Next Saturday morning, I'll be on my way to the starting line of the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run. I have been preparing for this event for most of the last 5 months and it has been an interesting experience. I will say at the outset that I'm still apprehensive about this race in the sense that an injury at the beginning of February derailed a good chunk of my training schedule. At that point, I didn't really imagine I had any chance of completing the race, so I'm very happy that my recovery has gone so well. And, although I have recovered, my run mileage has dipped significantly since that point.
It's on the increase again now, but I've simply run out of time to do much more on that front. I'm hoping that a good dose of cross-training in the form of swimming and cycling will help to counter some of what I've missed in running. At any rate, I feel I've trained enough that I have to attempt this event. As I've noted before, the 50 mile race provides the option of "dropping out" after 25 miles and converting to a 25 mile racer. Since I've done a number of runs longer than 20 miles (including a long run of 33 miles last weekend), I do feel capable of doing that much at least, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if I'm under the cut-off time by a fair amount, I'm going to want to try for 50, and see what happens.
#1: Finish the Race and have fun- Having never done an "ultra" before, this is really my only goal. I don't have any expectations of a podium finish, or anything of the sort. This endeavor is really only about me seeing what I can do from an endurance standpoint. I know that it will be difficult, and I know that it will take me all day. That's pretty much all that I know. I also want to have fun. While running 50 miles and "having fun" may seem like contradictory experiences, this is what I signed up for. I wouldn't do it, if I wasn't planning on enjoying it at least a little bit.
The Week Before
Sunday: In the morning, I'm going to do a run of about 6-7 miles with my wife. I've been helping her train for the Colfax Marathon, and so I'll run one leg of the long run with her. After that, I'll switch over to a mountain bike and continue to pace her through the next 12 miles or so.
Monday: Rest (core work)
Tuesday: I plan on heading to the pool and doing an easy swim. No more than about 1200-1600 yards total.
Wednesday: Rest (core work)
Thursday: Rest. This will also be time for me to pack my gear (see below for my gear essentials list):
Friday: Rest (a late meeting on Friday afternoon has delayed my departure until 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon which means I won't arrive in Buena Vista until after 8:00 or 9:00. Not the way I would like it, but that's the way it is.
Saturday: Race morning. Since the race starts at 6:30, and I need to pick up my race in the morning, I will likely arrive at the start around 5:45. This will give me time to get settled, get my transition set up, and be ready for the race. Breakfast will be something along the lines of a banana and a bagel with peanut butter. I also must REMEMBER THE SUNSCREEN!
Although my goal is to "finish," I will have to be mindful of my time in order to be ahead of the cut-off times built into the race. If I opt for the 25 mile race, this will be a non issue, but it will be more important to pay attention to these on the way back during the 50 mile race. My plan is broken into sections and is based largely on a consideration of the elevation profile for a given distance.
Miles 1-3: The first part of this race is done almost entirely on pavement. Since it's the start of the race, the temptation is to go fast through this portion. However, it's way too early in the race to "bank" any minutes so I don't think that's the best strategy. For this portion, my plan is to run at a steady pace between 9-10:30 minutes per mile. I won't plan on walking at this point however, so in a sense, I'll still probably be a few minutes ahead of schedule as I cover this distance.
Miles 4-6: This portion of the race has some of the first real climbing in it (and it's actually a part of the course that I've run for the most part). There are a lot of "ups" and "downs" so pacing kind of goes out the window at this point. For this part of the race, I'll walk the really steep parts and run the downhill portions.
Miles 7-10.5: CPTR has two major climbs in each direction of the course (for a total of 4) and this is the first one. If my memory serves me, this section can be run slowly, and that's what I will try to do. It's likely that I will try a 5 to 1 ratio of walking and running on this portion. I'm not sure that I will be tired, but I may want to save some energy for later in the race.
|A view from the trail!|
Miles 14-18: Lenardy Hill is the name of this second climb and it's the elevation high point for the race (only 9400 feet). The course directions describe this section as "all runnable, but for most, a bit of a grind." That being the case, I would imagine I will mix some running and walking into the mix again.
