….and My Story Runs On….
This was a training run for my first 100K. My training plan called for 20 miles on Saturday and 10 on Sunday so I combined them in one day (although these were “Aravaipa” miles so it was actually 32.2 on my TomTom).
Since I had some trouble with this one last year (you can’t really try to PR (personal record) different trail races due to the variety in the terrain) and I was redoing the same one, I decided I really wanted to do better than last year. As I set this goal in my head, I was also detached from it. If I did PR, great but if I didn’t, I knew there would be lessons to learn (always!) so that took some of the pressure off.
One of the hardest things for me to do is run my own race. I tell people to do this all the time but as a coach and someone who knows a lot of runners, it’s hard not to get caught up in hanging with friends and helping them out. So I had to make a decision that this was going to be MY RACE.
Leading up to the race, I did a lot of mental preparation. Since I knew the course, I reviewed it again, reread my blog from last year and started making a strategy. Thankfully I didn’t have the “girlie” issues from last year so that would shave some time off for sure. I also looked at the aid station locations and I remember running out of water on the toughest part of the course. I decided I wasn’t going to stop at the first aid station and I would run as much as possible on the easier part of the course so I could hike the big hill. I took the day off before the race and relaxed and got mentally psyched up (McDowell Mountains are one of my favorite places to trail run).
I started the race with my friends Katie and Mitzi (it was their first 50K!) and Will. We had nice pace going and it was fun to start out relaxed with friends! I told them that I had a plan though and that I wouldn’t be stopping at the first aid station. We split off at mile 7.
I remember staying very focused on my ChiRunning form a lot (as always!) so I could be as efficient as possible. I made sure to refill my water so I wouldn’t make the same mistake as last year since there was an 11 mile gap between aid stations and it was the hardest part of the course.
The one thing I don’t like about trying to PR, is that I tend to be much more tied to my watch. I’ve had some of my best runs when I’m not paying attention to it as it can be mental stress added on that keeps you from relaxing. Knowing this, I tried not to be too focused on it but I had an average mile that I wanted to keep to reach my goal so I was more engaged with it than usual. I knew I had to stay ahead of the game because the hill was coming. The trail started getting rockier and I remember this from last year. Not my favorite terrain to be running on as it’s harder but I know I need to keep practicing this for my 100K race. I ChiWalked the entire hill with a few spurts of running when there was a little flat area or a little downhill. I used my arms so much to help me up the hill that my biceps were sore the next day! I’ve never had this from a race before but this is part of the ChiRunning strategy. Use the arms more and legs less. The downhill was rocky so I wasn’t able to go as fast as I normally like to.
I got to the aid station at mile 24 where I got so see my friends. I love our local running community and there are always so many familiar faces either running or volunteering! I was still pacing to PR but I was definitely getting tired at this point. More rocky uphill and then some good downhill that was rocky on and off. My pace was slowing down between the rocks and being tired. I always go back to my ChiRunning form as soon as I start feeling tired. Outside of always checking in on my postural alignment (first thing to go when you are doing long distance running is your posture), my cadence is what really helped me out. Every time I felt my legs get heavy, I would increase my cadence (strides per minute or foot turnover) and I immediately felt a relief. There is a magic number of 170-180 (not unique to ChiRunning but recommended by just about every running form) and harder to maintain on trail. Most people run at lower cadence and this wastes a lot of energy because you are holding your body weight on each leg for longer periods of time which is inefficient.
I finally texted my friends that were at the finish line and told them I had 3 miles to go and someone please make sure I had a beer at the finish line 😉 I get to the last aid station and the guy said I had 3.2 more to go! What?! That was one more mile than a 50K. I forgot to put this in my blog last year so I forgot about this…I was a bit irritated and it made that last few miles harder mentally. I don’t normally listen to music but I put my playlist on my phone on speaker so I would be a bit distracted. At about mile 30 you can hear the finish line and it’s a mind f%$k because you just want to be done at this point. This part of the trail was up and down and it finished with a nasty steep hill. My friend Bill was at the top yelling “hammer it” which really helped me push through it!
I could hear my friends cheering me on and I crossed the finish line (Chris, thanks for the Koffee Kolsch!) with a huge smile on my face. I didn’t have the official results but I knew I had PR’d. It was about a 34 minute PR which translates to a minute a mile for 32 miles of improvement! Pretty proud of that! I will say that I was hoping to do better but I will take it!
One of the coolest things is that my friend Jenni even made me a medal! She was making one for Katie and Mitzi. Some people run for bling and I normally don’t but I knew she was making a few for them and I wanted in on it too. At Aravaipa races you get a pint glass when you finish (I have a bunch of them) but getting a homemade medal from Jenni was the icing on the cake! (and she isn’t crafty either!)
Running never ceases to amaze me! So much to keep learning about myself and the sport. Having a plan doesn’t always pay off but I feel the mental preparation ahead of time was crucial to my success. As always, ChiRunning and the advice my nutritionist gave me for my 50 miler were two key components to my success.
What is your strategy when you want to try and PR a race?
From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)