Earlier this year, I had planned on racing the 50 miler Deadman Peaks course and had been structuring my training with that focus in mind. Having done the Deadman 50M in 2015, I felt like I had a good idea of what the course required of me. Namely, mostly flat running (at least compared to the Sante Fe 50k) and the ability to withstand the slick rock surface of the mesas. This translated into me running more road miles in September and October than I have in probably any two month segment in the last six years.
It seems glaringly obvious now, but that translated into a huge road marathon PR for at the Duke City Marathon that I ran two weeks prior to this race. Because all my previous marathons had been such disasters, I don’t think I actually believed that I was capable of running a good race and was prepared to write off another bad one as a long training run for the Deadman Peaks 50M.
As I stated last post though, I had a good (for me) marathon performance. I’ve had some weird shoulder issues that become exacerbated on 2+ hour long runs, so I was a little worried about running for ~12 hours again two weeks after the marathon. And, to be completely honest, I was still so pleasantly surprised and content with my marathon performance that I was having a hard time getting into the headspace required for a 50 miler. This is all a long justification and explanation for why I ended up racing the 30k.
Now, three days later, I don’t have any real regrets about my choice.
My results were a time of 3:10:15, good enough for 11th overall and 10th male. 11th place out of 43 runners may be my best result to date, but honestly I was happy with my performance, regardless of place. My A-goal was to be under a 10 minute per mile average pace, which I did not achieve, but I raced hard and, more important, intelligently.
I only knew one of the runners that lined up near the front of the race, and I thought I had similar fitness to him, so I tried to key off of his pace at the start. Turns out I was wrong about the whole similar fitness theory, but the fast pace of the initial flat miles felt fine and I was never breathing heavily. After some initial separation, I tried to block out the other runners and settle into the pace that I needed to run. This worked out for me very well through the first seven miles, which brought us to the gnarly down-climb off of the mesa and towards the aid station turnaround.
I remembered how steep the climb was, and had zero desire or plan to try to run it. I just picked my way down, and let other runners go by. After moseying down it, I started off of the single track towards the aid station and saw my first tarantula in the wild! It was so much of a shock I just sort of hopped over it and kept going. I have no idea what it was doing out wandering around in the cool November morning, but I was happy to see it walking down the single track, oblivious to the runners and race going on around it.
The 9 mile aid station was the turn-around for the 30k runners, and with a full bottle of Tailwind left, I spent no time in the aid station at all. (My favorite post-race comment was from a new trail-runner: “I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do in the aid station, so I stayed for a few minutes just talking to them all.”)
The out-and-back course let me see all the other runners on my way back, including my wife who was the third female coming into the aid station, and who held on to get her first podium finish! Going up the side of the mesa, I was again unconcerned about my pace and topped out feeling strong. I passed the last 30k outbound runner, then passed an inbound runner ahead of me, and then didn’t see another runner until the finish. I usually feel like half the field is passing me during the end of the race, so I was more than happy to run the final seven miles in solitude.
The flat miles at the end of the race are pure New Mexico expansiveness. The mesas, clouds and desert landscape combine to make a runner feel tiny, in the best way possible. There’s probably some metaphor about how I and the tarantula aren’t all that different, but I’m not going to try to find it. The RVs and tents at the finish line are visible from at least a mile out and made for great motivation to keep up a hard pace through the finish. (I was also still convinced that a dozen runners would pass me minutes before I crossed the line).
The conscious effort to just enjoy the race distance I choose was something I really focused on before, during and after the race. I still have no problem with my decision to race the 30k and not the 50M. I think that racing the right distance for the given circumstances is a better decision than racing the longest distance possible. There were be other 50 and 100 milers in my future, but for now I’m happy with my last couple weeks of race performances and ready to see what I can do in 2018.