Right after the North Face Endurance Challenge I signed up for the lottery to participate in the Miwok 100k which is a race a little longer than the NFCE but not by that much (100K is 62 miles – only 12 miles extra!) so I felt it was within reach if I kept my training about the same and even built on the acquired endurance leading to NFEC. What really attracted me to the Miwok ultra is that it was in the same area as the NFCE. I was enchanted by the Marin Headlands in December and I wanted to go back. In addition, my ultra friend André de Castilho with whom I ran NFCE wanted to do it too.
And one week after NFCE I received an email stating: “Congratulations, you have been selected to participate in the 2012 Miwok 100K.” I feel pretty lucky this year with race lotteries (I also got into Pikes Peak Marathon which is not really a lottery but it’s pretty random as the online registration gets clogged).
This is the most beautiful run I’ve done. The course was described as “Very hilly (approximately 12,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain) with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais, Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore. Modified out and back. Mostly fire roads and single track trails with approximately two miles on roads.”
Sounds perfect to me! Click on map below to enlarge.
Again I didn’t have a plan. I kept to the milage pattern I had established for the NFCE. I also thought about having a big long run of 55 miles but I couldn’t do it because on that day it was raining a lot and I had to stop after 20 miles because of thunder and lighting (and I was beyond wet!). I tried to adopt a pattern of increasing milage for 3 weeks and have a low week (which meant maybe a low week of running at 50 miles total and a high week of running at almost 80 miles). And as usual I only run 4 days a week. Do the math! (I swim two times 1.5 hours and cycle one hour as a sort of rest day). March was my biggest running month ever at 302 miles of running total! Quite a march! The chart below shows the running milage pattern since the NFEC which was in December. If I total the 5 months leading to each race it shows 1179 miles for Miwok and 1253 for NFEC. The comparison isn’t really relevant (worked done for NFEC benefited Miwok) but it’s interesting to see that I performed better with less… All this points to is that I need to work on designing ultra training plans that make sense because right now I’m very chaotic!
It is possible that I over trained a bit, in March in particular. I was also exhausted from a road marathon where I was seeking a PR in February (I didn’t get the PR). I was tired by the time I got to the Miwok event. But also I was tired and stressed out because of a number of other life factors so it’s hard to tell what is what.
Although I had a great time at NFCE I suffered pain from my toes because I was banging them all the time on rocks since I was wearing Vibram Five Fingers shoes. This time I decided to wear a pair of shoes that would give me the feel of barefoot running but provide a bit more of a toe box. I settled on the New Balance Minimus. They were the ones that my son wore at the Amsterdam Marathon and they came recommended by a bunch of ultra runner friends. I only wore those on my long runs, training the rest of the time with my 5fingers which I still like best. However using them on the trail at Miwok was out of the question, too many opportunities for hitting something over 100 kilometers of trails! I did hit my left toes once or twice but the protection was enough.
I realize gear in general is more of a concern for ultramarathons. It’s been a bit of an agony to prepare actually! I decided I would need bigger storage for everything (endurolytes, anti-chaffing, advil, tape, two energy bars, layer of clothing and fluids). I looked around and I really liked the Salomon hydration packs. However I used an old small bag fixed with duct tape! It wasn’t perfect (I’m definitely getting the Salomon pack) but it worked.
Because the race started really early by the ocean there was a need for additional layers but then it would get hot and sun exposed. It was hard to decide what to wear. I started with four layers! One UnderArmor light T-shirt, removable arm warmers, a long sleeve UnderArmor thicker shirt, a cycling windbreaker and an old G-star jacket (the one I wore during the NFCE! It’s becoming my fetish ultra jacket although it’s falling apart). As for shorts I usually wear the shortest when it’s hot but there I wasn’t sure about temps so I wore longer and thicker ones. In retrospect I would get a pair of compression shorts with the thinnest fabric if I can find some. I find that I cool best with exposed skin so my short were too warm and I didn’t have compression on the quads and that would have helped.
I also had two hats with me. A sun cap and a beanie for the cold morning. I ditched the G-Star jacket at mile 26 (I got it back at the finish!) and I packed the rest in my bag. I could have left everything but I wasn’t sure when I would finish so I wanted to keep something in case I finished at night. I did keep my pants on!
As for socks I wore recovery 2XU compression socks (not as tight as the other model I have). I also packed an extra pair of small Newton socks just in case it would get too hot or uncomfortable. The compression socks worked great.
