Sunday, October 31, 2010

That was NOT Easy: A Great Pumpkin Chase 10K Race Report

Today the GeekGrl and I went out and ran a local 10K called the Great Pumpkin Chase. Maybe a month or so before Javelina the GeekGrl announced that she wanted to make sure we ran this race because it was her first 10K and she wanted to see if she could PR. This was my first 10K as well and I thought I’d give getting a PR a try as well. However, based on my run yesterday I didn’t really think a PR was in me.

Yesterday was the second time I ran since the Javelina 100K. My first run was an easy 4.2 mile loop in the foothills behind my house at an 11:50 minute per mile pace. Yesterday I headed out for a 10.3 mile run and ended up with an 8:58 minute per mile pace, pretty good but a far cry from what I needed and I just didn’t think my legs had a 10K PR in them.

This morning it was nice and cool and having run the course before I knew it was a pancake flat double loop lollypop-shaped course. The GeekGrl and I showed up about 40 minutes early so I headed out for a couple easy miles to warm up, as I told the GeekGrl, “Just in case I decided to go for it.”

The race started promptly at 9:00 a.m. and I took off at what felt like a pretty comfortable pace. After a couple blocks I looked at my Garmin and I was running a 6:40 pace. I knew I needed to slow down immediately but I was really glad that I could actually move my legs fast enough to hit that pace. After I slowed a bit the small lead group continued to pull ahead then there was a small group of three and then there was me running alone ahead of a small string of people followed by the main pack.

I was running hard but smooth and when the first mile passed and I was at a 7:03 pace I knew I was going to try and hold on for a PR. I knew that a 7:03 pace would crush my 10K PR so I slowed a little bit more thinking that it was more likely that I would blow apart at that pace than actually crush my PR. I ran mile two in 7:15 and was starting to breathe a little too hard for that early in the race so I backed off just a little bit more and ran mile three in 7:24.

I thought that I had found a pace that I could hold that I would beat my PR but when I hit mile four I had dropped to a 7:30 pace and was starting to hurt. Mile five was a real struggle and by the end I had dropped to a 7:38 pace. Now overall I was still under my PR pace but I was starting to worry that I would miss it by a few seconds, something I did not want to do. I could not tell if I had sped up or not but I do know that I increased the pain I was feeling trying to speed up or at least hang on.

By the end of mile six I was rewarded with a 7:30 pace. Just .2 miles left and I was really struggling to avoid slowing down. There were a couple people finishing up the 5K that was going on at the same time and they were sprinting to the finish so I tried to pass them. Finally I was across the finish line in 45:25, a new 10K PR! My old 10K PR was 47:14 and has stood since November 2007. I also ended up winning second place in my age group. Love those local races!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the News and New News

In the news: Thanks to both Joja Jogger and Johnny Tri I found out that I’m featured in Runners World! Ok, so by “I” I really mean me disguised as Elvis…without my actual name associated with Elvis and by featured I mean the article starts “There was Elvis.” and there was a picture of me running a Elvis and by Runners World I mean the Trail Heads blog section of the Runners World website. So, I don’t have the star power of Ryan Hall or Meb Keflezighi…yet, but it’s a start. The next step would be to get my picture in Ultrarunner Magazine. If I can do that I’ll as cool as Form. Notice too that the GeekGrl is included in the Runners World picture too. We were heading in from our first lap and I was running ahead to alert the crew.

New News: Back in September I ran the Rio Del Lago 100-mile Endurance Run and when I arrived at the Cool aid station I met up with Johnny Tri and some other crew people that he was hanging with. The folks in that crew did not want to yell out the nickname the GeekGrl has given me, Sweet Baboo. Instead they decided to call me Big B. Ever since then JT has been calling me Big B. I have really taken to that moniker so I did something about it, I got myself a new license plate. I have to give credit to Nancy Toby because that is where I first saw this plate but it is at least unique in New Mexico and I LOVE the new colors. Oh, and one other thing about the plate. For the first time since high school I have been able to keep my weight just below 200. It hass been about three months now and the only time I pop over is the week prior to and after an ultra and then just barely. I attribute that to running so I sort of felt the desire to kind of memorialize running in my life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Even in a Hero’s Heart the Better Part is Discretion: A Javelina Jundred Race Report

Early in the year the GeekGrl and I talked about doing the Javelina Jundred 100K together and so we registered and then went about our season training and racing pretty much as planned. However, as Javelina drew near and the GeekGrl’s training remained steady she started talking about doing the 100-mile and not the 100K. This changed things quite a bit and so we talked about me crewing and not running then we talked about me just running a couple loops or maybe the 100K while she went on to finish the 100-mile and then I pretty much decided that I’d go ahead and run the 100-mile as well. I’m not usually so flakey about an event but once plans start to change mid-stream then everything seems to get knocked loose and who knows how things will turn out in the end.