Miles 18-25: This last portion of the loop looks to be mostly downhill. This is good for making up some minutes, but is also going to be a bit hard on the quadriceps (in truth, I'm more concerned about the downhill than the uphill portions of this race). Pacing should be better however, and if I've executed the first 18 miles well, I hope to be at the turnaround well under the 5:45 cutoff. If I'm having a great race, I would hope to be a full hour ahead of this time and finishing the first 25 miles somewhere between 4:40 to 5 hours. If I'm within about 15-20 minutes of the cutoff, then I will probably call it a day, as it's doubtful I would be able to make the rest of the cutoff times on the way back.
Turnaround/ Transition: Depending on conditions, there are a few things that I plan on having at the car for the turnaround (the race allows 50 mile participants to pause at their vehicles for any needs before turning around for loop #2). First will be a fresh pair of socks, and a clean shirt. I did this for my 33 miler, and it was refreshing to have some clean items to wear. I also plan on having something cool to drink so I'll need to have a little cooler with me. I will also pack solid food like a peanut butter sandwich (this usually tastes pretty good on a long run). Sunscreen, water, and my foot kit* round out my necessities. The other items that I will pack will be more weather related. While I'm hoping for a nice day, the opposite could be true. If that's the case then some of my needs may change. The important thing is to have some options. I would hate to stop running just because I was lazy and didn't bring some type of needed gear. Overall, I hope to spend about 5 minutes in the transition, and certainly no more than 10.
*[foot kit- contains band-aids, moleskin, neosporin, etc. and is useful for fixing foot issues such as blisters, hot spots, etc.]
Miles 25-32: I could be wrong, but it seems to me that these miles are probably the biggest "key" to finishing the 50 mile race. Psychologically and physically, they represent the greatest challenge. Having just left the comfort of the aid station and the finish line, this portion is uphill and takes you from the lowest point to the highest point on the course, over these miles (about 1500 vertical feet of gain). The last 2-3 miles look to be some of the steepest of the race. This is where you get to spend some of the minutes that hopefully have been "banked" in the first half of the race. There are also two cut-off points in this portion of the race. The first is at 28.2 miles (must be reached within 6hrs, 30 minutes of the start). The second is at 32.1 miles (must be reached 7hrs, 30 minutes into the race).
Miles 32-36: Since this was a "grind" but runnable going up, the downhill should be runnable as well. This will also be the point at which I cross the threshold for the longest amount of running that I've ever done (passing at about 33 miles). From there it will all be new territory for me. I am hopeful that I can run the entire length of this portion as it is a good opportunity to earn some minutes on the way back down. Psychologically, I think it should be a point where it becomes apparent that finishing the race is going to happen. There is one cut-off time here at mile 35.4 (8hrs, 15 minutes into the race, this should be about 2:45 p.m.).
|I switched out for black shoelaces: My way to remember Boston!|
Miles 39.5-47: A mix of mostly downhill with a short but steep climb from mile 43 to 44. The last cut-off time before the finish is here at mile 44.3 (you have to reach this section by 5:00 p.m. or 10hrs, 30 minutes into the race). Hopefully, I will be well past this point, or even finished by the cut-off time.
Miles 47-50: One big challenge here will be the fact that after nearly 46 miles of running on trails, the last few miles back to the finish line are done on pavement. I'm not sure how that will feel on tired legs, but I can't imagine it will be the most pleasant. If I've raced well, I'm hoping that I have plenty of time to finish. That way, I can do more walking as needed. In truth, I would imagine that the last 14-15 miles will be a challenge no matter what the terrain, just given the sheer amount of mileage covered. Physically, there's absolutely no reason I can't cover 50 miles total; it will be the psychological challenge that is really the test.
Although the gear needed for this run isn't as exhaustive as it would be for a triathlon, there are several things that I'll need to bring to prepare for a number of contingencies. Here's what I'm bringing with me:
Conclusion: About 3 blocks from the finish line is the EddylineBrewery, and this is where I hope to begin my recovery, with a dinner of pizza and maybe a beer or two. From there it will be back to the hot springs for a nice soak, and then to bed (rather early, I would imagine). Stay tuned for a race report sometime after the race!