August 14, 2019

Weekend Recap / Race Report: XTerra Castle Rock 20K

Weekend of August 2-3

My weekend kicked off with one of my favorite annual work events: our company baseball night at Coors Field! This year, I didn’t know as many of the people attending as usual – we have had a lot of new people move to Denver in the last few months. However, one of those recent arrivals is my colleague Sara – who I met in person for the first time when she moved to Denver two months ago. I was really excited that she and her boyfriend (who also works for PwC) were coming, and we ended up hanging out most of the night, which was a blast. I’m excited to hang out with Sara more, both in Denver and now also in Chicago during the week, since I just sold a new project there 🙂

On Saturday morning, I began my day by taking advantage of a new benefit offered by my firm – Ginger, an on-demand coaching and tele-therapy app. PwC recently announced that all employees get unlimited free coaching via text, six completely free tele-therapy sessions per year, and additional tele-therapy for only $70 a session. That’s a huge discount compared to the price of regular therapy! I’m so grateful that PwC offers this benefit, and I know how lucky I am to have it.

I spent the rest of the day taking care of some chores and reading up a storm (follow me on Goodreads here), and the time passed quickly… before I knew it, my friend Heather was at my door. We planned to make a Costco run together (if you haven’t yet combined running errands with catching up with a friend, I would highly suggest you try it!), then head to Louisville to meet our friend Mike for dinner and drinks.

We ended up flying through Costco and getting to Louisville early, so we went to happy hour at the new location of Por Wine House before meeting up with Mike. Their happy hour specials were excellent, and Heather and I agreed we definitely want to make a night out of coming back here soon! But we only had time for one drink before heading across the street to meet Mike at Zucca for dinner.

I had specifically picked the restaurant so I could carb up for my race the next day, and I definitely chowed down on both pasta as well as bread. I wasn’t very impressed by their bruschetta, but the pasta was delicious as always!

The three of us had a great time catching up at Zucca over delicious pasta, and then continued the night by heading to the outdoor courtyard behind Bittersweet – where a live band was playing! There was a young teenage girl singing, who had an amazingly mature and sultry voice that totally impressed us. It was the perfect summer night under the stars, and I’m so grateful for the friendship of these two!

Doesn’t this look so quaint and nostalgic? I adore old town Louisville!

The next morning, I was up super early for my race. Although it didn’t start until 8am (ugh, why do races start that late in the summer heat?), I had an hour’s drive to get all the way down to Castle Rock. However, that drive meant plenty of time to eat breakfast (a piece of pumpkin bread) and sip coffee while listening to podcasts and slowly waking up. I kind of liked this slow start to race morning!

I got to the start around 7:30am, which I thought was a good amount of time. However, after spending a while in the bathroom, I ended up being a little more rushed than I expected. I had signed up for this race with my friend Sarah (who lives nearby, in Highlands Ranch), but after my mad dash at the car to finish getting ready, I basically got to the start only in time to say a brief hello… and then we took off. The race had begun!

This is the first time I’ve done an all-singletrack trail race (vs “trail races” that are on wide dirt roads… I’m now wondering I should truly count them as trails). Almost immediately, I learned that I hadn’t strategized properly. When a race starts out on singletrack, Sarah later told me that the best strategy is to sprint out hard; otherwise, you end up in the situation I did, where I wanted to go faster but there was a long line of people in front of me blocking the way. I stayed at that slow pace (~11 minute pace) for about the first half mile, getting more and more antsy the whole time, and finally got up the nerve to start passing people in front of me. I quickly learned that I needed to look ahead to anticipate a good spot to pass and be very vocal (“on your left!”), and had a few missteps where I would try to pass and then nearly get clotheslined by a tree branch as the trail narrowed, but for the most part I figured it out. Practice makes perfect! Next time I will definitely start closer to the front.

There’s me wayyyyy in the back of the line.
Photo credit: Peter Maksimow

The first two miles had some rolling ups and downs, but were mostly pretty steadily uphill – so I was quite happy when the course took a downturn and I found an aid station at the bottom. However, when I asked “which is water??” about the two drink dispensers, the volunteers didn’t understand my query, and I was left to guess – incorrectly choosing the Gatorade container to fill my cup. Oh, well – bottoms up! I didn’t want to waste any more time stopping, so simply headed out on my way.

The course climbed up for another tough mile, and then we emerged onto a bit of plateau. Hooray! I was happy to stop going up as much… and in fact, we got to start going down. Even better! I picked up the pace on the downhill, and found myself passing a lot more people. We still weren’t totally done with the climbs (and had a pretty good 300 foot climb just after mile 4), but I started realizing that rolling courses like this are totally my jam. When I know that a climb is going to be short, I’m able to grit it out and push my way up; meanwhile, I can push it hard on the downhills and make up a lot of ground. In general, on this first circuit of the 10K loop (which we’d do twice), I passed a ton of people and had very few pass me. This felt fabulous!

My splits came down pretty consistently as I ran: 9:51 for that first slow mile, then 9:08, 9:04, 8:48, 8:54, and 8:44. My main goal was to finish under 2:10 (my time at the previous weekend’s “half”), but as I continued clocking faster splits through this first 10K, I started thinking I had sold myself very short. I was now on track to go sub-2 hours, which I’d be really proud to do at 6,000 feet of altitude and with 1,200 feet of vertical gain!

I crossed the start line (10K done) with just 55 minutes on the clock, and I was really proud of that. I hadn’t tried to take it kind of easy in the first half, but now was the time to push it on my second loop. Plus, I now knew the course – which was really comforting. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to run that first mile again, this time with no one in front of me – yippee!