Anyway, race morning the GeekGrl and I were on tap to run 100 miles at Javelina and we took off at the starting gun with that intent. I took on the responsibility of straying on top of our hydration and nutrition but that wasn’t really necessary so I mostly started talking to other runners. The other thing about this race was, since I didn’t really consider it MY race but the GeekGrl’s race, I decided to run it as Elvis because ultimately I didn’t care if I finished and being that it is a Halloween party race it was a good excuse to try to run an ultra as Elvis.

I think the Elvis suit was a huge hit out on the course. It was fun getting all the attention and seeing people smile when I ran by but I was getting pretty annoyed with people asking me to sing them a tune. I know it’s kind of stupid not to expect that request but honestly I have never had anyone ask me to sing before so it was unexpected and unwelcome though I did eventually have something to say about it at an aid station. I told the workers at the aid station that there was a strict division of labor among Elvi and that some of us run while others sing and I could get in trouble with the union if I were caught doing both. Whatever, it was enough of a distraction that they stopped asking and it got a chuckle so I didn’t seem like a jerk.

I was also starting to feel bad for the GeekGrl because I was running the first three laps with her and this race was supposed to be about her as far as I was concerned but it really seemed to be more about me. Another thing that I should have considered.

After three laps the GeekGrl and I went our separate ways, she to her crew and me back out on lap four. I was running lap four very well and had plenty of energy until I was 10 miles into the lap at the Coyote Camp aid station. At Coyote Camp I was refueling and among the things I was considering for calories I chose some pumpkin pie. I had some earlier in the day and it tasted good and sat well so I decided to have some more and was almost immediately sorry for my choice. I can’t say with 100% certainty that the pie was bad but what I can say is that within about two minutes I was on the side of the trail throwing up and it was not like the cumulative fatigue, long hard day “I’m finally sick” kind of thing that I often experience in super long events, I was just feeling great and then I had the pie and then my stomach started grinding into knots and that was that. I experienced a dramatic cascade of nausea, pain, fatigue and, well, a bit of good sense.

I knew earlier in the day that the GeekGrl was not going to make 100 miles though I never let her know I knew because she still believed in the goal and I was going to let her enjoy that ride and reach her own conclusions. Knowing that she would be finishing at 100K I felt that it would be a really bad idea for me to push through and go the full 100 miles on her day so I decided that I too would drop at 100K. Believe me, I’m not saying that I was all gallant and self-sacrificing; I had a whole raft of reasons not to push through to 100 miles and I would have happily used each and every one of them but it at least makes me feel like I’m not 100% self-centered to know that not wanting to upstage my wife on her first attempt at 100K was at least one of those reasons.

So, I had a good time, I got to get some running in with JT who ran this as a training run for HURT, I got to get some running in with Form who (what the hell was he doing there anyway?! The man hasn't been training but there he was ready to go), I got to meet and get some running in with Joja Jogger (who finished the full 100 miles!), I earned a 100K JJ buckle to go with my 100-mile JJ buckle, I set a 100K PR for myself and I ran a 100K ultra dressed as Elvis. All pretty awesome.

However, the real story of the day is the GeekGrl’s monumental accomplishment, her first 100K finish. That solidifies her status as an ultrarunner in any country in the world. She continues to amaze me. I love her and am very proud of her and I still know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she CAN finish a 100-mile ultra.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Running with the GeekGrl is Back

Early this year the GeekGrl and I registered to run the Javelina Jundred together with the intention that she was just going for the 100K and I’d run along and get my 100K buckle at Javelina as well, having already earned the 100 mile buckle last year.

As the year progressed the GeekGrl’s goal became to run the 100-mile so then the plan was for me to run a while and then crew and then the plans evolved further and I was going to crew from the very beginning. However, The GeekGrl already has a crew of three friends who are really reliable and one is already an experienced crew member.

As the time for Javelina drew near though I started itching to be out on the course so that’s where I’ll be. The GeekGrl and I are registered in the team competition. In the team competition at Javelina both runners are really independent runners you don’t have to run the whole thing together but each runner does have to run the whole thing. The award goes to the team with the lowest combined time. I’ll go out easy and hang with the GeekGrl for the first 3 or 4 laps depending on when her pacers take over and then I’ll see what I have left and do as much running as I can. I’d like to bring it in under 27:28, which would be a 100-mile PR for me.

Oh, and two more things. I am 100% certain that the GeekGrl can complete the 100-miles at Javelina. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever...PERIOD.

