Friday, April 27, 2012

Hyner Challenge

Pre-race chatting.
Has someone been slipping something in my water? There is no way that I should have felt as good as I did on Saturday at the Hyner Challenge (25K trail race) five days after running Boston. Last year I ran Hyner seven days after Garden Spot Marathon and Hyner kicked my butt. This year I had less rest and my quads were more beat up from the downhills of Boston. I definitely still had soreness in my legs...but they could still run, for some reason.

I figured at some point during the race my legs would get heavy and I would slow down but, after my experience at Boston, I figured that I might as well give it a go and see what happens. The weather was nearly perfect with the temperature in the 50s and overcast. Hyner starts with a 1/8 mile steep downhill and then runs on a flat asphalt road for about a mile before hitting single-track and starting to climb. If you are looking for a good time, it is best to run a quick first mile because it can be difficult to pass for awhile on the single-track. I started out at the front but immediately got passed by 30 people at the start with their irrational exuberance. I looked down at my Garmin when we hit the road and saw that I also had been a little exuberant as I was running a sub-6 pace. I eased up a bit, but not much, as I wanted to get past many of these people. I felt the soreness in my legs immediately but was just hoping they would wait to crash for 16 miles. I was hoping for a top ten finish here, but was prepared for it to get ugly and be much worse. I was a little astonished after the first mile when I looked down and saw I just ran a 6:15 mile.

Finally we hit the single-track and I settled in behind Eric Marshall. He is a good trail runner and had kicked my butt in races all last year, but I had at least been in the same neighborhood as him in time, so I hoped to stay close to him for awhile. The second mile is fairly flat single-track before you turn the corner and start the big climb to Hyner View (about 1200 feet in less than two miles). We started passing people going up the climb and I was able to mostly stick with him. Partway up the climb it flattens for a short stretch and I still felt good so I passed him on the run and kept going. I finally reached the top and had to look back and enjoy the view for a few seconds before turning and hitting the aid station.

Next comes a steep 1.75 mile descent that I was worried about. I knew this would be a quad-pounder and was just trying to avoid braking as much as possible without losing it on the steep parts. I made it down to the aid station at the bottom and someone told me that I was in about sixth place, which surprised me because I hadn't realized how many people I had passed in the first two miles. I then began the long second climb which is a gradual ascent along a creek bed for a three miles before rising more sharply for a mile to the top. Last year my legs had given out in this section and I had a long slow slog to the top. This year, they still felt good and I was making good time. I was hopeful that I could continue my good pace. The aid station at the top had a large crowd of spectators and I've got to admit that it was a bit of a rush to run through there, still feeling good.

I knew I could run the next downhill section, Post Draft, at a good pace. It is about a two mile long gradual, rocky descent that can really be hammered if you aren't afraid of rocks. I took off and as I got close to the bottom I saw two guys ahead of me. I picked up the pace as much as I could and finally caught them at the bottom. There is no reprieve here as you immediately start up the last steep mile ascent, culminating with the appropriately-named S.O.B., a short 50 meter hand over foot scramble up a gas line cut. I passed the other two runners at the beginning of the ascent and tried to put some quick distance between us. My legs still felt amazingly springy. I finally reached S.O.B. and just tried to stay on the mountain (not necessarily a given here) to the top.

The start of the 50K race with the real men and women.
I hit the last aid station, where they told me I was fourth, took my last Gu and took off. The next two miles is a mostly flat dirt road on top of the ridge, before you hit the single-track again. Last year I just wanted to walk this section, as my legs were dead. This year I still felt good and was able to reel off a couple miles at around a 7:30 pace. I was hoping I could reel in two of the guys in front of me but all I knew is that they were multiple minutes ahead of me and I couldn't see them. As soon as I hit the single-track and started the last two mile descent I pounded the downhill. I was just hoping to catch a glimpse of them at some point. In spite of running a 6:57 for the last full mile, I never did see them. I finally made it to the finish in 2:32:22, three minutes out of second place and 14 minutes out of first. I had been contemplating doing a somersault as I crossed the line but when I got to the finish there were a lot of people and I wimped out. Congratulations to Meira Minard, who reclaimed her title this year (after also running Boston five days ago) and Jacob Loverich, who added another impressive win to his resume.

I was ecstatic at the finish. My legs never gave out on me and I took 22 minutes off of my time from last year. I am not sure what the difference is between last year and this year, but I am running so much better. I would hypothesize that it is the weight work that I am doing, since that is the major difference in my training. I have been doing P90X routines three or four days a week since the beginning of February, working on my upper body, core and lower body, as well as some yoga. Thank you, Tony Horton. I feel so much stronger at the end of races and apparently recover pretty well, also. Whether it is the water or the weights, I don't care, because I am having fun and feeling good.

Now on to concentrating on my preparation and last few weeks of training for Massanutten.

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