Trail running. You either love it or hate it. It pretty much is Marmite both in consistency and the dread that people have over it.
Unlike Marmite, i love it. Nothing quite beats the feeling you get running downhill out of control just on the edge of balance in the middle of winter in t-shirt and shorts. A few months back Pauline suggested that we all go do a nice little run in Wales. As I've been more and more inclined to enjoy my running of late i decided what the hell lets go for it. Signed up and promptly forgot about the fact that i hadn't run a half marathon off road in a few years.
The tri season rolled on past and then the cross season rolled in. Running was put on a shelf bar a few short efforts with the bike on my shoulder during training. An early season max test on the lab treadmill showed i was running well about 2 weeks before the race (71ml/kg/min[5.45L/min] @ 14kph on 8% grade) so i knew at least i had the fitness to race.
What i didn't think of doing was any mileage...at all, i think i did maybe 2 20mins rungs in the lead up to it. Sod it, its the cross season, top end work will do me fine......ehhhh no.
Saying that the first 4.5km of the race were great, 23mins across a beach on sand, up and over some steep trails and down some narrow slithery boards. Felt great and was happy with my pace over that distance considering how bloody soft the beach was. Settled on it on the first climb at 5km as i had looked at the map and knew it was going to be a long one. Pauline drifted off ahead of me and i just sat on in with a group and breathed away to myself.
2.2km at an average of 8% takes it out of the leg, wasn't fast, but it was consistent. This lead onto a great 3km descent, let the legs open up, close up the jacket and just go for it. Caught Pauline about 2km in and talked for a while. Ran on together for a while and hit the next climb to a section of moorland where we got split up and ended up about 100m apart for the whole thing. Memories of TransWales came flooding back as we trudged across this section. Wet is one way to describe it ....just a tad.
Descent off the moor was a bit boring to be honest but led to a great section on the coast line of Gower out by Worm's Head. Just great rolling trail like the coastal path i ride and run on most weeks. However at this point (16km or so in) i started getting the initial twangs of my right calf starting to bunch when i went up onto my toes. I'd pretty much forgotten to drink much during the race, and at this point i started to regret that. Had to ease off for about 3km on the relative flat pace heading up to 6:15mins/km.
Thankfully as we hit the last climb i was getting my legs under control, heal running (shudder) and not going onto my toes on climbs were letting me stretch my calves on each step. The last climb is epic, 20% average gradient (sections @ 35%) but less than half a km long, with another little kicker about half way through. Was surprised how i felt when we hit it, kept the HR down and just went on up picking people off on the way up. One guy on my shoulder all the way up groaned as we hit the top and had to keep it going on the rolls top, personally i loved it, chance to pick it up and see what was left in the tank.
Not much as it turned out, got HR back up to 170's for a bit and just pushed it to see what would happen, what happened was i fell on my ass on the final descent :) 1km at 30% average. Just excellent.
2hrs 18mins, avg.HR 166bpm, pace avg. 6:23mins/km, 837m of total climbing over 21.1km.
Great race and well done to the folks at Endurancelife.com, i will be back for another one of your events. This time i might even train...