Monday, September 19, 2011

Not so Long Back to Backs

The Cactus Rose trail runs are coming up fast. This year I'll be running the 50 miler so I need to get a little more serious on my weekend training runs. 50 miles at HCSNA in Bandera is just about right. This year there will be a four person 100 mile relay at the Cactus Rose! That should be exciting!
The past weekend started with my race Saturday at the Mission Possible 20K. The third in the four race series of the Alamo Beer Challenge put on by Bart's "Scallywompus events."
Saturday morning was very very humid. There had been rain the day before and the skies were threatening to open up again. Rain? We hadn't seen rain but once or twice all year! Most would agree, the rain was welcomed. Running the trail along the San Antonio river south of downtown would add to the humid conditions.
I had once again planned to start at an easy even pace, slowly increase my pace about a third in to the race, and hope to have energy at the later stages of the race to keep the increased pace. This time I stuck to my plan! Usually my lack of patience gets the better of me and I blow it.
The course was very nice running along the river but some of the loops we had to run around small parks along the way were a little confusing. 20 minutes into the race I took in a gel. At about mile 3 we ran around Concepcion park. Memories swirled around in my mind. I would spend summers at my Aunt Rosa's house on San Antonio's southside as an adolescent. My cousin Max and I would Sleep on the screened-in porch at night, eat grapes off the vine and pomegranates off the tree in his back yard and go over to swim at the Concepcion park pool. I saw ourselves as kids running around the big open grassy field behind the pool.
By mile 5 the runners were pretty spread out which made it more comfortable running on the narrow path. The water running over the rocks in the river with birds scattered here and there made for a calm feeling. Running back after the turn around next to Riverside Golf course, it was good to see and high five friends also running the race.
Mile 8 and once again it was a loop around Concepcion park. I took another gel and felt really good. I was able to pick up the pace and started to pass people. I always go in to a race hoping to just run well but the competitive streak usually emerges. As we approached the start line people yelled encouragement and we continued north towards downtown S.A. This is also a nice area along the river, built and maintained for the tourists. The pavement along this section of the river is pebbled and the foliage is thick and lush. Some of the S.A. skyline is visible from this point. We crossed over to the other side of the river at mile 11 and headed back to the finish at The Blue Star Brewery.
At one point we came up to street level and there were NO SIGNS! Do we go back down to the river or stay on the street to the finish. No one was around me. Luckily I know the area and went back down to the river and to the finish. I later told Bart, the race director, that this was confusing. I finished in 1:41:02. I was happy, not spent, won another growler (second in age group). Justin, our trainer at work, won one too! as did his girlfriend. And my Rockhopper long time friend, pacer, and trail running pal Kelli won first overall female! I hung out with friends after the race and spoke at length to a childhood friend I ran into.
Sunday it was another run on the pavement. This time in Leon Creek with other Rockhopper friends. Tom, Brian, Tim and I met at the Mainland trailhead of the Leon Creek greenbelt. We started in the dark donning our headlamps as a light drizzle fell. Tim and brian would turn around at the 4 mile mark. Tom and I were in for 15 miles. At mile 5 or so we ran into Kelli, who has won all three Alamo Beer Challenge races by the way, and Joe T. They are training for the St. George Marathon in Utah in three weeks. Tom and I ran with them for a little over three miles at a slightly faster pace. I considered this speed work. Kelli and Joe were running at an "easy pace."
The last 4 miles it was Tom and I. We exchanged training tips. Speed work has to be a part of your training for better times and/or better more comfortable running in the late stages of an ultra. Incorporating interval training is good for building heart strength. Training in heart rate zones 2,3 and four, where you'll be running most of the time in long runs, is beneficial. And visualization. See yourself performing well, or suffering through a long run and visualize what you'd do to pull through that bad spot.
2 hours and 18 minutes after we started, I was cooked. Tom ran a few minutes more. Why? I don't know. Tom's weird that way.
I got my back to back runs in. Not too long but two good runs on consecutive days. Next week I've got to go long. 30 plus. I've got a new interesting route in mind too!

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