Friday, October 5, 2012

No bad days in the mountains: Camino Largo y Sinuoso 33k

The start (I know what shirt I want for Christmas) and Dean coming down to the finish  Photo of Dean: Virgilio Regalado

  This race got lost in the shuffle of all the other races. I was focusing on the trail marathon that took place on August 12 and then the Mexico City Marathon at the beginning of September. The next big race was the UTMX 40k on October 20. But this 33k I didn't want to miss. I knew part of the route would be up around the Cerro De San Miguel where I have been running when I can get out of the city, and I thought it would be a good way to learn some new trails.
  I felt that I recovered nicely from the marathon in September, and the race was only 33k? How hard could that be?
  Pretty hard, it turned out.

                                                                 Photo: Virgilio Regalado

What I neglected to remember is that I haven't been able to squeeze in too many mountain runs. In fact, I looked back and since the August 12 Marathon (4,171 feet of gain) I've had one 3,000+ run (Sept. 8) and another that was 1,600. Nothing else over a 1,000 feet.
 The numbers don't lie: I haven't been running in the mountains.
  This race has a very simple profile: up and down, then up and down again. Starting at 10,500 feet it goes up to 11,900, back down the back side of the Cerro to 10,300 and then back up to 11,900 again. And then back down again. I thought my time would be around 4:15 because that was my time at the 33k mark in the Rover Marathon which had similar (a few hundred feet less) elevation change.
  The course starts on a narrow winding singletrack that climbs up to the first bit of open, flat trail that runs around a ridge. This single track started about 20 feet after the start so there wasn't any passing here. I saw a few goons trying to pass in the thick brush that surrounded the trail, but I just took it as a warm up and followed the line to the top, moving at a fast hike/jog. It felt effortless and I tried to enjoy.
I knew it wouldn't last.
  After almost 19 minutes we arrived up to the flat ridge trail people started moving. Too fast I thought. I knew what was coming. Lots of folks went flying by here, and I saw Dean who was running with his dog Waky. Lola had already disappeared. This was a very runnable section with a couple stream crossings but nothing that necessitated getting wet. At the 49 minute point I hit the bridge that brought us into Desierto de Los Leones and the long road to the top. I tried running sections of this but it just didn't make sense. I would run for a bit and realize that for all the added effort I really wasn't gaining anything worthwhile.
  I saw Dean here at the aid station and I remarked that I thought people were moving too fast. Little did I know that was me. I climbed steady but not crazily. Dean was moving a bit faster, but was in sight. I didn't try and catch up as he was in the 23k race and this would be his last climb of the day. I felt certain that the real test would be the second climb. I reached the top feeling good at 1:34.
  I then descended the most technical trail of the day. Rocky, loose, sometimes cut between rocks, this trail that wasn't really a trail was awesome and as usual on this type of terrain I was passing people. Unfortunately, it didn't last more than a kilometer and we were kicked out onto a two track which flattened out for a bit and then headed down to what would be the halfway point. Another long road down to about 10,300 feet. This was the turnaround point. 2:13. So I was hoping for 4:30. Ha!
  I didn't have any illusions about running any of the climb. But I was hiking well, so I thought I could keep a steady pace. I hate being passed on a long climb by people who were heading down while I was headed up. But I soon felt weak. I kept eating gu, trying to maintain some energy. Trying not to worry about letting the people in front of me go. I was alone for a while. But then the footsteps started coming. I was slowing down. People were passing me. Not a good sign. This would be the tale of the climb.  Even on the flat area I couldn't manage much more than a jog. More folks passed. It wasn't an all-out bonk: I was still moving, wasn't sitting down or lying on the side of the trail. Just kept moving and eating and hoping to start feeling better.
  At the top I took a few moments at the aid station, drank a couple gatorade cups and talked to the aid workers. I knew I was in trouble when even the down hill felt like work. Stomach still felt terrible so I ducked into the woods to try and find some relief, which didn't really do much other than lose me another few minutes. Finally got down to the bridge and what I had remembered as a flat section along the ridge was actually slightly uphill. Damn. Mixing walking and running. Waiting for footsteps. All alone trying to move as fast as possible, thinking that the last few kilometers would be down hill on single track which would be fun to run fast. But it took forever to get there. This section seemed three times as long as I remembered it from four hours ago. Three people passed me on this trail and then two more flew by me on the final single track. I tried hard to catch them and when I emerged from the woods for the final stretch they were in sight, but not close enough. I ran it in for 5:01:19.
  Didn't see that one coming.
I was fit, but I need to get out to the mountains more frequently to do better in these races. It was great to learn new trails, and it was a good experience to gut it out all day even though I was never really feeling it. The single track sections are awesome, but there is too much two-track running for my liking.   I don't feel like I went out too fast, but my splits say otherwise.
 I didn't give this race its due, and it showed. My quads were very sore from all the descending and I didn't run Monday or Wednesday and just some slow stuff on Tuesday in the AM (4k) and then another 3k and some walking in the afternoon. It was Thursday before I got a decent run in, but even that tempo run was significantly slower than what I have been doing.  The big bummer of the race was not my mediocre performance, unfortunately, but the disappearance of Lola. One of Dean's dogs ran off during the race and he hasn't been able to find her. We go back on Saturday to take another look.
  The UTMX 40k is coming up on October 20. Trying to find the right balance of rest and maintaining fitness. That race will have significant elevation as well. My goal will be to start very, very conservatively and see what I have left in the tank at 30K. If not, well...I know I can finish and I'll enjoy the scenery of the new trails in Hidalgo.
There are no bad days in the mountains.

Some photos I took during the race:


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