The Bonanza Begins
This past weekend was a magnificent running bonanza. It started off on Saturday with my fourth Chilly Hilly 5k, a trail run in Audubon State Park in Kentucky. This is one of my favorite races in one of my favorite places to run.
The first time I ran this race was in 2012, and I finished in 28:07 – a 9:04/mi pace. This is pretty impressive, considering the terrain (it’s very hilly) – and I haven’t been able to get near that pace since. In 2013 and 2014, the race took place only a few weeks after I ran a marathon, so I was in a running lull both times. I pulled out 31:48 and 31:33 respectively.
This Saturday, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Ashley and I have gone out to Audubon a lot this year, but not recently. I elected to start in very front of the second wave. This was the first time I ever started at the front of the pack. It was an odd sensation to start running immediately when the “Go!” was given. Even with smaller races like this one, there is a little time between the starting horn and when you actually start running. But not today! “Go!” “Oh…me?”
Chilly Hilly has one of the toughest starts to a race that I’ve done. I can’t think of many races that start on an uphill – but the Chilly Hilly really brings it. The very first part is a really long uphill on the road followed by two more hills before getting to the Backcountry trailhead and singletrack. My legs were feeling fresh and powerful, and I was pleased to be well in front of all but two runners in the pack by the time we got into the woods. The trailhead is also a grueling hill. I passed those two runners about halfway up. So, heading into the woods, I was at the front of my wave – and pretty happy about it.
While running this course through the spring and summer this year, I developed a specific plan of attack that I thought might help me. Since this is a pretty tough course, it’s not realistic to think that I could go all out the entire way. I would need a few places where I could dial it back and get my heart and legs back under control. For example, I knew that the hills at the beginning were hard and long, but they were followed by a long stretch of flat or downhill areas – great for recovery! I identified a few areas like this along the course, as well as some other places where I could really pull out all the stops and blaze down the trail to make up for the recovery areas. By the end of the summer, I had the course mapped out and a plan of attack dialed in. I put that plan to the test last Saturday, and it worked like a dream.
I stayed well ahead of my wave the whole race and even infiltrated the first wave by passing four or five runners. I passed two runners on my old nemesis, the Stupid Steep Staircase at the lake. I have no pictures, so you’ll just have to trust me. It’s stupid and steep.
The trails were covered in leaves and a little damp, so I took some of the downhills and sharp turns pretty cautiously. Roots and rocks were hiding within. I wasn’t going to be contending for first place or anything like that, so the glory of getting an unrecognized course PR was not worth the potential price of a broken face.
I rounded the corner into the finish line at 29:47 (9:36 pace). At 6th place in my age group and 26th overall, it was not enough to earn a medal – but it’s the best time I’ve had out there in three years, so I consider it a race well done.
I raced in my Merrell Trail Gloves. These have become my favorite go-tos for short races, road or trail. They’re light, supremely grippy on the trails, and fit like a glove – as one might imagine.
The Bonanza Continues
I had 15 miles on the schedule for this weekend. To get these miles in, I could either run the Chilly Hilly course five times after the race (blaaaaaah), or go straight home, change into dry running clothes, and hit the road. Partway through the race, I decided I would do neither and just run my 15 miles on Sunday after church.
So, when I got home in the mid-morning on Sunday, I got in my gear and hit the road. It started off a little rough. I was trying out some new bluetooth headphones that ended up not working at all, so I stopped running and switched back to my Yurbuds, which were like a breath of fresh air after trying the strange new ones. Then I had a rock in my left shoe, so I stopped running again to take off my shoe and drain it of its boulder passenger. Then the insole was slipping in my right shoe. So I stopped running AGAIN and fixed that problem. After that, though, everything was pretty smooth going. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a slight chill in the air. Perfect for a long run.
I started off pretty easy, like I usually do for long runs, and slowly, each mile got faster and faster. Not crazy fast, just incrementally so. It’s really a great sign for a long run to naturally have negative splits. At the halfway point, I really picked it up. Everything was really clicking, and it felt so great. The 15 miles flowed really well, and I was done before I knew it.
Of course I wore my trusty roadies: Altra Instinct. My feet always thank me when I pull on these green monsters. The insole sliding around is an unfortunate development. It only happens in the right shoe, and it only started after I ran in a downpour thunderstorm several weeks ago. I’ll probably put a little glue in there to hold it in place for a while. I’m not ready to give them up yet. I have 250 miles on this pair, so I’m almost due for another set, but these are holding up really well. There’s no unexpected wear on them.
What I listened to
Here are the podcasts I listened to on my long run. A nice combo of education and humor to keep my mind off the pavement.
– Radiolab: Staph Retreat (about staph infections and ancient remedies)
– The Memory Palace: no. 116,842 (bite size history show – this one was about the first woman to get a patent)
– Ask Me Another: Gilbert Gottfried: Too Soon! (fantastic trivia game show from NPR)
– Trail Talk: How to Travel and Camp Before an Ultramarathon (great tips from Rock Creek Runner!)
Then I finished it off with my Beast playlist on Spotify. I don’t remember which songs were played, but there was some Queen, Modest Mouse, Panic! At the Disco, and Muse! Basically if I like a song, I add it to that playlist. It gets a little ecclectic, but that’s what gets my feet moving.