Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pikes Peak Ascent: One and Done!

I'm really glad to have finished the Pikes Peak Ascent last Saturday. It's been on my bucket list since the early 1980s, but being a specialty race (one that you have focus on for a number of months to the exclusion of 'normal' training) it never fit into summer racing.

A year ago today I got the job offer to move back to Colorado and I immediately planned on doing the Ascent in 2015. When I signed up back in March, I'd been on a roll for a year and felt confident of breaking 3 hours, thinking about the rule of thumb that a Pikes Peak time translates roughly to what you can do in a road marathon. I'd been around 1:20 for the half and 3:15 at Equinox--a tough marathon in its own right--so a sub 3 didn't seem out of reach.

I was wrong on that one.

Felt more or less great and raced well through April, but things caught up to me after the Greenland 25K trail race in early May. My legs weren't recovering from workouts and then I'd been stressed, with finalizing the move from Alaska and a number of other matters.

During May and June I put in okay miles (about 50 per week) but felt chronically tired. By June I started mixing in long runs and weekends at altitude. And in July I got up to 12,000 feet on several runs and over 13,000 feet a couple times. Ended running a solid trail race on the Barr Mountain trails (6,600 to 10,200) in mid-July. So all was heading in the right direction.

But a pinched nerve in my neck flared up the week before and after the trail race and it took 3 weeks for that to clear up, and only after intervention with anti-inflammatory medication and physical. All just in the final two weeks. July's mileage was adequate at 40-45 a week (but had planned for 60 or so). However, those miles were on a weekend warrior schedule, typically with a 13-16 miler at altitude on Saturdays and then 9-10 miles on Sunday. The rest of the week was recovery and easy runs of just 4-6 miles.

I was just glad to be able to line up in Manitou Springs, but with some readjusted time goals (3:00 to 3:15, but hoping for sub 3:10). However, on race day I woke up nervous! I could bare gobble down a bagel and banana that morning and had severe cotton mouth even after downing a quart of water. That mountain looke so huge, so daunting.

I started out cautiously over the first few miles, and seemed to be about where I had wanted to be, but had a rough patch at about 5 or 6 miles. Was optimistic at the Barr Camp check point with a 1:31 at 7.6 miles (roughly 3:05 pace). The next few miles went pretty well and I felt comfortable as one can be at 11,000 feet pushing on at marathon effort (albeit at twice marathon pace if you're on the roads).

Hitting the A frame at just below 12,000 feet was semi-surreal. We were finally above tree line. Like when you are at lake and people a mile away sound like they are close by, I could clearly hear when the leaders crossed the finish with all the sirens and cheering up above.

I would still have an hour to go. It was all switchbacks over and between boulders and I was no longer running much. Often it wasn't even power hiking, but just walking. For the last three miles I stopped looking at my watch and only focused on moving and finishing. I was getting dizzy and stumbling a lot.

Do not fall, do not throw up.

The last mile was pretty frantic but at 18-20 min pace! Passing and getting passed. Just finishing was one of the toughest things I've had to do in a race.

So 3:14, 73rd, and 3rd in age group. In the past 5 years that'd be 1st or 2nd in age group but there were a couple of very fast 55 yr olds in there (including a former U.S. mountain bike champion!). But the competition in this event is not about time or place as much as just getting up the mountain.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Humpbacked in August

Well, I guess I'm running Pikes Peak Ascent this weekend. Not exactly a ringing of self-encouragement.

I've been thinking about this one since I got news of word of the job transfer last August, and have spent the summer in preparation. I've done a lot of trail running (50% or more) and time in the mountains (every weekend since the first of June has included runs and substantial time at above 9000 feet, and I've climbed to 13,000 or greater several times. No 14ers though. Although I wish it was more, I should be relatively altitude ready.

However, last month some pain (sometimes significant) has developed in my back--between shoulder blade and spine and that has restricted training somewhat. July was supposed to be a big month with 60 miles a week or so in preparation of the race but I had to cut back to about 45. And then two weeks ago the pain radiated down into my left arm. At that point I figured it was time to see a doctor. Have seen two so far and they've had me on muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory meds. The former I couldn't stand the side effects, and didn't take much of that.