Secondly...I just may run this thing as Elvis. I submitted my name in the constume contest today. I have feared the heat but if the high does only go into the upper 70's as predicted it should be tolerable. Besides, the suit is white and wicking.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

JT Wants Me Dead: A Duke City Marathon Race Report

It is true, JT wants me dead but that will have to come a little later. Today I ran the Duke City Marathon, a race I said I’d never do. I said I’d never do it not because it is a bad race but because it just isn’t all that interesting a race for someone who lives in Albuquerque. However, earlier this year the GeekGrl and I ran the Turtle Marathon in Roswell, another marathon I said I’d never run, and we had a really good time. Then and there the GeekGrl and I decided that since New Mexico is our home state and there are relatively few marathons, six total I believe, we really should run them all.

So since I am back to training mode and running longer and the GeekGrl is in full taper for Javelina I signed us up, her for the 5K and me the marathon. She was mighty disappointed to be running the 5K. She complained to me “I REALLY want to do the half” but I wouldn’t relent. Speaking to her as a coach I told her there was no way she was going to run a half marathon the weekend before her first attempt at a 100-miler but I told her she could run the 5K as fast as she wanted, which she did.

I headed out for the marathon not having much of an idea what to expect. I know my strength and endurance is really good but I am not trained for marathon running right now. Pretty much since Leadville all I’ve done is race and recover with some 4 to 10 mile runs in-between. I figured I might run in the ballpark of four hours, maybe a bit longer. I also decided to continue my experiment of pushing harder from the beginning of the race to try and narrow down just how hard is hard enough.

At the Do-Wacka-Do 50K I discovered that an average heart rate of 160 from the beginning of the race is too much and I exploded around mile 21. Today I thought I’d try a starting average heart rate of 150 and hold that until the half-way mark and then if I had it in me I’d push harder on the way back.

Right from the starting gun people took off like we were running a 10K. I started to get caught up in it but thought better. I looked and my heart rate had already spiked to 157 so I backed off and let all manner of people surge past me. I hung back and made predictions as to when I would pass this person or that. Some folks looked like I’d probably catch them by mile 15 if at all, some I figured I’d catch within six miles but what amazed me were all the people blowing past me that looked like I’d catch by the end of the block.

So I was cruising along not paying attention to my pace until my heart rate was a solid 15. When I hit 150 I stole a look at my pace and noted it was an 8:47. That seemed too fast. I thought I should be running more like a 9:15 or so but my HR was where I wanted it to be and this was an experiment so I just thought, “Well, let’s see how long I can ride this out” and I just kept going. The miles kept ticking by and I still felt comfortable and my average pace was still dropping. I was really tempted to just slow down even though my HR was rock steady at 150. It took a lot for me to convince myself to just let come what may.

By mile six I was already starting to feel a little tightness in my legs and immediately thought that this was way too soon to feel anything. Six miles into a marathon you should still feel like you just started but I stared again at my HR and convinced myself to just keep going. By the time I hit the turn-around I was hitting mile splits that were in the low 8:30s to high 8:20s and I was actually feeling a little better than I was at mile six.

Now was the point in my plan where I decided that, depending on how I felt I would try and speed up. I was feeling good but I was also running pretty fast. I decided to just hold my current pace and maybe try and speed up a bit at mile 20. I figured that even if I wasn’t able to speed up at that point and were somehow able to maintain my current pace I’d still break four hours, which was my secret goal but not something I really thought I could pull off.

I had been passing people without being passed myself since about mile five but as I closed in on mile 15 the people I was passing were getting smaller and smaller and they were fewer and farther between. By mile 20 I was starting to pass people who looked like they were actually running pretty well but by mile 23 the people I was passing were either doing the marathon shuffle of were in a full blown death march. Despite the fact that at this point we were all mixed in with the back of the pack half-marathon runners and a random assortment of half-marathon walkers the marathoners were easy to spot.

As I entered the final three miles I was struggling to hold my pace but managed to keep it below 9:00. When I hit the final mile I began to pick up the pace again and was able to squeeze out just a little more and I crossed the finish line in 3:47:04. I was pretty stunned because that is only 25 seconds off my marathon PR and that was run at the Ogden marathon, which takes place at fairly similar elevation but which has some really long downhill sections. The Duke City marathon takes place at an average elevation of 5,000 feet but is pretty much flat except the rollers that start about 2.5 miles from the turn around.

So when I finally got home to check my Garmin data I see that the course was measured by my Garmin as 26.35 miles not 26.2. I am used to my garmin being slightly inaccurate but it always registers shorter not longer. The GeekGrls Garmin measure her course at 3.15 instead of 3.1. If I go with my data for average pace and distance than that would put me at 26.2 in 3:45:55, a PR by 44 seconds. I’d love to claim that but I’m sure that would raise more than a few eyebrows. However, I can still claim to have run the fastest average pace for a race that was advertised as a marathon so I guess I’ll go with that.

