Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pre-race jitters...

It's two days before my "A" race of the season, The North Face Endurance Challenge Trail Marathon in San Francisco.  Pretty much since I started my taper a week and a half ago, I've started second guessing every choice I've made regarding this race since I started training for it in August. 

Did I do enough flat speed work?

Did I do enough hill training?

Did I do enough and long enough long runs?

Is my fueling strategy solid?

Is my gear selection right?

Am I really ready to run 26+ miles on trails with 4500' elevation gain?

To add to an already frustrating taper period, plagued with second guessing, the weather in SF has taken a turn for the worse.  It was bad enough worrying about everything when weather was going to be good, but now there is a storm front moving through that area that is adding flooding rains and wind to the equation.  Now I ask myself even more questions....

Will my shoes give me enough traction?

How much more difficult is poor weather and deteriorating trail conditions going to make the race?

Do I change my gear selection?

Should I wear a jacket that may keep me dry on the outside, but make me sweat excessively?

Am I really ready to run 26+ miles on the MUDDY trails with 4500' elevation gain in the rain and wind?

Truth is, I won't know the answer to any of those questions until I run my race.  I did speed work when my training plan called for it or when I felt it was appropriate.  I am faster than I was 3 months ago.  I have done more hill training (by running local mountain trails) than I had conceived doing up to this point.  I've got 3 solid 20+ mile long runs, with shorter 12-15 mile runs the day prior under my legs in the past few months.  I've done long runs fueling to the max, and I've done long runs allowing myself to bonk, just to know the feeling and how to push through it. 

Even with the foul weather on tap, the other questions are somewhat irrelevant.  My shoes are what they are; comfortable.  I know I can run the distance in them.  Are their shoes out there with more traction available?  Yep, sure are.  I even own a pair.  But I'm not comfortable enough in them yet (they are fairly new), and don't have the confidence in them that I have in my old trusty MT110s.  Will it affect me on the trail?  Maybe, but I don't expect everyone out there is going to be cruising in some Mudclaws or Speedcross 3s. 

The weather will undoubtedly make the race harder, of that I am sure.  But guess what?  It's going to make it harder for everyone, not just me.  All I have to do is go out there and run my own race...nothing more, nothing less.

Fact:  I am ready for this race.  I am the fittest I have ever been.  I am the fastest I have ever been.  My legs are the strongest they have ever been.  A week and a half ago I was nervous about gear, and weather, and training.  Today, I'm not nervous.  I'm ready. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Last Long Run of the Season: Covington Crest and Covington Flats

I've now officially run all but one portion of the California Riding and Hiking Trail as it runs through Joshua Tree National Park.  Some (Juniper Flats area), I've run several times.  Of all the sections, this is by far my favorite.

This section of the trail has some epic views, that honestly, can't even be done justice in least not any photograph I would take.  There is just something about standing on the side of a mountain, alone, taking in some breath-taking views.  Standing there and letting the crisp, cool, mountain wind bite at your ears and cheeks is such an awakening experience that only those who have stood in that spot can know. 

When people ask,  "Why do you run trails?" it's because of moments like that.  The amazing view, the fresh air, the absolute freedom of it all...that's why.  But for those of us who do it, we know that there's even something more that can't be placed into words. Only another purveyor of the trail understands how you feel.

View of Mt San Jacinto from Covington Crest

Overlooking the Coachella Valley


Panoramic view from the crest

San Jacinto above the Clouds

Descending through the bushes

Down into the Flats

Heading down into the canyon
The trail winding into the Canyon floor


Rocky wash as the trail gets more technical

Tall Yucca plants everywhere!

Found a friend on the trail


This was my last long run of the season before beginning my taper.  Have to admit, there was some good climbing and descending, but the trail was pretty amazing.  Great views, great weather, and a great run.

In the meantime...Keep Running!

Desert Queen Mine

Nothing too fancy here, but I just dig some of the history you find here in the desert Southwest.  As it turns out, the area now occupied by Joshua Tree National Park used to be a pretty active gold mining area.

A brief little side history (for those who care), the Desert Queen Mine was the longest operating, and one of the most profitable mines in the area.  It ran from 1895-1961, and during that time produced 3,845 ounces of gold, that yielded several million dollars (according to the US Bureau of Mines...didn't even know there was such a thing).  There's not much left of it now, as you can tell from the pics, just some ruins and old mine shafts and machinery. 

I do like running on trails like this, not because they are particularly difficult or technical, but because you can get a history lesson at the same time!