Xterra Xduro 21k Race Report or - Is It HOT in Here or Is It Me?
So the day after I returned from the beach was the Xterra Xduro 21k Trail Race in Nottingham, PA. I chose this race for several reasons:
1) With marathon season underway, I try to make sure most (if not all) of my tune-up races are 1/2M or longer.
2) I love trail racing and believe that once the Boston monkey is off my back will do most of my races this way.
3) It sounds cool to say you did the "Xterra Xduro" last weekend.
All of that being said...
1) I'm deep into training so I didn't taper for the race at all.
2) As mentioned, the day before the race was hectic, with returning from the beach.
3) The day of the race marked the 4th straight day of 90+ degrees. There was one of those you're-a-moron-if-you-go-to-the-mailbox warnings. Also, the race had a 9am start time, so by the time we finished, it would be hot.
4) I'd never run in Nottingham Park before and had no idea about the course.
I showed up at the race early, after getting about six hours of sleep. It was already hot. Though the race advertised a tech shirt, what I got was a t-shirt. Very cool t-shirt, mind you, but not a tech shirt. I'm just sayin....
With marathon season underway, this was to be my first race in some time that I chose to wear my insulin pump. I don't do that for races under a half, but I absolutely need it for the marathon. I can go either way for a 1/2, but part of the reason for doing these 1/2's is to get myself ready for the full.
That being said, my blood sugars tend to run a bit higher in extreme heat and that day was no different. Though my goal is to start races around 180 and finish around 120, I was 240 for this one and would finish at 270 (normal for a non-diabetic is 100) - so my blood sugars never did cooperate that day, even though I wore the pump the whole time (at 25% basal rate).
This particular race had a 10k and a 21k. The 21k crowd simply had to run the 10k loop twice. Due to the extreme heat, the race organizers practically begged the 21k people to drop out after 1 loop if they were feeling loopy. I think this would've been better received had the runners been allowed to count their 10k time, but that wasn't given an option...
I chose to run this race without a shirt. I don't usually do this, but because I always train without a shirt and the heat was crazy, crazy, crazy, bad - I decided to forget about modesty. I also decided to carry a hand-held water bottle, which worked out really well, all things considered.
As we stood on the starting line, I had no idea what to expect. I knew zilch about the course and had no idea how many of the runners in the pack were running the 10k and 21k. And, of course, I had no idea how much hotter it could get.
My plan for the race was to run the first loop conservatively and see the terrain and then open it up on the second loop. While I tried to do that, I realized by the 3 mile mark that I had made a critical error and gone out too fast (though it didn't feel fast). The heat was insane and for the first time ever, I seriously considered dropping after the first loop, assuming I made it that far.
Around the 4 mile mark, though, a familiar face passed me. I know Tom Howe from a variety of trail races we've done together. In every one of them, I've beaten him, but just barely. This told me two important things: I was off my pace (which I figured) but the bottom hadn't fallen out, yet. If I could pick myself up now, I might be able to save my race.
I shouted out to Tom and immediately caught up to him. Having someone to talk to made all of the difference, and within a half a mile, I wondered how I'd felt so bad before and so much better now. Tom and I ran together for about a mile and a half before I left him behind me, but without him, I would've dropped out, for sure.
When I finished the first loop, I was relatively optimistic, but knew it was getting hotter and I had more than six miles to go.
And things weren't getting easier, either... the race continued to be about going from water stop to water stop, pouring some on my head and filling up my bottle.
Around miles eight and nine, I found myself in kind of a fog, trying to distance myself from the environment. While there was pain in my legs, it was tough to keep from obsessing about the heat. I told myself that compared to what people like Connie do at Badwater, a half-marathon in Nottingham, PA was child's play. But it definitely didn't feel like it...
Like a true trail runner, I'd walked the big hills on the first loop, but by the second loop, I was walking up anything with any amount of incline. This is easy to see if you look at the pace spikes from my garmin on the event.
Finally, the damn thing came to an end. I ended up 37th out of 92, which is several notches slower percentage-wise than I'm used to. HOWEVER, we learned that more than 100 people had abandoned the race after the first loop, which puts me around the 19th percentile out of those who started. Not great, but good enough on this day.
More than anything, this race was my greatest mental challenge to date. It's the type of thing that I know will make me tougher when I get to the end of the marathon. And really, it's why we do this stupid stuff - race paces are fickle and subject to many things besides training. At the end of the day, the real question is, "Did I leave it all out there?" I can honestly say I did, and sometimes - that has to be enough.