I think the most prominent factor is that I simply had a bad day. This isn't the first time I've had a race that started out feeling bad and just got worse as I pushed along. It was in fact the 4th in the 40 or so races I've run in the past 5 years. We all have days when we just don't have it. The reason we try to sleep a lot, eat well, and rest before a race is that we try to minimize this chance of having one of these days on race day. And minimize we can, but eliminate we can not. Anyone who runs enough races will have a bad day on race day sooner or later.
The next most likely factor is that the head/chest cold that I had the week before the race was still lingering enough to slow me down. I thought I had kicked it a full week before the race but then on Monday of race week it came back pretty hard for one day. The rest of the week I felt better and better each day, but certainly I was still congested on Saturday. I've done 5 or 6 races in the past few years in which I was just getting over a cold in the days leading up to the race. A few times I've been able to get through this without it having too much of an effect (NF Endurance Challenge 2009 and Run Rabbit Run 2010) and a few other times (Miwok 2009 and Bandera this year) it's had a definite negative effect on my performance. I do think this illness had an effect on me this past weekend, but it certainly wasn't the entire problem, and probably wouldn't have been insurmountable had it been the only problem.
In reading this it might sound like I get sick all the time, but I feel like I get sick about the same as most people (usually 2 or 3 colds a year), I just happen to race about once every 4 or 5 weeks so pretty much anytime I get a cold it is still lingering a little bit by the time I do my next race.
I think another reason why it might seem like I get sick all the time to folks who follow my racing is because I'm entirely open and honest to people who ask me how I'm feeling about a race. If I say I've been sick that means I've been sick. If I say I've been feeling really good that means I've been feeling really good. If I've been feeling like crap and someone asks me how I'm feeling I will tell them that I've been feeling like crap. If I'm feeling like crap during a race and another runner asks me how I'm feeling I will tell them that I'm feeling like crap. I'm not interested in playing mind games and trying to hide what I'm feeling. If this openness sometimes works to the advantage of other runners by boosting their confidence (as I think it probably did for Dave during Bandera when I told him how bad I was feeling) than so be it. To me competition is about the collective experience much more than it is about trying to win at all costs. If I tell someone I'm feeling horrible and they gain some energy/confidence from that knowledge then I think that's awesome for them. If I'm able to turn things around and feel better later on then we get a snowball effect going on and can push collectively well beyond what anyone of us could of as individuals. A desire to win is one of the reasons I love to compete with other runners, but it is certainly not the main reason. Winning is instead just really sweet "icing on the cake" of the competitive experience. Anyhow, I'm off on a long tangent here. The point is I was recovering from a cold this week and that certainly didn't help much with my performance ability on Saturday.
The third factor that may have been involved in this race is that I was perhaps overtrained/undertapered. My training/taper was in fact not much different with this race than it has been for most of the races I've done in the past few years. I ran a total of 19 miles in the 5 days before this race. I ran a total of 96 miles in the two weeks before the race. If anything these numbers are a bit lower than my typical lead up to a big race. In terms of the longer picture I have run almost exactly the same total mileage, time, and elevation to date this year as I did to this point last year. I have also raced almost exactly the same mileage as last year (260 to date this year and 230 to this point last year). I am however open to the possibility that I have been overtraining a bit and that I need a bit of a break (and I plan to monitor this very closely in the next few weeks). I have had a lot of runs in the past month in which I have felt kind of crappy like I did this past weekend. This isn't unusual though. I often feel kind of weak during my lead up to big races and then when I cut back the mileage for a couple weeks before the race I come around nicely by race day. I didn't do much (in terms of rest) while my body was not feeling very good for the past 4 or 5 weeks because I figured that it would just come around nicely with my taper before the race (as it's usually done in the past).
The thing that was different this time around though, and the reason why I might have overtrained a little bit, is that typically when I don't feel well I unconsciously take time off because it's not that enjoyable to run several days in a row not feeling well. This past several weeks though I've been enjoying my running (even when not feeling well) so much that I've just been running through a lot of physically mediocre days and not even really noticing how I'm feeling physically.
The 4th, and final factor that may have played a role in all of this is that my body may not have had enough time to adjust to the style of running that I do here in Juneau after spending 8 months in Colorado. I have no doubt that my body responds very well to the type of running (extremely steep and slow going) I do here, but it may be that I need another few weeks before I will have fully readjusted to this.
In all likelihood I think what hit me on Saturday was a combination of all of these things. Any one (or maybe two of them) would have been possible to overcome, but the combination of all 4 of these things was just too much. The good thing is that two of these things are already gone (the bad day and the cold); another one will automatically be addressed with the rest which I need to recover from the 56 miles I ran Saturday (and some careful monitoring of my body once I do start running again); and the last one will simply work itself out with time as I readjust more and more to running these incredible trails here in Juneau. In other words I fully plan/expect to be in the best shape of my life in 2 months for UTMB, and despite things not going so well this weekend I feel like I'm in perfect position to move in that direction with a ton of momentum and determination.