Monday, February 16, 2009

Blown Away

Against The Wind by Bob Seger greeted us in the car as we drove the 15 minutes to Los Osos for the start of the Montana de Oro 25K trail race. How appropriate. Leading up to race day the forecast was for gale force winds and 2-4 inches of rain. Luckily, by race day the rain decided to hold off and we only had the gale force winds.

To show my love and support for my crew (Pat, my husband) we made a stop at Starbucks so he could get something warm to drink. It was there that we ran into Catra Corbett and her friend Andy. Unfortunately, Catra was sick so she was going to volunteer but Andy mentioned he was doing the 50K. I enjoy following Catra's blog so it was a real pleasure meeting her in person. I also got to show her a new addition to my family that I'll mention another day.
We made our way to Spooner Cove and I picked up my number. It was definitely windy and I noticed a lot of people asking others what they were going to wear. The starting line saw a wide range of clothing options from shorts and t-shirt (brrrrr) to tights and windbreakers.
RD Wendell getting runners psyched to tackle the wind

Soon we were on our way along the Bluff Trail which provides superb scenery and a gentle warm up. I did this race 2 years ago where I did well on the first loop (Valencia Peak) but crashed and burned on the second loop (Hazard Peak). I wanted redemption. But it's early in the season and I'm still building my fitness so I really had no idea how my times would compare. I didn't feel particularly strong during the climb and it took awhile for my lower legs to get warmed up and all the aches and pains to go away.
Climbing toward the sun and Valencia Peak

The higher we climbed, the stronger the winds became, especially along the ridges. Some gusts were so strong runners were stopped in their tracks, sometimes even getting blown off the trail. They were definitely some of the strongest winds I've ever experienced. Later, some runners would tell me they were actually scared while trying to reach the peak.

Finally I found myself at the summit and I stayed low using my hands on the rocks to help me keep my balance against the wind. I was happy to get a little lower and out of the worst of the gusts. As usual, the ascending runners were very courteous to the descending runners as we passed on the narrow trail.

After 1:34 elapsed time I made it back to Spooner Cove to begin my second lap. My time was actually a couple minutes slower than last time which had me a bit concerned. I dropped off my jacket and picked up a second bottle from Pat and quickly started on the Hazard Peak loop.

It's a long, steady climb to the peak and I kept up a gentle shuffle all the way to the top. 3 mountains bikers fell in behind me and I wondered if they wanted to pass. They talked amongst themselves but never got so close to me that I felt "pushed". Having them behind me kept me motivated to keep jogging and keep my walking to a bare minimum. When we reached the top I thanked them for the "push" and they laughed, saying my pace was perfect for them and they enjoyed following me. One was kind enough to take my picture with Morro Rock in the background.

Looking down on Islay Creek Rd and Spooner cove, the finish
An advantage I had this time versus 2007 is that now I know the course. My dad and I rode our mountain bikes on this loop last fall so I knew exactly where the climbs were, and how long. Before I knew it, I was at the top of Barranca Trail and it was all downhill from there. Two years ago, the descent to Islay Creek Rd broke me. It was my first trail race and I had done no hill work and my quads were shot at this point. This time I felt great and flew down the switchbacks.

The final 3 miles on Islay Rd are LONG. 2007 found me walking/shuffling and almost in tears to not even be able to run this flat/downhill road. This time I found I had an extra gear and started pushing it. My heart rate was way too high to maintain for long so I dug deep and tried not to let anyone that I had passed pass me back. So much for this just being a training run.

Finally I found the last turn and cranked it into the finish. What a difference from last time. I managed to take almost 20 minutes off my time and it was all on that second loop. And I was all smiles.
3:16:10, A 17 minute PR

I figured a quick dip in the ocean would do wonders for my aching legs so I stripped off the tights and battled the waves. Pat asked me how it felt. I laughed because I felt nothing: my legs were numb. It was an interesting experience to have my body getting cold from the water but the hot post-race soup was keeping me warm.

After thanking RD Sarah for talking the weather gods into holding off the wind, we made our way back to Starbucks for a well-deserved hot chocolate for me. We met my parents and kids there (I didn't want to subject them to having to hang out all morning in that wind). All in all, it was a great run in some challenging conditions. I enjoy doing PCTR events for the laid back feeling but superb aid station support. My legs are sore today but not too bad. I'm happy with where I am in my training. Slow and steady gets it done. Just like a turtle.

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