I didn’t eat anything I brought because the nutrition at the aid stations was 100% perfect. So awesomely perfect. I ate pizza, potatoes dipped in salt, banana, cantaloupe etc. I did use most of the endurolyte capsules I had packed. Also my friend André told me he was taking arnica homeopathic pellets so I took those about every hour. Maybe it helped with inflammation maybe it didn’t! For getting a boost in energy I consumed about 2.5 guayaki energy vials which I had poured into a light plastic flask (Amphipod one) since the glass vials are heavy. This was a saver I think. I’ve used them a couple of times in training and I had one after 2.5 hours and another 4 hours later and about 1/2 4 hours later. I also drunk a lot of the coke offered at the aid stations. Finally: the Advil! I took 200mg of Advil in liquid gel capsules every 4 hours. I think it’s the main reason I ran better than the NFCE – I didn’t experience muscular inflammation and pain until the next day! (or maybe it was the arnica but I suspect the Advil is the major anti-inflammation angel there).
This event was quite a rollercoaster of a trip. The race was on a saturday. I drove from LA to SF on the Friday, I picked up André from work and we went out for dinner with his family. I was exhausted from not sleeping well in the past week and various stress factors. I got to bed by 8:30 but I don’t think I slept much, tossing around. I could hear my heart pounding, I was on the verge of panic attacks and I was miserable knowing that if I didn’t get those 6 hours of sleep I would be a wreck the next morning. I really need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. There is no way around that. My blood pressure was increasing, I had to get up to pee about 4 times (sign of elevated blood pressure for me) and mostly I was terrified about the race! I never ran that distance before. The mind plays tricks.
At 2:30am I got up, ate a bar, got dressed and went up to the kitchen to have some coffee with André. Happy birthday brother! Pretty cool that he could do an ultra on his birthday! We got in the car at about 3am I think and we drove to Stinson Beach. Plenty of time to park (we liked the ultra rn plate on the prius in front!) and get our bibs. Pretty mellow out there! And a beautiful moon (there was a supermoon that week-end – 16% bigger than usual because it’s the closest to the Earth of all year). The start was at 5am so after the bib pick up I went back to the car for a nap in a blanket. I just wanted to sleep. The last thing I wanted to do was run an ultramarathon. I wanted to be back home in my cozy bed and eat croissants later with my family.
Just before 5am it was time to get out of the blanket and go to the start. André had disappeared but I found him around the start. I realized the batteries of my headlight were almost dead – oh great. I’ll just stick to someone! The horn and go! Tired already from the lack of sleep. After a loop in Stinson Beach we went on the most grueling climb ever done in the dark without a warm up! I’m sure it’s not as bad as other parts of the course but I was in agony. André went ahead. Good for him I thought, it’s his birthday he should have fun, he will rock it. The good side of things: a spectacular orange moon setting over the Pacific Ocean as we were climbing 1800ft! Beautiful.
My leg were working fine, I could run fine but it was my core engine that wasn’t quite with it. I felt my cardio system was tired. I was light headed a bit and I just know I wasn’t going as well as I usually do, especially just a couple of miles in a race. And this was inducing worry and fear. I thought I would go to Randall (13 miles), turn around and get in my car back at Stinson Beach and go home! I would run a marathon in the hills, not too bad. This was the mind I had, it wasn’t helping. I was fearful I would not even make it, that there was no medical support, yadiyadiyada…
Just before Randall I saw Andre who was coming back up from there and I told him I might quit. He was encouraging. But I really felt like a zombie. Then at Randall I hate some stuff, took an Advil and drunk some coke. Another 13 miles back to Stinson… no please, no. Then I don’t know what happened. By the time I was back at Bolinas aid station I was feeling much better, the mind had cleared and I was actually enjoying myself. It was like I had walked through a portal to a world free of running suffering. Maybe I didn’t have enough to eat for breakfast. Maybe I had to let this mind noise pass and move on beyond that. Maybe whatever felt bad healed by just running on the bare Earth (OK I know this sounds new agey but that’s the second time I run in this area and that I feel there is something very very special about the energy from the land there. Very healing).
