I debated whether or not to do a “race report”. I signed up for this one last minute. My husband was already going and it would take the place of my scheduled longer run. The trick was to NOT race. Training trumps racing right now and if I raced it would leave me needing to recover instead of train. My goal races this year are a ways off. Currently, I am working on building strength and stamina at altitude. My passion is to gain strength and experience, and have the ability and confidence to be a more competitive mountain runner at the ultra distances. I want to develop the confidence and strength to compete in a dream race Like the 200 mile Tor Des Geants.
Back to Antelope Canyon 20k. Coach suggested I run with Todd to keep me from racing. I mentioned this to him and he broke out in uncontrollable laughter. We don’t particularly run “well” together. We both enjoy running, going to races together, and even run long runs together….but when I say “together”, I mean exiting and entering the car together and chatting about our separate individual experiences. He is 6’4” and ALWAYS runs with music. I’m 5’3”....on a tall day, and tend to drive him crazy with my 5000 to 1 foot strikes per stride of his. I also have a history of “pulling” him faster than he likes to go and pissing him off. So plan B….I can’t tell myself “don’t race”, it just doesn’t work. But I CAN be smart and I knew I could keep it as a training run feel. I know the difference. My training run had called for a zone 2-3 fluctuating effort, so that was my plan for the race as well, using HR to help guide me if I got ants in my pants early on. I ate breakfast about 2 hours before, a scrambled egg, piece of bacon and slice of toast and coffee with heavy cream.
Apparently, God also knows I struggle with “not racing” and threw in a little hitch to help out. We took a wrong turn to the race and ended up arriving after everyone else had started the race. HA! No one to race! They were all gone. We were about 5-10 minutes late to start and were allowed to go ahead.
I intentionally took my time putting my bib number on and trotted off onto the course. The race took place in Page, AZ. Mesa and desert scapes with the Colorado river waaaaay below in the canyon. The first 1-2 miles were deep soft sand. I immediately felt sorry for the 50 and 100 mile racers. I was also starting to worry that the whole 20k would be in this stuff. About that time we hit single track hard packed dirt/rocky trail. It edged along the ledge of the Mesa, and in many spots we could see the Colorado river twisting below. Small climbs and descents throughout with the first 5-6 miles being mostly down and the last 6-7 miles mostly up. about 2 miles in I started catching other runners. I checked myself and my heart rate frequently. My question was, “do you feel really good?” if the answer was yes and my heart rate was low then I continued that effort/pace. If the answer was “no, this feels a little hard” then I backed off. The exceptions were a couple of short climbs. I did not want to walk any, so I let my effort and heart rate drift inevitably as I climbed, but kept it as easy as possible and allowed plenty of easier recovery over the top. I had no idea where I was in relation to all of the runners which helped keep me in check. Temps were in the low 40s and I opted not to carry any water as I was well fueled and hydrated and knew the aid stations would be less than an hour apart and my run would only be 2-2 ½ hours.
At the aid station around mi 5-6 I found a younger runner in front of me, maybe 15-18 years old. He missed a flag and I helped get him back on course. I drank about 4oz cola and a quarter orange and headed off behind him. He was moving about my pace so I followed him. He would increase his effort and get farther and then back off and get closer. By mi 8-9, I was starting to get a little antsy. My R achilles was niggling a little as well. I knew I only had about 40 minutes left of my run and was starting to negotiate with the dark side, thinking, “I can increase my effort and heart rate a little, there’s only 40 minutes left, I won’t waste myself in 40 minutes”. During my conversation with myself I managed to miss a flag (as did the young gent in front of me) and headed off course. It was about a half mile before I convinced myself of the error and turned around encouraged my young friend to do the same. Another half mile back to the course. Ahhhh, and there be Todd! He shook his head, as he knew exactly what I had done. At this point I figured I probably had about 2-3 miles to go, I had let my effort go up while I was routing myself back on course and didn’t really feel like ramping down. I wasn’t racing, but I was ready to finish, and now I wanted to keep with the runner I had been following along with for the last several miles. I passed through the next aid station, as there was less than a mile to go and I wasn’t thirsty. He pulled away and I knew better than to increase my effort any further so I let him go. I finished feeling pretty good, felt I had maintained pretty good control of myself and had a good training day. It was nice to go to a race without the jitters and just relax and make it as easy as possible. I also knew I had managed my effort well by how well I felt the rest of the day.
I’ll tack on a plug for the sugar detox here as well…..I balked a little at the idea of training without sugar. I am amazed at how good I feel in general and in particular on long runs and post long runs eating real food with no sugar. The exception being during racing, I'll indulge if I feel like it, but notice a little goes a looong way. No highs and lows of sugar and the inevitable fatigue that follows. Give it a shot, I think you will be pleased.