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