Friday, February 8, 2013

Old Pueblo 50 Goals

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. -- Vince Lombardi
I don't think the fact that I am an overly analytical obsessive will surprise anyone that knows me. I spend hours pouring over data and strategies trying to find the best answer to every question. Honestly, that usually just yields more questions. In this case, the real question is what is my full potential as an ultra runner? While I have participated in a dozen or so runs beyond 30 miles, I have really only run two of them as races: (Leadville Silver Rush 50 and Leadville Trail 100). To be fair, I think the jury is still out on my potential.

As I think about this upcoming race, I have spent time analyzing the course and doing the relative race comparison game. Time goals anywhere from nine hours to eleven have gone through my mind. I have the course completely analyzed all the way down to the length and grade of each significant climb (about 5 of them). But, finally, it occurred to me that I am ruining it for myself. Part of the reason I love ultra running is the unknown. It is hard to compare courses. It is hard to quantify all the emotions, the fatigue, and the pain you will go through in a race lasting half a day or more.

I guess what I am saying is that I need to get back to the simpleness of running. No, I won't just run "by feel" the whole way. I will use clues and training experience -- like my heart rate and how well I am eating -- to pace myself, particularly early the race. But I won't limit the evaluation of my performance to numbers either. The brain is a powerful thing, and it is possible that I am holding myself back by having such concrete goals. As I reflect on my recent ultra performances, it is eerie how close I have been to all of my aid station splits. This can be interpreted as me being very in touch with my capabilities. Maybe there is a better explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps it is a sign that my mind is only willing to push my body until those goals are met? In other words, do I settle? My pacer Jon got much more out of me than I wanted to give from miles 75 - 95 at Leadville. When he took over pacing, I was fading badly. I was suffering and wanted to walk it in -- as many do in their first 100. By the time he gave up the pacing duties, I had made up nearly 25 mins on my projected splits. I think the primary reason that we made up so much time was that I knew he wouldn't let me settle. (If you know Jon, you understand!). He never had to give me a pep talk or motivation speech, I just knew that I needed to give a little more than I thought I could.

With all that psychobabble aside, here are my goals for Old Pueblo.

Run My Race

The first thing I'd like to do is just run my own race. Some might call this running in the zone. As I think back on all my races, my best moments are when I am zoned out and just pushing myself to my limits. The goal is to block out all distractions and focus on the task at hand. Obviously those distractions can be real, like getting caught up in what others are doing or being bothered by an aid station or weather. But the worst distractions might be my own negative thoughts. My goal is to keep pushing forward for as long and as hard as I can. I have little doubt that internalizing and just running will yield great results, possibly even results that exceed my own expectations.

Push Through the Wall

I've been through massive low points before. I have run twice this distance before. In short, I am no stranger to suffering. Some may argue that it is the whole point of running! It would be a better thing for me mentally if I welcome pain and sought to overcome it instead of trying to avoid it. It really doesn't matter what distance you race, if you push yourself to the limit, there will come a point that you want to slow down or give a little less. My goal is to find that point and push through it. Hopefully with a little more dignity than I did at SJS50.

In closing, I think I can finish this race in 9 - 10 hours, which will be a PR. And, perhaps more importantly, anything under 11 hours gives me another ticket into Western States 100 lottery. But I won't be constrained by these things on race day. And I don't plan to do any aid station math. I plan to start the race at a comfortable/sustainable pace and just run. And, if I can honestly say at the end of the race that I gave an "A" race effort, then I won't be discouraged by any result.

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