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)