Hells Hills Hiccup
“Direction is more important than speed. We are so busy looking at our speedometers that we forget the milestone.”
I went in to H.H. with some tough (for me), but achievable goals. I wanted to run about an 8-minute pace for the entire 25k (give or take the time I spent refueling and walking any tough climbs), netting me somewhere around a 2:05 – 2:20 finish time.
Let’s just cut to the race and the good stuff. I had settled in early with a group of 2 other runners I knew were solid, and was feeding off their cadence. One young female in the lead (Laura) and another guy in front of me. The guy began striking up conversation, and I came to find out it was Lorenzo Sanchez, a fellow San Antonio runner and speedy 100-miler. He was a blast to talk with and I found that my energy levels were so much higher while we were chatting. Whenever conversation stopped, I immediately felt sluggish and my legs heavier. The three of us ran together the entire first 10-ish miles to the last aid station, with Laura keeping us at a great pace the whole way.
I spent some time getting my iPod out for the last few miles and refueling at the aid station. I was shocked to find myself feeling really comfortable running the climb right out of the aid station and decided to push the pace a bit more. I found myself catching back up to and eventually passing Laura. Then Lorenzo was back in sight shortly after. I wanted to catch up to him and latch on to his pace. It was around here that things took a turn for the worse. I spent some time Thursday going over the course and trying to take mental notes on the tough spots. I saw that on Joe’s race maps, the black trails were only for the 50 milers, so I made mental notes not to take the black trails. Unfortunately…one of the trails the 25/50k runners take is named “Blak Trak”. So naturally, when I saw it…I passed right by, my subconscious was a little too in control I guess.
So I went on past the turn I should have taken and came upon a water stop which was actually (sort of) facing my direction, adding to my confusion. I saw some 50 mile runners crossing ahead of me, but didn’t think twice. Around here I also saw some “One Mile Left” sign, so naturally I ran harder. I went down a steep descent, ran up a giant climb, and ultimately had to take a slight right where I saw more signs, so I thought I was still on the right track. Of course…those signs weren’t for the 25k runners. I’d have questioned things earlier, but I knew I had some distance on the runners behind me and Lorenzo had a good lead ahead. I happened to see a couple Rockhoppers here on their 50 mile course, who admitted to me I was probably lost…and this is when I finally turned around. I finally found my way back, but had just spent too much of my energy running things that I shouldn’t have, I was forced to a meager trot and my feet were hurting from pounding down/up the aforementioned climbs.
What was potentially a very good finish for me turned into just another training run. So I sucked down some water and trudged on to the finish, trying to appreciate being out there and just having the ability to be doing what I was.