Monday, October 24, 2011

2012 Redemption Tour

2011 has been without a doubt my favorite year of running.  It just keeps getting more enjoyable year to year.  With that said, there are three particular races that left me feeling as though I could have run them better.  I'm not saying that I didn't have fun or that my lackluster performance diminished the experience of each.  No, it's that I simply came away with the desire to try it again.

Instead of chalking them up as poor showings and moving on to other races, I've decided to return to each in 2012 and see just how much I can improve.  Here they are:

1.  Bandera 100k (2011 = 12:10) - This was my first 100k and first ultra outside of Colorado.  I ran it solo and encountered foot issues after the first 31 mile loop of running on rocks.  I hadn't trained for the rocks, and I didn't know how to handle problems with my feet.  The second half was painful and painfully slow, and my race report has a video that documents me saying I would never go back.  Well, I'm going back, and my plan for the next 11 weeks is to run technical trails as frequently as possible.  I was hoping to become best friends with Matthew Winters, but after my first 5:00 am rendezvous last Wednesday, I took a nasty fall on Dakota Ridge in the dark and whacked my knee.  That officially soured our relationship.  I think I'm going to be relegated to weekend duty in the foothills in order to get my rock training in.  All is good with the knee, but had I not been dressed in layers due to the temp being 29 degrees with a nice wind, the fall would have been very messy.
2012 Goal = sub-11.

2.  Moab Red Hot 55k (2011 = 5:16) - I was just barely recovered from Bandera when I ran this race last February.  I started very conservative, picked things up during the middle, and completely fell apart at the end. I've got a few different ideas on strategy for this race, but I know that even having one run on this course will pay off in February.  This course is astounding to the eye and soul.  Registration opened in September and sold out in a day.  I'm in.
2012 Goal = sub-5.

3.  San Juan Solstice 50 (2011 = 11:48) - Hopefully I'll get into this one.  It also sold out in a day last year, and I'm guessing it will go even faster in 2012.  A big reason for me wanting to go back is to run the standard course.  Due to snowpack issues, we ran a difficult, alternate course which was still amazing in typical San Juans fashion.   The angst I feel about this race is due to getting off course and panicking when I got back on.  My fueling was a mess and my mental state was all over the map.  I know running focused here would lead to a much better result.
2012 Goal = sub-10:45.

I'll be running other races in 2012, but these are the ones that made the redemption tour.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wildcat Mountain 20 Mile Trail Race

Last Saturday was an interesting day...and race.  After a very mild start to fall, winter decided to pokes its head out in a mean way.  Just one week earlier, temps were in the 80's, but on this day, I awoke to rain at 5:30 a.m. that turned to heavy snow about 20 minutes later.  The race websites states, "we race rain or shine."  And now they can include snow to that list.

I was feeling pretty good going into the Wildcat Mountain 20 mile trail race.  The soreness from running the NH Marathon the week before had disappeared and I felt ready for a decent effort.  Last year, I ran in the 10 mile version, but when they rolled out the 20 mile option this year, I couldn't resist.

This is the scene at the start line.  Only 5 minutes before Go Time.  Where is everyone?

Here they are!  Staying warm until the very last minute.

There were about 25 of us that started an hour before the 5 &10 mile races kicked off.  I began with a group of five runners out towards the front.  The lead guy took off like a rocket and I could tell he didn't quite know what he was doing.  These conditions almost demanded a more conservative start as the trail was a mixture of snow, slush, mud, and puddles.

After a mile we turned directly into the wind for a long stretch.  It was biting and I kept asking myself if it was really October 8th.  It felt more like a miserable January day.  We ran an out & back section before heading into the Bluffs Regional Park for a longer out & back.  Up to this point, the course had been marked well and there were several marshals directing us on where to go.  But upon entering the Bluffs, there was an unmarked intersection and the top three guys took a right when they were supposed to go left.  I started to follow, but had a flashback from Lake City and turned around.  Fifth place came up behind me and I told him of their error.  He opted to follow them since he assumed they knew what they were doing.

As I plodded along, I came upon a course marker, so I knew I was heading the right way.  I came across a course marshal out there and told him I thought everyone was taking the wrong turn and he got really flustered about what to do.  Sure enough, about a mile later, all the lead guys start coming at me as they continued their loop around the park.  I got several strange looks, but they just cruised on past.  Then the streams of runners came next.  By the time I hit the turnaround, about 15 runners had passed me going the wrong way.  I'm pretty sure the shortcut they took shaved just over a mile from the course.

At this point, I'm beginning to think I'm in first place and that got me running strong and focused.  It was also the time that my legs started to rebel.  The entire backside of my legs (hamstrings & calves) were as tight and sore as ever.  I'm guessing the marathon effort from a week earlier caught up to me.  But I couldn't slow down now!  I had no idea when I would ever get so lucky to be running in first place again, so I simply couldn't blow it.

The rest of the race was uneventful.  The snow let up a little and the temps got above freezing, but the trail conditions were still poor.  We even had a creek crossing that was about 10 feet wide and a foot deep.  I passed all 15 runners that got ahead of me and almost caught two of the four front runners.  I believe I was fifth to cross the finish line.  2:37:01

The race director was aware of the course mishap and asked me if I ran the correct course.  I said yes, but I honestly have no idea how she is going to figure out who did and who didn't.  They made an announcement that they were going to sort out the issue and announce the results via email, but as of today, nothing has been announced.  I understand their problem, because if they award me first place, they'll have to disqualify a whole bunch of runners.  But if they just leave the results as is, they'll be ignoring the fact that most ran only 19 miles.  Oh well.

