Coming into the 2013 race season, I vowed to run more "short distance" trail races. The intention of this decree was to provide myself with a greater number of relatively easy events so I would be forced to rest my legs more, run easier, and just enjoy being on the trail without the pressure to compete.
This plan would have worked if those short races had replaced long races, but I still registered for 20 ultras and 5 marathons. My race schedule STILL totals 1435.3 miles of racing, which is a net increase over 2012.
Oh well...it was a well meaning idea.
The Park City Trail series seemed to be a perfect fit for my 2013 plans. The series is put on by R-U-N Events and encompasses 4 races through the summer, including a 5k, 10k, 15k and culminates with a sporty half marathon. All races start and finish at the same spot and provide a good mix of jeep trail, double track and single track. And Park City is a pretty cool running venue!
The 5K: June 15, 2013
I was kind of excited to run the 5k because I had never run a trail 5k before. I was also a little disgusted at the idea because I hate running that distance. Mostly because I'm a terrible 5k runner. I honestly have no idea how these races are supposed to run.
Here's a recap of my typical 5k experience:
Start-1/2 mile- Run as fast as possible. I can WIN!
1/2 mile-1mile- Feel like puking. Must. Slow. Down.
1 mile- 2 miles- This course must be long because I should be done by now.
2 miles- Finish- I would rather run a 100 miler than ever do another 5k.
Me and Jo Before the Race
It was a beautiful and cloudless day in Park City. The race started right on time and we were off at a maddening pace. The race begins, and mostly remains on a gravel road that guides us up a gradual, but obvious incline before winding around in a meandering fashion.
Runners on the Course
The previous weekend, I had run a 40 mile night race in southern Arizona and was fighting for a win in that race. All my wasted energy resulted in a 2nd place finish, and now, I could feel those hard miles on my legs. Even the slightest inclines felt like mountainous climbs and my lungs were burning and threatening to expel themselves right onto the trail.
I HATE THIS DISTANCE! But it is a pretty day...
There was a moment when we hit a lovely piece of single track and I cracked a smile, thinking I would bury these guys on a bit of technical trail. After about 40 feet, we were back on another road. This is when I hit a mental low point. I considered flinging my hyperventilating body into the sagebrush so I curl up and cry in private. I fought that urge and pressed on. Slower and a bit more dejected, but I was still pushing forward.
After an eternity, I heard the finish line, and after another minute, I could see it. As with most races, the thought of finishing pushed me quickly toward the finish.
I crossed, grabbed a beer, and instantly felt better.
My Bride Finishing Her Race!
Exchanging 5k War Stories with Ben Haushulz. Tough Day...
In a nutshell, my first trail 5k was somewhat successful. I still don't know my finishing time, nor do I care, but I took 3rd in my age group, so I consider that to be a decent outcome for this rookie.
THE 10K: July 6, 2013
This would be my 1st trail 10k ever. In the world of short distance running, the 10k is as rare as the 100k in the world of ultra running. I have no idea why these two distances get ignored, but it's a damn shame because I think we need more middle distance options.
The weather was much different than what we were treated to for the 5k. It was drizzling, cool and lightening in the distance resulted in a postponed start time.
Jo opted out of this race because she had been vomiting all morning. I tried to convince her that puking was part of the sport and a streak of vomit on your running clothes should be worn like a badge of honor. She wasn't buying it and decided to wait at the finish line instead.
Waiting to Start
Off For Round 2 In Park City!
I had just run the Black Hills 100 the previous weekend and nailed an 8th place finish. My legs were a little banged up, but I was determined to run hard and finish well.
I picked out a fast runner that I could see way up ahead and settled into a pace to catch him. Once I was finally on his heels, I settled in behind him and stayed glued to him. He seemed annoyed, but I really didn't care. I needed someone to pull me along for a few miles, and unfortunately for him, I decided he would be the guy.
The 10k course incorporated a lot more single track. It was mostly smooth and fast, packed with short switchbacks that mountain bikers seem to love so much.
After a couple of miles of annoying the guy in front of me, I slipped by him at mile 5 and let my legs go for the last push. It felt fast, but after a 100 miler, everything feels fast.
Crossing the Finish Line!
Hanging out With Brandon Long, Watching the other Finishers
For a first attempt at a trail 10k, I was pretty pleased. I had a finish time of 48:10:00 and came in 2nd in my age group. I'll take that all day long!
The 15K: Sorry...I went to Wyoming to run the El Vaquero Loco 50k instead. But I heard the 15k was a great event!
