I was supposed to run the Backside Loop today, but I just haven't developed a love of running that long. I suck at run long. I'm much better, relatively, in suffering for limited period of time - like an hour or so. Real athletes work their weaknesses and that fact that I have so much trouble doing this says a lot about my mediocrity. I put off running until I deemed it was too late to risk the private property on the Backside Loop and resigned myself to just running the Old Mesa Loop. As penance for not running long, I vowed to run hard.
My goal for the summer was to break 90 minutes on the 10-mile, 2000-feet-of-climbing loop. I had PRed on the Green Mountain Loop last Wednesday so I figured I had a shot. Now the 5000 feet of climbing I did while riding 55 miles in the mountains yesterday probably wasn't the best final preparation to run at your limit, but, despite trying to solve this problem for decades, I still cannot change what is in the past. In some respects it was a bonus: I already had a great excuse if I fell flat. Sweet.
I love stats and numbers and splits and check data on runs and hikes and rides at a frequency that tends to annoy anyone that happens to accompany me. Maybe that's why I do these things alone so often... Hmmm, food for thought. Anyway, for this effort I decided to not look at my watch very often. I think the only way for me to run a PR effort on this long of a run is to run by feel for the first 3.6 miles - the long gradual, opening climb. I need to make it to that summit feeling pretty relaxed, working hard, of course, but well within myself. There will be plenty of time to suffer but pacing is so key at this distance. I could run all-out and be on record pace at the top of this climb, but there is no point in that since I'd just detonate myself.
I made the top of the climb in 34:40, which I was pretty sure was on record pace. I really tried to run hard from here on the descent to the Fowler Trail and the flatish mile into Eldorado Canyon and then really tried to flow down the long, smooth hill. The descent on the road allowed me to run at 6:32 6th mile. The 7th mile, on the brutal Old Mesa Trail climb, was slow at 15:42, but I was still trying to stay somewhat comfortable. This paced allowed me to finish with miles of 9:27 (anything under 10 minutes for this mile is quite good), 7:04 and 6:56 for a PR of 1:29:31! I'd broken 90 minutes and 9 minute/mile average for the first times.
At the top of the Bluestem Trail my watch said 1:17:20 - I had 12:40 to finish under 90 minutes. I knew it was possible, but would be very difficult. I pushed as hard as I dared through the technical sections and as hard as my heart would allow on the smoother sections. I had to make the junction with the Mesa Trail under 1:25 or it was over. I didn't bother to look at my watch until then and I didn't hold back at all. If I was going too fast to sustain, it didn't matter because at that point it was all or nothing for sub-90.
Nearly blowing up, I hit the Mesa Trail and checked the watch: 1:24:01. It was in the bag. It wasn't trivial to finish in under 6 minutes from there, but it was slower than I had been going. I relaxed a bit, out of necessity somewhat but also to ease the pain. I didn't have it in me physically or mentally to try for sub 1:29. I still ran hard, though.
My best time ever for the Old Mesa mile is 14:29 (1:13 faster than I went today), but I followed that with a 10:15 mile (48 seconds slower than today) and preceded it with a 6:56 mile (34 seconds slower than today). I still have to walk for about 5 or more minutes of the Old Mesa, near the top, but there is probably no getting around that for me.