Monday, January 14, 2008

Redding Marathon (race #2 - January 2008)

I went to Redding last weekend, even though there were no takers for the relay, instead of going to Stockton for the Cal 10. I had pulled my soleus (under the calf) at the Resolution Run on 1-1, had not had a great traing week, and felt less than 100% (even for me!), so i decided that putting in the miles instead of trying to run a fast 10 miler, was the better option. I didn't decide to go til the day before, and I got there Saturday @5-less than hour before pre-reg closed. I planned on running a similar style to the Cowtown Marathon last October - somewhere in between training and racing pace. I felt a HUGE difference between a 3:05 @the Cowtown, and a 2:54 a month later in Santa Clarita. If i had a goal for this long run, it was to be under 3:10 (Boston Qualifier. Even though I've already got it, it's a decent goal, and was close to my treadmill long run pace. To the race...
Got to the finish @the Sundial Bridge for the shuttle @7am. it was brisk, but the forecast was near perfect (lo of 37, hi of 57) for a long run. When we arrived at the Shasta Dam, we couldn't help but notice the snowbanks in the parking lot, or the wind that looked like it was going to uproot a couple trees. We gathered in the dam's Visitor Center, as we had 40 minutes to go. The race director was nice enough to give the briefing inside, and we were off @8:05.
The course had a net drop of 500 feet, and i knew most, if not all of it, was over the first 2 miles. I didn't know what to think of this...on one hand, you'd gain 30 seconds or so per mile, on the other hand-would your quads be trashed by mile 10? I had heard the night before that the top 3 were given an apparel award, and being the sucker that i am, had adjusted my goal slightly, from expecting a 3:10 and 5th to 10th place, to "if the run unravels and i have a shot at third, i'll take it". it was nice to have no pressure at a race-if i ran a 1:30 the first half and didn't feel well, i'd back it off and not worry about it-if i felt good, that would be a bonus. At 100 yards in, Hal Koerner (Western States Champ this year!) took off, closely followed down the hill by Bev Abbs (who's been the overall champ at this race more than once). After them there was a string of runners that i positioned myself at the rear of (6th-10th over the downhill, including relay runners). As i thought, i hit the first two miles under 6 minutes a peice, but was comfortable with it. If i had gone slower, it would have been harder on the legs. At mile 2 we hit the riverbed, and moved from pavement to gravel and trail. It was a little messy here from yesterday's rain, but not too much slower than a paved surface. I settled in with Magellan Turner (who'd end up 5th) and a relay runner. We chatted a bit, and settled into a 6:40-6:50 pace on the trail. I stayed with him for a few miles, and he seemed to know the course well (he told me when we were going to be hitting pavement again). We stayed even (and ahead of the relay leaders so far) and as we hit a couple hills on the road, we saw runners 2 (Bev) and 3 up ahead.
Somewhere after the halfway point i was running in 2nd with a small pack behind me, and we hit a messier, but shorter, trail on the way back down to the American River. As I was taking water, I twisted my left ankle pretty good. Not usually a big deal (that one is weaker, so i tweak it slightly on a regular basis), but this was a little worse than the usual. Within a few minutes I was caught by the relay leader, and a runner (Ian Torrance) that i hadn't seen yet. I repassed the relay team a mile later and paced off Ian between miles 15-19. We'd hit halfway in under 1:25, and i figured if i stayed with him as long as I could, I'd easily break 3. As we hit the "roller coaster" (as Ian called it) part of the paved American River Trail, we saw Hal who had opened up a huge lead. We were however, starting to distance ourselves from 4th & 5th.
After a short loop, we hit the AR Trail going back the same way we came, before hitting the Ribbon Bridge for a second time. It's funny how in a marathon, you can feel great one mile, and struggle the next. As we climbed and descended the series of rolling hills, i started to feel the heavy legs, and by mile 20 Ian was just starting to pull away. The spot that I'd stepped on a rock while twisting my ankle (which was fine) had developed into what i was sure to be a nice juicy blood blister...but the heavy legs were more of a concern. From 20/21 miles in to 25 I struggled, even with a slowed place, and Ian was out of sight by mile 23. I was however, sitting comfortably in 3rd, and although hurting, holding back just enough to fight off a last minute race.
We did a 2 mile loop before heading over the Sundial Bridge to the finish. I'd developed a side cramp after Gu-ing at about 23.5, so i walked for about 1:10, hoping to be rid of it and give my achy legs a break. I'm pretty sure at this point Bev caught up just enough to get me in her sights and she told me she thought she had me at that point...but the walking worked, and when i noticed her 100 yards or so behind me on the loop, I was able to recover to a respectable 7 minute pace til the end and finished in 3rd place, about 30 seconds ahead, in 2:55:29 (6:42 per mile). Being that I did not taper, and had a couple small issues, I was very happy to finish only 1:19 slower than Santa Clarita, which was a far faster course! The spread at the finish was nice, including a bike (which i rode for 10-15 minutes to loosen up the legs), hot soup, pie, physical therapy, and did i mention pie! I was given a sweet looking half-zip Brooks shirt/jacket for finishing 3rd with the race logo and Fleet Feet stitched on...and a beer glass with the race name for finishing #2 behind course record setting Hal in my age group.
Before I left, I found a couple staffers at the finish to tell them what a great job they did (in every aspect!). As some of you know, my last two races were not the most organized affairs, so this was a breath of fresh air (at no point during the run was i wondering if i was still on course-what a feeling!!!). I met several cool people that day, including other runners, and many volunteers, and ended up very glad I chose to go instead of doing another long run on the treadmill. There's no out-of-the-ordinary soreness, so I should be back to normal in the next few days. Next one planned is the Jed Smith Ultra Classic 30k in Sacramento in two weeks. The pic is of Ian and I crossing the Ribbon bridge for the second time, just as he is starting to pull away...
Happy Running, & see you all soon!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Auburn Resolution Run 10k - New Year's Day

