Sunday, October 30, 2011

10/29/11 Club Oly Tis the Season for a 5K Cross Country Race at Pioneer Park

My third time on this course. Last year in December we had waist deep water and lots of mud, the year before I really took it easy to protect my injured heel.  Feeling good today, so I should have no trouble setting a personal course record.  Small turn out.  A couple of guys that I do not know and a few more women than men.  Cool and very foggy.

Start - Across the soccer field, a nice wide start and we are sorted out before the first turn.  Already one guy is way ahead of me and there is no way I will catch him.  The field is wet but in decent shape, not much mud getting kicked up.  Soon I am in third place.  Across the field I make a surge and pass Amy.  Based on recent marathon times and other races I should be fairly evenly matched with four runners here today.  Amy, Terra and Heather ran marathons this month in times that were a minute or two faster than mine.  Martino is here as well and he is always right up there with me.  Turn onto a trail and through the mud spot.  No standing water, just a little slippery.  Cherry guides us the way to go and I continue on the trail.  Flat but loose gravel, very hard to run as fast as I would like.  Try the grassy side of the trail but that is just too uneven.  Back onto the gravel.  I remember that I did the same thing last year.

Mile 1 - 7:11, Way too fast for this course.  I feel it in my legs and my breath.  Amy catches up to me and we run together for a bit.  I can not hold the pace though and she gradually gets out of reach.  Bill points the way at another intersection. Apparently I was just far enough ahead of the pack behind me that they did not see me make a turn.  Terra, Martino and Heather miss seeing Bill somehow and go off on the wrong trail for a bit.  They figure that it cost them 45 seconds to a minute before getting back on track.  That assures me third place and I will not have anyone getting close behind me to challenge me or give me inspiration to run faster.  The place with waist deep water is dry this year, runnable grass.

Mile 2- Second time on the loop through the woods.  My pace is fading, Amy getting farther ahead.  I feel good though, ankle feels fine.  Keep chugging along in good spirits.

Mile 2.75 - Back onto the field.  I can barely see Amy ahead, but lose her in the fog.  No one behind me.  Eventually I look back and see the pack coming out of the woods.

Mile 3 - Mile marker on the pathway that cuts to the right between the fields.  It looks like we are supposed to turn here as that would be about a tenth of a mile to the finish.  Plus now there are more soccer players on the field that we will have to run through.  Should I turn here?  Did Amy turn here?  I can not see her ahead with all the fog.  I continue straight and start to worry that I am going the wrong way.  If I am off and the pack takes the turn, I will end up in 6th or worse place.  O well, does it really matter?  I hit the turn at the end of the field and now head straight to the finish.  Oh good I am taking the right course and so are the others. (Although two runners will come the other way in a few minutes).  Cruise on in to the finish, beating last year's time by about 30 seconds.  As second overall male I get to pick one of the awards, a bag of candy and runner's fuel.  Great low key event.

3rd of 13
5K #65
Race #253

Monday, October 17, 2011

10/15/11 Defiance 50K

Second annual event and my second time here.  Same course as last year except it has been lengthened a little.  And the new part that was added includes a big climb dubbed "Achilles Hill".  Three loops and not super hard or technical trail but this the hardest 50K course that I have done.  Since I ran the Victoria Marathon six days ago and put in a solid effort with both mind and heart, I have different goals today.  Just finish and enjoy the race.  I will try to do well but not feel bad if I have a hard time.

Loop 1 - 1:46:09 - cool and cloudy but dry.  Trails are in great shape.  More places with crushed gravel but it is well packed and soft.  I try to keep the pace slower than 10 minutes per mile.  Great to see lots of Maniac friends.  First mile is flat, then stairs, then a few ups.  Miles 2-5 are mostly flat but twisty and narrow in places.  Aid station just past mile 5.  Miles 5-7 are the tough part with narrow twisty trails and a couple of steep hills.  I walk some and the pace slows but I feel fine, just saving energy.  Around mile 7 the trail gets much wider and very flat.  I remember how last year I was so tired on the third loop, but actually felt better when I got here and was able to run all the way to the end.  Today I pick up the pace a little and enjoy the scenery.  Eventually we go out onto the "5 mile drive" road.  The course goes about a third of a mile on this road.  There is a sign that says to turn right at hydrant #25.  I see hydrant 23, then 24.  As I approach hydrant 25 there is a large pack (ten or more) fast runners coming toward me on the road and turning at the hydrant.  Am I supposed to keep going down the road for a little out and back? Did they add a section to the race here?  There is a volunteer on a bike here and I ask her and she says to turn, but apparently she told many runners that if they were in the 50K they were supposed to go straight.  I don't know how far they went until they realized they had been misdirected.  Good thing that pack beat me to the turn because they are all much faster than me and I need to take it slowly and carefully in this section.  Very narrow trail with logs and some steep step downs.  Then the real fun part, about a twenty foot steep drop with a rope to hold onto.  Down to the level wide trail where one can sprint and pass people if they want for the final 100 meters or so.  I take my time but try to be quick through the aid station.

