Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shortest Comeback EVER!

Well...instead of jerkin around for a week, or two, or four, I tested out my foot to see if the short break from running (12 days) and week in das boot made for rapid healing. The short version? It did not. A 4 miler at warm-up pace on Friday started out poor, but loosened as I went. Sunday, quite the opposite. After an opening mile of 5:40 (half marathon race pace on a good day) on this rolling course in South Lake Tahoe, the wheels started to come off. Every uphill the second half was a deathmarch, and I managed to run splits of 8:47/9:19 for the race (and it was a double loop of the same course!). I didn't bother with a cooldown. By that point I'd do more harm than good, and I didn't even want to stand on that foot, let alone run on it. I have no idea at this point what it'll take to heal up, and even then, for how long. It's not like I haven't played this game many times before. The difference this time??? It's my left (surgically repaired) Achilles that's amking walking a chore. This is the first time over the last 6 years that's been the case...
Anywho, results are up at http://www.capitalroadrace.com/results/2011_TADF_SUN_OVL.HTM
Pictures are on the Thin Air Distance Festivals facebook page.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blood, Sweat & Beers 2011

Last weekend was a trail run in Auburn that I'd signed up for well in advance, which was a good thing, since it sold out. The bad part was that I was squarely injured by the time it rolled around, but not ready to throw in the towel just yet. With the family and dave, we stayed in Grass Valley on Saturday night and celebrated Betty's 63rd birthday. I may have posted something on Facebook to the effect of "Evil Betty turns 93 today"...but as of now it's an unconfirmed rumor.
I figured this course would be close in difficulty to the Resolution Run 10k I ran from Outlook Park a few years ago, and as luck would have it, the start (at Railhead Park) was right down the street. I knew for a fact that if I had a chance of winning this race I'd need a decent lead at the bottom, roughly 3 miles in. There was one (rather large) felloe who took off like a bat outta hell at the gun, but Camron & I rightfully guessed he was not a threat, and after a few minutes of flat grass and downhill, we were alone. I took the lead and hit the singletrack first, which was the best part of the course. It went back up a little, but not enough to kill me off yet, then rolled along an aquaduct for a while over packed dirt, roots, and rocks. I steeped aside to let Camron by on one of the short but steep downhill bombs (I was wearing road shoes so had to back off briefly on a couple of these). He'd get a bit of a lead, and I'd reel him in when the course mellowed out. But, because of that, I was already in a deficit when the real climbing started, and immediately fell back. I pretty much ran alone the whole way up, only briefly catching a glimpse of Camron speeding away up the hill.
That's not entirely true, I guess. We did have to pass a ridiculous amount of slower long-course runners, so I had some company, just not the kind I'd like. That was my only complaint about the race. The wave starts made for lots of weaving, waiting, and ducking to get around people going nowhere near the same speed on a singletrack trail. Other than that, a great race, and one I hope to do again. HEALTHIER!
Camron destroyed me up the hill. From even at the bottom to a 56 second deficit less than 3 miles later (the course was 5.8-5.9 miles with 1400 feet of elevation change). Camron ran about a minute off Rich Hannas course record, with me in 2nd, and 3rd place nearly another 6 minutes back.
We had a couple brews from Hoppy and a burger while waiting for Dave to finish the long course (10.5) and played with a pug named Pancake. In the days since, I've had to stop running alltogether, though. Between getting slower every week and the pain at best not going away (and probably getting worse) it was just time. Hopefully the rest of the year isn't screwed. I can't say I'm incredibly optimistic for 2011 given the chronic mind-numbing soul-crushing repetitive nature of my issues. Not to mention I started back in PT a couple weeks ago for my right Achilles, and it's the left one that is now imobilized and preventing me from running. So, maybe some silence on the blog for a while, but hopefully not too long.

results: http://www.capitalroadrace.com/results/2011_BSB_SC_OVL.HTM

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Presidio Cross Country Challege

These are at the top of "Sandy Hill"...that's why Dave looks like he's birthing twins!

A challenge indeed! I was wondering what it would take to get a 29-30 minute 10k runner to run a 17:22 5k. Is the course long? If not, it must be pretty stinkin hilly! Well...option 2 it is. Long would've been better for me. Hills (climbing) has not been my strong suit all year, and since July 6th my right Achilles has limited my ability to ascend even more. Just for fun, I decided the left one needs to be hurt too, so that one has been on the fritz since mid-last week. So...going in, the story would be my quickly evaporating confidence, not so much what the course was like or who I'd be running against. I honestly didn't feel like I'd be able to do much going in, and if you're already beat mentally...well...it's not ideal. I absolutely LOVE running in the Bay area, though, so feeling strong or not, this was going to be a fun trip.
Abby was partying it up in Sacramento for her 13 year class reunion, the kids were in Grass Valley, and Dave & I were staying in the lap of luxury in Vallejo, at a Motel 6. Noteworthy here is that it was even the cheaper of the TWO Motel 6's in Valejo. The vagabond sentry as we pulled in was not quite as entertaining as the filthy man in the lobby who was requesting his room be changed for the third time. Please don't give me one of his cast-offs...please? As luck would have it, our room was spartan, but clean, and you could even open the door all the way without hitting the bed (see: Motel 6, Escondido, CA). We were only there to sleep after all. First thing in the morning it was another 40 minute drive over the Bay Bridge to the Presidio, made famous by the somehow NOT-award-winning Mark Harmon/Sean Connery movie of the same name :)
Back to the race. In my feeble mental state, I had to have noticed every CA State Cross-Country shirt, College Cross Country shirt, and every other peice of gear that made me wonder just how many people were going to kick my butt that morning. When the race started, just like back in the school days, lots of traffic up front. We started on a grass field for about 40-50 yards, before a quick left and a climb as soon as we hit the dirt. I started out in about 15th, but as soon as the sprinters slowed down, moved up to 8th or 9th by the base of the climb. I don't think this first hill had a name. We went up and over, and down Sandy Hill (which we had to run back up near the end). This hill was even slow going down. If you've ever run on the beach you know what I mean. Over the next few minutes, I slowly passed a couple runners and was in 6th place at the mile mark. So far not too taxed, but a couple runners already had a decent sized lead on the field. We climbed back up behind the start and started the bigger of the two loops with, you guessed it, another climb. I was still feeling good enough to pet a dog as we passed (it didn't hurt that I was going slow enough that I didn't really have to slow down to do so). After mile one, we had a beautiful but brief ocean view, with the Golden Gate off in the corner, a long descent, and a 180 turn at the bottom. This was the half way point of the race. I had moved up a couple more spots to third/fourth at the half, pretty much out of contention for a win. I started back up "Long Hill" (there were 3 named hills...Sandy, Long, and Steep) and was quickly passed. Back in 4th with not much power being generated by the lower half. Back down to the start I regained most of the ground lost on the last climb, and I hit the flat sand section before Sandy Hill redux hoping just to stay close on the climb, and I'd be able to pass on the downhill/flat honestretch.
To my surprise I actually managed a pass about a quarter of the way up, held it over the crest, and extended the lead over the last quarter mile. I was gaining slightly on 2nd place, but was too far behind to make a move. I ended up 3rd in a pretty accurate (3.13) 5k in 18:51...13 seconds ahead of 4th, 16 behind 2nd, and 37 off 1st. Thus ends my odd little streak of 1/2 finishes going back to last Decemeber.
For those unfamiliar with DSE Runners, if you are ever in San Francisco and have an itch to race, they are there nearly 50 weekends a year to scratch it for you! Not only that...the courses vary, they are super cheap ($5!!) and they are some of the friendliest people you are likely to meet (though I think the running community in general is more friendly than most). I've done two of their races in the past year and hope to do many more. They were even nice enough to provide the exquisite photography you see above :)
Dave ran pretty well, figuring that this course was about 15-20% slower than a fast road 5k. Depends who you go by...I think my sub-16 self left about 30 seconds out there on the course, but I just didn't have it that day. On one hand, I was 1:29 slower than last year's CR setter, who is just about that much faster than me on my good day. On the other hand, the guys in front of me are of a speed I've run in the recent past (and hopefully the near future). Dave was under 30:00 on a course that had few fast spots and many slow ones, and finished quite strong after the punishing Sandy Hill.
This week I'll be climbing much more than I'd like once again at the Blood Sweat and Beers trail runs in Auburn. After an aborted speed attemp today, I'm hoping to get one quality run in before then...
Thanks to DSE, and to Sue & Eric, who came to the race to cheer us on, and took us out to a wonderful breakfast at the Presidio Social Club afterwards.
Beer Revolution...quit selling long expired beer!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Saucony Kinvara & Peregrine First Impressions

