To recap, I found myself 8km into a 21km race. My legs were already tired. Thanks to a ridiculously fast start ( at least for me) and I had just caught site of Owen who was looking strong and sure to be tracking me down.
My only saving grace was I knew the next 5km was a net downhill. I was pretty sure I could hold him off for at least that long. I was secretly hoping to extend my lead here, because I knew that the next uphill section was going to be crucial.
I stretched out my legs a bit and picked up the pace. I was just starting to find my rhythm when my Ambit2 beeped to let me know that it was time for fuel.
Fueling mid-race especially on a half marathon distance is especially hard for me. I KNOW I need calories, especially considering that the majority of this race had been run at an anaerobic level. But, I simply was not hungry and I can never eat without stopping, even with gels. Which kills me to do, especially on such a runnable section. But, fuel I did.
Freshly fed, I was able to keep a solid, albeit slower then I would have liked, pace. I was pretty much walking every uphill knowing that I was tiring and that I needed to save something for the final 5km push.
At the 12km mark things start to get interesting. This course is just 2 or 3 big loops all connected and there are multiple distances that run that day. To make a long story short, just as we are hitting the 12km mark we loop in with the 10kmrs. This is not a bad thing, but the course quickly gets narrow, hilly and technical. Which can lead to some unwanted slow downs.
Luckily, this year I was able to pass a few people before settling in for the last climb of the day. Somewhere around here is when the first signs of fatigue started to show. I was rumbling along, minding my own business and the next minute I was face down in the dirt. My tired legs had tripped over a rock, and I didn’t have the time,energy or reactions to save myself.
I dusted myself off and did a quick review to make sure everything was working. Everything seemed somewhat in order so no real damage done and I was able to resume. As I was climbing the last switchback before the big climb, I caught a glimpse of Owen. He was around 3-4 minutes back just waiting to pounce. At least it felt like that.
Up the last climb of the day we went. 2km of climbing is not particularly long, and the grade fluctuated a lot between as little as 5% and as high as 30%. Somehow I was holding my own. I knew I was tired and I know that my climbing sucks. But, once again I held steady with the people in front and nobody passed.
As the last peak came into view. I found myself still in front of Owen. Maybe I had a chance today after all. I was red-lining it all the way to the top, but I was confident that the other side and the final 5km loop would be my friend.
Over the top we went. I had a good downhill stretch, not great. It was pretty technical and there were loads of people still. And to be honest I was still recovering from the climb and didn’t have it in me to push much harder.
With the hills behind us, the race entered it’s final loop. Which incidentally is the same as the first loop. Yes, the loop I ran way too fast about 2 hrs ago.
I was hoping I still had a minute or two on Owen, but I knew I couldn’t count on it. He is stubborn as a mule, and I knew he would be coming like a house on fire.
With fatigue setting in, I buried my head and dug in.
Keep breathing. That’s the key. Breathe
-Gimli, Lord of the Rings
Ten minutes down the road I found myself entering the last single track section. “I think I remember it being mostly downhill or flat” I thought. “Ya I got this”. And then I didn’t.
No I didn’t wreck again. This time I hit “the wall”. Every runner knows what I am talking about. I bonked. And not your garden variety bonk. When I say I have never bonked like this before I am not kidding. I felt tired, disorientated, light headed and nauseous and all at once. One minute I was sure I was going to have my first trail puke and the other I was not sure I was going to make it the final 3km.
What could be causing this?
I knew I had been drinking enough. And I fueled… oh shit! I do remember eating once, but that was about an hour and twenty ago. Which means I missed at least one gel. WTH! Now I thought about it, I do sort of remember my watch beeping at me. Not that there was much I could do about it at the time, I had taken my one and only gel. But, I had cruised through 2 AID STATIONS, without a second thought. Dammit.
Well there was no helping it now. I had to just keep moving. I was mad for sure, I knew that Owen must just be around the corner and it felt like I was crawling. Looking at the Strava map it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I still lost at least two minute over the next km.
The loop had one last switchback and then I would only have 2km to go. The nice thing about the switchback is I could see everyone behind me. Amazing enough there was a bit of a gap behind me. It is funny how you are sure someone is always breathing down your neck, but in reality nobody was real close. I did catch a glimpse of Owen, but at this point he was around 5 minutes back. Which means I should be able to hold him off for the next 2km as long as I was able to do some sort of run.
After a few minutes of walking, I slowly started to gather my wits. I tried a few running steps and things seemed to be easing up. I figured if I ran at least half the way home I would be ok.
To be honest, the last 2km was pretty uneventful this year. I ran in completely by myself so there was no sprint. The finish line was packed. But since we were clearly mid-packers coming in, most people were just milling around talking and eating.
All in all, not a bad first race of 2015. I still have to figure out my race plans better, and more importantly stick to them. I am pretty sure I could have done much better on this course just by being smarter. But, heck no one ever accuses me of being smart.
You can check out the Strava session of this race below. Thanks for reading.