Catching Up on Race Reports

Things with Steidl Running have been going well. Those I am coaching have been training and racing well, the roster is nearly full, and the seminars have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. With that plus my own running training, taking care of the responsibilities of the many other hats I wear, training our puppy, and making time for friends and family - I’m not complaining as these are all great things - I’ve been lax about keeping my blog up-to-date.

I’ve competed in four races since I last blogged. Here’s a recap!

Vancouver Marathon

As positive as I tried to be heading to the start line of this race, it wasn’t my day. So many reasonable excuses: Ridiculously windy, kilometer marks were incorrectly posted along the course, fairly hot conditions, and a big time bathroom stop. None of these were in my control, but that didn’t stop me from being illogically upset about it all (fortunately, I am a better coach than athlete :) ).

Additionally, I knew that despite trying my best to rectify things, what had occurred leading up to the race didn’t set me up for success either.

After - and even during - the race, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I had trained hard and consistently only to run a time that was significantly slower than where I felt was my level of fitness. As an invited athlete, a representative of my club, myself, and my business, I also felt a sense of embarrassment and that I had let people down.

Go get that last woman! PC: Sophia Liu

Go get that last woman!
PC: Sophia Liu

It helped to hear some of the other invited athletes talk about how tough the conditions were for them as well - I wasn’t just imagining it! - and how they ran significantly slower than they had expected. Finishing 10th overall (just amongst the elite entries I was slated to finish 11th, not taking into account all the other fast women toeing the start line that day) and 2nd masters also lessened the disappointment.

The best part of the race was the final 5k wherein I had the opportunity to finally compete! Another masters woman passed me, so I kept right behind her; another woman was up ahead as well. I stayed right behind the masters woman and with 3k to go, dropped the hammer and knew I would have to give everything I had those final <2 miles to beat her and catch the next woman. i passed both women and had no idea whether they were trying to stay with/catch me because it was too windy to hear breathing and footsteps and I wasn’t about to look back. Eyes and energy forward! I felt strong and confident that they wouldn’t catch me.

…and then there was another woman up ahead. My friend was on the side of the course yelling at me about how tired that woman looked and how I’m strong on the uphills and to, “Go. Get. HER!!!” Well, shoot. I didn’t want to get her. That meant digging even deeper and I was already digging deep. But my competitive drive couldn’t let her go, so dig deeper I did. While I didn’t feel strong going uphill, I caught her with 500m to go and ran as fast as I could. I ended up beating them all to the finish, earning me the coveted top-10 placement. Racing is fun.

Rhody Run 12k

The Rhody Run is the one race Uli and I make sure to attend every year. No matter where we are or how we’re feeling, we do everything in our power to be at this event. It’s a wonderful, small town race that is well organized, fun to run, and we get to have a reunion with many of our friends.

The race was two weeks after Vancouver and while I recovered quickly from the marathon, my legs were tired from having done a very challenging workout a few days earlier. On top of that, it was quite windy this year, which had a significant impact on the times. My energy was good and I felt strong, but I wasn’t able to run fast. I finished 6th overall and clinched the top masters spot feeling satisfied with the effort.

As always, it was fun to catch up with many of our friends and enjoy the beautiful area that is Port Townsend. Thanks again for another great year!

Whistler 30k

Until last year, I had never been to Whistler. It is a beautiful area with so much to do and see; I could happily spend a good chunk of time there checking out all the trails.

The Whistler Half Marathon (as the event is officially named) is actually comprised of four race distances: 5k, 10k, half marathon, and 30k. The races are a mix of pavement and trail. Unlike last year, the sun was shining and the skies were clear, showing off beautiful mountain views that were not visible last year.

The half marathon and 30k start together and run a majority of the half marathon course together until they split with about 2 miles left to go in the half and shortly before the 18k mark of the 30k. This is fun because it provides more people to race with than if the two distances started separately. Like last year, I found myself primarily racing with women in the half. To my surprise, at about 7k into the race there is an out-and-back section where I learned I was in the lead for the 30k and already had a significant lead over the second place woman. There were three half marathon women ahead of me, with two of them not far ahead, so I kept my eyes on them. I caught the two shortly before the 10k mark and never saw them again, while the first place half marathon woman was too far ahead to see. From here on out, it was a race against myself and the clock.

Thank goodness the finish is near. Last year at this point I looked and felt so much stronger. PC: Uli Steidl

Thank goodness the finish is near. Last year at this point I looked and felt so much stronger.
PC: Uli Steidl

From the start I was feeling better than I had felt for any race this year. What a wonderful feeling. I was thinking to myself, “I do have good fitness. I knew it! Finally it is coming out to play. I am so happy to be feeling this way. Enjoy it while you’ve got it, Trisha.” Remembering that I was in the middle of three races in 4 weeks and that this was a 30k, I made sure to keep it calm early in the race. Running felt smooth, quick, and completely comfortable, and I was able to cheer on those I saw in the three sections where there are out-and-backs.

