I can't say that I have greatly enjoyed my previous two races in this series--they are Swiss-level hilly and go over woodland trails where I have to pay much more attention to my footing and not stepping on loose stones or in little holes, etc. It is really surprising (to me) how much my physical running energy can be sapped by the mental effort of having to pay constant attention to where I step. Nevertheless, dammit, I set a six-run prize as my goal and I want my prize, so I persevere. In fact I think these races can make very good race-plan exercises: you have to conserve your energy for the inevitable hills and adjust your pace expectations for when you're running up them.
The Wylandlauf claims to have 90m of climbing over its 14.8km, which is nothing compared to some of the others; when I uploaded my Garmin data, both Garmin Connect and Strava claimed that it was actually twice that. This is not the first time that the official estimate has been unduly low for these races, either. That said, in this case the elevation consisted of a single longish main climb (roughly 6.5% with a break in the middle) in kilometers 4-5 and then some bumpiness around kilometer 10, followed by a symmetrically steep downhill and off across the mostly-flat. As such it was much easier to plan for than some of the other races that are more aggressively undulating, so I was looking forward to giving it a shot.
The big scary climb started in kilometer 4, and so I was determined not to push myself, to really rein myself in, for the first 3K. My real #1 goal was to not need to stop and walk for any of the hills. I didn't really have any time goal in mind, though at the start I was confronted with the signs "bis 60 min", "60-70 min", "über 85 min" and in the end I decided that I would put myself just in front of the 85-minute sign and be happy if I was right.
Off we went and I was ordering myself to take it nice and gentle and easy, so one can imagine my mix of "wow really?" and "argh" when my watch buzzed the first km in 5:10, somewhat faster than my average pace for last month's half marathon. And then the second in 5:11. I have a hard time understanding how I could go that fast while feeling that slow (and indeed letting various people pass me, knowing that everyone around me had lined themselves up at roughly 85-minute finishing times)--it was net downhill, but less than 1%. I slowed to 5:34, which was a more reasonable starting pace, for km 3, although I'm not sure how much of that was intent and how much was me having to cope with the woodland path. Then I took it very carefully for the climb, and was sort of surprised to see people walking even before they'd got halfway up the first hill, but okay those were some nice boosts for the ego. I was delighted to see that kilometer 4 went by in 6:15 when its first half or so was this reasonably steep but steady uphill, so then I started feeling pretty good about myself.
There was more uphill (similar grade, but shorter) in kilometer 5, which I knew to expect, and I managed the K in 5:55 which I was also fairly pleased with. By the middle of the race I was feeling pretty darn good, and knowing that the second half (with the exception of the bumpiness in 10) should have no further nastiness made me fairly confident. So kilometers 7-9 passed in 5:16, 5:23, 5:23 and I felt great. I did my best to cope with the bumpiness in 10, and I tried to be careful not to fling myself down the reasonably steep hill in 11 as I was still tired from 10 and didn't think I could cope with an all-out session of downhill speed racing. (I do tend to pass people on downhills, not because I'm pushing but because I try to concentrate on not wasting any energy putting the brakes on. Then again I also tend to bomb down hills on my bike after I've crawled panting to the top, so maybe I just live for danger? Certainly it was "exciting" in the March race when there was SNOW on the 5-10% downhills that had been trampled smooth by the 300 runners in front of me and I decided the best way not to slip was to make sure I stayed on top of my momentum...)
Had the race ended at 12km, I'd have felt great. Unfortunately I had 2.8 more to go and I have to say that they pretty much sucked. I'm not sure what happened there. It wasn't hitting a wall, not by a long shot, but I was just tired and wanted to be done and couldn't make myself push any harder than "yes I know I will finish." I'd picked out a couple of race targets whom I wanted to overtake, but by 13.5km I just couldn't force myself to make the effort and stopped for one last water swig, letting them disappear, before making my final push. Once I actually saw the finish line I was able to accelerate a bit, but that was only about 500 meters. Still, I had a nice surprise to see the clock reading 1:21 when my stated goal had been 1:25, so evidently I hadn't completely fallen apart by the end. To be honest, if I'd realized at kilometer 13 that I had a chance of sub-80 minutes, I probably could have found it within myself not to stop for that last water break after all.
When I rounded the final corner I could hear the not-so-dulcet tones of my daughter screaming for Mummy, about 25m from the finish. I guess Daddy was trying to take pictures and she was furious that Daddy wouldn't let *her* play with his big expensive camera and Daddy was furious that he was missing the photo op of me heading for the finish...have I mentioned that she is two? So I crossed the line and then turned around to beckon her to me (the finishing straight was not too crowded so it was reasonably safe) and cheered her across the finish line and everyone thought it was adorable and then she got much happier. Well, except for the bit where she was insisting I go run run run some more so that she could run alongside me--she is not yet old enough to understand that Mummy has limits.
One of the things I actually do like about this race series is that their finisher's prizes are interesting, and edible. For my first race in March the prize was a fairly large slab of what tasted vaguely like Lebkuchen, chocolate-covered and extremely tasty. When I ran the Flughafenlauf in early May, the prize was a jar of local honey. Today's sponsorship theme seemed to involve some local butcher's shop, so the prize was a small slab of cured pig that I enjoyed as part of a breakfast fry-up this morning.
Those who are that curious may examine the wiggly lines of the race stats. What with the screaming kid I forgot to stop my watch for a minute or so, but my official gun-to-line time was 1:21:12 and I reckon (assuming that they fired the gun precisely at 15:00:00, which being Swiss they almost certainly did) my line-to-line time was 1:20:49, making me #76/129 women--inching ever closer to that coveted top 50% in these idiotically fast Swiss races. I'm fairly pleased with the time, despite not breaking 80 minutes, and I'm very pleased at how strong I felt in the middle after the big hills. I only wish I knew why I started to lose it there at the end when I should have felt free and clear.