I still remember the struggle I endured when trying to recover from my first 50 (Lean Horse 2009). It was rough. Probably the worst part of it was that my legs weren't really sore for more than a few days, but it took a good month before I could get them to respond the way I thought they should. Almost every run in that month turned into a chore as I just had no energy whatsoever and it was a struggle to even maintain what should have been a very easy recovery pace. So, the big question when I decided to run the Collegiate Peaks 50 a little over a month before the Bighorn 50 was whether or not I would be able to bounce back and resume training in a reasonable amount of time. I didn't want my run at Collegiate Peaks to sabotage my Bighorn training. Based on how last week went, I'm fairly certain that it didn't.
I took two days off from running after Collegiate and, while the legs had the expected level of soreness, nothing really hurt or felt like it had taken an abnormal amount of abuse. I've felt much worse immediately after some road marathons, Boston and Colorado namely. My first run after Collegiate was a simple, easy 5 miler around town. Immediately I knew that my legs were feeling much better than I had expected them to. The next day I ran a double with 6 miles in the morning and a fairly tough 5.8 mile trail run, which included climbing up and over Lookout Mtn. and then turning around and going back up and over, in the afternoon. My legs felt great on that trail run and I was able to run the entire thing fairly strongly other than the stupid steep, rock crawling sections near the summit, which basically require scrambling rather than running.
Feeling so good, I faced a bit of a dilemma: take it easy on the mileage for the remainder of the week just to be sure or go ahead and crank it back up? I opted for the safe route, partly because I was planning on running a trail race on Sunday and wanted to have somewhat fresh legs for it. I ended up with around 52 miles for the week including a long run of 16 (on roads). Legs felt good the entire week, marking a surprisingly quick recovery from what was a pretty rough 50 miles last Saturday.
As for the trail race, Sunday was the second annual Thoen Stone Seven in Spearfish, which was also the first race in this year's Black Hills Trail Running Series. I've been looking forward to this one because part of it takes place on Lookout Mtn., where I do the bulk of my trail running during the week. Lookout is conveniently located within a mile of my office, allowing me to get out at lunchtime two or three times a week to hit the trails. The entire race course actually encompasses more pavement than trail as it follows a loop from the city park to the trailhead, up and over Lookout, down the other side and then back on the city streets and bike path to the park. After drawing only 24 runners last year, there were over 80 signed up this year.
Immediately after the race started, a pack of 5 guys who were clearly faster than myself, including my friend Ryan (who also ran Collegiate last week), took off together. I settled into what felt like a comfortably hard pace and soon found myself running next to another local, Tanja, who is routinely the first female at local races. Tanja and I finish within one position of each other more often than not, so I figured this meant I was at my appropriate place in the field.
When we hit the trailhead, the pack had started to pull away, there was one guy in between me and them and Tanja and another guy were hot on my heels. Not long after the real climbing on the trail section started, I ceased to hear breathing behind me so assumed I had dropped my pursuers (and it turns out I had). Unfortunately, the dude in between me and the pack was pulling away from me at the same time I was pulling away from Tanja and the other guy. I ended up running the rest of the Lookout section on my own, like I was just out for one of my lunchtime runs. After hitting the summit, I started to push the pace on the downhill, hoping to make up some ground on the guy in front. By the time we hit the city bike path with a couple of miles to go, it seemed like I was making up some ground, but he was still a ways ahead of me. Then, I saw him glance back and see me and it was pretty much done after that. He pulled away some more and I started to lose some steam. Ended up running the 7.1 miles in 56:25, 7th place overall. Ryan, who had labeled the race as a "fun run" earlier in the week, ended up winning (fun run my ass). All in all, not a bad day at all on the trails (and pavement) just a week after Collegiate Peaks.