Up and Down to Cardiac Hll. 1400+ feet of climbing. The first race of the year, and of this training cycle.
One goal for the year is to bring back short races where I can push the pace the whole time without paying for it later. Months of long endurance runs near my limit left me really wanting to push the pace again in races, since I haven't done so all that much since 2013, when I focused mostly on the half marathon distance for a year. And while my endurance went way up in 2014, speed went down. I ran the marathon distance at this race last year, and I really like the straight and to the point up-and-down-repeat layout of the course.
After the North Face 50, I pulled myself way back to all short runs; I don't think I've been out for more than 10 miles since then. I added a lot of longer interval work, but focusing more on form, strength, cadence, and consistency, rather than speed as a goal in itself. And I added regular strength training back in, finding and addressing some really weird strength and mobility assymetries that crept in over the second half of 2014. Many of them I was completely unaware of until I spent a week focusing entirely on mobility work after TNF50. I added long hill repeats, climbing up and running back down Redwood Peak, since it's close to 800 feet in less than a mile, about the same amount of climbing as most Marin hills, and, more importantly, close to home.
But the Cardiac Hill climb is quite a weak point. It tends to beat down leg strength/endurance, causing me to slow dramatically later in long races. Adding this race was a way to get a climb of this size in by itself for training purposes, while on great trails.
The Steep Ravine trail was closed, apparently a small landslide and a missing bridge have shut it down for a month. Similarly Highway 1 has a section out for the month. November/December's onslaught of rain in the middle of the drought is taking its toll on Mt. Tam. The course changed to an out-and-back on the Dipsea, along with a short section on Old Mine.
I started fast on the road coming out of Stinson Beach, and paced myself based on feel for the entire climb. Anytime I felt like I was pushing the pace on a steep hill hard enough that I'd later lose the ability to keep my pace, I backed off for a bit to loosen things up. One nice thing about running so many 50k's last year is that I've really gained a good sense of where that line is, although I do intentionally cross it for training effect in races, and pretty much always in the hill repeats I'm doing now.
The other nice thing about short races is not even thinking about the aid stations. It was there. I didn't really make eye contact with anyone, see I had no intention of slowing or stopping, and it's a complex intersection, but I did manage to thank the volunteer who steered me down the correct trail when I started to overshoot it.
Coming back down Dipsea was fun, and there was some fun banter about all the stairs with a few people who were keeping a similar pace. The stairs didn't bother me at all this time, and I could have taken them quite a bit faster if I wasn't in the crowd. Despite the East Bay being fairly dry this month, the trails here were wet with a few muddy places, and all the wood stairs were wet, to many other runners vocal disdain. I ran with the Hoka Challengers for the first time in a race, and they worked great here.
On the non-stair portions of the downhill, I was really able to open up and keep a fast pace, not something I'm used to here, as I usually run this downhill after beating myself up over the first 28 miles of a 50k. Coming into town, I sprinted the last half a block, but the last person I passed did the same and passed me right before finishing. I came in at 1:16:25, 40/142, 10/17 AG, yada yada. More importantly, I made my goals of my fastest climb to Cardiac Hill from Stinson Beach, as well as my fastest descent back down. And a fun thing that's never happened: I PR'd every Strava segment on the course. After tapering for all of one day. There's still ways to go on improving my climbing on longer hills, but my current training seems to be working.
This kicks off a series of most hilly trail races over the next few months that are focused on hills in the 800 ft range, with the goal of significantly cutting my 50 mile time at Lake Sonoma. I'm starting back at a short distance and plan to run races of increasing distance to up the effort across the board. The rest of the series will be a flat 5k for isolating speed, a hilly 30k, a mixed flat/hilly 50k, and a hilly 50k.