Another non-disasterJune 7, 2009
Overall, yesterday’s 50-mile trail race — the North Face Endurance Challenge — was quite similar to my previous two trail races (the White River 50 and the Chuckanut Mountain 50K). I paced myself reasonably well and finished respectably, yet was disappointed to finish so far behind the winner. In this case, the winner was Sal Bautista, a 25-year-old ultramarathoning newbie from Dickinson, ND who somehow completed the mountainous and technical course in 7:13. Timmy Parr, (27; Gunnison, CO) was 2nd in 7:46, and I was 3rd in 7:52. The women were led by Jamie Donaldson (34; Littleton, CO; 9:42), Alison Hanks (28; Winthrop WA; 9:55), and Allison Moore (39; Seattle, WA; 10:15).
I’ve written frequently in this blog about my difficulties with gnarly trails, and they were certainly evident yesterday. After Sal and I ran in close proximity for the first two hours, he scampered up a short, steep, rocky slope to the Chuckanut ridge and disappeared. I could only marvel at his nimbleness and take a consoling swig of Gatorade from my bottle.
On the other hand, as I continued on alone for the next six hours, I realized that rugged trails do suit me in at least one important way: they make me listen to my body.
On the roads, I’m usually hell-bent on maintaining a certain goal pace. In pursuing that goal pace, I may ignore my body’s warning signs until it’s too late, leading to dramatic meltdowns. (Possible examples: 2007 Mad City 100K; 2007 JFK 50 Mile; 2008 Mad City 100K; 2008 World Cup 100K.)
On the trails, without such rigid notions of how fast I should be running, I probably do a better job of listening to my body and avoiding those meltdowns. It may not be a coincidence that my body has never shut down in a trail ultra — with the exception of the 2007 Western States 100, which was simply too long for me to handle at the time.
My greatest competitive successes have come and will continue to come at road and road-like races. But even for a road guy like me, there’s something to be said for heading to the woods and listening to one’s body.