Sunday, February 13, 2011

Run Toto Run – 10 Mile Race Report

With all the snow we got here in Columbia, MO the past few weeks, I had a pretty good idea that this 10 mile trail race was going to be a little snowy! When we started getting emails from the race director about the snow, I knew for sure it was going to be bad... It was bad, but bad can be fun sometimes!

Nine o’clock race start, so the temperature was starting to climb a little. I knew it would be around 30 degree Fahrenheit at race start so in my book that is shorts weather when it comes to running races. I debated over just a tank top, decided to wear a short sleeve dry release shirt under my racing top. I was definitely in the minority, but in my opinion 80% of the field was over dressed, you have to start a hard effort out cold unless you plan on taking a layer off later...

The snow at the start was quite loose and when the horn sounded and we took off, I was afraid I was in for an extra long run. I had positioned myself at the front since the race director the night before had told me that after the first quarter mile or so it would be tough to pass people. One of the few other guys in shorts and a tank top took the early lead with another guy tucking in right behind him. I settled into third place. After the first section was passed and we were onto the actual trail, the snow was no longer quite as loose, for most of the rest of the way it was actually quite hard packed and not so hard to run on.

Start of the race

Once on the trail, the three of us in the lead started to separate from the rest of the field. The guy just in front of me I thought I might pass soon as the up hills seemed to be causing him to struggle a bit early on. Sure enough, around 2.5 miles in on an up hill section he pulled over to the side to let me pass him. So now I was in second place but it was still really early on! As we ran past an aid station, I figured out the guy in the lead was Rick and he must be local since they were cheering him on by name. It must have been around mile 3 that we ran through a really neat stretch of twisting trails. As we rounded corner after corner we ended up doubling back and at certain points you could see the people behind us in the race making some of the same corners only a ways back.

2 miles in

I had kept Rick pretty close, but the constant turns combined with the fast down hills had made a small gap open up. I would guesstimate he had a 20 or 30 yard gap at around 4.5 miles in. We came down a hill with some sharp turns and just around that time began overtaking some of the 20 milers who had started an hour before us. After already passing two, I rounded a corner and saw another runner ahead of me up a hill. It wasn't Rick, so I figured I was catching another 20 miler. It was a definite trail and it looked well used like other runners had gone that way, but as I ran up the hill to him, he was just standing to the side. I figured he was resting; turns out he had gone the wrong way! I dashed back down the hill to discover I had missed a turn, had that one runner not been standing up ahead on the hill, I probably wouldn't have missed it... Once back on route, the course opened up almost immediately into a field and way off in the distance was Rick, the 20 or 30 yard gap was now more like 400 yards!


A bit discouraged and frustrated, I tried to pick up my pace to close the gap a little. I think for me that open field was the toughest part of the race as I could still see Rick, but the snow was really loose in this stretch so putting more effort into my running didn't result in much increase in speed. Once finally past the loose snow, my efforts were rewarded with a nice stretch of uphill running, I knew I risked popping if I tried too hard at this point so I reined things in a little. I never did see Rick again until the end, but fortunately I didn't see anyone behind me as well! With only a week until my half marathon in Austin, taking that wrong way was probably one of the best things that could have happened. Had I maintained contact with Rick, I would have buried myself to stay with him, once he was out of sight I ran controlled and at a pace that hurt, but that I could maintain.

Lots of CMC members at the race...

The second half of the race was pretty uneventful. I had no idea how far back I was from Rick or how far back third was from me. At one point on the trail, I had just passed some boats in a parking lot or storage area of some sort when I got worried since I didn't see any pink course markings in front of me a ways. Concerned I had gone the wrong way again, that maybe I had missed a turn by the boats, I began backtracking until I came around a corner and saw a runner I had previously passed along with a pink flag, I was going the right way! Just another minute lost; no biggie...

One of the many climbs...

Finally, after dealing with I think the two toughest climbs coming in the last mile, I was at the finish line, total time of 1:27:16. Rick had finished in 1:23:38 so he had beaten me by 3:38. There’s no way to know exactly how much time I lost with my two course errors, I would guess maybe two minutes but certainly not more than three. I wouldn't have beaten Rick; I only would have hurt my time next weekend...

