Dave's Commentary

(Dave's response to an e-mail sent by Larry S.)


Shere wondered why none of us were grimacing ... we all look like we are having fun ... I told her it was because we were runnin' with the big dogs and it was pure pleasure to be moving fast, doing our best and maintaining a spirit of comradarie ... down to the last 1,000 feet ...

So, the following is my perspective (I write in a more verbose style than some email aficionados so bear with me):

> (A) Thoughts about the race before the race (intended strategy, training,
> etc.)
I have been hiking Si for 25 years, 15 of them with poles - for rhythms appropriate to the terrain, as an upper body workout and as a way to share the load with my knees. As I discovered, however, at higher speeds the poles get in the way downhill. In the 80s I did a lot of running and cycling including marathons and double-century rides like the STP and RAMROD. From decades of training and racing, I know that I need to plan and conserve yet push as hard as possible, in consideration of some rational sensations, to increase capability; train for reliable speed without injury ... go fast and smart.

My plan was to race my own race without being influenced by other racers. I would check out my physical situation on race day, hit an appropriate pace, listen to my body and adjust accordingly. Since I knew that others may have a slightly more natural capability for speed on the downhill portion, I would save some energy for that. But, I also would need to be up and down the haystack at or near the front of the pack. I would go steady (the German part of me) but as fast as my system would reasonably allow - never overextending. For the most part that would mean no running in the uphill portion - for me I know that it feels good to change up the pace but it does not result in a net overall advantage. I was determined to be safe on the haystack. But, I have scrambled a lot and felt good about my speed and footing on my practiced route. Descending the trail at speed would increase risks. I wanted to play follow-the-leader most of the way out ... stay close but not too close. In the last 1,000 feet I would crank my patented 15 mph finishing sprint ... it's in the bag!!!

For the last few years I have been (nearly weekly and year round) hiking Tiger Mountain with a good buddy ... sometimes hard, sometimes medium ... mixed with lots of conversation. Then I have been doing another significant hike or other cross-training outing every two weeks ... in the summertime my activity level ramps up to several times a week. Since I agreed to be part of this race, I have been focused on mountain vertical and appropriate cross training on the bike, an enhanced food plan and more sleep. I went up Si (or an equivalent climb) on the clock every other week or so for the last couple of months. I know the route and rhythm of the mountain.

I did nothing strenuous for 3 days before the race. On the day before the race, I ate lightly with no protein ... snacked on graham crackers and yogurt before bed. I made sure that I had a full nights sleep for the two nights before race day.

> (B) Thoughts on race day at the start.

On the morning of the race, I had a VERY ripe banana and a Clif bar plus one Excedrin, two Ibuprofen, one Sudafed, and one low doseage Ginseng. I sucked down a Gu and drank half-strength CytoMax as I drove. At the trailhead I continued sipping water. A few minutes before race start, I took one more Excedrin and one Siberian Ginseng (high dosage). I was calm but focused. My ritual was complete ... I was ready.

As we had waited to start, I sized up the competition ... their ways of being and how they were spending thier time getting ready and/or waiting. Ashley was a relative unknown since he came at the last minute ... but the wirey frame and demeaner was a danger flag.

The weather had changed to wet and cool that morning. Cool is good but I was annoyed that it might be wet on the mountain, a safety issue at the speed. I decided to dress warm and peel as needed.

> (C) Strategy during the race, comments on the race as it developed

I started off running with the pack, staying to the back so my poles wouldn't "frighten" anyone ... knowing that I could bridge any gap that developed. As we started up, I dropped back to a fast hiking pace hitting MY pole/breathing rhythm almost immediately - combining to a non-verbal mantra ... into MY race. In a few minutes I passed James who had settlled back to his climbing pace, listening to tunes. In mile three the slope goes up more steeply - perfect for poles - and I began overtaking Larry and Taylor ... they would trot occasionally but I continued to slowly close the gap. Ashley was off the front - somewhere?!!

At the rocks I ditched my poles - would be in the way from here on out. On the approach run to the backside of the Haystack, I looked up to check the gap (Larry and Taylor had trotted a little up the gravel path) and tripped momentarily, scrapping my palms but not going down. I mugged for the camera and then caught the duo as the Haystack climb began. Within a few seconds we had chosen slightly different routes as I stayed more to the left of the gully and passed them before the midpoint. Taylor asked me if I was a mountain goat and, of course, I replied no that I was in my "monkey" and smoked up the rock patterns. Ashley was nearly to the top but didn't know which way to go - Larry gave him directions. I was scrambling fast and got to the top with Ashley.

