Thursday, June 26, 2014
In the past couple years, the week after the Dipsea has found me at the Woodminster XC race. I really like Woody because the longer course (which is awesome as well) plays to my strengths as a scratch runner, with 2+ miles of flat, fast fire road to finish the race and run down those who started in front of me. The handicaps are slightly less generous than those for the Dipsea (I think), so I’ve been fortunate enough to win the race a couple of times. However, the schedule was changed this year for some reason and the race fell a week later than normal (the day after the Double Dipsea, which is 13 days after the Dipsea). So this year, I took the opportunity to head up to Lake Tahoe with my West Valley teammates and run the Lake Tahoe Relay: 1 lap around the lake split into 7 legs. I chose leg 3, which is mostly downhill, in an effort to get my quads more used to the pounding they’ll endure at Western. To quickly summarize, our open men’s and women’s both placed 2nd and we were quite pleased with the results, especially considering both teams were scraping together a full squad just a few days before the race.
The following weekend was the Double Dipsea. I love this race. It’s relaxed, fun, and the longer course combined with slightly less favorable head starts makes it winnable. My goal going into the race was to not tire myself too much for Western the next weekend, and to not hurt myself in any other way. The race started out fairly tamely, with a solid group of scratch guys making their way to the top of Cardiac a bit slower than the previous year, but I wasn’t worried. The course was longer as this year, the Moors replaced the Doors AND we had to take the trail alongside Muir Woods Road instead of Muir Woods Road itself. We took the Moors last year and it slowed my time considerably relative to the year before, so I knew this year would be even slower as the singletrack that replaced the road would likely be filled with runners going both ways.
Duffy put a bit of time on me on the descent and I found myself running alone as I gapped the guys behind me a bit. That quickly changed when I got tripped up passing someone just below halfway rock. Luckily, the damage wasn’t bad and I popped right back up and kept going. The trail was definitely more crowded this year than in years past with 600 registered runners and a hiker division that had started at 7:30am (more on that later). I made my way to the turnaround without any further issues, other than some hikers who were taking up more of the trail than they should have been (I’m not the only person who felt this was the case). Alan was cresting the top flight of stairs as I was coming into them and I was a bit surprised because I thought he’d be farther ahead. Still, there was a lot of race to run and I didn’t know how he was feeling. So I put my head down and charged down the stairs. I caught back up to Duffy on the bottom flight of stairs – it pays to have them less than a half mile from my door – and hit the turnaround in 52:42, feeling pretty good.
I was very conscious to take my time heading back up the stairs as I didn’t want to tire myself out for the long climb to Cardiac. I hit the creek feeling pretty good and just took my time on the climb. I forced myself to go a bit easier than I normally would have and was totally OK knowing that Alan may very well be running away from me. At Cardiac, I was feeling pretty good but still didn’t feel like really putting the hammer down, so I cruised down to Swoop and through Steep Ravine. When I got to the top of the new switchback at the Moors, I saw Alan and Sissel about a quarter mile ahead of me. At that point, I decided I was going to push to catch them, as they were running in the 1st and 2nd spots respectively. It took basically an all-out sprint from the Moors to the finish line to catch Alan, as I caught him with about 50m to spare (sorry, Alan!), crossing the line in 1:46:18 (53:36 for the 2nd half).
The race itself was organized really well. Brazen Racing took it over from DSE (although I believe DSE still helped out quite a bit) and they put on a great event. The handicapped start is not an easy thing to pull off. The only complaint I have is with the addition of a hiker division. With more people than ever in the race, the hikers were allowed to start at 7:30am (half an hour before the 1st handicap group and an hour and a half before my group) so that they could finish within the time limits. This trail is tight enough as it is without having to worry about race hikers in addition to tourist/day hikers not in the race (especially this year with the course change off Muir Woods Road and the increased number of racers). Many of the race hikers had poles and backpacks, which took up a lot of room on the trail and they were decidedly less courteous in yielding to runners than the non-race hikers. I recognize that they also paid a race entry fee and are entitled to their space on the trail, but a little self-awareness of the situation and their surroundings would have gone a long way in several places. Headphones and poles(!) were the items I heard mentioned the most at the finish as having been responsible for passing problems. I’m not trying to blow this out of proportion, as it was a very small part of the day, but I did hear many folks discussing it after the finish. Maybe that’s something Brazen wants to look at more closely for next year.
The rest of the day was spent watching soccer and hanging out with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then, it was bed time and Sunday brought on the beginning of the true taper for Western States. I’ve spent some time in the sauna recently which I hope will help with the heat that we’ll likely see. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much everything I can do. All that’s left is to sit back, relax, and fight the pre-race jitters that are making regular appearances in my dreams. I’m heading up to Squaw this afternoon and will get a short shakeout run in tomorrow morning before watching my pacers (Vargo and Magda) at the hill climb. After that, the pre-race meeting, dinner and an early bedtime are all that stand between me and the start line. I’m excited and terrified among many other emotions. As it’s my first 100 miler, my primary goal is to finish upright. I do want a silver buckle and think that I can go well under 20 hours, but since this is twice as far as I’ve ever run, I really have no idea what’s going to be waiting for me in the 2nd half. So I’m going to try to stay as conservative as I can for the first half and then see what I’ve got left in the later stages of the race. It might take a couple of weeks for me to get another post out, as I’ll likely have a lot to digest, so I guess we’ll just leave it open to that. Best of luck to everyone running out there. #seeyouinsquaw