Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Resolution Run 10 Miler

 Towards the beginning of December, Lauren, Leti, and I registered for a ten mile trail race on New Year's Day. Leti was about to start running Ultras again, and she figured this would be a good way to get back into trail running. So, Lauren and I decided to join her. I need to get back into running too and start marathon training(!), so what better way to do that than by getting a few miles in to start the year off right?

I hadn't run this far since September, and throughout November and December I wasn't running consistently. I knew this race wouldn't be my fastest, but I figured I would get a lot of "training" runs in during the three weeks prior since I'd be back in sunny California. I wasn't worried at all about the fact that I haven't even run trails since August.

Although I'm not even close to being some elite athlete nor do I even come close to placing in my age division, fueling and hydrating are super important components to longer distance running for everyone, especially if you're going to be out on the course longer than the race leaders. Since I hadn't been seriously running for about half of a year, my intuition regarding race prep was completely lost. I didn't even bother to carb-load two nights before the race (easily one of my favorite things to do), and the night before the race (New Year's Eve) I stuffed myself with nachos. Because I moved to Philadelphia, obviously all of my stuff is on the East Coast too. I didn't pack any gels or blocks to eat while running, and while getting my gear ready for race day, I honestly didn't feel that it was important.
I arrived to the Auburn Overlook, clad in cold weather running gear (because I'll always be cold on either coast in the winter), and my handheld water bottle in tow. I waved eagerly to my sister and dad (thanks for braving the cold and being awesome cheerleaders!) as I ran past them at the start line and onward to the trails. My plan was to stick with Lauren and Leti the entire race so that we would all get through the torturous ten miles together. I was hoping to finish in under two hours, but since none of us had really been running at all, I knew that time goal was a big stretch.

The first two miles of the race were completely downhill and it felt great. My favorite part of trail running are the downhills; I feel like I'm flying down them, which I know really helps my overall pace. For these first two miles, the three of us stuck with the majority of the other SacFit runners. Then around mile 2.5 we encountered our first hill.

When we joined Ultras a year ago, we were taught to run the flats and downhill, but walk up the hills. That trick got me through 50 miles, so of course I was going to use the same strategy for this race. Not to get all Miley-ish, but that first hill came in like a wrecking ball. My legs are definitely not used to climbing like they used to be. Thankfully it wasn't a super steep hill, so I pushed through it.

By mile 4 our few SacFit buddies were pretty much separated from one another throughout the course. Leti, Lauren, and I were still running together and I still felt pretty good. Because I'm used to flying down the hills uninhibited, it was really hard on my shins to "brake" while running in order to pace myself.

Mile 6 was the beginning of an out and back loop, concluding with mile 8.5. These were probably the hardest miles for me, mentally. Physically though, this part of the course was mainly flat and slightly downhill, so it shouldn't have been too hard. However, this section was also very shady from the vast amount of trees and so I was pretty cold. That, coupled with the fact that I had been running for over an hour without refueling, made me not want to be there. If I would've fueled properly during the race, this portion would've been a lot easier for me.

Right around the time we reached mile 9 we came to face to face with a pretty large hill. I can't speak for the others, but I was just done at this point. I wanted to be back home, in the hot shower consuming hot, delicious food. I just wanted to finish this last mile and cross that finish line. I hiked up that hill as strongly as I could. When I'm having a tough time climbing a hill I find it mentally much easier to look down at my feet the whole time. This way I can't see how far I have left and I won't be able to look at the true elevation gains. This worked out perfectly. I reached the top of the hill with just half of a mile left.

With just half of a mile remaining, Leti was having a tougher time than Lauren and me. I think she was getting irritated that we kept pushing her and telling her to run, so she urged us to run on ahead and finish. One of our running buddies caught up with Leti, so I didn't feel so bad leaving her.
By the time we finished the announcer had already left. I wasn't really bothered or upset by this, but it is pretty funny. Marissa and my dad were there to watch us cross the finish line. Leti finished about five minutes after us. I walked as fast as I could to the food table and stocked up on oranges, blueberry bagel pieces, and a warm bowl of veggie minestrone soup. Everything tasted so good and it was just what I needed.

My official finish time was 2:22:51.2 which I feel okay with. I feel like I could've gone faster, and it's not that close to my goal (which I realize was kind of out of reach). But for not having run trails for half a year, I'm just glad I made myself go out and do it. I know I should've prepared for the race a lot better than I did, and I need to fuel a lot better during longer runs.

This is probably my only "fun" race for 2015. I decided that this year, I want to run less races but more important ones. Since I don't have the pleasure and ease of participating in the weekly SacFit runs this year, I know it's up to just me to hold myself accountable. I've come a long way in 2014; whoever thought that I could be an ultra runner? While I definitely don't currently have the endurance or strength to do that again right now, I also don't want to lose the fitness that I have gained this past year. Lauren and I came up with our small race calendar for 2015. I don't see any ultra races in my immediate future, but I do hope to PR in a few distances!