. I carefully and accurately dialed in my hydration and nutritional needs early in the race and I didn't have any problems what-so-ever later on. I think I achieved a lot for this races. I kept very good pacing, I didn't dehydrate like two of my previous 100 mile attempts, I kept very strong mentally, and I proved that my strategy works. This gives me increased confidence for AC100.

Congrats to all my friends who finished their first 100 miler.

Until the next ultraholic adventure, happy trails!