Loop 2 - 1:56:47 - M761 was one of the misdirected runners so I have caught up with her and we can run together for just a little bit.  She has gotten way faster than me lately, so it would be foolish to try to stay with her.  I run alone for a while and then catch up to Pedro.  I am tiring and taking some walk breaks.  With Pedro though we run together and I keep going at places were I might have walked if I were alone.  Pigtails passes me about halfway through this loop.  Then the hills and it gets very difficult.  Then the flat and I am running again, low on energy though and the ankle is bugging me a little.  In the middle of  the road near the end of the loop there is a raccoon who shuffles away as I approach.  Down "Nellies Narly Descent" and loop 2 is done.

Loop 3 - 2:14:51 - Uh oh, I am walking and I am on the flat and have not even reached the stairs yet.  I envy those who ran the 15K or 30K race and are done.  Walk up the stairs and shuffle along the trail.  Can not hold a 13/mile pace.  Walking and shuffling and out of energy.  Ankle a little worse.  I don't care when runners I do not know pass me and I should not care when runners I know pass me, but it does bug me a little.  Ron, Reed and then Kimpossible pass me.  I knew that Kim was back there and might get me.  She also ran a marathon six days ago and her time was two minutes faster than me, so we should be evenly matched today.  She will go on to beat me by three minutes today and I am fine with that.  Now at the aid station.  They have some coke and it looks appealing.  I drink two cups (about 8 ounces) and it goes down well.  My stomach has done great today and now I wish that I had eaten more during the race.  At 5:45AM I had a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice.  It is now about 1PM and since that time I have had a GU gel, a honeystinger gel  (cleaning out the cookie/gel jar at home) three oreos, a couple of pretzels and a mini milkyway. Plus gatorade and water and S!Caps.  At the end of the race my watch will calculate that I burned over 3,400 calories.  Should have eaten more, but it is nice to not have nausea.  I also take an ibuprofen for the ankle and it does seem to help.  The pain never got as bad as at Victoria or Bellingham and after the race I was able to walk around fine.  Rest week coming up and I am less concerned about the ankle than I had been. 

But now I am on the tough hilly part.  Chanterrelle mushroom sighting.  There is a place here where the uphill course almost touches the downhill course.  It would be easy to cross trails here and cut off "Achilles Hill".  The thought of cheating enters my mind, but it is not a temptation.  I would drop out of a race before I would cut it short, but in my zonked out state, barely holding a 15 minute mile it does come into my mind as an option.  I quickly dismiss the notion and make the best of "Achilles Hill".  When things are this hard it is best to have fun with it.  There are three of us working our way up the hill.  I almost stop to rest halfway, but keep walking and I cheer as I get to the top. Down the narrow trail and I look forward to the flat last couple miles.

Around mile seven I hear "Is that you Andy?" behind me and it is my pal Maniac Betsy.  Another friend who will pass me, or maybe not.  We are on the flats and wider trail now and I think that the sugar from the coke is kicking in.  A conscious effort to pick up the pace and I am able to do so.  We will see how long it lasts but for now I am going much faster and feeling good.  I start passing folks who passed me earlier this loop.  About mile 27, nice wide trail, running strong and easy and then I hit a root or a rock and start to stumble.  Try to stay upright but I think that I may hurt myself worse if I try to keep my balance.  Instead I tuck my shoulder in and execute a perfect roll.  As if I have been practicing falling.  I am proud of how gracefully I went down and how I rolled over twice.  Plus the trail everywhere has some roots, rocks or at least fir cones, but I managed to fall on the one spot that was completely clear of debris and flat.  Soft packed earth, not muddy, like a firm mattress.  Back on my feet real quick and feeling fine, I start running fast again.  Pass two runners and really looking forward to the road and end of this race.  I think that I can beat 6 hours and I will know for sure when I reach the paved road, if it would ever get here.

