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So I made it down to the Run Through Time Marathon in Salida. My goal was to run within myself and finish without feeling completely spent (to basically do a supported training run with a little company), and I’m happy to say that for the most part I accomplished that goal.

The Pluses of the Run:

  • Mental State. On the drive back to the Front Range, I remarked to my wife that I felt mentally consistent and steady throughout the race. I was able to stay in tune with my body for the duration, and it seemed like I was doing so not though deliberate or focused concentration, but just by letting the distractions and potential energy-sucking thoughts and behaviors flow through me. For example, when someone came up behind me, I stepped off the trail and let them pass, with absolutely no urge to speed up to stick with them. I came upon another runner taking selfies and panorama shots of the high peaks, so I offered to stop and a picture for him so he could have one with both the view and himself in frame. It cost some time, but I was happy to help another runner.
  • Pacing by Feel. More specifically, by my breath. Whenever I felt like I might be starting to breathe a little bit too hard, I’d slow down. If that meant walking, then I’d walk. I never once felt out of breath, or even in danger of getting near that state. Was I running a little too easily? Maybe. But it was awesome.
  • Self-Care and Thinking Ahead. I stopped somewhere around mile 19 or 20 to empty the debris out of my shoes, thinking that losing a few minutes didn’t matter so much, and that I really didn’t want to develop any hotspots or blisters (which I could sense could potentially become an issue soon). In past races, I’ve sometimes made bad decisions in terms of self-care, and avoided taking a minute or two to fix something, and had it cost me a LOT more time later in the run.
  • Ignoring the In-Run Data. I never looked at my GPS watch once during the race, which means I didn’t have any in-race data about how I was running. I never knew how far it was to the next aid station, I never knew what my current or cumulative pace was. And I never knew how much time I had spent running. Not having the numbers let me really focus on how I was feeling. [So why did I bother to wear the watch? Just to have the data to look at afterwards. I like being able to see how much time I spent at the aid stations, and what my pace was in certain sections of the course (like the long uphill dirt road grind here), so that I have some baseline data if I ever try to run the course hard in the future.
  • The Orange Mud HydraQuiver. This was the longest I’ve run using this hydration solution, and I have to say I really loved it. There was good and stable tension around the shoulders (nothing across the chest), but it never felt tight. Filling my bottle at the aid station took literally just a few seconds. I never had to interrupt my breathing by having to suck fluid through a tube. Even when the bottle is half full and I was running downhill, I never felt a bounce. I might write something more detailed in the future about this line of gear (I’ve purchased both the single and double-bottle versions of the HydraQuiver), but so far I’ve found it to be a great match for my preferences and needs.

Another reason I wasn’t running hard in this race is that I really wanted to use it as kind of a test run for the Tahoe Rim Trail Run 50 Miler this summer. (My 2012 TRT 50 was kind of a failure – I ran a decent first half of the race, kind of blew up on the Diamond Peak climb, and never really recovered. I finished within the time limit, but I felt like the course had beaten me.)

In my mind, I was pretending to do the Run Through Time as the first part of a 50 miler. So if I ran the 26.2 too hard then I’d be in bad shape for running an additional 23.8. But if I slowed down for that 26.2, and completed it with some energy left and my legs in decent shape, then doing an additional 23.8 would be hard, but doable. So while I consider this run to have been a success, there were some areas where I didn’t do so well.

The Minuses of the Run:

  • Nutrition. After 5 1/2 hours of sugar (Stinger gels and Acli-Mate), my stomach was starting to feel like it REALLY wanted something different. Since it seems like there’s usually a delayed response in some of our sensory awareness (e.g.,  “if you get thirsty, then you’re already way behind in your hydration”), I probably would have paid the price in terms of energy levels if I had kept running. I need to make more of an effort to eat something other than sugar earlier in the race.
  • Perceived vs. Real Effort. I kinda wish I had worn my heart rate monitor during the race, because I’d like to know how my subjective impressions of my physical state corresponded to objective heart rate data. I’m happy to go off my feelings, but having confirmation that I wasn’t overdoing it out there would be helpful.
  • The Weak Link. I’m still working through the issues with my plantar fascia. While my feet held up pretty well to the time and distance, I think that’s because my hip was working to somehow compensate for the foot dysfunction. I felt a little tweaky in the hip near the end of an 11 mile run a few days before the race, and that same area was kinda sore for about 24 hours after finishing the race.
  • The Last Two Miles. When I reached the last aid station, the volunteer told me it was just a couple downhill miles into the finish. I should have continued to mellow out for the duration, but I let myself flow down the hill a little faster than necessary. I guess I just wanted to feel a little bit of speed go through my legs, and I rationalized that even I pushed things a bit, the extra effort wouldn’t do much to change the fact that the race as a whole was pretty mellow. Still, I wasn’t trying to catch up to or stay ahead of any of the other runners, so there really wasn’t any reason for me to speed up. And in Tahoe, I need to take care not to push things unnecessarily.

In truth, if my foot had been 100% I might have taken a different approach to this race. But as it is, what I got from running a slow race (and learning that “hey, if I take care of myself and hold back a bit, I could do the first half of a 50 mile run without blowing up”) has a lot of value.

The course was interesting and fun (and the entry fees were comparatively low), so I’d love to go back to Salida and do it again.