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 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. 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 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 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:

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 :)