Geez, when it's way way off and  you've never even seen the trail you can dream big. Through most of the spring I was thinking that  low to mid 2:50s was a good goal (I put 2:56 on my entry), but I don't think I'll be anywhere near that. Based on my last minute entry at the Barr Mountain Trail Race in July, guess I'll be at Barr Camp in 1:28-1:35, which is more like territory for 3:00 to 3:10. And that's if everything goes right: weather, fueling/hydration, pacing, my back, and most importantly my fitness which as of late (starting in May) is somewhat compromised if not off. And of course there is the altitude factor itself. How will I feel at 13,000 feet after some 11 miles and 2.5 hours of climbing?

Be healthy and have some fun. Those are my goals going in.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stumbling into the Barr Trail Mountain Race

My plan for last weekend was to do the Colorado Springs 10K Classic, but I missed the start by 24 hours. Somehow I had convinced myself that the 18th was Sunday, not Saturday. No idiot, it's not 2014. I got up early and drove to the Springs with plenty of time only to find that no one was at the start line. No one. I quickly figured out my mistake and after a minute of fuming decided to do a 2 to 2.5 hour run on the Barr Trail in prep for the Pike's Peak Ascent next month.

I drove into Manitou Springs, parked, and saw dozens of runners with race bibs waking up the avenue toward the Cog Railway. A race?! I grabbed my stuff and headed to the start. The 12.6 mile Barr Trail Mountain Race was about to start. I was the last entry and promised to bring them cash after the finish.

The course is nothing short of brutal, starting at 6,530 feet and heading up a steep road for a half mile before it joins the Barr Trail. From there it was endess switchbacks for another 3 miles before it opened up a bit. I kind of went with the flow for a quarter mile but dropped into an easier pace for awhile before finding my hill rhythm some 10 minutes into the race.


I had a good group to run with and by 3 miles I was passing runners and gaining on others. Twice I got within seconds of the 2nd place woman (a 2:41 marathoner), but she'd pull away. At the turn around (1:19) I was about 21st place and a minute plus behind her. However, there were a dozen or so runners within 30 or 40 seconds behind me but I was confident that I could hold most of them off because normally I'm a decent downhill runner.

How wrong was that?

I felt fine for most of the first mile on the descent, but one by one--on the technical sections--other runners screamed by. We had a few rather open stretches where the trail was smooth and I could catch up (running XC downhill style), but as soon as it got rocky or gravelly I would slow down. By half way down the descent about 5-6 runners had passed and I kind of knew it was over. So I eased up and ran at a moderate effort--if not easy at times--because I did not want to fall. Zoom, zoom, zoom, they kept catching me from behind.

With just a kilometer or so to go two more runners were flying down the hill and I figured that I could hold them off, so I picked it up and prepared for the final stretch. Mistake!

They were only 10 or 15 meters back when I caught a toe on a rock and went flying head first down the trail. Scraped my palm, forearm, and hip. I was stunned and layed on hte ground for a few seconds. They asked if I was okay and I figured, yeah, okay enough, and they sped off. I lumbered up and did my best to get down the trail without anymore spills or getting passed.

The result was pretty discouraging, as I lost a good 8-10 minutes from the runners that were around me on the ascent. Other than bonking at the California International Marathon in 2005, I've never lost that kind of time in a race.

I dunno. I ran in road shoes, not trail shoes that might of helped a bit. But mostly it's obvious that I lack the technical downhill trail running skills.

Still hung on for 2nd in the 50-59 age group and I got a funky chunk of wood with BTMR branding and a US Coast and Geodetic Survey Marker (Pikes Peak ---> Elevation 14,115 ft) tacked on.

Speaking of 14,115 ft, that ascent next month is going to be tough. This is one I'm going to go for the experience as much as any competitive effort. Just finish it and enjoy the trek.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Crash and Burn at the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile

I should probably be filling in more often with training and such between races, but never get around to it. So here's a brief summary of training and races for the past two months

April 6 - 12, 44 miles with half marathon (1:22, 1st age 22nd overall)
April 13 - 19, 40 miles recovery
April 20 - 27, 50 miles mostly recovery
April 28 - May 3, 57 miles with 25K trail race (1:50, 1st age class, 5th overall)
May 4 - 10,  45 miles, recovery (very tired by end of week)
May 11 - 17, 58 miles with threshold reps; 5K time trial (blow up) and tempo
May 18 - 24, 50 miles with hill reps; hill climb time trial (felt off on TT)
May 25 - 31, 42 miles mostly recovery
June 1 to 7, 50 miles with weekend at 9000 ft altitude
June 8 to 14, 59 miles with 10 mile race (Blow up)

This shows that I've been on recovery or not feeling great for about two months now. It might be as simple as a couple rounds of massage therapy. Maybe something else. It has been a stressful period with lots of change going on in my life, including a move, house sale, kid graduting, now empty nesters in a new (old city), and dealing with that.

