John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Race Report: 2012 Steep Ravine 30k

This is one of a handful of race/run reports that I wrote before I started this blog.

I always enjoy reading others' race reports so I thought I'd throw a race report in about my 30k trail race from Saturday. I'm not a great writer, but I'll do my best.
I've been working towards going for a sub 3 marathon at the LA Marathon this year, so it seemed like a good idea to throw in a 30-ish kilometer race somewhere in my training to substitute for a long run and mix things up a bit (running in west LA is not the most interesting spot, though it is pretty during sunsets!). Additionally, I wanted to add some hills into my training because I need to go 11+ miles to get any sustained climbing into my runs, so for shorter, after-work runs, I've often been relegated to flat or nearly flat runs.
Mileage-wise, I've been hovering in the 50/week range, on my way up to 60 and change for my peak week. Since this race wasn't a peak race, I was planning on training straight through the race with 1 rest day before hand, which happened to coincide with my normal rest day (Friday). Unfortunately, on an easy 5 on Wednesday, my hamstring locked up painfully, which has never happened before, so I sacked Thursday's run as well to stay on the conservative side. Ice, Compression and Aleve were part of my Thursday/Friday regimen. Friday night I flew into town and ended up getting to bed some time around 1am with a set time of 5:45am wakeup for the race. This didn't really worry me because I've heard 2 nights before the race is really the most important night to get good rest anyway.
Race Day
My usual race day meal is a toasted bagel and peanut butter + coffee at least 2 hours before start. Pretty simple and worked out as per normal...this has been my race meal for about 2 years, so it's pretty dialed in. Headed up to the race I was pretty stoked since I hadn't raced in more than 2 months, but I didn't get any pre-race jitters, which was interesting. The whole affair was pretty laid back: checked in and picked up T-Shirt at a picnic table, warmed up a bit and hit up the starting line (after taking 1 gel) and there were only about 450 racers between 5 distances (7mi, Half & Full Marathon, 30k, 50k). I had opted not to carry water, but to carry gels and take them at times 0, 0:45, 1:15, 1:45, 2:15 with a target of less than 3 hours to finish.
The 'gun' went off and the 30k and 50k racers started out up the hill. The first 3 miles to the first aid station were straight uphill and the pace was slowish, but the course was gorgeous! Wide open fields or up a steep creek ravine covered in moss and huge trees. Not being a trail runner, I was not used to the slow pace, but I had just watched some heli shots of the North Face Mont Blanc race where the best guys in the world were walking up portions of the trail, so I realized that this was necessary for most of us mortals and even some of the best as the distance and grade got larger.
First aid station had salty snacks, water and gels, so I snagged a couple dixie cups of water, a few goldfish crackers and started the descent of the other side of the hill. The view was incredible!! Sweeping view of the ocean and hills on a crystal clear day...amazing! This combined with the downhill and I started to pick up the pace and settled in on a smooth 7 min pace down the back of the hill. Chatted with some runners and reached the bottom where we had a pretty flat out and back to the turnaround followed by a flat section through a frost covered valley trail. Flat is my game, so I found a solid rhythm and was able to hold low 7s or so.
This is where I started to notice my right hamstring tightening up a little, but I figured I could push through. This section was also interesting because I had pretty much entered no-mans land. I didn't see anyone for maybe 2 miles, but the course was well marked, so I felt OK about it. After the turnaround (thought I had about 9.3 miles to go) I had picked up the pace a bit to start gaining some time back after my relaxing run over the first half of the race. For those of you who haven't trail's awesome!! The first 10 miles blew by and I didn't even notice it. This has never happened to me as a road racer!
Once I hit the climb, I saw a few guys in a pack and slowly moved past them on my way up. I didn't see anyone else after that until I had rejoined the half marathon course and was nearing the top of the hill. This is also when I noticed that my legs were pretty tired. Not bonking tired, but heavy nonetheless. I was super amped when I hit the top of the hill because it was over a 1000 ft. of elevation downhill to the finish, but legs were even more angry, so I focused a staying calm and smooth to keep efficient. The downhill was actually rather uneventful, though again it was through gorgeous terrain and again, my right hamstring was getting quite tight. I linked up with a half marathoner who was headed down to the finish as well and we started cranking out the last portions of the course. I don't like to 'waste gravity' when I'm descending, so I was cranking out a pretty solid pace while letting my weight pull me down the hill but it was definitely taking a toll on the legs. I realized with about a half mile to go that the race was not 18.6 miles, but 17.4 miles so I hammered to the finish line for a total of just under 2:42.
I went for a warm down after snagging some sweet treats (cinnamon rolls!) at the finishing table and when I got back my buddy was standing there holding up a 1st place medal for me! I had won my age group and got 5th overall in the 30k!
Post Race
My legs hurt for a full day after the race. The climbing and the downhill pounding really took their toll on them! I iced the hamstrings and hit the foam roller and stretching pretty hard for the next 48 hours and them seem to be OK now, though 10 miles on Monday was perhaps a poor decision. Overall, I was satisfied with my performance, especially because I had pretty much trained through the race. I am quite happy that I kept the first half of the race relaxed because I felt like I had an almost perfect amount of reserves left over for the last climb and descent. After my buddies finished, I mowed down on a breakfast burrito and went home to take a nap. Was my first trail race but certainly won't be my last, such a fun run!
  1. I wear Yankz (elastic laces) on my shoes, a habit left over from my triathlon days. These do not hold your foot tightly on steep descents, so I got a lot of toe-bang into the front of my shoe...laces would have been a better choice.
  2. Even though it was cool out and there were 3 aid stations, I think 1 bottle of water in a hip pack could have helped my performance a bit by evening out my hydration.
  3. Thin gloves for the early portion of the race would have been nice. My thumbs were freezing!
After running seriously, but without much structure, for a couple of years (since 2008) I decided to add some structure to my training and chose to loosely follow Hal Higdon's Advanced 1 plan for my sub 3 hour bid at the LA Marathon. I ran a marathon after work about a year ago (was on a 20 miler and decided to push the turnaround out to 13.1) but I've never raced a marathon with a taper and nutrition and whatnot, so I don't know what to expect out of myself. Hopefully the next month and a half will go well!
Longest Training Week M - 5 easy Tu - 10 W - 6 easy Th - Hill/Track/Tempo day, alternate weeks F - Rest Sa - 10 Race Pace Su - 20 smooth
My long runs are at 7:30 to 8:15 pace, easy are whatever I feel like slower than 8 min pace, tempo is 6min pace, track intervals are 6-10x800m @ 3min or less w/ 400m recovery, and race pace is 6:45-6:50 pace.
A few people were wearing tights and a lot of people were wearing compression socks. Does anyone have experience with these items? Do they help with the pounding on the descents?
I wear road shoes because that's what I own, but most people were wearing trail shoes of some kind that looked a little bigger and bulkier. What are people's thoughts on these vs. lighter 'trail racing' shoes like the NB 110, vs. road shoes? I feel like if I had laces on, I would have been fine...anything I'm missing?
Thanks for reading!

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