At last I reach the road and I am able to run well all the way to hydrant 25.  Turn and look back and one guy is flying toward me and Betsy is not far behind him.  I thought that I had left her in the dust with my solid running the last couple of miles, but she also picked it up really well.  Now I need to be careful at this tricky part of the trail.  Let the guy pass me and as I work my way down the rope, Betsy is right behind me.  Race Director Tony is there to take a picture.  Now on the flat and I sprint to the end.  I don't want Betsy to beat me and she does not, but the joke is one me.  The race is chip timed and she started farther back and her chip time is quicker than mine.  O well, it is really fun to have friends who are evenly matched and we can encourage each other and commiserate with each other.  Glad that I was able to finish strong and have an enjoyable day. 

61st of 112
Race #252
50K #8, Defiance 50K#2
Marathon or Ultra#73

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10/9/11 Victoria Marathon

I have been wanting to do this one for some years now.  Nice get away weekend with Jody.  Up early on Saturday to catch the Victoria Clipper from Seattle.  Arrive in Victoria by 11AM.  Relaxing way to travel and customs was a snap.  Only staying one night so we did not have much to carry.  Short walk anyway to the host hotel, the Fairmont Empress.  Expo was very crowded, but I won a raffle, a cool natural fiber bag from the Rain Coast Conservation Foundation.  Tried to hook up with Club Oly folks for dinner but most places were full, so we split up and Jody and I went to the Noodle Box which was more than sufficient.

Really good weather on race morning.  Cool and a little cloudy but the sun will come out later.  Very little wind.  8K started at 7:15 and goes in a different direction from the other races.  Half Marathon start at 7:30.  I watch the race go by at about the half mile mark.  Then I have plenty of time to get ready and be at the start line for the 8:45 Marathon start.  Strange that the full starts so late compared to the other races.  They have a 5 hour 30 minute cut off time and this is my only gripe about this race.  Those who will be slower than 5:30 must take the early start at 6:30 AM and if they finish faster than 5:30 their time will not count officially.  Jody should be in the 4:45 range but she has a head cold and will have a bad run today.  She will make it in at 5:12 and will be one of the very last runners of over 11,000 who compete today and will run alone for most of the race.  Checking results later I see that there were quite a number of early starters who did finish in the 5:10 to 5:20 range and I wish that Jody had had more company.  At least they had plenty of post race food and support along the course for all runners, and I suppose that the staggered starts keeps the finish area from getting too congested at any time.

Start - At 8:40 I am lined up with Maniac Guy and we are ready to roll.  Canadian National Anthem and then we are off right on time.  Course is marked in Kilometers but I have my GPS watch set to miles as usual.  I have decided to run the first half in 1:59, one minute slower that in Bellingham two weeks ago.  I fell apart there in the second half.  I do not know how much of that was due to the strong winds, but that poor second half hurt my confidence.  I also have this wonky ankle issue, not sure what will happen after some miles.  If all goes well I will run the second half faster than the first and get in under 4 hours.  I am not confident of the negative split, and I will be thrilled if it happens.  Absolutely not going for anything close to a PR until I have my confidence back and can run a few races without hitting the wall.

Kilometer 0.8 - Pass Jody, somehow she started ahead of me.  It is very crowded but moving along and will open up soon I hope.  Feel like I have to pee though, even though I went just before the start and I did not hyperhydrate.

Kilometer 3 - Having to pee is such a distraction.  I have been looking for alleys or bushes to use.  Finally I see the aid station and a row of SaniCans.  No line, I am in and out very quickly and can now think about other things.

Kilometer 4 - Female runner up ahead falls to the ground, I-Pod skitters on the road ahead.  She is up and running quickly and says that she is fine.

Kilometer 8 - Catch up to Deb and Heike from Olympia.  We run together through a park.  Loop and loop, I am confused about the course but just follow the crowd.  Sometimes have fast runners passing the other way, then the slower ones.  I feel like we did a circle within a circle and I have no idea how we got out of the loop but eventually we are back on the road.  My friends are planning to run a little slower so I go ahead but not too fast.