Still trending minimal, I'd been looking for additional road and trail options as my heavier stiffer shoes reach the end of the line. I wanted one as an everyday type road & tradmill shoe to compliment the Nike Free 3.0 (which I love) and an off roader to compliment the New Balance MT 101 (which I also love but on some trails I want juuust a bit more...and I'd like to save these for racing).
I never quite fell in love with the New Balance Minimus Road shoe, and as of yet, I can't wear the Minimus Trail for more than a few miles (less if it's a rocky trail) or that one would be my racer. So...went to Eclipse Running (on Lakeside and McCarran - open 7 days a week!!!) and chose the Kinvara over the slightly heavier but also super comfy Saucony Mirage. At 7.7 ounces, it's barely heavier than the Free, and lighter than almost all non-racing flats. The main difference is that it is SUPER soft...like Charmin for your feet. Makes a great first impression, but I can see how it may be too much cushion for some, even in the ultra lite package. The upper fits great, and there were no hot spots to speak of. They handled double digit miles right outta the box.
The Saucony Peregrine is an odd duck. In no man's land as far as weight goes (9.8 oz...heavier than the New Balance minimal trail shoes, but also far more shoe to them) with a lower heel than the MT 101. Not a support shoe or motion control shoe by any stretch, but they do manage to have a substantial feel to them, and again, a ton of cushion. Over 9 miles, I felt a rock or two...kinda sort of. Under 10 ounces would've been one of the lightest trail shoes on the market a couple years ago, but with 7.5-8 oz options everywhere now, these don't feel all that fast if you're used to the uber-light ones. I wouldn't race in them, but they will serve well me thinks as a relatively light and very agile everyday trail runner. I can see my self doing 90% of my trail training in these, and racing in the 101's.
Overall strong first impression for both of these! Thanks Chuck. Maybe I'm turning into a Saucony man...still diggin the Hattori for road races as well. But the Nike Free, Lunarcers, and a couple New Balance shoes are right up there too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Firecracker Mile

Flashback to 2000. I'm still healthy and a year from being a collegiate 1500 meter runner. I sign up for the Firecracker Mile because road miles are fairly uncommon, and this one is unique. It's run at 6300 feet elevation in Truckee, CA. To compensate for this, it's downhill from about a 100 yards in to the 1k mark. For that half mile you think you're flying. Then, it flattens out. Maybe even climbs juuuust a few feet back up. The last stretch sucks. Your arms and legs feel like bricks as you run out of usable oxygen. 11 years ago, I got passed just before the line, slowing badly. I still remember that race because it's THE most I've ever hurt after any race of any distance. Of course recovery is faster, but the pain more intense. If anyone out there doesn't think running a mile is as hard or harder than a 5k, 10k, whatever...you need to run harder. Sure, you can jog a mile and it's a peice of cake. But if you are going as hard as you can go, every distance from a 400 meter oval on up has it's lung and leg-searing pain. Sounds like fun, right? Yeah, I thought so too, so after a decade or so of not racing anything this fast or this short, I thought I'd give it another try.
I'd even thrown some 200's in on my speed days to remember what running faster than 2m/5k pace feels like. A 4:29 on the tread was hard, but I knew there was another gear there. However, transfering to road, I just wanted to be under 4 1/2 and keep my odd little streak of top 2 finishes going. Most years it takes a sub-4:20 to win this bad boy, and I had no dillusions of being able to run as fast as I did in 2000. It's funny seeing the body adapt as one gets older (I can't run as fast now, but can hold closer to top speed for longer).
Anywho, last week was a good one. A quality interval day on Wednesday followed by a 2011 5k pr on Friday, and...an extra day off after that last hard day due to the race being on the Monday holiday. I felt good going in, but have to admit, my pre-race nerves are getting the best of me these days. After struggling for a couple weeks, I questioned myself when the warm-up didn't feel as good as I would have liked (this one week after contemplating dropping out of a race). I think it's in my head, which can be your best friend or worst enemy. Sometimes it feels as though no matter how many good days you have, there's always that confidence-shaking, soul crushing bad day (or week, etc...) to make you question your ability...your readiness. But once that gun goes off, all that flies out the window.
Running a mile is like playing third base. Not a whole lot of time to react, or strategize. It's just bang! Go! It didn't help I had my weight on my back foot when the gun went off (sorry about that Fred...next time I'll get behind you). Not quite a sprint, though, so I didn't overreact. I made my way through the kids and the sprinters in the first 100 yards, and settled into third. I picked the right guy to tuck behing because another hundred later, he was leading and I was right on him. About half-way through the downhill section I took the lead. I had no idea how fast we were going and held back just enough so maybe I could run strong til the end. We went under I-80 at just past the halfway mark, and through the roundabout before the course flattened out again. Still 600 or so to go, still in front, and feeling ok. More trouble with the lungs than the legs so far, which is just fine. For a race this short, you can ignore the lungs as long as the legs are still churning. I hadn't even glanced at the watch, and didn't dare look behind me. I knew there was a pack right on my tail, and the crowd let me know too. The pace slowed as the elevation caught up to us, and the last quarter mile became an exercise in survival. It was no longer about a good split, but running fast enough to not get passed. It was all I could do to keep the legs moving down the homestretch as oxygen debt set in. It felt like the turnover remained steady by my legs just couldn't manage a full stride.
It was fun to go back and look at the pictures on the race site, and seeing just how close things were. I got a little lucky with a slightly slower, but deep, field, and held on for the win in 4:25.7. Second place was only a second behind, and third just another couple ticks. Not much room for error there.
I had some tunnel vision on that last stretch, so didn't really hear or see where the family was. Just looking for the finish line! Abby figured it might be a good idea to come to me, which she did, after they got me to stop clogging the finish chute. Pretty intense burning lung and leg pain for a few minutes after, but it didn't last, and I'd paced myself a little better than last time. Betty, Abby, my parents, and the kids stuck around for part of the parade, and I got to see the rest of TLD fresh from their own race (Big Blue Run to the Beach), though since their race started late, they missed mine. Nothing like seeing Dave beer in hand cheering "first woman" as I pass by. Maybe next time...
Pretty cool to see Gretchen sprinting home to 3rd place just over 8 days after finishing Western States. Hopefully over the next couple weeks I'll build a little base for a succesful half in the fall. No races for 20 days, so getting in a couple long runs will be the goal, preferably up in the mountains. Got off to a good start today with a 12-miler on the TRT at over 7,000 feet!
Results: http://www.squawmountainrun.com/uploads/2011_Firecracker_Mile_Results.2.1.pdf
pics: http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/RUNNING-COMPETITIONS/TRUCKEE-FIRECRACKER-MILE-2011/17881378_HMgcWH#1368266072_jM6tb2x
I'll get Abby's pics up sooner or later :)

AND...I only coughed once during the race (lots after, though).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

At the half way point...

I decided, since I'm running in July for the first time since 2007, to do a 26 week update at the half way point of 2011. It's been an interesting year, training-wise. After things seemed to be coming along, I got sick at the very end of 2010 and took a loooong time to recover. I wasn't really running decent times til March, but even then, after a couple, my times went back up for a while. By mid-May, I was getting back to respectable, and now am on a mission to get back under 16 minutes on a road 5k (and/or 27 in an 8k, 33:30 in a 10k...).
I've been racing lots of short races, and after 26 weeks, have raced 16* times, winning 8 with 2 course records (one thanks to Cap'n Kirk), and getting 2nd place 8 times (the Oakland race I was leading by over a mile before being sent the wrong way is not counted as a race). All 2nds, and wins for that matter, are not created equal. There's a few where I was out of the race from the gun, and others where I had to stay strong through the tape and run a good time to not finish lower. My legs are holding up (by my jacked up standards anyway), and as long as the lung/throat/head issues don't linger too long, there is the potential for this to be my best fall yet.
My training goals for the year are 60 miles and 100 sets of weights per week. I started the year in the 40's, and though I've hit a couple bumps in the road as of late, I've had a few 70+ mile weeks as well. Six months in, I'm at 1515 miles (58.2 per week) and 2820 sets (108.4). The plan is to try and run 60+ on race weeks & 70+ on non-race weeks, and to have a mini taper every 6-8 weeks, and a larger taper every 12-16.
Off the top of my head, my favorite race so far this year has gotta be Steep Ravine (Coastal Trail Runs). Though I gott my a*@ handed to me on the first climb, the course was simply amazing! Specific race goals for the fall are a fast time at the Bizz Johnson Express Half, a personal best in the Run Through the Colors 10k (34:21), a sub 34 at the Tahoe 10k, and whatever other times and races come with that.
July, I've missed you...
I'll leave you with the awesome sign at the log cabin in King's Beach:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1st Annual Run to Squaw

