Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Best Race Performances

I found myself thinking about my best race performances and decided it would be a fun topic for a blog post, better than another post on diets or a race report. I'll start off this post by saying that this is a pretty arbitrary post and could change if you ask me 6 months from now. There is no formal criteria other than how I feel the race went combined with my performance. Also, while I gave each an official ranking, I also tiered the races because there wasn't much difference between certain races.

Tier 1

1 - North Fork 50 mile (June 2014). This race was close to a no-brainer for this spot primarily because it was a break through race for me. It helped that I finished in 4th place and got a good Ultra Signup ranking (88%). But, really it came down this being the day I knew my new diet was working and that I had another level in ultra running to achieve. The second half of the race was incredibly strong and I finished with a personal best on 1K climb at mile 43 that I had done two other times in training.

2 - Western States 100 (June 2015). It was very tempting to put this race as #1 because it is freaking Western States! As it is, the margin is close and my only other tier 1 race. Considering the pressure the lottery and high stakes put you under, I am incredibly happy with how this day went. I ran nearly the entire course and ran very patient, almost veteran race. My lone concern coming away from the race was my feet. I've had issues with my feet in 100s and it popped up late in this race. I fought through, but it leaves me feeling unsure about future 100s.

Tier 2

3 - Quad Rock 25 (May 2014). Again, the margin in this tier of races is oh-so-close. Quad Rock gets a small boost over the others because it was the first time I raced after going to LCHF and because the course was all wrong for me. I am not a strong technical runner and it is a very technical course. It also boasts 5500 feet of climbing in less than a marathon. This was also one of my highest Ultra SignUp ranks.

4 - Leadville Trail Marathon (July 2011). It has been 4+ years now and I am remember less and less about that day. But, this race deserves a spot on this list for many reasons. First, it was my first ever trail race, containing a nasty 6500 feet of climbing at altitude in just under a marathon distance. I was a total rookie with no idea how I'd do on such a course and I ran strong, including a 25 min negative split (not that hard to do on this course, but still...). In many respects, this was also my first ultra. While not technically an ultra at only 26 miles, it runs like a 50k. Once again, this was one of my highest Ultra Signup ranks.

5 - Javelina Jundred 100k (October 2015). My highest overall Ultra Signup rank (90) but only my 5th best race. What gives? Well, unlike Quad Rock, this race suited my strengths. I run lots of roads and am quite comfortable on runnable courses (those under say 75 feet/mile of vertical). And, I have become a decent heat runner and worked quite a bit on it this summer. So, I am mostly disappointed with some of the amateur mistakes I made -- forgetting my cooling hat at home, not drinking enough at aid, not utilizing my arm sleeves with ice -- that led to a rather uncomfortable last lap and rather large positive split. I don't think I left more than 15 mins on the course that day, but I pride myself on running smart races and executing well. That said, I am still quite happy with my overall time and placement in the race and think it was a solid A- day. And, I am over the moon happy with how hard I battled on that last lap. I didn't have much to give, but I gave it my all.

Tier 3

6 - Colorado Marathon (May 2012). The margin between these remaining races is getting nearly indistinguishable. I have put such a focus on trail racing that this race almost gets lost. After converting to the trails almost full time, I didn't put much specificity into this race. In fact, I did a 32 mile long run just two weeks before the race. I finished in a bit over 3:13 and was running a very controlled and smooth 7:00 pace the last 6 miles -- on the harder half of the course. So many things went well for me on this day and this was possibly the strongest I've felt at the end of any race other than Quad Rock or Leadville Trail Marathon. The main reason I dock this race a little -- other than maybe just being 3+ years ago -- is that I felt like I had more to give. That was evident in my super strong finish. After blowing up at RnR Vegas six months earlier, I ran a very cautious first half and live with a small amount of regret. I wish I had gone harder and given myself a better chance at 3:10 and a BQ. That number seems impossibly far away right now and I wasted an opportunity to grab it. Not many 190 lb former football players run a 3:10.

7 - Bear Chase 50k (September 2015). Another very high Ultra Signup result. I don't have a whole lot to say about this race, really. I went out hard and suffered a bit on the final lap (in the heat). I got a great overall finish and am actually proud of myself for going for it (see Colo Marathon). This race probably gets put into the unremarkable category simply because it wasn't a goal race. I ran Bear Chase as a tune-up for Javelina Jundred and just didn't put much focus on training or celebrating afterward.

8 - Power of Four 50k (August 2014). Another somewhat unremarkable race due to its place in my line up as a training run. I felt like I ran a great race -- 6:32 for a 50k that boasts 8500 feet of climbing -- but my Ultra Signup ranking clearly shows that it wasn't my finest performance. The course was easier than the 8500 feet of climbing suggests because the downhill was mostly double track road and quite runnable. (Note: this race became a Sky Running event in 2015 and now contains 11K of vert on a modified course).

Honorable Mention

9 - Bear 100 (September 2014). If I am honest, I really thought I had a sub-24 in me, even on this mountain course. I went for it and came up way short. The events that unfolded make this without question one of the most memorable nights of my life and I am still a little surprised I fought through and finished. I sure am glad I did because Western States doesn't happen without it.

10 - Leadville 100 (August 2012). It wouldn't be hard to talk me into moving this one up the list. The race will always hold a special place as my first 100, but it was honestly a pretty average race. I sure do miss the rookie enthusiasm I showed that day (and in training).

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