Race director w/top 4 overall

Definitely an awesome race, I think I could be happy running trail races every weekend! Looking forward to this event next year, the big question will be what distance should I do?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Froze Nose and Nut Race recaps...

I guess it is appropriate that I write a recap for these two races together as they were both run under less than ideal conditions. The night before Froze Nose I stuck screws in my shoes for traction for the first time. The morning of the Nut Race I added screws back to the same shoes to replace ones I had lost, plus some additional screws as there were 2 or 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground that we would be racing through! So both these races were definite winter events!

Froze Nose was a brand new event taking place at Albert Oakland park the morning of January 22nd. We had just gotten a decent amount of snow the week before so there was concern over the condition of the course. The original course ended up being altered since some of it was on a trail that was completely covered and was actually hard to locate!

I arrived on site with plenty of time so I decided to drive the course to check out the conditions. The roads actually didn't look too bad, some ice and slush in areas, but better than I was expecting. The worst section was the first 1/4 mile or so at the start and finish which was 2 or 3 inches of snow pack.

I didn't notice anyone that I knew would be fast at the start, so mentally I prepared for running solo. Sure enough, as the race started and I took off no one really went with me, my biggest competitor in the race would be the conditions and the course. The screws in the shoes worked well and I was able to take the 6 ninety degree turns with no problems despite the slush. The first mile was definitely the easiest with only some slight up hill but mostly downhill and flat. But, the second and third mile both had significant hills in them. I ended up running a 5:54 opening mile followed by two 6:15s with a final average of 6:02 per mile after I picked it up in the closing tenth of a mile. 18:44, not a time I would be excited about on a flat and fast course in better weather with competition, but for a cold and hilly course running solo I was pretty happy! Earliest in the year ever to get a win, so that was kind of cool too...

Nut Race

After taking the following weekend off from racing, this weekend was time for the Nut Race. Of course, as if the blizzard of 2011 hitting us on the Wednesday before the race wasn't enough, we woke up this morning to another 2 or 3 inches on top of the 18 we had already gotten! The sight of the new snow reminded me I had lost several screws on my last icy run at Rockbridge and that if I wanted to run well today I had better add some back. So, after a quick trip to Westlake's, I arrived on site with drill in hand and proceeded to screw my shoes some more...

Once the screws were in place, I jogged to the start as I didn't really have enough time for a warm up. A few quick striders and I was ready to go. The roads were in pretty bad shape, several inches of snow covered most everything, my plans from the night before of dipping under 18:00 were not going to happen!

The race starts with a downhill so I naturally let myself go and pulled out to a quick lead. After a few seconds, Marc Keys and Bill Stolz both pulled up behind me. I slowed the pace down a little, the snow and ice were definitely hard to run in, each step gave some and pushing the pace too much was not a good idea this early on with Marc and Bill right there.

Providence was probably the worst stretch as the side of the road was really slushy but the traffic wanted to use both lanes even though there was hardly any traffic. I tried to ignore the cars as much as possible and ran in the clear section of the road forcing a few cars to move over into the next lane. As we rounded the corner at the top of the hill for the first time, Marc pulled into the lead and I was more than happy to follow at this point. The next time up that section, Marc put in a surge. Fortunately I had been running relatively comfortably and was able to match it. I felt pretty good on the downhill and flat stretches and figured my screwed shoes were a definite advantage, provided I could stay with Marc one more time up the hill. Our mile splits were 6:21, 6:13, and 6:04 with my final .10 5:39 pace, so Marc was definitely picking up the pace as we went. Fortunately I managed to stay with him on that final hill and I actually began to think I had a chance!

With about half a mile to go I put in a surge and took the lead. Marc matched it and stayed right on my shoulder. Things were starting to hurt and I began to worry I had gone too soon. I decided to put all my chips on the table and surge again; a small gap began to open! Of course, I then thought that he’s bluffing, he’s got a huge kick left and I’m done for... where is that dang finish line?! Fortunately the finish line got there before my muscle collapse did, and I won, beating Marc for the first time ever. A little bitter sweet as my total time was 19:19, probably one of the slowest winning times on that course. However, Marc Keys went under 17 minutes in a 5k twice last year which is one of my goals, so today served as reinforcement that it is an achievable goal! Now, when is that warm weather getting here?!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Story behind the 4:49 mile... and is it legit?

