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'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 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, 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, 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 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!
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: