I was contemplating where to run on Sunday for a long run of between 10 and 13 miles. I decided to check out the local race calendars. A race sounded like much more fun than a lonely long run, and there is always a race going on this time of year.
I saw a 16k trail race by Xterra at Black Mountain in San Diego – the 6th race in a 7 race series throughout SoCal. The course was described as the flattest and fastest in this series, so I was in for promises of a spring trail run that wouldn’t totally destroy me . . . right.
My strategy in trail races has generally been to run fast at the beginning to get ahead of slower runners before the trail narrows. Then when I can, I run fast – on flat, comfortable downhill, and non-technical surfaces. I “recover” on uphills, steep downhills, and technical terrain (rocky, slippery, narrow, or otherwise scary). Trail races for me are like speed workouts, except the recoveries are on hills!
Looking at the elevation profile of the route and talking to runners before the race, I decided to employ the usual strategy, and it would be very important to start out fast because the trail narrowed quickly to single track for quite a long ways. Then I planned to run the early and middle miles as fast as the course permitted. I wasn’t planning on saving much for the late miles because the hills were so steep for so long. It wouldn’t matter how tired I was – those hills would bring the pain either way.
|This is the elevation profile on the race website. Not too bad, right?|
|Actual elevation profile from my Garmin - no hill smoothing!|
So I lined up near the front and got off to a very fast start. This first mile of the race was the best mile I’ve ever run. I got a good position before the trail narrowed to single track. It was downhill and rocky, but there was no slowing down given the train of runners behind me. I concentrated on foot placement, freaked out about my ankle a little bit (sprained about a year ago, finally healed about 6 months ago), and kept up with the runner in front of me so that no one tried to pass me. It was awesome!
In the second mile I realized that I was going to run much slower than I anticipated. Although the general trend of the first half of the course is downhill, there were a ton of steep up and downs not depicted on the race website's elevation profile – and I felt them for the first time in the second mile. Miles 2 and 3 were just under 7:00.
Miles 4 and 5 had a lot of rollers, but I kept a good pace. Both were just under 7:30.
Mile 6 was 9:44, which is explained by (1) water station (walked and stood to drink - never done that before!), (2) lots of very steep downhills where I had to apply the brakes, and (3) walking up a hill that was too steep to run. As I was hiking up it, my hand were almost hitting the ground it was such a steep slope! Legs were JELLO at the end of this mile. I couldn’t take downhills as fast after this because I lost control and stability on the big downhills in this mile.
Mile 7 had a creek crossing, which was a first for me. I stopped, and said, “Oh shit,” while the guys running around me just blasted right through . . . It had about 18 inches of water in it! It took me 3 or 4 steps to get across it. My shoes were so heavy after that! Decent mile at 7:30ish.
Mile 8 marked the start of the massive hill until the end of the race (9.66 miles by my watch). Mile 8 started at 250 feet, and we climbed to 720 feet by the end. Really really really steep from mile 9 to the end. I walked for a second time. The finish line was perched at the very top of this hill. I have never seen so many people walking in the last paces before the finish line. What a tough finish! My quads are complaining today!!
|Is it over yet?|
Splits (elevation loss (-) and elevation gain (+) in feet)
1 – 6:36 (-247/+5)
2 – 6:56 (-171/+81)
3 – 6:55 (-115)
4 – 7:27 (-65/+85)
5 – 7:25 (-133/+147)
6 – 9:44 (-136/+194)
7 – 7:29 (-187/+32)
8 – 8:13 (+65)
9 – 10:02 (+263)
9.66 (16k) – 7:54 (10:30 pace) (+184)
TOTALS: 1:17:07 (8:03 pace) (-1059/+1055) – 4th female and 46th of 326 overall.
Two Little Runners