Saturday, December 10, 2011

Říp to Praha - Bike & Run Race Report

OK, I am officially crazy. In a good way I hope. As I teased you in my previous post, I participated in an unplanned race this Saturday. Being still in the after marathon happy place, I tend to brag about it especially to the people who are into sports and get the importance of the first marathon finish in the runner's career. So I bragged to one of my former physical education teachers and got signed up for a crazy yet traditional race from Říp (a small hill) back to Prague.

Říp is a "mountain" with tradition in the Czech history, where originally the founder of the country stood at overseeing the landscape and setting his camp here, establishing the Czech country. What is the race about? The race is for mixed pairs (girl and boy) and one mountain bike. Only one of the two can ride the bike at the time. Meaning that the two change from bike to running and vice versa, supposingly resting a bit when riding the bike. I don't know how I agreed to this, maybe it was the few drinks, or the desperation of Jarda who signed up for the race for the 9th time and his co-biker/runner cancelled last moment. I finally started to feel complete recovery after my first marathon a month ago and perhaps my competitive soul needed some rush after the easy taking of the St. Nicolas run last weekend. Or maybe I am just crazy as stated above.

4:45 am on Saturday morning my alarm went off. The idea of the race does not seem that appealing. I walk the dog who was really surprised being woken up earlier than usual and especially on a weekend. 6:02 is the bus to the meeting point, it is beautiful full moon and I get lot of strange stares on the bus since I am already dressed in the race gear. The temperature is around 0°C. Fortunately when I arrive to the final stop I can see similarly strangely dressed athletes. We start to chat, I realize there are many semi-pro or even pro cross country runners and other athletes. Presentation takes place here and Jarda finally arrives with the bike. The bike ... I suggested to take mine, but it has only the clip ons and you need regular pedals since you wear running shoes. Jarda suggested to take a bike from the high school reserves. OK, it's not gonna be the best one, but it will pass. God was I wrong, it had great design (colorful splashes including pink), but was double the weight of mine. Couldn't do anything about it right now.

Waiting for the bus at 6 am ... brrr, crazy, crazy thing to do on Saturday.

The bikes were loaded in a truck and about the 70 pairs left with the three buses towards Říp. I hoped for some sleep on the bus, since I only slept for 5 hours, but we were too excited to be able to sleep. Jarda showed me the different spots of the race course. I was surprised to be able to recall some of them when we passed them later in the day. We arrived at Říp slightly after 8 am and there were few snowflakes in the air. Meeting point at the mountain top at 8:45. Jarda pushed the bike up the mountain, I met with Jakub Řídel, finally one person I knew and I got many stares even here. I was wearing the pink running skirt over my long running tights, what is so strange about it? I guess the Czech trail running  crowd is not ready for it yet :) Oh yes and one other person I recognized - Ivana Pilařová, well known name in the Czech endurance running community. She is not damn fast, but she has run marathons and way longer races all around the world.

The sign says "Up the Říp mountain"

Starting point

Pre-start briefing

Last comments before the start, 9 am and there we were in the adventure. The first part down from the Říp the bikers go "around" (same way we went up) and the runners go straight downhill. I was the biker for the first leg, but the way was quite steep and still icy, so I walked with the bike. Given the condition of the bike's brakes, this was a wise decision. We met at the bottom of the hill with Jarda and headed off. First little fall due to slippery muddy path, but I was OK, only little muddy. Little did I know I was getting way more mud later on :) I also realized that I forgot to start my Garmin, so I did it only here. We started to overpass other racers, but soon there was a very steep downhill, first where leading the bike was again necessary. Jarda took the bike and down we went. First very muddy parts, there should be some official photos later. Passing through the terrain, not being used to the bike etc. my HR was between 170 - 180 bpm, averaging 162 with peak of 185 for this leg (see Garmin activity for more details). 

After around 10 km we changed for the first time. I have never done triathlon or duathlon before, did not know what can I expect from my legs. It felt kind of OK starting to run, did not really know how to pace myself. There were some run ups and hills, my average pace for this leg was 9:14 min/mile (5:44 min/km), did 2.87 miles (4.6 km) for this leg, see the Garmin record. And there I was on the bike again, quite OK at the beginning, with not that easy part in the forrest later. Did I mention there were hailstones involved at one moment ("kroupy" in Czech). Finally we were on the open field more or less flat. Muddy mud, I fell again! On the other side now, both of my sides equally muddy now :) I overpassed Jarda and tried to speed up so I am able to take in a carb gel and some hydration. How is that for resting? (3rd leg's Garmin log)

The fourth leg (link to the Garmin activity) - my second run was pretty OK, I was more ready knowing what to expect even though getting the legs to run wasn't easier with more distance behind us. I was more equally paced here except for the bit where the course climbs up towards a castle or what was it and goes down again. My average was 9:02 min/mile (5:36 min/km) but would have been easily under 9 min/mile without the hill. Next was the last ugly climb, we changed again about 1 km before it. Jarda was running it up and I climbed and pushed up the bike, I had him in sight but still further and further away. He was gentleman and wanted to push the bike, but there was no reason for both of us being extremely slow. I recovered on the top where there was a passage trough a more or less flat field, but then the descent. I had to lead the bike for one part again, that was actually pretty challenging and tough. And then my "bright" blond moment came - I took the wrong turn when I was speeding down the hill to rest and recover for my next running leg. I was stretching when I saw Jarda waving and calling me back. So all the time and place gain was lost again. Damn, I guess one needs to participate every year in order to get to know the course well ... (Garmin log for the fifth leg

