The Strava split summary actually sums up last weekend’s XTERRA trail race pretty well:
I spent the day before cheering on a coworker who also happens to be a *awesome* triathlete (she placed top 5 in the pro division! Wootwoot!) and generally getting really nervous and pumped up as I watched the triathletes race the same course I’d be running the next day.
The next day I woke up nervous but excited, knowing I had a tough course ahead of me. I slapped on a Oiselle temporary tattoo since I was still waiting on my singlet (dang post-office forwarding lost it somehow), my favorite DIY singlet and short-shorts, and took off up the ski hill to warm up. The trail run portion of the event included 3 races: 20k, 10k, and 5k so I got to watch the 20kers take off about 10 minutes before my start time. They took off to a canon shot – talk about an adrenaline rush!
I arrived at the start line much more amped up than I’ve been for any of my previous summer races, perhaps due to the little added pressure of having a teammate of sorts (my coworker) at the race cheering for me, and hoping to live up to the trend that she started with her awesome race the day before. We didn’t get a canon, instead starting to a horn, but I still shot off the line like I was starting a track race, quickly ending up in 2nd behind the lead man.
Luckily I managed to calm down and drifted back a few spots, trying to hold a pace that wouldn’t put me deeply in debt when I hit the first big climb. I expected another woman to come up behind me during the whole first mile but instead held my spot as the first woman going into the 2nd mile and the first climb. Based on advice from some fellow trail runners and the triathletes from the day before I tried alternating power walking on the steep curves and running the straights of the winding switchback section. The grade jumps sharply at each turn, and walking at least felt more efficient. It also kept my breathing under control and kept the screaming in my legs to a dull roar, even as I stayed on the tail of the man in front of me. I found out after that I’d PR’d on the section by 5 seconds, so maybe there was something to the run-walk strategy!
After the first climb we had about a mile of steep but runnable downhill down a dirt road and onto some mellow single track. I was still in first and hadn’t seen any women close behind…was I actually going to hold onto this?!? I headed into the second climb feeling confident and strong from the long downhill recovery.
The second climb was ROUGH. The shock of switching from effortless downhill speed to the grinding exhaustion of more uphill running shook me mentally, making me wonder if I’d gone out way too aggressively. I started to fear that I’d falter so hard that I’d lose my lead and end up wimping myself out of a top 3 finish. I walked on a few sections much milder than the earlier switchbacks, but just couldn’t get any spring back in my step.
The happy surprise of an aid station and the resulting gift of cold, glorious water brought me out of my little pit of grumpiness and I managed to get back in sight of the guy in front of me on the final small climb. Unfortunately, right as I was starting to feel good again I realized my calf was sending regular twinges up my leg. I prayed it wouldn’t cramp and kept my eyes scanning for the calf-saving downhill that I knew was coming up soon.
Thankfully, my calf held off and I was able to enjoy the gorgeous wildflower views as I flew down the winding single track down off the mountain and towards the downhill dirt-road finish.
I happily ran through the finish, grateful that I had somehow managed to stay in first (!) and that my calf had managed to hold together over the last mile. I hadn’t had the best race mentally, but had paced well in the first half and had then pushed through the miserable section well enough to hold my position, and had even been able to regain enough zip to actually enjoy the last section. The course was a blast apart from the tough second climb, and the opportunity to spend an entire weekend cheering and racing with a friend was absolutely amazing.
Once I caught my breath my friend and I headed to the foam roller tent for a thorough, painful roll, grabbed some food, and then went on a 6 mile hike…because what better post-race cool down than a fun hike and a natural ice bath??
Hurrah for race weekends with friends and gorgeous, tough trail courses!