Monday, April 7, 2008

American River 50 & Daffodil 10k

What a fun weekend that was! I don’t get to watch many races, so seeing some stud runners finishing a 50-miler with an uphill finish was downright inspiring. I was dropped in Auburn on Saturday (while the wife went shopping…scary). I was there to see Nick Bingham (Reno) & Erik Dube (from CSU Stanislaus) finish. Nick was attempting to qualify for Western States by placing in the top 3, and two other Reno runners (Fred Zalokar & Jeff Huxhold) had pacing duties for the second half. Nick would fall short of his goal, but still run well enough to finish 14th in 6:40. I volunteered myself to run up the last hill with him and Jeff, and was amazed that he was still able to run…although the last hill was short, it was steep, warm, and 49.8 miles into a run! Erik had a rough time out there, but I doubt it ever crosses his mind to call it in, and he battled to the finish in 8:14, well off his goal, but still... I doubt I have the mental or physical fortitude of either of these two guys, as it would be soooo easy to just pack it in on an off day…so hats off to both of you! Anyone who chooses to run an uphill 50.2 mile race has earned my respect and then some. I also had the privilege of helping a runner in that I’d never met before, just over his 8 hour goal…and he even thanked me by barfing on the matt at the finish!!!

The temperature in Penn Valley was cooler than Auburn the previous day. My perfect 10k weather would be 50 at the start, and mid-high 50’s at the end. It was cooler than that, but the clouds burned off, and while it was breezy, the wind could have been much worse. I’d guess under 45 at the start, 50 by the end. I tried a new course this year as I’d run the 5k in 2006 & 2007. This race always brings a little extra buzz in the Nevada City area as it is the first race of the now 3 year old Gold Country Grand Prix. I saw a few familiar faces before the race, and was able to warm up with Peter Lubbers and Larry Defeyter, both of whom have run very well over the last couple years. We did just under 2 miles and were back in time to see most of the kids races, 10-15 minutes before our own.

We were off at 8:45. These are the easiest courses in the Grand Prix, but neither is flat. The 5k is close…you run over one tiny hill a half mile in, and barely start up the first 10k hill before the turnaround. The 10k has a “nice” hill between 1.5-2 miles, and a few decent rollers between 3-4…definitely enough to take notice. Miles 4-6 are mostly downhill and flat, with one exception, before the 250 meter uphill sprint to the finish, which the 5k also runs.

We were on a fairly straight and rolling road for 0.8 miles before turning right, only of note because we started in a headwind. Not gale force, but enough to worry my fragile mind. I’d set a specific goal for this race (the course record of 35:56, by Richard Johnson in 2003). My “A” goal would be to break 35…so headwind was not part of that equation. I’d planned on running negative 5k splits, as the half way point was higher than the start or finish, so to run 35 I was shooting for 17:40/17:20. After trailing the kids (who every year seem to think a 5k is a sprint) for the first minute or two, I was able to take the overall 5k/10k lead and settle into my pace. The first mile was a fairly comfortable 5:30, although the wind made it a little harder than it would have been. I’d driven the course that morning to get a feel for the hills, so I knew what was coming before mile 2…a long gradual climb that didn’t peak the heart rate until it increased in grade right before the crest. I’d expected to lose at least 30 seconds this mile (and did) as I hit 6:03 for mile 2 (11:33). Mile 3 had a couple smaller climbs with some gentle descents, and I was able to get back to pace by pushing the downhills for a 5:31 split. I was still quite comfortable at the turn (17:38-right on pace), and got to see who was coming up…Austin Violette, Greg Ngo, Peter lubbers, and V Nealakanten (I believe they finished in that order, but official results are not posted yet).

Mile 4 was the surprise. I was not expecting easy, but between the hills and crosswind, it was 15 seconds slower than I’d planned (6:08-23:12). It would have been no big deal if I was still comfortable, but the effort for that mile had inched up with the time. Luckily for me, the last two miles were to be the easiest…down the big hill first, for a mile 5 split of 5:26-28:38 (I actually took splits yesterday), and then the glorious tailwind. I’d almost abandoned my thoughts of sub 35 after mile 4, but I’d forgotten that the last .8 would have a tailwind (and I’d also recovered some between miles 4-5), so the push was back on. I was able to increase my turnover on the bike path leading back to the park, and had one of the better kicks I’ve had in quite some time up the last stretch, just to be sure I wouldn’t just miss a sub-35 as I had when running 35:03 at the Run Through the Colors last fall. My last 1.2 miles, with the kick & tailwind, were a 6:08 (5:07 per mile pace), which allowed me to be comfortably under my goal time in 34:46-5:36 per mile (although yesterday’s posted results had me at 34:34-I was a touch slower than that). I’m looking forward to seeing the official results to see how everyone did). I ran the 5k course as a cooldown, and took a few too many minutes to get going, so I missed the 5k awards, but congrats to Larry for winning what I heard was a very tight 5k (1st-5th about a minute apart). I guess that’s the bad part about running the longer race-less socializing after.

Next up is the Nevada City Spring run in 3 weeks. I’m leaning towards the 10k again, and plan on running my first Grand Prix 5k in May. Hope to see several of you again at the end of the month, and congratulations to all of you who finished a 5k, 10k, or 50 miler this past weekend!


here's the link to Steve's article in the Union...

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