Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy 21st Mike Powell!

One of the longer standing records in men's track and field turned 21 yesterday.  In the 1991 world championships, Mike Powell bettered Bob Beamon's legendary mark of 8.90m with a jump 8.95m (or 29ft 4 1/2in).  Powell was jumping against Carl Lewis that day, who in additional to being one of the most unimaginable douchebags of all time, was almost impossibly good at the long jump.  Going into those championships, Lewis was riding a 10 year, 65 event winning streak, and on that night he gave the best performance of his life and the best series of all time, laying down 4 absolutely massive jumps.  Powell and Lewis were clearly a class above the others, though it appears that Lewis was even another class above until Powell unloaded his world record jump in the 5th of 6 rounds. 

(Record jump footage begins about 3:20 in)
I love this video.  I've watched it for years for inspiration or just a happy thought.  I love the focus, determination, and concentration of Mike Powell before the jump.  He's up against a guy who he's 0-15 against, and who is having the best day of his life, but he shrugs it off, believing he's capable of more, that it's still his time and today his day.  Then after nailing the monstrous jump, there's the initial emotional outburst and excitement but having to collect himself while waiting for the measurement, the short cut out to see the stunned, nervous look on Carl Lewis' stupid ass face, and finally the roar of the crowd and celebration after the world record is confirmed.  It's just perfect.  A concise video reminder of exactly what I love about sports and why we keep going out there.  Despite what the odds may tell me, work hard, prepare, go out with the right state of mind, and something special just may be in store for me today.  I'll probably never have a Mike Powell type moment, and if I do it'll be on a vastly reduced scale, but it's still a hell of a feeling to chase.  Well done Mr. Powell.  Hope you enjoyed another year on the record books. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Western States 2 month late yog report

More than 2 months since the race, I should probably jot down a few of my thoughts before they disappear forever out the back of my aging mind. 

Great idea to go up Monday and enjoy a week in Tahoe and acclimate to the altitude.  Tuesday morning run was death, Wednesday morning run was already feeling a lot better.  But really most of the week my mind was anywhere but on the yog.  Geronimo's beautiful, extremely bright, energetic, inquisitive daughter had me constantly on my toes, and often thinking about the current stage of my life and fatherhood and what I have in store in a few years.  It made me marvel to think about my own daughter, who at 14+ months of age had been making rapid progress by every metric imaginable, but I hadn't quite wrapped my head around how that exponential rate of progress will continue on and on (assuming I do my job).  The girls got along great and were pretty darn cute together.
I never felt good.  I never felt terrible.  The cold weather of the early miles didn't make for bad yogging, but were generally miserable, and numb fingers really screw you over when your plan is to eat constantly out of a group of 3 quart sized zip lock bags all stuffed within a single gallon sized zip lock bag.  I had it in my head that there was a lot of good yogging to be done once I got over the top of the first climb.  Not so.  Red Star Ridge was pretty tough, and since it was still relatively bunched up, it was kind of awkward to constantly pass and get repassed, be forced to hike when I wanted to yog, hold my bladder because I finally started to find a groove and didn't want to get passed again, bla bla bla.  My hamstrings cramped around mile 15.  Of all the things I expected to go wrong, this was not anywhere on the list, and had me pretty worried, because they're pretty debilitating.  Fortunately they just kind of dissolved with changes in the terrain.  When I got to Robinson Flat the dull aches were really starting to set in and the rain was pouring as hard as it had all day.  I didn't realize just how out of it I was until the medical guy at the weigh-in station asked me where I was from and I had to think about it for about 5 seconds.  What was the question, why was he asking it, and what was the answer?  Each segment had to be slowly, individually processed before I was able to blurt out, "uhhh, Carlsbad".  Damned pleased with myself, I was deemed fit to continue.  I saw the crew for the first time, and got sock, shoe, shirt changes as well as the addition of a trash bag.  My fingers were totally frozen and I was a completely helpless bystander in this changes process.  It was a ridiculously long stop, and I lost something like 23 spots between Robinson and Miller's Defeat. 

The section between Robinson Flat and Last Chance offers skilled and fit yoggers the chance to do some good work.  Being neither, I suffered through it.  Based on my previous 50 milers, I was expecting to feel good during this stretch and really have to focus on staying slow and saving energy for the canyons.  No such restraint was necessary, as the slowness came naturally.  It was around this stretch that I first thought about how much farther I had to go, how generally achy and uncomfortable I was, and how poorly I was moving.  I imagined somehow making it to the Placer HS track and receiving a silver buckle (I've never cared about this before) and got all choked up.  This reminded me of the Suffer Seeker saying he knew he was in trouble at Leona Yog when he saw a sign with some inspirational quote on it and he got all emotional.  Looks like it's my turn!  I laughed at myself and carried on. 

