Sunday, March 28, 2010

Scheels Fanatic 5k

I'm glad somebody is pickin up the ball that the city of Sparks dropped when it started getting cheap &/or cancelling their races. The new sports superstore is doing a pretty good job of giving runners races several times a year. They're still (only) out at the Sparks Marina (and i'll address the course issues in a sec) but they're trying...and that's a good thing. There are a ton of good runners in this area, but it's been a rough go of it as far as local races are concerned.

We woke up to close to freezing temps and some wind. Where'd spring go? Actually, it was pretty nice later in the day, but 34 degrees with a breeze when I pulled into Scheel's at 7:15. I'd run here in August (yes, the one where I got chicked), but I didn't see anything where the start had been, and the finish chute was facing the other direction. Silly me, thinking the course would be the same. Actually, I'd hoped that they lengthened it by a hundred meters, as it was short last time, but no need to change anything else, right? Right??

Wrong again, Bob! During my warm-up, I saw that the mile markers were all far off from where they'd been before. My old training partner Fred (and I do mean old) showed me a map they had at the sign-in table, and it was, indeed, a totally different course. We took off right at 8, and I was a bit surprised at how many people took off fast. I started about fifth, and worked my way up to second, and stuck there for a minute or two before taking the lead just before the half mile mark. Just after the half mile mark there was a nice, speed-killing 180 degree turn around a cone...and we then proceeded to run directly back into the other 400 runners. Gotta say - liked the old innacurate course better. There was a bike out front, but we were running against the entire field on an 8-10 foot wide concrete path. Not a good idea, guys.

Anyway, as it turned out, the mile splits were about even. The only problem was that each mile was about 10 seconds slower than what I had in mind. 5:22, 5:26, 5:25, :31 ~ 16:44. Maybe due to the cold (at least I hope so) my legs never felt warm, and I was never able to hit the gear I wanted to hit, even at the end. Lucky for me, 2nd place faded to 3rd, and Fred worked his way up from 6th at the early turn to 2nd at the end, 15-20 seconds back. So - I was able to hold onto the lead, & got my man card back for finishing a minute in front of the one who did the chicking 7 months ago. After a long cool-down and a cold awards ceremony, we thawed out over coffee & breakfast with Fred & his family (Ian & Deb also ran), Kevin, & Al. I was feeling good enough to get a full weight workout in at the gym before going in to work @1, but of course am having a relapse of an old injury today. Got a full run and weights in today too, but can't bend, turn, move, etc...
Next up most likely is the Zoo Zoom 5k on more shot at breaking 16 minutes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Portland Shamrock Run & Beer Trek 2010 (first ed.)

