Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Fort Ord "39k"

This was a great course.  Many of the single track trails, especially in the valleys, were packed sand, not something I’ve found often.  This was an extra race I added, not one I trained well to target, so I didn’t put much expectations on myself other than to get a long run in, but with the pressure of a race to pick up the pace.  And I really wanted to go run this course, being a bit out of my neighborhood, furthering the goal for this year to run more in new places further from home.

It was an odd race for me in a lot of ways.  My legs had been tired the last week, after a hard bike/run brick the prior Sunday, as well as a very-high-for-me social schedule over the last week.  I pulled back on my planned running and biking during the week, and I felt good at the start.  And then I ran uphill—quite a bit.  For a majority of the first 10 miles of the course, and about half of the second.  Recent training was really paying off on what’s been my weakest point for quite a while.  On the downhills I was just slow.  I just didn’t have the drive to keep my recent pace for very long without hurting, similar to my runs during the prior week.  And after mile 10 or so, my heels started to hurt.  Possibly due to the faster uphills; I’ve noticed that working my calves hard has a side affect of pulling on my feet enough to make this area sore.  So I just relaxed when I needed to and enjoyed the run. 

The trails were great, and varied a lot.  Rocky fireroads on open hills and sandy single track in covered valleys; these trails were just fun.  This would be a great course to return to, especially in a year that we get more than .04 inches of rain in the month leading up to the race.  

Somewhere after the second aid station, while I was zoned out and following a couple other runners, I got off course.  They were pulling away from me, but I eventually convinced myself I was off course since it was flat for far too long.  ITR just doesn’t make courses this flat for this long.  Seeing no course flags, I checked the map and talked to a local runner, finding a way to get back on track without shortchanging the distance.  I must have been really zoned out, since it took me over a mile to notice.  On the way back, I caught a 100k runner who made the same mistake and pulled him back on track too.  This added a couple miles to my run, but it got me out of the just-keep-running mentality for a while, and made for a fun excursion.  It also kicked my adrenaline up for climbing and descending the next hill, making what was a sore part of the race a lot more fun.  I later found out they went back to add more markings to that turn too.

There was a short flat section that led into the second aid station.  This part just sucked for me.  I don't really like to use the word "suck."  But it did.  Legs and feet were protesting, so I walked some stretches of it, just waiting for the next climb.  It's quite ironic that I was waiting for a climb to come to get of a flat section of the course.  That climb delivered, about two miles of steady uphill, and I ran a good chunk of it.  The next mile and a half were downhill, which didn’t go very well.  Heel protests were back.  Getting into the last climb, I took off, hoping to pass the one other runner I could see.  I did this and kept going, until I got to the point where I could see no one and really didn’t know how much more of the course was left.  I eased back again to not beat myself up and came comfortably into the finish, running the final uphill.

I wrapped up in 5:05, running 24.2 miles, about two miles over the course distance.  Despite the slow downhill, aching legs and heels, and side excursion, it’s actually a better average pace by 20 secs/mile than I ran at Woodside (my only other 35k), which had 300 feet less elevation gain.  So I’m not complaining, as that’s a significant improvement. 

ITR was also putting on their first 100k here, and I stayed until dark to volunteer at the finish area.  It was inspiring to see people finishing a run of that distance, and a lot of fun.  And forcing myself to stand was probably better recovery for my legs than finding a couch at home.

I in part added this race to get a last fast and long run in before running a 50k for the first time, which is in three weeks.  It did that well, the extra excursion even working for me in that regard.  But with al the leg aches, I’m going to challenge myself to take a six day running break.  It’s about the right timing for a short recovery rest too, since it’ll give enough time to get in a hard week before tapering.

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