Sunday, February 6, 2011

McDowell Mountain 15 miler Race Report

After yesterdays fiasco (see earlier post entitled "I Am A Moron"), I drove back to the race site this morning and this time, nobody had bikes. The weather was beautiful, af a bit cold at around 40F but it was sure to get warmer during the race so I decided to run in half tights, t-shirt (my "HealthAndAdventure" La Sportiva, of course), arm warmers and light gloves. I had bought a brand new pair of shoes for this race, a pair of Mizuno Ascend 5, but despite how beat up my Crosslites look with the side-fabric pretty much busted open, I decided to use them.

People looked fit. I knew that people would be fast, because of the short distance. Same thing happens at the ITT, with it's shorted 32k distance it attracts fast trail runners we don't usually see at ultras. Not too many ultra runners here though, although there were a few. Gators and handhelds are a dead giveaway. I wore my Haliburton hoodie until the start and a couple of ultra runners came and talked to me.

At 8AM sharp, we started running. The first couple of miles were flat-ish. It was nice and cool and I was running without fluids, a luxury I knew I could afford with aid stations every few miles. Then the trail started going up. None of that rolling hills shit. Up. For miles at a time. Then down a bit. Then up for more miles. The incline was not too steep though. Where back home trails tend to go up a hill straight up (thereby crushing runners legs and spirit), here they use switchbacks to make it more manageable and runner friendly. Cultural difference I guess. The course was a big loop, but with a one mile spur at around 5.5 miles.

I felt good so I started at a solid pace, sub 5min/km. I passed a few people and then settled in a group I felt comfortable following. This was no ultra and there wasn't much talking. When we hit the uphills, I ran with a solid effort but nothing stupid. Obviously, a lot of runners can't write the same on their blogs because my group desintegrated and I pushed on to the next one.  I was climbing as fast as I dared considering the fact that you could see groups of runners really far ahead still climbing the same hill. On the first major downhill, I decided to run as hard as I could. The trail was nice but challenging enough that I didn't quite go as hard as I could have but I didn't want to trip.

As I entered the spur (which is downhill on the way out) at around 5.5 miles, the leader was just climbing out of it, with a stream of others maybe 20 seconds behind him. The downhill was challenging, barelling down the rocky single track and having to move over to let those guys up. After the turnaround, which was up a nasty, very steep but short uphill, I got my second cup of Gatorade. The guy in front of me got a gel.

At this point, I have to go to commercial for a rant about gels. You can't just eat a gel while running and expect your stomach to process it. You have to drink a lot of water. Not Gatorade, water. If the concentration of carbs in our stomach exceeds a certain limit (set by your level of effort), the stomach just shuts down and waits for you to stop running. Drinking Gatorade with a gel is like putting oil on the fire. It doesn't help. Gatorade (well sport drinks in general) already contains an optimum (well, you know what I mean) amount of carbs. If they could put more calories in Sport drinks they would, but they can't. Gels are like Gatorade powder. Would you just take a spoon of Gatorade powder at an aid station and guess-timate how much water to drink? So when a guy who's been huffin' and puffin' going up a hill decides to gulp a GU, with which he should probably drink two cups of water but I know he didn't, I want to slap him on the back of the head. Gels are a convenient way to transport energy, but they take a lot of experimenting and are more appropriate for extended efforts where your pace is slower and therefore you can tolerate more carbs in your stomach. Ok. Done. Back to our program.

As I leave the aid station and start up the mile-long climb out, I get passed by 3 guys! WTF? Nobody has passed me yet! WHo do they think they are? Resistance is futile, I'm climbing as fast as I dare. After the climb, a sweet downhill and I really push it. I'm having the beginning of a side stitch. That last Gatorade is sloshing all over the place. Halfway up the next short uphill (half a mile) I look up and I see that my gel-eating friend is walking. Probably the gel. I pass him and look up to see another of the guys walking. He's too far to catch on this hill, but I'll get him. I'm really starting to enjoy my race.

The next three miles are pretty much downhill and I'm having a hard time catching those two. I turn a corner and there's a fairly short uphill with one of my pals struggling to get up. I pass him near the top of the hill. There's another mile-long uphill coming. Not too steep but it kicks me in the balls. Then with about 3.5 miles to go, it's pretty much all downhill from there. I go as hard as I can. As I run down, I can see long stretches of the trail ahead and below me. I see 4 runners, most of which I'm pretty sure I won't be able to pass. The first one is the 3rd guy who passed me. He must pay. I get to him fairly quickly. He's done like dinner and not moving well. Probably had a gel as well. Then, surprisingly, I get close to the next two, a guy and a chick and I eventually pass them both.

I get closer to the last guy and with a mile to go I'm right behind him. I don't want to go for a sprint right at the finish line because if the guy is not into it I'll look like an ass. On the other hand, if I pass him too soon he might hang on and do it to me. It's happened to me before. His legs look shaved so he's probably a triathlete (they are verywhere here) and will resist. With about 1k to go, I pass him but just as I pass him, the terrain starts rolling instead of steadily going down. This is going to hurt. Even worse, I hear him right behind me. He's not letting me go. We're pretty much going uphill now and, as they say in the books, I ventilate like a mad man. Where is that finish? With what my Garmin says is 400 meters to go I'm starting to hurt. My foe has fallen back a bit, I think, but I can hear him and he's definitely within striking distance. All of a sudden, I go up a short steep hill and I'm on the parking lot where the finish is. I can see it. I take off like a bat out of hell. I finish in 2:05:57 and he finishes 6 seconds later.My overall pace was about 5:12min/km which I'm pretty happy with.

I haven't raced a shorter, intense race like this in a while, over two years actually. I love ultras, but the racing aspect is a bit more pronounced in shorter races. That being said, for a guy who hasn't run short in a while I think I ran it pretty smart. Nobody passed me and got away with it. I passed plenty of people. That being said, it's tempting to think that I should have started a bit faster, worked the hills a bit harder but  I'm not sure I could have done much better.

I'm sore as hell right now. My friend the right Achilles is on fire but he's just pissed. I'll take an easy week and next Saturday (YES, Saturday), it's the Sedona marathon.

Good times.


Derrick said...

Congrats on a great race JD! Sounds like you ran it very smart indeed and probably would have been a mistake to go much harder early on.

Enjoy your 'taper(?)' for the marathon.

West Grey Runner said...

Great race JD, no , matter what the distance a 5:12 pace on the trail is super fast. So what about results?

David said...

Gawd I wish I was there, sounds like a perfect trail race. Well run, congrats. good luck next weekend, quick Quiz, what day is the Marathon run on?

chris mcpeake said...

Great race JD
To think you live in a world where 15 miles is a "short race".

Well done

Maryka said...

It must be nice to be running in the warm weather JD!

Now while your rant about gels may be true for most people, it's not for me. For years, I kept taking gels with water because I was told that's what I was supposed to do. I kept getting stomach cramps, so I assumed I should be taking MORE water with them....and the cramps got worse. So I decide to try them without water: no more cramps! I actually have to wait about 10 minutes before or after taking a gel to drink water. So if you ever see me doing this, please don't smack me on the head!