Saturday, May 19, 2012

Big Hill 10K

Remember in my last post when I said it's becoming tradition for Ryan and I to run a 50 in Colorado on Mother's Day weekend?  Well, another developing tradition is to come back to SoDak and run the first race in the Black Hills Trail Running Series the weekend after that 50.  

Of course, being able to race the week after a 50 depends heavily on being able to recover from said 50.  Recovery from Quad Rock went about as well as I could hope for.  I took Sunday off completely and ran a flat, easy five on roads on Monday.  My hips were really tight and I had some general fatigue, but nothing really hurt.  Tuesday I started getting back into my normal routine and by Wednesday I felt almost normal.  

The bigger question outside of how well I would recover was how I should structure my weekend around the trail series race, the Big Hill 10K.  I had, perhaps with great confidence, scheduled back to back 20 milers for this weekend back when I sat down and hammered out a Bighorn training schedule a few months ago.  The intent all along was to train straight through Quad Rock as much as possible, but in reality I wasn't sure how recovery would go and whether or not I'd have to cutback a little in the week following Quad Rock.  

With recovery going seemingly well, I decided I'd like to try and get in those back to back long runs while also running the race, so I developed an ingenious grand master plan.  As luck would have it, the Big Hill trailhead is about 6.5 miles south of the Tinton trailhead just outside of Spearfish.  My plan was to start out at the Tinton trailhead, run the 6.5 miles of the Tinton trail up (and it is predominantly uphill) to Big Hill, arriving there in time for the start of the race.  I'd then run the race and then run back down Tinton to my car for a total of 19-20 miles.  Perfect!

All in all, the ingenious grand master plan went well.  I ran the first 6.5 very, very easy, even walking a few of the uphills along Tinton that I would normally run on shorter excursions.  I arrived at the Big Hill trailhead, ensconced in a fog reminiscent of Quad Rock last Saturday, with about 20 minutes to go before the race started.   My bright yellow Boston shirt is fairly easy to pick out of the crowd.

Runners in the Mist
Photo courtesy of Mark Warren

As I chatted with a few other runners and waited for the race to start, I eventually cooled down a bit.  My legs didn't stiffen up too bad, but all the heat I had generated on my run up the hill dissipated fairly quickly and I was getting pretty cold by the time we finally started.  But, it didn't take long to warm up as I found myself cruising the first downhill portion of the race loop at just over 6:00 pace.  A far cry from my blazing fast 13:23 average pace at Quad Rock a week ago.  I like to keep my legs guessing.

Race Start
Photo courtesy of Mark Warren 

The race itself was a 10K loop (which actually turned out to be more like 6.7 miles) on one of the four Big Hill loops, which are popular groomed cross country skiing trails in the winter.  For the most part, there's actually not much single-track as most of the trail system is old logging roads that have grown over.  Every once in awhile, there's a distinct track to follow, but other times we were just running down a wide grassy path through the aspen and pines.  Being highly popular cross country ski trails, there aren't a lot of steep hills along the loops.  The trail is fairly rolling in nature with more gradual ups and downs than most of the other runs in the trail series.  Actually, thinking back on it, it was this relatively gentle rolling nature that drew me to Big Hill for my first ever foray into trail running a few years ago.  I haven't run there since, having found the appeal of "purer" (is that a word?) single-tracks like Tinton and the Centennial.  But, I digress...

Typical Big Hill Trail
Photo courtesy of Mark Warren

As for the race, it went just about the same as how all the trail series races go.  The really fast guys took off in a small pack right away, leaving myself and the other handful of kinda fast guys in a middle pack.  This middle pack eventually spread out a bit over the course of the race until it was just myself and another local, Carlos, within sight of each other.  Carlos and I leapfrogged each other a couple of times early on before Carlos pulled a ways ahead on a long downhill.  As the course looped around and started heading back up toward the trailhead, I would reel Carlos in bit by bit on the steeper uphills, but he would maintain or slightly improve his lead on the flats and short downhills.  I drew closer and closer throughout the second half of the race, but ultimately ran out of real estate (I was running out of steam too, quite honestly) and Carlos finished about 5 seconds ahead of me (I believe we were in 6th and 7th, although I never checked for sure).

After catching my breath for a bit and chatting some more, I decided I'd better head back down the trail before my legs stiffened up too much.  The return trip to my car along the Tinton trail went really well, aided by the fact that 95% of it was downhill.  Thanks to the extra race mileage, I ended up with about 19.8 miles for the day with a nice little tempo workout in the middle of it.  Best part is that, one week after running 50 miles, I don't feel at all like I just ran 50 miles a week ago.  I love it when a plan comes together.  

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