Damage controlApril 8, 2007
To understand how the Mad City 100K (link to results; select “show all results” to see splits) unfolded for me, you only have to look at my 10K split times: 40:09, 40:29, 40:17, 40:20, 41:13, 41:09, 42:06, 45:59, 51:16, 51:33.
Those last 30 kilometers were truly awful. While my legs slowly crumbled beneath me, so did my hopes of a sub-6:50 time and then, a bit later, of salvaging a personal record.
As demoralizing as this experience was, it was also achingly familiar. I’ve now run a total of four 100K road races, and three of them have reduced me to a slow shuffle by the end. The exception was at Houston in February of 2006. In the months leading up to that race, I began doing my long runs at 100K race pace; when I set a 21-minute PR there and then finished strongly at Sunmart later in the year, I assumed I had figured out how to approach these types of races.
I guess I’m not as smart as I thought I was.
Some people familiar with the Mad City course and race-day conditions — temperatures in the 20s, brisk winds, three hills per 10K loop — might think I’m being too hard on myself. But those conditions didn’t prevent the top two women (Julie Udchachon and Devon Crosby-Helms) from posting impressive times (8:09 and 8:16, respectively). The main lesson I’m taking away from Mad City is that I need to do more in my training to prepare my muscles for the pounding they face during long races.
So which training stimuli would be most effective in minimizing muscle damage during these races? More mileage? Lunging and bounding drills? Squats and weight training? Downhill running?
I don’t know. I need to read, talk, and think about this some more.
Anyway, aside from all of the above, at least a couple other things need to be said about Mad City. One is that, from the course markings to the prize money, it was a first-class event, thanks to race director Timo Yanacheck and the local organizing committee, volunteers, and sponsors. Another is that the 10K loop course, which winds around Lake Wingra through the University of Wisconsin arboretum and a few low-traffic neighborhoods, has plenty of local flavor. My favorite aspect of it was the permanent mile markers, each bearing the name of a legendary runner from Wisconsin: Suzy Favor Hamilton (mile 1), Rod DeHaven (mile 2), Gabriel Jennings (mile 3), Pascal Dobert (mile 4), Cindy Bremser (mile 5), and Steve Lacy (mile 6). As the race progressed, I maintained a running dialogue with these markers, pleading for fast split times (e.g., “Low numbers, Gabe! Low numbers!”), berating them when they didn’t appear soon enough (“C’mon, Rod, this is no time to be shy!”), and complaining about the many challenges of the day (“More wind, Cindy? That’s just not fair!”).
Maybe I should have asked them for tips on how to keep the muscle damage under control.