Monthly Archives: March 2010
Go figure, I am actually satisfied with one of my races. Seems like it has been a very long time. I think I re-discovered the secret formula. Go in at less than 100%, make no special preparations or build-up, get a rough night of sleep in the car, toss in an injury or two – but through it all focus on running smart and using what little you do have in the best way possible.
I knew I didn’t have much to work with and resolved to start slow, and then slow down some more… I was buried deep in the pack of 300 runners (marathon + half marathon) as we made our way up the short but steep first climb of the day. I was so tempted to spring ahead and cruise up the hill as I really felt good, but I knew that was only on the surface and I would pay for that later. I didn’t care if a 90 year old grandma was ahead of me (and there may have been a few at this point), I was sticking to my plan. Fortunately we were on a dirt road with plenty of room so there wasn’t the added worry of trying to fight for and maintain a position. I’m slowly learning that I can’t just come up with a time in my head and go run it. I have to work into the race and listen to my body very carefully, and take whatever the course will give me.
The first several miles are a steady climb that is deceptively runnable. Sure, it’s easy to cruise up that grade in the opening hour, but extending yourself beyond your training or capability will come back to haunt you bigtime on this course – as there is a lot of challenging terrain left after you top out on the first long climb.
I managed pretty well and kept my pace reasonable, but I started to get a little alarmed around mile 5 as my calves were so tight they were causing my lower legs to go numb. A problem I’ve had before on extended ascents. Compounding this was the white-hot feeling of pain in my left heel at the achilles attachment. I’ve been dealing with that issue for over a year now and it had been on the mend, but is dramatically worsened by my tight calves pulling on the tendon. I altered my stride a bit and compensated, something that unfortunately I have gotten all too used to doing. What I really needed was a break in the grade, and that finally came a little before the half marathon turn around as the road flattened out a little. That provided a bit of relief and my legs finally started to loosen up and I was able to stride out somewhat.
I was in around 35th place at this point, a few hundred yards behind a pack of runners that I slowly reeled in as the climbing continued up the course high point at 9,058 feet. We ran strongly as a group for a few miles, scrambling for lines as we flew into the sloppy/icy/snowy/muddy sections that became more and more frequent as we headed to the turn-around at the ghost town of Turret.
As we crested the final grunt of a climb before dropping down to Turret, Tim Parr was coming over the top on the return trip. Wow – he was WAY ahead… This turned into sort of a defining moment in the race for me as I looked at his face as we passed by. Dude was working hard! That blew me away on many levels – no one was pushing him, the course conditions were obviously slow this year so no real shot at the record, and I felt like he could probably just phone it in and still get the win. But no, he was pushing himself to run the fastest that he possibly could on that day. That is a look that will stick with me for a long time. I immediately reflected on my own expression at that point – slack, tired, maybe a hint of a grimace. Hmmm. Could I push that hard? Not unless I wanted to end up walking in about two minutes! Could I push harder than I was? Definitely. Feeling inspired, I tried to work my way a little closer to the edge – but still keep in mind that I had to hold that effort for another 2 hours…
I blasted into the aid station ahead of the other runners in my group to get first shot at the water refill, fully expecting to get swarmed and have to hang on as we charged back up the hill. Didn’t happen. I set a strong steady pace and heard some footsteps behind me for a while, but soon I had a gap and was in no-mans land. I was 27th at the turn and now the runners ahead of me were very spread out.
Conditions were tough at times, lots of mud and ice resulting in several slips on my part. I never went down, but man, it was close! A few were somewhat graceful, but others were full on arms windmilling, huge steps, nose 6 inches off the ground.
Other than the slips, the last several miles were uneventful. It seemed I would slowly reel in a runner once in a while and then move on to the next. I was tired but still holding my effort in that sweet spot. The final bit of descent is quite steep in places and I got within sight of a couple more runners but just didn’t have anything left to catch and pass. Finishing in 4:12, 20th place. Would I have liked to have done better? For sure, I think I could go quite a bit better – but came away totally satisfied with how I had run on the day. Can’t ask for much more than that.
The race is well done and has grown a lot over the past few years. I missed the ‘dry’ year last year so will have to keep coming back to get a faster time!