Afton 2014 was an exercise in running comfortably. I had no expectations other than finishing, and intended to use the event as a training run for Sawtooth more than anything. I thought on a great day, I could run sub-5 hours. But I also understood that was an unrealistic expectation. a 5:30 finish was much more reasonable.
The basic plan was to go out relaxed, hang back and not get tangled up in the downhill start or get worked up expending energy on uphills or pounding downhills with impunity. My quads post-race, with only a slight twinging on my left sartorius, show that I followed the plan.
I came through the first loop in 2:26, essentially right where I wanted to be. Fueling and fluid intake had been good, as I had generally set (and followed) my watch's 25-minute timer for regular intake. I knew the second loop would be exponentially harder - it always it. Add to the fatigue the excessive heat and a majority of runnable sections and it's a recipe for disaster.
This was the third time I have run Afton: 2011, 2012, and 2014. During the 2011 event, held at Afton Alps due to the MN state government shutdown, I fell when my right calf cramped badly midstride. The race left my with a golf ball sized knot of continually contracted calf muscles for several days after the race. I suffered a similar fate in the 2012 event. I was twinging with cramps on the straightaway leading up to Meat Grinder, and then I was reduced to the ground during the Snowshoe loop and likely killed my chances of running sub-5 hours. Again, I had knots in my right calf from where the cramping occurred.
This year was different in that I never had a full-on cramp that immobilized me. I did have occasional cramping on that straight away and the final loop, but it was always manageable and controllable with water and salt tabs. But the post-race knot was as worse as ever, and hung around until the Friday after the race.
My stomach failed me just after the first aid station on the second loop. I couldn't stomach another gel, and I went to Coke and ginger ale at every aid station after that. The sugar high kicked in to perk up my senses and I never felt taxed for calories for the remainder of the race despite not ingesting any other solid food until after I crossed the line.
Now eight days post-race, I feel back to 100 percent and ran a decent 16.6 mile long run this morning. Of course the way our saw slow and sloggish, but a 5 AM start does that to a body. I should have done the lunge matrix, but decided against it. As a result, the run back was significantly faster (and were the way out should have been).
Next on the docket is a 20-mile run every weekend from here to Sawtooth. I have no races scheduled until Sawtooth, but I will be in Breckenridge, CO at the end of this month for a family wedding (and will run in the mountains every chance I get) and two weeks later will be running 50K on the Superior Hiking Trail. I will be doing the overnight section with my pacer so he is familiar with it and I get to experience it outside of a race and on fresh legs. I'd like to bang it out in under six hours of easy running, so we'll see how that goes.