However, while I now didn’t have any other runners blocking the way, I had a new challenge – the sun. It was starting to get really hot and sticky! I reminded myself that I only had about three miles of (rolling) uphill, and then I’d be at the top of the course and could enjoy the rolling downhills. That meant less than three miles to work hard before I’d get a chance to cruise it out. I got this!

I passed the aid station that had been confused on drinks before, and this time they were pros… yay 🙂 Now, time to head up the big hill. Only about a mile left of climb and then I’d be on a plateau and get a bit of downhill. I reminded myself not to take walk breaks in this section, but I wasn’t totally successful. It was getting hot, and I was tired. It was definitely a relief to get to the top of the hill and enjoy the views all around!

I headed downhill again (yay), and then at mile 8.5, it was time for another big push up a set of switchbacks. I reminded myself that this would be the last major uphill of the race (or at least it felt that way to me, though the elevation profile says there is one more hill I’m ignoring), and was so happy when I made it to the top. There were a few runners (including one woman) 15-30 seconds ahead of me, and now that the uphills were done, I was ready to pass them. Time to fly!

Unfortunately, fly I did… I tripped and found myself sprawling off to the side of the trail, taking most of the impact on my left knee and hands. Although I had emitted a little shriek when I fell, the runners ahead hadn’t heard me, and as I watched them run away, I wished that someone were around to take pity on me and help. Instead, I was on my own. I lay there for a solid minute, with pain shooting up my knee, and tried not to cry. I was a tough trail runner, dammit, I needed to get up and get going! And so, finally, I pulled myself to my feet. My hands only had one small cut, and while my knee hurt a ton, it at least wasn’t bloody. Good thing I fell off to the side, into the brush, rather than right on the rocky trail!

I forced myself to start hobbling to a walk, but it hurt like crazy. Was I even going to make it to the end? At this point, several other runners passed me, including my friend Sarah. “I fell,” I told her pathetically, but she just yelled “Keep it up, you got this!”, missing my plea for sympathy. She was right though – nothing to do but keep going! With that, I forced myself to a jog, and then a run. My knee started easing up as I worked it more, and soon I was back into a semi-regular running cadence.

However, I had lost a solid two minutes in that mile, and my splits over the last three miles unfortunately didn’t recover. Although I made it back to a “running” pace, it was very cautious; nothing like the joyous pace I had been running in this section on the first loop. I was really disappointed that my goal of a negative split was shot, and I also felt far less competitive after the fall and didn’t have it in me to try to chase down the rabbit runners in front of me.

The last few miles passed fairly uneventfully, though I was happy that my mood improved significantly as the pain in my knee eased up. By the end of the race, I was proud of myself for what I had done. Yeah, I had tripped and had it totally mess with my pace / goal, but it could have been so much worse. I was really relieved that I hadn’t landed face first, and also that I barely had any abrasions. And fingers crossed that my knee would turn out to just be severely bruised! (Robert Glazer wrote his Friday Forward the next week expressing a similar sentiment.)

I tried to pick it up in the last mile and finish strong, and I ended up crossing the line in 1:56:18. Not as fast as I would have liked, but still really respectable on a hot and hilly course! And it was good enough for third place in my age group, so I felt like I had won at least a little bit 🙂

Doesn’t Sarah look like a total badass in her trucker hat? She’s training for the Crested Butte Ultra in September, a 55K race with 7,000 feet of vert… so badass she is!

After the race, Sarah and I headed out to breakfast to refuel and catch up. Immediately after the race, I started feeling incredibly sick to my stomach, and that feeling lasted the rest of the day… so most brunch favorites didn’t sound too appealing. (Bummer… I would have loved some Snooze pancakes after the race!) However, we found a little place called C&C Kitchen that was just perfect. Although C&C stands for “Cookies and Crema”, their menu is half regular coffee shop / breakfast favorites, and half… Korean? Didn’t make sense, but it was really delicious!

I kept a bag of ice on my knee the whole meal, so was glad my bibimbap was piping hot.

However, I ended up feeling just as bad after the bibimbap as before… so the rest of the day was me lying on the couch and sipping tea, then making this simple turmeric lemon rice for dinner. I ate it as a main dish, not a side, and it was exactly what I needed to start feeling better, especially because I had to call it an early night. I had a day trip (6am flight out, 8pm flight back) to Chicago. Back to reality!

This weekend I was so grateful for my friends and the time they spent with me. I was unexpectedly hit with some bad news the week before, which has really thrown me for a loop, so it was wonderful to get to see friends and stay busy. While workout time can often be thinking time, I’ve been really grateful that working out is actually the one thing that’s totally distracting me right now! I’m going to keep sticking with it and hoping things get easier over time.

Race stats:
Distance: 12.4 miles
Time: 1:56:27
Pace: 10:10/mile
Overall place: 23/70 (Wow, I did not realize what a small race this was till I saw the results… turns out that most people were doing the one-loop 10K)
Gender place: 10/32
Age group place: 5/9 (Although they announced Sarah and I as #2 and #3, it turns out we were #4 and #5 and they had misplaced a few results. On the bright side, there were no prizes, so not that big of a deal.)


1 thought on “Weekend Recap / Race Report: XTerra Castle Rock 20K”

  1. Never mentioned that you fell, now did ya?! I’m glad you were able to push through. Those trail races are rough on a body, I see! 🙁 Congrats to you and Sara for a great finish, although corrected. Still amazing in my book! 🙂

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