Sunday, October 19, 2008

Long, Slow Run

Wow, I missed posting anything last month. I did two triathlons, the Cotton Country Sprint in Levelland, TX, and the Elephant Man in Elephant Butte, NM. The Cotton Country Sprint is a small race that I have done every year since it first started in 2002. The first few years they only had about 50 people show up. The numbers have steadily climbed since 2005, and this year they had 101 individuals and five relay teams. I had my fastest time ever this year, and that was good enough for third place in my age group. This was just the second year for the Elephant Man. It is my favorite race in the SWCS. Intermediate distance, spectacular scenery, open water swimming, tough bike course, and tough run, what's not to like! My swim and bike times were just average this year, but I had a really good bike. The hills make it tough, especially for a feeble climber like me, but I averaged 22 mph. I passed four guys in my age group during the bike, and none of them caught me on the run, so I managed to win my age group.

My big event recently was yesterday's 50 K trail run in Palo Duro Canyon, TX. I had never done a 50 K run before, and I had never done a trail run. Heck, we don't even have "trails" here in Clovis, unless you count the caliche clay roads. But Myles Pilgrim suggested that it would be good training for IMAZ/Silverman next month, and I figured I need a long run once a week anyway, so why not go and do the race!

Never having done one of these, I didn't really know what I was up against. I figured that my "open" marathon time of four hours should allow me to easily coast around a 50 K in less than six hours. Things didn't work out that way from the very start. In the first place, they started the race about 45 minutes prior to sunrise. I think this was partly to avoid having the 50 mile participants (the real gluttons for punishment) finish in the dark, and it allowed all of us a chance to complete at least part of our runs before the heat of the day. However, it was dark when we started. Throw in about 200 runners on a single track trail, and I ended up walking in the single-file train that everyone ended up in for the first two miles. Eventually, the 50 mile runners split off from the 50 K runners about the same time it got light enough to run without a flashlight. After that, I was never held up by anyone else.

However, running on the Palo Duro Canyon trails wasn't easy. I thought "trail running" would involve some wide pathways through a forest with pine needles cushioning your stride. But the Palo Duro trails were mostly single track, hard as concrete dirt/rock (with a few patches of sticky mud that you had to run off to the side of the trail/jump over to avoid), with pot holes and boulders thrown in along with some short stretches of steep climbs/descents. I'm sure the "trail runners" didn't give it a second thought, but for a "road runner" like me, it was pretty tough. I downloaded my Garmin, and I didn't run a single 10-minute mile! My fastest mile was a 10:02, and my average pace was 12:18. My total time was 6:19 on my Garmin, but that doesn't include the time that I spent standing around at the aid stations/porta potty. I didn't look at the clock when I finished, but it must have been about 6:30.

I thought it was a lot harder than running a "road" marathon. You really need some leg strength to do one of these. There is a lot of "starting/stopping" as you go up/down/left/right on the trails, and you don't have much chance to get into a mindless straight ahead run. But it was a lot of fun. Everyone running the race (at least from my MOP position) seemed pretty low key, and the organization and volunteers were great. And they had some gooey "date bars" at all of the aid stations that beat the heck out of energy bars/gels.

Wait 'till next year!