Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quad Rock re-cap

I have so many awesome things to say about this race and have struggled keeping it concise and interesting. I think the biggest take away I have from the race is improvement. In running sometimes it's hard to see your improvement when each training run blends into the next. Races are great, especially repeating races, because you have a quantifiable time to tell you if you've improved or not. This year I feel like I had that tangible "heck yeah you're getting better at running" moment and an intangible "you're figuring out what you need to do in a race" moment.

The tangible...

The most exciting part about this race for me was beating my time from last year by 32minutes! I finished
with a time of 5:37:58. I cannot tell you how surprised I was to see that time when I came into the finish. This finish gave me a huge confidence boost in regards to the 50 miler, knowing I can conquer such a tough course and do it so much faster than I even planned was awesome.

My finish time is also the most concrete way I can communicate to people outside of the running community how I've improved. Trail running and trail races are difficult to explain to the outside world. Road races, for the most part, have set times that allow you to judge how fast of a runner you are. It's also easier to relate to someone who has done some races. You finished the marathon in under 4 hours is easy to relate to. Trail running depends so much on the trail, the weather, the elevation. You can run one in 5hours, the next can take you 7. So being able to say I took 32 minutes of my time is easier to grasp than I finished in 5:37.

It was awesome to have such a concrete symbol of all the hard work I've put in the last few years and it makes some of those really horrible training runs finally seem worth it. I would have been happy to finish with the same time as last year, but it tastes a little sweeter knowing I kicked last years time in the butt.

The intangible...  

Here's how race day started for me. I got up at 3:30am to make coffee and eat a burrito. I took a selfie with a stuffed tiger named Raja, packed up my bags and headed to Liz and Becca to carpool to the start. We got to the start with plenty of time and with rockstar parking. Quickly I realized I left an entire bag of post race clothing along with my head sweatband, various hats, and watch back in town. There was no chance we could go back and get it so I had to forget about it and move forward. I was more worried about managing my food/fuel without a watch but had to rest of the fact that I could judge when I needed to eat based on the aid stations

The beginning of the race is about 2 miles of flat mostly dirt road to spread out the crowd. I didn't think much about where I was in the pack and just tried to use that time to wake up my legs and get warmed up for the first climb. The first climb put me right in the middle of a big pack of people. This is where I made the best decision I think I made all race (and in my running career) - to walk. I didn't realize it at the time, but making a strategic decision is something I never really thought about in regards to improving myself as a runner.

I'm a slow walker, I usually justify running as much as I can because I believe my walk is even slower. However, with the 50 miler in my  mind, I thought practicing walking fast uphill wouldn't be such a bad plan. I didn't have a watch to gauge my time, but I was in the middle of a pack going uphill on single track so now was as good of time as any to give it a try. I employed this tactic throughout the rest of the race. Walking anything that was steep enough to make me resort to my tiny slow uphill run/shuffle. I committed myself to do the walking fast, with larger steps, and if I could to keep up with someone ahead of me.

This seemingly small insignificant decision translated into a huge victory. My legs did not implode after 3 hours or at mile 16 - 18 like usual. My legs actually felt great. I had some moments of knee soreness which usually goes away after I finish running downhill but I did not suffer from any tightness in my IT bands, quads, hamstrings, or shins. I also had zero chaffing, which is a miraculous feet unto itself.

I'd like to give a special shout out to my friend Donny (aka Donald Roguelstein) for some advise he gave the bearded wonder during his 100 miler on walking fast: concentrate on using your arms and really swinging them to push your legs up the hill. Whenever my legs felt tired I focused on moving my arms and before I knew it I was up the hill.

In the past forgetting my watch and all my stuff would have taken a mental toll on my for the race and I could have easily rested on that mistake as a reason I didn't do well, or felt poorly, or finished slower. Instead I put it in the "irrelevant" box in my head and ran. It's hard to measure or show that improvement because it was a lot more than a number like 5:37 or 32 to me. My improvement as a runner has gone beyond just getting faster and stronger. I feel like I'm smarter and more strategic about what I need to do to feel good in a race and can let the other stuff roll off me if it won't help me keep putting one foot in front of the other.

*a quick note on my leg injury. It's doing well, I didn't get stitches, but I'll have a gnarly scar I'm sure. It happened near the end of the race so it was a lot easier to just suck it up and finish rather than worry about it or look at it. I looked at it once and it almost made me puke so I tried to ignore it. Trail's not if you fall it's when.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Quad Rock Preview

This weekend is the Quad Rock 25/50 in Fort Collins. I'm doing the 25 miler for the 3rd year in a row. Right now the weather is looking to be pretty amazing, 72 and clear. Perfect drinking beer after running weather. Again I'm going into a race feeling so/so about my training. I haven't put in the longer trail runs that I would like, but I have been running a lot so hopefully that translates well.

Looking ahead for this race I'm looking back at a training run I did a couple weekends ago with the North Fork 50 people. We did a 16.3mile section of the 50 mile course. The course felt great, although the climbs are no where near what we see at Quad Rock. I'm still experiencing the 3hr leg implosion and I'm debating about how to approach it for this race. Since I know it's coming and I know I can get over it (I managed to bust through that wall at Salida so I think I can do the same here) I'd like to do everything I can to either get over it quicker or lessen the pain. I am going to continue to push nutrition and salt pills early and often. It's so tempting to wait an extra 10/20 minutes to do a gu when you're feeling good and don't want to stop running or slow down to fiddle with the packaging. I recently purchased a new supplement for my water that has 300 calories in it. I used it for my training run and it didn't have an obvious impact. I'm going to bring some to mix into my water thoughout the race, but I don't want it to get in the way of my hydration since you're supposed to alternate between this mix and straight water. Perhaps the biggest thing I can do is actually stretch/roll the night before. I am so bad at doing this and it really should be something I do on a daily basis. Especially after I play ultimate. My sprint/climb muscles are what specifically hurt and get tight at the 3hr mark and it's probably because I don't do enough on my off time to take care of them. I'm trying to do a little bit of stretching and rolling the week leading up to the race.

All in all I'm excited to get out of the city and run a race! It feels like the Salida Marathon was so long ago. I'm also psyched to add to my race t-shirt collection and coffee mug collection :). Here are my goals for this race:

1. Finish close to my time from last year.

I'd like to be right at the 6hr mark again. Depending on how I feel I could try and push it to get under 6 hours, but that will be a game time decision. Right now I'm happy to run it about the same as last year since my focus for this season is the 50 miler and this is just a well aided training run.

2. Minimize chaffing

Yeah, running isn't glamorous ok... I have body glide, but sports bras are stupid. I am going to super glide up and see if that doesn't help. I'm also going to get a new running bra and see if that helps.

3. Learn

It's easy to get wrapped up in the race and you might miss some valuable piece of information that will help you in your next run. I'm going to try and not just survive each moment, but learn more about what I need to get me through the long hall. That includes noting pains, weaknesses, stomach issues, energy issues, feelings of of strength, and my overall outlook of the race as I go through it. The benefit of races such as Quad Rock is you have a lot of time to think out on the trail, it's not uncommon to be alone on the trail for a mile or miles and while the views can knock your socks off I hope that I pay more attention to myself and my running.

I'm feeling optimistic about my speed since I got my hair cut. That has to shave 10-20 seconds off my time right? I am a little worried about what to do with it. I am so used to putting it up in a braid and now I cannot even put it in a pony tail. Fashion aside...I'm always worried about minimizing distractions and things that make me feel uncomfortable while I race so I need a solution that will keep it out of my face. I have 4 days to figure it out....

I'll check in with a race re-cap. Wish me luck!