“Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before –
Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?
Do you care to be the layer of the bricks that seal your fate?
Or would you rather be the architect of what we might create?”
- Rise Against, “Architects” (video after post)
The first time I came to Miwok, I was building up to my maiden 100-mile race, and hadn’t quite fully wrapped my head around the huge numbers involved beyond the realm of the 50-milers I was familiar with. I believed that getting to 100 miles was possible, but aside from that, I didn't have any tangible experience to base that confidence upon.
It was only during that initial 100K that I got my first taste of what the 100-miler might have in store – in both good ways and bad. So with another 100-miler on my schedule this summer, one of my top priorities was to make it to Miwok again, to see if I still had that same belief in myself, and to hopefully get a glimpse of what kind of experience I might be able to create later this year.
With a few more races under my belt now – and for another reason I’ll describe shortly - I’m a different runner than I was the first time here. As it turns out, Miwok was a little different as well; this year’s course included some new trails and a couple of route changes, but still packed about 10,000’ of climbing into some of the most scenic trails in Northern California. The day promised a lot of great things to see – and with that, we’ll start the report.
(As usual, click any of these photos to enlarge ...)
such great memories.
Soft Star RunAmocs, for which I’ve made no secret of my affection over the past year. This spring I had an idea to spread the love a little more publicly than my little hole-in-the-Internet-wall, and the elves at Soft Star were completely on board, sending me a race shirt and setting me up with fresh mocs shortly before race day.
Knowing that this is probably the closest I’ll ever come to actually being a sponsored runner, I figured I’d start calling myself Team Soft Star, since “that crazy guy in the moccasins” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. At Miwok, I was the poster boy for RunAmocs – and honestly, I had a ton of discussions about them on the trail. For the most part, the ultrarunning community has been incredibly curious and open-minded about the whole minimalist thing, and my reception at Miwok was wonderful, for two primary reasons:
1) More than virtually anyone else, ultrarunners can certainly identify with hearing people tell them that something they want to do is crazy, impossible, or potentially harmful – and then going ahead and doing it anyway. Also …
2) Recall that I started at the very back of the pack, which means that I passed a lot of people throughout the day. I imagine that it’s hard to question whether something is effective when the guy doing it is pulling away from you.
So there you have it: Team Soft Star, coming to a trail near you someday. Meanwhile, back at the race …
They passed me while I was taking a photo, and I made a concerted effort to catch back up and settle in behind them. The girl was running the whole race, but the guy was her pacer, so he had fresh legs and great energy and kept a steady pace while engaging her in conversation the whole way. I asked if I could tag along, and mentally latched onto them like the caboose of a train; my only goal through the whole section was to stay close enough for them to pull me. This was a significant turning point for me; if I had fallen back, the race very likely could have turned ugly, but by making the extra effort to stay close, I made it through my roughest patch of the course without slowing down at all. For that, I was grateful, and I made sure to thank them both afterward.
Drymax socks did a perfect job of protecting me from dust and grit coming through the perforated leather. (I’m not talented enough to be on Team Drymax, though – they have plenty of real ultrarunners onboard.) The mocs were more than up to the task of getting me through 62 miles of hilly, occasionally rocky and technical terrain – I couldn’t really ask for more.
I’ll have a follow-up post or two in the near future about where the whole RunAmoc thing goes from here. In some ways, it ties back into the same notion I started this report with: testing the limits of what’s possible, and gradually converting belief into tangible accomplishment one mile at a time. I hadn’t officially wrapped my head around the idea of doing 100 miles in moccasins prior to this race, but Miwok clearly gave me the confidence to at least consider it. Between now and July, perhaps it’s time for me to be an architect who dreams of something remarkable that I just might be able to create in the mountains above Lake Tahoe.
“We still believe in all the things that we stood by before –
And after everything we've seen here maybe even more.”
Rise Against, "Architects" (click to play; lyrics advisory):
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