Either the fine people at Inside Trail Racing manage to schedule perfect tune-up races 2 weeks before the area’s biggest ultras, or I am just one lucky girl. In November I ran the ITR Mount Tam 30k which took participants on a perfect tour of some of the gnarliest climbs of the North Face 50k and 50 miler which was 2 weeks later. This weekend, the Lake Chabot Redtail Ridge 30k perfectly simulated the downhill pavement start and rolling, but fast, hills of Way Too Cool which is also in 2 weeks. As is typical of all Inside Trail Racing events, there were 4 perfectly stocked aid stations with cheerful volunteers, great course markings and a fun start / finish line vibe. They have beet juice, chocolate milk, beer and all kinds of food at the finish line too.
Since this was a tune up race, it was the perfect chance to push hard and see what happens if / when the wheels come off. I strategized with my coach the week leading up to the race and we decided I would go hard on the flat pavement for the first 2 miles and really push on the first (and only really big) climb. After that, just hold on for dear life. That’s pretty much exactly how it went too. I went out with the lead pack of guys but let them go when they dropped below 6 min miles. Only 1 guy passed me so I know I went out at the right pace. I felt comfortable but fast on the pavement clocking around 6:30 minute miles for the first 2 miles. This is my current wheel house since I am training for Boston in 8 weeks so my brain and body were totally ready for this. Then we hit the big climb, 800 feet in about 1.6 miles and my legs were super confused. Instead of a long steady climb, this hill had super steep sections followed by less steep / flat sections. This might sound good, but it actually totally messed up my rhythm. I much prefer a long and steady climb that I can run instead of the broken up climbs that switch between walking and running. But hey what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
After the climb, I was pretty much alone until the course met up with the half marathon loop for the final 4 miles. I had some fun exchanges with a masters runner who would just about catch up to me on the uphills and then I would bomb the downhills and leave him in the dust. Because of the rolling nature of this course this happened several time in a row and we had some fun exchanges over it. Then at the 3rd aid station, which was on a little out and back spur, I was heading out as he was heading in and we exchanged a subtle low five without exchanging any words. This is the shit about trail running I love. We didn’t know each other, but we had shared several tough miles together and were recognizing each other’s efforts.
Part of the course went through some cow pastures. These should have been nice and comfortable miles because its mostly flat, but they were super wet and muddy and the cows had totally taken over the trail. Read: huge piles of poop bombs and really rough trails from their feet in the mud. Additionally, there were several cow gates we had to open and they were all different! Meaning I had to stop and figure out how to open each gate instead of being able to just run through. The last one wouldn’t open so instead of spending time trying to figure it out I just climbed over it; maybe I have a future in obstacle course racing after all!
Overall it was a fun race, but I did get frustrated at the hills. I don’t have hill legs at the moment and after going out hard, my legs were pretty uncomfortable for the majority of the race. By the last few miles mile entire pelvis region was achy but I tried to channel the mental strength to push past it and feel pretty good about my performance. It was definitely a battle and I power hiked more than I would have liked, but I figured that since this was a tune up and not an A race, it was ok not to push into the red zone. I definitely need to work on maintaining mental positivity.
I finished first female by 35 minutes and came in 6th overall, so I can’t really complain about my performance, but I definitely identified some areas for improvement when I race Way Too Cool in 2 weeks. Sunday was another big trail day to get in one last back to back weekend before WTC. I got lost and ended up doing 15 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing in the Phoenix Lake area of Marin. Luckily, we parked by MH Bread and Butter and so we got to re-fuel with delicious food immediately after what turned into a hot and difficult run.
Strava tracking: https://www.strava.com/activities/498089397