Monday, June 16, 2008

Lake Tahoe Relay and a trip to the DL

I ran the Lake Tahoe Relay (72.3 miles) for the first time on Saturday, June 14. The team was made up of several of the runners that had planned on running the Odyssey the week before…but we didn’t come up with the necessary 12, so we decided to run this instead. Peter Lubbers, his sons Sean & Rocky, along with their friend Hayes (all of Gold Country Grand Prix fame) came over on Friday evening for dinner and a movie, and we were off at 4:35 the next morning to meet Turi & Amber (of Washoe County Library fame) at Amber’s House at 5:00.

It was a little brisk when we got up to the "Y" at South Lake Tahoe at 6:30 in the morning, but we were ready to go. This is a popular race, obviously due to the scenery, and despite the lack of support, it usually reaches a hundred teams of 7, and is very competitive at the top. This year’s version would be won by the Chico TC team in 6:51! I’ll list our time and splits at the end.

Hayes started for us and ran stronger as he went. We noticed he wasn’t looking too good 3 miles in (his leg was 9.6), so we’d meet him every two miles with water and girly-screaming for the rest of his run. Ok, maybe it was just me with the girly screaming…I almost lost my voice by leg 5. Hayes finished the longest run of his short life and handed off to Peter, who, although he has more endurance than anyone else on our team, would be running the shortest, but hardest leg from Zephyr Cove to Spooner. He went strong up the "hill from heaven" and looked ready to run another 8 miles. He handed off to our youngest team member, Rocky (11), who’d run a rolling 10.3 miles with a fun downhill to start. We met him along the way 5 or 6 times, and he would run through some blisters, and hand of to Turi at the start of Lakeshore Dr (Incline Village). It was getting pretty warm by this point as well. I believe it reached 80 while we were out there, but due to the elevation (6200-7000 feet) it felt a little warmer in the sun. Turi ran the longest leg of the relay at 12.3 miles, in preparation for his first ultra five weeks from now at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k. It was pretty neat to take our time and make so many stops on our way around the lake. I think I noticed a few things for the first time, and was able to enjoy places I hadn’t been in a while. Turi would hand off to Sean in Cedar Flats (NW corner of the lake), and run 10.6 miles of rolling hills. There were a few teams that we’d been leapfrogging for a while now, and it was fun to see the same runners and crews at several different points. As we were quite a ways back from the front of the pack, everyone at this stage of the race was here for to enjoy it, and we did the same.

We met up with Frank Ribeiro (of Draft Horse Classic fame), and anchor leg of the "Old Fartleks", at Homewood Ski resort, for the start of the sixth leg. My turn J. I wanted to run the "hill from hell" at tempo-run pace, just in case I end up doing the Tahoe Marathon in the fall. The hill climbs about 600 feet over less than 2 miles, and in the marathon falls between mile 15 and 17 (there is also a pretty mean hill between 19 and 20 miles). I, for unknown reasons, cramped up within a mile or two, and would struggle through the run, although the hill was actually pretty fun…beautiful views of Emerald Bay from the top! I did the math wrong in my head, so I was a little surprised when I crested the hill and ran a hundred yards downhill and handed off to Amber, who’d be running (after that first hill) a downhill/rolling 10.5 miles to the finish. We found a few nice shady places to cheer her on along the way. I’d been planning on running her leg with her, but I was feeling pretty terrible during/immediately after my own leg, so I threw in the towel and hopped in the back of the truck.

We’d finish 79th out of 104 teams, in 11:25:08. I was thinking we’d finish in the ten hour range, but a few of us ran slower than expected. Although exhausting, these relay things are fun. I hope to be able to do more in the future. We joined the Old Fartleks for pizza and well earned beer before heading back to Reno at about 9-10p.m. Here’s our splits…

Hayes 1:21:26 (9.6) 8:30 pace

Peter 1:03:01 (8.2) 7:41

Rocky 2:10:34 (10.3) 12:41

Turi 1:38:15 (12.3+) 7:50’s

Sean 2:09:56 (10.6) 12:16

Chris 1:13:05 (10.5) 6:57

Amber 1:58:43 (10.5) 11:18

In honor of baseball season, which is now in full swing, I’ll refer to my impending "break" as a trip to the DL (disabled list). Unfortunately for me, this will be my last race for a while. I’d been diagnosed with a partially torn right Achilles tendon (my "good" one) from an MRI I had done at the beginning of May. Since I’d been dealing well with pain in that area since last September, I decided to keep running on it as long as I could. However, training and racing has become increasingly difficult over the last few weeks, partially due to the Achilles, and partially due to the stomach issues I’ve been having since the end of April. They had not directly affected any races until the Odyssey last week, but it seems cramps will be my constant companion until I get that figured out and fixed. Between those two things, running has become much less enjoyable and I’ve not been able to stay motivated as training has become more difficult and my times are slowing. My plan is to wear an air-cast walking boot for 4-6 weeks. In a perfect world, that will help/fix the Achilles problem, which would also go a long way in helping the other issues I’ve had on that side…knee, hip, IT band, yada, yada, yada…

Hopefully, over that time, I will also get a handle on whatever the g.i. issues are, so when I start back up, I’ll be able to train unencumbered for once. This break will most likely take me out of contention for the overall title in the Gold Country Grand Prix (as I’ll be missing races on 7-4, 8-6, 8-13, and possibly into September), and will cause me to skip the TRT 50k and the Tahoe Marathon, which were to be my goal races for the summer and fall. Best case, I’ll be out of the boot a couple days before the TRT, and I’ll attempt to walk/jog the 50k. Wish me luck.

