3rd (and not last) place
Last week was a recovery week, as in I ran fewer miles from Feb 23 – Mar 1 than I have in any single week since the week of Nov 24 – 30! And let me tell you, it was a MUCH NEEDED break from heavy training. My coach has me doing runs I’ve never done before like tempo runs, hill repeats (ouch!), and progression runs that each have their own goal paces. In the past, I just looked at my training plan and ran the distance it prescribed. I recorded my average pace at the end and that was that. Not any more! And I’m starting to see the benefits of doing these different workouts. Like I’ve told Jason countless times during the past couple weeks, I love having a coach and hiring her was an excellent idea. I’ll tell you more about my newest (hopefully) excellent idea later on in this post.
I won’t bore you with the details of my daily runs, but I do want to highlight one workout and one run (race). The first was skinning up Elkhorn lift in Beaver Creek with Jason, Brendan, and the pups (Moose and Brendan’s dog Teneya) on Friday night. The weather was calling for 1-3″ of snow and it did not disappoint, with snow lightly falling as we were skinning up. The snow was perfect though, grippy enough that skinning at relatively steep grades (for a newbie like me) was easy without slipping and soft enough that the fact that there were “moguls” on the run wasn’t much of an issue. The clouds were light and the moon was shining so brightly that we didn’t even need headlamps on the way up. It was beautiful. For my second time ever skinning up a mountain I think I did pretty well and, more importantly, I felt amazing! My legs were moving slowly but consistently, my breathing was even, I wasn’t sweating too much, and I was able to enjoy the experience.
Once we got on the groomed trail, Brendan headed up in the trees and Jason and I tried to follow but I wasn’t able to make it one little section so we took the snowcat track around and up to meet up with him. When we met up with Brendan, he said that Moose was crying a little bit and he thought it was from the snow stuck in his paws. Instead of continuing up the last ~500 vertical feet we decided to turn around. It turned out to be a good decision because Moose’s paws were really bothering him and he had trouble keeping up with us on the way down. Jason had to ski in front of him and I skied behind him to make sure he didn’t get lost or left behind. We also had to stop pretty frequently for him to try to bite the snow from between his toes. Near the bottom we got pretty close to a snowcat that was grooming the run and had to encourage Moose to really run fast to avoid. Poor pup was pooped when we got down and got a much deserved dinner and treat when we made it back to Jason’s house. But the skinning was amazing! I would go every day if I could. I just have to figure out how to fit it in with my training plan since I’m not in that good of shape to be able to run 20 miles with 4,000+ feet of elevation gain during the day and then skin up a 2,000+ vertical foot mountain at night. Hopefully I get there soon though!
Saturday I took it pretty easy, went for an easy paced “long run” that was way shorter than normal since it was a recovery week, and watched videos about Lavaredo. Which was great since I had the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series Race #2 the following day. Last year I ran this race in 1:48, which when you consider it is only 10K (and I think it’s actually a short course since my watch only measured it at 5.7 miles), is really, really, slow. My goal this year was to beat last year’s time. This was also my goal for last week, which didn’t happen, so I didn’t want to get too crazy and say how much I wanted to beat last year’s time.
The race started out really well, with me making it the 0.25 miles to the first single track section in the top third of the pack (5K and 10K runners start together). A woman cut the line and then was a slow uphill walker, so I was able to make sure my heart rate was low and controlled and that I didn’t start out too fast. When we got back on the groomed double track, Jason snapped some pictures and I was able to pass the slow woman and pick up my pace. Shortly afterwards the 5K and 10K race courses split, with the 5K runners taking the easier, flatter double track and the 10K runners continuing uphill on single track. I was moving really well, only stepping aside to let one guy pass me who ended up finishing third overall. At about 1.5 miles in a snowmobile with a race official and a photographer passed by and the race official told me I was in a good position (I think I was top 3 women at this point). The snow was soft from the recent storms and it felt like I was skiing downhill. The uphills had just enough traction to not significantly slow me down.
At 2 miles in I stopped at the aid station to drink some water a two women passed me (without stopping at the aid station) but I was able to quickly catch up to them on the slight downhill. I remembered from last year that the course had a really long, fun, singletrack downhill section about 0.5 miles past the aid station. When I came to the cutoff for the downhill I was really glad I had passed the two women. I flew down that downhill, achieving my fastest mile split of 11:05, which included a stop to help someone who had fallen in the snow, and about 0.3 miles at around 8:45 pace. Near the bottom of the downhill, the single track crosses over double track that is normally groomed but hadn’t been in a while. My left foot (the ankle I injured) got stuck in a hole in the snow and my momentum threw my body into the snow with a painful wrench of my still-healing ankle. It hurt like hell! I hobbled down the last bit of the downhill and began the steep uphill trudge back up. The steep part only lasts for about 0.4 miles and then turns into more rolling hills with an uphill trend on double track. I tried to run a little because the grade was mild but the side of my ankle and my calf muscle were in pain. I was able to maintain a fast walk without pain, but unfortunately the people who were behind me were able to maintain a jog. So many people passed me between the turn onto the double track and the aid station at 5 miles. It was so frustrating!
When I got to the 5 mile aid station, Jason was waiting with his camera. He gave me a thumbs up which I thought meant he got a good picture of me so I stopped smiling. It actually meant that I was in focus and he was starting to take pictures of me! It resulted in some funny expressions on my face! When I got close enough to talk to him, I told him what happened and he said he’d walk the last bit with me if I wanted. I immediately said “yes” so he packed up his stuff and started walking with me. Two more people passed me on this section. With about 0.2 miles left, the course splits for a final time with the 10K runners going slightly uphill on single track and the 5K runners staying level on double track. I heard a runner coming up behind me and I was determined to not let anyone else pass me so I suggested that Jason take the 5K split so he could get a picture of me at the finish and I’d take the 10K route. I power hiked up the little incline and ran the downhill, slipping and sliding but somehow managing to stay on the trail. It turns out the other person stopped before the finish to wait for a friend, but I still would have beat her even if she hadn’t stopped. I finished in 1:44, more than 4 minutes faster than my time from last year. I met my goal, but I was disappointed when I plugged in my watch and realized I was on target for a 1:26 finish before I fell.
Considering there was a pretty decent turnout for the 10K (usually it is way smaller than the 5K), I assumed that I wouldn’t place in my age group, especially since the course seemed faster to me than last year. Well apparently I’m just in better shape because everyone else said the course was significantly slower than in year’s past. You can imagine my surprise when they called my name for 3rd place in my age group! They originally said my name for the 10 – 20 year olds but when I brought up the fact that I was 27 and the girl who placed second said she was in her 20s as well they let me peek at the results. They had just announced the age group wrong and I did in fact place 3rd. The best part was, there were names below mine, meaning I didn’t place last in my age group. This is the first time I’ve ever placed in a race and it wasn’t because there were only 3 women in the race or in my age group! This was the confidence boost I needed to start the hard week I have coming up!