Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First race of the year - in the books.

I'm a little behind on posts (I get too wordy) and have a few in the works, but wanted to get this short report out there.

This past weekend I was down in Asheboro, NC for the 18th running of the Uwharrie Mountain Run. It's a trail run that a friend of mine in NC first told me about back in 2003. I ran the 20 miler in 2004 and have since run the 40 miler in 05, 07, 08, and again in 09. It has become a favorite race of mine and I look forward to it every year. I think of it as an early test and a good way to gauge my training and my fitness.

Versus previous years, my fitness level is much better. I have been doing CrossFit type workouts 2-3x a week and erging more. I don't ride as much nor am I in the pool anymore, but getting on the erg has taken some stress off my legs. I do want to bike more as the only time I ride is Monday morning to go lead a workout, and that's a 2 mile trip that isn't too taxing. Training wise, I'm getting in the weekend runs, but not running as much during the weeks as I would like to. I've been experimenting with Interval training and adding a variation of interval times to my workouts - :30/:60; 2:00/2:00, and 4:30/2:15 - both on the road and trails.

My GF and I took Friday off to travel. We got to Asheboro around 6pm for the dinner when I realized that I left my contacts at home. I put them in a small cosmetic bag along with a few other items, but left it on my dresser. I have been wearing glasses more often and just picked up a second pair that morning, so I figured I'd suck it up and run in my specs even though I never had. I didn't expect to do well since I might be a little more tentative with my footing.

Race conditions were perfect with temps around freezing right at dawn with them expected to rise to the mid 60s by the afternoon. I stayed as warm as possible until 5 minutes before the start when I took off my tights and lined up with the other runners. I stayed back the first 5 miles and kept an eye on a few runners that I recognized from the year before. They stopped for aid and I moved on. I prefer to run by myself. I'm not a fan of running with chatty people and tried to avoid them. I twisted my ankle early on and did it a total of 4 times (majorly) in the first 14 miles. It slowed me to a hobble a couple times and I contemplated dropping out, but focused on my stride and not WHERE I planted my foot. I kept moving at a good pace and didn't turn it anymore as I got to the 20 mile turn around. I took time to use a port-a-pot and get a new bottle of nutrition and fill up and water. Everything was going and feeling well. I usually change my socks here as well, but was afraid to take my shoe off and have my foot swell up. The low parts weren't very wet and muddy this year and my feet were feeling fine, so I left them alone.

I started heading back after a 4 minute 'layover'. The first 20 miles took me 4:30.

The next three miles has you running against traffic as the other 40 miles are making their way to the turn and the 20 milers, who started an hour later, are on their way to the finish. It's a good boost to hear the 'good job' cheers from everyone and everyone is pleasant when having to make room on the single track trail.

I had an idea of how long each section would take me, but I wasn't a slave to my watch - the time or my heart rate. I was moving based on feel, and I felt good. I used some downed trees as a cue to when I was close to the mile 26 aid station where I caught up with Q, a fellow Happy Trails runner. We took turns in the lead, pacing the other and chatting just a little. We'd both done the race enough to have a good idea of the course and how long each section would take us, and knew it would be about 5-8 minutes more to each aid station than it took us on the way out. The 3miles between aid stations at 23 and 26 took forever and we were both a little glassy eyed when arriving later than expected. We didn't stay too long, though, and pressed on. We met my GF at miles 29 and 32, and she confirmed that I was in 4th place in the women's division. Q first mentioned it to me at mile 26, but I wasn't sure and didn't really pay attention to it since placing in the top 3 wasn't a goal of mine.

We continued to pass more people and took turns up front. He's a faster runner than I, so it forced me to pick up my pace a little to keep up with him, or to at least keep him in sight. I wasn't racing him, I just wanted to keep a comfortable pace. Even when I picked it up a little, I felt fine and never felt like my HR was spiking or my quads were fried. My feet were a bit tender - ankle from all the twists and toes from all the rock kicking - but holding up nicely.

We arrived at mile 32 and told that the 3rd place female had been through about 10 minutes ago. "Let's get her!" I said.. jokingly! but Q didn't think so and took off. I grabbed what I thought was a cup of Coke in hopes of getting a boost of caffeine, but it was grape Gatorade, and I was a bit bummed. Nevertheless, I took off to catch up with Q. Again, we passed at least 4 more people in these last 2.5 miles. At one point I saw him slow to ask another runner a question. I assumed it had to do with any sightings of other female runners and learned the truth** when he shouted back, "she's just up ahead!" That kept me moving even on a rocky downhill section where I'm usually pretty tentative. I knew we were close to the finish when he let out a big yell, and I finally let out a big sigh when I saw the tape marking off part of the trail and the flags directing us toward the finish line about 200m away.

It was then that I finally looked at my watch and saw my time - 9:32

My final time is a PR of 40 minutes from last years race (10:12) and about 55 minutes from 2007 (10:24). I felt awesome. Aside from looking like a dork in my glasses and dealing with the ankle twists, I couldn't stop smiling. It was a great run and a great race. I actually felt like I was racing.

**I high fived Q who finished just ahead of me and asked what the other runner told him. He fessed up and said, "Oh, he said she was long gone. But if I told you that it wasn't going to make you run faster, so I lied. I just wanted to make sure you were passed him so he wouldn't call my bluff." It worked even though I figured she wasn't close.

I found out yesterday that I was about 2 minutes out of 4thplace, so I officially finished 5th out of 12 female runners. I never thought I'd be so close to the upper side of the 50% mark, but I guess that's what happens when all the fast chicks don't show up. Lucky me!

So many factors go into the result of a great race and I can't pinpoint one thing that's the deciding factor in such a big PR. I've been doing CrossFit 2-3x a week (good), I haven't been running as much during the week (bad), I've been sleeping more (good!), I.. umm.. haven't been running as much during the week (bad! - on a 2nd time for good reason), I have been getting in some good, long weekend runs (good!), I've been adding interval training to most runs (good!), I wore new shoes (bad) that were a different brand (way bad!) and only had about 4 road miles on them (wait.. wtf.. you did what??)

Yeah.. *shrug

I'm very happy with my performance and really enjoy this race. It's challenging and it helped me overcome some mental funks I've been in with recent training runs. I wanted to finish and wanted to do well not only to test my fitness level, but to prove to myself that I can do well and that I can run 'fast'. Having a good pacer in Q helped, even if it made him run faster than he wanted to. The ankle turns were bothersome and frightened me, but I'm glad I pressed on and regained my focus. Luckily, it wasn't too sore post race.

I'm looking forward to upcoming training runs and other events. The next big test is the Reverse Ring, a 71-mile counter clockwise circuit of the Massanutten Trail next weekend. I'm also happy to now be up to #23 on the MMT wait list (a bump of 3 slots overnight!). I'm sure I'll get in and will continue to train and prepare for May.

Here's a picture of me around mile 24 or so. I look like such a dork in my glasses.


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