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20K Paris Mountain Road Race - race recap


Before getting into my race report from the 20K Paris Mountain Road race that happened on Saturday, I wanted to make sure that everyone understands that I am triathlete. I am not a runner.
I absolutely love calling myself a triathlete.
For almost 10 years, my passion for swim, bike, run training grows stronger every year, as well as my education of the sport.

As mentioned in my last blog post, Karel and I are triathletes, not runners. We train for the sport of triathlons. Our entire season is devoted to triathlon training and every year builds on the previous year.

When there is the opportunity to train in a running race environment, we consider the pros and cons and whether it not the race/event "makes sense."

Karel and I wanted to do this epic race last year but it didn't make sense to do it. We were just getting back into structured training after a 6-week off-season break and neither of us had worked our way up to longer distance running miles come early December. We were also working on a new foundation/transition plan and wanted to make sure we worked through the entire plan before disrupting our consistent training. Also, it was rainy and cold that day so with everything considered, the race just didn't have a clear purpose for us to race it.

However, this year we talked about participating in the race as a fun training session. We didn't register for the race until race week as we were not sure how our recovery/training would go post IM Kona.
Our recovery went smoothly and we have been enjoying our foundation training, focusing on form, strength and skills. We do not do any speed work this early in the season so in all honesty, the Paris Mountain road race actually makes a lot of sense in our training plan this time of the year.
With an added emphasis of form, strength and skills, our training over the last 4 weeks has helped us improve our endurance and strength.
And as endurance triathletes, we know how important it is to have strength, good form, good mental strength and good endurance so why not put those triathlete qualities to good use climbing a mountain!

Karel and I woke up around 5:45am and had a pre race/training snack, water and coffee and then headed off to Furman around 7:10am. We arrived at 7:15am (nice to be close to a race venue!) and picked up our t-shirt and bib number. There was a category for fastest husband and wife so we had a special smiley face sticker on our bib numbers to notify that we were in the running for the fastest couple award.

We parked at the registration site but the race start was around 1 mile down the road. Karel and I jogged to the race start for our warm-up and then performed some dynamic stretches before the race started at 8am. Our friend Thomas was there with us at the starting line. It was a chilly morning (around 35 degrees) but I was dressed well in my Trimarni tri shorts (for compression) and CEP socks with Brooks running tights on top. I wore my Trimarni jacket, Brooks gloves and ear band over my hat. I also had my Oakley commit sunglasses.
Although I always run with my Nathan fuel belt, I decided to not wear it for this race (Karel wore his belt) as there were aid stations on the course and I brought along some energy options: 2 Clif Espresso gels and a pack of Clif Blocks (strawberry) for added energy to go along with water.
I sipped on 1 throw-away bottle of 1 scoop Clif Hydration in the 1 hour before the start (around 16 ounce fluid + 80 calories).

Although a small race, Karel and I were really excited to run. Of course we love to compete but we did not have any expectations going into this race. The unknown excited us!

We both wore our Garmin's (I also wore my HR monitor) for data to look at post race but I strategically covered up my Garmin with my jacket so that I would not look at my watch for the entire race. I hit start when we started and then hit stop after the finish line.
I was racing entirely by feel which is exactly what was needed on this type of course (~1500 elevation gain in 12.4 miles).

We started the race by running up a hill in the Furman campus and then a quick descend before starting a steady 2.5+ mile climb to the top of Paris Mountain (we crossed Poinsett hwy before turning left onto Old Buncombe, then a right to start the official climb to Paris Mountain).

Because the race started on an incline, the race start was not super fast. It was a little uncomfortable to start as my heart was working super hard so early to climb but I managed to find a rhythm early in the race.
It was only a matter of a few minutes and Karel was out of my sight, near the front of the race.

When we started the climb toward Paris Mountain, I was happy. Not only do I know this entire course from cycling (and once running it all in a workout with Karel last year) but there's something about climbing mountains that makes me feel so comfortable. I love the uncomfortable feeling of climbing as I can feel every muscle in my body working. But seeing that my body loves to climb, it just felt natural for me to run up the mountain. 

Certainly, in climbing a mountain for over 20 minutes, the body will get tired. But due to our prior strength training over the past few months and added strength component with swimming, running and biking, Karel and I both felt really good on the course and managed to maintain great form. 

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a rhythm with my running. I felt light on my feet and I felt powerful. 

Because this was a training race, we ignored our gadget and just went by feel. The goal was....there was no goal. Just run and have fun! 

Karel found himself near the front of the race in a matter of a few miles. 

I wasn't sure how many girls were ahead of me but I saw two in the distance and then one right in front of me, who was getting closer with each stride. 

I was all smiles for this race. Yay - I love mountains!
And thank you body for being so healthy and strong!!
(especially my quads, glutes and calves!)

As for the rest of the race, there was a water stop at the top of Paris Mountain so I stopped for 10 seconds to drink a cup of water. I grabbed my Clif gel in my pocket and took a swig of the gel (about 1/3rd) as I started to descend down the mountain.

Paris Mountain is an interesting mountain as it is only a little over 2 miles to the top and around 2000 feet but once you get to the top, you don't go straight down. There are a series of downhills and rolling  hills as you go over the mountain and then you finally make your official descend on the other side (right of the above picture) of the mountain.

I was a little concerned how my body would do on the downhills but surprisingly, my quads were responding really well to each foot strike. I did find myself moving to the gravel side of the road whenever possible to reduce some of the impact and I also found myself running up the inclines as if I was on a bike, to take the least steep incline option depending on how the road turned.

I managed to pass one lady going up the mountain but a few miles later, she passed me on a flatter segment of the mountain. I know that running "fast" is not a strength of mine as a triathlete so I didn't get frustrated but I had confidence that I would be able to maintain good strength for the hilly back-half of this race.

When I got to the 2nd water stop (around 6.5 miles), I took a quick walk (around 12 seconds) to consume another cup of water, followed by another swig of my Clif gel. I was SO happy that I had my gel because it really gave me the energy I needed in the later miles of the race. I started the gel early, when I didn't feel I needed it, so that it would kick in later on...and it did!

I was feeling a low point around mile 7-8 but I was excited for what was coming in miles 8-11.

There are lots of turns, ups and downs on the back half of this course and I noticed that many athletes were slowing down. I was passing a few people here or there and managed to pass two ladies in the next few miles. I didn't adjust my effort, I just stayed steady and strong. I got through my low point around mile 8 and found myself feeling stronger and stronger as the miles ticked away.

Not focusing on my gadget was a huge relief as I was running entirely by feel and it all felt good! There were mile markers so I knew where I was in the race but no knowledge of my overall time or pace per mile.

The volunteers were AMAZING and even though it was cold, there was support throughout the race. 

In miles 8-11, there were a few really punchy climbs were I running straight down and then tip-toeing my way up another hill. There were also a few steady inclines here and there. The course went by super fast - another reason why I love hilly courses!

There was one more water stop around mile 10 so I took advantage of one more swig of gel, chased my water and a stop to give myself a few exhales and inhales before giving it a good effort to the finish line. 

The hardest part of the course (for Karel and myself) was a long flat section around mile 10.5. Out of every section of the race, we both had a hard time at this part of the race, mentally and physically.

But thankfully, it didn't last long.
The last mile of the race included one last climb before we turned right onto the hwy (side of the road) and then we made our way to Furman University from the off-ramp on Poinsett hwy.

Karel looking strong at the finish!
Karel finished his two flasks (with Clif hydration in each flask) and consumed 1 gel. 

In case you can't read Karel's shirt (from Run In), it reads "Will Run For Beer."

(Thank you GTC, Pace Running Magazine and Run In for the great pics!)

I was so proud of my body for staying so strong for the last few miles and when I saw Karel just by the finish, I was so relieved to be finished. Even though I passed two ladies in the last few miles, I wasn't able to catch the ladies ahead of me and 3rd place was just 90 seconds in front of me. Oh well, the placing didn't matter as I was really happy with how I performed and felt throughout the entire race.

Karel was shocked that he placed so well and he also said he felt really strong and was able to keep good form throughout the entire race. He was a bit more beat-up in his calves/shins than I was but then again, he does have a super strong push-off when he runs. 

Karel, me and Thomas. 

What a fun race!!
(I had to take of my pants after the finish line as I got hot in the last mile....but then got chilly again in just a few minutes). 

We received a lot of fun goodies from the race: 

A magnet sticker. 

Glasses (or beer glasses for Karel) for our awards. 

A medal, shirt and horns for conquering the mountain!!

The recovery after the race was a bit longer than we expected as our legs were a tad beat-up on Sunday and Monday.  We did an endurance spin on Sun (I did two hours on the trainer and Karel did 90 minutes outside) and on Monday morning we swam (around 3900 yards).
But we both felt accomplished post race as we did exactly what we wanted to do going into this race: Have fun during a training run! 

Results: HERE
Marni stats: 19th overall, 6th female, 2nd AG, 1:36:38:2
Karel stats: 3rd overall, 1:24: 28
Fastest couple award

Marni stats:
Average pace, 7:50
Average HR: 157
Pace per mile (including my three walk breaks at each aid station)
8:01 min/mile, HR 180 (this is probably gadget error as my HR never gets this high)
9:15 min/mile, HR 156
9:47 min/mile (last 1/2 mile up the mountain was 10:23 min/mile pace), HR 156
7:46 min/mile, HR 148
7:46 min/mile, HR 152
7:06 min/mile, HR 148
6:59 min/mile, HR 145
7:31 min/mile, HR 152
7:30 min/mile, HR 157
7:17 min/mile, HR 158
7:52 min/mile, HR 162
7:15 min/mile, HR 161
(For the record, I have not run faster than 8:15 min/mile in a training run since way before Kona so this is proof that even if you run slow, it takes good strength to run fast).

Karel stats:
Average pace: 6:51 (And for the record, most, if not all, of Karel's training runs over the past few months, since he was injured in May, were no faster than 7:30-7:45 min/mile. Always nice to be surprised with faster paces in a race than in training after weeks and weeks of strength-focused work).
7:17 Min/mile
8:32 min/mile
8:30 min/mile
6:35 min/mile
6:28 min/mile
6:00 min/mile
6:00 min/mile
6:31 min/mile
6:50 min/mile
6:33 min/mile
6:47  min/mile
6:20  min/mile