The Half Marathon: September 14, 2013
The day started out cold and rain was threatening from just over the highest ridge lines to the west. I had just come off a terrible trail marathon the week before and wasn't feeling well. Furthermore, I had been stung on my Achilles by a wasp the day before! I had every reason to stay home and whine like a little girl, but I loaded up and returned to the spot that had become so familiar.
Waiting to Get Started
I had low expectations, so I went out at a pretty pedestrian pace...or what felt like a pretty pedestrian pace. I focused on keeping my heart rate low (by feel, I don't wear a stupid monitor. I know when my heart is pounding too fast). I was passing a lot of people in the first mile and then the field seemed to settle in.
I hit the 5k mark in about 22 minutes and was feeling good. Too good actually. I suspected the mile markers were inaccurate and pressed on.
Runners Behind Me
Foggy, Cold, but I was Sweating Buckets
This course was a pretty even mix of jeep trail and single track. There were a few short climbs, a lot of rolling hills and a couple of tricky downhill sections.
These conditions were perfect for me and my running style.
A Bit of Single Track
Jo Taking Time to Take a Selfie During Her Race!(Likely having more fun than me)
The first 7 or 8 miles went well and I was holding my pace, passing the occasional runner and keeping my heart rate settled. I was focused on targeting runners and then slowly picking them off as they faded.
It Took a Mile to Finally Catch and Pass this Guy
By mile 10, I decided this was now a real race. I had no idea where I was in the field, but I felt like I had a chance to be in the top 10.
I was catching a glimpse of two other runners up ahead of me and I set off to catch them.
The first runner was a young kid and he was clearly fading. But I didn't have a lot of time left, so I pushed hard to catch him. When I got on his heels, I hung back and paced him for a few minutes so my heart rate would settle a bit. I had this guy and I knew it. On a short stretch of wide trail, I announced my intention and shot by him. He tried to hang for a few minutes but eventually faded fast and I never saw him again.
Onto the next runner...
This guy was a bit older. I convinced myself that he was in my age group and I needed to pass him. The problem was, he wasn't fading. At all. I found this annoying.
I pushed HARD to catch up to him and eventually locked onto him, following him WAY too close for either of us to be comfortable. My plan was to stay so close he could FEEL me breathing on him. My hope was for him to concede the spot so I didn't have to race him for it. He didn't even react to my presence. I found this annoying too.
I hung there. Refusing to budge or to back off even an inch. I was hoping he was growing more and more uncomfortable. He wasn't.
I was worried that he was laying back and if I passed him, we would have a 2 mile fight to the finish. I didn't want that. He was running at a comfortable, yet fast pace, so I rode it out, conserving energy.
With less than a mile to go, we hit a jeep road and I pulled alongside him, letting him know I was exhausted and didn't have the energy to stay in front of him. Then I immediately pulled in front of him and unleashed my legs.
He followed. I mentally begged him to stop. He still followed. After about two minutes, he was broken and began to fade quickly. I let my legs slow, but kept a watchful eye to the rear for my pursuer to develop a second wind. It never came.
I kept that pace all the way to the finish and crossed the line exhausted.
1:45:08, 5th place and I won my age group!
Meghan Hicks, smiling after her great finish!
The Awesome Johanna Stangland Coming in!
My Beautiful Bride Wrapping up Her Half Marathon!
It did not escape me that my performance got better as the race distances got longer. I was 3rd in my age group for the 5k, 2nd for the 10k and I won the Half Marathon. It doesn't come as a surprise that I'm not cut out for these shorter distances and I find my strength in running long. The longer, the better!
Maybe I'll lobby the RD to add a 50k to the series!
Half Marathon Swag!
Jo and I really enjoyed all the events in the race series. There are a lot of very speedy runners in attendance, but the field is definitely peppered with runners of all levels. The RD is very generous with post race raffle prizes and awards and I don't think anybody goes away empty handed. The courses are well marked, the volunteers are awesome and the atmosphere is festive. For the money, it's probably the best collection of races in northern Utah.
If my race calendar allows for it, I would like to return next year and compete in all four events. We'll just have to see how things play out for 2014. As of now, next year seems like it may be my swan song for ultra running. I'm getting too old for all this stuff.
Jo and I have another half marathon next weekend, then I plan to have an aggressive, yet short taper leading up the Bear 100. I'm feeling good and am expecting great things over the coming weeks.
Once again, thanks for taking the time read my race report!