Sunday, December 8, 2013

Texas Trails 20k Race Report

Each race is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. 

I woke up today with a vaguely familiar feeling in basically every major muscle group in my body and then some- that feeling that can only mean one thing: that I put in a quality race effort yesterday. Yes, I am sore and tired today-but in a good way caused by 20k of the hilly trails of Huntsville State Park. For starters, I'm happy with how things went down, especially because if my memory serves me correctly, this was my first race  in double-digit mileage in about TWO years (not counting 5ks and triathlons). Wow.

I'll do my best to keep this relatively light, tight, and bright, so I'll throw out the outcome/basic content first:

Location: Huntsville State Park, Huntsville TX
RD: The legendary Roger Soler (those not from TX, feel free to google him!)
Temperature/Conditions: 28-32 degrees, cloudy (not my favorite!)
Shoes: New Balance 890 V4, review coming shortly*
Finish Place: 3rd OA Female
Finish Time: 1:38 and change
Avg. Pace: 7:54ish
Nutrition: PowerBar Tangerine Gel, PowerBar Perform, PowerBar Recovery afterward with a ProteinPlus bar that was basically frozen
Number of hills climbed: ??? 
Slowest pace: ???
Fastest pace: ???
GPS device: None. Used regular Timex

Process & Race Goals:
1. Enjoy myself/have a positive experience
2. Finish strong (and in one piece!)
3. Sub 1:40 finish time 
4. Average a sub-8:00 pace
5. Top 3 Finish. 

Using a little mental training: bottle translates to "I shine, not burn".
I'll try and keep this one simple for many reasons. Sporting just enough winter clothes to feel warm enough but not weighed down, yesterday it was time to re-enter the (run) racing world. The aforementioned items were rough process goals and I was pleased to meet all of them, however, this 12.4 mile jaunt took me through a range of emotions and (re)learning experiences. I won't take the reader through every mile and turn, but here are some of the things that stood out the most in this event: 

After all this time, I am still a fast starter from the gate. Yep, in classic Adrienne-fashion, I lead the first couple miles or so of the race; pulling an Olympic Trials marathon finisher and former D1 college runner out into one of the most challenging parts of the course. Let's just say I dropped back to 3rd place female and held it there in order to lower the risk of detonating in the first few miles-which I really didn't want. Also, I couldn't help but experience a little pre-race anxiety and that usually manifests in over-running a bit in the first few. Luckily, this mistake was not too costly, but may have cost me some comfort in the middle mile climbs- but then again, isn't discomfort part of racing? 

After letting the main pack go, I settled in to run mostly alone through the winding course with hills that weren't necessarily steep, but shaped like rooted dirt stairs that in some spots were a little more challenging than I anticipated. In a few spots, my self-talk went from instructional ("go here", "good" "just pick a line and run it", etc) to pretty discouraging as my HR spiked ("maybe you're not as ready as you thought", "you went out too hard," "I don't feel so great"...), but what I found, especially after remembering to relax my shoulders and calm down a little, is that I recovered quite nicely upon reaching the downhills (which I LOVED running) and the flats. Thank goodness! Upon paying more attention to my body vs. my ego and adjusting strategy more appropriately than just going out there like a crazed beast, I took it easier on the hills and really picked up some nice speed on the downhills and flatter areas. And wow, the 890s held up great on the packed dirt and pine needles and my stride mechanics felt 'on'! Very encouraging. 

The last portion of the race, which involves a pretty spot along Lake Raven and over some wood bridges, I decided to put on a little more speed to close the race out like I wanted to. And I ran, and ran, and ran some more...ok, where is the finish line...I kept thinking, trying to recall the parts of the looped course from earlier. Soon enough, the gravel straightaway was suddenly right there after a hard left. I checked the watch, saw that I could meet my time goal and as tired as I was, lifted the pace and kicked it in. 1:38 finish time, 3rd Overall Female, back in the game. Boom. I leaned over on some trussing to recover and smiled; realizing something I actually knew all along-I'm still me. I'm still a good runner. I can do this successfully. 

A bonus of this event was having my best friend and stud ultra-runner, Rebecca, here from AL running in the 50k distance. We had a great weekend of hanging out with my local friends and her fun husband, telling stories and carb-loading, and of course running. And how did Mrs. R do? A very impressive 19-minute improvement from her last year's performance and 2nd OA Female! It was kind of cool seeing her during my cooldown come around for her last loop smiling all the way around. Yeah, it's great to have a positive performance yourself, but sharing the experience with a friend makes it even more meaningful. I saw many friends and old racing buddies out there braving some seriously frigid conditions for us poor Southerners. Bottom line-it was a great day! 

I'll close this out with some takeaways from this event that I think are relevant for future ones. 

  • The mantra "I'm still me", seemed to carry me through some of the tough parts of the course when I needed it. 
  • Racing longer distances have their ups and downs, and I think I overall managed them successfully by altering my strategy and thinking. 
  • While a little more hill work couldn't hurt, I have improved greatly in running downhills and find them quite fun. 
  • Gymwork. Perhaps the best thing I have added to my recent training routine. My stride felt strong and I seemed to have some decent turnover underneath when I reached flat portions of the course; likely related to weekly functional core and strength training. 
  • I remember how to race again-from the feeling I get before the gun goes off to when to dial back, when to dig deep, and how it feels when you put in a good morning's work and gave it your best for the day. 
  • Racing strategy is something I'm obviously rusty on, but got a nice refresher.
  • Running is in my blood. Period. Race performances will vary, but the simple act stays the same. 

Anyhow, I plan to take the next few days really easy, with today being full rest and tomorrow I may hit the pool to run. Unlike previous "comebacks" I have gotten greedy and have immediately wanted to go race again. I'm trying to play for relative keeps and let my body call some of the shots. 

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend: roads or trails and special thanks to my sponsors PowerBar and Ray Arroyo at Superior Performance Massage. 

After a successful but REALLY cold day of racing! I have 5 layers on including the blanket.

Stay the course.


Tina @GottaRunNow said...

I live in the area and know that it was really cold yesterday. I wanted to run that race, but I'm getting over some minor aches right now. Congrats on powering through to win 3rd OA Female! said...

Pick another fun race to challenge yourself with, register and repeat. Well done, as always!

L.A. Runner said...

So proud of you and everything you've accomplished. Your "return to greatness" has been very inspirational.

As usual, I had a fabulous weekend. Much love! <3

Kate said...

Well done my friend, so thrilled to see you back in action. I've learned a lot from you, keep up the good work!!! #thatpower

Raina R. said...

Super job, Lady!! Nothing like first long distance race to get you back into feeling strong!

I can feel the positive vibe coming off of you, being back in the game, and it is GOOD.
Congrats on your tree-rooted-trail podium finish! Well done :)

Elizabeth said...

Congrats! I really like how you had some great takeaways and learnings from this one. And your mantra is awesome. I might steal it.