The weather in Silverton has gotten much better. After changing my plans to run my last long day on Saturday to running Sunday instead I was treated to a great day in the mountains. Only bits of rain and a few dark clouds on the high passes yesterday. Since my last entry I have done my final hill repeats on Engineer Pass. I chose this spot because of the mild grade which I felt I could run even at 11-13K elevation. I would also be able to re-fuel and change clothes when needed. It ended up being a bitter sweet day. Given my state of mind I spent the 5 hours deep in my own head plus I got in a great workout at the same time. Many times ultra runners solve or discover their best stuff while on a run. I came to the understanding that for me…not all epic experiences are going to be joyful and carefree every time. Learning to accept, adjust and simply go with the flow are not qualities easy for me to embrace. I am a control freak! I like to know exactly what I am getting myself into, decide, make plans and move through the situation or experience with grace. This is not one of those experiences. Instead, I’m having to adjust, maneuver my plans, my attitude and mostly realize I don’t have control….this course does.
I always bring my favorite pre-race running book with me so I can brush up on the mental part of racing. These long ultras are generally a race against the clock for me but Hardrock is going to be a race with the mountains. Since this book is about racing and competition I need to change some of the words to fit my situation but it still works. Since my mental oneness seems to be missing I am using these words to come around. The paragraph is called. “Letting Go” and it says this: “Racing is a process, the outcome of which simply measures how successful you have been moment by moment throughout the event as well as your training and preparation. Success in the now is a factor of the joy you experience in the execution of the plan, the quality demonstrated in your technique and skill level. When you acknowledge that winning is beyond your control, you can begin to fully experience the emotional rush of competition: well-trained athletes seeking greatness together. Seeing the race as a journey, you feel the freedom to run in the flow, a state of relaxed intensity.” All I have to do is replace a few words about winning to finishing and it works. There is a whole chapter on this stuff. Generally I read the parts about dealing with pain and visualizing your day but I had to go back a few chapters this time. The book is called “Running Within”.
Yesterday I made some huge progress with the course. We ran from Chapman Gulch to the finish. We had to go up and over Grant Swamp Pass. We started at 6am and arrived at the snow fields at about 7ish. We got really lucky and the course was marked. Apparently they moved the marking schedule around because the rivers were really high and they wanted to avoid crossing some of the big ones. When we got to the first snow field Steve put one foot on it and found it to be a sheet of ice! He couldn’t use his foot the break the snow down. We walked down the hill to the river and crossed it instead. We then had to hike up back up to the markings and continue on. We were wondering what the next snow field would bring? The sun was not over the mountain yet. I could see our destination and just tucked it back in my mind and would deal with it when it came. This pass was a series of scree and snow that we had to weave through as we made our way to the top. When we came to the next snow field again we found ice. I suggested we use a rock to dig steps so that’s what we did. Steve did the work with a rock and his heel and we made our way across using this method time and time again. I suspect this will be the case during the race depending on time of day a runner arrives at Grant Swamp or the snow could be gone by then. Now for more growth! We were now at the base of the last steep pitch to the summit and it was all snow. The sun was hitting the mountain and warming things up but it was going to be a nail biter for me. We stood at the base of the pitch for about 10 minutes waiting for more sun and hopefully softer snow. I looked around and found the perfect rocks to use as my ice ax to help me up the snow field. I was pretty much shaking all over but was determined to get up and over it. We began the climb and found the snow was softer but did have to use our feet to pound secure steps. I used my rocks to give me security and it worked. When we reached the summit I needed a moment to pull myself together. Sitting on the 3 foot wide ridge looking back at where we came from was both rewarding and nerve racking. It was cold so our break was short and we began the descent. We found some more ice on the back side. These snow fields were extremely short and only one was icy forcing me to sit on butt, smack my heel in the snow and work my way off. I wasn’t a fan of this either but once we got around the corner it was bliss. Making our way down the ice lake trail was awesome and the views were so wonderful it’s hard to describe. The rest of the day was great. The next pass which is Putnam-Cataract Ridge was super sweet. It’s a lovely high meadow as far as the eye can see surrounded by mountains. We ran into a couple of other runners one who has been training on this course for 6 weeks. He asked where we came from and said that Grant Swamp is the worst of the passes. At least on Virginias they will provide a rope and cut in steps. I felt a ton of relief and reward knowing this information. Knowing I was able to get over it gave me more confidence I can do the others. We also ran into the folks marking the last section which was neat to see. It makes it more and more real which in turn will force me to start putting my plans down on paper making my way through the course in my head. Hopefully more calm and excited than anxious and fearful.
Now it’s taper time! I feel really good physically and the altitude has seriously been on such a back burner it hasn’t been bad. I think come race day the lack of air will be just fine and just be part of the experience. So far I think I have gotten a really good taste of what’s to come on race day. I got the amazing weather day on Handies. That was an eye opener and will surely help me plan appropriately. I got the icy snow pitch on Grant Swamp and figured a way to get up and over it so Darin and will be able to get it done. Bill, Alex, Darin and Micheal arrive on Thursday and I am so looking forward to that.
All in all I think I have grown! Funny but seriously I didn’t think I was such a baby, homesick and needy. :) I do know that I have been running on adrenaline for a few days now and suspect I will have loads of it come race day. Now I just need to put that drug to good use, not fight it and hopefully be able to have that epic experience Hardrock in known for.