I really hated myself for screwing this up, fortunately Jarda is one of those over-positive people, so he stayed cool. I was upset even more because I knew he was already hurting quite lot in this part and I added unnecessary stress and steps to his suffering. The next leg was definitely my favorite part of the race. The sun came finally out and the course was continuing next to the river. Jarda overtook some of the pairs that got us when I took the wrong turn, but they got back ahead of us when we were changing. I eased into the running and felt comfortable pretty deep sub 9 min/mile pace. First I overtook a girl running, that's OK, no big deal. Jarda was still out of sight and it wasn't easy mentally being in the pretty long gap between those behind and those ahead. Ahead of me there were two guys running with the girls on the bikes at the moment. And you know what? I was zooming closer towards them. I thought I was only imagining it, but it was true! I finally overpassed them and they never came back in sight again. YAY!!! I know this is bragging and bad and I don't know what, but that moment gave me a great motivational kick for the rest of the race. I was able to run for little more than 2 miles (3.5 km) with average pace 8:35 min/mile (5:20 min/km) - Garmin link here.

I was secretly hoping Jarda was gonna be able to finish the rest, but that wasn't really nice of me. He was going really fast, but was unhappy with his running and now I knew he was hurting as he tried to stay on his paces. I once again "won" the bike ride - it was flat but on a part of the course where there was a bumpy stone path and our bike had virtually no suspension. Fortunately when this part was over, I managed to recover a bit and tried to give moral support to Jarda. The worst thing was that I knew that even with what he took as "jogging" pace, he was still about at least a minute per mile faster than me :( Hmmm, I need to train a lot! 7th leg Garmin file.

My last running bit was not even 2 km, just slightly more than a mile. And I was glad for it. I was going at a nice pace, but already before changing I felt how my legs were tired on the bike. This part of the course is truly the one where running after all the effort and being on the flat trying to get some speed hurts way more than the bike. I managed to have 8:28 min/mile (5:15 min/km) average on this leg, which I am really happy with (Garmin here), we also overtook one last pair of competitors. We switched back about one km before the finish, we knew there was no one behind us and no one in close sight ahead of us. Jarda had cramps in the last few hundred meters, but bravely run at great pace towards the finish line (last Garmin). Our official time: 4:11:43, the winners came in at 3:03:55 - how crazy is that? 38th out of 70 couples that started the race, not bad. Hot tea and biscuits for immediate recovery. Beer and sauna later. What a great way to spend pre-Christmas Saturday! :) 

Happy finishers
I came home, made a recovery cottage cheese, almond butter, banana and raisins recovery mix and went to bed, immediately. The idea did not seem that great when I woke up. My body might be hating me a lot. Just when I finally really recovered from the NYC, I put it through what I know perceive as even bigger effort. What does The Coach say about it? I think he is really getting to know me. I was afraid of being yelled at and disagreed when I called him that I was gonna do this on Friday. He said it was a great experience for me. After the race, he told me he knew there was no way to talk me out of it, so he simply agreed. Great experience, great effort, but he suggested I rather concentrate on my training and the races that fit in my training plan (= 10k, half-marathon ...) if I want to move ahead in my marathon training. 

Today I have to agree with him. My body is aching like after the marathon, only after the marathon only my legs were hurting and not even all the legs. Now my arms, back and everything hurts. On the other hand, it is the good kind of hurting when you know you achieved something. Some say that your body can adapt to this extreme effort and takes it easier the next time. I hope this will be true when I run my next marathon in Prague on May 13, 2012 :)

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  1. Nice job :)

  2. Well, there is nothing wrong on being crazy:), at least if you have similar folks around:)! Good job, your next marathon time would be around 3:33, I guess.. cheers, 12:)

  3. What an interesting race! Nice job!

  4. Michal & Karien: Thank you for the cheering up!

    12Honza: Yep, that was the great thing at the finish ... lot of similarly crazy people, so you feel totally normal :) Concerning the marathon time, yes, I am aiming to sub 3:40 (Boston qualification time for my age/gender group :) ).

  5. Jsi husta. Kdyz jsem o tom zavode cetla poprve, myslela jsem na Tebe.. a tys to zrealizovala :-)

  6. Tenhle zavod se mi moc libi, jednou ho snad taky zkusim :) Muselo to byt super! A brzo to snad preboli :)

  7. Blondýna: Ale zcela neplánovaně, o to lepší to možná bylo :-)

    s0c: Jdi do toho, je to super alternativa, jak se vyhnout předvánočnímu shonu. Jo a přebolet muselo, dneska už byl trénink s trenérem :o Kam se hrabe postupná regenerace po maratonu ... :) Co Ty, nožky už lepší?