Part two of Big Blue's trail run series, this 7.7, or 7.8, or 7.88 mile course ran (literally) from Commons Beach in Tahoe City into the heart of Olympic Village in Squaw Valley. I don't think you can really beat the start, looking out at the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe, or the finish, with the buildings of the Village looming on all sides. The course wandered on the bike path running alongside the river and Highway 29, before making a left and eventually paralleling Squaw Valley Rd.
I was feeling a little better than last week, but far from all the way back. I still can't get through a run, or typing a blog apparently, without the cough. Still, without any major climbing, I was expecting this race to go better than last week's.
Since Abby was meeting us at Squaw afterwards, we had the luxury of bypassing the shuttle from the finish, and we drove to the start to have a warm place to sit after picking up our packets at Squaw. It was 38 at that time, though by race time it was pretty nice (save for one shady section in the middle where you could still see your breath). I decided to test the Saucony Hattori's by racing in them, though they'd never gone more than 3-4 miles before. They held up well. My feet? Not so much. My left one got pretty torn up, though I didn't notice until afterwards, but it had more to do with me not wearing socks than the shoes not handling the distance. They proved to be more than adequate...I just have to find a nice pair of low, ultra thin black socks for race days. Any suggestions?
Anywho, we took off just after 7:45 from the beach, and after a little zig-zagging got on the river path. I got in the lead right away, but held back on the first hill of the beach before setting what I thought would be a good, reasonable pace. About, oh, three minutes later though, I knew sub 5:40 wasn't gonna happen. I backed off just a little, though I was a little ticked to be doing so this early. I was struggling though. Whether it was the altitude, the leftover black lung, heavy legs, mental sissyness (yes, it's a word!) or some combination of all of those, I actually considered dropping out between mile two and three. Abby told me that would have been a first since the comeback. I've got lost, wooped, won, and everything in between, but it's been a looooong time since I DNFd. In the end, though, I wanted to keep my Man-Card, and kept on keepin on. I stayed in the lead all the way through the turn towards Squaw, though I was being stalked the whole time. I resisted the urge to look and see who it was that I couldn't seem to shake. Until we turned left...then I peeked. Gaaa!!! It was Shia Lebouf!!
Actually, Noah Brautigam, younger brother of stud Reno runner August Brautigam. Apparently, bad-assedness runs in the family. Seriously though, he looks like Mr. LeBouf, if Mr. LeBouf was more athletic...& cooler (he did just say he had a thing with Megan Fox, so I guess he deserves some slack, though). There was just enough of a hill after that turn to take me further into distress than I wanted to go, and within a half mile (after being cut-off by a car) I was caught. I made a valiant effort to stay with Noah for a whole minute(!)...and...drafted off him for another 30 seconds or so, before hitting the wall with less than 8 minutes to go. I'd say that for a few minutes my pace dropped from what had been a 5:40 something average to well above 6 1/2 pace. I managed to pull my head out of my...er...back-side orifice, and closed the gap from 30-31 seconds to 17 at the end, but the damage was done. Noah ran a 45:02, and me a 45:19, for 1st & 2nd.
I went back on-course for a fairly short cool-down, and saw Turi was doing well. He'd end up 8th. We continued on til we saw Dave and paced him into the line right around 72 minutes. I'd like to run this again healthy, but the Oktoberfest version is on a Saturday. Maybe next summer, though...taking a minute or two off seems possible if I can stay at it for a year.
We spent the rest of the morning at the beach, then Abby surprised me with an overnighter at the Borderhouse in Crystal Bay. The Borderhouse that used to be Lake Tahoe Brewing Company, and Lake Tahoe Brewing Company that ised to be a brothel (he he). Good ol' Groupon came through with a pretty sweet deal on this one. Thanks dear! I even magaed to shuffle up Brockway Summit and hit the TRT for a few miles the next morning. And thanks Fred, for joining me for my warm-up and hanging with us afterwards.
Next up...hopefully ridding myself of the black lung (antibiotics are all gone and the cough syrup has one more dose) and putting together a good mile on the 4th! Til then...
Had to make sure Abby's shirt fit!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Altitude, Arse Kickings & Cough Syrup...or..."Why I ran in somebody else's shoes."

The Cliff Notes: Got sick. Still ran. Got "lost" before run. Ran in demo shoes. Got whooped. Gave shoes back. Still sick.
The story: Here I am all excited because I'm signed up for four races ahead of time. Those that know me know this is rare. Because I've been so injury prone for the last few years, I generally don't sign up for any races ahead of time. It's caused me to miss a few that fill up, but on the other hand, I've also been burned by signing up far ahead of time and never making the start. So...as of last week I was signed up for the Burton Creek 10*k, The Run to Squaw next week, The (Truckee) Firecracker Mile on 7/4, and Blood, Sweat, & Beers a couple weeks later. I guess I was just excited to be racing into summer that I may have gotten carried away.
My last two races, both short and fast (as well as paved and at sea level) were probably my two best of the year. I knew hills (specifically climbing) were not my strength going into last week's Burton Creek Trail Run, but given my recent fitness and the fact that only one person was within 4 minutes at this race last year (even with Kirk & I's 900m detour), I thought I had a chance at defending. Then I got the black lung (ala Derek "freak gasoline fighting accident" Zoolander). I'd had a head cold and sore throat before Fitch Mountain, but got a repreive a couple days before the race, and felt great. But come Tuesday, the sore throat was replaced with the black lung. As of Friday, I was on what I'm assuming is the world's best cough syrup (since it cost $22.75 for a tiny arse bottle with insurance) and as of today, a fast acting antibiotic in case it's bronchitis or some other lung infection.
Anyway, I didn't have a lot of mojo going into the race, but like last year, all of TLD (Turi, Dave, Amber & myself) were signed up, and there's no way I'm backing out of a race if there's even a glimmer of hope I'll run well. We carpooled up plenty early with a cooler full of food & beer for after. Salomon was the sponsor this year (last year Turi ran in a pair of Merrell demos). I'd packed my New Balance MT101's to race in, but was intrigued by the look of the Salomon FellCross, an agressively lugged cross country runner.
They were lighter than any other Salomon I've ever worn, though almost 2 ounces heavier than my New Balance, but the tread was unparraleled. They skipped over rocks and trees, and through the mud, with quite a bit of agility. So, I warmed-up in a pair. Because the female contingent of TLD insists on "before and after" race pics of the team, I skipped my planned loop warm-up for an out and back. The problem was, I need a mulligan on the "back" portion of said warm-up. I took a wrong turn (shocking I know) at an unknown fork, and ended up hitting road about 10 minutes til 9:00. Not the road the race site was on. Not the road that hits that road, or the one that hits that road. After going the direction I thought would get me back to the race before it started (not so much) I waved down a passing car and shared my...um...dilema. 3 minutes til go time. Frick! Anyway, they were nice enough to give me a quick lift, but also didn't know quite where in the hell we were going. Eventually (9:02 on my watch) they dropped me at the 7-11 I knew lead to the race, so I ran it in the rest of the way, throwing my heavier gear at Turi's car as I passed, yelling at the Salomon guys "heycanIwearyourshoesintheracethanks" and getting to the line at 9:07! I figured I was spotting everyone a few minutes, was still planning on running hard anyway, but to my surprise there were still people milling around the start. Apparently the marathoners & halfers took off at 9:00, with the short-coursers going 12-13 minutes later. NEVER have I been so happy for a late start. Others weren't so happy, since the races were all advertised to go off together like last year, so some people had warmed up and stood around for 10-15 minutes. Not me, but I wouldn't have missed the stress from thinking I missed the start.
The race itself was pretty uneventful. The 5k (3.8 miles) & the 10k (7.6, two loops) took off together. One rather tall gentleman (pictured below after his victory) took off like it was a flat 5k, with myself and one other guy not-quite-chasing him down. We broke away from the pack pretty quick, and after the first climb the lead stabilized. Until the big climb that is. The other two (the eventual 5k & 10k winners), who were even by now, pretty much dropped me for good on the first major climb. It basically wrecked me for the day because it happened so easily and my body had no response. I ran in no man's land in second. Nobody in sight in front or behind for most of the first loop and none of the second, save for the marathoners we caught and 5kers we lapped. It was hard to push past the edge of pain, being alone (and mentally broke). I hit lap one just under 25 minutes, and lap two just over, for a 50:27...three minutes off first, and eight minutes ahead of second, with a whole bunch of runners finishing between 58-61 minutes. Last year's splits were 25 (a shorter loop but with an off-course detour of 3 1/2-4 minutes) and a 23.
Amber ended up 3rd in her AG in the 7.6 miler, with Turi (2nd/6th) & Dave running the 14.6 mile half-marathon. We enjoyed our picknick lunch, but I beleive I was in bed just after the kids at 8-8:30, and I'll be repeating that again tonight. The most frustrating part is that my legs don't even feel taxed today. For a race that hilly, they should be trashed, but my lungs just didn't let me go hard enough to really pound (though I sure felt like I was going hard at the time). I'll get another chance on a paved course at Squaw this week, but as of today, I'm still hacking and losing my voice. Hopefully, the antibiotic is better than the cough syrup :) So far 34 sucks...sick on my Bday and Father's Day??? C'mon man...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fitch Mountain III

The second weekend in June means the annual trek to Healdsburg for the Fitch Mountain Footrace. This was my third straight year, a minor miracle considering how the Month of June has gone for me since I started racing again in 2006. Here's the recap...injured '06, running '07, injured '08, injured '09, injured '10, and then this year. I think Fitch was one of my last two races before a prolonged break each of the last two years. So far so good this time around. Nothing hurts more than it did last week!
Anyway, it's become a pattern for me to do the 3k here. It's the only race shorter than 5k that I'll generally run, so the goal is usually to do it noticeably faster than goal 5k pace. The course isn't flat, but is still pretty fast and definitely faster than the 10k, which has a much longer climb. You generally start a block from the town square, run a rectangle, and finish about a minute from where you start. All 3 "rollers" are in the first half of the race, so if you do it right, you should have a negative split. This was the case in 09, when I was in 16:30 5k shape and won in 9:29. I had stiffer competition last year from Peter Egerton, a former Cal runner right around my age, and won in 9:15 while in 15:50 shape. You'll notice the discrepency between the 3k times and 5k times. While I ran great for my fitness level in 09, last year was a little slower (comprably, not litterally) because Peter and I started too fast and paid for it before the end. He was back this year, which was nice. We even got to run some Santa Rosa off-road on Tuesday morning!
When the gun went off, lots o young'ns bolted up front, but only briefly. A hundred yards in, I was in the lead at a good pace, with Peter off my right shoulder. We were both hoping this meant the sub-9:00 2-miler in the field was running the 10k (he was...YAY). We handled the first hill better, trading the lead. I'd get a stride up on the roll down, and by the end of the third one had the lead for good. We made a right at the park, and though my lungs we're heaving, my legs felt good, and I picked up the pace slightly on the flats. The slightly downhill stretch before the last turn seemed a tad shorter than usual and went by fast since I wasn't dying. I got to the homestretch in the lead and feeling good, though oxygen debt had started in. Then I saw the clock. 8:whaaaaaaaaa??? No way in hell I'm under 9 minutes. I knew there was room to improve this year, although I'm almost 20 seconds slower over 5k so far this year, simply because I hadn't run this race well, but 16+ seconds? No way. That was confirmed as I approached the finish with the clock not only under 9, but still in the 8:30's! They officially gave me an 8:40 (though you'll notice in the pictures, particularly the one where I am 2 strides PAST the guy at the finsish line, that the clock still reads 8:39!!!). Peter, who has run well under 9 plenty of times (me just barely, and only once or twice a long long time ago), but back when grunge music was all the rage, came in 12 seconds later. We both knew the course was short. He's marked the course before and we still couldn't figure out what was missing, but we knew we didn't just run 4:40 pace for nearly 2 miles. So...we cooled down on-course backwards, and sure enough, we saw the short block that was missed, by ALL the runners, not just the leaders. There had been arrows and volunteers at every other turn, but they missed one. We sped up and timed it at 14 seconds (x 2) and Peter later mapped it a hair under 0.05 (x2)...So the course was 1.76+ instead of 1.86 miles.
So while we didn't run in the 8's, we both improved improved our times from last year, and for me, that's a 2011 first! Call me anal, but I'm going with a time of 8:39 (I was at least that fast with photographic freakin evidence - kiss my patooti 8:40!) which translates to a 9:07-9:08 3k. I'll go with 9:08. There. 4:54+ per mile. Age graded that is right there with my 5k in the mid 81's, but...I can only age grade a 3000 time based on track standards, not road. In a 5k, there's a significant difference between the two, with the track being a faster standard, so given a few extra seconds, I ran somwhere in the age graded 82-83 range. I know this means absolutely nothing to some of you, and for that I apologize, but I'll take everything I can get, and I'll definitely take 7 seconds faster than last May! Now, to get back under 16 minutes in the five...
Abby's parents were kind enough to stay with Rocco & Hannah, so this was actually a long weekend for us. We stayed at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn in north Healdsburg. Super nice place (a stark contrast to the last BW Dave & I stayed in) and to our immmediate west was the wine road leading to the Dry Creek & Russian River Valleys. I did some scouting during a longish run Monday morning, and Abby & I tasted wine & awesome food the rest of the day. I didn't eat very...er...athletically Sunday. After having a chicken salad at Bear Republic, we had hot wings and two spicy pizzas at 3rd Street Aleworks & Russian River later that day, but dang was it goooood. Anyway, I behaved Monday so I could still move this week, and after a hilly trail run with Peter on Tuesday and one last dip, we were off. Back to the real world.
Just as I'm falling in love with the new Saucony Hattori's as a short distance racer, we'll be off-road and at elevation for a while, which they are most definitely not designed for. The next two races are part of the Big Blue Series...the Burton Creek 10k* (*closer to 7 miles than 10k), the 7.9 run from Tahoe City to Squaw's Olympic Village the next week, and the downhill but at 6400 feet Firecracker Mile in Truckee on July 4th. Hopefully I'll see a few of you out there...

Of course STONE is the one to do this, because they are the best!

Stone distributors were given an opportunity to test out a new freshness application this spring. Stone plans to roll this program out to consumers as evidenced by the recent back label approval for Stone IPA. Drinkers can go online and alert the brewery as to when and where they discover old beer in the marketplace. The link is not yet live.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No Excuses 5k version 2011

video link: http://results.bazumedia.com/athlete/index/e/583419

Once again we found ourselves at William Land Park in Sacramento for the mother of all age graded 5ks. The weather tried for perfection, and would have acheived it, save for the wind that kept this flat but winding course quite interesting. Dave travelled with myself, Abby, & the kids, we got our usual pre-race eats at Noodles & Co. in Roseville, and stayed at the Hyatt Place right up the street. LOVE this hotel, even if there were a few scores of adolecent softball players staying there during their softball tourney.
I'd be breaking a cardinal rule of sorts by wearing not only a new pair of shoes on race day, but a type of shoe I'd never worn before. I had gone into Eclipse to inquire about ordering a pair of Nike Mayfly's, a very minimal 4.5 oz racing flat that I've grown fond of over the years. They were, however, unloading Reno's first shipment of the Sauciny Hattori, a similarly flyweight shoe that also happens to be the first zero drop heel from any of the major shoe companies. Even the New Balance Minimus line has a 4 mm drop from heel to toe. Outside of that, I figured these were kind of a Mayfly/Minimus Hybrid. I ran in em for 100 yards, brought em home, and hid them for the rest of the week, wanting a mental boost from putting on the slipper-like shoes right before race time. I put on a couple small patches of moleskin on, to cover any potential hot spots, but I don't think there were any. The upper is supple and fits like a glove, while the sole allowed for more groundfeel than I thought it would, but had enough cushion to make the 5k comfortable.

Onto the race. Almost. Everybody knows how a bad day or two can do a hatchet job on your confidence. Or am I just a head case?? Don't answer that. I'd had one of those days last weekend, running a 10k that seemed to be a step backwards from what I was doing several weeks ago...prior to a LOT of hard quality training. Between that and all manner of nagging owies (that's right...owies!) I really was a bit of a head case going into this one, even during the warm-up for crying out loud. I tried not to, but still noticed several runners at the start who'd kicked my bum either very recently or in the not too distant past. Too many for my liking. But, I talked myself into taking the positive route...they would drag me along for a faster time. I didn't really care how I placed in this one as much as what the clock said at the end. That's usually the case on any course that's either fast or that you have a previous time or two to compare & contrast. I'd run 16:32 here in 2009, placing 4th or 5th (before age/gender grading) and ran a 15:51 last year, placing 3rd by a scarce 6 seconds after going out too fast. With all the turns on this course, it would be very hard to tell what your splits even meant with the headwind/crosswind/tailwind having it's way with you. All I know is there was a very large pack for the first few minutes. Larger than in year's past. At sometime point around or before mile 1 (which I ran in 5:05 as part of the pack) Scott McEntyre took off, with nobdy making a move to match him. There was still a large chase pack, with each of us jockeying back and forth more times than I can count for position. I spent the majority of the race in 3rd & 4th, with 2nd not far up & the rest of the top 10 not far behind. In other words, an actual race, not just a time trial. Like Rocklin, I struggled to hold on near the front of the pack, with several different runners making a bid for the top 3 late into the race. With a mile to go, my breathing was comically ragged. Enough so that I'm sure nobody (myself included) thought I'd be making a move. But that can change when a man gets the end in his sights. Around mile 2.9, upon seeing the 3 mile sign, I changed gears, and attempted to again at mile 3. I was running for my goal time of 16:09 now, though it also wouldn't hurt to not get caught from behind at the tape. Scott was well into the lead at 15:48, but I managed to hold 2nd place with a chip time of 16:06.7 (gun 16:07). 20-21 seconds off last year's peak, but the fastest I've run this year in slightly less than ideal conditions. Getting a couple guys back for earlier butt-kickings is always nice as well, but that can swing back the other way next time out. But a good day is a good day. I'll take it, and as summer draws ever closer (as evidenced by the frikkin hail outside) I am more & more optimistic this just might be a running summer after all. Kinda :)
age & gender graded:
Abby got some great shots of the race, but I'll have to add them in a seperate post when our home pc is working again. Til then, here's a shot from last year's start :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

While spinning this morning, I started thinking (stop it! I do that every so often). The Buzz Oates No Excuses 5k is coming up on Monday, and for the life of me, I can't think of any 5k I've ever done that I enjoy more. This will be my third straight year, which is rare for me, after first running this bad boy in 2009. It also got me thinking about my favorites at other distances, and why that is. Is it the speedy courses? Hills? The scenery? PRs? Is there, say, a world class brewery next door (see below)? In the end, it ends up being a bit of all of those things. Obviously, with limited exposure, especially at the longer distances, there are races I'm missing. If you've got a favorite or favorites, put em in the comment section (yes, you can do that without having a blogger profile)...who knows, you may turn someone on to what will become their favorite race.

*less than 5k: for this catergory, most races are run on the track, and it may be hard to seperate one from another. I don't have a clear favorite here. I never got to run anywhere like, say, Hayward Field in Eugene. I think Chico St, Humboldt, Stanford, and American River JC had nice tracks/stadiums, and we got to travel to Citrus College for state in SoCal and run on the track where the Montreal scenes were filmed for Prefontaine, so that was cool. There's a few short road races I've done that were cool too...the Firecracker Mile, Truckee, CA, July 4th. This is a unique race in that it's downhill for the first 2/3rds, but at about 6300 feet, so beware. Go out too fast and the lack of oxygen will get you. I learned this the hard way in 2000. After getting out dueled at the end, it was so bad my TEETH hurt. But it hurt so good. Honorable mention: New Year's Eve Run (2 miles) Sacramento. Ran at Cal Expo the last time I ran it in 2000/2001. Beat Regina Jacobs (in her off-season I'm sure) before she was outed as a steroid cheat. Running in the dark is cool. Fitch Mountain Footrace (3k) Healdsburg, CA. Will be going back to this race, and neighboring Bear Republic & Russian River Brewing Companies in 3 weeks for the third year running. There's a 10k too.

5k: The most often run distance, but No Excuses was the clear favorite. William Land Park is seemingly custom made for this kind of thing. The course is flat and fast, always well marked and timed, and there's a decent size & competitive field (but not too big). The age and gender grading in the final results give another level of uniqueness to this already awesome race. Can't wait for Monday.
Honorable Mention: Chevy's 5k (Chico &/or Sacramento). This was once an awesome race series, before they got cheap, and I was sad to see it's demise. Ran Sac in 1999 & 2000, and Chico in 1999. Bidwell Classic (Chico, CA) while Chevy's ran from Chevy's and part of the way into lower Bidwell, this one is all in the park, and is just the right size without being too much for the paths, is competitive, and it's just a nice place to run. Davis Turkey Trot.

7k/8k: easy...Bridge to Bridge (also a 12k). Although dimished in size by about 60-70% since I first ran it in the late nineties (record size of about 13,000 in 2000) it's still a large, awesome race. You get to run by many SF landmarks on a course with just one hill and a slight uphill finish, and surprise a few early morning tourists on the way.
Honorable Mention: Shamrock Run (Portland)

10K: another easy pick for me. The Lake Tahoe 10k, run in conjunction with the Marathon events, is just plain awesome. From the view to the course to the people, a great race all around. I still remember flipping the channels a few days after the race - we were watching Rocky IV - and nearly choking on my food when I saw Fox Sports Bay area cut from the marathon leaders to yours truly, leading the 10k pack. I never did get a copy of that footage though. I also haven't been back since running a double 5k/10k in 2000 (it's expensive, but worth it), but I'm planning on it this fall.
Honorable Mention (loaded field): Salmon Run, Nevada City (one of my favorite trail races of all time, RIP. Run Through the Colors, Nevada City (the name says it all). Mare Island to Medusa, Vallejo, CA (for roughly the price of a ticket, we got into the race, were paced by a Corvette, and got entry into the park, in the off-season with ridiculously short lines. A great day made better by our manliest of friends Tom Davidson, known locally as SANDALMAN, after he barfed on the Tazmanian Devil). Run For the Community, Nevada City - sensing a pattern with awesome 10ks in Nevada City. LOVE the course.

12k+: Houlihan's/Across the Bay 12k, San Francisco. Always a fan of the Bay area runs. This one is elite, starts in Sausalito, and after a climb, takes you over the Golden Gate...finishing in the other direction along part of the Bridge to bridge course by Aquatic Park.

Half Marathon: Road? Gotta be Rock N Roll Arizona. Geb set a world record that day, and for about what a concert ticket cost, I got into the race AND got to see one of my favorite bands, Collective Soul, outdoors that night! Trail? Haulin Aspen, Bend, OR. Anytime you get me near Deschutes Brewing, I'm a happy guy, but even though I had a rough time in the race, it was an awesome course, and an even better shirt :) Honorable mention: Bizz Jhonson, a return to my JC alma matter & old stomping grounds, manages to be scenic and kinda sorta fastish. XTerra Hawaii World Championships was pretty cool too - just cause I was out of shape doesn't mean the race wasn't a great one!

Marathon: Again, limited exposure, but Napa has got to take the crown, although Redding is the only one I've returned to (twice after the 1st marathon for the relay). CIM (paced a buddy for half in 1998) is pretty cool too, and I'll have to do that one of these days along with BIZZ. If I'm ever healthy enough, I still plan on doing Boston in Yankees gear!

Ultra: again, limited, but I've done many a short course at an ultra. For me, though, TRT is king. The stretch of the Rim Trail and the Flume Trail between Spooner & Mt Rose is one of my favorite places to run anywhere. Add fully stocked aid stations to that & you've got a winning recipe.

Cross-Country: Stanford. Nationals, 1996. Running with (ie-getting my a** kicked by) the big boys was fun, and though I never ran particularly well on Stanford's golf course, it was custom made for cross country. When I see golf courses, I don't think golf, I want to put on my spikes.

Random distance trail runs: gotta love em! The standouts...the Squaw Valley Mountain Run, 3.6 miles stright up from Olympic Village to High Camp. Unfortunately, this race is a casualty of my torn tendons, so I haven't run it since 2000, but it's AAAAAWWWWEEEESSSSOOOMMMEEE! This year, we ran the Steep Ravine Trail runs, put on by Coastal Trail Runs. On part of the Dipsea course, this was simply one of the most scenic and fun trails I've EVER run on.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Star 6 Memorial 10k (& 5k)

Another last minute decision to race. What can I say, i've got the sickness. I think my saving grace will be the ability to get up on the Tahoe Rim Trail for longer weekend runs. Then I won't feel the need to race every weekend. But at the rate the snow is melting (and that snow is still falling) that won't be til around July...2012. Hopefully not. I can't wait to get up there, but we just got some fresh snow overnight, so it won't be anytime soon. I have a pair of snowshoes that I love, but the last time I went to the Meadows and an ungroomed trail, it jacked up my knee, so I've been avoiding that, unfortunately.
Anyway, back to the race. Dave and I both signed up the day before for the 10k. It was a race I was unfamiliar with, but they seemed to have there stuff together...nice website, results posted from last year. In addition, last minute sign-up was only $26, which included a tech shirt. Beat that! I was familiar with the start area (Nimbus Flats off Lake Natomas) but I'd only ever run on the trails out there. So...when they advertised flat and fast, I beleived blindly. This was definitely not a course I'd call slow or hilly, but if you're in the Sacramento area and calling your course flat and fast, the elevation gain better be, oh, about 6 feet :) This was a winding, slightly rolling (with only one decent hill) course on the AR bike path. Out & back. I did the 5k as a warm-up, and was about 40-50 feet above water level at some point after starting by the beach.
The 10k started about 10 minutes before the 5k, and pretty soon I was dueling it out with Anthony Fagundes. He was part of the lead pack in Rocklin that I was chasing in the 5k a few weeks ago. I'd like to say I've improved since then, but so far my 5k's have generally gone better than my 10's, and that would continue to be the case here. I can't make sense of it as my training is geared slightly more for a 10 than a 5. Oh well. I'll get a 33 one of these days. Even with the course being what it was, it was still my goal to try and break 34. A quarter of the way in, Anthony and I were right on pace at 8:25, but we both slowed between the 5k & 10k turns. I'd fallen behind by a max of 3-4 seconds and was a second or two behind at the turn in 17:09. No way I'm running negative splits with all the people (10k runners and 5k walk/joggers) we'd have to weave through on the way back. I wanted to minimize the damage, though, and at least beat my Elk Grove time of 34:24 on a really flat course. But...about 6k in, Anthony started to pull away. I estimated his max lead at close to 20 seconds, but it was probably more like 12-13. We'd both add a little time on the way back & ended up 1st (him) and 2nd (me) in 34:30 & 34:41 (our official times are 34:33 and 34:44, but they were a few seconds slow for everybody).
So, a tiny step backwards being squarely behind someone I'd outkicked several weeks ago when I'd hoped to be faster than then, but at the end of a really good week of training. 75 miles, and four high quality runs - intervals, 2 tempo runs, & the race. Dave got in a decent 10k as well, but broke on the hill. I've still got several different annoying ailments going, including being bloodied and bruised after my most spectacular fall ever on Saturday morning. Seriously...if there were judges scoring my trail induced bellyflop, I would have got perfect tens!! Didn't feel so good when I met the ground, though. That, and my feet are still angry with me for going too far in the Minimusesesesssesees 3 weeks ago. I figured I'd be past that by now, but they were still a little extra sensitive on the trail (and after) this morning. But, we've got an extra day of recovery running this week before NO EXCUSES on Monday. After that, I'm 93% sure I'll actually take a weekend off (by off I mean LSD instead of a race). And silver lining, the 5-race win streak is over, so there's less worry about the fact that I'll get my a** handed to me in Monday's 5k. I just hope I can stay close enough that they'll pull me along to a faster time. Til then...
Something to leave you with since us "sprinters" can't take pictures during a race...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Avenue of the Vines 5k 2011

Turi had the day to remember with this one. He ran (another) big PR in the half, and summed it up well over at Running Round Reno, so I'll keep my report short.
Would I be respectably close to the standard I set last May in running even splits all the way to a 5k PR? Depends what you mean by respectable, but I ran about where I thought I would. Short of my dream goal of breaking 16, but still my fastest 5k since last Memorial Day.
Another runner took it out and I just tucked in behind him. I was hoping we were moving fast, cuz it sure felt like it. The first mile went by in 5:03...faster than last year. I'd have been more worried, but it felt hard, not suicidal. We slowed after the mile split to a pace we felt we could maintain, and around 7 minutes in, I passed for the lead. We hit the turnaround of this out-and-back course in 7:59 & 8:00. I had little faith I could repeat that as I'd already slowed, but I'd just taken the lead and felt good. Maybe a 16:0-something was doable. I had ten seconds to play with afterall. Well...I wasn't counting on the headwind all the way back. Thaaaat's why I got under 8 minutes on the way out. The return trip was harder, and I was struggling to hold pace running alone. I didn't know how much of I lead I had and never looked to find out until I was through the chute. I came across the line 1st for the second time in 16:14. Positive splits & 28 seconds slower than last year (5:14 per mile compared to 5:05), but lots of silver lining. The only crappy thing is the 5k gets the lower class treatment at this race. While the overall winners of the half get their weight in wine, the 5k overall winners get a 1.5L bottle of Woddbridge's cheap stuff, with no indication it's from a race. The age groupers in the half even get an engraved 3L bottle...of the good stuff. Where's the love, people?!
Anyway...Capital Road Race Management was timing this race again. There was a brief problem, with the original time coming in at 16:34, but by the time I got back from my cooldown/pacing Turi for his last 2.2 miles, it was already fixed. THAT's how it's done! THE best timing company on the west coast.
The half was stacked this year. Rich Hanna just about repeated his winning 2010 effort, even after purposefully starting slow, but there was another runner, Jose Morales (from CSU stanislaus - go Warriors!) who ran even the whole way to a 1:09:17 (5:18 per mile for those who want to know). Yeah...that was fast. Fred Z also made the trek from Reno and while just missing his 1:14 goal, ran a PR of 1:15:15 and won his AG. As I said last year, it's a cool place to stage a race, and the wine tasting is open early, which made Abby quite happy. Next year we'll make her run for it, right Turi?? Anywho - I'll be back...maybe in the half, and I recommend this race to anyone who likes flat, fast courses and/or vino.
Til next time...here's a couple pix
I'll add more when/if my home computer works.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

10 years later...

Mother's day 2011 was an anniversary of sorts for me, but not the good kind. On this weekend ten years ago, my left Achilles started hurting. I'd had a torn miniscus, broken big toe (runner error) and some minor arthritis (non running-related) but other than that, nothing more serious over the years than the ocassional muscle pull to dampen my then 8-year-old running career. The day after Moms On The Run 2001, I woke up to an angry heel. By June, I'd be done running after an attempt at physical therapy, and by July, I was on the cutting board, so to speak. Really, it was a tiny hammer and chisel (after the scalpel of course) to remove the sharp new addition to my calcanius that was causing my tendon to tear. Although it took a little longer than planned to be able to bear weight and walk, recovery & post-surgery PT seemed to be going as planned, if a little slow, until it wasn't. Sudden unexplained drops in strength & range of motion were accompanied by more pain. Anyway, my 6-month recovery would last nearly 4 years, during which I developed insomnia and food allergies(!) and I wasn't exactly my old self when I finally did come back.
It seemed like I'd lived a whole 'nother life during those years. I met and married Abby, my lovely wife of 5 years (just kidding dear - keeping you on your toes). Eight years in July. But I had little contact with my running buddies of old. For me, it was a moderate form of torture to be around the running set when I couldn't do it myself. And really, I didn't know if I ever would again. I took up softball and really enjoyed it. I even got back some decent speed on the bases and in the outfield, but I could never jump off the left leg without pain and weakening of the tendon. Eventually though, that led to warming up before games, which led to really short runs, and eventually, longer ones. By 2005 I could push off my left foot reasonably hard without pain, though it was, and probably always will be, weaker. I ran the YGBC 5k run in Verdi in 2005 in 19 & change, then promptly blew out my knee playing centerfield the very next day.
6+ months later, I was back at it again, and by Spring 2006, I was in decent enough shape to run the first of the Gold Country Grand Prix races. I was able to keep it together, if a bit slower, til June, when the imbalances in my left side caused too much compensating on my right, and I had to stop running for most of the rest of the year. In 2007, I was back at it, though, to my surprise. I thought once again I was done for good. The comebacks are mentally, emotionally, & physically draining, especially after several of them. I ran through the summer in 2007 (the only year since 2000 I've been able to do so), in part because I was still getting into shape in the spring. At the end of 2007, I got the marathon bug, running four (only two of them really hard) between October 2007 & March of 2008. By spring, the training was paying off at the shorter distances too. 17 & 18 minute 5ks were now mid 16's, and I was able to hold close to 6-minute pace in a marathon before blowing up a little at the end. Once again, though, my body could only hold up for so long. Just as my long runs were starting to resemble my marathons pace-wise, I had to take another summer off. This one was tough. I'd signed up for the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k (I'd fallen in love with it the previous year though I was ridiculously undertrained for it) in the hopes of contending. That race had become my focal point, but I never made it to the start. In the fall of that year, muscle memory helped this latest comeback go rather well at first. I ran my best time to date at the Run Through the Colors in October and was cruising along, but another side-injury due to the Achilles (this one in the form of a pinched nerve in my lower back/hip area) caused me to end the year on the mend yet again. The latest break, though, was measured in weeks, not months. Each time I started up again, I'd tweek some manner of my training to try & compensate for my...um...lack of structural integrity. The problem with the experts is (experts being doctors, specialists, rolfers, physical therapists, massage therapists - you name it, I've probably tried it) is that none of them agree on anything. You want to trust them all, but end up trusting none of them completely.
The first half of 09 went ok, but I was out again come June, just like clockwork. My first hint that something was getting better was at the Davis Turkey Trot. I'd still been getting back into shape in October, but come November, things were looking up. I got an early lead in that race and ran scared, constantly waiting to be passed while trying to hold it off for as long as possible. Well, I ran a then post-surgery PR of 16:10. I never quite matched that the rest of the year, & in Winter/Spring 2010, my knee was acting up enough to keep me from re-peaking, but not enough to put me out of comission. Running through that would pay off in April and May. I was able to run my 3rd fastest ever 10k in Reno (33:01), my 3rd fastest 5k ever at No Excuses (15:51) and a 5k PR at Avenue of the Vines (15:46). In the 4 1/2 years since I'd started running again, never did I realistically think a PR (at a previously ran distance) was possible. I'd forgotten what running without pain was like, though I enjoyed it nonetheless. I just reset what 100% meant to me. It was not to last, however. On the very next morning, the familiar Achilles pain had returned, this time in the form of partial tear #2 on the right (non-surgicaly repaired) tendon. So, no summer for me.
This one was a blow. I's say the hardest, mentally and physically, but I think it's just an accumulation. Each time I have to do this will get harder til I finally crack and say to hell with this...but that's a long ways off, I promise you that. Summer in a boot, but I was counting down the days.
At first it seemed like this comeback was going to go just splendidly. A stronger than expected showing at the Kokanee 10k in October just two days after the old snip snip, and I thought I was back on track, but I pretty much struggled to find my speed, endurance, and any semblance of consistency until a couple months ago. In March my miles became more steady, and by the end of the moth, my times took a somewhat unexpected drop back to respectable (34's and 16's). I've since added some time back on (my last 5k notwithstanding) and am still trying to figure that one out, but will do so...eventually. I recently got a new collagen building presecription for the Achilles/knee but I've got to be really careful with the dosing due to some "adventurous" possible side effects. Hopefully you'll all see me running this summer, and I'll revisit this again in...oh...another ten years.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The $50 Training Run, or, There and Back Again: The Race that Almost Was

Abby, the kids, Dave & myself had a plan to go to Six Flags in Vallejo on Mother's Day. No racing, but Dave & I were planning on driving up to Bothe Napa State Park early Sunday morning for a nice long run. Our hotel plans changed a little, though, and we ended up staying in Concord, which just happens to be closer to Oakland than Bothe-Napa, and PCTR just happened to be putting on what looked like a very scenic trail race there that day. So, after approval from the mother-unit, it being Mom's Day and all, we planned on driving 25 minutes from our hotel (it was PHAT: more on that later). We got there and signed up, with the prerequisite high race day fees, but these were a little steep...$40 or $45 for Dave's 10k, and $50 for my 21k. What I call "double-dipping" is not only charging more for late and/or race day sign-ups, but also not giving said runner any shirt/swag, etc... I get adding, say, $5 on race-day. But adding $10 AND not giving a shirt just seems kinda cheap. One or the other guys. The no shirt makes more sense, so they can get the sizes in ahead of time, but $10 extra as well, for the 5 seconds it took to jot my # down on a sheet of paper. C'mon guys...
If it seems I'm a little more peeved about than usual, I'll get to that too, but double-dipping is always something that gets on my nerves.
Anywho, Joaquin Miller park was the site of the race. The extra K actually had me a little worried. 20k (and a gnarly 20k at that) was already going to be the longest race I'd done in some time (2-3 years?), but the sign-up sheet, maps, etc, all had 21k on them. I'd also forgone my usual easy & short pre-race run on Saturday morning, not having planned on racing at all. I wouldn't have thought much about this either, except for the fact that I had found and then passed the maximum threshold for my Minimus trail shoes. I'd done 4.5 in them, no problem at all, and they were comfy enough that I figured on the right trail I could do 6-8. All I can say is, I figured wrong. At some point around mile 6, I went from noticing-but-not-really-being-bothered-by the small rocks to having a stabbing pain in the balls of my feet with almost every step. Both feet!! I had to back off and change my form (in the bad way, not the good way) just to be able to jog it back to the car. So I guess I'll be keeping the miles short in those bad boys for a while longer. I've been feelin it for three days now. Luckily, this is a taper week, so I'm not missing much training-wise, and hopefully, the pain & soreness will be long gone by the weekend. Anyway, I toyed with wearing my Saucony Exodus trail shoes in the race the next day. They're pretty heavily cushioned and softened every footfall noticeably. But they're also relatively heavy, and I ended up going with the 8 oz MT 101's. They preformed admirably til pretty late in the race, on some downhills, where my feet would alternate being pissed off and going numb. If it sounds like fun, it was!!
Oh yeah, the almost race. My plan was to strategize the first half and not hammer til the second half, but a minute in, nobody was going with me, so I pushed on ahead. Lots of ups and downs (over 2000 feet complete with rocks, some really steep parts, and a few mellow spots). Pretty much the training run we'd planned. By 9 minutes in, I couldn't see anyone close on a switchback, so I figured to be at least a minute ahead at that early point. I ran "comfortably" hard for the next ten miles, though at times the terrain made it feel like more of a fartlek run than a race. The "fun" part came with about 1.5 to go, bombing downhill to the last aid station. After arguing amongt each other for a few seconds, they sent me right. Hmmm...this trail looks vaguely familiar, but I've never been here, what do I know. 1k later...hey, look, the 21k/10k split, that doesn't seem right. I think I uttered a few choice words and turned around. I saw another guy coming on the way back. He said he was doing the 21k but had started early, and wasn't convinced this way was wrong...so back to the split/10k turn again, more choice words (I was 95% sure now that we'd been pointed the wrong way). Eventually another runner (with a map on her phone) pulled it up and we saw that, indeed, they'd sent us pretty much the exact opposite direction from the finish. So, back again. As I ran past the aid station again, I told them they were sending people the wrong way. No, the 21k is straight, not right, they said. Well...THAT would have been good to know about, oh, 14 MINUTES AGO! *I know these people are volunteers. I've done course marshalling and aid stations myself. NEVER would I volunteer at an intersection if I didn't know where to send people! The smirk the one guy had on his face was almost enough for me to stop and beat him with a slice of watermelon. Glad you think it was funny...be sure to tell that to the three behind me that you also sent the wrong way. Anyway, I finished the race, and calmy (I was more dejected than angry at this point) told those at the finish that the last aid station had sent people the wrong way. Their only response was "did you tell them"? That was it.
To add insult to injury, they officially have 6 other runners in front of me in times that don't make any sense even if I hadn't been sent the wrong way. There were times where a steep downhill would prevent me from expanding my lead by a minute every mile like the first, but I ran pretty steady, and I was definitely adding to it the whole way. So, it's incredibly unlikely that anyone ran a 1:35 on the 21k course (about where I'd have finished and I'd been running alone from the first hill) & the people that ran those times are a male whose other results have been 11-14 minutes per mile (and closer to midpack) for similar distances, and a 58 year-old female who ran a recent road half in 2 hours...so faster than the winner, but she ain't gonna go 16 minutes faster on a super hilly trail!
Just an idea, PCTR...have different color bibs for different distances so people don't start early with a race they don't belong in!!! Man, I was starting to get over the bad directions, almost, but they managed to totally mess up what was left of the results too!!
Pretty easy things to fix, but they just didn't seem to care, and I'm done with them (not that they'll notice or care). I could've saved $50 and not been whooped by people with a half hour head start if I just wanted to do a training run.
We did make it to Six Flags after going back to our hotel (the aforementioned phat Crowne Plaza in Concord). Hannah and I took a quick dip and soak in the indoor pool that was in the giant fancy courtyard, next to the Koi river. Nice rooms too. I wish this place was on our racing circuit...$88 on Hotwire, and well worth that and more.
After a 79 mile week (2011 high) I'm doing a taper this week to 40 in hopes I get some of the lost leg speed back. I still feel like I ran a marathon the other day (15 mile race plus warm-up) but today is almost kinda sorta a tiny bit better than yesterday.
Up next...Avenue of the Vines, where I have no freakin clue how fast I'll be able to go. Til then...
(remember, this is all inside)
Just seeing who was paying attention!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nevada City Spring Run & TLD PRs at RnR

What came first, the win streak or the egg?
I'm still not sure what to make of the last couple weeks. I've suddenly added about 10 seconds per mile to my average run (and last two races) but am also enjoying a 4-race win streak. Any of you who know me (yes, all 3.7 of you who read this drivel) know I'd trade the wins in a heartbeat to see my times start to drop, but as it is, the streak makes it a little easier to take. A little. I am a realist. I know when, say, No Excuses comes around in 4 weeks that a high 16 just ain't gonna cut it. I was in the thick of it last year, holding on for 3rd in 15:51...or 66 seconds faster than last week!
In 2008, I was in mid-16 shape (but a decent climber) and ran a 35:50 at the Spring Run 10k. I'd only paid attention to the mile split, turn, and final time. So, as I passed mile one (big downhill, and a little off road with more to come) in 5:09, I was relatively happy. Only 3 seconds or so slower than 2008. Miles 2 & 3 were not so kind, though. By the turn, I was exactly 30 seconds off the pace, and to be fair, my A goal had been to actually run 20 seconds faster than 2008. I'd just added 27 seconds in just two miles. I didn't have too big of a lead, either. Bjorn and Larry passed in the opposite direction 22 seconds later, meaning I had a 45 second buffer, which can shrink quick on the climb back up. Peter GPSd the course at 1821 feet of change, with the finish being a little higher than the start, thanks to a cruel little 15% grade at the end.
I was able to run decent back up, though. Still adding time, but not at a 13 second per mile clip, like miles 2 & 3. My uphill 5k+ (3.1 down, 3.15 up) was 8 seconds per mile slower than 2008, but I was able to add to my lead and win by a couple minutes in 36:44. Larry made a late move into 2nd and held on by a couple seconds at the end, with Bjorn (the 2011 Daffodil 10k champ) in 3rd. Consequently, we're all in the same AG, so GP points were slim. I'll be missing from the next couple races, though, so those guys are going to blow right by me. Jeff Boute (2nd at the Daffodil 5k) took home the 5k crown, and can be seen running up said cruel little hill.
It was great to see you guys again (yes, even Gary) after not running in NC last year.
Sunday rolls around and the major muscle groups are not sore at all. Of course, the Achilles and knee are pissed, but that's nothing new. So, I decided to run a little more of the Rock N River half than originally planned. I parked under the Keystone Bridge at Riverside (mile 0.9) in time to see the marathoners go by around 6:35, and got out to stretch at 7. Turi would come up the river about a minute after Jeff, who ran away with the half in 1:13, and we were on our way. Fred Z, still doing long runs fresh off Boston, joined us a half mile later. Turi had completed, rather religiously, two 12-week training programs and it was paying off. We'd ran together to a 1:32 in Davis, and were hoping to get under 1:30 here. I knew, barring catastrophe, that the 1:32 pr would fall. His training has just been too good for that not to happen. The only question was by how much. He'd gone out pretty fast, and our pace barely ever crept above 6:50. The course was ever so slightly uphill and into a weak headwind on the way out, so when we got to mile 7 at 6:50 pace, 90 minutes wasn't looking so tough. But we'd faded late at Davis. Not to worry this time, though. With Fred keeping the pace honest, and me farting on both Fred and Turi without their apparent knowledge, most of the return miles were in the 6:40's, including the last three. Turi hit the last 100 and I peeled off. He ended up SMASHING his old PR by close to 4 minutes and came in with an official 1:28:14 (6:44 per mile!). If I'm not going to be running any PRs this year, this is the next best thing. What a blast being able to be part of a little personal history being made. For the record, Turi's 10k pr also fell during this race. TWICE. And by default, new standards were set at any number of distances...12k, 15k, 10 mile, etc...
Thanks Fred and Turi for the great Sunday run!
Dave and Amber (the rest of Team Library Dork) ran the 10k and 5k, respectively, and we got to spend the morning together.
For me, my lack of quality over the past two weeks hasn't effected my mileage. 140 miles over 2 weeks, including my first 70 mile week of the year. I'd been responding very well to high miles, running my best two races during what had been my highest mileage weeks, but something needs to be tweaked...I just don't know what. So...the plan is to run high miles this week (71-72), cut my weight lifting by 30-50%, and no race. Next week, I'll cut the mileage by 30-50%, but I'd like it to be of the high quality variety, add back the weights, and hopefully run a decent 5k at Avenue of the Vines. I set the bar high for myself last year...this is one race where I'd be happy to "only" add 8-10 seconds per mile.
Til then...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Safe and Healthy Homes 5k

I'll keep this one short. It was rather wet & anti-climactic, but the good news is I'll be able to try out the Nike Free 3.0's without having to go into male prostitution. Phew!
I'm not sure what to think about today. Free shoes and a win go a long way, but missing your goal time by 38-48 seconds, in a 5k, not so great. I know. Boo-hoo, right? I won't think of this again as long as I get back on track (soon), but I'm trying to get back under 16 minutes, not struggle to break 17.
Today's course, which is a pretty fast one, and clearly marked, along the Truckee River, is one I've run before (a 16:29 in September of 2008). Since I'd posted a 16:22 and a 16:30 in my last two 5ks (both in the last three weeks) and I had a great time trial a weekandahalfago, I thought hitting 16:09 was possible, and definitely expected to be under those other two times, which were on slightly harder courses. I don't know what it was today, but the speed was just never there. I was quite surprised when I was already 8-9 seconds off 1k in, and after that, nothing really changed. I stayed pretty even, adding 8 seconds or so to my goal time with each passing kilometer. I'd be hoping to run a flat 10k at this pace the next time out, so hopefully this is just a little hick-up in the grand scheme of things. The knee is still bothersome, but really didn't seem to effect today's race. I may be fighting off the family cold, as I've been coughing all afternoon, but the warm-up (and the previous week of training) felt good. Maybe running on a Saturday (and therefore not backing off quite as much the day before as usual) threw me off, but I do harder workouts the day before my time trials, and don't seem to be effected. Bottom line - I don't know why I ran slower. I'm glad I was lucky enough to eek out a win (though it looks like finish times may be all over the place - mine really was 16:57), and I'll go hard Wednesday and try to figure things out.
Hopefully, my 2008 time will fall next week at the Spring Run 10k

