The night before the Land Between the Lakes 60K a friend asked me if I was nervous. I replied "Nope." with a smile.
This years running marked the 10th anniversary of the LBL Trail Runs. The event has grown over the last decade to include a 50 miler (which I have run every year since 2007), as well as marathon distance and shorter.
Based in Grand Rivers, Kentucky; the race begins with a two mile run on pavement to thin out nine hundred runners before they embark on the singletrack loop which comprises the remainder of the day. Runners tackling the 50 mile distance circle the trail network four times, 60K runners circle three times, and marathon runners circle twice.
The original ultra distance of the LBL Trail Runs was 60K, (37.2 miles). This year I decided to take a departure from the usual 50 mile distance to try to break the 60K course record which came with a nice $500 purse for the runner who could establish a new CR.
Rolling into packet pickup on Friday night I was greeted by the race director, Steve Durbin. Steve is a great director and has done a good job organizing the event. Steve informed me Scott Breeden would also be going for the 60K course record which came as no surprise to me. I have become friends with Scott as we run a lot of the same races and Scott and I had talked about the 60K CR previously.
Some people had asked if I was bummed, or psyched, that I would be running against the speedy Scott Breeden again after Louisville Lovin' the Hills 50K. Sure, with Scott at LBL the chance to win a good chunk of cash was greatly reduced, but my goals in running aren't about placement, so I was stoked Scott was running as we would probably help push each other. I strive to improve performances. That's where the "Zen Pudding" part of the title comes in... Running to me is about goal setting and maximizing personal potential. Placement is irrelevant as it is based on comparison of other individuals and doesn't reflect maximizing personal potential. I might go out on a limb here but stick with me, I'm making a point.
Here is why placement is irrelevant...
Just because someone wins a race this doesn't mean they have maximized personal potential. Say someone is capable of running even faster but doesn't train well and doesn't eat well, but they still come in first place even with a sloppy performance because their innate talent is through the roof, what is there to respect about that and learn from? I respect someone more who reaches 100% of their potential even if they are a mid-packer but they reach maximum economy and potential through flawless training and nutrition. I've won some races while performing at sub-par levels, and had perfect performances and not won. I'm more proud of the races in which I met my potential and ran at my maximum capacity regardless of placement.
I know most runners aren't fighting for wins and podium finishes but the lesson still has a valuable takeaway for anyone striving to push the limits and excel whatever their pursuits may be.
It's this kind of perspective I've been lucky to realize and learn over the past few years of pushing the limits. Running has been a blessing and it's taught me not just how to get from point A to point B, but how to live in the present and practice mindfulness in the process.
So, when my friends asked me if I was nervous and I replied "Nope." I meant it. I was ready to dig deep and push the limits once again, and see if I could surprise myself at a new distance. I was fresh and ready.
The morning sun was at our faces and the air was chilly as nearly a thousand of us stood in our brightly colored synthetic clothing ready to begin our journeys. Sailboats surrounded us at the race start reminding us all that the day would be a trip full of adventure. I wondered if the wind would blow our sails and how the seas would treat us. I was ready for whatever the trails could toss our way, but on race day, March 9, 2013 the seas were calm. The trail was in better shape than I had seen in my 7 years of racing the LBL Trail Runs. Mud was minimal and runners could probably have gotten away with even wearing road shoes on the singletrack hiking and mountain biking trails.
At the command to "GO!" Scott Breeden and I bolted off at sprint pace and my heart rate was through the roof. I felt better than ever, ready to push the pace all day and punish myself. Scott and I ran together on the road at a clip of just over 6 minute per mile pace. I constantly gauged Scotts breathing at this effort and made note my breathing seemed more labored than his. This was a race of almost 40 miles and we were hurdling ourselves forward unabashedly ready for more challenging terrain. The first half of the loop Scott and I each fell once and didn't seem to slow even with the tumbles. One might think that at these paces which seemed insane to me we would be nose to the grindstone, faces gritty and determined but the air was light and the conversation good, relaxed and quite enjoyable. Scott and I chatted about upcoming races and I enjoyed his company. We took turns leading one another until he finally pulled ahead on the second half of the loop where the larger hills are.
