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April 10, 2008

Dancing With Diablo

“I've worn out always being afraid - an endless stream of fear that I've made -
Treading water full of worry - this frantic tick tick tock of hurry -

Do I have the strength to know how I'll go? Can I find it inside to deal with what I shouldn't know? …

Keep searching, keep on searching - this search goes on.”
- Metallica, “Frantic” (on sidebar)

When I signed up for the Diablo 50-Mile race at the beginning of the year, I knew it would be a good gauge of my preparations for Western States. The challenging course would test my hill training and allow me to practice various strategies (such as with hydration, gear and pacing) that I could later lock into place as the main event drew closer.

I also remember thinking that I’d have plenty of time to prepare before the race, because it was way off in the distance – like, not until springtime. And back in January, it was still the middle of winter. Plenty of time.

So, um … where did all of that time go?

For the most part, I’ve used the days wisely. Over the past several weeks, my weekly mileage has bounced between 55 and 75, with most weeks landing in the mid 60s. About 90% of that mileage has been on the rolling terrain of Monterey County, and a handful of runs have stretched out over several hours. I’m injury free, only slightly overweight, and generally happy with my progress to this point.

And yet, whenever race week comes along, my first instinct is to become somewhat frantic. No matter how much preparation I’ve done, it never feels like enough to make me confident about the task ahead. But I’ve worn out feeling afraid like that – so this year, during this particular buildup, I’ve decided to do something completely different.

Part of the anxiety I typically feel stems from my competitive nature - concern about how quickly I’ll finish, how many people will be ahead of me, and so on. My rational side – the one with the long-term plan of doing well at Western States – knows this is an insignificant worry, and that I should instead be focused on being in the moment, passing the time and miles as comfortably as possible.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort to keep that competitive dog at bay. So this week, I’ve made a concerted effort to stifle that inner drive – mainly by running a lot of pre-race mileage.

I figure that if I go into Diablo feeling fresh and strong, I’ll be tempted to race against the field or the clock, and make myself miserable like I did at Firetrails last fall (see report on sidebar). So I’m purposely not tapering for the race, and maintaining very close to my normal mileage before heading to the start line – just think of it as a reverse taper.

By Friday morning, I’ll have logged 50 miles in the 6 days prior to the race. Hopefully, knowing that I’m starting a monstrous 50-miler at the end of a 100-mile week will be just the stimulus I need to tread cautiously on the hillsides of Mount Diablo. And even if my adrenaline somehow overrides my brain, my legs won’t be able to supply the horsepower.

So here are my two primary goals for Saturday: 1) start out conservatively and maintain a steady pace throughout the 50 miles, and 2) enjoy the day, without feeling like I need to hurry along as quickly as possible. I’d also like to say I’ll disregard the clock and my finishing place, but I realize that’s a fire I can’t completely extinguish – and that’s why I’m hoping the dead legs will keep it merely simmering on the back burner all day.

If nothing else, I’ll find out exactly what kind of strength I have at this point, and how to approach the remainder of the training season. Saturday’s race is simply the first checkpoint in a search that will go on for another 11 weeks, until I’m on the start line at Western States.

I anticipate that I’ll look back on this weekend’s strategy as either brilliant or moronic – but right now, I’m not positive which one it will turn out to be. Check back after the race, and I’ll be sure to let you know.


RunBubbaRun 4/10/08, 4:56 AM  

Race starts, it's always hard to contain one's self from trying to go pass as much people as you can before it narrows down..

Good luck this weekend. Anything with "Mt." should be whole lot fun and lots of climbing.

21stCenturyMom 4/10/08, 6:48 AM  

How long do you think it will take you to run 37 miles because my aid station is at 37 miles (and some earilier milage). I won't be there until 12:30 so that's 5.5 hours after you start. I would think that with that terrain and tired legs it should take you a while to get there, yes?

stronger 4/10/08, 7:47 AM  

Have a great run.

Backofpack 4/10/08, 8:22 AM  

I'm betting brilliant - if you can keep the mental game in check! Good luck and train well.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 4/10/08, 9:30 AM  

If you really have that much self control not to race at all, go for it--you'll feel more confident for you WS. I don't think I could hold back. Even if I made some sort of public/blog statement of my intentions.

Of course, I jeopardize even good tapers with nonrunning recreational activities.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 4/10/08, 9:31 AM  

Crap, is it Thursday already? So, good luck!

angie's pink fuzzy 4/10/08, 10:50 AM  

good luck, and have fun!

craig 4/10/08, 8:59 PM  

I hope you have great race Donald. I always look forward to reading the report when you are done.

Zach 4/11/08, 9:04 AM  

Good luck! Sounds like you have a good strategy going into the race - looking forward to reading your race report.

rick 4/11/08, 1:05 PM  

I hear ya. See ya tomorrow bright and early. Im filled with nervous energy myself. My stomach is in knots just thinking about the race.

mindy 4/11/08, 6:59 PM  

Good luck Donald - I know you'll tear it up!

triguyjt 4/12/08, 2:58 PM  

to wish you good luck "while " you have already been out there toiling away would not be so smart.


Hey, nice race....
great job..

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