This was the most relaxed I've ever been going into a race, to the point I was almost lazy in my preparations for it. I didn't really take the time to plan nutrition, or set any pacing or HR zones. I raced a sprint triathlon the weekend before (race report to come) had a decent training week and was really just running this for fun. Although fun doesn't mean that I was going to jog along the whole route, ready for it, fatigued, whatever, if I'm on the race course I'm going to push, I can jog around for free :p
Dont get me wrong I was planning on doing well in this race and wanted a podium spot, and if anything the plan was to go out strong and keep increasing the effort to all out in the last few miles. It seems like running races are just so much easier than triathlon, I know how to push myself running, mentally I feel strong in running races, there is no excuses of saving myself for the next leg like multisport.
So the morning started with a nice drive, the race was about an hour and a half away. I was in a weird mood not feeling the usual race day stimulation so I decided to take the back roads, put the car in "SPORT" mode and enjoy some windy twisty country side and get my stimulation that way.
I love the feeling of my car in sport mode, the suspension stiffens, steering tightens, turbo kicks in earlier, it feels like a whole other beast. I remember thinking thats how it is when I race, its the same legs, heart and lungs pulling me along, but my form tightens, wasted movement is eliminated, everything is driving towards being as efficient as possible. Sounds kind of lame on paper :p It was odd, I know 15 miles is a long distance especially when racing intensity is introduced, but the distance just didn't feel like a big deal.
So lining up, ok here it is, I'm ready to go, in a rush that hunger to win is sparked up, and I want this, just in time for the gun to go off. Insanely windy day, 25mph with gusts of 40, I'm starting to get used to that in Scotland.
And we're off, head on into the wind, goal number 1 try to find someone going a simular pace and draft off of them. Luckily found a group of guys to draft behind. There were 2 women in front of me that just took off, I had thoughts of going with them but the sub 6:30 pace was beyond me, I can do that maybe for 5k so off they went. I went a little faster than I thought I would in the beginning but the draft advantage was huge, there was a big gap between our group and the one behind me and running into the wind myself would have taken a lot more energy, and it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. If I was going anaerobic to keep up I would have backed it off.
This was the most beautiful run I have ever been on, it was a true trail race. At most a quad would have been able to follow the route, but any other vehicles wouldn't have made it. I definitely still have a bit of weakness on going uphill but make up for it in the downhill. I was playing yo-yo with the group around me, they would surge up the hill and I would catch back up on the crest and downhill. I seriously feel like the road runner going downhill legs turning over crazy fast and slightly on edge out of control feeling is so much fun.
Then came "The Hill" 2 miles of an uphill grind, I dont know that I pushed this as much as I could, it was a tough terrain running on just big rocks. I knew there was a flat section and then a massive downhill to the finish so I kept it pretty moderate and fuelled and hydrated on the climb....well tried to hydrate...found out the bottle in my back pocket had completely emptied in the previous miles...found out after I ate the gel...2 miles until the next water stop with gooey gel coating my mouth! This is where I started planning the race to the finish, I had been passed by 3 women on the climb and I kept them in sight planning to pass them when we got to the top.
We got to the top of the climb and what a view! Looking over vast hills and valleys it was stunning. At this point my HR monitor went a little screwy or my HR was depressed, we hit the top of the hill and I started pushing, breathing was through the roof it wasn't much farther to go so I was going hard, but HR didn't reflect the effort. At this point I just started picking off the women in front of me, I got in front of all 3 by the last 2 miles of the race. I thought it was all downhill from there, and I knew that I was stronger on the downhill portion so I figured I had it locked.
Guess again...something that wasn't on the elevation chart...a half mile of 15-18% grade all off road, just grass and rocks and the faintest outline of a trail going what felt like straight up! Oh man this is going to hurt, I just gave it everything to get up that damned hill. The other women weren't far behind me and my lead was being whittled down. Hit the crest still in the lead, and bombed downhill at a slightly manic pace, hopping over rocks and tree branches just trying to stay upright, I loved that part!
Woot 1st in the Senior Division (20-39 AG)!! So first off road race was a success, and I absolutely loved it. I think some of the strength work that I've been doing really helped me get through it being able to take a few more risks on the terrain. I've been working on overall strength training but specifically a lot of lower leg strength training and some single leg skipping, I think it made all the difference on the day. Congrats to the women who won it and broke the course record, a blistering 6:30 pace over a crazy course!
So that was a really long rambling race report, I just finished a 22 mile run so I'm still in that post run bliss and may be a little dehydrated, so enjoy!