Dave & I decided to change our plans to drive up to Bend, OR to visit Deschutes & run the Grin & Bear It trail 5k. We were excited for the trip, but in our decrepid states, were not looking forward to 7 hours in the car...each way. So, while figuring out if it would be better to fly into Portland & drive south to Bend, it dawned on me that Deschutes had expanded and now had a pub in downtown Portland as well. No brewery tour, but all the same hop & barley goodness we were looking so forward to. Now, if only Portland has a race this weekend.
Imagine my surprise when within a minute I not only found a race that offered three distances (5k, 8k, 15k) on Sunday, March 14, but realized that combined, this was Oregon's largest race! It reached it's max of 21,500 sign-ups a week or two before race day. So, plan B started to look a heck of a lot better than plan A. 1:25 flight insted of 7 hours in the car. I didn't have to put another thousand miles on the Prius. The race we ended up doing was waaaaay more exciting than what we'd planned (it's been a while since I'd done one of this size), AND...Deschutes ain't the only game in town. Still one of my favorite breweries, we'd be sure to hit them first, but Portland is pretty much beer Mecca, & we had our choice of Breweries, specialty beer stores, &/or beer bars all over town. We even got a good deal at the Marriot Residence Inn, which happened to be the host hotel. We rented a car, but walked about half the time. We were less than a mile downriver from the start/finish, so race morning was a breeze, & also ended walking to Deschutes (about 25 minutes NW in the Pearl District) & McMenamins (10 minute walk). Heck, we even worked out at two different 24 Hour Fitness locations (walked to one) and had another gym (where we worked out the day b4 the race) that was two blocks from the hotel.
Race day came upon us with the legs feeling a little heavy, but no more than the usual amount of pain in the knee or hip. Dave started the 5k at 8:05, and I decided to ease into my warm-up (for the 9:00 8k) by slow jogging backwards from the finish to mile 2 of his course. I saw Dave here & ran in with him to mile 3 before he took it in. He got close to breaking 27:00 (27:20), and seeing as how the middle miles of all the courses were uphill, it was a pretty good effort. There were too many people in the area after his finish to find him, so I checked my warm-up gear, and finished my jogging & strides before making my way to the line.
I had a much easier time getting to the line here than in Chico last week, even though there were close to 6,000 people in the 8k. There was no countdown, so I'd just come out of a down dog stretch when the gun went off, surprisng more than a few of us...hence the two second difference between my gun & chip times, even though I was right in the front. I knew from years past that the top guys in this one were out of my reach, so I had no desire to go to the front after the gun. Two guys seperated almost immediately, followed by a large chase pack, of which I positioned myself near the front. Once we settled into pace, I beleive I was 4th (briefly), tucking in behind the leader of the chase. I hit mile one tied for 4th/5th in 5:18.9, but I was starting to wonder if I could hold that pace. I didn't know the course, but knew from Peter's blog on the 15k a couple years ago that it was not flat. And what do you know, within a minute, we were climbing...and climbing...and climbing. No mountains mind you, just a steady climb for a full 2 miles, broken up only by a 2-lane break each block as you crossed the street. Then up some more. I missed a mile 2 split while dropping back a couple more spots. I'd be in 8th (hanging onto the back of 7th like a fly on poo) when we reached mile 3 (16:54). That gave me a time of 11:36 between 1-3, which I'd have been fine with if it had felt like I'd held back, but, well...not so much. I really needed the end of this hill to stay in the top 10. Lo & behold, a minute or so later, we saw it. A sharp left, then the drag race began. From 3.25 to the end, the race was 99% flat or downhill. I managed to run the 1.97 miles (the first .2 of which was still uphill) in 10:20, or about 5:14 per mile. I got back into 7th on the first downhill, and never gave it back, although 6th was just a few seconds out of reach. I ended up crossing the line in 27:04 (5:27 per). A few seconds off my goal, but not enough to be upset about. Besides, the race was only half the reason for the trip!
