Am I a runner? Could I ever be a runner? What makes you a runner?
I took part in high school cross country and stayed fit playing ultimate frisbee in college but never thought to run just for the sake of running. Running fast or running far takes a lot of effort and putting in that time would detract from my climbing. In college many of my friends were runners and I often ran because I saw the health benefits of staying light. During a very focused study abroad in Australia I would often go for 8k to 15K runs around the city before class. These six months in 2005 were most likely my highpoint as far as frequency and duration. In my final years at college I ran at most four times a month and stopped completely after I graduated in 2007.
In September of 2008 I decided that I needed to step up my fitness and start running again. I had stayed fit by climbing and biking to work but knew that I would benefit from more frequent cardiovascular exercise. At first it was just a casual 5k, my favorite distance, every week or so. Then, with some gained fitness, I started doing slower longer runs with some of my co-workers. I had not run more than five or six miles since Australia and it was a new challenge as we went for eight to ten mile runs. The more I ran the more I wanted to put my effort towards accomplishing a goal. Many of my friends have run a marathon, some more than once, so why couldn’t I?
I started upping my mileage in the thought of doing a half-marathon, a good first step towards doing a marathon in 2010. After doing a couple of ten mile runs I was confident that I could go the distance, 13.1 miles. My friend Julie, from Bucknell, helped me find a race organized by Pacific Coast Trail Runs that would meet my distance requirement with the added benefit of beautiful scenery. While in my mind running is usually just a means to an end, I was excited to travel to a new part of the California coast and for a chance to push myself. In the month or so before the race I slowly upped my weekly mileage and enjoyed cruising the trails and streets around where I live in San Diego. The week before the race I rested, tapering to allow my body to recover, and worked out what I would eat and drink during the race.
Logistically I ran my 25k on two GU’s, a Clif Shot, and ~20 oz of water. I had practiced carrying a water bottle and my support crew, Julie, Josh and Lizzy, gave my bottle at the half way point in the race. Julie and Lizzy had already finished the 8k and were waiting with Josh for my resupply. I was able to meet up with them because the 25k was separated into two loops, Valencia and Hazard Peaks with an aid station in the middle at the Start/Finish point. A short version of the first loop, called Valencia Bluffs, was used by those in the 8k, which bypassed the steep run to the Valencia peak. The second loop was of equal elevation gain ~1600 feet but over a much more moderate grade. The running was scenic and I had a good time despite running out of energy in the last couple of miles. I am sure if i had done base work over 10 miles I would have had more energy. By the end of the race I drank all of my water and wished that I had stopped for a bit more food.
Elevation Profile Courtesy of PC Trail Runs
I had a blast and am interested in running some races in the future of similar distances 18k – 30k. If I run a race with a similar elevation profile (3200 feet over 25k) I will have to do more hill training. Not only was I slow running up the hills but my core was unable to sustain as fast of a pace down the hill as I would have liked. I had to hold back on the extended downhills due to unexpected fatigued. We will see if I have the time and energy in the future to devote to training for another long race. Hopefully I can keep up with my weekly running routine and start upping my mileage again.
Photos thanks to Julie and Josh!