Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I am Finally Proud of my AC100 Finish

I've been thinking a lot about my experience at Angeles Crest this year.  And man, if you thought the race was a battle - welcome to the war raging in my head.  I've replayed the events in my mind thousands of times, and return trips to the course have actually been quite difficult at times.  A few weeks ago, I literally had to run sections of the high country in reverse so as not to ruin my run with overanalytics.

So maybe you're thinking I'm completely crazy and that I should just get over it.  And to a large extent, I agree.  But it's not so simple when it's something that you devoted your life to for such a long period of time.  I don't know if I quite delved into the amount of time I spent training for this race, but let me assure you, it was more time than I've spent doing anything ever.  My favorite week of training was when the running time totals equaled over 24 hours.  In essence I had spent 1 out of 7 of my days running in the mountains.  That seemed wildly prudent.

Life was so beautifully simple then.  Time outside of work existed solely for training and Dom and I camped pretty much every weekend in the San Gabriels - running the various sections over and over and over.  Taking splits… stringing them together… finding ways to make things harder.  I dove headfirst into training for my first mountain 100 and I did not let up.  I followed Dom and Jorge, veterans of the course and champions of hard work, into the forest and never questioned whether or not I was ready for the types of workouts and the amount of mileage they had planned.  I never accepted running a shorter distance or cutting out one of the climbs.  If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right - and this was what it took.

In retrospect, the fact that I never sustained an overuse injury during these months and months of hard training is kind of amazing.  I would go long stretches without a single day off - in fact my first day of real rest in 2011 was in April.  This wasn't to say I wasn't tired sometimes and had periods where it was extremely hard to get the work done.  I remember sitting in the car at Eaton Canyon one morning, literally crying because I didn't want to get out and start a 4,600' climb.  As motivated as I was to achieve my goal in July, it wasn't always easy, but I got it done.  By May, it was undeniable how much I had improved.

My thoughts around the race have been largely jumbled and easily influenced over the past few months.  I've learned that people will always have their opinions and alternate realities that they create for comfort.  But if you're truly interested in the reality of what happened and why I didn't finish in or close to the time that I was honestly capable of (sub-24 hours), then you can go ahead and read on.  I've deeply explored what happened and what has resulted is sheer amazement in myself.  Does that sound cocky?  Well, I don't care.  What I did out there on July 23rd was fucking amazing.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about if it was possible that I just wasn't tough enough.  If it hadn't been my knee, something else would have hurt.  It's 100 miles, for chrissakes.  So did I just give into the pain?  Did I whimp out when it got really hard to bear?  Could I have pushed through it harder?

The answers to all those questions is a resounding, "I don't know."  But what I am 100% sure of is that I did not give up or weenie out on account of pain.  Looking back, I couldn't even bend my knee before the start of the race.  That's right.  I COULDN'T BEND MY KNEE.  And yet, I saddled up to run 100 miles up and over some treacherous mountains anyway.  What happened was this:  I was in mild pain from the get go, but ran remarkably well through the high country.  I stayed in control and let the lead women go - feeling very sure that if I ran within myself, I could catch them later.  I was running below 24-hour pace and I felt like a million bucks.  Hitting the gradual downhill into Three Points - probably the easiest part of the course - was when my knee really started to crap out.  I knew it was a problem that anytime I hit a little uphill, I was golden, but when the grade turned down, I was in an incredible amount of pain.  I felt good otherwise.

I've said it over and over, but my recollection of the turning point was Chilao, mile 52.  My knee was officially wrecked and the pain was outstanding.  I gave up all time goals and turned to survival mode, even though I was still on a decent pace.  While you deal with altitude in the first part of AC, the terrain gets gnarlier and nastier as you progress.  So in essence, I was heading into the roughest parts of the course on a knee that was completely shot.  So shot, in fact, that I'm having freaking surgery.  This part of the course breaks completely healthy and super talented runners every year, and I was heading into it already broken. It was a ridiculous endeavor, yet I was courageously committed to pressing on.  For that, I am proud.

My knee stopped working at Chilao.  Here is visual proof.

In fact, I'm really proud of the whole thing.  The work I put in, my bravery to endure and finishing what I started.  Ego checked.  Running for love.  FEARLESS.  I can't wait to see what's in store once my knee is back to good.  It's pretty much impossible for 2012 to be anything but awesome.

I wanted to do something REALLY epic for my last pre-surgery adventure,
so we ran to the moon.
I thought about all of the above a lot this past weekend, as I headed out for one more round of hard training in the San Gabriels with Dom, Jorge and Mari.  It was just what I needed, as it was just how it always was before the yucca incident.  And to a greater extent, it reminded me just how it would be when I'm all healed and officially back.  This was how it all started back in January… miles and miles of trudging through the snow in the high country on Saturdays, getting stronger, followed by quicker miles down out of Chantry and Eaton on sore legs.  And then followed by Chipotle.  I'll follow the same plan this year and work harder to avoid plants.  It's a fool-proof plan.

I leave you with a few images of my last epic weekend for awhile.  And oh, what a weekend it was!  The first big snowfall in the San Gabriels provided for some amazing (and tough) running and now I can go into surgery a happy woman.  (Although, I can still get 2 more runs in before tomorrow.  And I will.)

Heading up via Sierra Club/Baldy Bowl
View of Baldy Bowl from Devil's Backbone
The source.
Alpsadena, CA
Mind you, it was only 2 weeks ago that it was over 100 degrees.
Third summit this year. Next time I'm bringing my board.
Looking East: Gorgonio over yonder.
Treacherously beautiful.  And excellent "fancy feet" training.
El Chivo Loco on the approach to Mt. Harwood
The freaking smoke monster showed up.
In case you were wondering what heaven looks like
Lucky for us - decent conditions on Devil's Backbone
Just do it, man.
Saddle dancing
I found a distinct unicorn sized footprint on the top of Wilson.
We love our NB MT/WT 101s!

My awesome company for my last long run for awhile (a Wilson Loop).
Thank you Mari!
Planned? Probably.
Excellent day with excellent friends

Now that is one happy panda.


  1. Amazing post, amazing pics, amazing job.

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