Post Race Mud.
This race was fun, but due to the weather, very unorganized.  They also need to figure out how to start the 20 mile race so the front runners don't come up behind the back of the pack 5 and 10 milers.  That part of the course was singletrack and many were walking with headphones on.

The race did make one thing clear to me.  Going hard on back to back weekends is probably not for me.  During the last few miles, my legs felt just as they had during the final miles at Leadville.  They were toast for the rest of the weekend.   Had I just kept it slow and steady on Saturday, I would have been fine.  I'll definitely give this race another go next year as I'm sure they'll have all the bumps smoothed out.  I'll post again when they finally figure out how they're going to release the results.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 New Hampshire Marathon

On Saturday, I ran in my third New Hampshire Marathon.  Previously, I ran in 2007 & 2008 and both runs were new PRs for me.  The course is very hilly with about 1850’ of elevation gain, so it's not one most runners typically go for a PR on.  This race is all about the 50 States Marathon Club and Marathon Maniacs.  With New Hampshire on Saturday and the Portland (ME) Marathon on Sunday, many of these folks come in from out of the area to bag two marathons in a weekend.

I’m fond of this race for many other reasons than just running well.  The race is small in numbers and hype.  It feels like you're walking into a local 5k with zero hassles of a typical marathon.  It also runs around Newfound Lake, which I’ve been going to ever since I can remember and my parents now live on.  But there's more...

In 2007, I ran it shortly after my brother-in-law, Jim, had surgery for melanoma.  He was a part of the race and our family rallied together to support me during the race, but also Jim as he was about to enter the chemotherapy stage of his treatment.

In 2008, my sister, Jim, and their girls returned to support my second running and it was days after the race that we found out his melanoma had spread throughout his entire body.  The race was the last time we gathered as a family before Jim’s memorial service two months later.  Needless to say, there is a huge emotional piece to this race for me.

This year, I coordinated with my long time friend from high school (Brian) and our families met up for the weekend.  Brian ran the half marathon and rocked it having a solid race running injury free!

A 22 year friendship that keeps getting better!

In my mind, I was calling this race “a grand experiment” because I was curious to see how my body would respond to a fast marathon attempt only 6 weeks after running Leadville.  Having never run 100 miles before, I wasn’t sure shooting for a quick pace over 26.2 was a wise idea, especially with no specific speed work and almost no road running.

On race day, I awoke to overcast skies and temps in the upper fifties.  My dad gave me a ride into town and dropped me off about 30 minutes early.  With fifteen minutes to the start, the rain began falling and didn’t stop all day.  I’ve only run one other race in the rain (2007 Denver Marathon) and while it’s not the end of the world, I much prefer a dry day.

Once we got started, I found myself in the top 20, which was not a huge feat considering there were only 227 runners.  I was hitting the low to mid sevens and I kept telling myself that it felt comfortable.  The truth was that I had no clue if it was comfortable or not since I hadn’t trained for a specific marathon pace.

At mile three, I had a bug fly into my eye.  Now THAT was uncomfortable!  I couldn’t get it out, so I just kept rolling it around until it didn’t feel like a rock was lodged in there.

At mile six, I ran by my family.  They were hearty spectators braving the rain to cheer me on.  I blew past and gave a few high fives.  I think I was in 15th place around now.  I kept advancing places because I ran with a handheld bottle and skipped all but one aid station.

More hills followed and the miles ticked away.  After mile 11, you begin a long out & back section that gives you a good chance to figure out where you stand.  I entered the turnaround in 12th place.  It wasn't until mile 17 before I made my next move and hit the top ten!  Then began the long stretch of running solo and continuing the loop around the lake.

At mile 20, I passed a spot that I remember so vividly from 2008.  My family was spectating at a friend's condo and Jim had rushed out on their deck as I ran by.  He was the only one out there hootin' & hollerin' for me.  It was bizarre to look up on Saturday and see him there again cheering me along.  Then next thing I knew, he was running along side me!  Oh man, was that moment surreal and sweet.  No, I'm not going crazy at this point.  It just seemed like I could feel his presence more than ever before.  And boy did it make me want to dig deep and finish this thing strong.

The next six miles included splits of 7:06, 6:43, 7:33, 7:15, 7:23, 6:55.  By far the most consistent I've ever been at the end of a marathon.  I also flew past several more runners that were beginning to struggle and ended up crossing the finish line in 3:11:02 and 6th place!  This was over five minutes faster than I ran it in 2008.

Coming down the chute holding my "paper" bib on.   Mix in rain and it didn't hold up too well!
The wet finishers!
All in all the rain did not dampen another fantastic run in New Hampshire.  It was a treat to get to spend time with Brian and his family.  Mom & Dad once again showed strong support and kept me fueled with Dunkin' Donuts coffee all weekend!  I so wish I could have experienced another NH Marathon with my sister and nieces, but my time with Jim was awesome!

Lastly, I thought I had nailed another Boston Qualifier, but learned once again after the race that I came up short.  The new qualifying standards for 2013 now put me at needing a 3:10:00.  So in 2008, I missed by 12 seconds when I ran a 3:16:11...and now 62 seconds in 2011.  Hmmmm...I think I know what my goal will be for a future NH Marathon!