This past weekend was one of those that I live for: racing, more racing, a little travel, and being surrounded by incredible people.
Starting with MY race! This is only my second race of 2015 (three if you count ragnar). Toeing the line becomes extra special if you’re not doing it 24/7. In fact, in a recent podcast with Michelle, at the very end (aka the “outtakes”), we decided that over-racing was a huge problem of ours in the past and one of the variables that led to burnout/overtraining, so instead we agree it’s better to invest in quality, healthy training so you shine ever brighter in the races that matter. That said, I am still a huge fan of multisport athletes jumping into events that are C-races for practice, i.e. try some open water swim races, bike TTs, running races etc.—in particular, choose races where you have to face your fears and weaknesses so you get stronger. I digress…
30k Trail Race Report
There’s a great trail-race series I’d heard about for years called Into the Wild OC Trail Runs, but I never felt quite confident that my trail running fitness was up to par for tackling longer distances with gnarly hills. This year, that all changed. I didn’t even question the idea of whether I could just jump into a super hilly 30k (18.6 miles) spur of the moment—I knew I was fit for it, and more importantly I had the right state of mind going into this one. I had simple goals: I did not intend to go out and hammer as hard as possible, but rather use it as practice for our future ultras—practice the art of pacing for this style of racing, manage intensity, adapt to the terrain, enjoy the process, and get in the zone vs. sit there thinking “shit, when will this be over?!” It was certainly not about outcomes, finishing times, or beating other runners. I was not "in it to win it."
My partner-in-crime John did the race too. The race was Saturday, and since we like to keep things interesting, we added a bit of an added challenge to the weekend: We booked at 12:30 Saturday afternoon flight out of OC en route to Arizona to be in Tempe for Sunday’s IMAZ. That meant we had to, no matter what, be done with the 30k within 4 hours to make the transition and catch our flight. Neither of us were worried about those numbers, sub-4 hours was totally doable. I was thinking that I’d be finishing around a 3:30 or a bit faster (logically I figured I could do a 30k just as fast or faster than my open marathon time back in May).
I also convinced one of my local athletes to do the race with us. He’s only been into road marathon racing up until this point, but he loves crosstraining in the trails. He wasn’t so sure about jumping into the 30k distance for his first-ever trial race, and he didn’t think he was ready or prepared for it at all, but this is where the art of coaching is awesome: I knew he was ready and fit for it, so I encouraged him to just give it a try and step outside his comfort zone—you never know what you will discover about yourself in the process, right? So with my vote of confidence he pulled the trigger on the race too. Had he truly not been prepared I would have never put him in a compromising position… but I was certain he was fit and fine for it. A lesson in learning to believe in yourself!
I had zero pre-race nerves or anxious thoughts going into this event, and none of my crazy old mind games reared their ugly heads. It was hard for me to even classify it as an actual race given the weekend on tap—I knew I had to run smart because we still had a lot of activity ahead. Although, since it was just 30k I knew I didn't have to totally hold back. I was reminded of past Xterra Trail Races I did in which I would run so freaking hard that I would be beyond trashed after—that wasn't going to happen this time. I did take a solid rest week going in, just so I could have my best energy for all of it.
Race morning was rad, about the exact opposite of an Ironman. While not technically not an ultra, it still had the ultra vibes: Show up to a random field/dirt parking lot in the hilly wilderness, where about 50 people have casually gathered and head out for an adventure together. Super mellow.
We got going about 7:05 am, and oops, I forgot that it can actually get cold in SoCal, especially in this area near Saddleback Mountain. I was dressed in shorts and T-shirt, no layers. Meanwhile, some folks had on long-sleeve everything and beanie-type hats or gloves. Needless to say, those first 20 minutes I dealt with some excruciatingly cold hands. The rest of my body, even feet, were fine, it was those hands! Finally I wised up and stuck one hand at a time under my shirt on my core to generate some heat. That worked, plus the sun came over the mountains and started shining down on us—before I knew it, the weather was as I expected—pretty hot.
I was running calmly, comfortably going off RPE not even looking at pace or HR. I thought about John (who was on my heels) and my athlete (who was already way ahead of me), and that was about it. I was immersed in my tunes! The night before I made an epic playlist for my ipod, and I was jamming—only one ear bud in so I could still have awareness of my surroundings.
The first couple miles were more singletrack and nothing too hilly, then miles 3-13 had all the hills—either crazy up, or crazy down, and some little flat sections mixed in occasionally. I love hills, they are like the adult’s version of a rollercoaster to me. This course delivered with about 3,900 feet of elevation gain. I am really confident in my hill climbing right now—and I am totally OK with power hiking up the hills vs trying to run them and burn myself out. I really feel good about the training I’ve been doing, especially using the weighted vest on hike/slow jog days—that’s been a FAST way to ramp up fitness without having to pound more run miles and overly fatigue myself. If you are injury free, resilient to injury and have a solid functional and strength base I highly recommend crosstraining with a weighted-vest. But don’t do it if you’re injury prone, overcoming an injury or working out a known biomechanical issue—fix that shit first.
