Friday, May 18, 2012

Two weeks ago, I raced the 7-sisters trail race.  I've done this 4 other times and started training in late January with the plan of finally breaking 2hrs.  I not only didn't meet my goal, I didn't even run as fast as the year before.  Still, I was very pleased with my performance for a number of reasons.

5 weeks before Sisters, I raced an 8 mile road race.  I ran 2 minutes faster then my 5k PR would predict.  Through out the race, I found I kept slowing down because my brain was getting lazy about pushing the pace and I would work to accelerate.  My body was happy with the faster pace but my mind kept getting lazy.  I race a very fast race.

That race was a very strong performance that left me feeling that a sub-2 hr Sisters time was within reach.  It also left my calves severely shredded.  I took 4 day off from running.

During these 4 days, I overdid some strength work (Burpees, anyone?) which lead to my back seizing up.  Roll out of bed anyone?  I tried to keep my volume up by doing a lot of biking.  Three weeks out from sisters, I started running again and it did not go well.  My runs were mostly run/walk affairs.  On a trail run 1-week out from Sisters, I can strong for 40 minutes then my quads seized up and I hobbled back the last 20 minutes.

3 days before sisters, I did a track workout.  I took it easy but felt good at the end so I pushed a fast quarter.  Again, by the time I had gotten home in the car, my left quad was tight.  Things did not look good for Sisters.

I took the 2 days before off and hoped for the best.

Race strategy was basically go for broke.  I wanted to at least run the 1st half faster then my PR then bail if my body let me down.  For the two hours and 7 minutes of racing, I kept waiting for my body to let me down but it never did.  It did do some interesting things.

The race starts with 300 people crowding onto a single-track start along a road.  Then, we try to bolt up a hill. I started off in about 30th and was easily gliding up the hill with people I would soon pass.  Strangely though, the slight extra speed needed to accelerate up the very rocky trail took me from feeling easy to lactic burn in the legs.  This is common on this race - no real difference in speed between an easy run and a ball buster.
Descending into the turnaround

I pushed the pace all the way to the turnaround and was rewarded with a 59:30 turn around time, 30 seconds faster then my pr.  I then began a long ascent from river level back up to the top where the Mt. House sits.  This climb takes about 10 minutes where as the descent took only 5.

In my 2011 effort, I found that on running up a hill, my breathing would be casual, walk in the park, and my legs would be on fire.  This year, the climbing efforts were more balanced.  On several climbs, I had to cut my pace until the needles stopped digging into my legs.  On other climbs, I had to relax the pace because I was starting to get tunnel vision due to lack of oxygen in my brain.

I had raced the mile in January and recognized this tunnel vision as a good sign that I was maxing out my respiratory system.

At the beginning of the race, I had squeezed two goos into my 500ml running bottle and topped it off with water.  I finished drinking this about 1h10min into the race.  I had grabbed 1/2 an orange at the turn around. At 1h30min into the race, I took my last goo with some water I'd refilled quickly at one of the water stations.

Climbing back up after the turnaround
So, I went charging into the final descent knowing I had not PR'd.  There was a 25 year old kid was incredible as he passed me on the knarle downhill.  I tried to keep up with his insane descent speed but quickly found I was making some really bad foot placement choices and let him go.  In the last 2 minutes of running, he gained 30 seconds on me.  Ouch.

So, a 2h7m30sec finish, a 10th place finish and a very satisfying race.  I was glad to have red-lined my running systems, glad that both my back and my muscles didn't seize up, and glad to take a week off from running (not cycling!) was I waited to be recovered.  I'm now trying to be an every-other day runner, with cross training (read hard cycling) on the other days.