Written by Amy Rusiecki
Let me first say that I didn’t plan to have a crazy 3-race week, it just sort of happened. First off, I had a ton of friends who were going to run Mount Washington this summer -and ever since I raced it in 2008 I had wanted to go back and get some revenge on the mountain. It wasn’t too hard to convince me to register for Mt. Washington this year. Then, my road running club needed another person for a USATF Grand Prix race -the 5k race, which happened to be on Thursday night (36 hours before Mount Washington). It’s only 5k, why not race? Then, my husband decided he wanted to run the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 miler, which was a week before Washington, so we both signed up for that. Great -a good long training run.
Oh wait…this means I’ve set myself up for one heck of a week -a technical and highly competitive 50 miler, 5 days later a downhill 5k, and 2 days later a run up the highest peak in the north east. Oh boy…seemed like a good idea at the time. With the World Trail Running Championships, as well as two 100-mile races coming up this summer, I guess I figured it would be great training, so I didn’t really worry about the residual affect -one race at a time.
So, the Cayuga Trails 50 miler was challenging, but beautiful. I hadn’t planned to really race it, but due to some last minute DNSs of key contenders, I quickly found myself running in a podium position. I felt like I ran a strong race, considering my un-tapered legs and lack of focus for this race, and was pleased to have finished 3rd place, with just under 9 hours of running. Luckily, my legs weren’t too fatigued from the effort, and I was out running the next day. Success! Race #1 -done, check.
By Thursday night, my legs felt completely fine, and I felt ready to tackle my second race of the week. I went from racing a 9-hour effort to a less than 20-minute effort -total opposite races. Without any speed work in my legs, I wasn’t sure how the race would go -but I was sure that my mental capacity to suffer is well trained and up to the task! The race was over as soon as it started (at least it felt that way). I started running, hammered, and then there was a finish line. I was aided by the 220-feet of downhill, but was still pleased to finish in just over 18 minutes (18:04) -a new PR (but does it count, given the downhill course?). My hamstrings immediately felt the effort -hopefully I wouldn’t need these fatigued muscles to run uphill! Another success! Race #2 -done, check.
On Saturday morning, my hamstrings were still extremely tight and sore -I don’t understand how my legs got more sore from a quick 18 minute effort than from a challenging 9-hour effort, but that’s the way it happened. The stressful week of racing and traveling was catching up to me, but I was hopeful I could finish the week with one more successful race at Mount Washington. I was exhausted. The gun went off, and I felt good, enjoying the company and slowly making my way up the grinding climb. About 1/3rd of the way up the climb, my body started to rebel and I slowed to a walk. I was embarrassed to be walking so early on the hill -but it was all I had! I had pushed my body for too many hours and too many miles this week already, and it didn’t have any further capacity to suffer. I watched as folks streamed by me, mile after mile, as I climbed up the mountain -alternating walking and running. I was fortunate that the view was amazing -I kept my head up, took in the views and the experience, and had an amazing experience. I just wish my body had held out. Bummer -I didn’t have my revenge on Washington -I’ll have to return again! I am not invincible and can’t expect it to perform amazing race after race without recovery. I guess I still finished well, but I was well behind my anticipated finish time and disappointed with the effort I was able to give.
I was fortunate to have company for the run back down (post-race), and to bag a few of the 4,000 footers on Sunday -both of which helped me process my week and understand my limits better. It was unrealistic to hope that I could have success at all three of these races in such quick succession.
Of course, that might not stop me from trying something like this again. I guess two out of three ain’t bad!