photo: Eco-X/Clark Zealand
I had a great time this past weekend at Masochist even though the race didn't go nearly as well as I hoped. Do they ever? I didn't really go into this race with any huge expectations. I just wanted to have fun and beat my time from '07 (7:53) in what I planned to be my last race of 2010. I thought I could fairly easily run under 7:53 and guessed that I would probably be somewhere around the mid 7:30's based on some recent workouts and my increased experience as an ultrarunner three years later. It turns out that I was mistaken and unfortunately it was not going to be easy from the start.
I went out with the lead pack of guys from the start. It was a big pack - like 10 guys - the pace was quick, but certainly not too fast. I knew fairly quickly that it was not going to be one of those days where everything clicked. My legs just didn't have that light and quick "pop"; they felt very slow and sluggish. I intentionally backed off from the pack right before we finished the road section in effort to get my legs and mind into the right mode. I walked a little bit of the very first climb after the Cashaw Ck aid station - way too early to be doing so. I just wanted to try something to make my legs feel better. It didn't work and shortly after Dancing Ck (AS 3) my hip flexors started really hurting. It was a fatigued feeling more anything. Not a good sign only 11-miles into a 50+ mile race.
I just had a hard time getting my mind into racing for some reason. Maybe I was a little burned out from a long year? Maybe I just wasn't completely recovered from Superior Sawtooth? Maybe my lack of speed work caught up with me? Maybe my training was way off? Maybe I'm actually regressing as an ultrarunner? . . . these were some of the thoughts going through my head in those early miles. Finally I just decided to try to enjoy the day and just do the best that I could.
I was stuck in "no-man's land" though. I was back far enough from the front and ahead of most of the "chasers" that I had absolutely no one to run with. I felt like I was out on a training run. . . one of those you just get done and chalk the run up as just a bad day. Unfortunately, when you sign-up for a race six months in advance there are no guarantees that you're going to feel great on that day and there are no "do-overs". I just kept plugging along hoping that things would get better as I went along.
I went through Long Mtn Wayside (the half-way point) at 4:00 - about 15-20 minutes off the time I had planned to run. Horton told me, "Keep it up and you can still sneak in under 8-hours". I was in good spirits, but I really didn't much care what my time would be at this point. I really wanted my "do-over". Regardless, I just started moving up Buck Mtn and before I knew it I had passed three people before I reached the top that came much sooner than I had remembered in previous years. I remember thinking, "Maybe I can turn this thing around!"
I kept running solid from there to the loop, but I just couldn't find that next gear. It wasn't there to be found on this day and the loop didn't help me out any. There was nothing notable from here on out. I was moving slowly but steadily - I just wanted to find the finish line and end this day. I reached the "1 Mile To Go" mark and glanced down at my watch. It read 7:53:25, leaving me 6:45 to break 8 hours. I thought, "Well I didn't run all this way to just miss 8 hours; time to see what I've got left!" I hit the road, closed my eyes and just embraced the pain. When it hurt, I went faster. Before I knew it the finish line came into view and I saw the clock read 7:59:37. A small victory on an otherwise mildly disappointing day.
Masochist is such a great event. It's like a family reunion seeing all the familiar faces from the ultra family. I really enjoyed hanging around the finish line talking to friends and watching everyone come across. It was great seeing my friend Dan Lehmann finish his 10th Masochist - a great accomplishment, especially considering the recent injury he had been dealing with. It was also great getting to hang out with my friend Jeremy Ramsey (who unfortunately had a really bad day) before and after the race.
It's awesome to have the rare opportunity to hang out exclusively with folks that actually "get-it" and understand what and why we ultrarunners enjoy a sport that most can't comprehend. It helps me keep things in perspective. Unless running ultras is paying your bills and putting food on your table, it really doesn't matter what kind of results you attain. . . ultrarunners are the only one's that even moderately care. To the rest of the world, we are an oddity beyond understanding. Sometimes it takes a tough day to make it clear that it's the experiences, people, and journey that matter - certainly not the results.