Monday, January 17, 2011

A Lesson in Buzzing and Mud Baths

James, Kevin, Alvin, and Candice at the start of cap peak mega, all smiles.  Photo courtesy Narrows Bridge Running Club.
I ran the Capitol Peak Fat Ass 55K last weekend.  Nobody can quite agree whether the race was actually 34 miles (55K) or as I have heard ever since the race ended...35, 36, 37, even 40 miles long.  With all these GPS watches, everyone seems to be getting different numbers.  To me it felt like a 34 miler, but a few bonus miles sounds good to me!  I was happy with my finishing time considering the longer distance, the elevation profile, and the really muddy and wet trail conditions.  I was actually guessing, based on my time for the first half of the race, that I would come in to the finish around 7 hours, but I was able to pull off a significant negative split for the second half of the race, and came through in 6:27.  It's pretty amazing that with running you can start out feeling tired and slow, and end (34 miles later!) feeling energized.

That surge of energy reminds me of one of my favorite races last year in the Capitol Forest the Capitol Peak 50 mile trail race.  That race has a special place in my heart as I learned a very valuable lesson.  At the point in the race when I expected to feel the most tired just 8.5 miles from the finish, or 41.5 miles into the race,  I remember feeling incredibly energetic.   Being that it was only my third ultra marathon and the longest distance I had run, I was surprised to have that kind of energy at the end of the race. I love finishing races strong!  It is much more fun to pass people at the end of a race then it is to pass them at the start.

Back to the race-at-hand...
On the morning of the Capitol Peak Fat Ass last weekend, James and I arrived at the start line just minutes before the race started and unfortunately missed visiting with friends pre-race.  We had just enough time for me to drop off my drop bag for the aid station at mile 8.5 and 25.5.  The race was a mostly out and back course with a 4 mile loop at the far end that eventually climbed up capitol peak via the aptly named "grunt" trail.  The Grunt trail climbs 1000 feet elevation in less than a mile, to reach the top of Capitol Peak.

For the first half of the race, I felt so-so.  I was a bit disappointed at my seeming lack of energy and with the heavy feeling in my legs, but I was happy to be doing 34 miles whether or not I placed well in the race.  As I put it to Roger, one of my running buddies during the race who was telling me how he did multiple Crossfit workouts during the week and felt tired from them, my legs feel tired and I didn't do anything this week!  So much for excuses.  Excuses...they are overrated anyway.

As I reached the halfway point, I turned a significant mental corner: I felt like I could start to give the race my full effort.  Before the halfway point, I knew that it would be smart to conserve energy on a 34 mile race.  It is really easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start of a race and go out too fast.  The result?  Sore and tired legs, fatigue, lack of motivation, bonking... just to name a few!  By the time I descended capitol peak I was literally emanating energy.  I felt like I had to contain my energy so that I wouldn't hyperventilate or something.  It was a really interesting and intense feeling.  What exactly was in those energy gels?!  I'm not sure that I have ever felt that intensity of energy in the last 1/3  of a race before.  Buzzzzzzz.... It could have been overwhelming, but instead I was able to breathe and dole out the energy throughout the next 15 or so miles.

It was also during this time that it really began to rain.  Small puddles in the trails became big muddy messes and streams of water washed down the trail.  There were several (actually lots) of sections of trail that were a slip'n'slide.  Running on Whidbey Island I have become very used to navigating muddy trails, so I knew how to step (even in my racing flats) so as to not fall.  This part of the race was definitely one of my favorite parts!  I love the challenge of terrain and accumulating mileage.

Oh yeah!  Muddddddyyyyy!
James didn't get very muddy

Love some post race heat!
Horse...or bike? Or Bikorse? Or Horsike?
Race directors James Varner of Rainshadow Running and John Pearch Of Capitol Peak Ultras
Post race relaxing: James and me


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