Despite the fact that I’m usually spot on with sticking to my race nutrition schedule, for some (dumb) reason this day I decided not to eat my last gel. Bad idea. On top of that, I had been feeling really thirsty. Those who know me know that I don’t need to drink much when I race, so when I felt like dunking my face into a creek flowing alongside the course so I could drink out of it (I did not actually do this), I knew something wasn’t right. I realized that sitting in the hot car significantly longer than expected on the drive to Whistler and not drinking or eating enough in part due to that was now hitting me like a ton of bricks. …or should I say lead because that’s what my legs were starting to feel like.

I’m usually a strong closer and last year I smoked the last 3k. This year was the complete opposite. With 8k to go, I felt great. With 7k to go, I felt like death. It hit that hard and quickly. I was barely moving the last 7k and it was seriously all I could do to keep myself from stopping to walk, but there was no way I wasn’t going to win this race after being in the lead the entire time. Fortunately for me, I had created enough of a gap earlier on that I was able to cross the finish line in first. (This is one of the only times in my life I was happy the race wasn’t longer.)

It felt good to hang on for the win. I wasn’t too upset about how my race finished up because I knew it was due to things completely within my control that I could easily change in future races. I was still really happy with how good I had felt early on and that gave me confidence as I pondered the bigger picture of my future goals.

Fragrance Lake Half Marathon

Initially the Fragrance Lake Half was scheduled to take place in February. Due to some serious snow and ice that caused portions of the course to be inaccessible in case of emergency, the race was postponed until June. This happened last year as well, though due to different circumstances, and I was unable to make the postponed date, so I was excited that this year the timing worked out.

The half marathon course has 3300’ of elevation gain (and loss) and most of the gain is in the first 6-7 miles, so it’s quite hilly. Having been focused on road marathon training since mid-February, I hadn’t been doing much at all in the way of hill running or even trail running for that matter. Because of that, I knew this course was going to be tough for me. Additionally, my SRC-Brooks teammate, Jenny, is a strong uphill runner, which meant this was going to be an interesting race.

Ugh, when will I be done with all these stairs?! PC: Uli Steidl

Ugh, when will I be done with all these stairs?!
PC: Uli Steidl

From the gun, I was in second place to a local woman, and was soon in third place after Jenny passed me going up Cleator Road, my legs clearly feeling that I hadn’t done uphill training in months. I was able to keep the two women in sight heading up and around Fragrance Lake and eventually passed the local woman near the base of the long uphill after Fragrance Lake. For quite awhile I could see Jenny up ahead, then all of a sudden she was gone! For a minute I wondered if she took a wrong turn (I knew the course well from racing and training on those trails over the past 15+ years), but the course was well-marked so I figured that could’t be it. Simply put, she was motoring up the hills, loving every step, whereas my legs were wondering WTF was going on, especially going up those stairs (I despise stairs).

At the aid station, which is around mile 7, Uli told me I was 1:20 behind Jenny. I was actually surprised it wasn’t more. I wasn’t sure how good she was at more technical terrain, but I am extremely familiar with this section and knew I had to push it here if I had any hopes of trying to catch up.

By the end of the ridge trail, I could see Jenny and figured she was about 20-30 seconds ahead. I had made up some serious ground! That was motivating. We made a sharp turn to the left and were running on a smooth trail that was generally either flat or slightly downhill. I used this opportunity to quicken my turnover and hoped I could take the lead. It’s always a little weird passing a friend. I told her good job and that she was a beast up those hills! She was kind in return. I had no idea how she was feeling or how the rest of the race would go. I only knew that most of the rest of the way was downhill or flat and that I’d better do all I could to create a gap.

Awesome being on the podium with my teammate! PC: Uli Steidl

Awesome being on the podium with my teammate!
PC: Uli Steidl

I ran down the hills pretty close to as fast as I could, feeling fortunate that a hip flexor issue I had been dealing with surprisingly wasn’t getting too bad since the downs are what had been causing the most irritation to the area in previous runs. I crossed the finish line in first and we secured a 1-2 SRC finish with Jenny coming in soon after. Go Team Blue!

It felt good to win two very different races on back-to-back weekends and I was also excited to start some time off after having raced so much. I am looking forward to building on top of what I’ve gained over the past year as I realized at the Whistler 30k that it had been not-quite one year since I had gotten over my three-year long hamstring injury. I can’t wait to see what I can do in another year from now, assuming I can continue to stay healthy and train consistently like I have this past year - fingers crossed!!