Anyway, I came into Saturday's Garden of the Gods 10 mile race thinking that 1:05-1:06 would be a reasonable effort, and that I could take on anyone in my age group. So I worked through the race a bit (60 miles for the week), and took no rest days, but a couple easy ones on Friday and Saturday (55 and 45 minutes respectively).

Slept well overnight, but I felt off from the gun. Maybe another hit of caffeine would have gotten me charged. Splits were:

6:25 (mostly downhill)
6:58 (up)
6:55 (up mostly)
6:53 (up and some down)
7:16 (a lot of up, and really tough up)
6:42 (mostly down but not recovered)
6:50? (I just tanked by here, and fell back 20 seconds from the pack)
7:16 (I think that was mostly down!)

On the ups I was gassed, even though I was dialed back, and then I wouldn't recover over the top. At 4.5 I figured I could cruise for 30 sec, pick it up and drop the field within 2-3 minutes. But I checked my watch at 2 minutes past cresting the hill and was breathing hard. Meanwhile, they dropped me.

So. A recovery week. Plan on massage therapy this week. Maybe get a blood test. Considering recent events hopefully it's not thyroid or testosterone deficiency!

Despite having a meh race, I still got third to a couple of tough competitors--guys that you have to have a good day to beat--and an enjoyable weekend in Colorado Springs with my wife. We visited Manitou Springs and droveGarden of the Gods, and of course the run, the zoo, and hiked couple miles of Barr Trail following the race.

Pikes Peak is going to be a killer! (But if I'm going to go, then a run up that hill wouldn't be a bad way to do it).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Greenland Trail Race 25K

I must be racing on residual fitness, or just air. Training-wise I haven't felt good for months now, since mid-late February. And every time I've raced since then it seems like the recovery takes weeks if at all. However, can't complain about the results.

I've felt pretty awful since Platte River Half Marathon last month, but did manage weeks of 40, 50, and 55 miles, which isn't too bad. Nevertheless, I haven't done a full workout in more than a month. Just run and once a week or so do some surges or pick ups. The closest thing was a 5 min hill climb in Boulder with BTC the other week, followed by some pick ups.

My first Greenland Trail race experience was decent to good. I scouted out the course last week and ran 14 miles out there, and got the gist of the rolling terrain and moderate (6900-7400 ft) altitude. Felt better as the week progressed, with a bit of fartlek training on Wednesday and Thursday and a real easy 5 miler on Friday.

Race day was about as good as it gets, low 50s at the start with a slight breeze and maybe 60 or 65 by the finish. The field didn't seem all that big, with fewer than 300 starters, and I tucked into 11th or 12th for the first couple miles. No one came up from behind and I just focused on keeping my breathing level moderate. By the third and fourth miles I started moving up, one by one, and I was in a surprise 6th place as we made our way up the hill between 3.5 and 4.5. I just kept steady and wove around the back of the pack 50K runners who had started 30 minutes before us. At the top of the hill 5th place Mike, another masters runner whom I've met the past couple races, was a good minute up, and a string of 4-5 were just a few seconds back. I focused on keeping a steady tempo on the long downhills back to the start-finish-lap area, and felt really good through there.

Was a bit discouraged to be more than a minute back from Mike at the turn-around (~7.5 miles), and still only 10 or 15 seconds ahead of the three or four. Felt like a sitting duck out there on the short-grass ecotone. I bided time by picking off more and more 50K runners, now mid-pack level, but it felt like my pace was flagging. Mike was pulling away it seemed and I was waiting for a train of runners to stream by. My legs and breathing didn't feel good. But as we ascended to about 7300 on the 2nd loop I heard no footsteps. Then the trails merged and people slalom from the 8 mile became quite annoying. Those on the left hand track invariably wore head phones, so I say 'on your left' before attempting to pass but they'd never hear me. So a lot of weaving and bobbing between tracks.

