….and My Story Runs On….
This is the 3rd year in a row that I do this 50K. It’s one of my favorites and perfect timing in my 100K Training Schedule to have a nice long training run. This has been my 2nd, 5th and 9th 50K! Still unbelievable to me that I swore I would never run more than a 5K when I started running!
McDowell Mountain Regional Park has some of my favorite trails and Aravaipa Running always puts on a great event. This was meant to be a training run but since I was doing the same race for the 3rd year in a row, I did have it in the back of my mind that PRing (personal record) would be an added bonus. I went into the race with that idea but was also detached from it since technically this was supposed to be a training run. I normally don’t have a race pace but I definitely get into a different mindset if I’m wanting to PR or “race” an event. I also had to consider that I had run 20 miles the Sunday before so I didn’t taper for this race and I did a tough marathon downhill marathon 3 weeks before. I was so close to PRing and made a “fatal” mistake which cost me the PR…but all good and that story is down below….
The energy before a race is always exciting, especially when you realize how many friends you have out there! Several of them were doing their first 50K. It was great to start out the race after getting so many hugs from friends! I love the Escondido trail as it’s rolly polly . I knew I could easily get started too fast here so I tried to keep a nice pace, walking the uphills and running flats and downhills. The last third of the race is the hardest and I’ve struggled on this part the last few years. My goal was to not let that happen again. I immediately started focusing on my ChiRunning form. At about Mile 5, I decided to listen to some ChiSchool lessons so I could continue focusing on my form. I put this on shuffle and even though I listen to some of the same lessons, there are always some great aha moments. This time it was with the lesson “The World’s Largest Treadmill” and some cueing from Danny (the founder of ChiRunning) about feeling your leg get swept back by the trail every time it hit the ground. I’ve heard this lesson many times and it’s one of my favorites but something different clicked with me this time. I skipped the first aid station strategically so I didn’t “waste” anytime as I had plenty of water and fuel. The 2nd aid station was at mile 12.5 and I knew there would be a 10 mile gap until the 3rd one and it would be during “the hill”. Refueled and filled up water and was off again. I knew I had to keep under a 14:58 min mile to PR and I was doing great! At this point I was averaging a 13:23 min mile and I knew I would be hiking that hill. My goal during the first third of the race was to run as much as I could without using up too much energy because I had that last third of the race always in the back of my head.
I had forgotten about the part of the course before “the hill”. Pretty runnable and great scenery. I was still feeling pretty good here. Ran into my friends Jennifer and Rachel and took this quick selfie.
The hardest part of wanting to PR is that you need to stay focused as any extra minute can add up. I felt leaving them so quickly but I was on a mission. It’s also hard for me to do this as a coach as I always like to give words of encouragement and hang with people but sometimes I have to run my race and I was determined since I was on track. I had stopped listening to ChiSchool from the aid station and at mile 18 decided to listen to a few motivational TED talks I had downloaded. Sometimes I like to listen to stuff on long runs but I only listened to a few as I was truly enjoying being out there and present on the trail. The weather up to mile 15 was perfect. There was cloud coverage and we even had a few sprinkles. After my last Black Canyon experience (my character builder run) I was no longer worried about running in the rain but it didn’t happen. At about mile 15, the clouds were gone and the sun came out…I immediately stripped off my sleeves and the weather got hot really fast. I think many of us were impacted by that change during this race. I hiked the entire hill and ran the downhill more than last year…I remember it was rocky so I was careful but was still tracking to PR. Even though I completely filled my hydration pack, I went through my water and couldn’t wait to get to the aid station. I was out of the water for the last 1.5 miles and it kept getting warmer.
Miles 22.5 to 31
I knew I had to stay focused on the aid station. A friend of mine, Suzanne was there and she hooked me up right away. Helped fill my pack, put some ice in my buff and hat, I grabbed some munchies and I was off again. At this point, due to the hiking, I was averaging a 13:58 mile so I knew the PR was closing in on me. I did something I don’t advise people to do but decided to take two ibuprofen. I figured even though my legs weren’t too bad, they were a bit achy and I knew this would help me run more. Unfortunately my TomTom died at mile 24 so now I had no idea how I was doing. There is an uphill after the aid station but then a nice steady downhill, although a bit rocky. My goal at this point was to keep running as much I could. I was doing a lot of body sensing since I didn’t have a watch to tell me how I was doing (this is truly a better way as the GPS watch can be a distraction and play into the ego more than listening to your body) I listened to music for a bit but my MP3 player died. I just keep running as much as I could until I reached the last aid station. My first question was how much longer do I have to go. They said 3.4 miles, I looked at my phone and it was 3pm. I had to be done by 3:44 to PR and this was cutting it pretty close but doable. I usually don’t do much sugar until the last aid station (thanks to my nutritionist) I drank some Coke, had a piece of potato with salt, and handful of peanut M + M’s. I left and took my phone out to text a few friends that were waiting at the finish line for me. Here is where I made my mistake. I wasn’t paying attention as I was texting and walking…Before you know it, a guy yelled out “What distance are you doing?” I said the 50K and he said, “You’re on the wrong trail”. So grateful for this guy as I would’ve kept on that wrong trail for who knows how long! I was 4-5 min in so I turned around right away but I knew this set me back and I would’ve been cutting it even closer. Even though I ran as much as I could towards the end, I knew it wasn’t happening. I could start hearing the finish line (they have a DJ!) and knew I was almost there.
It’s a great feeling when people could say they recognized my running form from far away. As I finished through the last section on the technical trail, I was getting excited to be done. Always great to finish and see friends cheering you on at the finish line…even though it was my 9th 50K, finish lines never get old!
Biggest Learning Moment
So how do you define a successful race? Everyone has their own definition. I think it depends on the race too. Although I didn’t make my PR on this race, it was a great success for me. First of all, it was the first time doing this race that I felt strong on the last third even though I ran into some challenges. I crossed the finish line feeling really good! And considering I didn’t taper last weekend and have been building mileage, I was very happy with how I felt at the end! I attribute this to my race strategy and more importantly my ChiRunning technique. As I was by myself for this whole race so it was easier for me to focus on my form and adjusting it as needed to the environment coming at me. I may have conserved to much energy since I finished strong but I’ll take that over being miserable and injured any day! As mentioned, I follow my fueling plan that I learned from my nutritionist and that makes a big difference too!
The After Party
Much like the beginning of the race, at the end of the race there were so many friends around. There is always a beer garden for people to hang out and it’s right by the finish line so you get to watch people coming in. I for wanted to wait for Joan as I had been training her for the last 3 months for her first 50K. She finished strong as well and we shared a celebratory beer (ha, she drank the koolaid and is already talking about her next 50K! She done 20 marathons but moving on to the ultra/trail world 😉 )
This year, Aravaipa added night races and I love the fact that several women from my recent Ladies Training Program, had decided to either do the day or night race! I missed the morning ladies but had a chance to see those at night time as they got ready. Is it bad when your running coaching is encouraging you to do a Fireball shot before you go? Even worse that they listened to you?! Ultimately this is about enjoying the experience! I/we (my peeps) are never going to win the race because that’s not our goal…the goal is making friends and having fun, while staying in shape and doing some crazy things along the way! This is how we roll…….
From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)