Poor planing on my part saw me leading a hiking trip with my students the week of the race. I learned that though I'm in running shape, I'm not in hiking shape. The hike up and down Mt. Diablo worked me! Somehow, I had my best speed workout of the season just 3.5 hours after finishing that hike (something that perplexes me and I'll blog about more soon). Rather than stress about how I was going to balance my training with the hikes, I just told myself to do what I normally would do race week and not even factor in the hikes.
Given the hiking situation, and that the race is quite hilly, with the last 7 miles mostly on single track dirt trails, I decided not to have a time goal, but rather focus on a performance goal. My goal was to race, as in go "mano y mano" with the other competitors, and finish knowing that I emptied the tank. I also wanted to perform better than what I had done at the SF Half last year.
Unlike most of my running races, I did not start conservatively and build. It wasn't a conscious decision to go out fast, it just happened and I decided to take a risk, and maintain the fast, but natural feeling, pace. A former teammate of mine passed me at about the 3-mile mark and it was game-on. I would reel him in on the uphills only to see him pull away on the downhills. Finally, there was a long enough uphill section that I was able to catch him and make the pass. He hooked onto my shoulder and I told him to not pace off me because we run differently, and that we need to run to our strengths. But he failed to take my advice and rather than pull away during the downhills, he just stayed with me. With each successive hill, my gap on him grew until I could no longer hear him, and eventually, no longer see him. I was running the uphill sections a bit too hard to drop him, and the jump in heart rate took its toll at mile 10. I felt my calves twitch, uh oh. I only cramp when I race above my fitness or when I screw up my nutrition. My nutrition was spot on, and I knew the cramping was from the extra effort to pull away. The next 3 miles involved crisis management to minimize the cramping and to hold onto my lead. The last three miles weren't pretty, but I'm happy to report that I held my lead on my former teammate...but not the lead on some random guy that passed me with half a mile to go. Though my calves were cramping, I noticed that his original gap from the initial pass stayed the same all the way to the finish. My only regret is that I did not go for it and commit to passing him back, I really think I could have. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
I'm really happy with the race and I met my performance goal. I executed this race much better than the SF half, and on a more difficult course. I raced, I mean really raced, taking risks and I wasn't afraid to race above my fitness. Not bad for 10-12 hours of training per week, and on half of the mileage that I was running last season. But if performance goal just isn't satiating, I finished in 1:25:25, 5th overall and 2nd in my age-group...in a not-so stacked field. The "not-so stacked field" part is not meant to take away from my accomplishment, it's just me being realistic and I want to hold onto this perspective:
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same"
*I pillaged the pics from http://www.captivatingsportsphotos.net/
No-Bake Banana Ultra Energy Bites
4 days ago