Let me be clear: this race report is about my Coach, Peter Fain, of Run on Dirt Coaching, because my MUC 25k story has a lot do to with him.
Several Run on Dirt athletes toed the line at MUC this morning. At the finish, we compared Coach Peter’s individualized pre-race instructions. Dan ran a 50k PR and proudly finished with not much left in the tank. Chaz, who is training for Western States, had specific orders on how to approach each section of the course and finished first in his age group.
More on that later. Let’s talk about how I ended up there to begin with.
All winter Peter and I have been operating on the premise that nordic skate skiing (runners click here to learn about skate skiing) would be better than adequate base building for a strong trail running season. Like Kilian, ya know, how he does SkiMo all winter then I guess one day he just switches over to running. The big question… will it work for a mere mortal like me?
February was dry, but the ample snow base made for great nordic skiing in Tahoe. I had been snowshoe running a little at the beginning of the year – mostly helping out with our running club group runs and keeping a path open out my back door for storm days (which are not conducive to skate skiing). My biggest mileage week was a whopping 16.2 miles.
Then, jut a month ago, some positive peer pressure from my “other” Peter (Pete B) led to me sign up for the MUC 50k. It would be a whole week later before I was able to do my first dirt trail run, a 10-miler out of East Keystone in Reno. Meanwhile, a bunch of skate and even Ski Orienteering (ridiculously fun!) races happened.
I squeezed in a 20-mile trail run (that really hurt) and a beautiful 15-miler on the Verdi side of the Silver State 50/50 course. Thanks to more “motivation” from Pete B, I skied The Great Ski Race last weekend and had a fabulous time in somewhat questionable conditions. This led to me getting pretty fired up about the Gold Rush (42km) skate ski race, which is NEXT weekend. Phew… how to keep it all straight?!
Luckily, that’s what I have a coach for. I let Coach Peter think his biggest job is writing training plans, but really, one of the most important thing he does for me is help me figure out what I really want. (Oh, and those pre-race text messages. I eat those up.) Peter helped me clarify that I care more about finishing the skate ski season strong than running an early 50k. I decided to drop down to the 25k.
And then came my pre-race text message. I memorized it. Like I always do:
Charge the climbs (3 of them) / caution on the descents (protect the quads) / flats run fast.
My friend Sarah Lavender Smith, another fab running coach, kindly sent an additional nugget of advice for this course in her backyard. She warned me to be physically and mentally prepared to run the final climb up Marincello. Many runners tire and mentally throw in the towel at that point.
Now for the race. I ran the first climb pretty strongly, then I got to the descent and felt fabulous. “Caution on the descents,” that’s BS, I thought to myself as I was enjoying the delicious dirt. But I quickly pulled back. Peter was right. He knows that I care about skiing well next weekend.
The second climb was again up “Hill 88,” but via a slightly steeper route. This caught me off guard and I had a tough time sticking to the women around me, as I watched two slowly pull away up the climb. I reeled one back on the long descent (while still being conservative with the quads).
I made a quick exit from the Tennessee Valley aid station to start the climb up Marincello. I had Sarah’s advice in my head, but I quickly tired, and soon found myself hiking. It must have been only briefly, because soon a kind fellow runner came by and gently prodded, “Let’s go.” I started running and stuck to him like velcro.
Revived (and grateful!) I was eventually able to pull away from him and ran the rest of the climb on my own. “Charge the climbs,” I repeated to myself. Less than a mile to go – one of my go-to mantras: “You can do anything for 10 minutes.” Then I heard Chris from TRX class (Performance Training Center) in my head. Something like: “This is all you have left to do today. Then you get to go on with your day.”
From the top of the climb there were 4.5 miles to the finish, including 2.5 cruising downhill miles followed by 2 brutal flat miles (it was getting really windy at this point). I was hoping for technical downhill, because I tend to be stronger than the field on those. But it wasn’t. I disregarded coaches instructions for the top 2 miles and pushed myself down the hill… it’s a race, after all, and it was almost over.
I passed a couple of gals and then I felt the crash come on hard. Instinctively, my body slowed. But then I conjured Tuesday’s tempo run with both Peters – that feeling of Coach Peter prodding me to keep pushing through and chasing Pete B in his bright yellow rain coat – and picked it up again.
I got to the final two miles and the wind made it feel like snowshoe running (i.e. uphill even when it’s flat). A gal with a beautiful, light stride passed me and pushed to the finished. I was a little bummed, but appreciated her motivating me to keep chasing. “Flats run fast.” Well, there was no question I just wanted to be done as quickly as possible at that point!
This skate skier was super-happy to cross the finish line in 2:18 / 10th woman. Maybe Kilian is on to something… (yeah, I have a thing for Spaniards.)