Yesterday I ran the Vail Pass Half Marathon, which is part of the Teva Mountain Games. I had to wake up at 3:30am to make sure I was on the road by 4. I had forgotten how much I hate 3:30am. However, the swelling in my ankle was down substantially (see my last post), so that was good.
The Teva Mountain Games are a crazy event. The people parked next to me left carrying fly rods and I saw one car with kayaks, bikes, and who knows what else somehow secured to the car.
The half marathon itself had a very good field. Amongst the starters were the course record holder, the defending World Mountain Running Champion, at least three former Pikes Peak Champions, and this year's Bolder Boulder citizen's division champion.
The course was interesting for a mountain race, but I liked it. The first 10km or so were like a road race. We gained a little elevation, but not much compared to the first 10km of most mountain races, and ran through subdivisions, golf courses, parks, and a lot of the other things the town of Vail has to offer. Then, the course started up Vail Pass on a bike path until the finish at 13.77 miles.
I like to know my body well, and that includes knowing exactly what to expect from caffeine. I try to avoid caffeine unless I'm in a big race, and as such, am very affected by caffeine. A few years back, I did a few tests during training and discovered that after imbibing any caffeine, I felt great for about 40 minutes, then dropped below where I had been previously. The way the aid stations worked out, I had a choice between first taking caffeine with about 50 minutes to go or with about 25 minutes to go. I opted for the 50, telling myself this would give me good incentive to finish fast, and give me a chance to see whether my body has changed in this regard.
Now, to describe the race itself. I started out at a quick pace. Within a minute, the rest of the field had opted to run their own pace. By 4 miles, I had built up a 150m lead. This isn't much with almost 10 miles to go, including the pass, though. I kept up the pace, and by the 10km aid station, felt good. At this point, I took my first PowerBar Energy Gel, a Double Latte flavored gel with 50mg of caffeine. I then proceeded to miss the water cup I went to grab and had to go without water. I knew that this was probably a little early in the race to have any caffeine in my system, but I wanted to know exactly how early. I pushed the pace up the pass and extended my lead. By the finish line, I had won by a little over a minute ten. I figured out that my body can now take caffeine for about 45 minutes, because the last 5 minutes felt pretty tough. But I put forth a good effort through the entire race and am very happy with how things went, especially given my last week and a half.
Anyways, it was a long day. I finally got home at around 10pm. I slept well last night, then woke this morning for an 18 miler. It was a few minutes slower than my fastest, but I can't complain. Less than two weeks until Mt. Washington.
Also, I had a very humbling experience yesterday. On the drive home, I saw a guy doing 75 on the interstate on a motorcycle, wearing a bowler cap, holding a cup of coffee in one hand, the handlebar in the other, while a lady held him close. I don't even own a bowler cap, a motorcycle, or drink coffee. Plus, I'm single. I think the only thing I had on that guy was that I had just won a half marathon up a mountain pass.