If 2016 was a year of super consistent running, then 2017 has so far been the polar opposite. As I’ve complained all year, I’ve yet to find my groove, whether that’s been due to burnout, lack of motivation, and/or life/work events. After a grueling race at the Cinderella Half, I had a week off before I dove into a full week of 12-14 hour work days (not including commute). This left me very little time at home, let alone run. So, for the first time in a long while, I ran zero miles for a week.
The day after the crazy week at work ended (and one week before the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge, or LCTC), I slept in and went on a trail run, thinking my legs would be all rejuvenated. Hm, maybe my legs were fine, but I was definitely still very, very tired. I cut my run short, though I did make myself ascend one of the steep hills just to make the run feel worthwhile.
I continued to have short, crappy, sluggish runs the week before LCTC. So, when race day rolled around, I didn’t have high expectations. Because of some construction going on at Lake Chabot, the course was different than in years past. This was in some ways a relief, as I wouldn’t have a point of comparison to past years that I’ve run this race (2012, 2015). Also, coming off a tough race at Cinderella, I really just wanted to finish feeling strong (i.e., not like death). My plan was to start easy, and try to run as consistently as possible during the race. I didn’t have a specific time goal, but I thought it would be nice to finish in less than 3 hours. Since I wasn’t racing with friends, I decided to bring music with me to keep my spirits up. I don’t normally race with music, especially on trails, but I made an exception this time.
Pre-race activities all went smoothly. It’s such a small race that logistics are really easy. At 10 minutes to race start (5K runners started 30 minutes after the half marathon), there were announcements and directions. Then the kids of the Lake Chabot Track Club, which this race benefits, came out and did a little sprint warm-up in front of us. Right around 8:00 a.m., the race director did a count down and then we were off!
As planned, I stayed in the back of the pack for the initial miles. The first (and last) 1.5 miles of the course are paved, and people have a tendency to go off too fast. I took it as a warm-up and didn’t think twice as people passed me. I had to make a quick pit-stop as I forgot to go for a pre-race pee (TMI). Fortunately, there are pit toilets all along the first part of the trail. I was in and out in less than a minute.
The rest of the race went according to plan – except for one hiccup (*foreshadowing*). On the hilly portions, I thought about a trail running podcast where one of the hosts said that runners have a tendency to run up hills too fast/hard and down hills too slow. So I made sure I wasn’t charging up hills and ran more aggressively down them. I ended up passing ~10-15 people this way, and only one runner passed me back up.
The other thing I made sure to do was take in a lot of sugar. I knew I wasn’t well-trained, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to make sure my glycogen stores were topped off at all times. I ended up eating 2 gels and 4 clif bloks, and drinking 3 cups of Gatorade. I guess that’s not a ton, but it seemed like a lot at the time!
OK, so the one bummer of the race happened in the last part of trail – less than a half mile before the pavement. I was cruising downhill, excited to be almost done, when I tripped on a rock (or myself, who knows) and flew forward. I might have been able to ease my fall a bit had my left calf muscle not seize up at the same moment. I scraped up my left hand and right knee, but I appeared OK otherwise. After a few gentle steps of walking, I started jogging again.
Finally, I got to the paved portion and I felt I had enough left to finish strong. I passed one more runner, then crossed the finish line in 2:35:46 – much faster than I expected! (Note: I expected to finish around 3 hours because the race website had listed the elevation gain/loss at 2200′, but my GPS and others have it closer to 1700-1800′ gain/loss. I’m not sure why there’s such a huge difference, but I’m not complaining!) I went to the medical tent and got my knee and hand cleaned up – which I think was instrumental in how fast they’ve been healing.
I was really happy with how I executed this race, given my general level of fitness (or lack thereof). It was mostly a mentally-driven performance in many ways. Of course, I wish that I hadn’t fallen, but I supposed that’s par for the course given how clumsy I am. I didn’t do as well as I thought in the standings, but that all depends on who else shows up on race day. The LCTC was the second race in the East Bay Triple Crown, and it usually draws some good local runners. The other thing that struck me was how much easier it was to run on fire roads and non-technical terrain (Captain Obvious here). Compared to Cinderella, LCTC had significantly less rooty and rocky trails with tricky footing, making it a much faster course. Anyway, all in all, LCTC was a pretty good race for me!
6/10 AG, 38/57 F, 114/144 overall