The last three races I’ve run, I’ve decided to run last minute. Why? Because my training is totally unfocused and funny right now. Why? Because I am not sure how to dial in for a race- what to train FOR. Yet I love to train. So I’ve been training, building speed and getting my miles back up for the past couple months. In the back of my mind (and in my training…), I kinda want to race a short road race. I’ve also upped my time spent with weights and core work. This has left me feeling faster, stronger and more warn out. Hills Hells fell at the tail end of a three week build in training. I knew when I signed up Thursday that I wouldn’t be putting out a top time for me, but I felt like I could do really well. I wanted to race tired for the practice of pushing, too. Because I feel like my weakest point as an athlete is pushing into the tired places that ultras take us. So I was excited to challenge my mind by pushing my body harder then I normally do and testing out my speed. Last year I ran the 50k as my first race back from a long injury. In 2009 I ran that 50k as well and set the course record there, so I felt like racing this year would tell me a lot.
The race started at 6am, in the dark. Right off the bat 2 guys took the lead. I ran in the 3rd spot for most of the 1st 4 miles. My goal was to go out a little hard (like race effort for a fresh-legged 50k on those trails) and stay there. At mile 4, I caught the lead guys and passed one of them. Then things got harder. I knew my legs were not fresh. But I had hoped and expected to feel comfortable with the hard effort I was running at for 12 or so miles. Reality was my legs began to cramp about mile 6. Being the thinker I am and the natural way I “play it safe” in my running, I backed off the pace enough to give my legs relief. I hit 7.75 miles in about 1:04 and was super bummed. I had hoped to be closer to 1:02, but that wasn’t the day I was having. I kept running hard, but just under the legs-start-cramping-hard pace I had wanted to run at. My mind was playing tug of war with itself…why not just push harder…but then you might not do as well…but you need to learn to push harder…but don’t run dumb…just give it all…what is all???? And more thoughts too. Thoughts about life and love and God and why I am me and what does that mean… At the half way point my time was 2:10:something and I was in 4th overall. Last year, I ran a 2:10 first loop. When I set the course record, I ran about 2:08 and 2:12. My legs felt too trashed to negative split it, but I figured I could beat my time from 2014. The goal heading into loop 2- under 2:15 second loop and as close to 2:10 as I could get.
I was feeling really ok heading into loop 2. My legs were tired, but I found that I could run in the 8:30’s still if I pushed the up hills harder. So I did. Just before hitting the last aid-station on the second loop, I saw who I thought was the 3rd place guy up in front of me. This race is super twisty (its a mountain bike park), so getting an idea of where your competitors are is hard. But I was pretty sure that was the guy I wanted to catch. The last aid-station is about mile 26.2, leaving less then 5 miles to go in the race. Just before reaching this aid station, I KNOW I saw the guy I thought was in 3rd. I began my push to the finish, making a goal to catch this guy. With 4miles to go, I caught him. I was running pretty fast, like in the 7s and this is a hilly section.
When I crossed the finish line, my time was 4:22:something. Somehow, I had missed passing the guy I thought was in 2nd, so I finished 2nd over all and1st female. All told, I feel good about this race. I know I can run better, given better preparation, but I want to use more races as training. So this was great! I am also very pleased with pushing well on the second loop. And I love that I was able to beat my time from last year by a couple of minute, even with tired legs. That was a confidence boast for sure!
I still haven’t dialed in my training for a goal race. Most likely, a 100 miler this fall. Just got to decide on which one!! Next up? Maybe a track meet this Friday. 1500m or 5k. Painful fun there! I like the short stuff too. 😉