I've had two great weekends, with two great but challenging races. Last weekend, I ran in part 2 of the Triple Crown of Running - the Summer Roundup Half Marathon, now located in the stupendous Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Today, I ran in the Barr Trail Mountain Race, the perfect primer for the Triple Crown's final leg - the Pikes Peak Ascent.
As the latest in my Mighty Marmot race team blog, here are my race reports for both races.
Summer Roundup Half Marathon
In short, I felt great. I'm still adjusting to a new work schedule, working nights mostly on my feet, but in the end it didn't get to me. I was well trained after lots of hill work in Blodgett Open Space, well rested, and feeling relatively healthy. I managed to beat my target time by a considerable margin.
It's my new favorite race, too. It was well organized, friendly and situated in beautiful rolling terrain. The crowds thinned out quickly, and for much of the race I was running on my own. The trails were in good shape and wide enough most of the way to allow for relatively easy passing, too.
I was mostly just glad I did all the that hill work beforehand. The course's second loop over the Talon trails packs quite the uphill punch, netting a large chunk of the course's ~2000ft total elevation gain. I focused on keeping a sustainable (i.e. fairly slow) pace on this long uphill stretch, saving energy so I could remain nimble-footed on the remaining mostly downhill stretch to the finish line. I'm glad I did - I passed more than a few who had burned out pushing to hard up the hill, and was able to zoom back down, despite it being quite rocky in places. I'm prone to clumsy elephant stopping once my legs get too tired, but crisis averted this time.
Barr Trail Mountain Race
Today was great too, but I was admittedly not feeling tip top, and it showed. I'm doing this for fun and health, though, not to be competitive, so I'm still stoked to have completed such a great race. I signed up for the race long before being selected as a Mighty Marmot, and have been looking forward to it for a long time. I don't like spending huge amounts of money on races, but signed up for this one - I wanted an accessible but challenging race that would push me to train and maintain my health regimen. It definitely lived up to that, and was the perfect complement to the TCR.
I wasn't able to train as much - or rest as much - during the week prior. My work schedule was even more tiring, and my fortnightly dose of immunosuppressants (for Crohn's disease) took a lot out of me.
I've frequented the Barr Trail a fair amount, so knew what to expect from the terrain and challenging ~3,400ft elevation gain, but my biggest worry leading up to the race was how to best to pace myself while navigating the crowds on the often very narrow trail. I was pleasantly surprised, though, that the level of trail etiquette was high. I hope others had the same positive experience I did - from what I saw, runners stopped to help whenever anybody tripped, and almost everybody seemed courteous and safe when passing. While it was essentially a conga line up the W's (the steep, narrow switchbacks that characterize the first 3 or so miles), it was easy to relax into the climb, before the crowds thinned out later in the race. I was running on my own for most miles 6-9, and the runners, hikers and incliners towards the bottom seemed way better than usual about sharing the trail.
Knowing I wasn't feeling well before the race, I took a relaxed attitude, and felt pretty good until around mile 9. Then, similar to what happened to me during the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile, my gut decided to go on strike. I pushed through the pain, albeit slowly, and was able to stop just short of passing out after the finish line. Oh well, I survived, and felt well enough to partake in the delicious beer, pizza and BBQ after the race.
The contrast between the two races in terms of my performance typifies my biggest struggle: consistency. On good days I can be quite fast, at least for somebody who was never naturally athletic, but bad days can feel like a painful trudge.
To some extent I can blame it on my Crohn's disease - I'm prone to nutrient deficiencies, and my energy and pain levels can fluctuate unpredictably from day to day.
That said, I know consistency is something that virtually everybody struggles with on some level. Life happens, and we're only human. It's important to keep at it, and not beat ourselves up too much when we can't (or don't).