Within a few seconds, four of us were looking out at a most wonderful view - a cloud layer blanketing a gray and drizzly Puget Sound, peaks poking through in every direction, a gorgeous blue sky overhead. Larry reminded us that it was a round-trip race just as I sucked down my summit-Gu. I jumped on his route as he descended, Ashley behind me and Taylor last. Larry and I hit the trail together and went through the meadow and rocky outcropping in tandem. Just as we hit the trail proper we heard a wild animal sound from Ashley announcing that he was joining us.

We were moving quickly down the trail together with Larry in the lead. Ashley said that he would try to pass me in the next minute or so but that he would let me know where. I was reluctant to give up my position even though I recognized that I was no longer in MY race. I felt very strong (as though I had just begun the race), energetic (plenty of glycogen in reserve) and fast (reactions and speed) and was quite confident in a good finish based on all the indicators. I knew that if I maintained contact I could take first or second at the finish.

Next thing I knew I was flat on my face. I had tripped on something even though I was focused intently on the location of every rock and root pattern and the footwork solutions to each - as I had done so many times down this trail. Something very wierd had happened ... still not sure exactly what.

I was momentarily dazed as Ashley instantly flashed by. I jumped up spitting blood, wiped my face, looked at the giant "hematoma" bulge on my forearm where most of the impact had been absorbed, and started running again. I knew that I could still take third if I kept running ... thought I heard Taylor behind me. Speed, yes, but I was not open to any risk of falling again. It would hurt a lot and perhaps do some irreparable damage - not what I came here for today. I ran quickly but carefully ... back into MY race. I could hear Larry and Ashley making wild noises just below me and then the sounds grew dimmer.

As I approached the last 1,000 feet of the race - a flat run-out to the water faucet, I knew that I had been fast but I didn't know my time. Larry looked at his watch and announced 1:53 something (5 minutes faster than my best training run this year) ... I said hello to the assembled group waiting and headed for the ice-cold water from the faucet ... washed dirt and blood from my face and arms and started cooling the swelling in my forearm lump. I had a lot of energy left and had experienced no cramping or muscle discomfort (except for the trip/slam/bam - where I hit the ground) during the entire race.

> (D) Grizzly descriptions of war wounds (yes, our readers need to know!)


As I mentioned, my right forearm had hit the ground first, raising a large lump 8 inches above my wrist. I had scrape marks and bruising on my other elbow/forearm. Both palms were scarfed up a bit. I had impacted and punched a tooth through my upper lip right in the center of my mustache. There was a laceration over my right eyebrow. I had landed on bushes and rocks next to the trail; when I got home and took off my shirt, I discovered that my chest was scraped neck to navel ... but, with very little discomfort for some reason.

I do heal quickly - partly due to heredity (German-monkey-eagle) and as a direct result of massage therapy (every two weeks for the last 15 years). As I write this, a week after the race, most everything is healed except the right arm - soreness persists in the forearm area, weakness and pain when I try to lift very much ... definitely a rotator-cuff injury (these take about 6 months to heal; I had this injury once before and have a specific recovery process - strength building exercises and stretches) ...

> (E) Other race aftermath events


I would have enjoyed staying longer and partying with the group (the food was most excellent) but, I had to get home, clean up, and get back on the road again to pick up my daughter, Eliza, after school in Seattle ... a 170 driving day on top of a little hiking ...

> (F) Amusing anecdotes of any kind


I thought it was enjoyable/amusing in a self-affirming way, that at nearly 55 years old I had trained effectively and outscrambled the field up the haystack - well, the monkey side of me did, that is ... and I had run a good overall race ...

And, I did laugh to myself in a wry sort of way, as I looked at my newly injured arm, that the eagle had a busted wing ... the "german" would have to finish the race ...

>(G) Next year????

I'll wait until next summer to decide ... see how long it takes to heal the wing ... It has been a few years since I cranked my all-time best on this hill, a 1:43 at age 38 ... and, I think that it will take a sub-1:50 to win it next time (depending on the "players"). Soooooooooo, next year I'll check out my priorities and focus to see if I want to run with the big dogs again!?

Dave Dornbush

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