Monday, May 19, 2014

Collegiate Peaks Race Report

A quick report on my CPTR 25 experience this year. It's short on narrative flourish, but hopefully captures some of the details of the event.

The weather on race day was beautiful. Probably the warmest day of the year so far. While I imagine the 50 milers might have suffered a bit in the afternoon heat, for the 25 milers it was perfect. I was excited to race and soaked up the energy at the starting line. Before I knew it, we were off.

Within the first mile of the race I found myself uttering, "Uh, oh... Oh, crap!"

My legs felt strangely tight/sore during the first 3 paved, flat miles. Mostly my calves, but also my legs in general. Still, I made it to the turn at mile 3 on PR pace. Next came a rolling, single track section. I didn't obsessively check my GPS between aid stations, but instead ran by feel. I was only 1 minute back at the first aid station at mile 6. Certainly not time to panic yet, but I knew I wasn’t really feelin’ it. For some reason, I hadn’t recovered fully during the week leading up to the race. Why were my legs so unresponsive?

The next 4 mile uphill section would be a test. I tried to stay positive and not succumb to any negative self-fulfilling thoughts. Unfortunately, I slipped to 4 minutes down at the second aid station. Not good. I wasn’t really passing anyone on the uphills. My last hope for a PR was to try to make up some time on the downhills, but all I could do was maintain my pace-- barely. The 7:30 min/miles I was hoping for were not happening. I was still about 4 minutes down at the base of the final uphill. Could I push harder up Lenhardy Hill than I did last year? Doubtful. I honestly thought the best I could do was to maybe stay on pace. Nope, not even that. I was down 9 minutes at mile 18 at the top. A PR just wasn't happening today. There was no way I could make up 9 minutes in the final 7 miles-- certainly not with the way my legs were feeling. Dammit. Ah, well...

At that point, I gave up trying to PR. I switched modes to "just get ‘er done" and stopped chasing splits. I passed a couple of blown up people in the final miles, but nobody that was really running. I chatted with Adrian S. (who I recognized from the Silver Rush 50 and Sage Burner 50K last year) for the last 3 miles. He was running the 50 today. I settled into a relaxed 50-mile pace with him and took it easy to the finish. It was nice to be able to pass the time chatting with someone. Finally, I jogged across the finish line, down 14 minutes from last year. 4:16. I didn’t even bother trying to squeak in ahead of the racer in front of me. I had no desire to pass. I had stopped racing miles ago.

If I had kept pushing for the full 25 miles, maybe I could’ve finished only 10 minutes back from my PR... I just couldn't motivate with my legs feeling like they did. I'd like to think that I'd be more willing to push through leg soreness that arose during the race itself, but pre-existing leg pain due to inadequate recovery? Not so much. I don’t think I really made any mistakes during the race, I just hadn’t recovered fully. Not enough rest during the final week. I think my high-cadence bike workout on Monday really worked my calves in a way that they're not used to. Then I simply slogged up and down the Boulevard a bit too much-- trying to get 200 miles for April. Trying to keep the daily training streak going. I should’ve skipped some days if I really wanted to race fresh. Basically, my race this year felt like a ho-hum training run. Fine, but not great. If I hadn't been racing I probably would’ve stopped a dozen times and rested and soaked up the views. My energy levels were fine, but my legs had no pop.

Of course, I never fully taper for any non-focus race like CPTR, so I don't expect to be at 100%, but-- superficially, at least-- my mileage for the week leading up to the race was the same as last year. That's all I was hoping for: to make it to the starting line as rested as I had been previously in '13.

In hindsight, I really think I pulled off something special last year when I set my PR of 4:02. I really raced the course, and as I kept beating my past splits I got more and more excited and motivated and really kept up the intensity. Having people to chase was great, too. There was a small group of runners that I hung with throughout the race in '13. This year, I tried to keep my spirits up and enjoy the race, but eventually I knew a PR wasn’t going to happen. There was no desire to hurt more than necessary. Thoughts of conserving myself for the Quad Rock 50 the following week crossed my mind. I was actually fairly comfortable on the uphills, but the lack of “pop” slowed me down ~1 min/mile. I just slowly jogged uphill, losing some distance on folks-- not that much, but enough that I noticed it. I’d actually close gaps on the super steep sections when people dropped to a hike. I did manage to run the entire course again, never resorting to a power hike.

Ironically, I finished in 46th place-- the exact same place I finished last year, despite being 14 minutes faster.

Not so much green. I had no uphill legs (miles 4, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18). Stopped chasing my former self at mile 18.

After looking over my training data from last year again, it’s interesting to note that I had a lot of “blah” training runs after CPTR last year. CPTR was really the only long run I nailed in May '13. My average pace on all my other May training runs (which all had roughly equivalent vertical) was about 1-2 minutes slower per mile. So, maybe I just hit that “blah” period a little earlier this year because of the extra miles/long runs I’ve been running? However, even if I had started the race totally fresh this year, I bet I could have done no better than, say, 3:55.

My extra training this year has put me in a good place, but not one that’s radically different.

I knew it would be difficult, but not setting a new PR this year was a little tough to swallow. I thought I was fit enough-- and that I had recovered enough-- to have a chance, but apparently I was wrong.

Well, I know of no better remedy for a disappointing race than to get back out there and race again! I'm looking forward to the Quad Rock 50 next weekend. While certainly more epic, I think it will also be more low stress. I've never run the full 50 mile distance before, so I won't be obsessing over splits. Plus, the longer distance will make the race more about taking care of yourself throughout the day.

Despite no PR, I still had a lot of fun at Collegiate Peaks this year. It's always a great race. And, hey-- it was my second fastest time ever! My wife and kids joined me at the finish line. I got to say hi to a lot of running friends and catch up with various folks. The weather was truly beautiful. Afterwards, the kids and I played in the ice cold stream while mama went off for a run by herself. It was good to relax and enjoy a lovely spring day in Buena Vista with my family. I topped it off with a giant blackberry shake at K's. A classic.

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