Needless to say, we hit a couple breweries on the trip. We tried to do a rerun of our succesful drink-rest-race-drink strategy from the NY/PA/DE trip last fall. So...went to the best place first. Friday night we met up with my friend Will (who lives in nearby Vancouver) at Deschutes Brewery. It was a little nippy, but nice enough that Dave & I walked there, through the heart of Portland, from our hotel. There was one random building with 30 foot crab legs swinging from the roof in the middle of downtown that got our attention. Deschutes (as usual) was phenomenal! We tried everything they had on tap, and had some awesome food to boot. Will came with us back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub, and try another beer (of course). Hell, Deschutes is so cool, they even had Dyson hand dryers in the bathrooms. Sounded like a jet was taking off every time someone dried their hands. After a rest day Saturday (kinda) we cooked our own meal in the room (pasta & salad w/italian sausage) complete with smoke alarm. We couldn't resist splitting a large beer with dinner (which threw of our NY strategy) but it was soooo good - a barrel aged doppelbock. If I think real hard, I can still taste it. Anway, Green Dragon & Mcmenamins were visited on Sunday after the race, and after having a couple Rogue beers at the farmer's market next to the race. Here's the rundown of what we had &/or brought back...
bottle/can-Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager, Stone/Brewdog Bashah, 21st Ammendment Monks Blood, Full Sail Top Sail Imperial Bourbon Barrel Porter, Lompoc Barrel Aged Doppel Bock, Great Divide Yeti, GD Oak Aged Yeti, GD Espresso Aged Yeti, Southern Tier Unearthly IPA, Alameda Black Bear XX Stout, Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad, Alesmith Wee Heavy, Alesmith Speedway Stout 2010, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, GD Belgica, Stone/Brewdog/Cambridge Black Imperial Pilsner, Stone/Maui/Ken Schmidt Imperial Macadamia Nut Coconut Imperial Porter, Southern Tier Iniquity Black Ale, Bruery Two Turtle Doves, Midnight Sun TREAT (cocoa pumpkin porter), Liefman's Kriek, Midnight Sun 3767 (brett IPA), Schaffly Reserve 08 Imperial Stout, HaandBryggeriet Barrel Aged Porter, Harvieston Old Engine Oil, Russian River Consecration, Temptation, Supplication, Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws, GD Titan, Upright Brewing Oyster Stout, Highland Ambush barreled Scotch Ale.
tap-McMenamins Ruby, Hammerhead, IPA, Tripel, Porter, Dry Irish (nitro)Alameda Black Bear XXRogue John John, Imperial Mocha PorterGreen Dragon Strong Scottish Ale, GD claymore, Dogfish Head Black & Blue, Duchesse de Bourgebourgebourge, Laurelwood Moose & Squirrel, LW, Arctic ApocalypseDeschutes Jubel 2010, Black Butte Porter, Green Lakes Organic, Bachelor Bitter, BBitter (cask), Mirror Pond Pale, Cascade Ale, Inversion IPA, Obsidian Stout (nitro), Hop Henge, Red Chair, Fresh Squeezed IPA (cask), D Stratt Dubbel, Sam Hain (nitro), Gluten Free Wit, Armory XPA, Ivanna Weiss, Miss Spelt Hefeweizen, Hop In The Dark Cascadian Dark Ale, Streaking Lil' Buddha (a blend of Dissident & Streaking the Quad).We also could have got a growler (that's right, a growler...of Bud Light...from the airport terminal). Somehow, we resisted.
Definitely a trip (& a race) that I'd like to do again in the future!
here's a link to my race pics (yellow):
and Dave's:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bidwell Classic 2010

