I signed up for Austin Rattler early on in the year without much intention to train any differently in terms of targeting that particular distance. In fact I have not trained specifically for anything since college outdoor track in the spring of 2012. Leadville is perpetually a goal for the end of the summer, but I basically run as much as free time will permit regardless of whether there is a race on the horizon or not. After so many years of structured training throughout high school and college I was ready to relax and just run for the pure enjoyment of the activity. My mentality was that the further I could run the better and that pace, taper, and workouts were immaterial in a hundred mile race. I still believe that this is true to a certain extent, however, I believe that if I ever want to improve my time, I must regain my collegiate running frame of mind.
With that said I was inspired to become a bit more organized after my girlfriend Apryle’s success in the Nueces 50 miler. Apryle had done a few marathons, but never an ultra, but back in October after my Cactus Rose race she started entertaining the idea of training for a 50 mile race. She built up slowly and by early February she was running in the mid-twenties for her long runs. Although she was a great athlete prior, her improvement in endurance running was nothing short of amazing. She stuck to a rigorous schedule and meticulously plugged away at her training plan and it paid off in the end with a sub 13 hour effort on a challenging course.
Around the time of her race we were comparing training styles and ideas for training. Our methods of attaining the same goal varied drastically. I have only two guidelines in my training, run no less than ten per day during the week and run long on the weekends. These guidelines typically keep my mileage at a comfortable range while I deal with the stresses of PT school. Conversely, Apryle has her days mileage planned out well in advanced and prepares each day accordingly. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods but ultimately I think organized training elicits more desirable results. Not really much of a surprise there; when I did workouts, tempos, fartleks, ect. I ran a 2:39 marathon and when I just ran easy miles I did a 3:10.
With that said after Apryle’s 50 miler I tackled my training with more of a purpose. I did progression runs starting in the low seven minute mile range finishing in the high five minute mile range. I pre-planned my mileage each day, incorporated a 28 mile long run to prepare my legs for the hours of pounding I would experience. I even added a two week taper, even though I am traditionally not a fan of the taper prior to a race. I still am not completely sold on the taper idea considering that I ran one of my fastest 10K’s (32:22) of my life on the most intense and highest mileage week of practice during college. However, the Austin Rattler contributed a bit more anecdotal evidence validating the taper.
It is hard to say whether my quickened paces, longer duration long runs, or taper was the key to my drastic time cuts during the Austin Rattler or whether it was due to the fact that it was a flat course. At any rate it was solid day and I am recovering quite well. It was dark and a little chilly as the race got underway; I settled into a comfortable 8 minute mile pace, which is where I stayed for much of the first 31 miles. I consider myself a weak “night time” runner but I also tend to get sucked into a quick pace early on. Luckily the race took off pretty pedestrian so I was able to conserve energy. As soon as the trail illuminated, I was able to begin increasing the pace. This resulted in a negative split for my second 15.53; 2:06:36 down to a 2:04:18. It was great to have such a warm reception from the Lifetime Fitness race crew and even reports on my lap splits throughout the race.
Entering the third loop I knew it would be unlikely that I could hold onto that low eight minute pace without any real incentive to hold up the pace. I also felt that I would have been better suited to a 50 mile distance based on my lower mileage leading up to the race. At any rate, I estimated that I lowered my 50 mile personal record to around about 7:15 within the race. My third lap was an unimpressive 2:19:31; but I was feeling pretty good and was able to slow down and take in the beauty of the countryside. It is difficult to find anything to compare to the beauty of tramping around the Front range of Colorado, and I am not going to say that Texas comes anywhere close to matching it, but Texas does have some stunning hidden gems (most notably Big Bend NP, North Padre Seashore, and Hill Country SNA). Rockhill Ranch also finds its way onto the aforementioned list as the course wound through seas of blooming Blue Bonnets and stands of skyscraping Loblolly Pines. Although it felt a bit like ground hogs day entering the fourth lap; I really did enjoy the course and the scenery.
My forth lap was a painfully slow 2:47:21 as my gastrocnemius and Soleus went into spasm any time I excessively plantar flexed to ascend a small hill. Additionally, my semimembranosus, exclusively chose to spasm, while the other two muscles of the hamstring appeared to function without a hitch. These ailments, along with the increasing heat continued to create challenges for me as I trudged through the final 15.53. I kept up drinking copious amounts of water but discontinued food consumption with about 11 miles to go, thinking that I would have enough glycogen stores to get me through the rest of the race. However, with about a mile and half to go I became dizzy and lightheaded and squeezed down another energy gel. Either the glycemic index of those things is so high it works instantaneously or the placebo effect kicked and I was feeling great. Regardless of which, I finished out the race strong and came across the line with a smile on my face.
I finished out the race with a time of 9:17:47 and an overall pace of 8:59. I was very happy with the time considering that my “A” goal was to break 9:18 or keep around a 9 minute mile pace. However, after allowing myself time to reflect I feel that I should have been able to run about 8:45 if I had stayed a bit sharper, disciplined, and diligent with my race diet and hydration. This has been my thought process for the past 8 years of competing though. I believe it is what keeps me motivated and striving for that next goal. With no races on the calendar currently, I suppose that goal is simply to survive school to my first clinical rotations.