Race Report: Inks Lake 30K

This morning is cool, and I’m still in jammies with the windows open, listening to the sprinklers. I probably should have gone on the easy bike ride with the hubby this morning but it just felt so good to rest and not do anything.

Part of my brain has been yelling at me, telling me how much better shape I was in two years ago, when I did several 5-hour trail runs followed the next day with 5-hour bike rides (or vice versa, as I would flip things around to get company whenever I could). But I’m yelling back, telling it to shut up, because of yesterday.

Saturday morning, I headed out to Inks Lake State Park with my partner-in-crime Crabby Cathy. Several years before, we’d gone out there to do the Inks Lake Trail marathon, which turned out to be one of the best trail races I’ve ever done. The course was beautiful, the people friendly and convivial, and the post-race food was out of this world good.

Both Crabby and I had run well, and the finisher’s black granite coaster turned out to be one of my favorite bits of race swag ever. So we had great expectations for this event, as it was (for the most part) the same course (shorter — only a 30K instead of 26.2 miles) and many of the same folks.

Running Loops

The morning was actually cool — in the ’60s! We got there in the perfect amount of time and met up with friends, Tracy and Stacey, along with many others. We nabbed primo spots for our chairs and gear in the shade at the start/finish. After a short race talk, the small crowd took off.

I had decided that this was a supported training run for me and not a race; my goals were to run my three loops as evenly as possible. Based on previous runs, I’d predicted my finish time around 4:00. I watched the field pull away from me.

Having to stop and retie my shoe somewhere in the first 1.5 miles put me squarely in the back of the pack. Aw, me. Well, that’s just the breaks. I did notice that whenever there was any downhill (especially more technical downhill), I closed the gap.

Soon, I was back running with Crabby, Tracy, and Stacey. The marshy areas I remembered from the past simply weren’t there, and the terrain reminded me quite a bit of running in the canyon bottom at Palo Duro. That made me quite happy.  I spent a bit more time in the unmanned aid station (supposedly at the half way point of the 10K loop, though I now think it was early due to the second-half heavy nature of my loop splits) than I’d intended.

The first loop was took me quite a bit longer than I’d anticipated. I mentally shrugged and reminded myself of my goals. Off onto the second loop!

It’s funny how different things look when you’re not following anybody. For the first loop, I’d been in the herd and hadn’t really paid too much attention to the starting segment, which went down the park road for a bit before jumping onto the trails. This time, there was no one is sight, and I found myself second-guessing the route. That meant slower running.

I got back onto the trail and tried to move as efficiently as possible down the boring, yucky, sometimes sunny section of jeep road. Crabby caught up to me here, and we ran along together over the following granite knolls for some time. I was trying to focus on moving steadily — and my mantra was, if shaded, I had to run, regardless of the terrain. Sunny spots had to be at least at a power walk, expecially if they were on the granite faces.

At some point, I moved on, and I caught up with Layla and Joanna at the aid station. Joanna and I spent most of the second half of that loop together; it was nice having her pull me along, as she was clearly the faster runner that day.

Drat! I had to stop AGAIN for shoe tying, losing Joanna — and I watched the two women I’d worked hard to catch pass me back. I spent the last part of the loop reeling them back in and moving ahead. Despite strong running and feeling good, I was sad to see that I had added time (some 5 minutes) to the second loop. I told myself the second loop was always longer because of more time at aid stations and patted myself on the back for feeling strong.

My Magic Trail Potion

Now, one thing I love on a trail race is Coke. It truly is a magic potion for me; it has the right mix of sugars, caffeine, and calories to send me flying along. I’d been drinking my ElectroMix and water from my large handheld and eating Sport Beans, and I was looking forward to supplementing my last loop with the magic potion. I was SOOO disappointed to see that the Coke at the race was Coke Zero.  WTF? The whole purpose of Coke is to mix your drink and calories.

Fortunately, I had a Coke stashed in my cooler, so I took extra time before the third loop to fill my handheld with a mix of Coke, ice, and water. I’d had my handheld filled at the finish aid station with ice, water, and Gatorade, so I just dumped it all on my head (not wanting to waste it), completely forgetting about the sticky Gatorade in there. Eh — trail runners are a messy lot anyway. I took off on Loop 3, just hoping to hold my pace.

Before you came to the half-way aid station, there was an out-and-back section. The beauty of an out-and-back is that you can see just who’s ahead of you and how they are faring. There were two guys I knew I could catch on the third loop, and I made this a focus.

The sun was up, and those granite knolls were really soul-sucking, being both completely exposed and more technical. I kept telling myself that being strong and still moving purposefully would get me far. I caught one of them coming into the aid station. Joanna was already there; we chatted while filling our handhelds with ice. I dumped a cupfull in my bra and tied another into my bandana, which went around my neck.

We headed out, and I watched Joanna steadily pull into the distance. She looked great! As I finished, turning onto the second portion of the loop, I could see Tracy coming through the woods towards the out-and-back. I was surprised to see that I was a good 10 minutes ahead of her. Tracy is a much faster road runner than I am, and this made me feel good about my performance.

So the focus became, where was that other guy, and would I catch him?

There are few feelings as good as turning a corner in a trail race and finding that you are coming up fast on someone ahead of you. There was my guy, who actually simply stepped off the trail and let me pass, saying, “You look good!” Man. That is an awesome feeling. I’d given up on thinking about my time because I knew it was so much off what I’d hope to run; instead, I asked myself, “Will you be able to catch the woman in the pink bra?”

Now, this young lady had been about 8 minutes ahead of me on the second loop as we passed on the out-and-back; at the time, she was walking but, when she saw me running, she started running again. In my mind, I could hear her saying, “I will not let the woman in the white shirt catch me!” This, of course, made her the ultimate person for me to pass. So my goals for the rest of the race were to let no one pass me and to catch the girl in the pink bra.

I got one out of two:  No one passed me. As I came up to the final turn towards the street and the finish, there was my hubby! He had driven out just to see me complete the race. Awesome!

I was so glad that he could see me feeling good and ending strong and on a positive note. I ran into the finish, greeted by cheers from Joanna and Crabby. I was sad to learn that Crabby had dropped (shoot, I knew something was up when I hadn’t seen her again after the beginning of the second lap) ; she’d had back spasms and made a good call to quit, and I knew she’d had fun despite all that just from seeing her smiling face.

Post-Race Analysis

Did I meet my time goal? No. Instead of the 4 hours I’d predicted, I finished in 4:22, a slow 30K for my recent times. Did I accomplish my goals? No. My first and last loop were 10 minutes different instead of being simply a minute or two apart. Yes, I ran strong, felt good, and could have run another loop. I practiced positive reinforcement and used goals to keep myself moving. I did a better job than I usually do on the flats. So I feel it was a successful training run for Palo Duro, and that was really all I was after anyway.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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