Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 High Desert Race Report. Part 1: "Welcome to the Half-Marathon Chump!"

Well, now that the dust has long settled on the High Desert Half-Marathon that took place this past Saturday, May 21st, 2011, and I have had the chance to recover and dissect the race a bit, I'll provide an update on the race and my performance. To start, let me say that the race was well organized and the director did a fine job of putting together a tough course with lots of variety and challenge. I was particularly interested in this race since the course was my "backyard" during our three years living out at the Emmert farm. The race course covered the same trails that I rode regularly when training for mountain bike races, but as I found out, ridin' ain't runnin' baby. Race day turned out to be a toasty 70+ degrees, which is great if your going out on a bike ride, but not so great if you're going to spend 90+ minutes sweating up and down the open desert country. As you can see by my face in the picture below, I had a tough day out there, but more on that later...

The Course appears starts off with two small "bumps" that look relatively minor on the profile, but knowing the terrian a bit I knew that those bumps would be very significant to the later stages of the race. The first little bump wasn't really that significant, just enough to stretch out the race a bit, but the second one, man! that was a big hill. Its not a good sign when everybody is walking the 2nd mile into a half-marathon, even the eventual winner who ran a solid 1:26 and change for this very tough course. Following the expected suffering going up, I settled into a comfortable rythym for the middle miles and found myself in second place rather comfortably. These middle miles went up and down but the footing was the real challenge. I started to find it was hard to get into that numb zone on the irregular terrian. By mile seven, I noticed that my bandana I started with as a sweat band was completely saturated and I decided to chuck it, I think this was a big mistake because I found that afterwards I seemed to have a really hard time getting cooled off and most of my water was depleted as I started off into the no-man's-land between the mile 7 and mile 10 aid stations.

Shortly after ditching the bandana, I realized that I was probably in some trouble as I just couldn't get cooled off. I hoped that the downhill from the 7-9 mile mark would help me recover but the footing was just too tricky to open up and rest so I kept on chuggin along until the guy who had been shadowing me for the past 7 miles passed me and I couldn't respond. I underestimated my recovery I would get on this hill that is super fast and fun on a bike but only mildly soothing on foot. My only hope was that I could make it without too much damage to the aid station at mile 10 and recover some fluids before charging up the long grind to the high-point of the race and to the finish.

By mile 9.5 I had to walk.

I'm not proud of that statement, but when you feel your legs harden up and your head is pounding you just do what is best at that moment. I got passed by the 4th place guy shortly after that. He was moving along pretty good and I figured he pick off the guy in 2nd who looked to be struggling himself. Mike Carlson was in 1st place and was probably going over the top by the time we got to the 10 mile mark.

There were three of us who came through the 10 mile aid station within a minute or two of each other, and when we hit the base of the big hill it was a grinding slugfest to see who would survive. Unfortunately, for me anyway, I lost the slugfest and put in a 13 minute mile from mile 11 to 12. I could see the runners ahead of me struggling too, but there was nothing I could do. At one point I got really pissed and started running after one of the guys, but he looked back and saw me and took off as well. At that point I knew it was just me. Right before mile 12 another guy came up from behind and picked me off, there was nothing I could do. I had cramps in my calves, hammies, and glutes, and my head was pounding.

(This picture was taken on a pre-race run on the course from the high point of the race near mile 12, it doesn't look that steep, but that's the magic of photographs, they never look as good as in person...)

I managed to run the last mile in about 8 minutes, but only because I was being chased down by 6th place and I refused to concide one more spot and finish out of the awards. Crossing the finish line was a joyful moment, but seeing my kids in the back of our car with their aunt made it even better.

(Feeling the blues despite finishing a very tough race, I guess that's how you feel when you go from 2nd to 5th in less than a mile...)

(Sweet sight to behold, I love seeing these guys at the race, check out Myles' duds...)

Despite pounding the fluids for the next 2-3 hours I was in a funky state of dehydration, but after forcing down some fries and a burger chased by a large root beer from Artic Circle, I was starting to feel better. I even started contemplating what might have been on a different day. After all, I had put in the best training season of my life up until this point, I was hitting sub-7 minute/mile pace easily on workouts, and had even thrown in a couple of uphill mile repeats in the low 6 min/mile. So what happened? My guess is that the heat really sapped me, since most of my training is done in the mornings and the majority of afternoon runs I've done this year were still in cool conditions. I think that I might have missed my ideal taper a bit as well, that perhaps an easier week might have changed some things. As the brain cells started to work a bit better again, I began contemplating a rematch with the half-marathon, if only there was one to run... oh wait, I think Mike Lapp was going to run one next weekend...

Stick around for Part 2...

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