The focus and overarching goal of my 2008 race season had been on earning points in the 2008 PAUSATF Ultra Grand Prix. I had won the open (30-39) division two years straight. Besides the 50% discount on series race entries, I enjoyed the subtle complexity and sense of greater purpose to racing. I was working for more than overall place in each race, which depends not just on my time, but who else shows up. Since I race often, there was a strategy in which races to register, and how hard to run each one. That Steve Prefontaine adage--“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” does NOT apply if the week after running 100k, you are going to run another hilly 50 miles, and then the week after that a brutal 50k (like I did in May of 2008). With all due respect to the Pre, no one can run three such long races optimally.
There was a quasi-religious, greater, larger meaning to it all.
My chief nemesis in the competitive masters (40-49) division was Jean Pommier. He had won the master's division the year before. This was our first year racing in the same division. Much faster than I, there would have been no contest between us if it weren't for his greater inconsistency, often due to his asthma.
Jean Pommier, with Norm and Helen Klein, feeling much better after the same race, a year later
Had I shown up at Helen Klein, even on a bad day, I doubt I would have finished after he did (his time, due to feeling ill, was 8:51) and then would have clinched the win. Instead, I had assumed he was going to run a sub-6:15 , so didn't feel spending all Saturday getting drenched in torrential rains was going to be worth the trouble. Especially the day after the day after trick-or-treating late with my kids near my brother's, who goes all out.
my brother, with his red and blue 2008 presidential election-themed garage party for the kids in his neighborhood, including giving out hundreds of hot dogs (Barack-bratts?) and cups of Palin-punch
My fiasco really bummed me out-- I was kicking myself for the next month or two. To get over it and move on, I decided that I would take a break from series races-- to get out of my "PAUSATF rut" as one fellow and well-known ultrarunner had gibed, months before. So I looked for new races. My race season started late-- my first real race wasn't until late March.
I picked McNaughton 150 mile in Illinois as an excuse for a different month to make our yearly trip to my wife's parents' near Chicago. April there are so many races in the Bay Area, including two key PAUSATF ones. I figured I should try the 150 mile distance at least once while taking a race series hiatus. This meant I wouldn't be returning to southern Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine 100 mile in June, so to fill the void I signed up for the Mohican 100 mile later that month as a good excuse to visit my parents in Ohio, where we hadn't been in 4 years.
McNaughton was a great experience, but it sort of messed up my body for the rest of the spring-- in April and May I am normally building up my speed with shorter races-- I found my body pretty beat up and exhausted for weeks, and unable to train hard enough to build that speed.
Mohican was the only race for which my training was anything close to optimal-- not counting the humidity of June in Ohio.
If I had any lingering desire of trying to win PAUSATF back, it was eliminated by another incentive I learned of early last year. I learned I could get comped entries to all Pacific Coast Trail Runs through their partnership with my sponsor, La Sportiva. After running my first trail ultras with them, I had run relatively few PCTR race for the past few years, despite eyeing some of their longer, new ones. It was refreshing to run many this past year, especially Skyline to the Sea, Headlands Hundred, and SF One Day. I threw in two shorter ones in the summer, including my first sub-50k trail race in years.
In August and September, I did my personally designed grand-slam endurothon of the Vineman triathlon followed the next week by the first of three 100-mile trail runs 3 weeks apart. This arose mostly randomly, the result of a casual conversation about Disneyland with my wife, visits by one of my sister-in-law's family and my parents, and my kids' school calendar.
The Station Fire in Southern California cancelled the last of these (Angeles Crest 100), which I replaced the last minute with Pacific Crest Trail Hundred in the Hood the following weekend. The resulting longer gap of four weeks diminished the "that's crazy" punch of my original schedule, but I was feeling pretty tired. After running my first 24-hour race four weeks after that, I thought I should take November off.
Aside from the racing, I did a lot of soul searching about how essential the competitive aspect of the sport is to me. Although I enjoy trying to beat others, I realized that there is a set limit to how fast I can ever run, and fundamentally, I just enjoy running. I felt I needed to put greater emphasis my individual spiritual experience, and the joys of training independent of some upcoming race goal. So part of my late summer-fall schedule was due to this-- obviously I wasn't going to be in the best shape. I was less out to impress with fast times and high place, but just see if I could get through it.
The other big change I made last year was to explore the trails around my house. (When I say "around" I'm describing probably an area with a 15-mile radius.) A large part of this involved running on unmarked and unmapped trails, which exist in abundance here in the local urban-rural interface. I don't know what it was-- maybe I should start taking baby aspirin or something-- occasionally, I would momentarily lose the ability to read, which resulted in finding myself somewhere maybe I wasn't supposed to be, but I was too confused to really know for sure. Without going into more details than that, the benefits of holding off on anti-platelet therapy and subsequent transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) far exceeded the risks. I may have doubled the number of trails on which I can run to and from my house.
Pretty cool for going against medical advice.