I’ve struggled with motivation since Ironman Coeur d’Alene and decided to shut things down for the fall after the Deschutes Dash Olympic and Hood to Coast. I think this was due to the long training cycle I put myself through and the lack of racing throughout my Ironman build. Anyways, my running started to feel really good after Hood to Coast where I ran 3 legs and ~ 20 miles within a 24 hour period at faster than a 6:25/mi average pace. With the running starting to click, I decided to put in a bit of a running block. This was a chance to recharge my batteries while still building fitness. A few of my coworkers signed up for a very tough local Half Marathon here in Bend, OR and I decided to sign up last minute, about 10 days before the race.
Super Dave’s Down & Dirty Half Marathon is a popular race that features a very tough climb over the first 6.8 miles of just over 1,200 feet. Once you reach the top, you get to fly down some very technical single track trail on the famous Tiddlywinks mountain bike trail. Probably the only chance I’ll get to run on this trail without getting yelled at by mountain bikers. J
Two weeks before the race I got a pretty nasty sinus cold that has been going around. I got a lot of rest and did some very easy paced 30 minute runs but that was about the extent of my training. This is something that would probably stress some athletes out. However I am a big believer in rest leading up to races and definitely knew that the ‘hay was in the barn’ after several weeks of 40+ miles per week and a fair amount of quality.
Race morning came around, and for the most part the sickness was out. Nothing beats racing in your hometown! Waking up in your own bed, drinking your normal coffee, eating your usual breakfast – it’s amazing. We headed up to the race around 8am, and were there by 8:15 – perfect, considering that it was a casual 9am start. I hooked up with my coworkers, got a bathroom break in, warmed up and was feeling great. Despite the cool temperatures, the sun was keeping us nice and warm so I stripped down to my Pearl Izumi racing singlet and Nike arm-warmers. I got my pre-race kiss from my wife and it was time to roll!
As soon as the gun went off we started flying! The race starts at the Inn at the Seventh Mountain with a flat/downhill 1/4 mile through the parking lot until taking a sharp right onto the single track trail which is where the race began. We were running 6:00/mile pace for the first few minutes which felt comfortable to me, but I knew that many of the racers were running outside of their means.
As soon as we hit the climbs, people started falling back and I found myself running in a small pack for the first few miles. My dad taught me to run with short strides when climbing which has always stuck with me. I elected to run without my heart rate monitor so I was really just running off of effort. The first 6.8 miles were a grind with a mostly steady climb of about 1,200 feet with several spikey sections that were over 10% grade based on Strava. About 1 mile from the peak of the run, I passed the group I was in and found myself in 10th place as we began the fun descent down Tiddlywinks.
My average pace during the climb was right at 7:25/mile and my goal for this race was to hold a 7:15 pace. I felt that I was in 1:23-1:25 open half marathon shape, and running a 1:35 on such a challenging course felt like it would be a great goal. As I began the descent I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, but I did my best to control my stride coming down hill and was able to click off 6:25-6:40 pace the entire descent. Not quite as fast as I wanted, but with the trail was very technical with a lot of turns, rocks, roots and obstacles so I knew I was putting time into my competition. Taking in Hammer Gel throughout the race (miles 5 and 10) definitely helped keep the engine going as I felt strong from start to finish.
Super Dave told us before the gun went off that we would know we were close to the finish when we hit a steep climb at the bottom of the downhill. Sure enough, around mile 12.25 I found myself grinding up a short but very steep climb and I could see the field where we finished in the distance. I knew I wasn’t going to catch 9th place so I strided out and ran it in strong for a 1:31:54 finish. This result was good for 10th overall including 3 professionals, an average pace of 7:01/mile and much faster than my initial goal of 1:35.
Overall, I am stoked on the result! The time is somewhat meaningless due to the difficulty and individuality of the race, however to place so well in relation to professionals and to feel as strong as I did is a great sign. I would definitely recommend Super Dave’s Down and Dirty Half Marathon and am looking forward to continuing to check out the trail race scene here in Bend.
Next up for me will be a subtle build in training volume, adding in some intensity to the cycling and continuing to swim at least 3x a week while I keep building my run volume and intensity. I’m enjoying the break from rigid training but excited to see my fitness to continue to build. The 2016 season is going to be a great one!