The subtitle could be Somewhere between a Training Run and a Race, although I did kind of race a little at the end. Or how about Finally a Race without a Bonk. I think I like that one best.
Here's what I wrote on my facebook status today:
What's not to like about this race!?! Perfect weather, awesome trails, I dialed in my fueling perfectly, negative split (2:40/2:26), no bonk whatsoever, got to flash the downhills in the last few miles with joy and abandon, achieved a PR for trail marathons, and won a ribbon for 3rd in my age group (and there were even more than 3 of us), and I feel like there's still some gas in the tank (this was a training run after all).
Earlier this year I signed up for the Haulin' Aspen (trail) Marathon in Bend, which is next Sunday. It's been on my wish list for some time. Then I saw that Coastal Trail Runs was coming to town, with a marathon distance on Wildwood. I thought it seemed doable, so I signed up. Then a month or so ago a new 12 hour run in Olympia, WA was announced, to be held two weeks from today. Gosh golly I have a sick attraction to timed runs, so I just had to sign up. It's not the best of schedules, mainly because I don't feel like I can really train. Not counting the hike/run up Larch two weeks ago, I haven't done a long run since SOB. And I've only done 6 mile runs since Larch, mainly because I threw my back out. But that's better now.
So I felt very well rested today, but still thought it best to go into this run with a training run mindset. I also wanted to practice my fueling that I've gotten wrong the past three races. Starting slow was a good idea. It starts uphill and you can't really run much anyway. The course is the same as the Pacific Coast Trail Runs 50k course, except you turn back at the top of Saltzman Rd instead of doing that last gnarly loop. Fine by me! I never liked that loop; it's not very runnable and I've always just found it to be a nuisance. For the first 8 miles I settled in with four other women who were going an easy pace. But eventually they were a bit too slow and I went ahead. I didn't see them again except after I turned around. Well, not exactly. About 2 miles after the last aid station (which involves diverging off Wildwood a half mile up and a half mile back down Firelane 1), I ran into one of the women. As I passed, I commented that I thought she had been behind me. Her response: "Oh I didn't need to go to the last aid station." "You know you cut the course, don't you?", I responded. She mumbled something about not knowing that. I was really dumbfounded that she wouldn't think that was the wrong thing to do! The nice thing about this exchange was that it gave me a little adrenaline rush. There was no way a course cutter was going to pass me!
For fueling, I decided to forgo the nuun and just drink water. I had 4 gels and I ate one every hour starting at 30 minutes. At the aid stations (there were three, one every six-seven miles) I took a electrolyte capsule and gobbled tons of watermelon. I carried one hand held and made sure I drank the whole thing between the aid. I also drank a few 1/2 cups of coke. I eyed the solid stuff and took a small clif bar to go, but never ate any of it. In hindsight I wish I had taken along more gels; I could have had another on the last leg. But I had a few powergel blasts with me too and ate probably a gels worth after my last gel. It really worked out perfectly. I'll likely need more fuel for an ultra, but I think starting out with gels and then switching to more solids as needed or when I'm sick of the gels might work. I'll practice some more with this strategy at the 12 hour run.
You may recall that earlier this year I've had some problems with my right knee, specifically on any runs longer than 18-20 miles. I keep forgetting to mention that I seem to have over come this and have been running without knee problems since the Pacific Crest Marathon in June. I've still been taping, just in case, but I've suspected that it wasn't necessary. That proved to be true today. I had taped as usual, but by mile 4 the tape wasn't sticking. So I pulled it off and didn't have any knee pain at all. I had attributed the knee pain to a weak hip, specifically my glute medius. I've been working hard on strengthening this and have noticed a big difference, especially when I do one legged exercises. My right side had been noticably weaker but now I'm much more balanced.
The best part of this race was that last few miles which has some fun downhill. Both times I've run the 50K here, I've been either been too tired or my aches and pains were shouting too loudly for me to really enjoy this section. In particular, at the 50k in May, I actually had to walk some of the downhill here. Not today! I flew and had so much fun doing it! I did wonder if I should take it easy...this was supposed to be a training run, after all. But training run be damned, I realized it was much better to be in the present. I was having a great time and I was going to run how I felt. If it messed up my race next week, so be it. After a few sucky races, it was nice to finish strong and happy. For now, I'm done with categorizing races as "training runs" or "goal races" or whatever. I just want to run.
Finish time was 5:06:30 which was a little faster than my 5:30 to 6:00 estimate. It's only my second trail marathon, but that's a PR for a marathon on trails too. And I got a little ribbon for finishing 3rd in my age group. I know that there were at least 4 of us, so it wasn't totally by default! Nevertheless, you race those who show up, right? So I'll take it! It's likely the one and only age group award I'll get for a marathon.
Now it's time for some rest and recovery for the next on on Sunday!