the start & finish(es) of the 34th Annual Bidwell Classic

Last weekend was another shot at a faster 5k time at the Bidwell Classic. Originally my goal had been to break 16 minutes in this race, but my knee had other ideas. Some days it's been a victory just to get out the door, while others feel "almost" normal, well, for me anyway. Since my initial sharp whatthehellwasthat pain in my knee, i've dropped down my miles while trying to maintain quality, and like I said, sometimes that's worked, sometimes not so much. On my treadmill time trial day 2 weeks ago (which was a good day) I managed a 16:17, which is o.k. if I can match that on a realcourse, but I've been slower of late on road, and had peaked a month ago with a 15:37! At that point, I was holding out hope for a 2010 5k pr, but alas (see second sentence reference to stupid-a** knee). I'm 40 seconds slower...on a good day. Time to adjust the goals? Not quite yet. Last week I was able to manage a slightly better 2 x 2 mile workout which left me about 6-7 seconds per mile off peak pace (as opposed to 13 per the previous week) on a good day. Still havening madening consistency issues, but what'r'ya gonna do?
Abby & I met Robert & Callan Warner leaving Fleet Feet & grabbed some pre-race dinner at House of Bamboo in downtown Chico. CURRY IS GOOD. I LIKE CURRY. Everyone should like curry. We then checked in to the Holiday Inn, & Robert finagled us a 2 p.m. checkout, which meant...drums please...that's right: we were able to not only stick around and watch a few friends finish the half, but were there when Sierra Nevada Brewing opened their doors @11 (with hot showers still waiting for us after lunch)! We soaked thatnight for a few minutes in the near scalding hot tub, which actually did a nice job of loosening up my knee and hip. I'd guess right around 110. I'd go back in for a few minutes in the a.m. & the temperature had returned to a non-lonster boiling 104. So - got to the park feeling better than the day before, and ran and out and back warmup on the course. No hills at all. Niiiiice. I guess people in Chico don't like giving up any room on the line, though, so after a couple death glares as I made my way to the front (including a couple from kids &/or ladies that had no business being on the line) I made my way to the second row and had to run around about a dozen of them after the gun to get in behind the leader. From this point on, this was pretty much a repeat of No Excuses in May (go out fast, do some dirty phone breathing for a couple miles, hold on for dear life) but with slightly faster splits. I was in 2nd from 0.1-0.7, got passed by (eventual) 1st & 2nd place about 3-4 minutes in, & by timing guru & 45 year-old stud Rich Hannah at the bridge at mile 1.3. I stuck to him for most of the remainder of the race, and we were both catching the early leader at the end (who ended up third)...only 2.6 seconds ahead of Rich in 4th, & 4.8.seconds in front of me in 5th. Man those 6 seconds per sure would've come in handy. As it was, I ran 5:09, 5:19, 5:16, :30+ for a 16:15.0 & 5th place in the deepest Bidweel field in recent years (16:15 would've been #2, #1, or #2 the last 3 years). Inhaling my gum 7 minutes in provided the only entertainment of the morning. Robert came in just ahead of his son Callan (who he'd been pacing) at 20:44, and 12 year old Callan narrowly missed a pr at 21:18, and won his age group. Neel had a nice run in the half, & we even had lunch with a few other Grass Valley runners as well. For me, it was my first official age-graded 80 of the year (first since the Davis TT in November), but I still have work to do to either break 16:00 or dare I say a pr. That would mean cutting 25 seconds. Unlikely, but possible if I can ever hea up a bit without starting over fitness-wise...again! I had a great interval workout yesterday, but pissed the knee off all over again after a stair workout today. Nothing hard, but it's not happy. PT was a joke. Usually it'll feel like it helped for at least the rest of the night and you wake up feeling the same. Today I knew before I left that ot hadn't done any good. Oh well...Friday we leave for Portland, and an 8k where the leader may break 24 freakin minutes. Hope I can find my A game before then (I'd settle for a B+).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Folsom Winter Trail Run Series Finale

