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MY 2017 NIGHT SWEATS MARATHON RECAP
Several months back I was helping a customer at Fleet Feet Sports, a run speciality shop in Menlo Park, California, where I work.
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Coach Patrick Hammond earned his Masters Degree in Sports and Performance Psychology from the University of the Rockies. He is a USA Track and Field Level 1 certified coach. He cofounded Educated Running with the intention of helping runners reach their full potential, and learn about their sport.
While chatting, we made our way to the topic of cool trail races, and I learned about the Night Sweats trail marathon, a race which takes place late at night. I had never run a trail race in the dark, let alone a trail marathon, so I knew I had to give it try. I signed up later that night on the Pacific Coast Trail Runs website.
Over the next months I continued with my normal training schedule. Mondays I run long and hilly trails, Tuesdays I do active recovery, Wednesdays I complete a tempo run, Thursdays I do another hilly run, Fridays I do a speedy run, On Saturdays I run a relaxed, longer run, and Sundays I run at a pace that keeps my heart rate low. With two weeks to go before the race I switched a handful of my runs to after work to begin adjusting to night running.
The day of the race I rose early to prepare my race morning shake of oats, maca powder, chia seeds, banana, honey, and nut milk. To save for later I made a pre race concoction of beet and carrot juice. After my shift ended at 6pm, I inhaled a veggie sandwich and made my way up to Rodeo Beach my wife Abby. I felt excited on the drive, because I knew my training was going well, and I was ready to test myself.
We arrived at the start of the race just before dusk to a small crowd of runners of no more than 50. Small crowds are common in trail races, which is great, because it feels more like a group of friends running together, than it does a bunch of strangers in competition.
Loaded up with Huma gel and water, I stepped up to the line ready for another first in my running career, then we took off into the night. I quickly moved to the front with one other runner, and we soon broke away from the rest of the pack. For the first six miles I would break away on the uphills and then my running buddy, Daniel, would catch back up with me on the downhills. It was nice to have some company with which to chat and to help navigate through the dark with as I am one to get lost on trails even when it's light out. However, I felt good, and I knew I wanted to test myself, so on the next uphill I made my move.
Pushing on alone into the woods, I felt smooth and under control. I could feel my months of training paying off as I almost effortlessly ran up mountains and along oceanside cliffs in the dead of night.
For the next 13 miles I weaved up and down the trails in the moonlight holding form and, of course, having fun. At mile 19 I made a sharp right and began to ascend up a steep incline. Then seven minutes later, I reached the top and a dead end. I had run the wrong way!
Quickly I gathered myself and retraced my steps back to the course. At this point fatigue was starting to set in, but I kept running. A few minutes later I ran into the running buddy I had started with heading back to the finish.
“Oh shoot man did you take a wrong turn?” he asked.
“Yes!” I yelled back
He was around 2.5 miles ahead of me, and there were about 5 miles to go, so catching him was possible. However at this point I was about out of gears, so it wasn't likely. I kept pushing on just the same, all the way to the finish line.
As I crossed the finish line in second place, Daniel waited for me with a beer in hand at the finish line. He felt bad that I made a wrong turn, and I joked around that I was just trying to get my money's worth.
My goal for the race was to test my fitness, and to see where I stood with my training. During the race I felt strong through all but three miles of the race, and I was able to push hard on all the uphills. I didn't cramp or bonk. I ran my fastest marathon pace on this type of hilly terrain: 3 hours 45 minutes and 13 seconds over 4836 feet of elevation gain. All this confirmed that my training was right on track for my mid season goal race, the Broken Arrow Sky Race 52k in Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, CA.
For my next race, I will study the course maps before hand, reach out to the race director if I need clarification, and make my way up to run sections of the course in the months leading up to the race.
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