Monday, July 21, 2014

The First Steps (Out the Door) Are Often the Toughest - Original 6 Hundo Challenge aka #O6HC Blog Entry 01

"You are capable of more than you know.  Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path.  Aim high.  Behave honorably.  Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure.  Persist!  The world needs all you can give."
-E.O. Wilson

*Original 6 Hundo Challenge (#O6HC) - the first six hundred mile trail races to exist in the United States, in order of inception: Western States, Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA (1974), Old Dominion, Fort Valley, VA (1979), Wasatch Front, Utah (1980), Leadville Trail, Colorado (1983), Angeles Crest, Wrightwood, CA to Pasadena/Altadena (1986), and Vermont (1989)  * - this challenge has historically been known by the title the Last Great Race which is presently "on hiatus".  Out of respect to the organizer, we've chosen to call the challenge another name until we are able to register for the LGR officially.

It's been quite a 9 month stretch since I completed the 2013 Angeles Crest 100 (AC) and Leadville Trail 100 (LT) inside of a two week period (well, 2 weeks, 1 day and a couple-few extra hours).  I spent about 10 days post that 100-mile double challenge hibernating, as it f**king wrecked me.  So, sounds like a perfectly rational idea to run 6 hundreds (the first 6 hundred mile trail races that existed in the United States) in a 13 week period, right?!?  A long-standing motto of mine: the worst ideas often make the best stories.

To begin with, I blame the seed for this idea being planted on Andy Kumeda.  In 2007, we were chatting in Wrightwood awaiting the check in for the Angeles Crest Endurance Run.  Andy had attempted to run these same six races in 2007 and going into AC Andy was 4-for-5 having timed out at that year's #4 (Leadville), at Mile 60.  I was still floored, as he had finished the Wasatch Front 100 (WF)  in 35:57 (with less than 3 minutes to spare) and was attempting to complete AC only 6 days after that finish.  The 2007 Angeles Crest became my first ever DNF at any race of any distance (it was my only hundred attempt in 2007). I pulled out about halfway through (Mile 49, Mt. Hillyer) with some breathing problems that may or may not have been hypoxia or the early stages of hyponatremia.  Andy finished AC with a couple/few hours to spare.  He vowed to give these 6 hundos another shot as soon as he got back into the Western States 100 (States), and 7 years later, here we are.

I personally loved the idea of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (the Slam) which is 4 of the original 6 hundreds, about one per month, but have some longer term goals at Angeles Crest, so while I wanted to run Western States, the Vermont 100 (VT), Leadville and Wasatch in the same summer, I felt too impatient to skip AC for a summer (FOMO in LA is particularly fierce).  Angeles Crest used to be late-September/early-October as recently as 2008, but has been moved to July/August since the devastating Station Fire in 2009.  Now, with AC in late-July/early-August, it's sandwiched in between the only 4 week break in the Grand Slam, 2 weeks after Vermont, 2 weeks prior to Leadville.  I realized I'd be doing 5 of the original 6, looked up Old Dominion 100 (OD)which was formerly a part of the Grand Slam, between 1986 when Tom Green first finished OD, Western States, Leadville and Wasatch in the same summer, and Tom is at it again this summer 28 years later (Go Tom Go!). Old Dominion was a part of the Slam until 2003 when OD did not happen and Vermont has formally replaced it in the Slam every year since.  Since my modified Grand Slam (the Slam+AC) only allotted 2-3 weeks between each race, it didn't seem like much more of a stretch to throw in OD 3 weeks before that all began.  NOTE: I joked far too often that Old Dominion was my "warm-up race" and that joke bit me in the rear.  OD kicked my butt, and I was taught that joking about how one race will be easier is a very dangerous mental space to be in.

The Torrey Pines Glider Port (Cliff) Stairs and Blacks Beach
I DNF'd for the second consecutive February at a SoCal 50 mile race (2014 was the inaugural Sean O'Brien, a race I helped lay out, and test ran in October to create an elevation profile, and 2013 I failed to finish the Ray Miller 50 Mile before going on to complete Angeles Crest and Leadville later that year), and I'm holding my breath that it was a good omen (although I have to work out my string of lifetime DNF's the second time I run a course which includes 2 hundreds and 2 fifties).  That was a wake up call.  Training got a lot more consistent after that.  Life, however, failed to cooperate with my extended training plans for this challenge.  From February to late-May, ultimately I averaged 47.5 miles per week, which included an entire month where my mileage total didn't eclipse 62 miles (for the entire month!).  At one point, spent about 2 weeks with my mom who had a horseback riding accident that led to her fracturing L1 and requiring some significant medical care for the first phase of her recovery.  I got to know the running available in La Jolla, California pretty intimately as I'd help administer my mom's meds and home care, then head out the door for a couple hours of sand running & cliff repeats near the Torrey Pines Glider Port & Blacks Beach.  Looking back on this, it may have been the longest half month of my life.  Seeing a loved one that injured is beyond any emotional or physical stress I have ever experienced.  My mom is greatly improved (3 months into her recovery) and may have dodged a bullet not immediately needing a major 5 vertebrae spinal fusion surgery.  Yay, mom!  Got really sick for about 8 days after that, and didn't feel like myself (running or otherwise) for another 3-4 weeks.  When all that dust settled, I was 3 weeks from race #1 in the #O6HC

"Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgment."

-Mark Twain

Instead of going through and writing a blow-by-blow recap of the 3 one-hundred mile races I've already gone through (which I promise to recap via podcast or video-blog, at the very least), I'll let you know a few of the epiphanies and reflections that could hopefully be more useful to you in your running or life goals.

*Never underestimate 100 miles  - researching all 6 races in this series, both Old Dominion and Vermont had the least aggressive elevation profiles and fastest historical finishing times.  I went into OD saying, "this is my warm up 100" and the race beat me down pretty soundly.  Kate has seen me run this distance at least a dozen times, and said she had never seen me looking that broken at the end of a race.  Every 100 will have it's own unique (and idiosyncratic) challenges.  Respect the distance.  Respect the conditions.  Seek to uncover the hidden challenges of an event prior to starting.  I was geared up for the challenge of the humidity, when my left peroneal tendon went out, I realize I had never considered what cambered country roads would do to me.

*Plan to flow (and how to flow when the plan disintegrates) - mentality conditioning is as important as physical conditioning in difficult life and running adventures.  Look to unlock your Zen by practicing some mantras and putting forth a positive perspective (or assigning silver linings to tough situations) in training and in life, prior to the adversity that will inevitably find you in your goal events.  In the early stages of the Vermont 100, I noticed a piece of trash on the trail, which I picked up to put in my handheld water bottle sleeve.  The paper, when examined, was from a fortune cookie.  The fortune?

"You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails."

Frolicking at Western States around Mile 38
This thought stuck with me the rest of the day.  I couldn't control when/where my difficulty would arise, but I could determine what attitude I approached the difficulty with, and make adjustments to my plan for that race.  That sourced me the rest of the day and worked very, very well.

*Far more fun to be had rooting FOR people than wasting energy rooting AGAINST someone - I have met and enjoyed the company of no less than 30 people over the 300 miles Andy and I have covered thus far (in Virginia, NorCal and Vermont).  To qualify that, I've talked to more than 300 people, but have held at least 3-5 minute conversations during the race, with probably around 1 person every 10 miles.  I love hearing a person's (aka new friend's) story.  Why they do this crazy $#!^ too, what they are up to in this one precious life of theirs.  First half of the race it's generally talking about life, goals and dreams type of stuff.  Second half of the race, often times we're talking about problems we're having, a running issue we need to trouble shoot, (adjusted) goals for the race, and how we can help each other achieve them.  The last time I remember actively rooting against some one (save any member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, LA Kings, or Dallas Cowboys) was Rollie the Goalie after seeing his cheap antics of the 2006 NHL Playoffs.  Honestly, don't even ask.  When it comes to ultrarunning, a few people have made it clear to me that they are rooting against me (again, don't ask) and I can't even find the energy to return favor.  There's so much goodwill, and positive humanity around 100 mile mountain races, I find that I want everyone to have their best day.  We all know we're in for trials, for discomfort or bone-jarring pain, and the day/night/day will be an adventure.  The kinship this activity breeds is what makes this community so special to me.  So even if I get it in my head that I want to "finish before you do" which never equates to me as "beating someone" as there are only a few rare friends I even think this way about (Mike Chamoun, Karl Hoagland, Eric Wickland, George Gleason, Kate Martini, etc.), I still want you to have your A+ day out there, and want it to be a fun story for both of us to share a beer over when we're long since old-and-gray.  So do what you can out there to help people succeed, yes, help your fellow competitors.  It will make you feel better (and forget your current issues for a moment).  That good mojo will feed back into your race.  But don't do it for the mojo.  Do it because you want to see yourself as kind, generous and graceful.  Never know, you might turn someone's day/race around.  That feels better than a finish (to me).

I could wax on (and wax off) a lot longer on these things, and these three races.  But there's a lot more decompressing to do, and 3 more races to "run".  I'm going to sign off now and get this thing up, as it's been too long a dry spell for this #WannaBeWriter

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