Despite the injuries, this was my most successful year since 2000/2001. I matched the longest win streak of my career at 7 (March-June) and won 10 of 13 overall, with 4 course records, a 3rd and 8th place in two marathons, and a 79th in the relay. I hope to resume competitive racing by the end of the year, as I’m already signed up for the XTerra World Championships in December, and be able to run a full and healthy 2009.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

Mike tagging Ross at the 7th exchange

Trying to stay awake in the van

Cap'n John

I was a last minute addition to the Battle Born Racing Team, as i'd been trying to get a library team together when I was first approached to join this team. We never got close to having 12 people, not to mention 3 volunteers (as every "local" team needed to provide). When the Battle Born team captain, John, still needed a 12th runner a month later, i joined . We had a team meeting at our sponsor's house about a month ago, and dished out leg assignments. I'd be running the 10th, 22nd, and 34th (out of 36) legs. About half the team was the same as the 2006 team, which set the current long course record of 18:33 for the 178 miles (the course was a third shorter last year do to wild fires). Our goal was to break the record by 33 minutes or more, which would require just a hair over 6 minutes per mile pace. My legs were pretty flat, but were the second longest in distance. I was particularly worried about running multiple legs. My body is no longer accustomed to running two-a-days, or hard workouts on consecutive days. Usually I'm getting pretty sore a few hours after a race, not to mention the next morning, so this was going to be interesting.

I was in van #2 (with half the team in each). John thought it would be funny to leave a couple dirty magazines in the van, so after a couple teammates tried to contribute to the delinquency of a minor by trying to pawn off the magazines on 17-year-old Brandon, we hid them in another teammates bag (for his wife to find later?). We drove to Hirshdale Road (a few miles east of Truckee) to start legs 7-12. It was really weird seeing how many teams were still in front of us in the early miles of the race. While we'd started at 4 p.m. as the defending champs (along with 3 other teams), teams had been running since early Friday morning, and most of them were still in front of us at 7:15 p.m., when our van started our Odyssey. The course was varied enough in distance and terrain that it was inpossible to gauge who was running the best, but the six runners in our van all seemed to run pretty stinkin' strong accross the board. We'd warm-up for a few minutes before our leg, and then go anywhere from 3.1-7.6 miles, and then run a short cooldown after our legs, before the van would pick us up and drive to the next exchange. We'd usually pass our runner about a mile into their run, after seeing them take off, and then at the end. Based on that, Brandon seemed to be haulin' ass during his legs, as I heard more than one runner say something to the extent of "I can't even sprint that fast downhill!" when he'd take off or finish. I'd run my first leg at just before 9 p.m., a 5 miler from Truckee to Squaw Valley in just over 28 minutes, or about 5:40 per mile. I was glad to see a 28 when i looked at my watch at the end, as i did not feel good at all during my leg. I felt like i took off a little to fast, forgetting that this was at over 6,000 feet elevation, and paid for it a little. I'd also have some stomach issues, which unfortunately would stick with me for the rest of the race. It was pretty neat running this stretch of road as it was getting dark, though. I passed two runners about 17 minutes in, who i'd been tracking by the red blinking lights on the back of their vests. After that, it was pretty dark to the end, as I didn't bring the headlamp on my first leg. I handed off to Drew Casselberry, who is a former Incline HS and Weber State CC and track runner, and probably the fastest guy in our van. We'd had about a 10 minute lead after the first 6 legs, which i'm sure we'd been adding to, but we wouldn't know again, until the results were in, how much of a lead we had. We were just trying to stay as close to 6 minute pace as possible. After our 12th runner handed off to the first, we drove from Homewood to Stateline, where we'd start our second set of runs. Some of the guys tried to sleep on the freezing cold pavement in their sleeping bags, while others tried to catch a few winks in the van, as it was definitely warmer in there. I made a couple port-a-potty pit stops, and watched a few other teams at the exchange. All of us were also trying to get by on runner food-cliff bars, gu's, gatorade, water, etc... I'd have a GU half an hour before each run, a Muscle Milk after each, and some other carb based, easy to digest stuff in-between.