But the time I got back to Stinson I was flying and back to my billy goat self. It was out of the question to get in the car and leave! Yoohoo! Everything had become more enjoyable, more alive, more fun! What I know is that I was exhausted from lack of sleep that my heart was definitely not into running long distance at 5am (biocycles anyone?). But by the time I usually run I was fine and having a blast.
The rest was a lot of fun (yes a 100K is kind of 2 marathons and a half – in the mountains). The scenery there is just amazing and the trails pretty well maintained. The course was also extremely well marked. There aren’t many participants in such an event (out of 450 entrants less than 400 made it to the start, 270 or so finished) so one spends a lot of time alone and it was comforting to see the little orange ribbons.
Also the volunteers at the aid stations were amazing by their kindness and the attention they would give to the runners. So nice. Not to mention the high quality of the food served. There was no processed foods and a vast variety of real foods such as carrots, fruits, PBJ sandwiches, potatoes and most of all humus! I devoured humus on pita the whole day! Some GU gels were offered but that is all as far as weird sport food goes. I always say it makes a big difference to eat real food. I felt full and satisfied the whole time and never had any GI problems. More humus please! The potatoes also were perfect fuel.
After Cardiac on the way south and before Muir Beach I caught up with André. That was a nice surprise and it was fun to run with him until we left Muir Beach again. Then I left him behind, he had to deal with his own pacing. I didn’t feel too guilty going ahead because I felt I was coming back from the dead! And I’m always worried about cut-off times (see Silverman 2010 fiasco earlier on this blog). We ran in sections of the park that I never explored and again, amazing vistas, a planetary perspective, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, some breeze, clear skies, the Coastal Trail. Best run ever, I wish I would live in SF to go train there although I’m sure Griffith Park is better in winter!
The way back wasn’t hard like it was in the last miles of the NFEC. I was surprised I wasn’t hurting. I could climb decently and go down pretty fast (I always pass a bunch of people on descents). I finished under 15 hours at 14:53 which is good as it qualifies me to enter the lottery for the Western States 100 in 2013! Somehow a much better performance than NFEC 2011. 159 out of 265 finishers (there was 450 entrants I guess it’s a tough race).
I really like this type of event. So much more friendly than the big city marathons, the noisy ironman races etc. Tina Bodington, the race director, was at the finish line giving medals (awesome medal – I love it – see the picture). There was a barbecue pit going and every one is having a good time. And the goodie bag is a paper bag with a t-shirt, a mug and a Miwok beer! I don’t drink but I might drink one day, maybe I’ll take it to UTMB like I’m taking the Mont Blanc beer up Mt Whitney.
Being a bit worried about André I checked if he made the cut-offs – apparently he did. I changed into warm clothes at the car, ate something and waited for him. He came in later, right before the cut-off! Mission accomplished! We had to wait for a runner he had lent his iPhone to (how kind of him) because she didn’t have a flashlight (it was really dark in the woods I think – the supermoon hadn’t risen yet).
Then the drive back to SF under the supermoon! What an awesome day!
I’m usually not sore after long runs but I walked like a zombie for a couple of days after the event! Not too much pain but I think the stiffness is a good sign, that I pushed it a bit. The day the event after I drove back to LA and I was quite wiped. Still couldn’t walk that well two days after! I rode my bike on the trainer for an hour to encourage some blood flow. Day after that I swam for an hour. First run on the Wednesday… hills again.
No toe injury this time. I’m glad I wore compression socks because only my thigh muscles are sore. Next ultra I will probably wear compression shorts until I can do without. I do hope to be able to run all the time (I’d say I walked 40% of the time)
This is the longest I ever ran. Ever! Running a 100 kilometers is a big deal, I’m born and raised in France and grew up in a metric world. 100 miles seem now within reach, it’s only 38 more miles and at the end of this 100K I felt I could keep on going. And again this was an experience in living life one instant at a time, coping with suffering and leaving the suffering somewhere. Pain isn’t suffering and one can even transcend pain (ok maybe it’s easier when it’s self inflicted doing something fun).
Thanks to everyone who supports me in this type of event: the amazing volunteers for their cheers and delicious food items; Tia Bodington the race director for putting up such an awesome event; the park service and the rangers for letting us do this; my family for putting up with me while training; André, Kristine, Ary and Sage de Castilho for their kind and warm hospitality and all the Miwok runners for being nice and fun to be around.
And finally many thoughts for the Coastal Miwok tribe who used to live in the Marin lands – if you want to learn more about them here are a couple of links: