Until pretty recently, (less than a month ago), I had never ran a race longer than 2 hours and had only done so a couple times in training. The longer distance events never seemed to appeal to me because the pace tends to be very slow and runners are so tired and sore that they lose all sense of competitiveness.
After a successful ski mountaineering season in which races routinely range from 1.5 to 3 hours I started to think to myself it might be worthwhile trying a slightly longer race. I certainly was doing ok with the physical exertion over that distance, yet I couldn’t possibly predict how my body would react to 25k of impact I was not used to.
So, when I arrived back home from Switzerland I began increasing my mileage and decreasing the tempo of my workouts to prepare for a somewhat longer race. Coincidentally around this time I read and became a convert to the 80/20 running phenomenon, so these slow easy miles made total sense to me. If you haven’t heard of 80/20 running, I suggest you read this book!
A couple weeks went by and training seemed to be going very well. I had much more energy than normal and was recovering very well. In the past I had always thought I had to train like I race. I would punish myself with hill intervals, race pace long runs, and all out vertical kilometres without the slightest idea what I was doing to my body. Several of my training runs were over 3 hours, so I decided I would sign up for the fast-approaching Dirty Duo just to see what would happen.
The DD has been around on the North Shore since 1991 featuring a whole bunch of different categories to enter into including a 50km, 25km, 15k, 30km bike, Relay (25km run + 30km bike), and Solo (25km run + 30km bike).
This year due to massive flooding the 25km route had to be changed making the course a bit longer at 27.88km… but not much of an issue. Rounded off at 28km there was about 1,100m of climbing to be had.
Because it was my first 25km and I also knew nothing about the capabilities of the people I was racing I decided to start of with the pack and asses the situation. After a few kilometres over rolling terrain to start I began to realize how different the pace was from your standard 12km. We were moving at a decent clip but still much slower than what I had been used to. I couldn’t decide whether or not too stick with this pace and play the waiting game or make a move, so I went with my gut feeling and dropped the hammer.
From where I left (3km) until about 20km in I was running solo, occasionally seeing a runner in the distance behind. I pushed hard on the flat and uphill sections, trying to widen the gap and use my cross country background to my advantage. The course was generally rolling, with most big uphills complimented by a very technical downhill.
After I had been running for what seemed like a long time I looked at my watch to see it had only been 1hr10min…. What had I gotten myself into.
At about the 20km marker I had just finished the main climb and begun descending a steep technical trail when I noticed I was being caught up to. There was no doubt that this guy was quicker descending technical trail so I figured he would pass me by and I would have to regain the ground on the flats later. As we neared the bottom of the decent he got closer and closer to within a meter of me. At this point the trail changed from slow and technical, to flat and smooth.
Perfect! Time to make a move. I ramped up the cadence and changed from 6min/kms to 4 min/kms. He didn’t seem to be expecting this nor in the mood to challenge, so the gap widened and I was able to relax again.
In the final sections of all the shorter races I had done I remembered a deep lung burn with a burning lactic sensation in the quads and calfs. This feeling was very different. In fact, throughout the entire race my heart rate and breathing never seemed to become a limiting factor or even noticeable. What was surprising was the overall soreness I had succumb to. My arches, lower back, and hamstrings were killing. I felt sluggish and dysfunctional, yearning to reach the finish line to put an end to it.
The final section went by smoothly and I crossed the finish in 2hrs10min, snagging my first victory of the season!
My biggest worry going into the DD was getting injured. Maybe its a result of my new training regiment or perhaps because of all the mobility work I’ve been doing, but I managed to run the race without feeling any pain at all. As a guy who has pretty much been injured every season for the past decade, this is quite a relief.
I’ve decided to give a stab at running two more 25km races this season after having so much fun at the DD. Next up will be the Yakima Ridge Run followed by the Iron Knee. To anybody considering running their first 25k, the DD is a perfect one for it. There are plenty of aid stations and the overall vibe is really encouraging.
And stay tuned, because next up will be my report from the World Champs in Verbier!