I quite likely won't win my next race, but I thought a lot today about how exciting it is to run in a race with over $15,000 in prize money. Even if I don't win any of the prize money that goes to the top three finishers it's going to be pretty exciting to be a part of an event where that type of reward is on the table.
People always want to know what I won after I come home from a successful race. At this point I break into the description of the plaque or trophy and before I finish am interrupted with, "yeah, but how much money?" I think it's hard for most people to understand why you would run 50 or 100 miles if you weren't going to get a cash prize for winning. For me it's always been kind of the opposite: I can't imagine why you would run so far for anything other than the enjoyment of doing so. I think most ultra runners would agree with this. I don't imagine there would be that many more people racing ultras even if most of them had cash prizes (I think the fact that there is still space available in The North Face 50 is pretty decent proof of this). There's already hundreds of marathons nationwide with cash prizes. Why run 50 or 100 miles to try to make a buck when you can run 26? For those crazy people like me though who have more fun racing 50 or 100 miles than 26 it's just a little icing on the cake to have a shot at earning a buck doing something that I love to do. Would I be excited if more ultras began to offer prize money? Absolutely. But would it make me love running ultras any more? Absolutely not.
The question I was toying with a lot today though, was whether or not I really could win this race?
Today was one of those days when I felt like I could if things broke just right for me on race day. That is to say that if I feel as good on December 6th as I did today I don't think anyone will beat me. I know this is a bold statement, but I felt as good today as I've ever felt in any training run! At first I wondered if I only thought I was feeling so good because most of my runs in the past two weeks I've felt pretty crappy. As my workout went on though I realized that I had a level of flexibility, strength, and speed that I have not felt all at once in a long time. In the middle of my run I stopped at the gym to lift weights for a bit, and in the midst of my weight training, as I like to do, I got on the treadmill for a couple short, fast sessions to keep my legs loose. I always run these little 2-4 mile sessions pretty fast, but never beyond what feels comfortable. Usually I get down to about 5:45 to 6:00 mile pace. Today I felt like 5:45 could have been sustained for hours. I dropped to 5:30. Still very comfortable. 5:15. Is something wrong with this machine? Why is this so easy? 5:00. Ok, this still feels really good but certainly I won't be able to sustain this for more than a few seconds. Half a mile later and I'm still very comfortable at 5:00 pace! I cut the speed back without going any faster, but only because it feels really dangerous to run that fast on a treadmill. As I slowed gradually back down to 6:00 pace it felt like an absolute crawl. If only I could find a way to harness what I "had" today to be able to use it whenever I want.
The important thing now is to avoid the temptation to train too much if I continue to feel this good for several days. I have a 30 miler planned for tomorrow, but after that I'm really going to try to discipline myself to take Sunday and Monday very easy.