Colorado Bend Race Report

I ran the Colorado Bend 30k on Saturday.  The course was nice and rugged.  Had some variety — some areas with no rocks, lots of areas with rocks, and a few challenging hills but overall not too bad.

We got to the park around 430, and met up with some friends where we chatted away and made the final preparations for starting the 30k at 715 pm.  It was somewhere around 102, 104 degrees — does it really matter when it’s that hot?  I positioned myself somewhere in the middle, and soon enough we took off.  The first half mile or so, I looked down and saw I was running like a 9 min / mile pace.  Probably a bit too quick… but eh.  Soon after a mile the course starts a nice climb, that ends up lasting for about a mile.  It wasn’t too steep, but not something that I’m going to run.  So I was pacing myself off a tall blondd girl in front of me, who I think I basically played leapfrog with most of the race.  Soon the hill was over, which brought in a nice relatively flat section.  Not too flat, but had some fun little ups and downs in some nice single track.  The only issue I had at the beginning was my stomach was slightly queasy, so I walked a little bit more than I would have liked, but the heat is just a force to be reckoned with.

I started chatting with another young woman for a while, and we also sort of played leapfrog and ran a decent amount together.  This race, I also was making a very conscious effort to each every 30 minutes, and take salt every 30 minutes as well.  During the race, I did so, and I suspect I ate a package of sports beans every 30 minutes, so maybe I ate 7 or 8 packages of them, along with a small amount of pretzels and fruit from the aid stations.

 

I don’t remember too much about miles 5-8, other than I was finally starting to warm up (figuratively speaking).  Miles 8-11 or so were pretty nice.  Some nice easy sections, and I felt like I was actually moving pretty well.  At some point, I got lost — when I went down a switchback and turned, two sets of headlights were approaching.  Huh?? I don’t remember getting lost, but there were two runners  that I had passed a few minutes earlier (maybe 5-10) so I must not have missed much.  It was a little disappointing since I thought I was moving pretty well, but I must not have run too far off course.  Around this time, is where I fell twice, probably in the span of about 15 minutes or so.  I will attribute it to me running “faster” on the flat terrain, that even though it was flat, had lots of rocks.  Many sections reminded me of the top of the hills at Bandera, Boyle’s and Cairns, where they have those rocks you can’t step on and have to try to step around/in between.  The other rocks I enjoyed running on (also reminiscent of Bandera) were the ones you *could* step on, and sort of dance from one to the next.  I’m not keen at dancing but that’s what it feels like, and I enjoy the footwork of bounding around on them, as taxing as it may get.

 

Soon we started climbing a hill, but I don’t honestly remember it being that bad.  Sure, I wasn’t moving too fast and it was warm, but the hill didn’t feel that steep.  From another runners report, I thought the hill was REAL steep and later in the course, so I guess mentally it didn’t really bug me.  When I rolled into the last aid station, the other runners said that was the last hill, to my surprise.  Joe later said I’m now a “veteran”…. but I sure don’t feel like one climbing his hills!

 

Well anyway at the last A/S I wasn’t feeling too hot — stomach wasn’t feeling too great and the miles were starting to catch up with me a bit.  My arbitrary goal was to finish under 4 hours, but the time was at 3:15 and I had 5 miles to go, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I left the A/S, and for some reason, my stomach didn’t bother me at all after that.  Kind of a pleasant surprise at once.  Next up was a wonderful downhill.  I think I’ve discovered I really enjoy downhill running, and this one was great.  It was about 1 mile long, with some variety, some switchbacks, some straight jeep roads, and some in between, most with alot of rocks to dance on.   The pace from my garmin in this section didn’t seem very impressive, but I felt like I was hauling ass.  Either way, it was a nice downhill that dropped you next to the river (where you could hear frogs, cicadas, crickets, and who knows what other wildlife) on a flat stretch to the finish.  I was doing OK but I had a headache that was getting real bad, and my energy level was crashing hard.  I made the poor decision just to try to push it w/o taking any food, but after about 10 minutes I decided to eat a Honey Stinger Waffle, which gave me a great energy boost.  If only I had taken it a few minutes earlier, I could have saved a few minutes but it just goes to show you should stick with your nutrition plan now matter how close to the finish!
During this walking stretch, a few other runners passed me, but after I refueled, I had renewed energy.  And there comes a point late in a race where it doesn’t really matter how bad you feel, but you will run with great determination to cross that finish line.  I had passed this point, and I found an extra gear or two I didn’t know I had, and sprinted the last 0.75 miles in and passed a handful of runners who had just passed me.  I tried to get a few of them to follow, but no joy.   So I finished with a time of around 420, but I was pleased with my effort.   I thought I ran pretty strong, and I wasn’t even really sore.  Just need to work on some intervals and hill work to get a bit stronger.  At the finish I told Joe it was a course that had some easy parts, and some not to easy parts (my language was probably a bit more colorful).  Had a much needed burger and sat around for a few hours, and enjoyed looking at the stars and a few meteors as well.

 

After the race, I discovered a few things:

1.  The lower humidity in central Texas is wonderful, compared to Houston.  We could actually sit outside at night…. and it was you know, pleasant.

2.  Running 30k is much nicer than running 60k (like I have the past few summers) — you can actually walk around when you’re done!

3.  These races are pretty challenging.  Even if it’s “only 30k” the combination of the impressive Texas heat and the rocky terrain makes for a challenging combination.

What’s Been Happening

I haven’t had a blog post in a while… so how about an update.

Training:  Since I had some trouble finishing some of my races this year (although at least partially due to biting off a bit more than I could chew…) I decided I should probably make some changes to prevent those sort of things from happening again.  First was adding back in some weights, specifically, squats.  I’ve done them weekly for the past few months, and even added in a 2nd day the past few weeks without getting sore.  At the least I have to think it means my legs are getting stronger, as I’ve been increasing the weight slightly every so often.  I don’t know if it helps a huge amount with running, but when I ran Rocky Raccoon in 2011, I had a great time and at the time, the only real difference in my training was I was doing weights.  So adding this back in was step one.  Step two, I also went and bought a 35 lb kettlebell on the recommendation from a friend.  It’s a pretty solid cardio workout, and it’s actually kind of fun throwing it around.   I haven’t made a kettlebell only workout, but more used it as a warmup for a jog or as a supplement to other weight routines.  I think it’s probably comparable to sprinting for the same amount of time, in my case, I have been doing the basic swing for 2 minutes, and by the time I’m done, I’m gassed– my breathing effort feels pretty similar to sprinting for 2 minutes.  I think I might have noticed a bit of improvement just by adding these two training items in (in addition to averaging about 30 miles per week the past month, which is plenty far enough in the Texas summer).  My “medium distance runs” of ~10 miles are a bit easier now — in the past summers I would always be forced to walking due to the oppressive humidity but even this past weekend I was actually able to run the entire distance.  Some of my evening runs have also been easier, with even having enough gas for a little sprint at the end, which I think has never happened the past two summers.  We did a group run at Huntsville State Park a few weeks ago, but my nutrition plan was WAY off, otherwise I think I would have finished just fine.  So, I think whatever I’ve been doing is working so far, but I think I may even increase the kettlebell workouts.  Step 3, is adding in some hill work via a treadmill.  I’ve never really used one but since I can use it free from work and we have NO hills around here, I think I should try it out.  Step 4, will be going to the only ‘hill’ around these parts, which is the Kemah Bridge (which I have avoided during the weekdays due to the traffic health hazard….).  Doing repeats there will be part of one of my distance runs on the weekend.   It’s not a huge hill… but it’s better than nothing.  So, the combination of all of those, should make me alot stronger for Cactus Rose 50 this year, which at this point is the only race I’m registered for.  Once it cools off, it will be MUCH easier to run around here too…
Racing:  Well I don’t really “race” but I will be running a 30k at Colorado Bend State Park this Saturday night, so it will be interesting to see how I feel.  Maybe I’ll do the 60k 3 weeks later, but maybe I won’t — I don’t really like driving back that far by myself after running ALL NIGHT…. and 60k is a long way to run… especially in Texas in the summer.

De-forestation:  The Memorial Park Conservancy, or whoever they have hired, have gone ahead with the next step of ‘fixing’ our beloved Ho Chi Minh mountain bike trails by bulldozing large parts of the park.  They have been removing many trees the past couple months, but only the past week did they actually start totally bulldozing trails to the point where many trails are not recognizable anymore.  I’m not a forestry expert, but I can’t really understand destroying everything there.  I guess there is an ‘invasive species’ problem, but what’s the point if the Park will totally be unusable for years to come?  None of the bikers will go there anymore, and there won’t be much of anything to run or even walk if this kind of work will continue, and it’s a shame since it’s a great spot to connect with other runners in town.  Perhaps it could have been managed alot better if the city of Houston had more parks to actually manage, since they have almost none and probably don’t know any better.  Who knows… hopefully something good comes of it.

Well that’s all I got…. maybe I’ll add a race report after this weekend…