Sunday, December 4, 2011

TNF50 end of season

I’ll say one thing about ultras – when things don’t go as planned, you generally have a long time to think about it before getting to the finish line.

I went out with the leaders yesterday at the (North Face Challenge 50mile championships. Or the North Face 50. Or the San Francisco 50 North Face Challenge. What the hell are we calling this thing? TNF50?) TNF50 (redundancy noted). There was talk that the lead pack went out too fast. Even some annoyance at the leaders that were setting the blistering pace.

But, a. when there’s $10,000 on the line, of course it’s gonna go out fast and b. two or three people didn’t think it was too fast because they maintained the pace all the way through and made some money in the end. 

I was not one of those people. I finished 34th which, like I said, gave me some time to reflect.

I knew what I was getting in to with this race. I knew that the best competition in the States would be present. I knew that it would go out fast. I knew that it would be won in a blistering fast time (okay… I didn’t think it would be run in 6:19!). I knew that it would hurt and, still, I thought I could win it. There, I said it. I thought I could win. I didn't sign on a 10k car on friday but, in the weeks leading up to the race, I did meditate on the later stages when I would need to suffer.

Running with Mike, Geoff, Dakota, Galen, Adam Campbell and several others in the pre-dawn morning, chatting about later stages of the race, each of us wondering what a few hours might bring, it seemed clear that most of them thought there might be a chance that I’d still be fighting for position near the finish.

As Geoff passed me, Dakota, Adam and finally Galen - the sun hadn’t even risen - I realized that that was why my legs were filling with lactic acid. That was the root of my fatigue. That was why I would continue to drop from the top five to top ten to top twenty and finally 34th.

I wanted it too much.

I wanted this race so much that I didn’t waste any time in October with resting. I remained positive through Muir Beach(12m), Cardiac(18m) and even McKenna Gulch(23m) when I was over three minutes behind the lead pack, thinking I might be able to reel them back in, but my legs just wouldn’t cooperate. By Stinson Beach(28m) I knew I was done. I traded my hand held bottles for my small pack and prepared myself for a 22mile death march.

Anna Frost passed me shortly after. She was flying. 1,400 vert from Stinson up to Cardiac. Anna was “giving this hill a bit of hell” as she said when she passed me. She saw me suffering. She told me to join the pace, which I did for about 20seconds before sending her off. People’ll be thinking she pulled me through Trans Rockies, I thought, but then didn’t care what people thought. Ellie Grenwood passed me on the other side of Cardiac. She was also giving it hell.

I learned that my season ended three weeks ago. It just didn’t occur to me until 20miles into a 50miler.

Finishing 34th is just as painful as finishing 1st, I concluded. It just takes longer.

I’m happy to not be running for a little bit. I got on my bike today and rode from the city, over the bridge, into the headlands and back into the city. I love my bike.

My season is over. I did what I wanted and dabbled in distances that I wasn’t familiar with. I had success and failure.

What I really want, though, is for some Ultra Runners to step up to the same challenge and try out some short races. Not just try them out, but train for them. Work hard for them. What I saw at TNF50, for the first time in US ultra running, was a field of runners as talented as the Mount Washington field. That alone, made my 34th place finish a great success. I’m not saying this because I want to beat a bunch of people that just beat me. In fact, I’m saying it because I think just the opposite. I think they might be able to win it. Hell, Matt Carpenter won both! Maybe somebody will do it in the same year….

Am I ranting again?

Anyway. Prove me wrong. Mount Washington is slated to be the selection race of the 2012 US Mountain Running Team. In the past six years I’ve seen the team grow from a middle of the pack crowd to podium. The women have taken the win and will again. The men have placed third and second. First is not out of reach.


Bryon Powell said...

Rickey, your post has left me nearly speechless (or, perhaps, barely able to type?). Thanks for sharing your introspection and your challenge. It'd be pretty awesome to see some of the ultra boy (and girls) seriously throw down at Mt. Washington, Pikes Peak, Cranmore, Sierra Zinal, etc. Such racing sure hasn't hurt Frost's or Jornet's ultra game!

C.J. Hitz said...

Great post Rickey and nice job finishing TNF50-as painful as it was. I've enjoyed your writing and I think I speak for many who hope to see you post more frequently. I look forward to meeting you one day.

Dominic Grossman said...

It wasn't really nice crawling to the finish with you Saturday, but it was good to meet you.

There's definitely a new era of racing/training when 51 miles with 10,000ft of gain is sustained at 7:25 pace. Some great runners' training is going to have to change for this level of competition.

You're right though, I bet Wolfeman would eat up Mt. Washington, it'd be great to see.

Anonymous said...

I felt like i was reading my own race recap when i read this. Good sharing some miles with you out there before the shit hit the fan. Mt Tam still beckons.

Anonymous said...

Rickey respect. Like you say, you never know if you don't try. You did that and dug deep. it was painful for me to see u as i turned the corner but i knew you out of anyone would be taking it in each and every stride. And that is why you will be successful...even on the not so good days. Xx. Happy days.

Anonymous said...

definitely enjoyed basking in our sorrows on that descent to Stinson Beach, great running with you for a bit. You tested your limits that day and went for it; huge victory in my opinion for not being afraid to face the pain head on.

Ellie Greenwood said...

Total respect to you Rickey, I was impressed to you see pushing on when I passed you rather than take the easy option and bail. Strength of character for sure. Great to finally meet you and hope to see you at another ultra where you are well rested and show what damage you can do.

Ben Nephew said...

You wore your Mt. Washington shoes, didn't you?

I think it is much easier to go from Washington to a hilly 50 miler than the other way around. I agree with Bryon that the mountain running background is key for Anna, Kilian, and Matt. A number of the top runners from San Fran went to Sierra Zinal, right?

The biggest issue may simply be interest. Most ultra runners prefer long runs over the intense workouts needed to run a fast time at Washington. Some guys would almost have to change sports for a while.

I'm starting to wonder why I bother with the auto road when I could be doing Pemi Loop or Presidential Traverse.

Did I see you ran a Traverse this year. Did you get a time on that??

While it would be interesting to see Kilian, Roes, Wolfe, etc. run Washington, I'd rather see them try the White Mountain Hut Traverse if they came to New England.

If you are hanging around Washington for a few days this year and the fun of San Fran has won off, you should give the Traverse a go.

jedwoolley said...

Rickey, nice work! I love to read your rants. Speaking of Mt Washington... you're on the homepage. Come back to CO and be my trainer for Leadville. It's official, I've entered for 2012 and I'm lost without you. Jed

Mostly Paved said...

double u double o double l e y it's woolley. jed woolley. of course, man! you have unfinished business at leadville too (i can't help you there).

@ben - i did a very shortened version of the pres traverse when i was out there in june. i heard about the record - stout! i'd love to give it a go. nobody's nailed it since 1963!?

i agree w/ you about going from mt. wash to an ultra - probably easier, but speed is at the root of everything. training for both mt. wash and a 50/100mile is not impossible and probably quite beneficial.

Kurt said...

Ricky you are quite the guy. I love how you think about things and just seem to love to live what life tosses your way. It is because of that you are the runner you are. Instead of dropping out last Saturday you made the best of it, because of that you are a better person. It's one thing to drop because you are hurt, but just because it's not your day? Good job to you. Stay strong!!

Ben Nephew said...

That Hut Traverse record is interesting. Some of the splits in the record run are hard to fathom, and this is a pretty common opinion with those that live up there. Matt Cull was a pretty solid mountain runner, and his time was an hour slower than the 1963 time.

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