The trail has a way of exposing you as a runner. In my career as a distance runner, I have had many ups and downs. Applied to pacing and training volume, my sprinters mentality has not translated particularly well to the longer distances. As a 32 year old I know I can’t sprint anymore. Life is a marathon. This is what I love now and I am finally starting to figure out how to run longer distances. With that being said, it is rare that everything comes together for me in a race. Today everything did and the result was 1st place in my age group and 5th place overall in the Half Marathon division of the Woodside Crossover trail race.
Woodside and I have a special relationship. My first trail race ever was in woodside. I was blown away by the beauty and tranquility in the redwood forest. While you are in a trail race with many people, you still feel pretty much alone out there. It’s just your breath and the trees and the sound of you feet on the ground. Running a trail race is freeing. After my first trail race in Woodside I was hooked on trail running. Then I overtrained and developed some injuries. After a long Hiatus from running I am finally getting my rhythm back.
Four months ago I ran a 17k at Woodside. The long extended climbs crushed me. I realized I am not a fit as I thought. This is a problem. Obstacle course racing is my favorite sport to participate in and they are basically trail runs. To do well in those, I need to be able to do well on the trail. In my last race at Woodside, on the first ascent, my calves cramped and my feet went numb. The race was miserable. I did not place well and in fact not long after that, I decided to take a short break from running. I was starting to feel the signs of ITBand syndrome and having some knee pain. I took a step back. During that break I learned a unique training approach I had not thought of yet. It’s walking at grade on the treadmill. Because my treadmill only goes to 15% and I don’t want to spend a ton of time running, I have been walking on the treadmill with a weight vest. I split my time between the treadmill and the stair mill; 35 minutes each, two times per week. Today I got to experience my new strength out there on the course. I wasn’t exactly setting land speed records going up the hill, but I wasn’t being defeated by the terrain either. That is a great feeling that I no longer take for granted. I was able to confidently fly down the down hills and then get back to speed quickly on the short flats.
I’ve also shifted my nutrition significantly. In the past I have written extensively about high fat diets and being in cyclical ketosis. While I think that has a place, it wasn’t working because I gained too much muscle. I felt heavy on the hill. I decided to drop 5-7 lbs to make the hills easier. Also, because most of my races are less than 3 hours I decided to race in a sugar dependent state. I still train fasted often, but race day carbs are certainly a consideration. My pre race meal was 2 eggs, half a can of pinto beans and about half a cup of white rice. I drank some Yerba Mate tea and slammed a red bull about 45 minutes before the race start. During the race I consumed 1 chomps pack about 50 minutes in and 2 gu packs during the rest of the race. I had a slight case of the “come ups”, but nothing I couldn’t run through. Overall nutrition prep I give an “A” and I plan to replicate this approach in the future. Hydration was straight forward. I brought my hydration pack and consumed about 1 liter during the race.
I learned two things today. First, my training approach is working to give me better strength and durability. Second, I need to work on my speed going up hill. That is going to be my focus in the coming months. With the Monterey beast 7 weeks away, it’s a good time to start working on speed and race specific strategies. I have placed top five in a trail run before, but I’ve never won a race this long for my age group. It’s pretty cool. I have always loved winning! My final time in the half marathon with 2,750 feet of climbing was 2:00:33. I’ll take it.