That was my major criticism of the race, having to pass hundreds of runners on the trail. A wave start isn't a bad idea but maybe make it based on expected pace based on 10K to half marathon results over the past year. Takes a little more work for the organizers, but at $70 a pop for an entry they can handle it.

By the time I reached the hill (4.5 miles to go) I was encouraged to moving up on Mike and to be past the most dense wave of of 8 mile runners, so passing was pretty easy. At the 2nd summit I was just a few seconds back from Mike, but he put the burners on so I just relaxed and let gravity do it's work while filling my lungs and legs with enough oxygen to hang on.

It flattened and I kept pushing. I thought I'd be about 1:50:20 and didn't throw in a huge kick, ended up 1:50:01 chip time in 5th. Technically 2nd masters but got credit as masters winner because 2nd overall was 40 and he was the open race runner up. Very encouraging, and a bonus was that I checked the archive and that's the fastest 50+ time ever on this course for the 25K. Won a pair of La Sportiva shoes for the effort and look forward to trying them on!

Overall this is a decently well-run event. I'll give it a 4 of 5. They could add another aid station and do something about the wave start to keep the trail more clear. But it's a good site and they have a good system. Not so keen on the finisher medals for everyone in a race shorter than a marathon, but I'm old school. Collecting a number of those things and not sure what to do with them.

Next race is Garden of the Gods 10 miler in mid-June.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Age Graded Results at Plate River Half Marathon

I'm a couple weeks late, been a very busy and hectic time, but here are top age grade scores from the Platte River Half Marathon the other week. Colleen De Reuck's 1:21:17 is a state record, 1:40 faster than what she did last fall at Rock 'n Roll Half in Denver. An outstanding time! The men's 55-59 age group is deep, with 4 of the 7 that were above 80% in that group.

91.74 Colleen De Reuck (50) 1:21:17
86.35 Andrea Espinosa (52) 1:28:33
86.19 Roger Sayre (57) 1:22:37
85.58 Dan Spale (58) 1:23:58
82.83 Kyle Hubbart (58) 1:25:43
82.00 Jerry Reif (50) 1:21:39
81.65 Jay Survil (56) 1:26:25

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bouyed by the Platte River Half

After a hectic couple of months it's nice to return for a blog entry. Although I'm pretty sure this is pretty obscure, so far under the radar that mosquito would make a bigger blip on the screen. Makes Northern Lights seem like the big time.

The Platte River Half has been a race that I've wanted to do for more than a decade. I was injured when it first started and then moved to Alaska for 10 great years and more or less (excluding the injured year of 2010) a solid comeback.

So training the past two months has been solid, going about 50 a week with some okay workouts and just one race, an 18:18 5K (2nd masters and 1st in age) last month in my old hometown of Fort Collins. But the past two weeks of work, and life in many respects, have been wracked by deadlines and stress--hate it when work gets in the way of fun! But running has been my release, and I've enjoyed runs on up on North and South Table Mountain, Mesa Trail, Deer Creek Canyon, Waterton Canyon etc.

So I didn't know what to expect on Sunday. I did the proper cut back and looked at the calculators, which rather incredulously indicated that I was in 1:24 shape. But but, I ran 1:19 last year at sea level I whine to myself.

New year new altitude. I still thought a 1:21 or 1:22 was possible.

Hey they put on a great race for the Platte River Half Marathon. Something everyone, fast course, it's certified, a good field, great post-race block party. Can't say enough good things about this event.

The day dawned warm with a bit of a breeze from the south, it was noticeable on that half mile stretch in Littleton before we headed onto the bike path. I'd planned to run 6:20-6:30 for the first 2 miles and then drop into the 6:15 range once we got the downstream running path for nearly 10 miles. However, my mind kept pushing me to want to go 6:10, which I'd do but feel myself breathing hard so I backed off.

Had a good age group battle going from about 4 to 8 miles with Dan from Runners Roost. He reeled me in and we ran together for another mile or so, and then he surged but I held back with the group until just before 8. This time I surged and one other guy went with me, and we were off toward the finish.

I felt solid through 10 (1:02:26), but just let up a bit to get a drink and that guy had 30-40 meters. Mike, another masters runner from the Roost came up from behind so I just focused on those ahead. I picked off a couple more, but one or two went by. The stretch from 10 to 12 was tough. The wind had shifted into our face and it was flat/straight on a detour through the streets rather than on the bike path. I was hurting through there and had to concentrate to keep going. The stretch on the 8th Avenue viaduct was slow on the climb and I was feeling it bot didn't lose much ground. It was a relief to get to the crest of that long bridge. I started surging off and on to the finish. Hit 13 on my watch in 1:21:15, but that was almost a quarter mile from the finish.

Crossed in 1:22:37, 19th overall and an age graded 86.2, an altitude PR. That felt good, but then again 50 yr Colleen De Reuck up ahead by 80 seconds took the age grade award with a 92%. That was fast!  

And did I say the party was great! I had fun for a couple hours--after tracking down my bag which had inadvertently been picked up by someone else--and then rode back on the Light Rail to Littleton with the Runners Roost crew.

Did it. Had some fun. Met my goal and beat the calculator. So what's not to like about all that? Hope to be back in the future.

Monday, February 23, 2015

February Surprise

Perhaps my birthday gift arrived a day early, but not without a little bit of work and maybe some luck.

I lined up for the Snowman Stampede 10 mile race, the RRCA 10 mile state championship, not seeing one of my age chief age group rivals, the guy that beat me at the 5 mile last month and at USATF XC two weeks ago. We also seemed to have had dodged the brunt of the weekend snowstorm. A couple inches overight but at start time it was relatively calm and overcast with temps in the low-mid 30s, but no snowfall. The path was mostly clear, save for a few choice puddles.

Plan was 6:40, 6:30, 6:20s and then try to hammer the last couple miles in low 6s. Hit the first mile in about 20th place and 6:18 so maybe a bit faster than planned but relatively close to goal pace.  Just after that, sure enough, not unlike at the 5 miler my age competitor in red singlet of the Roost sidled up and we congealed into a pack of about five or six runners. My breathing felt good and the pace felt fairly reasonable, but I didn't want to push ahead too soon get caught in no man's land after just a few miles, so I mostly just tucked into the group and let the others do the pacing. We hung in the 6:25-6:30 range, which seemed too slow, but they threw in a couple short surges as if to test things out. We hit 5 at about 32:18, which was a ways slower than my goal pace and I just hoped I could hang when things did pick up. Sure enough at the turn around (at about 5.5 miles) their guy (I think it was four guys from Runners Roost, a guy in orange, and me) surged and we strung out. Suddenly we were down to four.

The comical highlight of the day was at about mile 6 with incoming runners on the same bike path. We came upon a very large puddle that spanned the 8 foot bike path and looked to be 3-5" deep on our side. We had about a second to respond as a lone female on the right side approached. Three choices: straight ahead into the deep clear-cold water for several strides, go right to the cinder path which was obviously 3" of mud and looking very slippery, or go left and only get our toes wet while trying not to collide with the woman.

One went right into the mud, squish!, after a moment's hesitation the of us three behind veered left almost running head on with the oncoming runner.

"Uhhh. Seriously guys!" was her reponse. You had to be there, but the tone of annoyance was kind of priceless. Well maybe she had to stutter step, but there was no contact that I saw and no one fell. No harm, I  hope.

We hit the 6th mile in 6:08, and that was a net uphill and against traffic so things were heating up. I expected these guys leave me gasping at any moment so just hung on. The pace let up a bit in the 7th mile as we were going against the bulk of the pack, still heading to the turn around. At 7 the leader (who'd been leading most of the way from the turnaround) turned to me and said, "we're fallling off the pace," and to me "You can lead for a while"

"Sure, I can do that." and I settled into a comfortably fast pace, at about 6:10, fully expecting them to tuck right in.

But a funny thing happened. They fell back. First just few steps. But then it became 5 or 10 meters. I tried to keep it even for about a half mile, but could tell they were just hanging on, so I picked up with some subtle 15-20 second surges. The 8th mile was another 6:08, and then a 6:10 for the 9th and I was closing in on another guy from the Roost. Probably getting to within 10 seconds but he heard me and picked up his effort.

That 10th mile was a bit painful, running scared trying to focus on the guy head who was surging away himself, while holding off those behind. Back into the mucky dirt road in Hudson Gardens I accelerated the turns but kind of floundered on those two at this point grueling 10-15 sec uphills.

Kicked in with a 6:14 final mile and finished at 63:22. So a nice 31:04 or so for the final 5, with a net uphill of 120 feet. And better yet 1st in age group. I didn't expect that, but glad it worked out.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Men's 2015 USATF XC: All Net For Chris Derrick

Here are some pictures from the men's race at the 2015 USATF XC championships in Boulder.

Moments before the fray.

Lead pack just after 4K.

Chase pack, top 20 in the early laps.

Derrick in the clear for his third consecutive national championship.

Nothing but net. Derrick made a hand gesture to show that as he crossed, but this photo says it all.
Bobby Curtis takes a surprise (to many) 2nd place.

Ritz takes 3rd, but will not run World XC championships in China, opting for Boston Marathon instead.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Women's 2015 USATF XC Boulder

From start to finish this race was all Laura Thweatt. She controlled the pace from early on, covered all moves, and ultimately sped away from the field. Here are a few photos.

Women's lead pack at start of lap 2.

Thweatt leading the pack, with Brianne Nelson and Sara Hall in tow.

Break away pack: Thweatt, Sara Hall, and Neeley Spence.


In the clear, Thweatt wins by 30 seconds.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Laying it on the Line at USATF Masters

I went into Saturday's USATF masters XC championsips at Boulder's Flatirons golf course hoping to medal (top 3) in my age group but I knew I'd have to have a great day. However in the days before the race I decided that I don't have control over what other runners are doing, and just to focus on getting myself ready. Now that the dust has settled a bit two days later, I don't think I could have run much better. Still came up short my goal but those guys up front just ran fantastic.

My plan was for even splits with a steady effort and that hardly could have gone better. The first 2K lap was 7:49, then 15:43 (7:54), 23:44 (8:01), and finished in 31:28 (7:44).

Tell-tale age group bibs on the back of your singlet.
On the first lap I saw three or four guys in my age group up ahead, and I just keyed on one guy with the skyblue 55-59 number on his back, trying to focus on my breathing and not to overextend so early in the game. I was about 85th place at the end of the first lap. We were fairly strung out by lap 2 and I just maintained effort, but started picking off more people. At half way, I caught 60+ ace Doug Bell and could account four 55-59 bibs up ahead.

The third lap was tactical, I worked on the closest one (who was last year's age group winner). I passed once and  he came right back, so I chilled. But being from sea level, he was breathing harder so I felt confident and was able to pull away by the end of the lap. On the last lap one more in my age group was in my sights at that point and I set out to catch him. I thought it was California's Brian Pilcher, an age group ace whom I'd seen warming up in a white singlet. I figured I was fighting for top 3.

Early laps (Michael Scott Photography 2015)
So just worked on him, and with about 600 m to go I pulled away. I did sneak a peak back over the final 200 meters just to make sure  he wasn't back on me and put in as much of a kick as I could muster (which wasn't a lot). So I ended up 67th in the masters race, and for a half hour thought I'd been top 3. However, I learned that Pilcher and two of the local Dans (King and Spale) were at least 50 seconds ahead. They had gone out very fast (the Dans by 45 seconds on the First lap and were never in sight). A little short of my goal, but realistically it couldn't have gone better. The competition was a fair amount steeper and deeper than last year. 2014s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd went 7th, 3rd, and 10th respectively this time. And last year only two ran under 32 minutes, in 2015 seven did it.

Competition, I like it! Kudos to the top guys in my age group (King, Pilcher Spale, and Greer) and all the masters who ran hard out there on Saturday.

Michael Scott photography 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Muddling Through the Winter Classic

I went into Saturday's race planning on a tune up for next week's USATF masters championships, to run solid but not to burn out. I think that objective was accomplished although the race didn't quite play out as I'd planned. One thing for sure, I still feel oxygen limited and wonder if that's going to change over the next few months or if it's something that I just have to get used to.

The women started soon after I arrived and took off in a solid pack. By half way through the first lap former Fairbanks runner Maggie Callahan was clearly in 2nd, on the heels of two-time USATF XC champion Laura Thweatt. So it was fun cheering them on.

Thweatt put the hammer down on the 2nd lap, dropping some 40 seconds. That was fun to watch. But Maggie hung tough the entire race and didn't let up. So it was my BTC new teammates in 1st (Thweatt) and 3rd (Wendy Thomas) and Maggie in 2nd for the day. Nice job ladies!