The best thing, however, is the fact that I ran a negative split by about two minutes. Even better, my negative split was so small that I take it to mean I ran almost a perfect marathon because, I guess in theory, if you started out as fast as you possibly could without dying at the end you would run a perfectly even split, which I damn near did.

Hooray small negative split! Hooray Beer! (my nod to Red Stripe, I can’t get their adds out of my head recently.)

So, I claim that JT wants me dead because he put the evil thought into my head that we should run the Zane Grey 50-miler next season. Zane Grey is most certainly one of the top three hardest 50s in the country if not the hardest. I have a few friends who have run it and they say it is super rocky and you are basically getting lashed the whole way by cactus and dry branches. It’s apparently a lot like getting flogged by a cat-o-nine tails for several hours. Hell, it took Anton Krupeca just over eight hours to finish Zane Grey and he can run Leadville in 16 hours.

Why JT, why?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Most Disappointing PR Ever: A Pajarito Trail Run Race Report

Today was the second time I’ve done the 15-mile Pajarito trail run and it wasn’t any easier this time. Last year my time was 3:04:14 and I was 25th of 45. This year I finished in 2:38:35 and was 18th out of 45. I recognize that an improvement of nearly 26 minutes on a 15 mile mountainous run is a pretty tremendous accomplishment so I probably sound like an ingrate saying that it was a disappointing finish but it was just one of those situations where the end of the race was so much worse than what I was hoping for that it kind of wiped out the luster of the beginning of the race.

I remember last year starting too far back and getting stuck in a long line of runners that were much slower than I wanted to be running so I spent a lot of time waiting to pass and then expending a bit too much energy on the pass. This year I started pretty far forward though it is always difficult to judge where to start on this race because you take off with 10K and 15-mile runners mixed together and you don’t know who is who. It turns out that I chose my spot just about perfectly. The run starts with almost a mile of short, gentle rollers and then a good downhill before beginning a two mile climb from 9200 feet to 10,500 feet at the top of Pajarito Mountain. During these first three miles I may have passed two or three people and was probably passed by two or three. Near the time I reached the peak I could tell that I was at the head of the runners who needed to use a run/walk strategy to make it to the top and the group of runners ahead were all ones who were able to run most, if not all, of the climbs.

Upon reaching the peak there is a spectacular view of the Valles Caldera and then you duck back into the forest for some nice flat trail and the beginning of a huge, steep downhill beginning with a run straight down the middle of a ski slope. As I went bombing downhill I hit a 6-minute mile, which is pretty scary on technical, twisting trail. I was dodging rocks, ducking under branches, leaping small boulders and vaulting fallen trees, it was a total blast. However, on one of the sharp turns I started to lose control and I rolled my right ankle and went down hard. I scraped up my left knee a bit and my right ankle was sore but I was able to get up and continue running pretty well.

During the first six miles when you have the big climb and descent there was already some snow on the trails at the higher elevations but it wasn’t enough to make a significant difference in footing. This year, however, the trails seemed rockier, like there was more loose rock on the trails, rocks that would bounce up and hit your ankles or would roll out from under your feet. Other parts of the trail just seemed more worn like there had been heavy rain erosion and this made footing more difficult as well.

Despite the issues with footing and the fall I continued to run well through the big climb and descent. The next section of the course is a long out and back with a relatively gentle 4.5 mile climb out and then a descent back. The entire way out I was looking forward to my run back to the finish line because I knew it would be a mostly gentle downhill all the way in and I was positive that I would be able to pick up a few more places before I crossed the finish line. However, at about mile 10 I started to experience the faint beginnings of pain in my stomach. I backed off my pace a little and things seemed to settle but at about mile 11.5 I was experiencing serious pain in my gut and I could not run downhill because the pain was just too intense so I was reduced to a combination of slow jogging and walking.

In short order people started to pass me but there wasn’t anything I could do because any time I tried to pick up my pace the stabbing pain in my stomach would return. Before long my right ankle started to ache as well and the ankle began to feel really unstable on uneven surfaces, which was just about every footstep of the course. I tried just being patient and hoped the bad patch would pass but then I started alternately getting cramps in my chest wall on the left side of my body and side stitches low on the right side of my torso. All the while more people were passing me cheerfully saying “Good job!” and my body seemed to be in full revolt. My mood started to darken significantly but at least the distance to the finish was still diminishing.

It was strange to have done so well at a race and end up not feeling very good about it but I guess that’s just the way it is sometimes. Still, a 26 minute improvement, I’ll take that! I just need to focus on being grateful I can run races like this.