Sunday, Feb 17th, I ran the Whispering Pines 6 Hour race. I selected this race as it was a good warm-up for one of my ‘A’ races 3 weeks later, the Antelope Canyon 55K on March 9th. It was only 4 weeks ago I ran my first 100 miler and after that I took 9 days off to recover. Then I did a a few easy runs. I would say for the last 18 months I’ve trained mainly by MAF with probably no more than a handful of speed workouts. However after my 100 miler I feel that I’ve lost some of my speed and I slow down sooner than I did previously so I decided to incorporate some faster workouts into my training. For me this is a fine line as the speed work is what usually triggers hip pain and possibly a long injury layoff. That’s why I started MAF and also following a Keto lifestyle and I think both have helped a lot. I wake up almost every day without aches and jump out of bed without any stiff muscles etc. 2 weeks before the race I trained above my MAF Heart Rate, nothing too fast but faster than I usually train and the week later I did 4 short quarter mile speed workouts, around a 5:30 pace. I also did a 14 mile training run in the soft sand as the 55K has a lot of sand in the first two thirds of the race. My hip didn’t feel to bad but maybe with all of that it set my glutes off, or is it my piriformis? Driving 5 days to Miami in my wife’s Nissan Altima with a lower profile and bucket seats also angered my glutes. One day I only ran ½ mile before I turned back as they were screaming at me. 1 week before the race a ran a marathon as a pacer, a friend of mine wanted to break her 4:32 PR and I brought her in at 4:22, with the last 4 miles being the quickest ending with an 8:50 pace.
Whispering Pines is a trail race on hard pack dirt with pine needles and several gentle slopes, so relatively non-technical. The course is a 4.8 mile loop and I was aiming to do 7 loops. The start time was 10am and it was already almost 80 degrees and it would get up to 85 during the race, luckily most of the course is shaded but it’s still a challenge. I set off on the first loop and was at the front with another male runner and a female and we ran around an 8:30 pace for much of the loop. We all set off on the second loop around the same time but the pace slowed down a little. The female dropped off a little and I came in ahead of the other runner. There was someone there who was just starting, he was just looking to get a few loops in and asked if he could run with me. I said I was aiming for a 9:30 pace but it was around 10 minutes. About 3 miles into the 3rd loop my glutes started getting to me and I was struggling to keep moving, I had thoughts about stopping or maybe just doing one more loop. It was good this runner had joined me as it motivated me to keep going and complete the loop. I grabbed another handheld full of Tailwind and out we went again, still leading the race. This was another difficult loop and I had to incorporate some walking, aiming for about a mile run followed by 0.2 mile walk.
As we set off on the 5th loop the guy I was running with was breathing heavily and I felt a little more comfortable and soon he had dropped behind me. Now my focus had changed from quitting to winning the race. With the layout of the loop you only got to see someone for the last/first 0.1 mile of the loop, so the most you knew is that you were 0.2 miles ahead. I still was incorporating walking breaks into my run but was trying to keep them to a minimum as I had no idea how close second place was to me. I meant to grab my first Gu as we headed out on this loop but forgot so my energy was running a little low. As I came into the finish area I decided to change my shoes as my feet were aching a little, my trail shoes are a little narrow so I didn’t want blisters. I was hoping taking these 2 minutes wouldn’t come back to haunt me.
Starting the 6th loop I knew I wouldn’t have time for 7 loops and was cutting it close to finish the 6th loop and complete a 2 mile bail out loop. However this was now my goal and to finish first so it gave me the drive to push hard and minimize the walks. I still had no idea if anyone was close to me so I increased the distance of my run and shortened my walk, I didn’t want to give this up in the last 30 minutes having lead the race pretty much from the beginning. I’m not sure changing my shoes gave me any extra edge, my feet were still a little sore and my legs were still complaining to me. I completed the last lap and had about 26 minutes to complete the 2 mile bailout loop and if I did would set a new course record. This was a straight 1 mile out and back, so I would be able to see if anyone was chasing me down. I pushed to the mile mark, turned around and knew if I could get to 0.1 I would have at least a 0.2 mile lead and should be able to hold on. Luckily I didn’t see anyone for another half mile or so and didn’t even know if they were doing the 12 hour race or also on the bail out loop. I eased up and just took my time to finish. I was aching a little so I didn’t have anything to push hard so just needed to finish.
I completed the last loop with about 6 minutes to spare and went over to the aid station to sample some of Michael’s home made cookies. There was a girl that showed up and she poured a Ginger Ale, it looked like a good idea so I also had one. Talking to her she had just finished and also completed the 6 loops and 2 mile bailout but was about 10-15 minutes behind me, she finished second. As I stood around my legs started to cramp a little and my hip become sore. The longer I was there the worse my legs felt, I wasn’t looking forward to the 2 hour drive home. Luckily I have an automatic as I don’t think I could have driven a stick shift with my legs occasionally cramping. I had a horrible nights sleep and had to get up twice to get some pain killers. The next 2 nights got a little easier but each night I had to get pain killers. I’ve not taken those 3 consecutive nights since I’ve had my hip replacement 10 years ago and can probably count on 2 hands the total number of times I’ve taken them. I’ve taken a week off, still only feeling about 80%. The Antelope Canyon 55K in Page, Arizona on March 9th with the first 23 miles in desert sand with 3,000 elevation gain should be interesting. I may still be pushing my body a little harder than I should, but I’ve learnt over the last few years to ease back a little. Hopefully I will make it through this and whatever other races I schedule.