Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015 Squaw Valley Half-Marathon Race Report

Race leaders at mile 2
Photo credit Lefrak Photography
It was a beautiful, albeit somewhat warm, morning on the Truckee river. The sun was out already. The wildflowers were in bloom. Jogging along the bike path next to the river I decided to take a dip. I took a few steps off the path towards the river. "What the fuck are you doing," I screamed at myself. "You're in the middle of a race. You're in 3rd place... with 4 miles to go. You can't go fucking swimming! What the fucking fuck!"

These are the types of conversations that I have with myself. Or that myself has with me? Or whatever. You get the idea. Dueling voices in my head. One voice wants to sit down in the river and have a beer. The other voice thinks we should probably at least finish the race before cracking open a pre-noon beer.

I'd woken up at 3:00 am in order to make the three-and-a-half hour drive up to Tahoe from San Jose in order to run the Tahoe Trail Running Series: Squaw Valley Half Marathon. Despite drinking several gallons of coffee on the way, I still found myself a bit sleepy. But I figured once the race started my adrenaline would kick in and I'd be fine. And I was right. At least about the adrenaline bit.

Despite knowing better, and despite promising myself I wouldn't do something crazy like attack the field and jump out to an early lead... there I was leading the race out of the parking lot. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Do I ever learn?
Getting dropped and thinking about sitting in the river
Photo credit Lefrak Photography
Somewhere around mile two I found myself breathing hard and getting passed by two other runners. They opened up a bit of a gap on me, but I was able to keep them in sight. Oddly though, after slowing down a bit and getting my heart rate and breathing back under control, I started slowly reeling them back in.

And then, at mile 5, I did something stupid. As the two lead runners slowed down at the aid station to grab cups of water and gatorade, I attacked! Carrying my own water bottle, I didn't need to slow down at the aid station. Instead, I sprinted through the aid station as hard as I could, trying to open up a gap.

The good news is that I did indeed manage to open up a small gap. The bad news is that little surge aggravated a nagging injury in my right calf. I hit the turnaround still in the lead, but the pain in my calf was getting worse and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to hang on to this pace, or the lead.

The other two runners rocketed past me as I was reduced to a shuffle. Watching them pull ahead and out of sight, my thoughts shifted from winning the race to just trying to hold on to a podium spot. Luckily the three of us had opened a rather sizable lead over the next runners, so even with my drastically reduced pace I figured I still had a good shot at holding on to third place as long as I kept running and didn't do anything stupid... like sitting down in the river.
Running scared and looking back
Photo credit Lefrak Photography

"That river looks so invititng. We should go lay down it. Just a minute," I plead, trying to convince myself. Thankfully myself ignores me and I keep running. This happens 3 or 4 more times on the way back. Ocassionally I step off the trail towards the river. But each time, thankfully, I correct course and start running again.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, myself and I all cross the finish line.  We take 3rd place. We shake hands, with ourselves and with the other runners. We drink some beer. We start running up the escarpment towards the top of the 8,500 ft ski slope as a "cool down" before realizing what a terrible idea that is. We sober up part-way up the hill and say, "fuck this." We turn around and run back down to our car and drive home.

Here's my Strava data and here's a link to the official results.

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