Week 9, TL; DR version: I came down with a cold and I completed a 50-mile week, culminating with a 21.6 mile run on Sunday.
Week 9, extended version:
I don’t mean to complain, because I know people get sick all the time, but I’d forgotten how much having a cold sucks. It’s been years since I’ve gotten truly ill, i.e., to the point of actually taking medication. I credit running with keeping my immunity strong, as well as avoiding small children (a.k.a. disease-carrying time bombs). The good news is that it seems to be progressing rather quickly through the various phases: sore throat, dry cough, congestion, and runny nose. I’m looking forward to the last and final phase of phlegm-y coughing so I can be done with it (if it comes at all – I’m trying to avoid it at all costs). The worst part so far has been not being able to sleep well, which, when mixed with a high mileage week, can be quite frustrating. So far, the cold hasn’t interrupted my training schedule, but if it gets into my chest, that might be problematic.
Anyway! Enough about my first world runner problems. Let’s get to the running, shall we? As I mentioned above, last week was my first 50-mile week of this training cycle. My runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were not particularly fast or notable, but I got them done, which is the important thing. My cold started on Thursday and by Saturday morning, I was congested enough to wonder whether I should run at all, let alone 6.5 miles on Saturday followed by 21.6 on Sunday. After breakfast on Saturday, I took some cold meds (thank goodness for Advil Cold & Sinus) and rinsed my sinuses with my trusty neti pot, then headed out for an easy jog around the neighborhood. I reasoned that staying close to home would allow me to stop at any point if running got too uncomfortable. More importantly, it would help me assess whether I would have to alter Sunday’s long run plans. I was happy and relieved to find that I felt just fine during my run; actually, I felt better after my run, though I don’t know if that was because of the exercise or because the meds kicked in. Either way, Sunday’s 21.6 miles was definitely on.
Mini-recap: Lake Chabot Trail Challenge (LCTC) Half Marathon
I’ll try to keep this recap brief since I ran this race 3 years ago, and also because the race was part of a long training run. Even though I run at Lake Chabot all the time, I was excited to do this race because LCTC was my very first trail half. It didn’t go exactly as I wanted, mostly because I had just started trail running that year and wasn’t prepared mentally to race a trail half marathon. I recall feeling extremely defeated by mile 5 and then fighting with myself for 8 long miles over whether to keep going or to quit. It wasn’t pretty.
I had a feeling that I would do better this year than in 2012, when I finished in 2:48:56 and 153rd out of 163 finishers – probably my worst placing to date. But my confidence was tempered by my head cold (see above) and by the fact that I’d have to run another 8.5 miles after the race. So, much like Wildcat, I couldn’t go all out. It would be a good way for me to practice patience as well as fueling — two things that are vital to the success of any ultramarathon endeavor.
My biggest advantage this time around was experience. I’ve become a seasoned trail runner in the past 3 years, and a lot of those miles were logged at Lake Chabot. Plus, having run this particular course previously gave me psychological and strategic insight into how to best tackle this race.
I did my usual pre-race routine (breakfast, etc.), picked up my bib at 7:30 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. start (gotta love small races), and met up with LJ who was running the 5K. We chatted until 7:55 a.m., when it appeared that we were supposed to line up for our respective races. As in 2012, the announcements were made with a bullhorn that was completely indecipherable. The half marathoners lined up behind a long chain of cones – still the weirdest starting corral that I’ve been in, to date. At some point, the gun went off and we started running.
In the first mile, I made small talk with a local runner named Cyrus. After a while, I noticed we were moving along faster than I had wanted to (sub-10:00/mile pace), so I excused myself and wished him a good race. We hit the first big hill at ~1.5 miles, an extended but mostly runnable grade up Cameron. I decided to run/walk this and most of the other shallower ascents throughout the race and I think it worked really well for me. I was able to keep up with those around me who were jogging slowly and bomb past them on the downhills. As with Wildcat, I managed to take advantage of the descents and passed quite a few people along the way — I’m starting to really like running down hills! (Never thought I would say that…)
After crossing the footbridge around mile 3 is the start of the second and steepest ascent in the entire course, up Live Oak and Towhee trails. Having run/hiked up this trail more than a handful of times in the past 3 years, I’ve become familiar enough with it to know when to run and when to walk. I tried to encourage the runners around me, especially those poor souls who had never been up this trail and had no idea what to expect. I worked my way slowly but steadily up to the top, where my work was rewarded by a cold, refreshing cup of Gatorade.
From there on out, it was smooth sailing. I ran when I could (downhills and flats) and ran/walked when it got hilly. I made friends around mile 6 with a couple visiting from out-of-town and chatted with them for about half a mile. I was surprised that despite keeping my effort relatively easy, I was still occasionally catching up to runners and passing them. I never sprung into full-on race mode, but when the Lake Chabot Marina came into view, I decided to ramp up my effort a bit and ended up passing a few more runners in the last mile. I crossed the finish line in 2:30:52, 18 minutes faster than in 2012! I was thrilled. My placing had significantly improved as well: 7th out of 14 in my age group (women 35-39); 49th out of 94 females; and 142nd out of 226 overall. It was a great feeling to know – concretely and quantitatively – how much stronger I’ve gotten in the past 3 years as a runner.
I took an extended, 15-minute break to use the restroom, wash my face, take in some fuel, and load a podcast before commencing the rest of my long run. Despite my intention to run the half marathon easy, I did push it a little bit harder especially towards the end. As a result of that, and due to rising temps and full sun, my 8.5-mile loop around Lake Chabot was somewhat of a slog-fest. I didn’t get frustrated though — I knew it was important to just get time on my feet, and tired ones at that. I didn’t think much about how many miles I had already run, or how many I still had left. I think getting to that kind of mental space (i.e., being present) will be key for Big Basin.
The one thing that I did continuously focus on was fueling. Ingesting a combination of Gu gels, Clif Bloks, Honey Stingers Waffles, a Picky Bar, Kettle chips, and Gatorade, I made sure to get at least 200 calories per hour. Considering that I was out there for almost 4.5 hours, this was a big task! It was fun to experiment with new foods – especially the solid ones – while running. However, not being able to breathe in and out of my nose (due to the cold) posed a serious problem while chewing and running at the same time. I learned to take smaller bites and to wash it down with water. I love Picky Bars, but I will probably save that for the midway “lunch” aid station at Big Basin, when I plan to stop for a few minutes to eat.
I finished my run in 4 hours and 23 minutes, ~2700′ of elevation gain/loss under my belt. I felt tired, but not completely destroyed. All things considered, I think that the 21.6-miler went very well. 24 hours later, I don’t feel nearly as sore as I was last week after Pleasanton Ridge, or after Wildcat. The next big challenge is in 2 weeks, when I’ll run my first trail marathon at Canyon Meadows. It will be my longest training run of the training cycle and with an estimated finish time of 5.5 hours, it will also the longest run (time-wise) I’ve ever done!
And because this has been such a wordy post, I leave you with this somewhat random, not-running-related photo: