Gun-to-Chip Time: 5:02:10 (9:58 min/mile)
Bib #504. Overall: 14/178. M20-29: 3/14. Male: 14/114.
– Mile 12.8: 1:50:12 (8:37 min/mile)
– Mile 17.5: 3:11:57 (10:58 min/mile)
My main goal today was to avoid injury, not to push too hard, and have a fun run.
This was definitely fun. The course was scenic. The aid stations were great. The people were awesome!
This race was also hard… After settling in, I felt pretty good up until mile 23.75. During trail races, I try to avoid checking my mileage as much as possible. I checked at the Mockingbird A/S (13.0 miles) out of curiosity. I also checked at mile 21 as I started really feeling the heat setting in. And I checked at 23.75 (and several times afterward).
The problem at 23.75 was the last, big hill. It was long (spanning miles 23-27). It also wasn’t that steep (some 1100-ft gain). So I was in this twilight zone of stop and go. The hill wasn’t steep enough for walking to be more efficient than running. But if I didn’t get through it quickly, I was only going to prolong exposure to the heat (this section had almost zero cover). What’s more: the next aid station was on top of the hill at Mile 27.3!!!
Around Mile 24, I ran out of fluid. I’m not a fan of carrying too much stuff when I run. So I only carried two 10oz bottles with me. I savored the last drop of water in one bottle. Then I saved the last ounce in the other.
I think around mile 25, two runners passed me, including one who looked over 60. Incidentally, they passed me while we were all walking. (In fact, almost every time I was passed today, I was walking, they were walking. I need to working on my walking game! — though that said, it was actually quite sobering to have extended walk breaks and still see my heart rate hover at 90%.)
This was also when I started cramping. Weirdly, it was my left quad that cramped. That’s never happened before! It felt like my quad was trying to pull away from the knee. It didn’t hurt per se, but I didn’t want to aggravate it. At the same time, I also felt my left abductors. That’s also not happened before… it was disconcerting.
Fortunately, my calves didn’t seize (though they seriously threatened to). Ultimately, there was nothing I could do but walk and hope that the cramps would go away. My mind wavered between DNF-ing… and still trying to finish under 5 hours (“I’m done… but the only way back is this route!… I just finished 25 miles in 4 hours and 8 minutes… Can I finish the last 5 miles in 50 minutes?!”).
After some time, the cramps somehow went away. I crested the hill, where the Bull Run A/S awaited (where I couldn’t help but yell “I am so glad to see you guys.”) I topped up my fluids, and I took a short break in the shade. I couldn’t believe refreshed I felt. One of the volunteers asked me if I’d run Quicksilver before. When I answered no — he told me (and another runner who had caught up to me): “It’s all downhill from here!”
He was mostly right. The last 3 miles was really almost all downhill. There were a few annoying last uphills, but I was able to stay confidently strong for about half of it. But by the time the final mile of descent arrived, I just didn’t have the strength to attack it.
When I crossed the finish line, I was relieved… and bummed. Despite my “don’t push!” goal, I did want to finish under 5 hours. I missed it by a little over two minutes. I had no idea where I placed, nor did I care. I stumbled forward and fell into a chair. I was light-headed; my face and extremities tingled. A kind volunteer got me all sorts of sugary sodas… things I religiously avoid from day to day. I finished the first Mountain Dew in one shot. Runners who finished ahead of me congratulated me, and I returned the congratulations. As it turned out, many runners ahead of me had fallen, including the front-runner (who ended up placing 2nd due to a fall). Many sported cuts and scrapes. One runner was surprised that I finished unscathed. I consider that a win.
As more runners finished, the race director started the first iteration of the awards ceremony (he repeated it several times as more batches of runners finished). Somehow, I finished 3rd in my age group. Ultra-marathoners at my table (where we were all eating) mentioned that my 5:02 was, in fact, pretty good for this course… a compliment that I’ll accept. 🙂
* This course featured three distinct sets of ascent/descent, each one with about 1600-2000ft of total ascent. The course also featured the first ascent over 3.1 miles immediately at the start. I’m somewhat conflicted as to whether I prefer this versus a whole lot of rolling hills (I think I prefer the long ascent/descents).
* I may haven taken off too quickly on the first ascent. I also didn’t warm up, so I actually felt pretty shitty on this first ascent. At the end of the first big hill, I was surprised that there were only about 12-13 runners ahead of me. Actually, I was even more surprised that the leaders were only about 3-4 miles ahead. (It was possible for me to count because of two consecutive out-and-backs — one to an old Spanish cemetery, and another to the Hicks Road aid station). I wonder, in retrospect, if I spent too much gas on the first hill, which ultimately costed me on the third hill. I also wonder if there’s some merit to trying to run faster in the beginning when it’s still cool.
* This was the first time I’ve raced on trails I’ve never seen before. So I was apprehensive about getting lost. And, I definitely did get nervous after leaving the Mockingbird A/S (I had previewed the course only up to that station). Ultimately, I was impressed by how well the course was marked and marshaled. There were only a few times I felt confused. The only time I really got concerned was the last mile before the last aid station (when I really needed aid). I was lucky to have a woman (actually the first woman finisher) about 400 meters behind me, who I yelled out to.
* I was very pleasantly surprised by the diversity of runners, volunteers and supporters. A couple aid stations were relatively remote. Volunteers had to access them on foot. So I was surprised to see them so well staffed and stocked! After the run, I also had a chance to met many different runners, including a runner from the Excelsior racing team, a runner visiting with his family from Toronto (“why not run when you travel?” he said — I can’t agree more!), some local San Jose runners, an EMT running the Tilden Tough Ten next week!
Another week, another race. Next week, I’ll be volunteering for, and racing, the Tilden Tough 10 in Berkeley! The goal will be same: avoid injury, take it as easy as possible. It’s also possible now that I might not start? It’ll be my first DNS. We’ll see how well I recover from today’s race
Then I’ll be off to Ottawa for the Ottawa Marathon in two weeks!