For those who want a rundown…

The 5k-10k-10m races started at 1 pm @Auburn Overlook. I had planned on running the 10 miler, but a lack of sleep and reservations about unfamiliar courses (due to last month’s 162nd place finish on Angel Island) I compromised and did the 10k.

I knew the courses would be hilly, but I had no idea I was in for a Salmon Run/Prison Hill type of race until I ran my warm-up. I wanted to know how the course started, so I ran about a mile moderately downhill for about 0.2, then steeper, then even steeper…you get the idea. Gravel and road for the first mile, and I turned and went back up. When the race started, there was a pack of 6 or 7 leading the downhill charge, and I positioned myself towards the rear, resisting the urge to surge on the steeper sections as some of the younger runners were. A couple 10-milers split off after a minute or two, leaving a group of 5. A half mile or so into the race, out of nowhere, a 20-something year old with a Mohawk goes flying by at a ridiculous speed (I believe I looked to my closest competitor and said “I hope he has brakes!”). He would build a 5-10 second lead by mile 1, which I ran in 4:59, sitting in a tie for 2nd…Mohawk man being a 5k runner. He slowed enough at the bottom of the hill that just as the off-road climbing started, a couple of us went by as fast as he had gone by us on the downhill (he’d end up 3rd in the 5k). I was able to build on a lead over the next few miles, and was able to see my competition after a turnaround before mile 4. I hit mile 4 right at 24 minutes and had close to a 2 minute lead at that point. Even though the last 3 miles had been tough, I was getting stronger through this section. I knew, however, that although we’d climbed uphill a little, we still had some climbing to do over the last mile and a half to get back to the outlook…I just didn’t know how much, or how muddy.

For the second race in a row, I fell victim to a poorly marked course, which can be quite confusing on an unfamiliar trail, especially while you’re bombing downhill as hard as you can. It was roughly 4.6-4.8 miles into the race that I was getting close to the end of a loop before heading up a dirt trail to the finish when I saw the 100 degree right hand turn (unmarked, but unobstructed) and the slight left/straight trail, which was partially blocked by caution tape 6 inches off the ground, but was also marked with double white chalk arrows pointing in that direction! Just by chance, I’d overheard the director talking to a runner during registration that was trying to figure out the course…and remembered hearing that there was a spot in the race where some runners have “jumped the caution tape” and gone the wrong way. As I had about 2 seconds to make the decision, I was bewildered. You could easily go to the right of the caution tape and follow the arrows, so that’s what I did. I asked several other walkers and joggers as I passed if I was going the right way, and they said yes…but my gut was starting to tell me otherwise. As it turns out, they were correct, IF I were a 10 miler heading into the loop, but not for the 10k. I made the decision to turn around after a little over a minute to avoid a similar fate as my last race, and sure enough, as I got back to the turn, there was runner #2, going the way that was not marked with any arrows. So almost 5 miles in, the race began again. I was still feeling pretty good, and I was able to reclaim the lead within 2-300 yards, but as the muddy ascent to the finish started, my strength began to wane and I caught myself looking over my shoulder more than once. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Even though I slowed significantly, so did everyone else, so I’m hoping it was due to the course and not a lack of endurance J. I ended up crossing the line in 42:14 (for my 6.5 mile+) with second place 59 seconds behind. Not a particularly good time, but between the terrain and the extra running, I was happy enough, thinking that this race bodes well for an attempt to run 45 minutes at the Salmon Run.

The results/awards, on the other hand, were determined to rival the Habitat Run as the least organized of any race I’ve ever done. They seemed to get the times ok, but were blaming their new computer timing system for many errors before we left (2 hours later and sans awards). They had all 3 distances finishing in the same chute, and had them all on one list as the results were posted. I for example was 82nd overall, but the 81 in front of me should have all been 5k runners. Alas, they were not. There were 3 others listed under their division as 10k runners coming in between 34-38 minutes. Needless to say that myself, along with the 2 guys behind me who finished 2 and 3, pointed out the error, which was followed by another hour or so of standing around, waiting for nothing to be done…before we gave up and left.

I’d decided I needed more miles, which is the only reason I decided on this race as opposed to the New Years Eve 2 miler in Sacramento the night before…so my resolution for 2008 is to not run the resolution run in 2009. Between the lack of any organization and the fact that I’ll be cross training the next few days due to a calf/soleus pull and a sore back, the 2 miler (in hindsight) would have been the better option. Of course, if the last race had gone well, I wouldn’t have done another race at all!

Next up is either the Cal 10 or the Redding Marathon (as a long run) – no takers on the relay idea. I’d been leaning towards Redding, but I know the Cal 10 course will be marked well, so…

Happy running,