Today was the USATF trail half marathon championship in Bend, OR at the Dirty Half. Since I'm in Bend for a couple of weeks it would have been a shame to miss this so I signed up early for the highest profile and well-regarded local race. It was a bonus that it was also a championship race since it's well worth travelling to, even without that honour.
Summer started in Bend on the Saturday after a long period of generally crappy weather but the conditions on race day were perfect with the recent rain making the course less dusty. It starts off with a few miles of uphill, levels off around five miles, then undulates before descending again and throwing in some more hills near the end with a total elevation change of +/-1,000ft.
The guys at the front went off fairly fast and I didn't see them again after about a mile. For me, the aim was to run hard and get in a great training session on relatively easy trails. The legs are still feeling Comrades and I could tell within the first minute that they had no pace in them, especially for the uphills.
I wanted to have an enjoyable day and most of it was...except the actual running bit. The tired legs meant I was breathing hard and going slow enough uphill to have people overtake me easily. But with it having plenty of downhill in the second half, I aimed to push and get the heart rate up higher than in all the marathons and ultras. This almost ended with me having to walk or at least slow down to a gentle jog because I started sprinting downhill before seven miles and the legs felt extremely wobbly with a lot of miles left. But I spent the time from five miles in going past people and got up to eighth by nine miles then couldn't see anyone again til the last half mile. Seventh was too far ahead but it gave me an extra incentive to push and meant I got in a great training session.
Max King won by over a minute in just under 1h11m and was almost a minute per mile ahead of me, in 1h21m. It's a great race, although trying to race it on tired legs wasn't as much fun. Excellent organisation, as ever, by Footzone and it reminds me of why Bend's such a great place to live, especially for runners.
No more races until Western States in 13 days. Am guessing I'll need another session of Active Release Technique work for the knee, but that should be long enough to recover and be in reasonable shape. As long as I can get a place, 2011 will probably be the year I can race it really hard and this year will need to be a learning experience (not that I won't try to be near the front).
Now I need a lie down. These half marathons are knackering.