July 31, 2011

AC 100 - Being Drawn Back In

“The Mountains are Calling. And I Must Go” 
                          John Muir

Before the start with Bad Rat Tracy M. 
There is so much more I have yet to learn about this sport. So much! And I’m beginning to realize it's what I’m learning that keeps drawing me back into it. Even after deciding to move on with other priorities in my life. I’m drawn back in.
Entering aid station somewhere between mile 25 and 50.
Last weekend was a perfect example. Because last weekend should not have happened, if not for a fate-filled phone call I received but didn’t take, and ultimately couldn’t deny. I’m talking about Angeles Crest 100 miler here, the race I chose not to do, then changed my mind only to line up with all the other nut jobs at the starting line at 5 a.m. Saturday morning  July 23rd.
Its been said that wisdom is learning what to overlook. If you think about it, one has to deduce that the opposite must also be true. After all, how could you know what to overlook if you didn’t know what not to overlook?

negotiating hydro pack while conferring with crew
My plan at AC 100 was first and foremost to finish the race. Why? What I’m learning about this sport is you have to have respect. Respect for the mountain you run on. This I try not to overlook. To go into a 100 mile race with a goal time, if you have never run those mountains, is to not respect the mountains. I don’t believe in this approach and I’ve seen a lot of people who get chewed up and spit out up there who try otherwise. Other than getting lost on a training run, I had never run in the San Gabriels before Angeles Crest 100 mile and I wasn’t about to go in guns blazing.   
There were quite of few learning granules I picked up running AC.  Mainly from things I overlooked:  
Granule number one: incorporate hiking into the training regimen. This course has soooo much climbing up steeps that aren't runnable that you have to prepare accordingly. The climbs up Baden Powell, Mt. Hilliard and Mt. Wilson are the big three, but there are others. Its hard to bounce out of a one or two hour hike and into a solid pace if your not ready for those hikes.
Granule number two: train for the heat. This race used to take place in September, now it's in July, the hottest time of year. Yes there is more daylight in July, but daylight brings heat. I didn't feel cool until the sun was behind the horizon. Even then I ran all night with no shirt on. It's a scorcher out there.
Granule number three: maximize time training on the course. There is no better way to find your advantage out there than to experiment on the trail you'll run on race day. Knowing how long you'll be trudging up a mountain or flying down a canyon is a  huge advantage to everyone.
Other observations:
AC has a lot of running at elevation, even more than I expected. You are flirting between 6'000 to 9'000 feet for first 50 miles. This is much more time at elevation than Western States when you are off the mountains and into the foothills after mile 35. So what about this? Unless you can live and train over 6'000 feet for three weeks or more you have to run carefully for the first half of this race. My heart rate was at least 20 beats per min higher in the first half than in the second, even going conservatively.
Finally, there are some very runnable sections on this course and you have to be prepared for them. Going easy on the first half of the course helped get me through the second half. While I might have gone a little too conservative early on, given my goal to finish and not scorch the trail I’m happy with how I executed the plan. Thanks a million to my crew Trina M and Jeff P and Chris C and Bino M for pacing me.  
All in all another fun day at the office. Now I have to get back to my other office!  


Cory Reese said...

Great tips! I really like what you said about taking advantage of time to train on the course.

Rachel said...

i'm always so impressed not only by the incredible races you run, but also you're outlook on them and running in general. i can only imagine what can happen in a race that long, and it's so true that you have to respect the distance. great tips! i'll definitely be calling your way when i finally tackle a 100 miler... : )

EricG said...

Great job Will. I am a big believer in training with walking/hiking and have been doing lots of it training for my next run. It works. Peace E

Olga said...

#1 is what saves me in every 100 miler:) In my first one I was laughed at at mile 20 and called an energizer bunny at mile 90. Hiking and powerwalking gotta be something taught to those of us who are not Scott Jurek.
#2 - that, and learn to take care of your body when you are not trained for elements. Listen to signs carefully. Body adapts if you are smart.
#3 - wouldn't it be nice?
Respect the distance. Always. And always believe in yourself.
Good lessons there!

Anonymous said...

Well I bet it's nice to get that out of the way.... why set such rediculous goals if it almost kills you? Oh I get it, it's all about getting your mojo on. You're a stud and the mountain can definitely swallow you and NOT spit you out. Nice to see you made it out of this one mind and body it tact. Cheers Mr. Cooper.

Will Cooper said...

Cory, time on race course is the best, as long as you can get to it. sometimes its not possible for those traveling long distances to race. all the more reason to race near your home if you have that luxury. or travel to the course in advance to experience it.

Rachel, thanks for that. the more I do this, the better my outlook gets. its all about the experience of being out there. its hard not to enjoy this sport as long as you have the right perspective.

Eric, good luck on your big race coming up. you have some big miles in front of you and a run/walk plan will go a long way.

Olga, I didn't mention distance, but one must also respect the distance. Like my friend Rob M says, 100 miles is 100 miles!

Bino, thank you again for calling me on the carpet for waffling on AC. I don't think I would have done it without your voice mail. Keep an eye out for the OC register article which will be out this thursday.

melbourne painting said...

Just continue running. Just continue doing what you want. Thanks for sharing this tips and very inspiring article. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

"I felt ALIVE."

Ah yes. Those of us who get plenty of exercise in other ways are NOT "alive."

When you are much older, you will realize how selfish you were to focus on yourself at the expense of your family.

Anonymous said...

hey Anonymous , take a cold shower....chill , he's not trying to cure cancer, just feel different things.Put down the fork amnd go for a walk ......it's a beautiful day outside. bino

Unknown said...

This is such an inspirational thoughts. It's really nice to have a goal and determination to finish the race. As long as you love what you're doing, nothing can stop you from doing it.

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Unknown said...

would you recommend this as a first 100 miler? I live in southern California and am debating between this and SD100, any thoughts would be much appreciated

spybubble said...

I love your blog. So great post! more power and have a great day!