Cinderella Trail Run (50k)
Another day, another race, huh? The week leading to it was anything but ideal: I had to take it easy with my workouts as my calf was giving me some trouble. Not a great place to be just before a race.
Surprisingly I got a decent night's sleep before the race; possibly a first for me. I woke up at 5:30am, before the alarm, and was out the door shortly after 6am.
Warming up for the race I could feel my calf not being its usual self. However, sadly, for me "racing" and "taking it easy" are two concepts that never come up together. The previous night when I should be wondering whether I'll be able to finish the race, I was instead trying to figure out whether I'll be able to do it under 5 hours. Now, during the warm-up, when my calf was hurting and I should be seriously thinking whether in those circumstances I should be running this race at all, instead I was imagining that with only around 30 runners in the 50k race, I could possibly finish in the top 3. Oh well...
I started relatively easy as my calf was really tight. Early in the race I stumbled on a protruding root. I managed to regain my balance and not fall but the impact messed up my knee and it started hurting. Still I was sorta lucky that it was my left knee, to balance with the hurting calf of my right leg. If it was both in one leg I would be in serious trouble.
The most annoying thing about my calf were the downhill sections. Usually those are the parts of the race that I love most and where I soar past other participants. However prolonging my steps was exactly what my calf did not like so I had to keep my gait short and slow down. Then we hit a flat, but technical trail and it turned out that navigating through rocks and roots also wasn't making my calf happy. Finally the climbs started and that was making my knee pain way worse. I guess my body was conspiring against me on that day to ensure that I'd not enjoy a single part of the race ;).
The race, as those 50k Coastal Trail Runs races often do, involved two and a half loops (two half-marathon loops + final smaller loop of 5 miles). During the first loop most of the time I had some company. Not so on the second one, which was mostly a solitary run. Only shortly before the middle of it I managed to overtake two runners.
I was feeling pretty good. Even my calf and my knee were not bothering me so much anymore. Perhaps I got used to the pain, or maybe they "warmed up" during the race or perhaps I simply learned to run without aggravating the pain.
It all changed when I was halfway through the second loop. A crisis hit me hard and fast. By that time I realized that I had no chance of finishing in under 5 hours, so I just switched to survival mode...
...or perhaps not exactly survival: my racing instincts were still on and I wanted to keep my position, whatever that was. I had the feeling that I had enough distance over the two guys that I overtook earlier to not let them catch up with me, unless I faded away completely. On the other hand I had no idea were was the closest person ahead of me so I just assumed that that way out my reach. So now it was mostly about getting my tired ass to the finish line, which with some 18k to go was not going to be an easy feat :).
I finished the second loop and was halfway through the final small loop when I saw someone ahead of me. Tired as I was this immediately kicked my competitive instincts into high gear. I picked up speed and soon caught up with him. That was shortly before a checkpoint which we reached together. At that point we had mere 2 kilometers to go. We were moving at a good speed so we got some encouraging comments from the checkpoint stuff. And when I quickly gulped a cup of water, then took off right away trying to loose my competitor and he followed suit and sprinted after me that got us some serious cheers.
I had no idea that I had so much left in the tank as I really managed to pick up the pace trying to run away from my rival. But he was right behind me. So I kept on speeding up reaching a pace of less than 4:30 min/km which that late in such a long race felt like sprinting. That finally seemed to have some effect as I started gaining some distance over him.
And then we hit a small hill. And that just killed me. It was as in those Energizer commercials were I was the bunny who ran out of juice. He caught up, took over and all I could do was watch. The race was over. I slowly jogged to the finish line which I crossed full 3 minutes after him. I didn't play it well, but to be fair he totally deserved to beat me. Kudos, great finish Sam! :)
Still, overall I was very happy with my performance. First and foremost I did finish without getting myself injured. Also the time of 5:11:28 was nothing to be ashamed of. Neither was finishing 3rd overall and first in my age group. Good race. And I'm already on the lookout for the next one! :)