The session was huge for a number of reasons....
1. Course familiarization - It let us see the second leg of the course, which was critical given the technical nature of the trail. The first three miles were a beautiful single track descent with easy running for the most part. When we hit the basin all that changed... there were streams (minimal at the moment but come race night, who knows!), undergrowth, fallen trees, poodle bushes, and quite a few places to temporarily lose the trail. All easy enough to navigate in the daylight, but will definitely require sharp eyes at night. Then we had to climb out the other side and the terrain dried out and changed again... this time there were lots of green thorny bushes that looked kind of like Jerusalem Thorn but without the leaves, (If anybody knows what they actually were, I'd love to learn the details), small, sharp California Oak bushes, and of course a few strategically placed yuccas.
At any rate, I was very glad I was wearing capri's and knee high compression socks, because it seemed like everything was doing it's best to inhibit our passing and definitely made an impact on my clothes - I can only imagine what the legs of my poor bare legged running mates must must look like. Oh, and there were also a number of areas where there had been landslides and the footing was narrow with little room for error. Again, not a big deal in the daylight, but definitely requiring attention to detail during the race.
2. Pace - The route finished around mile 17-18 of the race - almost exactly the half way point for the whole event. That's important to realize, because I was totally spent when I got to the top of the climb yesterday. My feet were sore and my legs had no running left in them. That tells me clearly that I pushed too hard on the descent (which was perfect for a 9-10 mile run, but obviously inappropriate for a 32 mile event) and will need to hold back much more on the actual event. On the flip side... Joyce and Sachiko were my running mates and Sachiko set a blistering pace for us down the mountain but somehow she never managed to lose us... at least until the final climb out, then she slowly pulled away, and ended up finishing the route about five minutes ahead of us two. She was one hell of a great example and I'm so glad she's on the team and running the race! Thank you Joyce for leap frogging with me all morning, you are a kindred spirit and I love having you for a training partner!
3. Fueling - Well, I've verified the fact (again) that my fuel sources have to be all natural. Yesterday, I ate just one of Joyce's Shot Bloks before the run and had indigestion for all three hours. So on race night, I'll fuel on the fly with Endurolyte Caps, Rise Protein bars and Sesame Snaps (both regular and dark chocolate.)
5. Team Building - The Bastard 50k will not only require the acceptance of serious suffering, it will require every ounce of mental stamina and teamwork that we can each muster. There are only a few people on the Arrogant Bastards who are familiar with these trails; the rest of us will just have to tough out the navigating challenges and keep our wits about us. Every training session brings us a little bit closer to the real deal and I worry for my friends who have voiced a desire to participate, but aren't making all the training sessions. This night will be hard enough with full preparation and I can't begin to imagine what the experience will be like without every minute of training possible.
6. Mental Perspective - This was probably the most important benefit of yesterday's training. Establishing and maintaining the proper perspective. I can already tell that the 2013 Bastard 50k is going to be my toughest challenge to date, AND that it is totally doable, because I have already established a high bar of past experience to draw upon. The AidsRide was longer and suffering horrible, but it only came in bouts of 10 hours and was only during daylight, so this will be harder. The Goruck Challenge was eight hours at night but really only took strength and endurance, so this will be much harder. I suspect only my night out on canyon self-rescue with ATS can even partially compare to what's ahead. That was also many hours at night, on single track trail, cold, wet and dangerous, but I was being led by true experts, so I suspect that this will be have to be much harder. The thing is, I've done all those events successfully, and I know down to my toes that I am up for this latest and greatest challenge. Thank you Coach LeClair for creating such a fabulous way for us to test our mettle!
To end this post with one last blast of optimism...
Yesterday's climb was the worst of it! Here's the full course elevation markers and the "only" significant climb still to get through will be Mt. Disappointment... the rest is all down hill!