Mistakes generally are destined to happen in ultras, however, the question is whether they're minor or major, and how many. In my case, I had a couple major ones on Saturday, and I paid extra for them.
I was looking forward to the race, and after a short recon of the upper part of the Los Pinos climb on Sunday, I summarized I needed a cushioned shoe to protect my feet from the rocks. In reality, the rocky terrain was much more suited for a less cushioned shoe with good grip to allow you to push forcefully up the climb. My calves and hamstrings worked much harder when I tried to push off with too much wobbly and slippery cushion. Further more, I made the problem worse by trying my first long run in a new pair of half tights. Though the half tights worked well on short test runs, over thirty miles, the tight band at the bottom dug into my IT band and hamstrings leaving me hobbling for a couple days after the race. Should've, would've, could've, I ran the best I could in what I choose to wear, and my time showed that despite all the wrong gear choices, I still put up a decent fight.
The first miles down to Hot Springs Canyon weren't too great, my stomach was off from a little too much Nutella and I tried to just run efficiently and get the stomach to come online. I saw Chris and Jesse's strides fully opened up around mile 8, and knew they were definitely gunning to get to the climb early. By the time Jorge and I made it to mile 12, the two had about 4-5 minutes on us.
-Much more to this elevation profile than just the elevation. The runner's pace who made this shows all especially steep sections.
I led up the climb a little bit, but Jorge was feeling much more spry and he took off as I warned him about how long the climb was. I felt progressively worse as my shoes couldn't grip well and kept sliding back on the steep pitches. The bands at the bottoms of my tights dug into my suffering hamstrings and everything got very frustrating all at once. I considered taking off them off, but prudence made me decide against it. Eventually I fell into a consistent rhythm, but I knew I'd already given up a lot of time. I caught up with Jorge who wasn't feeling the climb, and we finished it together taking over 2 hours for the 8 miles, some 25-30 minutes behind Jesse and Chris.
As the climb had gotten worse and worse, Jorge and I knew the race had become a training run as we were learning more lessons about the course, and it was too late to keep up with the course veterans Jesse and Chris. They did their homework, and we more or less took the race for granted and ended up paying a little extra on race day. Nevertheless we still pushed the last 9 miles to make it as solid of a training run as possible. I shuffled a good 30% of the Horsetheif climb, and made up about 10 minutes on the two, and finished about 20 minutes off Chris's winning time in 5:18 for 3rd.
In the end, the race was a good reminder of how important hiking is for ultra runners. It also shined light on the nature of gear: the right gear (often taken for granted) lets your perform with little distraction, while the wrong gear feels like a sand bag on your back. With a much more runnable North Face 50 coming up in a little more than a month, I'll focus more on sustained climbing speed and dialing in my gear and fuel for it. Right now, I feel ready for a good 50 miler as the last two 50k's felt a bit unnatural compared to the longer stuff I've improved at this year. Eventually I'll get dialed in at the 50k distance, but for now I'll enjoy the fall and training for North Face.
Tycho - Drive