TLDR: On Saturday, August 19, 2023, I ran my fourth Cirque Series race at Alta, Utah, and second one this season. This was also my ninth trail race this year. Now that I'm definitely in the habit of getting up and doing hard things on a regular basis, what can I do to improve? Photo by JCE Photography
First of all, the racing conditions were absolutely perfect. Runners enjoyed the perfect temperature with no precipitation and a slight cloud cover. Trail dirt conditions were perfectly moist, not too dusty, nor too muddy. This was perfect for the very steep descent down the north face of Mount Baldy. Precluding the descent was, as expected, a fun vertical climb up the service roads of Alta Ski Resort followed by some cool scrambling up the southern tip of Mount Baldy. As usual, the camaraderie on the trail was great. Cirque Series participants are fun, supportive, respectful and encourage each other along the way. Many racers also have an easy-going sense of humor that I really appreciate.
Now for the stats: I had a 2:28 finish time, with a 20:12 pace (my Garmin says 2:10 because I forgot to restart it for about 18 minutes after taking a social media video...and probably didn't need to even stop it since the race clock was still ticking!). I know I probably didn't need to stop and pull my usual "yodalayheehoo" stunt but you can see on TikTok it only took 17 seconds. No, that's sadly not what slowed me down, but more on that in a minute...I ranked 479 out of 513. 😱 This compares to last year's result of 2:36 with a 21:26 pace and rank of 464 out of 505. After all that practice this year, how in the world did my pace only improve by 1 minute!!?? Ugh!!!! 😱😱😱
Well, here are my thoughts. First of all I struggled this summer with weight management. Due to my Timpanogos injury on both arms, I skipped a month of strength training. The upside is I have learned that my body definitely responds best to free weights, kettlebells and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for maintenance, strength, conditioning, and weight management. Outdoor cardio is for cardiovascular health, entertainment and overall well being (think shinrin yoku aka forest bathing or taking in the forest vibes).
Secondly, my reward system sucks. Like many people I enjoy a good post-race tailgate party where I'm definitely craving salt and pain relief. Sometimes this leads to too many chips and hard sodas which were my weakness. To be honest, I shouldn't be carrying any extra weight at all. While I do have some genetic body mass and metabolic predispositions to contend with, I exercise like a fiend and my full-time job is currently physical, on my feet and moving all day, not at a desk. Obviously, I'm still taking in too many calories, and I know it. At the end of the day, however, I'm always going to have that rugby build no matter what so what else can I do?
Aha! This year I swallowed my ego and started hiking with poles and I love it. You know what? I'm going to start running with poles too. Might as well use that upper body strength to it's fullest. Other things I will try are training all winter long with spikes, snowshoes, cross-country skis and indoor tempo training on a treadmill. Another thing I could do is get some personal sessions with a running coach. And finally, it bears repeating from previous blog posts, maybe quality over quantity is a better approach for future seasons.
While all of this may seem obvious to an advanced runner, many of these revelations only become evident after getting out and doing it several times without achieving the desired results. Again, getting up and finishing the thing is half the battle. I can do that. Now what? Figure out how to get better! ~Clark 🙌🏻