*photo provided by Mark Olateju
Welcome to my first race report! It should only begin with a huge thank you to Dave Hanenburg, the Endurance Buzz Tribe, Cedar Ridge Preserve, all of the volunteers, to my coach and most importantly to my family for supporting me.
Approaching races as training runs is a concept which is foreign to me. (Perhaps not foreign but one I definitely do not prefer.) This will not be the last race with that purpose in the months to come. If I want to accomplish the goals I have in mind I must set aside my frustration and use these events as the learning experiences they are meant to be. With that spirit in mind, this race report is written from a frustrated perspective yet one that is attempting to seek out the knowledge to be gained from the experience had on race day out at Cedar Ridge Preserve.
Preface - Cedar Ridge Preserve is a trail I used to run frequently when living and growing up as a young runner in Arlington. Those days are years passed. It is a trail I have always loved. It takes me back to childhood because the terrain recalls memories of visits to my Grandparents' home in Colorado Springs. Though they are hardly mountains, the cedar trees and steep climbs and descents the preserve features are close enough to the character of the San Juan foothills and bluffs in the Springs area to strike up these memories for me. It is a happy place.
Prior to this race I had only run at the preserve once in my preparation over the past few months. I was also "fresh" off the highest mileage week I have posted in over a year. CRP 36K is my new longest trail race and the first race I utilized a drop bag. The course was a 5.5mile loop run counter-clockwise twice followed by two clockwise loops. Total climbing per Garmin 405 was 2,779', with 2,785' of complimentary descending.
Race Day - I woke at my home in Frisco at 4am to move through my race morning routine and head out. All things went smoothly and after a short hour long drive I was watching the dust settle around the vehicle through the dim light of headlights at CRP right at 5:30am.
After a visit to the very nice rest facilities at the park, I headed over to pick up my bib and goodies. The volunteers were all very pleasant and on top of their game. It was nice to see so many folks on hand at that hour to help out. Shortly after I went back and grabbed my drop bag, a rolling cooler, and found a nice spot near the edge of the drop tarp for it. Anxious about wasting time during the race at the drop area, I had prepared four premixed 20oz handhelds with Roctane Brew. They were placed inside two 1gallon freezer bags and set in the cooler(2bottles fit in each bag) The bag works nicely to keep the melting ice from soaking the cloth handle of the bottles through while they stay cool. The only downside to this system was my placing my race gu in the pouch of the handhelds. It would provide very very thick gu's to me in the middle of the race.
AND THEY'RE OFF! - The moments leading up to the race were a fun relaxed experience. There were many familiar faces which always enhances my day. Home is where you find yourself among friends and family. These moments were soon dust on the trail. With a brief 3, 2, 1 "GO!" from Dave, we were off!
It did not take long to remember why I was on the trail and what my goal was for the day. I found myself comfortably running behind Jacob and Brian, two local trail runners whose ability I respect. Brian won the 50mile at the Grasslands Run which I served as race director for this March and Jacob just concluded his most recent adventure pacing multiple runners through the challenging Hardrock 100 course in the mountains of Colorado. After some brief light-hearted discussion amongst the three of us as to who would break the spider-webs, I informed them we had our first volunteer. A tall capable looking runner went strongly by us and took the lead as we left the wood chips and headed into the trail. A decision needed to be made soon as to who was going to race and who was going to run their race. The young man in front was not interested in our casual conversation or starting the race in a similar manner. He was gone and it seemed Jacob and Brian were going to give it a go with him or at least find out what his intent was. My decision was confirmed after we passed the first aid station. I was just off the lead group of Jacob, Brian, and a couple of others. This race had been slotted as a training run and a stepping stone in my schedule and mind all along. I had not tapered in preparation. In fact I had just logged 60 miles in a week and 80 miles over eight days. This was not the time to race. It was time to run smart, be patient, and practice for the trails and races to come.
With my decision made, I settled into a comfortable pace and ran among a group of three or four others. I immediately began power-hiking the hills. Thank you Clive for teaching me how to do this. I also ran the downhills casually and tried to incorporate the hip-swivel technique I had been practicing. Running the downhills casually was accomplished but I would say I failed at executing the hip-swivel consistently. Downhill trail running is one of my favorite parts of trail running. Ask anyone who's ran with me often and they will tell you how I LOVE to fly down a technical descent. Today I was not racing though. I was practicing. Maybe changing how I run downhills is not something I need to make myself practice next race.
Loops one and two were very comfortable. I finished each loop feeling more than relaxed. My drop bag system was near perfect.(at least to my novice perception) I had three 20oz handheld Amphipod bottles with roctane brew mixed and ready placed inside 1 gallon freezer bags inside of a cooler. The freezer bags kept the soft cloth handles of the bottles from getting wet as the ice in the cooler melted. The only negative were the solidifying roctane gu's I had placed in the pouch of my handhelds. They would have been easier to consume had they been stored in an external pouch of the cooler. I also could have saved time by taking the gu as I headed down the trail rather than while in the aid area. This has been noted as one of the opportunities for true race day. The convenience of grabbing a ready to go bottle and tossing the used one in the cooler is definitely a go for any race drop that allows coolers. I can live with air temp roc brew too so it should be fine for general drop bags set-ups too.
Loop three left me feeling a bit fatigued. It was warming up quickly to what I assume were temps arriving in the low 90's as the high for the day was set to be 104 and we had started in the mid 80's; not too mention around 17 miles had been run and plenty of good solid hills. I was feeling more fatigue from the mistake of holding back on the downhills than anything. We often take for granted how much energy we use trying to slow down and control ourselves going downhill; hence, why I prefer and love to fly downhill. My quads were pissed off and starting to let me know they were angry I had not practiced my familiar flight down the rocks and roots.
Loop four went by quickly in regard to perceived time. It was hot hot hot at this point especially in the clearings without shade. I made a point to just keep moving forward consistently but I was really feeling fatigue in my legs from the course and from the miles of training mentioned previously. After going through the final aid station I power hiked up the final long climbs as quickly as possible mixing in some running. Soon I was out of the woods and onto the wood chips we had started our day on about four hours earlier. I knew I was home and ran quickly through the final steps to the finish line.
My race was over. Friends and trail family congratulated me and offered me their help. I was happy to be finished, not exhausted or totally spent, but happy to have ended the days effort.
The post race food, massage, and camaraderie were pleasant. I loved the finisher's award which was a bottle of local honey with a little wooden finisher's medal. I am a honey fiend so this was right up my alley. I enjoyed an ice cold Dale's Pale Ale some good conversation and the remaining cooler part of a Texas summer day and the dwindling shade.
Today I have taken my notepad out and attempted to unbiasedly analyze and note what lessons can be applied to my next adventure on the trails. I have reflected and found more motivation in yesterday's experience to bring me better prepared to tomorrow's endeavors.
Live well ~ Run well