Kilometer 16 - Along the water and then through residential neighborhoods.  Constant up or down but nothing at all steep or long.  Bagpipe player in kilt adds a nice touch.  Back to the water.  Feeling good.  Good support at the aid stations and lots of friendly spectators, fellow runners and volunteers.  None of the runners seems too serious, it is a nice morning.  This is a long out and back section.  Some half marathoners (Michelle Barnes sighting), and early start marathoners coming toward me on the other side of the road.  Roads mostly closed to traffic, or with traffic patrol, I feel safe and free to concentrate on running.  Up and down but all of it gradual.  Lots of turns earlier, now a long but windy road along the water.  I am careful to run the tangents and that gives me something to concentrate on.  I can't believe how some runners take the long side of the curves and I wonder how much distance they are adding to their race.  Now the full marathon lead runner comes by.  He will go on the finish in 2:14. 

Kilometer 21 - The halfway mark is up ahead.  I can see the timing chip mat.  I have been good at my pacing and my watch reads 1:58.  I get closer and it still reads 1:58.  I start walking and just before hitting the mat I see my watch roll to 1:59.  Perfect.  Now I tell myself to not get carried away and go faster yet.  At Bellingham and at other races I have picked up the speed right after the halfway point.  Common folklore divides the race into two halves, mile 1-20 and 20-26.2.  I will keep going at this pace, maybe just a second or two per mile faster and keep holding back until at least mile 20.  Committed to running with discipline and restraint today. Ulrike sighting.

Kilometer 24 - Reach the turnaround, nice to be heading straight back to the finish with the race more than halfway done.  Pass Bob Dolphin (early starter).  Get to see Jody and others still heading out.

Kilometer 30 - Ankle bugs a little but not so bad.  Otherwise very comfortable.  I am in the mileage zone now where I could hit the wall.  Every step forward where I do not feel more tired is a blessing and gets me excited for a possible strong finish.  Starting to pass others who are slowing or who were early starters.

Kilometer 32 - Close to mile 20.  They do have mile markers every five miles.  I look ahead to that sign.  Soon I see it and I hit the lap button on the watch.  Now it is hold a nine minute mile and I will beat 4 hours.  Immediately turn a corner and there is an uphill.  I have to work to keep the pace under 9, but I am able to do so.  Now level and then downhill.  Ease into an average just under 8:50.  I decide to keep the speed slower than 8:45 as there is still a long way to go, but really try to stay under 9 if I can. 

Kilometer 36 - Back along the water.  Now a very long gradual uphill.  This is not part of the course that we ran out on, new territory for me.  Passing lots of people and in great spirits.  But I do wish that this hill will end soon.  It levels, twists out of sight, then goes up some more.  I remember from the elevation chart that a nice downhill begins around mile 24 and I just wish it would get here.  Start pouring water on my head at the aid stations, and drinking "GU Brew".  Between that drink and the Powerbar gels, of which I have had two, my stomach has done great with these new to me fuels.  Finally, the downhill.

Kilometer 40 - 2KM to go.  Try to rally some runners who are taking walk breaks.  I can sense the finish and although I can not go much faster, I am not slowing and I know that I will finish without any walk breaks.  Tell those around me that we will beat 4 hours easy, if we do not walk. 

Kilometer 41 - Level now and just a few turns to the finish.

Kilometer 41.2 - Marker says 1KM to go.  Not looking at the watch anymore, figure I will be done in 5 minutes or so.  Really enjoying the moment, but also would like to be done.

Kilometer 41.4 - Sign says 800M to go.  800 meters is twice around the track, that's easy.  One woman goes flying past me and I compliment her, but she says that she just hopped in and is pacing a friend.  The friend comes past, a bit slower.  Other than that, I have not been passed hardly at all in the last hour.

Kilometer 41.7 - Sign reads 500M to go.  Come on!!  That was way too long.  Well it is really almost over now.  More and more spectators, a turn or two and then the finish line up ahead.  Billy, Tammy and Rich cheering for me and cruise on in to the finish.  Very satisfied, thrilled and a little emotional.  Accomplished everything that I set out to do and had fun while doing it.

Final GPS reading = 26.34 miles

Awesome event that I hope to run again.

646th place of 1678 finishers
Race#251, Marathon or Ultra#72
9th time running a marathon in 3:56