I lined up a couple rows back so as not to go out too fast. I really lack fast starting speed-acceleration anymore, with the exception of downhills. I was probably about 30th place through most of the first lap. The lead group of 6 or 7 were gone pretty quickly, and there was a procession of 20 or so, and I was at the tail end of that. I couldn't hear anyone behind me. I felt not too bad on that first lap, the only struggle was with my #*(&% Garmin, which had been warning me that the data was filling up, decided not to work. So I messed with that for a few minutes while trying to keep in contact with that pack. I really eased up the only substantial climb and fell back some, but accelerated on the down so by the end of the first lap I was in contact with 3-4 other guys including my friend Andrew.

Andrew and I ran together through most of lap 2. I felt that this was the most race-like and the one that I pushed the hardest on this day. But actually it was 6 seconds slower than lap 1, and the slowest of the three. Go figure. By the end of the lap I set my sights on the guy ahead, about 10 seconds up, and tried to pick up the pace. However, I'm at a point where any kind of acceleration or push quickly leads to oxygen debt.

I gained a few seconds here and there, but again up the hill backed off a bit. That's where my quarry picked it up. I gained some of that back but stayed 10 seconds off.

Although I had hopped that some of my age group competitors would be in the mix (I call them "The Dans" because the three who've finished ahead of my in my now five races since returning to Colorado are named Dan), they were no shows. So 1st 50+ and 5th masters. Probably my best effort since moving back in October. I'm still not where I'd like to be on the hills and with holding a sustained pace.

Up front there was a great race, with USATF XC champ Joe Gray battling it out with BTCs Sean Quigley, fresh off a 2:13 marathon last December. I got glimpses of them. They were moving!

photo by Lee Troop


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Breakin' in not breakin' out

I knew the running competion in Colorado would be tougher than Alaska, based on sheer numbers of people as well as climate. Jefferson County--where I now reside--alone has as many people as the entire 49th state. Add in the other large cities and regions as well as a huge proportion of people that run out here and you're going to have deeper fields. And the weather? It's -40s in Fairbanks now, while we're enjoying 60s and up to 70. In January? That's late May weather in the Interior. Although I miss the easy access to skiing I don't miss -40s. So it's a pleasant change to be here and you sure can get in some good workouts, but so does the competition!

Speaking of which. Four races into the campaign since early November and indeed I've faced some good competition already. At state level races (USATF XC championships in November and RRCA 5 mile championship last week) I've gotten a 3rd and a 2nd. Three guys, all named Dan. What's with that? I did some checking and that's some heady company. Two of them hold all-time state records in our age group, one at 10K the other half marathon. I'm a little hmmm on downhill courses, but nevertheless the records count. One of the Dans also has a world masters championship gold and silver medal, as well as recent top 10 rankings in world masters running.

So it's going to be tough to break through into the top of the 55-59 age group, but I'll give it a go in the next few weeks and months. I'm already planning a schedule and hoping to meet these guys on the roads and trails.

Coming up -
Winter Classic Four Mile (Jan 31)
USATF XC (Feb 7)
Screaming Snowman 10 mile (Feb 21; but tentative on that one)
Probably a random 5K in March
Platte River 1/2 marathon (April 12)
Either Bolder Boulder or Trent Waldron Glacier Half marathon in late May (depending where I am over Memorial Day weekend)

And then some mountain and trail running over the summer, with Pikes Peak ascent as my primary goal race.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frozen out at Frosty's

I'd planned to do the 10 mile race at the Frosty's Frozen Five and Ten miler last weekend, but when I signed up they showed that the 5 miler was the RRCA state championship, so I opted for the competition.

Racing is so different now, you don't know who's in it for what. So I didn't know where to line up. Ended up on the 2nd row, with a couple 10 year old girls to ahead and (as it turns out) the 2013 USATF XC champion. So it goes.

The plan was 6:05-08 for the first mile or so and then pick it up to about 6:00 pace and hope to have a strong finish. I felt that I could win the age group.

But conservative starts are difficult when the field, including three of those little girls, charges out like it's a high school mid-distance race; I was soon enveloped by the third row, and was probably 35th to 40th place by the first quarter mile at the bottom of the only true downhill. We settled in at a pace that seemed reasonable, but maybe just a little faster than comfortable. At a half mile I tucked in behind one of the precocious young girls and the 2nd place women's runner. When we left Hudson Gardens onto the bike path a couple of masters runners came up from behind and we formed a pack of six or so until the turn around. I felt fine at 6:00 pace through there, it seemed about like a fast tempo effort. However, I knew it would be a little tougher at the turn around because we would have a net uphill of about 150 or 200 feet to the finish.

