|Accepting my sweet custom award from RD Dave Corfman.|
(Thanks to Brian Nash for sharing the photos.)
I'm the type of guy that likes to pick out a few goal races during the year and focus on running those really well. I believe you can only get a few truly all-out efforts from your body a couple times a year. I pride myself in being able to time my peak to race well at these select events as opposed to just racing every weekend and occasionally popping a good one. And I'm very deliberate in the way I structure my training plan around these focus races.
But I frequently use other races as substitutes for regular long runs, fitness checks, or a hard workout. There are many advantages to using races as workouts, but to be perfectly honest, my primary reason is that it just gets boring training by myself. I try to run with friends when I can, but my specific training plans and busy work schedule don't always align well with others' schedules. So I jump at the opportunity to participate in a local event like the Stone Steps 50k that requires no travel and allows me to run around with a bunch of friends all day. Even if I'm not exactly running with anyone most of the time, I really enjoy being around everyone and socializing at the end. I feed off the energy of the spectators, aid station volunteers, and fellow competitors. The convenience of aid stations is also a huge benefit when you're running a really long run.
I mention all of this because I used this year's Stone Steps 50k as a hard, long, trail run. But the primary goal was to continuing building my fitness ahead of the JFK 50 mile on November 19th. That's the focus race. I didn't taper at all this week. I didn't come in with fresh legs ready to see how fast I could run. In fact, I hit a personal all-time high of 120 miles last week, capped off with the 50k on Sunday. That included a track workout on Tuesday, marathon pace run on Thursday, and an easy 21 road miles the day before. I was definitely taking a risk pushing that hard last week, but I feel it's necessary to push my limits if I want to compete with the guys that are going to be at JFK.
|Cresting the Steps with the sunrise on my back.|
Early in the race, the legs were definitely feeling fatigued. I focused on staying relaxed and happily let Harvey Lewis lead the first 5+ miles. I knew roughly what my course record splits from last year were, but I wasn't sure I'd be fresh enough to better that time (3:44:39). I planned to run relaxed and see what the legs were giving me toward the end. Last year, I blasted the second 5 mile loop (~8.5-13.8 mi), but paid for my early aggression later in the race. I was much more patient this year, running alone after the first 8 miles. (My very first blog post was my race report for the 2010 Stone Steps 50k. Check it out here.)
|Relax your arms!|
The real takeaway from my race performance really must take into account the work I did leading up to the race. It is a huge confidence boost to run that fast with no taper and tired legs. I may not have the leg speed that I had last year, but I definitely have another level of trail strength. As long as I can stay healthy, the past week was a big step in the right direction.