. Three years ago I ran 16:59(900 feet downhill) and 18:51 (back up plus 25-30 yards) to post a 35:50. I'd like to beat that time. I think I'm a little faster than I was then, but not as good of a climber, so it should be interesting. Til then...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fight For Air Climb 2011 (formerly Climb the Legacy)

Well, this last weekend couldn't have gone much further askew of what I'd planned. Without going into too much detail, I was either going to attempt my second "daily double" since college by running the Spring Forward for Autism 5k at 8:00, then jogging down the street and defending my title in the Climb at 9:00 (the other mutli-run day being three legs of the RTO over a 12 hour span in 2008) or just run the 5k at UNR. Notice how neither of those plans involve just doing the Climb?
Events beyond my control began to conspire against me, the first being that the City of Reno had the time of the climb wrong on their site. Correct time? 8:15. However, after going back & forth via email, the RD of the climb was willing to work with me on my individual start time, going somewhere closer to 9:00, since this is a staggered run. But the story doesn't end here. Active.com had the time for the 5k wrong, so instead of an 8:00 start time, it's 9:00. So now my double would consist of going anaerobic first, then running a 5k. I liked it better the other way around, but that was still going to be the plan, as long as I could get up to UNR in time to register race morning.
As of Wednesday, I was all signed up for the climb, fundraising complete, thanks to the generous donations of the Warner family in Grass Valley, and Veronica Carlos here in Reno. Until last week, I had no intention of doing the climb at all. I hadn't trained for it like I had in year's past, but then every day at the gym I walked by the table with a team sign up sheet staring me in the face. I wasn't going to be returning to most of the races I'd done last spring, and I'd done the climb every year of it's existence, so...I signed up. St Mary's is a sponsor too, so the race fee was waived. That would later take the sting out of the fact that the event has "gone all cheap". Awesome prizes for the winners in '09, not so awesome in '10, and absolutely nothing in 2011. Heck, even the free pictures from years past were for sale, but that's a rant I'll save for another day :)
Not much to share about the rce itself, as the only strategy involved was to go out fast and don't die, don't die, don't die, don't die!!!! Even sans specific training, I was feeling pretty good about my fitness til about, oh, lunchtime on Friday, when my right knee decided to revert to January 2010 form. I made it one block on Saturday before shutting it down, and assumed I'd be biking, stairclimbing, or using the eliptical trainer to warm-up for the climb. The 5k was out of the question as of Saturday morning, which was disappointing (especially when my legs felt stronger than expected post climb!). Sunday rolls around and Dave and I jog over (yay, I can run!) to the Silver Legacy from the gym to check in with the team, and head back to St Mary's for a proper warm-up. I get to the start at 8:12, so I don't have time to stand around and get nervous, or wonder just what in the heck I'm doing, and I'm the first to go up right at 8:18. Like I said, no strategy, or sense of pace. I noticed at floor 14 that I was feeling it a bit more than I should be at this point, but you can't really hold back - you have NO IDEA where your competition is til after the fact. Combined with the fact that this type of race is half anaerobic made it so I kept the foot on the gas til the legs started to get weak and heavy 2/3 of the way up. Ruh-roh!! I didn't dare glance at the watch, but those last few floors seemed to be akin to running up stairs made of sand. I was still taking two at a time, but my legs would not obey the brain, and seemed to take a lot longer between footstrike and push-off. Thankfully, the end came at floor 36. I glanced down...3:29. Ok, I might be safe with that. I'd run 3:26-3:25 the last two years, but nobody else has ever been under 3:40. The new timers got the results up in a more timely manner than year's past and I saw that I was safe, as long as no surprises awaited at the end. Officially I ended up 17 seconds ahead of 2nd place, but the surprise came when the team results came out, and St Mary's was the first place team by a minute or two (taking the total time of your top 5 runners)! Pretty nice surprise there!
Back to the gym for a cool-down run and light lifting, and even though the knee is holding on for dear life this week, I've been able to run every day, and I'm hoping the next couple weeks of racing won't be interrupted. Heck, it might even be warm out sooner or later. Wouldn't want to miss that!

Monday, April 18, 2011

HOLY CRAP!!! Fred Z takes over Boston...


All checkpoints are official times. Click 'TRACK' to add the athlete to your tracking list (maximum allowed: 5; currently tracking: 0).
Bib Name Age M/F City St Ctry Ctz
228 Zalokar, Fred 50 M Reno NV USA
5k 10k 15k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k
0:17:37 0:35:29 0:53:27 - 1:15:32 1:29:43 1:48:56 2:07:50 2:26:29
Finish: Pace Offl. Time Overall Gender Division
5:54 2:34:46 143 124 1

Thursday, April 14, 2011

First Impressions: New Balance Minimus Line

In the hopes of lining myself up a little better, I've decided to go "barefoot". While I fall well short of the extremeists who call traditional running shoes foot coffins (funny, but overkill) I've always liked a lighter shoe with more ground feel (though I've worn every extreme and most in-between). On any given day, you can find a dozen experts that will tell you that you need orthotics or, say, the Asics Kayano, and a dozen more that will tell you (as these shose do) that less is more. If any of them try to tell you their way is right for everyone, all the time...they are full of sh-- and you should find a new expert. Bulky supportive or motion control shoes will not work for everyone, and neither will the barefoot option. But I'm hoping it will work for me. After enjoying a major injury free running career from 1993-2001, I had Achilles surgery and missed four years. Since 2005, I've had countless weeks & months off - chronic problems stemming from compensation for the "repaired" tendon, from knee, to hip, to tearing the other Achilles. Twice.
Usually, if only one of these things is happening at any given time, I'm running as fast as I was in college. But it never lasts.
The funny thing is, minimalist shoes have been around since I started running. They're called racing flats. The biggest difference in the new trend is the heel drop, or lack thereof. The true "barefoot" shoes have also removed the midsoles and in many cases, the insert, to create a true to the ground feel. This makes the old light shoes more of a transition to minimal footwear, as well as current models such as the Nike Free and Saucony Kinvara (which is more like a racing shoe than a barefoot runner).
At the Davis Stampede in February, Team Library Dork got a sneak peak the Minimus Trail and Minimus Road. Ironically, they pretty much cover the ground between barefoot running and just another lightweight trainer.
I'll start with the road version. This shoe, though built for asphalt, is an ounce heavier than the trail or wellness versions. Weird. It has the same 4 mm heel drop as the others, to strengthen and stretch the Achilles, but the cushioning is more built up underfoot, which you can easily see in the picture above. At 8 ounces, it's lighter than most lightweight trainers and heavier than most racing flats. The upper is supple and has a glovelike fit, though it feels a little wider than normal for a standard New Balance Shoe. Running in it as opposed to just slipping one on and/or walking around, you do notice the different feel and the tendency to put you a little closer to a midfoot strike than a heelstrike, but it's fairly minimal (no pun intended). This ends up being a transitional shoe, and not really a barefoot runner. That aside, I still like it. It's comfy, fits well, and is light. I think it will end up being tinkered with in future releases to be more true to the barefoot movement. Overall first impression: B-
The Trail Minimus. This is the one I was excited about at first sight. They're more flexible and closer to the ground (Vibram soles), not to mention the lighest trail shoe I've ever worn at 7.1 ounces. I'd been racing in the New Balance MT-101's since last fall, and they'd been the bestest, fastest trail shoe around. Hard to say this early (as I'm taking an extremely conservative approach in shifting miles over to the minimal shoes) but these have a shot at the title, even at $30 more a pop. Glove-like fit doesn't cover it. These are slippers for the trail. Great fit, great feel. I did get a stone bruise this morning, the third time I took em out for a mile or two, but that can happen with bulkier shoes as well, and it really was nothing. I'd like to be racing in these by the fall. Only time will tell wether these toe-less Five Fingers were worth the extra dough, but as first impressions go, I love em. I'm excited to take em out, & it's hard to only run a little in them at a time. Overall First Impression: A
Wellness version - I don't really know where these are supposed to fall, or what niche they fill. There's already a road version, that is drastically different than these lower-to-the-ground 7-ouncers. With no laces and a slipper-like upper, this feels more like a true barefoot shoe than the road version, and may be just as good of a runner. Is this a casual shoe? A cross trainer? A running shoe? Hard to say where it fits in the Minimus Universe, but since I'll use the other two for my road and trail running, this is a work shoe. Two-Three days a week I'll wear these to work, hopefully getting the legs and Achilles used to the lack of cushion and support, but without the pounding. These, even more than the other two, beg the question "just what am I paying $100 for?" This is a slipper. A very expensive slipper. I like them, but definitely feel the price is inflated due to the trendiness and hype surrounding them. I'd like to see a $10-20 price-drop in future releases, especially for the wellness version. Less may be more, but why are we paying more? Overall First Impression: B