Saturday, August 18, 2012

Burning River 100 Recovery: Pizza Splash 5k

Recovering from the Burning River 100 has been a drawn-out process, much longer than the time I required to bounce back from the Mohican 50, the 46 miles I ran at O24, etc. I mean, granted it was literally twice the distance, and I finished the race with feet that more closely resembled a brain on the bottom than the appopriate part of my anatomy. Running a 5k less than two weeks after finishing 100 miles seemed like a good idea months ago, so I registered figuring that if I could tough it out for said hundred miles, three couldn't possibly pose much of a problem. I entered this race with low expectations. After all, in the twelve days that had passed since finishing BR100, I only ran three times, and spent three days on the brink of immobility. The blisters that covered literally half of each foot and all ten toes finally began to peel into a gruesome looking mess revealing patches of skin that were tender to the touch two days before the race, and I was admittedly apprehensive as race day approached. It didn't look like my left foot was going to hold up.

I have never been blazing fast on any distance, but have generally fared reasonably well in local races. I have a 5k road PR of 21:50 with an average of about 23:00. Having struggled on all three of the runs I completed after BR100, I anticipated a slower finish than usual, especially considering I've never done well in any of my six experiences at this event, the Pizza Splash 5k. It's a large race in my home town, and it's in the dog days of summer, and in the early evening when the temperature has yet to cool and the sun is still hot. My finish times at this event are, on average, about a minute to two minutes slower than my other 5k's. I was concerned it might take me longer than 25:00 to finish, 26:00 in a worst case scenario.

Seeing how bad the bottom of my left foot appeared-- rubbed raw and somewhat sore when I applied pressure to it, I decided taping it might be my best option. That would cover it and prevent the friction I feared could potentially set me back another week were it to start bleeding. It worked like a charm, especially with thick socks. I wore the same beloved NB Minimus trail shoes (even though this was a road race) that carried me through the last 47 torturous miles of BR100. I ran about a mile to warm up, and noticed my legs felt fresh; the aches and pains I'd experienced during the three runs had disappeared entirely, though I still wasn't overly confident.

As we set off, I followed Lissa Yoder for about a quarter mile before settling into a slower pace. My legs continued to feel great, and my feet weren't showing any signs of danger. I expected my first mile to pass quicker than it did because I felt fast, and I began to worry as I reached the marker in 7:20. Prior to my transition to low-carb, I generally reached the first mile in a 5k race in about 6:40-6:50. However, running longer distances has trained me to view 5k's as the kiddie pool of running, and I knew that with only two miles remaining I could still hit the gas and not have to worry about having, say, six miles to try to keep it going. I told myself that as long as I reached the two mile mark in 15:00 or less, I was golden, and even an utterly disastrous third mile bombing couldn't push me over the 24-minute mark. There was a nice downhill stretch that led to the two mile marker, and I took advantage of it fully. I watched the clock tick past 15:00 as I approached the marker, passing it in 15:08. I was a bit concerned, having slowed down more than I'd expected, but my legs still felt nearly as fresh as they did at the start, so I pushed forward full throttle as I headed into the final mile.

About a half mile after passing the two mile marker, there's a gradual incline that extends approximately an eighth of a mile or so. I knew this was coming having run this course so many times, and I used it to my advantage, picking off one runner after another. I knew that after reaching the top and turning the corner that there was less than a half mile remaining and it was flat and stared dead into the finish line. I suspected I had 24:00 in the bag, and thought I might as well test myself to see how fast I could finish, and started to sprint as soon as I turned onto this final stretch. I think I pushed myself perhaps a bit too soon because I started to cramp about 100 yards from the finish. I crossed the finish line in 23:37, a good finish for a course that usually eats me alive. My splits: 7:20, 7:48, 7:47 were better and more consistent than expected. I finished 2nd/8 in women's 25-29, and 20th/97 overall female. As usual, I'm pleased and disappointed simultaneously. On the one hand, 23:37 is not a bad finish only twelve days after running 100 miles (and consequently obliterating my feet), especially with no speed training. However, it confirms, in my opinion, that 21:50 is not only again attainable, but a time I can crush with some decent speed training, after losing a few more pounds, and after having given my body and feet perhaps a bit more time to recover.

With only a week until my next ultra, Moebius Green Monster trail 50k, I am confident that I'm steering back on track, and the next few months are going to be filled with fast racing, achieving PR after PR. I'll finish out the year with two 50k's, a marathon, two half marathons, and possibly a double marathon in addition to my annual Thanksgiving five-miler-- and any 5k I decide to toss in for fun. I'm looking forward to all of them.


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