The best part about racing with TBF is the history I have with the group. Two years of twenty-hour weekends running the events, and to come back as a racer feels comfortable. I know the people, I know the organization, and even if eighty percent of the volunteers are new to me, it still feels like the same group I spend so much time with. So coming into this race, I didn’t come with the idea of winning, or even treating it as an A or B race, it was just a fun event, on a course that’s outside of my usual training routes, with some extra organization and support that makes it a more fun venue.
Since I’ve run this course (or similar) twice in the past, I knew what to expect, and I knew not to work too hard at any point since the hills run through the entire route, so I took off easy, didn’t work too hard, and enjoyed chatting with a few people when I could. I expected to breeze through the hills since I had done a decent amount of hill training in prep for Big Sur, but I will say that they were harder than I remembered. I’m not training quite as much as I should for the upcoming marathon, and to make this post short, I’m not entirely satisfied with what my performance means for April, but I was just a couple minutes slower than my last time on this course (2012) and felt okay, just not great. It definitely met its goal of a much more interesting training run for this short-weekend training day. I just hope this means I won’t do poorly next week at Shamrock’n.
When a race is radically different than anything you’ve ran before, how do you tell if you did well? That’s what’s been running through my mind since seeing my results of the Fleet Feet Blood Sweat and Beers trail run. I mean, I’ve done trail runs before, but nothing with this kind of elevation profile. Thankfully, data analysis is what I do.
10:26 pace. Ten… twenty… six. For me, that’s awful. I felt good on the run, felt like I accomplished a decent run and decent pace. But mid 10s? I’ve only done that bad when I bonked hard. So why the bad pace, or was this normal? Fortunately, as a local run by Fleet Feet, there’s plenty of opportunity to compare myself to others.
Of the 112 runners I could find that ran both, I was 25th in my Shamrock’n time. For BSB, I was 28th — pretty consistent. 46 ran faster on Shamrock’n than BSB, 66 slower, so I’m in the majority there. And the average difference was ~10 minutes, so my 1 minute delta is also pretty in-line, in fact, a bit better than expected. So if I use comparative analysis as a measure of success, than I did pretty well. That makes me feel better.
Hills, hills, and more hills. Every racer seemed to complain about the big hill at the end, but take a look at the elevation profile. The end is no different than the entire rest of the race… it’s just at mile 10. There are certainly worse runs, but 10-12% grades through a large portion of the course meant that there was a lot of climbing. In fact, at one point, I was jogging behind someone walking up the hill, and realized that I wasn’t closing any distance on him. And I’m jogging, why? Yeah, at that point, I started walking some of the worst hills.
The people along the course were very friendly. I ran along side two runners through most of the race, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, but generally nearby, and got to talk to them quite a bit about the run. I also ran alongside a few other people, and each time, it was great. There was a lot of encouragement to be had, a lot of people enjoying the tough course, and generally a sense, not of race competitiveness, but of social encouragement and engagement. I loved it!
Diane and Tripp, and Robert and Terri came out to see the race, though they missed the start by a few minutes. It was great, though, afterwards having family to see. As well, Micki (former TBF), Paul (from Carmichael Running Club), and a lot of other runners were there at the end to chat with, talk to, and commiserate with over the free beers provided by Hoppy Brewing Company. I mean, the race was named Blood Sweat and Beers, right?
Other than the small USAA 5k race, I’ve never podiumed on a race before. Did I deserve to get there? No, not really. My age group was one of the worst represented at the race, but do I care? Not at the moment. I enjoyed my moment on the stand, I love the plaque, and I’d be grateful to make it up on a podium again! Had I been female, my time would have gotten me 4th place. Had I been 40-49, eighth place, 50-59, seventh place. 30-39… second place!
The Course, or the Ever-Improving-Mark-Shaw
I have to take a moment to speak on this race versus my last TBF trail half marathon. The first time that TBF did a half on the Granite Beach trails, I think the race was short about a quarter to a half mile. I look at the resulting times between the two races, and the statistics point to the very same belief; the average time was about ten minutes faster, and the number of people in the 1:30s was astoundingly high. Now take this race: my GPS still shows it short, but it’s also not very accurate, the times seem appropriate, and the GPS versus the stated distance were well within the accuracy bounds. I think Mark has done a great job improving the course, both for accuracy, and for having a pretty even lobe on the south side of the beach (about half the race) and the north side. So Mark Shaw, well done sir.
My Mental See-Saw
So now to how the race went for me. I’m still under-trained, and so I struggled more with this race than I should have. But I also learned a few things about myself and my racing that I think I should put down in my blog. First of all, thinking you’re right behind someone can be a great motivation to speed up! At about mile eight, I was told that I was within spitting distance of Bill. I know he’s in much better shape than I am, and he blew away my time last year at Shamrock’n, so the idea of catching up with him was very appealing. I felt I had enough left in me, so I picked up my pace by about a minute per mile, and flew by several of my competitors. It felt great! Unfortunately, the speed-up did not leave enough in me for the hill that was at mile ten, so I lost my momentum there, and didn’t really gain it back. Oh well, “A” for effort!
