Just a few thoughts as I get ready for a huge day in the mountains on Saturday. And I do mean huge.
I knew when I signed up for Jemez that it was the kind of course I might enjoy: a ton of climbing (12,000'+ to be (almost) exact), wilderness, views, cross-country fun, and a highly competent race committee. I hear the food is good too.
After taking the time this week to explore the details a little further, I have actually come away a little intimidated by it all. Not only is a lot of the running taking place above 9,000', but there are also three trips above 10,000', which is an altitude I haven't run at since last year. While running at (relative) altitude is not really an issue for me, it is my first run of the year at sustained altitude, so you never know. More of a factor, however, will be the descents.
The Jemez course is known for its big climbs and crazy-steep descents. I welcome both, but am a little fearful, I guess, of getting carried away on the descents. That said, the course offers the perfect opportunity to assess how my downhill legs are progressing with regards to sustaining a solid effort late in the game at Western States. At Jemez, the last nine-mile section of the course is essentially a 3,000' drop, and this comes in addition to what have been described to me as insane descents earlier in the race where one essentially jumps off mountains on to scree slopes and hopes for the best.
Sustained and prolonged downhill running (and heat) still remain something of an x-factor for me in my preparations for States, so hopefully this weekend will offer up some clues as to what, if anything, I need to tweak in the five weeks before June 26. We're currently looking at a high of 78 for Los Alamos on Saturday, which means I get hills and heat ... perfect.
So, yes, Jemez is most certainly a training run. I've said all along that the singular goal for the first half of the running year is Western States, which has meant compromising other races that I might otherwise have tapered for. With that said, however, I have been feeling fairly rested this week and think that I might be able to put forth a competitive effort on Saturday. There is some good - and evenly matched - competition which will keep the effort honest, and while Senor Karl has suggested that Kyle Skaggs' course record (8:08) is not in jeopardy, I think it is fair to assume that Karl's ranking as the second fastest dude over the course (8:58) is in danger. Kyle's course record is so much faster than times posted by others that I have to assume that it would take a highly motivated run from a very talented mountain runner to beat it. However, I am betting that the winning time will be somewhere in the mid-eights (versus 9:14 last year).
What else? I took my running streak into triple digits on Monday. That's right, 100 days and 150 runs without missing a day. I plan to end the streak with my run in California next month, as I have learned that while good for motivation and getting out the door, running streaks are - on balance - poor training tools. They coerce you into running when you know you should be resting and that's a dangerous game, especially when nursing aches, pains and injuries.
Umm, if you fancy a crack at a Towers PR, or just a run up Towers, and read this in time, then we'll be at the Soderberg trailhead at 6:00 tonight. Hope to see you there. Oh, and happy birthday to me - I just got even older.