An American River 50M Postscript (Con Siestas)

Nearly two weeks after the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I pondered why I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. Then I realized my mind wanted to chew on the week that followed more than the event itself.

Race report? Nah, a recovery report!

“Recovery,” like time off in general, gets lip service in endurance running, overshadowed by a more-is-better attitude that extols the virtues of running on tired legs. Similarly, our modern lifestyle promotes the concept of a work-life balance but ultimately gauges importance by busy-ness.

Running the American River 50M (and too much of a cheapskate to buy the image from the course photographers, hence the copyright label).

The week after the 50-miler, however, I traveled to a far-off destination ideal for slowing down—and not feeling guilty about it: the Riviera Maya region south of Cancun. Aside from a couple of miles on the hotel dreadmill and a 15-minute sashay down the beach, I ran nada!

As for how those 50 miles went, they were fine. But who wants a race to be “fine”? It’s like getting “satisfactory” on a report card. The lesson, perhaps, is that not every race can or should be epic or brutal, man. Or maybe it’s that 50 miles is 24 too long. Or really, that lack of focus and energy in a race could be a sign of burnout and inadequate tapering beforehand.

Puis, lo que sea (like, whatever). I finished in 8:39, about 30 to 40 minutes slower than I could have if I were focused, well rested, and had a few more quality training runs under my hydration pack. But I was tired going into it—tired from too much time on the computer, from the Oakland Marathon two weeks prior, and honestly, from being almost 42. (But age isn’t much of an excuse, considering the second-place women’s finisher in 6:34, Kami Semick, is a 44-year-old working mom.)

As if auto-programmed to be at a certain place at a certain time, I found myself in Sacramento on the morning of April 9, running toward Auburn with the sunrise. My body set its cruise control like a Volvo wagon set for 62 on I-5. I imagined my competitive juices draining out and drifting downstream in the American River, where a layer of mist hovering above the rapids held my gaze and caught the sun’s rays. I tried to think about pace and mile splits, but instead I daydreamed about things like the days 20 years earlier when we lived in Sacratomato and took our yellow lab to these riverbanks so that she’d plunge in to retrieve hefty sticks.

Eight hours of sleep-running later, when I started to feel a bit down about a lackluster performance, I caught up with a woman who was really down—on the verge of tears, she later confessed—because she was having a PW (personal worst) and her ego felt bruised. I could relate. We talked all the way up the hill of those last two miles, ran through the finish together, and ended on a high note both in terms of elevation and emotion.

At the Mile 41.5 Aid Station, seeing my friend Cheryl, who took this shot, gave me a (short-lived) boost of energy.

Then, ¡estuve lista para viajar a Mexico!, which translated means: I was ready to soak my blistered toes and drink margaritas at noon at the all-inclusive resort’s all-you-can eat buffets in Mexico.

Our family had a blast. We took in the local sights, ate ten kinds of salsas, body surfed and snorkeled, gaped at iguanas, jumped off a cliff, got serenaded by a mariachi band and sipped coconut milk from cocos frios. We unplugged from the Internet and read whole books by the pool.

On Day Two, I dutifully put on my running gear and set out to run the network of paths connecting the various resorts. The run became a jog that devolved further into a grandma shuffle. My body just didn’t want to move. I’m here to rest, not to run, I told myself and returned to the pool and beach, where swimming felt so much better. Not every trip has revolve around running.

We traveled with our friend Adam Ray, and Adam, an accomplished ultrarunner, noted the irony that we tend to feel the worst and most out of shape after a serious endurance event—muscles swollen and bloated, joints stiff, feet achy. Once I made peace with that reality, I enjoyed the R&R so much more.

The "Cliff of Courage" at Xel-Ha: Now THIS is FUN!

Generally speaking, this blog and my family travel blog (Away Together) seek to promote authentic, adventurous, meaningful travel experiences in which destination-oriented running shapes the itinerary and enhances appreciation for the place and its people.

This wasn’t one of those trips. What was it?

It was a VACATION! And it felt so good.

If you go …

To anyone visiting this region, I recommend the following:

  • Iberostar’s Paraiso Maya all-inclusive resort—nice rooms, great service and fantastic food for the price
  • Apple Vacations for booking the lodging, airport transportation and day trips—I’d never used a tour agent like this, but they did a great job and it was cheaper than booking it ourselves
  • Xel-Ha for touring Tulum and visiting the Xel-Ha water park

Colly, Kyle, Morgan and me touring the Mayan ruins of Tulum

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2 Responses to An American River 50M Postscript (Con Siestas)

  1. Paul April 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Well done! Nice to rest up too hey 🙂 Amazing how you manage to fit so much in with work, running and family. Inspiring!

    I ran another ultra a few weeks back too after my 50 miler. Best run of the season and i did not train for it. Funny how things turn out!

    Happy easter.


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