Sunol 4 hour Nav-X
Yeah this hurt. A lot. 1175m climb is a pinch much even in the Bay Area. But hey, I can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day than scrambling up giant hills and crumbling slopes while my legs slowly commit seppuku...
Map (with my real route in red and a very ambitious intended route in blue. let's just say things didn't quite go according to plan): https://photos.app.goo.gl/oKxHeQwidxjBzArJ8
So my basic thought process going into this was relatively simple; get as far as possible as fast as possible, ignoring the trashy 20 point controls just south of the start. It went pretty well, too, 'cause I got to 73 with an hour flat on the clock (after losing two minutes panicking around 33 when my GPS-reader decided to not work), which placed me right on target to accomplish my plan. But that was when things started getting really tough.
Number 80 was a huge L of a control, not necessarily due to any mistakes on my part, but mainly due to the difficulty of contouring on that hillside. At 43, my GPS-reader started acting up again, but thankfully that was the last control that had wonky coordinates. The problem with the rest of the controls in that area was that they were incredibly slow and draining (even though the scenery was absolutely gorgeous), and I ended up hitting two hours close to 61, when I had planned to be at two hours at number 70. I shrugged, blasted through the hill up until number 47, at which point I was feeling physically awesome. I had over 100 minutes left, a good amount of gas in the tank, and a pretty good mental attitude.
And that was when I felt a tell-tale twinge in my upper hamstring, and I realized that the cramps that had haunted me on the 4 hour Nav-X in Shell Ridge a year ago were back. I sorta tried to shrug them off, but after botching 65 (I went right past the tree and the GPS-reader didn't catch it; the streamer was tiny and basically invisible so I went five contours too low before checking myself), they started getting bad. Like... really bad.
This is a known problem for me whenever I do 3+ hour Nav-X's, but I hoped that today (after eating two bananas, drinking a bunch of electrolytes before and during the race, ect) would be different. These cramps crippled me at the end of Shell Ridge because I had blasted through the course at a ridiculous pace, but they did so at the very end, allowing me to still somehow pull it off. But today they hit kinda early. Making my way through the chaparral and bushes to 74 was agony, and at 60 I decided to head for the "fast" line of controls from 32 to 85 as soon as possible. But after struggling to find 75 (this one was hella evil), I got to 32 and realized I couldn't really run. My hamstrings and calves felt like they were being ripped apart, and with one hour to go, I was forced to walk/jog most of the way up to 85, which was supposed to be the fastest part of the course (you can normally get from 32 to 85 in like fifteen minutes). This was so frustrating, especially when even walking became risky and hella painful (like the moment when a lost hiker was asking me for directions and I was about two seconds from having my legs buckle underneath me). After getting to 85, I had less than a half-hour left, and with a brutal 30 point overtime penalty, I knew I had to go back sooner rather than later. Even the downhills were super slow and painful (climbing under fences produced unreal amounts of pain), but somehow, miraculously, I managed to start running slowly again from 64 onwards and finished just barely under the limit.
Main takeaways... I need to A) incorporate 3-4 hour runs into my training schedule *somehow* (even though that's really difficult considering my school schedule) so that my legs get used to this type of abuse, and B) I need to start off slower and choose less aggressive strategies. I now see that this course is unclearable in my opinion by anyone but the very best (AJ, I think you'd come close; I'd give you a 60% chance of clearing it with the best strategy), and I never say that lightly, so I probably should have adopted a more conservative and consistent strategy.
But one good thing that the cramps did was force me to enjoy slow orienteering through Sunol. It's a gorgeous place, and even though I was wincing in pain for most of it, I honestly had a lot of fun out there today.