The month of October has been an interesting one for running. Coming off a so-so September where I got some good running in but all in the summer heat and never really feeling "back" or even strong at any one point. Temperatures dropped and my legs and lungs came back as I started to pile on some long runs. I started out with the Mazatzal 18 miler which was borderline disasterous with my stomach issues. Following weekend I ran the Grand Canyon for the first time. I felt amazing the entire 47 miles and powered up the South Rim faster than I ever have by HOURS. I felt so great after 47 miles and 20,000 feet in elevation gain that I was more confident than I have been in a long time. I mean, if I can do that well in the Canyon...shouldn't I be able to push that level farther, faster, and longer? I think so.
Fast forward to this past weekend where I paced my friend in his first 100 mile race, the Javalina Jundred here in Phoenix. I felt tired earlier in the week from the Canyon but that disappeared after a fast and hilly WMRC on Wednesday. Friday I had my first test with the ASU Ultra study. That made sure of any rust on my legs to be completely destroyed and flushed out of my body. Wearing a mouthpiece to capture my breathing, nose plug and heartrate monitor I pounded out 7 minute miles for 7 minutes. Then the grade was pushed to 4.0 for another 5 minutes at 7 minute miles. Then 5 more minutes at 6.0 grade with 7 minute miles. Then again to 8.0 until 2.5 minutes in I was stopped involuntarily because my heart rate was too high. All this to determine my maximum threshold via my VO2 max. This would be used for later tests to help determine my optimal pace for Ultras where I burn fat not muscle. They gave me a printout of the test results and my VO2 max total which was 59.7. Solid but certainly not "elite." Brutal test though.
So come 7:30pm Saturday night I was pacing Matt on laps 5&6. 31 miles of the Pemberton Trail in the moonlight, sans headlight. It was perfect weather, awesome crowds and I felt this vested interest in all the runners completion having spent 9 hours earlier at the start of the race volunteering at the aid station. Watching all the runners come through over and over again for their first 40-60 miles and then running later that night and seeing them once again, I couldn't help but root for each of them. Matt shuffled along making some great time on lap 5 but lap 6 proved to be his most challenging as he slowed down considerably both physically and emotionally. He still dug really deep and made sure he got his goal of sub 24 hours. I left him after 93 miles where he had one last 9 mile loop with a new pacer and he came back and finished in 23:06. Very respectable 35th overall. I was thinking the entire 31 miles that I could run 100 miles right now. This instant I could just keep going. I could have entered this race. I was ready. 31 miles later "running" for nearly 8 hours...I was ready for bed and not interested in running another 4+ laps like Matt had just done. It seemed so monotonous. So boring. So why would I want to run a 50 miler around a 500 meter flat track?? I don't know either.
I do know I want to see what I am capable of. That has been the goal from the beginning. How far can I go? How fast can I go? How fast can I go and stil l make it to the finish? Sometimes I test those boundries and sometimes its all I can do just to make it to the finish. One thing that I am interested in is finding out how fast I can go when terrain is not a factor. In all my races I've done thus far elevation, terrain, and overall difficulty of the course led to much slower pace times than I know I am capable of. Take all that away and give me a track course what kind of time am I capable of? Can I just keep running all night long? Can I hold a steady, if slow, pace? Will my knees, ankles, and feet hold up to the beating? I kind of want to