Sunday, February 24, 2008

Almond Blossom 8k

This is a flat road course on which I ran in a PR of 25:59 in 2001, although I was outkicked at the line by a friend of mine (Brian Buscay of Reno) for the win by less than 1 second.

I drove down on Friday night, joined by my friend Aaron and the dogs (Abby & Hannah are visiting my Brother-in-law in LA). The weather was ok going over and we got into Modesto before 8 and went out to eat @Mike’s Roadhouse (ok food-overpriced).

I was very close to scratching the race on Friday as I’d had only 1 good, relatively pain-free run over the previous week and a half. The left leg is fine, but the hip (flexor and abductor), it band, and knee on the right side have relapsed at the worst time (2 weeks before the Napa Marathon 3-2).

I was able to mask the pain with a nice mix of soaking, icy-hot, topical ibuprofen, and Advil the morning of the race. I was encouraged for the first time in several days when I jogged from the car to the registration table without a limp (that’s the kind of week it had been).

The weather was almost the same as 2001, with a stiff wind, and the threat of rain, although it was a little colder and a littler dryer this year. They actually started a couple minutes early, about 5 seconds after I got to the line, and we were off. After the first turn, we were in a really nice residential neighborhood, and by a half-mile in, there were only 3 of us, with Brad Butler in the lead, and myself in second. As I was just starting to think the miles were not marked we hit mile 1 right on pace @5:31 (my goal was 27:30-5:32 per mile). After a couple turns, we’d dropped 3rd, and I did a little bit of drafting, as Brian was 6’2 and at least 30 pounds heavier J

We were running comfortably between miles 1 and 2 & did our introductions, etc…he had driven the course and therefore knew it better than I did from seven year old memories. We turned into an orchard just after mile 2 (5:32-11:03) and hit a stiff headwind. This would have been the best time to draft, but I was feeling good and pulled up to share the lead and eventually take it just after the aid station at mile 2.5 (13:49). I was expecting Brad to tuck in behind me, but by the time we go through the orchard and made a right turn, I could no longer hear him behind me.

At this point, I was cautiously optimistic about winning the race, as I was still running even miles and feeling ok, so I started thinking about my goal time. At mile 3 (5:36-16:39), I’d slowed just a little, but was still running into a headwind. Mile 4 was much of the same (as we had a headwind for about 3.5 of the 4.97 miles). I hit mile 4 alone in 22:10 (5:31) and still felt like I had a kick. I tried to pick it up for the last mile, had a little kick the last 1-200 and finished in 27:18-5:29+ per (79 seconds off the PR-but my best since 2001). The last .97 was 5:08 (or 5:18-19 if it were a full mile). Being that half the last mile still had a headwind I was very happy with the finish and the fact that I was not limping! Brad would come in 2nd after fading a little in the wind in 28:26.

The finish was in (refurbished since 2001) Mavis Stouffer Park, and the dogs made a new friend while me and Aaron chased them around in the wet grass before the awards. I had a huge grin on my face as I was able to run with the dogs at near full-speed only a day after limping 4 miles @8:00 pace.

First prize was $50 (which was spent immediately at the Valley Brewing Co. in Stockton on the way home! This place had the best stout and the best hot wings I’ve had in a while, so it was well worth it.

We took our time and also paid homage to the Auburn Alehouse (right off i-80) before hitting the worst of the weather between Colfax and Reno. (note to Eric-We’d planned on visiting St. Stan’s micrebrewery in Modesto, as this was my first microbrew experience in 1998, but they no longer exist as a restaurant and pub, only a brewery L

Between the drive and this morning’s 7 miles, the leg has reverted back to it’s painful self, but I’m hoping with therapy on Wednesday, and more tapering this week, I’ll be comfortable on the Napa start line in 5 days! Technically speaking, a 2:53 would be a PR, but my goal is 2:45 (6:19 per), and based on my last two races (30k and 8k), I should be there!

Best of luck, and happy running to all. Talk to you soon.

