As I’ve mentioned in a post about goal-setting, I like to aim high at least once a year and set a lofty goal within reason. Time goals fell: a sub-four hour marathon, sub-six hour half-Ironman, and a sub 1:40 half marathon happened in quick succession. I went longer and logged a full Ironman and a 50 mile mountain run less than six months apart. This year, I wanted to put my recovery to the test: two ultras in one week – the Quad Dipsea and the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K.
My approach was simple – get to the starting line at Quad Dipsea feeling fresh and energized. Plan a massage, have a relaxing week, and then run for enjoyment at TNFEC. Unfortunately, I’m not a sponsored runner, and life got in the way: a late cancellation from the masseuse and a late cancellation of my scheduled day off did not set a good tone for the week. I traveled for business on Tuesday and Wednesday, ate poorly, and was quite stressed by the return leg home. Fortunately, the excitement of realizing my lofty goal of two utlras in a week by running with Taylor served as a spark on Thursday morning, and I logged a four mile run in 30 flat as my final prep for TNFEC.
As Taylor posted yesterday, we were greeted with extremely frigid temperatures at the start. Despite the cold temperatures, we were in high spirits, especially after I managed to snag a selfie with Dean Karnazes while Taylor waited for the bathroom; this selfie made it three Dean encounters in three years at TNFEC.
Not long after the start, I heard a familiar voice, and turned around to find my spin instructor, Danny – a 30+ time Ironman finisher right behind us. Danny decided to bow out of the 50 miler gracefully and drop down to the 50K due to excessive fun and a case of the adult flu; what a wimp! Nevertheless, the three of us slogged on and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the Marin Headlands.
After a personalized photo-shoot along the Coastal Trail courtesy of an upbeat photographer, we proceeded down to the Muir Beach aid station where I recognized a familiar face from last weekend. I clearly remembered seeing him at the Quad Dipsea and we talked briefly – he dubbed my week of ultras the “Dirty Double”. The support at North Face is nothing short of incredible – the volunteers manage to create aid stations that rival the biggest road races, some in the middle of nowhere.
Like any ultra, this one had plenty of ups and downs – literally and figuratively. The flat miles were few and far between, fueling was at the forefront of our minds, and more than half the battle revolved around keeping a good head. Much to my surprise, I felt very little pain until the final 10 miles – miles 55-65 for the week, good for my most to date. My feet simply had enough – the plantar fascia in my left foot was very swollen, and my ankles felt the load of running up and down hill with a pack on for 10+ hours.
There is something to be said about not going full throttle at a race. Taylor and I talked for 8+ hours when I wasn’t stuffing my face with chips and soda, we took almost 100 pictures, and soaked in our surroundings without staring at our watches. We discovered new routes through Mount Tam, experimented with different types of fueling, and got a firsthand glimpse of what it’ll be like to run in the tundra of New York soon. I was thrilled to be there for Taylor’s first ultra, and proud of how far I’ve come over the past two years. I don’t plan on making multiple marathons a week part of my long term goals, but the experience gave me the confidence to go longer and faster, not to mention a huge sense of fulfillment after nailing what was once a lofty goal.