My last 2 trail races this year, Bandera 100km in January and Nueces 50m in March, I allowed myself to get sucked into an early pace (i.e. too fast) that was not sustainable for the entire event, leaving me with bittersweet tastes of great overall finishes despite poorly executed race plans. Clearly, such tactics will serve me absolutely no good later this summer for the Slam. I mentally laid out the challenge for myself this weekend at the Hells Hills 50km at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, TX to have the discipline and the humility to accept a lower finishing place for the sake of a smartly run race, something close to even or even negative splits. I also wanted to get better acquainted with a slower “100km” to “100-mile” pace. Fortunately, the race started at 6am on Saturday, meaning the first hour+ was run under the cover of darkness, which can make for a relatively modest pace early on, which it did.
I stealthily took my time getting across the starting line and tucked myself into the back end of the second or third “chase” pack, while the top runners took off at typical 50k speed. My Petzl Myo XP headlamp is enough light for two or three runners, so I was happy to share it with the runner in front of me, Josh from San Antonio, who I would meet after the race. This was a perfect opportunity to work on footwork and balance, as the course continuously weaves left and right in between short ups and downs, with the occasional roots and rounded loose rocks & stones to contend with. Careful to keep my breathing normal, it was a perfect start to the day. The pack eventually thinned out as the sun rose, and before long the first of 2 loops was over in about 2:08.
Trading in my headlamp for my Jack and Adam’s bicycles visor, I quickly changed hand-held bottles (pre-stocked with gels and Metasalts), took a quick bite of a Bonkbreaker bar, and was quickly back on course. Loop 2 was almost a replay of loop 1, minus the darkness and the other runners around me. Just a nice steady pace, solid footwork, working the nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte plan, and thinking about how fortunate we as trail runners are to spend quality time outdoors like this. Loop 2 also afforded the opportunity to cheer on the other 50mile, 25km, and 10km runners that are out there and have all started at different times. The sun picked up its intensity in the late morning and I continued to press forward, knowing that not only have I run a smart race so far, but that a top-5 finish is also possible. I crossed the line for loop 2 in 2:07 or 2:08, 2nd place, thrilled to have gotten a good physical workout, but more importantly for me the mental challenge of a consistent pace the whole day.
This week will find me putting in slightly less volume, as next Saturday is another 50km effort, this time at the Squak Mountain Trail Run http://www.evergreentrailruns.com/414-squak-mtn-trail-run in Issaquah, WA. We’ll be visiting my sister Nicole and brother-in-law Ryan and their 3 fabulous kids! This course should be quite the change from Hells Hills, 8300’ of climbing!!!