In my last race report for the Wildwood Trail Marathon I wrote: "It's likely the one and only age group award I'll get for a marathon." I guess I was wrong! At the Haulin' Aspen Marathon this past Sunday, I not only got third in my age group (and again, there were more than three of us!), but I also put down a new trail marathon PR by four minutes: 5:02:12. That really surprised me!
Marc and me at the start (picture by Bret)
This trail marathon is a lot of fun. Marc ran it in 2008 as part of his Crater Lake/Haulin' Aspen double and it has been on my to-do list for awhile. Marc's mom was in town and could watch the LG so Marc and I were both able to run this year. Marc and I agreed to stick together for the first 13 miles. After a few easy miles of flat and rolling hills, the course ascends uphill until the halfway point. Miles 11-13 are on a fire road and are pretty steep. We walked most of this section. Up to this point I had been feeling pretty good and couldn't really tell that I had run a marathon the week before. I had a weird pain in my front right hip that was bothersome, but it didn't seem to slow me down or cause me to change my gait.
At the 13 mile aid station, Marc said good-bye and scurried down the single track trail. It was all downhill from there and I didn't see him again until the end. I noticed that I started the second half at 2:40 minutes, exactly the same as the week before! After the up, up, up on mainly fire roads, it was a pleasure to glide down the forested single track. What fun! It eventually leveled off some and, despite the downhill, I was getting tired of running! I was finally glad to hit some short uphills so I could walk. I was mainly passing people, but at one point, after I had stopped for a potty break, another women (who looked to be in her fifties) had caught up to me. We were about the same pace and I didn't like having someone right on my heels so I let her pass. But then she was too close in front of me. She kept grunting and groaning every time she hit a rock with her toe (which was a lot!) so it wasn't like I was enjoying running with someone else. Finally, we came to another small hill and she kept running and I slowed to walk, so she got a comfortable distance ahead of me. I'm glad I was no longer right behind her, because soon after, I noticed she had gone off course down a faint double track trail. I yelled at her a few times and she finally heard me and turned around. So I did my good deed for the day, but she never caught up to me again after that.
Since it had worked so well at Wildwood, I followed the same fueling plan. I drank only water (I carried one hand held) and ate one gel an hour and one electrolyte cap an hour, spaced out by 15-30 minutes. It worked great and my stomach was happy throughout the whole race. I definitely felt some energy lag the last 5 miles. But I attribute that to running a marathon a week prior, rather than inadequate fueling. Yes, I didn't have as much pep in my step at the end of this one. But I kept trudging along. There weren't many mile markers and I didn't really trust the mileage that the aid station workers quoted. So it was hard to get an idea of my pace. But based on what the AS workers told me, I figured I was on target for a 5:30 marathon or maybe a little better, which was fine by me.
At the finish (picture by Steve W.)
Around mile 20 or so, the course flattened out and there are were some exposed areas. It was starting to get hot and around here I started taking periodic short walk breaks, even on the flats. My right hip was still bugging me and I was trying to not focus on that too much. Soon we dropped down again to the river. It was here that I took a flop (that's how my mother-in-law refers to a fall), my first since I started running again. It was a blessing in disquise because I was on a slight downhill and was focused on heading straight ahead on the trail. I stubbed my left big toe on a rock, tripped, landed on my right hand/arm, and rolled on my back. As I looked up I saw that the course actually turned up a trail to the left. It was a fairly soft fall and my bottle took the brunt (although later I noticed I had a few bleeding scratches on my forearm). I was really dusty, but no major damage was done. And it even seemed like my hip didn't hurt so badly, as if something had been knocked back in place. About 5 minutes later I almost fell again, so I resolved to take it slow and easy, keeping up the walk breaks on the small hills and some of the flats.
Soon I saw the finish, but I knew I still had an out and back to do before I was done. The last AS worker said it was less than 2 miles. Then at the turnaround, the course monitors said I had only about a half mile to go. For the first time in forever I looked at my watch and was shocked to see 4:54:30ish. Depending on how accurate "about half a mile" was, I thought I might break 5 hours. But I didn't have a kick in me so decided not to sweat it. I resolved to keep running steadily...no more walking...and I'd take what I got. I didn't look at my watch again until I saw the finish line and it showed 5:01. I was okay with that and I'm pretty sure that last section was closer to three quarters of a mile.
I was happy to finish and looked around for Marc and other familiar faces. But I didn't recognized a soul. After what seemed like 5 minutes, I found Bret, Gail, Steve and some other maniacs. Turns out Marc was down soaking in the river. He had finished only 6 minutes ahead of me. I thought for sure he would finish at least 20 minute ahead. We spent about 30 minutes at the finish area, having a great time catching up with friends.
This week I'm focusing on rest and recovery for my 12 hour race on Sunday. I feel really fortunate that my muscles weren't sore at all from the marathon. But I definitely felt a deep tiredness that is just starting to wear off. I've been walking to work (one mile each way), went to Pilates class yesterday, and went on an easy 3 mile run today. I'll likely go on another short run tomorrow. We've had an abnormally cool summer, but wouldn't you know it, the first real heat wave is supposed to arrive this weekend. The high temp in Olympia on Sunday is supposed to be 92. I don't think I've ever run in temps that hot. I'm trying to set the ego aside and not focus on a mileage goal. I still have an idea of what I want to do, but hope I can finish the full 12 hours and be happy with that, whatever the final mileage turns out to be.