Really wasn’t sure what to expect going into this race, my body started feeling a bit worn down a week after my race at Whispering Pines 50K, all these recent Ultras were catching up to me, and just days before the race I started receiving phantom pains from my ITB, leaving me a bit paranoid. So I set the expectations bar very low, and just to finish without another ITB inflammation; despite some early issues though, I had a pretty good race, and managed to set a new course PB! While Pedernales Falls is regarded as the easiest and most runnable of the Capt'n Karl series, it can be quite rocky in certain sections requiring very careful dancing to get through without busting your ankle, and there are large stretches of loose gravel trails you’ll be running on. All of this did not bode well for my Vibrams, I’m not exactly sure how I managed to complete the whole race last year in Vibrams, because by the end of the first loop I couldn’t wait to get the dogs off and change into my Altra Lone Peaks! By the end of the first loop my feet were feeling pretty beat up and my ITB was starting to haunt me a bit with it’s presence, I entertained the thought of dropping to the 30K for a few miles, but overall I was feeling great and still managed to complete the first loop in around 3:51 Hrs.
|Before the race, looking cheerful, despite all my pre-race jitters|
I changed into my Altra Lone Peaks, strapped on my Cho-pat knee strap, and after about 10 minutes total, including time spent at the start/finish aid station, headed off for the second loop. The Altra’s were lifesavers on the loose rocks and gravel sections of the trail (though I did have some ankle scares...the reason why I so stubbornly wear Vibrams), considering how technical the Capt’n Karl races are, I may just suck in my pride and do the rest of them in just the Altras. There are only a few short steep climbs on the Pedernales Falls trail that warrants a walk, instead this course throws at you very gradual inclines for miles on end that will constantly taunt you into walking them and throwing off your running rhythm. When you finish crossing this gorgeous landscape of large flat boulders, that makes up the dry river bed of the Pedernales River about a mile and half into the race, and make a very steep nearly 100 ft climb out of it, you’re presented with near constant inclines (punctuated with some sharp declines) for the next 5 and half miles with the majority of the time spent going in a straight line. As Olga would say, put your head down, smile, and gut out those runnable inclines, the sooner you make it out of this boring straight section, the better! This is the same approach I tried to take as well in the middle sections of the course that held the majority of the rest of the climbs, and where you encounter all those loose gravel trails.
After making it through the climbing sections, I was finally able to run at a more consistent pace through the flatter (though very technical in spurts) last 6 miles; I made up in my mind that I wanted to finish in under 8 and half hrs, and surprisingly enough, my legs sprung to life after having to drag them doggedly up incline after incline for the past 10 miles. When I reached the last aid station, with about 2 and half miles to finish, I had roughly 33 minutes left to meet my goal, mentally I must have flicked on the overdrive switch in my legs, and hammered home a 10 min/mile avg pace to finish the race in 8:23 hrs, a full 22 minutes off my previous year’s time! After a slow start to racing Ultras again upon my finish at Rocky Raccoon, and being hampered with a bum ITB, I was getting worried that I wasn’t making any progress with my running; two races in particular Hells Hills and Whispering Pines, I managed to be much slower compared to last year’s finishing time. Sure I can blame my ITB problems, but Rocky not only destroyed me physically, but mentally as well...it’s been extremely difficult to motivate myself to get back on that hamster wheel and return to peak training form. All these recent Ultra’s have been restoring my confidence bit by bit, and after today’s race, seeing myself improve significantly from last year, has been a huge mental boost. I’m going to need all the motivation I can get, Cactus Rose is now just 4 months away...tick, tock, tick, tock.