Good pic of the start on


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Race #3 2008-Jed Smith Ultra Classic 30k
Well, getting there was easy. Abby drove us to her parents house in Grass Valley, where we'd spend Friday night before heading out @6:30 or so the next morning. We got to Gibson Ranch Park @7:45, where I picked up my packet and got right back in the heated car. It was probably 40-43 degrees, but felt much colder due to the wet and the wind...and to think, Abby and her parents were prepared with chairs and everything. We'd be passing the start/finish area 6 times (including the finish), but the weather was not ideal to sit still. There were, however, a multitude of geese, along with two horses, and a 200+ lb pig that was so ugly it was cute. At one point before the race, one of the horses (last picture-above) was "frolicking" with the pig, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it! Needless to say, Hannah liked the animals. Onto the race...
Before the race started, an official let me know that in order for all the distances (30k-50k-50m) to start and finish in the same place, we'd be doing an out and back (2.05 miles) before heading into the first of 5 3.31 mile loops. I'd spotted Nathan Frazier before the race. He'd won this race each of the last 3 years running 2:02-2:05, so I thought of sticking with him over the first loop to get my barings. I was mildly surprised, then, when another runner (Mark Lantz) set the pace right from the gun. As we did our out and back, and eventually the first two loops, I (for the most part) stuck to his behind like white on rice, only occasionally dropping back a few yards or pulling even. He may have been annoyed by my drafting, but he happened to be going the exact pace I wanted to be going, and like I said, it was windy. It seemed many of the other racers knew him as I must have heard his name 50 times while i was behind him. There was one 50ker in particular who seemed quite annoyed that i was shadowing his buddy. Oh well, it's called strategy. He could have ran faster and dropped me or ran slower to make me pass at any point, but chose not to, right?
Right before the finish of loop #2 was the first time in the race i thought i had a chance. I'd struggled mightily to keep up til this point in the race (8.6), but here i started feeling like i was in a groove and would pull even and pass with 10 miles to go. He did return the favor and draft off me for two miles as the wind picked up a little, so i figure we're even (ish). By the end of that 3rd loop, I'd built about a 10 second lead. Half of each loop was paved, and half of each was mud. For whatever reason, I'd had an easier time keeping up on the trail sections, and when I took the lead, I tried to increase it on this stretch as well. The road portion that made up the last 0.9 of each loop was the toughest for me as you were very exposed to the wind and it had one of only two little hills. We had to do a little dodging of other racers, especially on the trail when trying to avoid standing water.
Into loop 4 (almost 12 miles in) I was thinking strategy now and feeling pretty strong. On this trail section I was informed that i had 70-80 meters on Mark, and #3 had fallen several minutes back, so i tried to hold an even pace to the last loop, where I hoped adrenaline would give me a kick. I passed where I calculated to be the half-marathon mark in just under 1:20, or about 6:07 per mile. This was the pace we'd done the first 5 in, so i was very happy to be staying even. When i started the last loop, i was feeling good about holding the lead. I knew I'd be able to go the same speed as the last loop, or a little faster if needed, so unless Mark had a huge kick, I'd be able to hold onto the lead. I was told (in the mud with 2 miles to go), that the lead was 30 seconds, so either I ran the last loop faster than I thought, or Mark was struggling, as I ended up 1:40 ahead in 1:53:55.
He came in 2nd in 1:55:35, and Nathan (the 3 time defending champ) was 3rd in a pr of 1:59:26.
My goal going in had been to run 6-6:20 per mile in preperation to run Napa @6:20 pace. Being that the weather was bad, and the course (8-9 miles of it anyway) was really sloppy, 6:07 per mile was about as good as i could have expected. The aid station at the start finish seemed to have a plethora of coke, with a small supply of water and gatorade?, so i'd taken coke for my first two drinks. That was fine at the TRT 50k running 9-10 minute miles, but not ideal at 6 minutes per, but it worked out ok. No cramps and no fading at the end, which was encouraging as I took no GU and only drank 7-10 oz. total. I really need to work on drinking more for the marathon, but I'll try to work on that in training as opposed to a race. This race gives me 51 minutes to run the remaining 7.6 miles of the marathon to break my goal of 2:45. I plan on starting out 6:15-6:20 and holding it, so this race was motivational, and a great prep for next month. Running well during a 74 mile week (and 1 week after an 86 miler) is a big deal for me, as i've been a little more fatigued than usual. Next up (probably) will be the Alomnd Blossom 8k in Ripon, CA the last Saturday of the month. I'm hoping to coax my legs into running 30-40 seconds faster per mile, but they haven't done that in a while.
Because of the weather, we had to forgo our plans to bring Hannah to the zoo, instead heading straight to the Sacramento Brewing Company for lunch before our 5 ½ trip back to Reno. There were a few other Reno locals there as well…Jenny Capel won the women’s 50k in 3:55:28, and Mary Ohren was the second female in the 30k in 2:19:42. The 50k was won by Jasper Halekas in 3:23:51-an amazing 6:34 per mile! Overall, this was a good experience…would have been great if it was 50-55 degrees with no rain or wind!