Had a very solid race on Sunday at the NORAD Trail Marathon at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs. Put on by Mad Moose Events, it's a figure-8 course with 4,000 feet of climbing that you run twice. Cheyenne Mountain is where NORAD is located--hence the race's name. So a pretty cool location.
I know the course quite well as I've run several races there over the years (including the Cheyenne Mountain 50K and the Xterra Trail Marathon), meaning going into Sunday I knew where to press it hard and where to take my foot off the gas pedal. Experience was on my side in spades. That said, I've kind of tired of the course over the years--there's just nothing on it that is new to me. But it is beautiful and on Sunday I really tried take it in.
My decision to enter the race was pretty last-minute...as in I registered at the table the morning of the event. I had checked with the race directors a few days earlier and they confirmed I could register on-site. That said, when my alarm went off at 4:30 on Sunday morning, I decided right then and there to bag the race and get some more sleep. It had been a busy week at work and I needed more rest. So I turned off my alarm and closed my eyes.
But then regret crept over me and I got out of bed and went through the motions of getting ready. I ate breakfast and had my coffee and then out the door I went, driving to Colorado Springs with very low expectations and, quite honestly, not a great attitude. The temperature on the drive down was in the high 30s. That's what I call "no excuse racing weather."
In truth, what was really holding me back was my flagging confidence as a runner. It has been a tough two years, and the last thing I wanted on Sunday morning was to drive down to Colorado Springs and endure a 26.2-mile death march where I hated every step because I can't race the way I used to race.
I am so glad to ran the race! Right out of the gate--trying to use my experience to my advantage--I opted to keep my effort at MAF and only allowed myself to exceed MAF if I was toward the top of a climb and knew I'd soon be on a descent. I was quite strong over the entire race, actually running the second loop stronger than the first. I lost no strength; in fact, I got stronger with the miles. I was especially strong on the descents and I was quite surprised by my climbing. My average heart rate for the entire race was 138. On a few climbs, I allowed by HR to get into the 150s but only near the top when I knew I was able to level off.
Running the whole thing at MAF was a good decision. Back in my 30s and early 40s, I had the fitness to go out hard and know I could hold it. I am still fit but not like I was in my 30s and early 40s. So it's better to go out conservatively, hold the effort at MAF and let the race come to you--which is what I did on Sunday. I passed several runners during the second loop.
I finished 6th overall out of only 38 starters, with a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. Not bad for a course with 4,000 feet of climbing on rocky trails! I even got a 90% finish on Ultrasignup! Good to be back into the 90s!
Just like that, I'm feeling good about my fitness with the Burning River 100 now about two months away. I just put in my second consecutive week of 70+ miles. I just started Optygen and it seems to be kicking in. I am confident that, going into June, a couple of weeks of 80+ miles and at least one week at 90+ miles is all feasible. Hell, I might even be able to squeeze in a 100-mile week if I play my cards right (not counting on it).
That should set me up nicely for a Burning River 100 that I can run with confidence...and at MAF :-).