I was loving all of it. I was totally content stopping to take a picture here and there on my phone (we were on a special trail that’s normally not open to the public so I felt obligated to capture some images lol), and I was also literally singing out loud at times when a really good song came on—for real, ask John. This approach and mindset was huge for a girl like me who spent years being way too overly focused on outcomes, what my competition was doing, what my final time/ranking would be, or what the world would think of my splits—yuck.
Meanwhile, I was actually running pretty well overall in the field—but I had no idea. At that point I could have cared less.
|Pre race dinner included this spaghetti squash dish |
with fresh herbs.
10 Perfect Amino at 40’ mark
1st Healthy Bite with water at 1:15
2nd Healthy Bite with water at 1:45
½ Simple Square bar with water during mile 12 which was all a steep power hike hill climb.
Other than that, drank water to thirst, getting through ~ 1.25 L during the race, and finishing the rest after the finish, and some.
Competitor Mode Switches On
At mile 10-11ish there was an out-and-back section so you could see the runners in front starting to make their way back. Of course, like any normal athlete, I started counting guys and girls. My athlete was running strongly in fifth behind the “big-time” guys! Awwww ya!
I counted three girls who had a decent but not crazy gap on me, which put me in fourth/fifth—I was switching places casually with another girl throughout the race so far. There was a long decent then U-turn and climb right back up the steepest hill of the day, brutal. After that I knew it would be mostly smooth sailing.
Knowing that my position was decent, I couldn't help it—I suddenly slipped into competition mode, just like that. Said to myself, “I guess I should stop jacking around with pictures and singing and dancing to my songs. I don’t know if I can catch any of the girls, but I know I feel good enough to run strong still. Final 8k, let’s do this!”
The last 5.6 miles were very strong for me, and the last 4 in particular were between 7:15-8:45 pace (helped that it was a moderate decent lol). My cardio and heart rate felt phenomenal like I could hold that effort forever, but muscularly I could start to feel signs of fatigue, soreness and normal breakdown from those hills that had taken their toll. I was actually glad to feel the soreness in my glutes and hamstrings—proved that I hadn't been pacing too easy. I passed a couple guys during this section, but otherwise I was totally alone in the wild. John had fallen off my pace at mile 11, and my other athlete was ahead still. It was nice to be alone on a random trail in my own rhythm.
My longest workouts lately have been 3:00-3:15 on trails, but overall this race was faster than my training days usually go. It was comforting to know I could easily be running in the 8’s or faster at 13-plus miles into a hard trail.
I would look ahead in the distance in the off chance a competitor ahead might pop up, who I could then “hunt down” but saw no one. All good… even though I was feeling more of the competitive vibes, I was still focused on me and my effort, and I felt proud. Body moving well, no issues. I then came up on another dude, who I proceeded to pass in the final mile, then in the finishing chute he came back to battle me in a sprint to the finish; putting ego aside I let him have it.
Finish, Mind Games & More Fun
I crossed at 3:15 on the clock, feeing awesome. That was my longest trail running race ever, and I think I nailed it physically and mentally. On track for what's ahead…
I found out that the first-place female finished in 3:01, and the second and third place girls finished back-to-back in 3:13 and change—which means I was just TWO minutes from the podium and actual prize money! I won’t lie, I got a bit down on myself after learning this news, and I was kicking myself thinking that without the dilly-dallying and picture taking, and without the couple stops for John, I could have easily shaved off 2 minutes or more off my finish time. My brain was going there—i.e. the woulda-coulda-shoulda crap. But I quickly shut that shit down and found peace with my performance. I had been truly happy and in control the entire race, and I couldn’t let finishing times and rankings ruin that or get me down—I couldn't play those mind games. Too many times I've beat myself up over race performances thinking about where I could have saved a minute here and there for a better finishing time/ranking. I'm over that.
Still, flirting with a top finishing spot and the taste of competition again, well, it felt good. Can you blame me? I'm a bit hungry for some more, hehe. But I am also patient and set on doing things my way, the healthy way, this time around, and certainly not being a results-driven athlete. Did I mention our approach to Badwater Salton Sea is about making the cutoffs, not about how fast we can go?! At 81 miles, I have no desire to push the pace this "early" into my ultra racing.
John finished in 3:40ish, very on par with his current training, but I think he's ready to step it up a bit. It's time. I'm doing more than he is, and you could tell in my performance vs. his—he also dealt with a bit of cramping and whatnot, which I think was more training-related.
|This guy has grit. Proud of him! It's all good. We got this.|
He recovered just fine, and we felt great for the rest of the weekend.
We ended up getting to our flight with time to spare, then had an epic day with my athletes and the rest of the racers at IMAZ. If you follow Ironman you probably heard that it was a cold, wet, dreary day. Oh boy, yes it was… 12-plus hours of spectating with a good amount of shivering and lunges to stay warm. But every second was well worth a bit of personal discomfort—seeing my athletes and friends kill it, and be so tough, was priceless.
And I got to meet Maffetone in person finally!