When it started raining last week I freaked. I didn't want the Xterra Crystal Cove 17k to get canceled yet again! Thankfully the weather gods played nice and Sunday's race was a go.
Saturday night I had a house guest--fellow triathlete and Xterra trail runner Caroline Gregory. I have to say, I can get used to playing "athlete hostel" for those who need a comfy bed in OC (my sister is away at college so you get more than a couch when you stay with me)! Caroline arrived just as we were eating dinner, so she got in on some of the sweet potato action and was able to see what a pre-race night at Casa de Prazak is like.... essentially just food and early bedtime :) Come Sunday morning, it was nice to have someone join me for a 5:30 wake up call to go to charge the trails. Unfortunately my usual race partner in crime (aka mom) had to sit this one out due to a hip issue she's dealing with. She was more than bummed, but she's got Vineman to worry about.
My goal for the Xterra race was to charge hard, stay in Caroline's zip code and beat my time from when I did this race in Dec '08.
This course is ridiculously hard, especially the first 3-4 miles of massive elevation gain. There's really nothing easy to look forward the entire time because it's generally all up or downhill and the flats are few and far between, and when they do come it's in sandy dirt so tough terrain. Here's the course profile for all you who like this stuff:
I highly reccomend running this trail if you ever get the chance. Here's how it goes: It pretty much goes from sea level to 1,000 feet in the first 3.5 miles. The bad part is, you start working toward that 1,000-foot mark, but then you hang a right and go down down down back to nearly 0 ft then have to start climbing all over again. Ouch! After that second gnarly uphill, the worst is arguably over with, but it still ain't easy. You run from PCH east to the toll road, about 5 miles, and it's all generally uphill with steep hills and maybe a few "breaks." You start wondering if the hills will ever end... how much elevation can you gain before getting some legit downhill?! Finally you hang a left and run parallel to the freeway for about 1.5 miles, and there's some relief with flats, although the terrain is sandy so it's not real relieving. And of course, there are still hills to battle. After one last big uphill you hang another left and start heading home for the final ~4 miles. The last section is the most fun because there are these gnarly huge rolling hills--I can fly down at a 5:15 pace only to hit an uphill and slow down to a 9-10 min "crawling" pace. There are roughly 7 hills like that, then the last mile is all downhill, aka haul-ass fun! Way better than ending on an uphill!
Not to mention, the trail was probably the most gorgeous I've ever seen it... a little peak:
So here's how my race went:
After about a 2-mile warmup and several bathroom visits I was nervous because "things" weren't happening bathroom-wise like I needed them to. After one last stop 3 min before the gun went off I felt good to go. I had eaten a lighter breakfast and drank less coffee to avoid nausea like I had a Xterra Black Mtn. Meanwhile, I packed two Vanilla Bean GUs in my jersey if I felt the need for both, which, turns out, I did!
I lined up in the front, the gun goes off and within 3 min my HR is in the 180s. Since I know this course so well and how I am capable of running it, I just went at a slower pace for the first hills, knowing I'd make up time later on. Caroline shot off and I was next to Beth Hibbard for a while, then she gained on me. I was 3rd place female for the first 4 miles then a lady in black passed me. Beth was in 2nd, lady-in-black 3rd, me 4th.... For the rest of the run that's how it stayed; and those two were always in my sight, but always just out of reach.
Caroline was 1st with 1:20, then all within 1 minute at 1:23 Beth crossed for 2nd, lady-in-black 3rd and I bringing up the rear end of 1:23 for 4th. The total route was just under 10.5 miles on my Garmin (pretty close to being an accurate 17k) and I averaged a 7:57 pace according to the results (although my Garmin said my avg was a little slower). That is by far THE BEST I've ever run that trail in the few years I've been going there, normally I average in the 8:20s to 8:40s, plus I'll stop for a breather at least once or twice. Not to mention, being within 3 min of Caroline and within 1 min of the other top ladies was an awesome feeling! I got 1st AG too, which was nice :)25-29 podium1st female/male overall
The highlights were 1) nailing nutrition yet again--huge considering the stomach/puke issues I had at Xterra Black Mtn; 2) being able to keep a high intensity without stopping and without exploding. (max HR 185, Avg HR ~171, but I forgot to turn off my HR monitor right away so avg HR was probably a few bpms higher). I think the HIIT work I'm doing is paying off in allowing me to maintain such high intensities for well over an hour.
We stuck around for awards... duh, I had the 1st place female with me! But even better than awards was the post-race breakfast and coffee... healthfully prepared scrambled eggs (i.e. not greasy and made with egg-white base mixture), quality fruit and pastries (but I opted for a Clif bar over the pastries!).
Caroline and I were so over the "mini" coffee cups so we grabbed our mugs and filled up...mmmmm :)
We got back to my house, ate some more then Caroline took off.
I crashed for a while but then got a second wind and enjoyed a dinner party with good friends who cooked up steak, chicken, rice, veggies and salad. I think I ate the most, even more than the boys! I also drank wine.... well-earned I suppose.
I decided last week that my long ride (3 hrs) would be on Monday instead of further thrashing an already beaten-down body on Saturday pre-xterra-race. Wise call on my part. I refuse to flirt with overtraining!
I was feeling a little "depressed" from the perfect weekend--a lot more good stuff went down beyond the Xterra race :)--so Monday's ride was just what I needed. Even better, it turned out to be the most quality 60 miles I've gotten in all year so far. Despite feeling Sunday's race & the wine indulgence, the legs still showed up for action. With how busy I am these days the concept of "quality over quantity" has never been so important to me... so during the ride not 1 minute was spent lallygagging. All. Hard. Work. And thankfully I only sat through a total of 9 min of stoplights/traffic. Not too shabby for an OC route!
But as right now, Monday evening, I can barely walk. Oh man. Thankfully tomorrow starts off with a swim.