Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, June 23, 2013
Sunny, 90+ degrees
Trail: This trail, near Union University, is in great shape and heavily shaded for 90% of the 3.7 mile loop. Mostly dirt single track. Roots, some small hills, lots of twist & turns. This is another great, grassroots ultra from Run It Fast.
Normally I would call this a stupid idea. Running two trail marathons back-to-back in 90 degree temps in June makes no sense. But, as runners, it is what we do. When Josh Holmes, at Run It Fast, announced this race I knew it would be a perfect training block heading into the Leadville Trail 100 in August. The cornerstone of ultra training is big double long run weekends. The Jackal races were an hour from home and put on by a great grassroots group of runners. Sometimes, running is stupid, and so am I.
Jackal Trail Marathon, Saturday: I approached day one as a normal weekend long run. Pacing and fueling would resemble a 50K much more than a standard road marathon. No pre-race stress or time expectations. Just run, fuel and most of all, hydrate. The goal for the first 3 laps (7 total laps) was to run under control, keep my heart rate down and hydrate. In a small trail race, the field quickly separates and it is highly likely that you will run for hours on your own. I was able to run for a bit with Josh, the race director and Run It Fast founder. Then we caught up with JV, a fellow Memphian and talented runner, who ended up 2nd overall female. The conversations made for a good distraction as we rolled through the laps with surprisingly steady splits. Finish time: 4:48. 8th overall. No cramps, no blisters, no falls. The day unfolded the way I wanted: a normal, uneventful long run.
Recovery: As soon as I finished I drank my GU Brew Recovery/ protein powder/ Amazing Grass Green Superfood/ Udo's Oil recovery drink. The goal was to get re-hydrated and refueled as much as possible in order to have the best shot at a good run on Sunday. I put on my compression socks and dry clothes and made the one-hour drive home. Along the way I picked up a veggie sub for lunch and two bags of ice for my ice bath.
Backass Jackal Trail Marathon, Sunday: Day Two would be run on the same trail, but in the opposite direction. When my alarm went off it felt like the movie "Groundhog Day". Same breakfast, same gear, same drive to Jackson, same venue. Race strategy would be the same: run under control and hydrate! The goal of back-to-back long runs is to run on tired legs and battle the accompanying mental and physical fatigue that would surely arrive in the later miles. Legs felt good and pace was steady through the first three laps. I was feeling a hot spot on my foot so I changed shoes at the aid station. By focusing on a quick shoe change I failed to properly hydrate. In addition to drinking a whole 20 oz bottle (with a GU Brew electrolyte tablet) each lap I was drinking an additional half bottle of water at the aid station. Skipping this extra water caught up with me on lap 4. My bottle was empty early in the lap and I felt "dry". No cramps,but sluggish. The hills felt a bit steeper and the pace a bit slower. I made sure I paid close attention to my hydration the rest of the race. I was able to run most of the day with another fellow Memphian and "Can't Stop" runner, Courtney. The distraction was good, but it did get very quiet as we both managed our own internal struggles. (Courtney ended up 1st overall female) The late race fatigue showed up and I went to the "dark place" a few times in the last 10K. I wasn't distressed though... that is the exact feeling I wanted. I needed it to get hard and I needed to work on my mental and physical stamina. Again, no cramps and no real problems, other than the expected fatigue. Stay calm, just keep moving. I was ready to be done by the time we started the final lap. Just keep moving and in 45 minutes I could stop... and sit down. I ended up finishing in 5:10, 8th overall.
Fueling: One bottle of water with GU Brew electrolyte tablets every 45 minutes, one S Cap per hour, one GU energy gel every 90 minutes, a few bites of boiled potato at the aid station.
My legs were fairly well crushed on Monday, but I made the point to get out for an easy 4 miles. The big mileage weekend had been a success. It provided a good confidence boost that Leadville training was on track. The lessons:
- A long race in 90 degree heat is a hydration contest. Just keep drinking. And never pass up a chance to top off a half empty bottle, even if you don't think you will need it.
- When it gets hard...and it will get hard... focus on the basics: form, fuel, hydration.
- If you feel a blister, chafing or other such issue... take care if it early before it derails your day.
- Aggressive recovery: ice, compression, refueling... works!
Run Smart. Train Hard. Race Fast.
Coach Kevin is an RRCA-certified Running Coach. National Coach ~ Team McGraw, National Coach ~ St Jude Heroes.