It was a relief to finally get to the canyons.  I caught up to Ben right as we were beginning the steep descent towards Swinging Bridge.  We had talked about starting the race together and hanging for the early miles, but I had lost him in the commotion before the start with my family and friends wanting picture after motherfucking pre-race cocksucking picture, and he had performed much better than me in the high country.  We stayed together for about a mile and I did my only non-pacer socializing of the race, and his comment that "This is a serious downhill course!" made me chuckle thinking about how the fun had just begun.  By the time I got to the top of Devil's Thumb I knew I'd be ok.  Only 7 miles to see my crew again at Michigan Bluff, then 5 more before picking up Dr E and heading for Cal St, and from there it would be an entirely doable series of aid station to aid station stretches that I was very familiar with.  Two things that I held on to the rest of the way were 1) Geronimo and the way he handled the last 40 miles a few years prior.  Total confidence, total calm.  I tried to convince myself several times that I was emulating his approach and moving as well as he was through similar sections, but upon a later review of the splits it was humbling how far off I was.  2) The American Hero, in a random online chat a few months prior, while discussing lessons learned from previous WS yog attempts, had said something to the effect of ,"I was so worried about what would happen to me out there.  I realize now there's nothing to fear.  It's just pain." 

It's just pain.  If you can wrap your head around that, nothing too terrible can possibly be in store for you.  The miles went on, pain lessened and worsened periodically, pacers and emotions changed occasionally, but I knew I'd get there and eventually did.  Geronimo took video of the home stretch.  I don't think watching my yog in that reduced state will ever fail to amuse me.  I guess not so bad considering the 10lbs of weight gain during the OTCY.  Perhaps 65 S Caps was a tad much. 

-Hanging around the ultra scene and especially the Suffer Seeker and American Hero, I kind of forgot that there are people out there who can't actually rip off the name of every Western States aid station backwards and forwards after 11 Bud Lights at the California Club.  I definitely didn't realize that to co-workers, extended family members, and friends of friends, I would now be "the guy who ran 100 miles".  It seemed like such a normal thing to do.  I never thought it would be so difficult to convince people that it's not that big of a deal. 

-I have no plans to do more 100 mile ultra yogs, nor was it a bucket list item that has now been checked.  Under the right conditions I could see doing it again, but I don't feel any great allure to the distance.  In fact, the amount of support one demands from the volunteers, crew and pacers during the OTCY is extremely humbling and for me a very uncomfortable spot. 

-I was pretty conservative most of the day, and don't regret that at all.  Robinson Flat, Foresthill and Green Gate were exceptionally long aid station stops, and I regret not being better prepared to get through those faster.  A cranky shuttle bus driver decided to quit and my crew wasn't able to make it to the river in time as a result.  Being cold and tired at the river crossing and not having the dry change of clothes I was expecting had me sulking and not giving an honest effort in the hike up to Green Gate.  I regret the effort I put in during that section.  Maybe 20-30 minutes total cost for those mistakes.  I didn't give a shit at the finish line, but wish I had that time back now. 

-I really want to see the American Hero get back there and have a satisfying race.  Hopefully I can be part of the team the makes that happen. 

-I do love Western States.  The effort it takes and the logistics that go into managing a point to point 100 mile yog of this magnitude is as amazing to me as the performances at the very front of the pack.  And you can tell just how much everyone who is involved with the event truly loves it.  It's just an incredible vibe to share in.  I'm entirely ok with paying $370 for the experience.  I'm sure they needed it.  I may or may not race again, but I'd love to become part of this OTCY in some way. 

-I didn't know Ben extremely well, but I enjoyed talking to him a lot, and hearing of his death in the Cordillera Blancas only a few weeks after the race was a stiff blow.  We had some similar personality traits, especially the analytical minds and passion for training and the outdoors, and I remember thinking to myself how easily I would have gotten sucked up into his lifestyle had I originally decided to come to UCSD for grad school (I choose Philadelphia instead where I mostly focused on being a boozing, bitter sports fan and degenerate gambler).  This was certainly not the first time that I've seen someone die far too young, but his passing more than any I can remember accentuated the temporary and fragile nature of my own life, something I know logically but rarely ever truly feel.  RIP.