Our second set (legs 19-24) would be in the middle of the night. I'd run 5.8 miles from the base of Kingbury Grade through the town of Genoa, just past Walley's Hot Springs. I got the feeling that this would be a great run if you could see where you were going. As it was, it was, surprisingly, my best and most enjoyable run. I'd struggle with side/stomach cramps again, but they were never too bad, and my legs weren't dead...yet. We'd taken to calling the runners bogies that we'd spot on the course while driving, and i'd pass 9 of them on my second run, and fall just short of catching a 10th at the end, running 33 & change, or about 5:40 again. Drew passed another 8 on the next leg, although he was still warming up when I finished, and it seemed as though we'd pass more teams in the middle of the race than we did at the beginning or end. This was putting us in a good position to be the first team accross the line. Although it didn't matter to the official results if we beat the teams that started before us or not, this was another goal of ours.

One of the perks of sponsorship was a hotel room for each van, to recharge before running our third and final leg. The first 6 runners had been staying in Carson City for a couple hours as we did our second leg. Apparently our captain had turned off his phone to conserve power (for what i don't know as we couldn't get a hold of him when we needed to), and they either didn't set an alarm or slept through it. We finished the 24th leg with van #1 nowhere to be found. Nick (runner #1's) wife was there, and she'd gotten a hold of him a half hour before we showed, but apparently he fell back asleep. By the time we'd gotten a hold of them, we'd lost almost 14 minutes, and were just a little pissed after running so well in the middle of the night. We'd discussed at the last van exchange that we expected to be there around 4 a.m., and we were there at 4:02, so phone or no phone, we thought they'd be there by 4. We weren't sure, with a third of our running left, if this would affect our cances for a course record, but we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to break 18 hours at this point. The mishap had taken a little of the wind out of our sails as well. We'd go to our Virginia City hotel for a couple hours. I'd take a HOT shower, to aid my stiffening legs, but would not be able to get any sleep. It did feel great to stretch out for 45 minutes, though. We'd head to dowtown Virginia City for the grand finale, and were all glad to see sun. We'd all grown tired of the cold, and the warmer weather after daylight was very welcome.

Maybe it was in my head, but I seemed to be fading more than the other guys toward the end. Ross (leg 27) ran an awesome short but hilly leg from Virginia City, and Brandon (after a little climbing) and Patrick split the downhill back to south Reno. I'd run my longest leg last. 7.5 miles as flat as a pancake (but I was not so secretly wishing for a shorter, downhill leg). I was feeling none too great, even dry heaving Tums during my warm-up. Good times! I carried the map of this leg with me, directionally challenged as I am. There were about a half dozen turns, and the official at the exchange said a couple of the teams still ahead of us had gotten temporarily lost. Less than a mile in, I'd find out why. The first turn was about a quarter mile after a hand written 8x10 paper with "Odyssey/right" on it. I knew the name of the street that I was supposed to turn on. This "street" looked more like an alley, and there was no street sign or any other indication. Due to the sign i'd seen a minute before, I turned just in case, and hollered over to an older couple in their yard. "Is this Western Skies Drive?" You'll like this...even though I was ON Western Skies (the street this couple lived on), they told me they think it's the next street up, in the direction I just came from. I knew they were wrong about that, but figured they knew their own street name, so as I ran back to the 341 again, I waved down our passing van. Ross knew the roads, despite the lack of signage, and told me to go back to the street I'd just come from! I only lost a minute or so, but mentally and physically, I was just about done, so running 7.7 miles instead of 7.5 was not a cheerful thought. Anywho, I fought through almost every step of leg 34, fighting stomach cramps, and tight/tired legs, and a pissed off heel. There were a couple sections where I'd fade briefly to significantly higher than 6 flat place, only to use a turn to pick it back up. I'd run the 7.5 in 44:05 (45 & change for it all), or about 5:53 per mile. For as bad as I felt, i was really happy with this one, even though it was my slowest, and it was a great relief to be done. As Drew finished his own 7.5 mile leg, we realized we still had a shot at 18 hours. Fred would have to run 6.1 miles in 38:00...a peice of cake for him when he's fresh, but he'd already run twice, and may or may not have to wait for a couple traffic lights a mile before the end while running along the river through downtown. We drove ahead to the end, where no early teams had crossed the line yet. By the time we saw Fred around the corner, we were just over our goal, and would finish 32 minutes ahead of the old course record, and an hour and a half in front of the second place team, in a new record 18:01:26. That 13 minutes sure would have come in handy in breaking 18!!

We stuck around for pictures, refreshments, etc... Hannah and Abby met me there, so we stayed at Idlewild Park for a couple hours playing with everyone's dog, and tiring out the kid. Formal awards were that afternoon, after the rest of the teams finished, but I don't think any teammates were there past noon. We do have free entry into next year's event, which is technically worth $1,000...even though it's a cost the sponsors would cover anyway. I managed to jog (and I mean jog) 41 minutes this morning before soaking the legs in the river. Next week is the Tahoe Relay with the Lubbersziziz, Turi, and Amber. Should be much easier, although a bit hillier for me...and I promise the write-up will be shorter. Just think of it in terms or words per mile (178)!

Happy Running,