July 4th of 2009 I went to Jefferson City and ran the Firecracker mile with the goal of breaking 5 minutes. The previous month, my friend Adam Beston and I had come up with a list of athletic goals we want to accomplish, what I'm now calling my "athletic bucket list".

- Sub 3 hour marathon
- Sub 1:20:00 half marathon
- Sub 1:00:00 10 miles
- Sub 35:00 10k
- Sub 17:00 5k
- Sub 1 hour 40k bike
- Sub 1:00 100yard swim
- Sub :30 50 yard swim
- Sub 2:00:00 Olympic distance triathlon
- Sub 4:30:00 Half Iron
- Sub 10:00:00 Ironman
- Sub 1:00 400 meters
- Sub 5:00 1 mile
- Sub 15 hour 50 mile
- Sub 36 hour 100 mile

A year and a half ago I thought I would do it, thought for sure breaking 5 minutes was a done deal. Instead, as I ran those final 10 yards that day I saw the clock tick past 5:00 and register 5:02 before I finally crossed. I won the race, but had fallen short of my goal.

The Firecracker Mile started with a steep 2 or 3 hundred yard downhill and then was mostly flat the rest of the way. In 2010 I skipped the Firecracker Mile and instead ran the Big River Macklind mile in St. Louis thinking more competitive runners and a longer downhill stretch would help me break 5. Instead, I ended up running a 5:05 in 2010 in what was a much more competitive field and an easier course.

So that brings me to 2011. Around three weeks ago, several friends and I ran three one mile repeats indoors at the Hearnes center. In between running the miles, we did some major core exercises, pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups. Despite the core exercises, we still pushed each other and I ran a 5:36, 5:26, and faded a bit on the third with a 5:38. Then, several weeks later I ran a 1:03 400 solo on the indoor track followed by three sub 1:15 400s with Bill Stolz. After reading about this workout, my friend Adam suggested I give the sub 5:00 mile a shot. At first I was wanting to go for the sub one minute 400, but after checking out the outdoor tracks in town and finding them all snow or ice covered, I decided I would give the sub 5 minute mile a shot.

Both the Firecracker Mile and the Macklind Mile are downhill miles and I had failed in both to break 5. Ultimately the goal is to run a sub 5 on a track, but if I can’t do it in a downhill mile I’m not going to do it on the track either! With that in mind, I headed this past Saturday to Rockbridge State park. I drove from the bridge just before the entrance to Devils Ice Box up the road to the Pierpont store, exactly one mile. So I drove back down to the Devils Ice Box parking lot, parked the car and warmed up by running to the start.

Basically, the mile I was about to run is on a narrow winding road that starts out mostly flat for about half a mile, then has some gradual downhill, and then for the final 1/3 of a mile it is fairly steep downhill, about 7 or 8% grade. The only drawback about the course is the 50mph speed limit and the fact there are no shoulders. Oh well, I figured if I ran against traffic I should be ok!

The only thing tougher about a road mile is you don’t have the instant feedback of checking your pace every 200 yards like on a track. But, using a Garmin I was able to get a fairly good idea of my pace. I started out by running a 1:12 first 1/4 mile with my heart rate topping out at 174. The next 1/4 was a 1:14.39 and my heart rate was up to 189. The third 1/4 was 1:14.69 with a 190 max heart rate. At this point I was struggling, but fortunately knew the rest was downhill and that if I kept on pace I was guaranteed of breaking 5. That final downhill quarter I covered in 1:08.69 while maxing out my heart at 191 bpm! Total time of 4:49, a new 1 mile PR by 13 seconds.

Adam and I had not gotten into the specifics of our “athletic bucket list”, but I had a feeling a downhill mile wasn’t going to fly in his opinion. Sure enough, he cited some USATF rule regarding the max amount of elevation loss per x distance or something... Fine, so maybe this isn’t a legit mile by USATF standards, but for the time being it is legit for me! I finally went under that elusive 5 minute mark, I did it early in the season and by myself without the competition of a race. I did this run for me and in my book it is legit, but just to be sure I’ll do it again on a track, just give it a month or two and maybe then all this dang snow will be melted!