start of the 7 1/2 miler
a few minutes in, before any of the hills
the start of the short course
Dave & Ben (respectively) just before the turn
coming back, less than 2 miles from the end of the series

Dave & I conned (I mean, persuaded) Ben to come with us for this one. He'd actually been to this park before, but hadn't raced with us since September in New York. This was a good ended up just a hair under 50 degrees and sunny, with a light wind. After the weather we've been having, it couldn't have been much better.
We drove over to Roseville Saturday night. I'd booked a Hyatt (that turned out to only be three weeks old) for $70 on, which has the distinction of not letting you see your hotel 'til you book it. However, being that (as of now) there is only one 3 1/2 star hotel listed in the Rocklin/Roseville/Licoln area, this would be it. When we arrived, I requested a room with two beds (since Hotwire also does not allow you to specify the # of beds you'd like). Not an upgrade, just two beds. What we got (for $70 after tax) was a two-room suite with two queens in one room, & a sectional couch, computer table, fridge, etc, in the other. Did I mention that it was only a $70 room? By the time we got settled in (after another great meal [and a mojito] at the Elephant Bar on Sunrise) it was 9:45...15 minutes 'til the hot tub closed. We really needed a soak, though, as my knee decided to wait 'til Saturday to get angry this week, which meant no recovery time if I wanted to run. So - we went down to the pool, tried the room key. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing. Dave & I figured they had closed down the pool early since it was empty (which isn't ok) & I told myself that as I hopped the fence & let Dave in. We had a nice soak for 15 minutes, & went back to the room for the night.
The FWTRS races start between 9-9:30, depending on distance, so we had plenty of time to relax in the morning. I figured I'd get in another quick soak in the tub, but again, the key didn't work. When I inquired about room keys gaining access to the pool, I was told that they wouldn't work, because the hotel was so new, and the pools hadn't been certified yet, and as such, were still closed. Oops. Now that soak the night before seemed even better. We had a little coffee & bagels instead and headed to Beals Point State Park for race #8 in the series. I really didn't know this time around wether or not I'd be able to run 'til I started the warm-up. The first steps were very tentative, & turning &/or climbing (even over a curb) was kind of a joke, but things got better as I ran. I did most of the short course (muddy in a few fun spots but not too bad) and headed back for the 9:15 start. Dave & Ben would do the short course 15 minutes after I took off.
I felt good enough at the start, and went out relaxed. I didn't want to be too aggressive at first, especially if it wasn't necessary. I resisted the urge to check over my shoulder, but had a comfy lead by the short course turn. Of course, things hadn't gotten interesting yet. We'd gone up and over one decent size hill at mile 1, & a steep, short, muddy hill at the turn, but the real fun was the water tower hill. I was running the flats and downhills agressively now, and ran controlled hard up the hills. Footing was pretty good for the most part, & I only tried to run off the course twice. By the time I was back on the short course, I was feeling good, like I hadn't come close to overextending myself, which is always nice, & (after catching Ben right before the last little hill) came across the line in between 46:16-46:19. About 40 seconds better than when we ran here in the storm. I had my trail shoes on & was off on my cool-down before the watch read 50:00 (& before my knee told me to skip it) and got to see lots of others out there on all three courses. Bryan Hacker was the next guy in my race, & ended up 6:05 back. Kirk Ferris was winning the long course comfortably (he also won by 6:05-weird!) and in doing so, locked up 2nd overall in the men's points race. Dave was 35th on the short course with a time of 30:52 & earned 68.25 points. Ben came in shortly after, placing 43rd with a time of 32:47 (64.26 points).
Of course it wouldn't be a trip worth taking without the obligatory brewery visit. We went to Rubicon in downtown Sac for the second time this season, this time for the "beers of California" to mark the end of Sacramento Beer Week. Several goodies, but the standouts were North Coast Old Stock, Rubicon Hop Sauce, & Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. Abby met us there (and drove us home) & I'm hoping she was thoroughly entertained before we all fell asleep in the car.
It looks like the series results are in, and for me, one of my season goals has been met. I've actually been trying to go through a series undefeated for a few years now. In the Gold Country Grand Prix's first year (2006) I'd been cruising, 'til injuries got the best of me, and I failed to win any of the final three races of the year. In early 2007, I was still getting back in shape after a long time off, but had surprised my self with a couple wins. That ended in May, when future relay teammate Brandon Neid beat the crap out of me on a tough 5k course. I got him back at the end of the year Turkey Trot but the Van-dammage was done. 7 first place finishes, one second. 2008 held promise. I'd been racing well since the previous fall & (almost) made it through the year without any of the chronic injuries becoming unmanageable. But...after what was possibly my best race of the year (a 34 minute "Colors" 10k, I made my hip angry, & eventually piched my sciatic nerve during a TRT run the following weekend. In survival mode now, I once again was beat by Brandon, this time in the series finale again preventing the undefeated season. I only ran two of the GCGP races in '09, & only started the Folsom Trail series because Bizz Johnson directors never got back to me to let me know if the half was sold out. So instead, Dave & I drove to Folsom that weekend, & were instantly sold on the series. That first race ended up being my toughest test, as one of the previous series winners caught up to me right at the top of the final descent. Luckily, as I'd been slacking for a mile or so, I had enough of a kick to win by 12 seconds. The gap was bigger in the others, but as the season went on, I was once again beggining to exist in survival mode...dropping from the long to the short course 5 weeks ago due to illness, and not knowing 'til last minute the last two races if I'd even be able to run. I'm hoping to be able to continue on with some physical therapy, as there are super fun events coming in March, April, & May that I reheheally don't want to miss.
For the series, I ended up running 5 short courses, 2 intermediate courses, & 1 long course. Two scores were dropped, & two were worth double so in the end I earned 800/800. Dave ran 7 of the 8 races, all on the short course, & had his best effort during a double points race. He ended up with 508.72 points, placing 35th overall (out of 615 individual runners), was the 13th male (of 278) & was 5th in the 40-49 age group, which ended up being the deepest in the men's field. Congrats to all the others who completed the series, and a big GIANT thank you to Diane & everyone else at Breakoutracing, who have been great through the whole season. It was a pleasure doing this series in large part because of the great staff & volunteers that made it so enjoyable. I know it's a lot of work, but you guys make it worth it for everyone. THANKS!
Hopefully, next weekend I'll be in Chico on Saturday trying not to get smoked in the Bidwell Classic 5k, & the awards party for this series is the following day. Should be a fun weekend...may have to fit a beer or two in there somewhere...
Here's a link to the series results-