> Right now, I’m in the middle of my two biggest pre-Kona weeks. Last week was 26 hours, and this week will be 28-29 hours. Oof.
So anyways, I needed to do a long run a few days ago, and I decided to drive down to Ouray with my friends Sam, Maggie, and Peter for the Imogene Pass Run. It was only 17.1 miles. How hard could it be? As it turns out, very hard. Take a look at the course profile:
The race started in Ouray at 7,800 ft, and climbed for 10 miles at an average gradient of 11% (peaking with the last 3 miles at 18-20%) up to an elevation of 13,100 ft. After going over the top, the last 7.1 miles were downhill at an average gradient of 12%, finishing in Telluride at 8,000 ft.
The 4 of us (and 1200 other athletes) took off with the starter’s pistol at 7:00 AM, and after a bit of warming up, I settled into a very nice climbing rhythm. I didn’t know exactly where I was in the field, but I knew I was near the front (as it turns out, I was the 17th over the summit… not bad for running on extremely tired legs!). The first 7.5 miles of the climb were manageable, but when we hit the 20% grades, things got a little ridiculous. I stopped caring about my speed, because it didn’t feel like a race anymore. It was just a bunch of people trying to get up a mountain. Here are my mile splits from the climb, to give you an idea of how brutal this was – 9:04, 8:32, 8:00, 10:04, 10:46, 10:31, 13:39, 14:32, 17:26, 17:10.
I thought I would be able to fly down the backside of the mountain. Oh, how wrong I was! The first 3 miles of the descent were downhill at a 15% gradient, entirely on loose rocks. The rest of the descent was a little more manageable, but only about 1 mile of it was what I would consider “non-technical”. For me, it wasn’t running. It was just trying my best not to fall on my face or sprain an ankle (gotta stay healthy for Kona!). I run on mountain trails a lot, but I’d never run on terrain like that before, and it showed. I was getting smoked by experienced mountain runners, and it was extremely frustrating. Descending speed in the IPR has little to do with fitness. It it almost entirely dependent upon your technical running skills on treacherous terrain. The skill of these downhill runners was extremely impressive, and it’s mind-boggling to me how the winner managed to descend at a 5:30/mile pace.
So that was that. Glad I did it, but mostly just glad I made it through without any injuries. On the positive side, running on such extreme terrain made my muscles extremely sore. Sore muscles generally indicate that you pushed yourself in ways that you’re not accustomed to, so I think the training adaptations from this race will be very beneficial to my performance at Kona.
As always… keep training hard, and resting harder,