Is a trail half marathon with 2,500 feet of climbing an appropriate long run for a road marathon? Probably not.
Can I resist a trail half marathon with 2,500 feet of climbing? NOT REALLY, APPARENTLY.
It was a stepback week and I had a 13 mile long run scheduled. Why not get some climbing and downhill running practice with my favorite race presenters: Brazen Racing?
My mantra for this race was “Don’t be dumb; it’s a TRAINING RUN!” After my thrilling and unexpected AG place at Drag N Fly, I could feel a little competitive frisson. My strategy was the same as last time: hike the hills, run the flats and downhills. Keep the running pace easy. Not difficult to do on this course, right?
Because I’ve run the 5K event twice, I was familiar with the first hill. It’s not long but it’s fairly steep and can really zap your energy. I promised myself that no matter how many people ill-advisedly surged up the hill, I would not. But I did. Whoops. I didn’t run fast but I did run. Thankfully, it didn’t have any negative impact. I enjoyed the downhill that followed, accompanied by an UltraRunner Podcast. Music makes it hard to keep my pace in check, especially so early in a run.
Another climb with some narrow single-track followed. I love this kind of running! The trail got a bit backed up but thankfully everyone wanted to hike/run around the same pace. This was the first of many times I observed people huffing and puffing “running” while I hiked at exactly the same pace. I appreciate the pride that comes with running an entire trail race but honestly, I’ll take efficiency over pride. Especially when the PACE IS IDENTICAL.
The next five miles were pretty uneventful. Hiking the hills proved to be a great strategy, as usual. All that Dailey Method thigh work powered me up, with minimal challenge. Each time the trail leveled, I was happy to begin trotting again.
I knew that after mile 8, it was all downhill. I love to run downhill but my right IT band was not loving it. I took it easy and focused on lifting my inner thighs and hamstrings to support my knee. Thanks again, Dailey Method!
When I reached the final miles, I was running far faster than I should have been for a long training run but it just felt so good! It was also awesome because this course has been my nemisis. Each time I ran the 5k, I would be so zapped by the hill that I would always stop to walk on the way back, even downhill. Super frustrating. NOT YESTERDAY. I smiled each time I ran through a spot that had kicked my ass in previous years. This time, with ten miles in between! I’m getting a lot stronger, physically and mentally.
One challenge during this race was fueling. I decided not to carry my handheld water bottle because it contributes to asymmetry that causes my IT band issue on the right side. This was not a good choice because the aid stations were at 1.1, 2.7, and 7.8. I thought there was one more. I took my time to drink several cups of water at the second and third stations but it wasn’t enough. I took far less fuel than I planned (since I didn’t have water to drink it with) and a vague headache showed up around mile 8. After the race, I made a beeline for Ultima and food. I had a couple oreos and a LOT of electrolyte drink. My head hurt so much, I squinched my eyes shut trying to get it to release. I wandered over to the standings to see if my AG places had come in. 1-4 were already in so I headed home, by way of an enormous Diet Coke and some curly fries. Very happy, in spite of the headache.
So, I finished with a time of 2:39:47. Cool!
Wait, wasn’t I psyched to break 3 hours before?
Yes. I took FIFTEEN MINUTES off my trail half marathon PR.
There were 500 fewer feet than the other courses but fifteen minutes?! That is a testament to the mindfulness practice I’ve adopted. I didn’t have any negative thoughts or fears, even when I knew I was under-fueled. I stayed present in my body and ran the pace that felt right. Which was my 5k pace at the end. Woah.
I am thrilled for CIM and even more thrilled for it to be over so I can do some serious goal setting. Time to level up!