Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dahlgren Trail 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Leading up to this season opener has not been a smooth, easily traveled path.  My training started off great in January.  I was running better and biking better than I would have expected coming out of off season and I was excited to get going and tackle some big goals for 2016.  Enter my birthday, during the 3rd week of January.  Now, no it wasn't my birthday itself but it was around that time that a performance decline started.  A gradual steady decline, despite constant and consistent work, a clean diet, proper recovery, etc.

I had no clue what was going on or what to expect going into this race.  I made some adjustments on the Wednesday prior to the race and saw some pretty huge benefits.  That helped pick my head up a bit and go into the race with some level of confidence.  This race was described to me as a 'flat and fast' trail.  I assumed a nice crushed gravel path similar to Paint Creek Trail (for the Michiganders) or the nice park I ran in while driving through Pennsylvania lost fall.  I can assure you, it wasn't fast, and mostly not flat.  Not it was an old railroad bed so the grades were very gentle, but they were there.

Dahlgren is only about an 80-90 minute drive from DC so we hitched a ride with friends on Saturday morning and head straight to the race site.  We of course had to stop for cheap gas and coffee for our Sherpa on the way down.  Parking was easy along the rural roads by the race site and rack check-in was fast and efficient.  T-shirt is optional at this race, which is a nice added bonus for someone with far to many race shirts already.

Once we were checked in we heaed towards the bonfire to start delayering and head off on a warm up/hit the bathroom run.  Unfortunately there were only 3 port a potties and a ridiculously long line for them.  The weather was quite gorgeous for a mid-February day so I needed to make some wardrobe decisions prior to race start.  I warmed up in my jacket and long sleeve top, stopped in the woods for a quick break, and then headed back to the start line.  I knew the weather would only warm up from that point so I stripped down to a shirt, running capris and gloves.

Race Start
Since the race takes place on an old railroad bed the trail is not super wide.  The race director chooses to start the race in wave format to open up the trail a bit more.   After a few of waves of men started it was finally time for the females 29 and under to line up.  I much prefer to have people in front of me to pick off along the way rather than starting in the front and only getting passed the entire time.  The starting lady warned us that there would be a horse on the course, to pass the men, and have fun.  As the time clock hit 8 minutes it was a rather calm and anticlimactic "go" and we were off.

Miles 1-4: I had a race plan but I also knew it was early season, the trail conditions were very unlike road conditions and my body had been a bit unpredictable the past few weeks.  I started off with a controlled and steady pace and starting picking off the men 1 by 1 within the first mile.  The trail was peaceful, the air was clean and the weather was pretty much perfect.

Miles 5-9:  I started to push it a bit around mile 5 and really tried to pick it up once I hit the turn around at mile 6.5ish.   My heart rate was a bit higher than I expected and I was a little nervous that I might crash and burn before mile 13.1. Knowing that there weren't any consequences for this run and some of my goals involved driving my HR up throughout the race I wanted to go for it and see what would happen.

Miles 10-13.1:  As mile 10 came I was still feeling pretty good and resisting the urge to push too hard before hitting mile 13.  Once I hit mile 11 I really tried to push, this is also the point in the race where things started to get hard!  I used some mantras, tried to hold on to heels for as long as I could, and continued driving my HR up straight to the finish line.  I finished a bit light headed and exhausted as well as 12 minutes ahead of the next athlete in my wave.

Finish line pic, Osmo Nutrition, and Mantras!

Post Race
We hung out around the bonfire, refueled with Osmo Nutrition and collected our Prize Money Giftcards.  Our group took home a trio of Age Group victories and a decent stash of gift cards to the local outdoor adventure store.  I was also able to share the trail with a few patients from Rose Physical Therapy Group and see them finish strong (as well as take home some age group awards).   Always nice to see the work we do in the clinic making a difference for people! There was a plethora of post race grub including cookies galore, hot soup, bagels, donuts and other snacks.  Once the awards were finished we headed out to downtown Fredericksburg for a nice brunch and to spend our gift cards, of course!

Scott, Paige (sherpa), me and Adam.

Post Race Wrap Up
All in all I'm happy with this performance.  The overall finish time was from from a distance PR, but it was a trail PR (well it was my first trail 1/2 marathon).  I had set some goals going into this race that were a bit more mental and all about digging in and pushing myself when things got hard.  My HR may have been sky high by the end, but I never took the foot off the gas and just kept after it the entire time.  Thankfully the soft forgiving surface of the trail has left me much less sore than anticipated and I'm feeling pretty good.  It was a great, low-key race to kick off the season and always fun to come away with a win.  I've been using Lauren Fleshman's 'Believe' Journal every day and think it really helped set some goals and reflect on my performance.  Hopefully I'll have some more answers over the next week or so for what's going on with my body and be able to dial back into my training after coming out of this recovery week.

Thank you to all my sponsors and supporters for 2016 including Snapple Triathlon Team, DC Triathlon Club, Sweatvac Performance Wear, Osmo Nutrition, Cliff Bar, District Taco, Rose Physical Therapy Group, Louis Garneau, Rudy Project, Xterra Wetsuits, Fuel Your Passion Coaching, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.

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