Most of my time in the back half of the race was a struggle between two conflicting mindsets. One told me that I just needed to relax, let gravity do most of the work, and make my way to the end. The other was the drive to push myself faster to keep under two hours. I’ve never done a half in more than two hours, so when I reached mile eight, with five to go, and realized that I was an hour and a quarter into the race, I knew I had to get down below nine minute miles consistently (including hills) in order to do the last five in 45 minutes. So off I went, and I learned something. Gluts are great for climbing hills!
In the past, I’ve always used my hips and quads to lift my legs when ascending. However, as they were pretty beat down by that point, I discovered that instead of pulling my legs up with my quads, I could push my legs up with my gluts. This whole new muscle set really allowed me to go for the last half of the race, and brought me a new found set of muscles that I could interchange with others for extra speed. w00t!
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in under two, so I was quite a bit disappointed in what I did. But when I saw some runners that I highly respect, and know are better than me, come in behind me, and then when I got to stand on the podium, I was no longer quite as disappointed in my time. I still finished in the top third of the race (25.8%), and with the “trail penalty,” would still have what I would consider a respectable time, I just wish I hadn’t broken the two hour mark. Oh well, next time!
Or shall I say… trail jog? I went back and looked at my time from running the Granite Bay Half Marathon in 2009, which was essentially this same course. My pace then? Just shy of 9s. My pace today? Just shy of 10s! So I’ve slowed down a minute… not a great accomplishment for two years. I’m disappointed in retrospect, but I’m just getting back into running after essentially two years off, so I guess I shouldn’t compare myself to what I could do after a couple years of pretty constant running.
Since I’m not treating this as a “race” per se, but just as a training run prior to Shamrock’n, I haven’t been careful about tapering. Today, that backfired. About thirty minutes in a horse stance last night, and my quads and gluts were not in shape for the amount of climbing in this race. After the massive hill around mile two, on every hill thereafter (and there are lots!), I’d slow down more than normal, and take longer to recover than I’d wish. Oh well, karate was fun!
The trails at Granite Beach on Folsom Lake are beautiful, and the weather looked like it would rain, but instead was cooperatively perfect: chilly enough to keep from actively sweating, without shivering or feeling cold. In fact, I started the race with gloves, but took them off three miles in and never put them back on.
The course is essentially constant hills on single track the whole way. Trees over more than 90% of the course, winding, rocky… great non-technical MTB track, which also makes it a great trail running location. Fast and steep climbs, long slogs, flat areas, sand, and more. This time, I had to walk part of the big hill at mile 2, but I didn’t walk any other time. At mile three, Harry once again separated from me, this time to take over a minute between us by the end!
Around mile five or six, I stopped feeling like my legs and body were near their limit, and finally kicked into a nice run. It’s surprising that I don’t see that same result in my GPS, it looks like I slowed way down around there, but the feeling was a lot more steady. I had one person ahead of me, and one behind, and we kept pace together pretty well. Having energy back near the end, I kicked it up to a more “me” pace for the last mile, and finished the race strong.
I’m sore. My gluts hurt, as do my legs, and I definitely worked hard to make this run happen. However, that’s the point, right? I actually ran three times the week before this race, and hopefully will be keeping up a more rigorous training schedule. Karate twice a week, running two to three times a week… back to health and fitness, and fun.
And thanks again, Harry, for the encouragement to get out and race! I’ve been enjoying this, and look forward to a lot more through the year!
It’s been almost a year since my last race. Thinking ahead, Harry convinced me (without a lot of arm-twisting), to do the new TBF winter trail run series. It’s bi-weekly, starting with a 10k run, then a 10 miler, and lastly a half marathon.
The challenge on this race wasn’t my only four miles of running in the previous month. Nor was it the fact that this was a trail run. I mean, I did four miles prior to Shamrock’n last year, and did fine. The big challenge was that I had to catch a flight to Anaheim at 1pm for work, so I had to finish quickly, and get home and shower! Of course, I was packed already in case I had to drive straight for the airport, but that’s just being smart.
All in all, I wouldn’t call this a race for me. The main reason that I’m doing it is that the distances and dates are set perfectly to have myself at least a little more ready for Shamrock’n than last year. So my low 9s, which would have been marginal to poor on a real race day (8-8:10s + 0:30 for trail handicap), was just fine for a good training run. And my results aren’t so bad.
One of the best parts of the race was getting to mile 4.5 or so, and telling Harry to go ahead! He replied with a soft “no,” which I convinced him to change by saying that he needed enough of a lead on me so that I couldn’t beat him in a sprint-off at the end. I stayed within sight of him for the last miles, and only finished about 40 seconds behind him, but regardless, congratulations Harry for beating me at a race!