a jpg. 3 weeks ago: my last race of 2016, 2nd #ECSCA, cut 12 sec despite a colder start. #latergram #nofilter

2016 has been a challenging recovery year, in more ways than one. This was the first race this year where I finally felt I could trust my knees post-injury recovery.

The air was cold enough for me (high 40s F) that I had to breathe through a buff for about the first half (left photo), having learned that hard lesson days before at an #NPSF PR Wednesday DNF from inhaling too much cold air. (tantek.com/t4ka1)

I was first in my marathon relay team and started out at a fairly moderate pace (for me), getting passed by lots of friends on the 1 mile flat leading up to the climb.

I felt surprisingly strong on the hill, miles 1-3.7 (~900' of the total 1348' elevation gain). The passing slowed then stopped. In the second half of the hill, as it got steeper and I alternated running / power-hiking, I started gaining on some runners, and by the time I reached the aid station at the peak, had passed ~3-4. Having brought my own electrolytes, I didn't stop, slowing just enough to high five @LindsayMclaughs at the top.

On the downhill I opened up and picked up speed, passing many more, as I tried to focus on one brief stable foothold after another. It felt more like a barely controlled fall than a run. Only one misstep where I almost twisted an ankle.

The end of the downhill abruptly turned flat, slightly uphill and I could tell I had raced those 2 downhill miles perhaps a bit too hard.

I felt uncoordinated on the remaining slightly uphill flat, having lost nearly any sense of rhythm in my pace. I tried to focus on consistent breathing, and was able to show a good solid push for the photographer (photo on the right), kicking hard to keep the pace up.

The trail eventually returned to the asphalt road with about half a mile left, and steepened a bit too. Somehow that was just enough to knock out any momentum I had left. I had to run/walk nearly one for one minute. Got passed by my pal @bifflesbolt, and no matter how hard I pushed I couldn’t quite catch her.

As I reached the final minor peak before the slight downhill to the finish, I could hear friends shouting my name which was just enough to get me to dig a little deeper and push to run up that last hill.

I caught my breath briefly on the turn onto the final straight, feeling my legs moving on autopilot at this point. Then I saw a full height ninja turtle shouting my name.

@BradenEngel, dressed in a Leonardo onesie, was full on jumping & cheering and started running next to me, just as my muscles felt like they could seize any moment. I did my best to put on a good face and just keep the pace I had.

He peeled off just before the downhill to the relay switching area. Seeing my teammate waiting, I sprinted the last downhill and came to an abrupt stop right next to her. @SallyKallet deftly pulled the ankle bracelet tracker off me, velcroed it on and took off like a lightning bolt.

I stood there hunched over hands on knees still catching my breath for maybe 10 more seconds, got up, and finished walking to the finishers area, picking up my medal, and accepting any and all hugs before filling up with complimentary electrolytes and snacks.

I was sure I’d beaten my previous time (from the same race two years ago), and only much later found out it was only by 12 seconds! (tantek.com/t4kd2) Still, this was the first race post-recovery where I actually set a personal course record and that was a huge confidence boost. Just months before, this past July I ran the first half of the SF Marathon about four minutes slower than I did two years ago. (tantek.com/t4ig4)

@TheNorthFace Endurance Challenge Series (@TheNorthFaceECS) California (#ECSCA) felt like a solid finish to my 2016 racing season, going reasonable well despite what felt like an awkward struggle at the end.

2017 races are coming up quickly. My next race is a 15k road race (my first) in two weeks, and then after that I’m looking at running the Surf City Half Marathon in February, which I last ran in 2015. (tantek.com/t4_T2) Just enough time to train up to half marathon (or slightly farther) distance by mid to late January.

Taking it easy this weekend resting, reflecting, and being grateful that careful & patient training this past year has brought me to a place where I can train & race harder, stronger, and hopefully faster in the coming year.

on (ttk.me t4kz2) using BBEdit