Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections on Diez: Confessions of a Sandbagger

There's no way I could've predicted what happened on Saturday after the crap state my body and second-guessing mind were in over the days leading into Diez. Following Dirty Duo, on March eighth, the training plan I'd written up went completely out the window due travel and various other things. I truly felt I had no business running 50 kilometers with any sort of personal expectations but I felt I owed to myself, and everyone else who didn't get in, to at least start on Saturday morning.

Even though I was dealing with this pointy little profile, I started...
Elevation profile captured by Suunto Ambit2 R
The Start Line
As usual, I was wagging my jaw as the start of the race happened and the moving pack startled me into motion. My first strides, with Chloe Gendron and Sarah Stepec were a series of jokes and casual have-funs before I hit the first of a lot of dirt and saw the back of Jeff Pelletier. It was then I knew it was time to wake up. If I could keep Jeff in striking distance from the start at White Pine Beach and through to the first aid station, I thought I'd have a chance of finishing near him. To put that thinking into context, Jeff and I ran this same section together previously and he slaughtered me on the climb. He climbs like a snow leopard. Fast and quiet. I also knew that if he got to the road-type sections too far ahead of me, it'd be over. His turn over is amazing. Come to think of it, there's nothing he doesn't do well. He lost me on the climb as I suspected, so I played catch up for a bit across the top but was careful not to burn myself down while doing so. My footwork was fancy up there and we were together again until the first aid station. 

This went on all morning. I'd catch a glimpse of Jeff and then not see him for fifteen or so minutes. He had a hundred or so meters on me and on windy, undulating terrain I didn't see much of him. Mentally, this exhausted me and while running the west side of Buntzen, I really started to question whether I could finish this. Even the screaming and cheering of super vollie Dianna couldn't get me motivated. I smiled but it was fake as hell. My left soleus hurt and I was breathing way too hard. With an apple from my drop bag, I headed back up the east side of Buntzen in a huge huff. I'd completely lost Jeff and I was alone. Come to think of it, I'd been alone for nearly an hour. Anger! What was going on? At the end of Buntzen again and there was Jeff. He cheered me on. I cheered him on. Then I cheered myself on. I was still in this and I hoped Jeff was unhappy to see me hanging on. That's racing, right? We talked very little as we yoyo'd back and forth to Solana and Jay's "we're not an aid station" station. From a distance I heard Solana, who hadn't recognized me, tell Jeff he was a minute back on Josh Barringer and Daniel Goddard. Really?!, I thought. Two more big dogs. I had no clue what place we were in but knowing I was hanging with these guys was hugely motivating. Jeff was gone again and I started smiling. This is where everything turned around and I knew I was going to finish this thing. That alone was a massively powerful shift in my mind set.
Photo by Jay Klassen just moments behind J.P.
The OUT AND BACK actually starts in the forest much further down from the power lines than I expected. Much further. Much much further. This is going to be fun on the way back, I kept thinking with my head down and taking tiny strides to hit the top. I thought I was off course a couple times because it was taking so long to reach the power lines. And when I finally did, coming around the corner was Ed McCarthy which prompted me to think I wasn't that far from the turn around. Holy Shit was I wrong in that thinking. As I looked up the power lines, I saw the highest point and assumed we would never have to go out that far. Again, I was wrong. It had to be done though so off I went and there in front of me were Jeff, Daniel and Josh, in no particular order. I caught up with Daniel and had a few words. I only knew it was him because Solana had said he wasn't too far ahead. Last time we met he was bearded. It was Daniel that delivered the bad news about the out and back going to the top of that hill, then downhill and back up again. I kinda' cried inside but reminded myself that everyone was crying inside about it.  Who could cry the least was the name of the game now?

In eight place, I came into the turn around to see Josh feeling really lousy. Although he was ticking over like a whippit, he was pale and clearly disappointed in how his body was reacting to the days demands. He said few words and went right back to work. Jeff's lower leg, which he'd mentioned just before we saw Solana and Jay, had finally gotten the better of him. However, with some serious reservations, he too went right back to work. With them gone, I spent a bit longer at the turn around than the other lads. I wanted to make sure I was fueled enough to keep this high of mine rockin'. Bonking now would send me back to the start line in someone's car and those weren't plans.

Zig zagging, I climbed back to the gravel road and in no time at all reached that dreamy downhill single-track, I mentioned earlier. With Josh and Jeff on our heels, Daniel and I wound our way down to see the last aid station and the final climb. This was it. A short and familiar climb was all I needed to conquer and the descent would be easy. That said, after Daniel spanked me on the last descent, I knew I'd have to beat him up the climb with some distance to spare but without wrecking myself. At the top, I had a quick shoulder check and he wasn't in sight but I really couldn't tell through the forest.

TO the FINISH...
The descent and a short run along Sasamat Lake went by quickly before I popped up on the road to see the finish line clock reading 4:56. I was the fourth person to cross the finish line into Wendy's arms. Kudos to any RD that hugs a nasty ass trail runner after even 15 minutes of running, let alone almost five hours.

To sum... I truly had no clue what I was doing at that race on Saturday morning in light of my training and mind set. My result as compared to my previous blog warrants my being called a sandbagger. Yes indeed. One thing is for sure, I was ready. The question is why? What have I done? 

Diez Vista 1st Place 40-49 Beer Tumbler
For one, I think I played the race smart. I did exactly what Rene Unser (PACE Sports Fitness)/Salomon Flight Crew, told me to do. I found my rhythm in the first half and then had a go at the second half. I heard your voice out there, Rene. Secondly, my volume had been higher than in previous years up until March 16th, about three weeks prior. Tapers work? Thirdly, and what I am most sure of, is the strength training I'm doing at MARX CONDITIONING. Not only did I feel strong on the climbs and descents in the back half, but I also felt that I was keenly aware of which muscles needed to stay engaged to keep my form functional and efficient. You're awesome, Monika Marx.

Again, the gear of the day, aside from my Salomon Mantra's, was Salomon's S-Lab Skin belt and two 8oz. soft flasks. With the food I needed in the front of the belt and two soft flasks of water in the rear, I was set. It stayed tight to my body with no chafing. And the important things were always accessible.

Looking forward to my next race in Kelowna on April 27th, Spring Rush followed by Sun Mountain 50k on May 17th. (There's still some space in Spring Rush if you're looking for a gorgeous Okanagan 25k.)


  1. Strength conditioning, totally! I'm a believer, especially for longevity as an athlete. Great read Tom.

  2. Great race out there Tom, glad to have shared part of it with you! PS I'll get you next time (that's racing right?). ;)