The Dream Sequence
I was running across a grassy field, warming-up at an unknown college cross-country meet. The leaves of the trees lining the field were changing into autumn's golds and reds. I wasn't really paying attention to much else. Suddenly, my coach runs up to me, waving his arms and yells in a panicked tone that my race was about to begin. I looked across the dew ladened field. My team, as well as the rest of the conference's best, were strung across the matrix in a long thin line. Exposed legs and arms, fingers on watches and squatting in the ever-ready "go" position. An official stood before them and held a starter's gun high above his head. I was screwed! Not only did I have to run what seemed like a mile to get to my team's starting box. I was still wearing my sweats and trainers.
I dropped to my butt as the pistol fired. I threw off my shoes and my Allegheny College blue & gold sweat pants only to find another pair underneath. The mass of runners began to pass. I did the only thing I could do, I got up and started running sans shoes and still sweat pant clad. I ran through the grass and mud in my socks. I was last, or so I thought until a runner passed me pushing a baby stroller! I felt as if I were running in reverse, the more I tried the further behind I fell.
I think it was a multi-loop course, as the lead runners passed me as the path entered a gym. Stands of spectators lined the walls; their eyes fixed upon me. As I crossed the wooden floors I lost my traction and began to slide out of control in my wet, slippery socks.
It was then, at this very point of desperation, that my alarm went off in my ear. Good thing because I had a real race to run today. This was the perfect ominous prelude to today's Run on The Sly 50K.
History Repeats Itself
In September 1998, I traveled to Pollock Pines, CA, on a whim for the Run On the Sly 50K. I won my 13th ultra there in 4:20:32. I don't remember much about the race, only memories of running around Jenkinson Lake and running as hard as I could to separate myself from ultra-legend Luanne Park (who placed second overall).
Fast forward twelve years later, to this past September. My sister (Jess), brother in law (Duane) and their kids (Rory and Grif) now live in Pollock Pines. Because of this, Jenkinson Lake has become my peaking and recovery grounds for events like the Western States 100 Mile and Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile. With a little inspiration from Duane I entered Run On the Sly (ROTS) this year. This was to be Duane's first foray into the ultra world and I thought it'd be great to be there to witness that and to retrace a course I hadn't done in more than a decade.
Running around Jenkinson Lake at the 2010 Run on the Sly.
In this 2010 edition, things didn't play out much differently as they did in 1998. The trail around the lake was as I remembered it and I ran as hard as I could to separate myself from the likes of fierce competitors like Cameron Park's Curt Casazza (2nd overall) and Pollock Pines' own Kate Evans (1st woman and new course record holder). Though I believe the course was different than twelve years ago I still posted a ROTS PR in 4:09:13. My 50th career ultra win. Running with shoes and without sweats definitely helped my chances on this day.
Duane had a fantastic debut. He crossed the line in ninth place with a time of 5:00:19. Now he's murmuring something about entering a 50-mile or 100-kilometer race next year. I'd say he's hooked!
Duane Miller on his way to his first ultra finish.
Think outside the box. If you are not prepared for the conditions; improvise.
Here Coach Torrence (with his clothing drop bag still ten miles distant) dons a stylish, black plastic bag as he ascends into the rain, clouds and wind at this year's inaugural Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run. (Photo by Chris Rennaker)
And Now Your Moment of Zen
Birthday Cupcakes! Provided by my sister, Rory and Grif.