This is an 8 mile loop on dirt with 540' or so of elevation gain - this has been a combination of nemesis / fitness test for me in the past few years. I set my PR on the trail August last year - a few weeks before Pikes Peak Marathon.
This morning I went with no intentions of going zippy - just wanted to do a moderate 8 minute average for a 64 minute "shake the cobwebs out" run. I have run 3 times since PPM - each time was just an easy jog, near 9 minute average.
Started out the first mile at exactly 8 minutes and all seemed good. The first 3 1/3 miles are a gradual grade up, mindless at times and often times I have gone out too fast - and subsequently have hit the crapper by the time the last few miles roll around.
I didn't look at my watch again until just before 3 miles in, I thought I had been maintaining the same effort as mile 1, but was surprised to see my average was down to 7:52. Hmmmm, I thought - maybe I should see what happens if I kept going like this.
Kipps saddle is the meat of the run, a decent climb up with just a couple of flat spots. I kept going and by the time I reached the top of the saddle, with 3 miles to go - I was 40:20 in to the run. I have been able to do 7 minute miles from here to the finish before. So, I was encouraged with the possibility of coming close to the 61:16 PR I had set a year ago.
I pushed forward, feeling strong. The 3 miles begin mostly downhill, then with 3 flat and slightly uphill traverses across spread out amongst more slightly downhill trail. At 1 1/4 miles to go the last downhill goes for 1/3 of a mile - leaving just under a mile of rolling terrain - that is also more downhill than up. But it always seems like a long, tough mile when working to get through it in a hurry.
2 miles to go and I was tracking well, not sure what I could finish up with, but sensing I was now tracking a new PR. I slowed just a bit on some of the flat traversing sections - wanting to keep a bit of energy to push the last 3/4 mile. As I came down the last hill I had lost track of math - not really surprising - but I knew I had a shot of getting under 61 minutes for the first time ever.
As always - that last mile was wearying, but I managed to find another gear and grind out a solid effort, crossing the 8 mile mark and finish line in 60:30. 46 seconds better than ever before. The last 3 miles in 20:10 - really close to a 5K PR pace.
Really happy with the time, not expected nor planned for - but I will take it.