After the bridge we were down to a pack of three, with the young girl and women's 2nd placer dropping off, a 40 something guy and another that looked to be about my age group. He was chatty at first, making comments about the little girl during the first mile. After that he stopped gabbing but grunted and groaned every 20 seconds or so. An idiosyncracy kind of like Paula Radcliffe's head bobbing, but gutteral.

He didn't sound so great so I figured I'd make short order of him after the turn around. He threw in a surge at about 3 miles which I matched. After a minute more I thought it would be a good time to move on and try to reel in the first woman who was about 20 seconds up. So I pulled ahead of our group momentarily. That quickly aroused the grunter who swung wide and threw down the gauntlet. I held within a few meters for maybe another minute but that one brief move had cost me already. Not ready for prime time surging.

After that I just sort of hung on to the effort (but not the pace, 6:00s were just too tough on the return). One or two other guys caught me. My last mile was pretty lame, a 6:14 with two short uphills. I just couldn't get in enough oxygen.

The talker/grunter caught woman #1 (an OT marathon qualifier I believe) and was 25 sec ahead of me by the finish. I was 30:22, and 2nd Grand Masters and 2nd in age group.

So that's two state championship races since moving here and a 2nd and a 3rd. All those ahead are named Dan.  Have some things to work on over the next few weeks, because I think they'll all be there at USATF Nationals in February.

Meanwhile, the eventual winner, Joe Gray was up by a minute and finished in 25:20. Probably just a tempo effort for him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

For the Sake of Simplicity

I'm off to a new start here at the ecotone between the Rockies and Great Plains in Denver West. Not only a new year but a new place, although it's a return to where I was born. What's new though is that other than my first year and a half, and a few months here in the 1980s, I've never lived in a big city. Fort Collins, Iowa City, Fairbanks and many smaller towns in between. But with some 3 million people (and that's not including Boulder-Longmont, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs) in the metro area, this place is huge.

Despite that, what's appealing about the Front Range is that the Colorado Lottery pays for recreation and development of open space and trails so at least in this part of the city you're never far from areas where you can get away. For example, I can run about 1.2 miles from my office and be up on a ridge with miles and miles of trails with the bonus of great views of the foothills, plains, and even the city. And my new digs are only a 1/4 mile from bike paths that connect throughout the city. Along the foothills you have choices like Waterton Canyon, Roxborough Park, Deer Creek Canyon, North and South Table Mountain, the Apex Trail, and of course the Mesa Trail near Boulder. I've already been taking advantage of access to these and others too.

Even though one of the best things about our house in Alaska was being away from everything, and now I'm in the thick of it all, I can get used to being around lots of people. Traffic is another issue. I simply try to be out at times to avoid it, and so far that seems to be working.

As for running the past few months have been fairly to extremely stressful. So from Thanksgiving until this week I've just taken a let's just get out the door approach to it all. No real workouts, only putting in the time. That's fine for base work, although my training volume hasn't been anything great either. I've been at about an hour a day on average, but did get a good 9 hour week in Fairbanks between Christmas and New Years. However, I just found out yesterday that I have zero speed. I attempted some threshold reps at Crown Hill Lake, on gravel paths that were kind of muddy, and could only manage 6:30s but it felt like 6:00s. The key will be to just keep plugging away, and hopefully by mid-late spring get back into gear.

Meanwhile, here's the racing schedule going into March. XC Nationals is the only event in the first half of the year that feels actually meaningful. The others are just for training incentive and fun. I'll probably do a half marathon in April or May, and by then I plan to be doing a fair amount of trail running to get ready for the summer season here. If I can get in, the Pikes Peak ascent in August is another primary goal race for 2015.

1/17 -  Frosty's 5 mile (Littleton, CO) - Road Runners Club of America state championship
1/31 - USATF Colorado 4K XC (Boulder, CO) - Tune up for nationals
2/7 - USATF National Championsips Masters Division (Boulder, CO) - primary goal race
2/15 - XC Ski race somewhere, probably Frisco, CO distance to be determined
3/8 - Snow Mountain Stampede 50K XC ski (Granby, CO)
3/15 - A St. Pattys Run in Denver (7K) or Fort Collins (5K)