Friday, April 27, 2012

Collegiate Peaks Pre-Race Thoughts

My ITBS has made April a challenging month. I had to be careful to take it relatively easy while slowly building confidence in my knees. I am a creature of habit and I do not adapt to changes in my routine easily. But my rehabilitation required that I stretch my IT band 2 times a day, foam roll it after every run, ice my knees after every run, and perform hip strengthening leg lifts at least once a day.

The good news is that it appears to be working. All my effort seems to be paying off. After being able to run several 7-13 mile runs early in the month without any pain, I tentatively ran two 20 mile runs during the last two weeks. I ran in my new Hokas and stopped to stretch every 4 miles or so. Once or twice I felt some tightness or a brief tweak of pain, but all-in-all the runs went very smoothly. In fact, I was able to set a 20 minute PR on my 20 mile run on the road to Winfield (not counting the time I spent stretching).

I've never been able to "beat" ITBS without taking a ton of time off from running, so I'm psyched that I only had to reduce my running mileage for 2 weeks. Hooray!

On Wheeler's Way, a typical midweek training run in Leadville.

The CPTR (the 25 mile version) was the first race I'd ever run back in '10, and the following year it was the first race I'd ever run twice. I really wanted to set a PR in '11, but I didn't. I went out fast on the flats to try to put some time in the bank. I felt a bit sluggish on the uphills. Due to mediocre hydration and nutrition, I started feeling hungry around mile 18 or so. I walked most of the final uphill. I probably wasn't properly hydrated (I was getting a little sick of the HEAVE, er... HEED I picked up at the aid stations). I staggered to the finish, in contrast to '10 when I felt the final leg was my strongest leg. I ran it only 5 minutes slower, but I felt much worse. Expectations play a big role in how you judge your finish and finishing strong always feels good-- no matter what your time is.

I must confess that I am excited about the opportunity for a PR this year. Too excited, probably. It's best to approach these races as supported group training runs. Do not taper. Take it nice and easy. Test out gear, food, and pacing strategies that you plan to employ in your focus 100-mile race later in the season. Finish the race feeling like you could turn around and run it again-- or, you know, 3 more times!

My plan is to take a hybrid approach this year. For the first 18 miles I'll try to relax and focus on proper form and consuming adequate quantities of food and water. I'll walk the steep uphills. I'll probably stop and stretch 1 or 2 times. I want to arrive at the top of the hill at mile 18 feeling (relatively) fresh. Then, from mile 18-25 I'll race, hopefully finishing strong on the highly runnable final downhill miles. Maybe I'll even reel a few folks in, which is always motivating.

Here are my splits from last year:

02.92 miles/00:26/09:00 min/mile/+121 ft
05.92 miles/01:02/11:48 min/mile/+506 ft
11.57 miles/02:07/11:32 min/mile/+457 ft
14.47 miles/02:37/10:17 min/mile/-571 ft
17.87 miles/03:30/15:34 min/mile/+862 ft
21.70 miles/04:13/11:17 min/mile/-883 ft
24.94 miles/04:53/12:26 min/mile/-494 ft

Up until mile 12, things were going pretty much as planned, but then I started fading. I should've been able to run the downhill to the aid station at mile 14.5 a bit faster. I should've been able to climb to the aid station at mile 18 a bit faster. And I definitely should've been able to run the last 7 miles much faster.

Simply put, the goal for this year is to be able to run miles 22-24 at the same pace as I run miles 1-3. (Mile 25 is on fairly technical terrain, so it's not really comparable to mile 1.)

We'll see... I am just happy to be able to race this race at all. Period. Four weeks ago, I feared CPTR '12 would be my first DNS. Any finishing time is better than a three letter acronym!

On the CPTR course, around mile 13.

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