Scott is built like a professional marathoner, light and tight, with minimal upper body mass. I have been working with my PT, Lauren, at Advanced Orthopaedics and my form on flat terrain has become much more efficient which gave me the ability to hang with Scott on the flat terrain, but on the climbs he can pull away from me with his monster lungs and lack of mass. (...and my specialty is challenging terrain and climbing!). The 37.2 mile course holds 3000'-4000' of vertical ascent, most of which come on the second half of the loop. Trying to hold 7 minute miles on this terrain is challenging to say the least but I felt comfortable and once I was on my own I settled into a rhythm and focused on form.
I was thrilled with my time completing the first loop. Including nearly two miles of road to enter the trails, I had only been running an hour and thirty minutes. My first lap was 1:16.45. I was well ahead of course record pace. Stephanie and I had constructed a plan in which I only had to carry a water bottle for half of the loop and this plan worked well. On the faster first half of the loop I could float along at speeds I once thought I was incapable of without the weight of a bottle to affect arm-swing, and then on the second half of the loop when the climbs would slow me down regardless, I would carry a bottle and pick up an energy gel.
I took the second lap easier and slowed by five minutes, for a 1:22 split. Rarely during a race do I have the chance to enjoy myself, but while running along the Kentucky Lake shore I looked around and realized I had the opportunity to have a day full of running in gorgeous weather. I knew second place was locked in at the speeds I was running and I knew I had some time in the bag from the speedy first lap.
Finishing the second lap I was still enjoying myself and was shocked how fast the race was going by. Having run the 50 mile event for six years prior, I was used to having to run four laps so the prospect of pounding out just one more lap seemed refreshing. I knew I had taken it a bit too easy on the second lap but by watching my heart rate I knew I was still pushing pretty hard since I was averaging well over 85% of my maximum heart rate.
I grabbed a 5 hour energy and a gel from crew extraordinaire, Stephanie, as I ran by and pushed a much harder effort on the third lap. I was still enjoying myself but in a masochistic way now. It was time to dig deep and destroy my legs, heart and lungs, with everything I possessed. I had begun lapping people on the start of my second lap and now on my third and final lap the trails were pretty crowded. I was forced to yell, "COMING BY ON YOUR LEFT!!!" to large groups of runners. I wanted to make sure to say "Thank You!, Nice Job! Keep it up!" to all who made way for my passage and smile so as not to seem like a jerk. I respected their efforts immensely but I too was on a mission. A minimal amount of runners had their iPods on too loudly and I was left to graze by them brushing shoulders on the narrow trails. If you're going to wear iPods on singletrack, keep the volume down.
I was stoked to finally see friends while I made my way around the third lap and was catching up to them on their second lap. It fueled me to push harder to catch as many people as I could on their second lap as I finished my last!
My eyes were glued to my Garmin as I completed my last lap and began the 1.8 miles to the finish line. Had I slacked off too much on the second lap?! I made haste and took off towards the finish at a pace in the high 6 minute range. I came in a few seconds over the previous course record and was happy with that. Scott Breeden earned his payday.
Final numbers showed an effort that lasted 4 hours and 27 minutes for my 37.2 mile run. I averaged exactly 85% of my maximum heart rate which I was psyched to see! My final lap required great effort. I ran the same pace as my second lap although it felt much faster and more difficult. My third lap was 1:22.30. Honestly, I goofed off and had too much fun on my second lap, and it cost me a few minutes so I came in a few seconds over the old CR, but I ran a strong race and I was cool with that!
I wasn't happy with my Lovin' the Hills performance the month prior, but this was one I was very happy with. The day was a blast and I felt good. Running the 60K was rewarding and I saved my legs for Umstead 100 mi which is the main goal for spring. I'm pretty sure had I run the 50 mile distance, I could have knocked off at least 10-15 minutes from last years 6:25 including fade for the longer distance, so I couldn't ask for more than what I came up with on race day.
Congrats to Scott on a phenomenal race, and congrats to everyone who ran on Saturday, regardless the distance or pace! We're all doing the same thing here!
Don't wait to sign up for the Backside Trail Marathon on April 28th! It's going to rock! Go to http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=18665
Regarding the title...I'd love to get into a personal treatise on how running has helped me practice mindfulness and how living in the present has improved my training and overall peace, through helping me not overtrain however I'm guessing this is better served in a separate article...hahaha. This was supposed to be a race report.