Sunday, May 15, 2016

Race to Robie Creek

Final Time 1:41:46 89th Overall 16th 30-34

After moving to Boise, the Race to Robie Creek was immediately on my radar because of the overwhelming consensus among runners that it was a great race. I was not disappointed. It was highly competitive, well run, and a fun/challenging course. There is roughly 2000' of climb in the first 8 miles, with the final mile of climbing being the steepest, but still runable (slowly).

Registering for the race is a nightmare. When the race opens online, it sells out within 15 minutes. I tried at 20 minutes to no avail. I entered the second-chance drawing and also failed to get in. Eventually I listened to some seasoned Boise runners and bought my bib from someone else.

My training has been very specific to Robie conditions. Initially, this wasn't intentional. I just did most of my training in the foothills close to the course. As race day drew near, I ran more specifically on the course to get familiar with it. That training was extremely beneficial from a mental perspective as I knew exactly how long I had to suffer through each climb. I also proved to myself that I could run the entire climb without stopping or hiking any sections.

The night before the race was surprisingly cold, there was a light freeze and frost on cars/roofs. The day was sunny and slowly warming up. I opted to wear wool compression leg sleeves primarily for warmth, but also to feel some lower leg security for the traumatic course. I brought a handheld water bottle and a single Gu gel. There would be aid stations, but I didn't want to rely on these.

My pre-race goal was to break 1:45. After running most of the sections, I calculated that I could achieve this goal if things went moderately well. I had a secondary, lofty goal to PR my half marathon time and go under 1:37, something that would take a miraculous effort.

I used my heart rate monitor to pace myself on the uphill while training, keeping in the 165-170 range. My max effort was about 190, which I would save to push through the steepest sections, if at all. What I found on race day, however was that my HR was averaging around 180 from the start (race environment). This was a good thing as I was able to keep a faster pace while feeling I was putting forth my normal effort.

The uphill went remarkably well. I blew past all the strange folks lining the course handing out booze and condoms and began the steep descent to Robie Creek. This section I had never run in it's entirety. I pushed really hard down from Aldape Summit and even clocked a sub 6 minute mile thanks to gravity. I tried to trust my legs and the steep training I had done. But I hadn't trained a lot at this red-line pace. So at mile 10, things started to go haywire. I developed a major side-stitch and leg cramps. This had happened during the few intense downhill training runs I had done, so I was frustrated but not terribly surprised. I attributed it to bad timing of my nutrition, but may also be a result of just not training enough at that intensity. If I could do this race over, I would have taken gatorade in my handheld instead of water. I would forego the gel at mile 3-4. I don't see this helping the stomach situation. During low-intensity training I don't have a problem with gels, but doesn't seem to work with this type of race.

Miles 10-12 were rough. My breathing was all over the place and my side-stitch made me feel like I was suffocating. I pushed through as hard as I could, but could not maintain the pace I wanted. Eventually I reached an aid station and speed-walked through while drinking a cup of gatorade. This short break was the reset I needed; I felt great for the last mile and upped the pace again. I'll keep this in mind for future runs when I have stomach issues: sometimes a break can set things back to normal.

Post-race consisted of a surprising amount of food (turnip greens?) and a bus ride back to town. Overall, a really fun, tough race that I'd like to make an annual tradition. I think on race day I was capable of breaking 1:40, but made some mistakes that prevented that from happening. I'm happy with my effort, however. This is the hardest I have raced at that distance and I was glad I held up as well as I did. After running a lot of races with poor training during college, pharmacy school, and residency, it feels great to train adequately and perform well on race day.

After the headache of registering and spending money to do something I can do on my own for free, I wasn't sure how much racing I wanted to do in the future. But after running this race and finding again that I simply don't reach my full potential during everyday running, I am a firm believer in the importance of periodic organized racing. It provides structure to training and competition that pushes me more than I would on regular runs. Next race-Scout Mountain Ultra Trail 60k

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