Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bolder Boulder

What can I say about the Bolder Boulder other than "Awesome!" I came within 17 seconds of my sub-40 goal, which I thought going in was a little out of reach. Once again I have nothing to complain about as my pacing was pretty much right on, and I even had a bit of a kick at the end. The hills/altitude make this a challenging 10k, and the field is outstanding so this is a great race to really see how you stack up against the best runners. A humbling experience to say the least.

My Platte River Half race qualified me for the AA wave this year, which is the second wave to depart the start, right after the "citizen elite." Lining up at the start was already an experience as I felt totally outgunned standing next to collegiate runners and other rail-thin harriers. There was very little time to soak in the sights and sounds before the gun was fired and we were off. My goal was to time my kilometer splits, and hit the first kilometer in 4 minutes. This would be right on pace for a 40 minute finish, and more importantly not too fast for the downhill start. Checked my watch and I was at 3:54, but it felt so fast I was not sure I could hold on for the whole race. Cruising around the turn onto Pearl street I was greeted by the cheers of my family, and it was great to see them while I was still fresh. In the Bolder Boulder the miles roll by as the hills greet you seemingly at every turn. The strategy is always to try to hold onto the pace over the hills and come bombing down the backside. My kilometer splits kept hovering in the low 4s and I struggled mentally to convince my body that it could keep up. Finally I was up and over the final hill at 4 miles and I knew it was time to push hard for the finish. My legs felt weak and my breathing was labored but once I rounded the corner back onto Folsom I knew I was in the home stretch. The last push into the stadium arrived and I felt so slow, but I focused on reeling in runners ahead of me as I sprinted to the finish line. I thought for sure I was going to puke all over some other runner's shoes, but the feeling passed as I walked through the finish chutes.

I really like this race, and my only regret each year is that it is over too quickly. The spectators are great and the wacky people that line the course are something that must be experienced. What is even more amazing, though, is the steady stream of people that flow into the stadium for the next 4 hours. Seeing 50,000+ people all participating in such an event is pretty amazing really.

Well, what's next? My upcoming races sidebar is rather barren at this point as a little rest will do me good. I am looking to get some more trail running in now during the summer to prepare for my Team Gangels pacing duties at the Leadville 100. I'm also eyeing a September race, maybe a half-marathon or some other middle-distance race. No more marathons for the time being.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Multi-sport (sortof)

Well it was inevitable I suppose, last week I finally broke down and bought a bike. I have been wanting one for some time now as I dreamed of commuting to work via bicycle. My last bicycle, however, was stolen when I moved to Irvine and I had not been able to justify replacing it. My bicycle aspirations had some stringent requirements, so the "Target Special" was not an option for me. If I do ride everyday, the 150 miles per week would have reduced such a bike to rubble within a year. Also, I have always been a fan of the right tool for the job, so using a mountain bike to ride roads all the time seemed silly. Finally, I decided that if I ever wanted to do a triathlon, having to go out and buy another bike for that purpose was not an option. All of these requirements pointed to a decent road bike, however the $1k+ price tag was out of reach. Watching the web for good bike deals got pretty frustrating as everything in my price range ($100) was pretty much junk, and I had almost given up hope. But patience prevailed and last week a deal came up that met all of my requirements.

The bike is fairly old, but has obviously not seen much use, so all of the components are like new. I put a bit of work into it this weekend (grease, oil, new tires, new grip tape), and now it is a working commuter/weekend/tri bike. All that remains is for me to get used to it. I have not been on a bike in about 12 years, and I have never had a road bike, so most of this is new ground for me. But hopefully with a few miles on the roads around my house, I will be able to venture out and ride it to work regularly. One Less Car!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fort Collins Marathon Race Report

There were scattered showers throughout the day on Saturday, and by Saturday night the sky had really opened up. But, having endured the Denver Rainathon 2007, I felt like I was prepared for anything. Knowing that it would be an early start, we were all off to bed at 8 to the sound of rain on the windows. I had a restless night, with nerves and a youth baseball team on our floor keeping me awake until after 10, but I was able to get a few hours sleep before rising at 3 to begin race preparations. I questioned many times, as I ate breakfast, why the race started so damn early. I took some consolation in the fact that the rain, persistent through the night, had stopped and the skies were clearing. I had just enough time to eat, dress, and pack my race bag before it was time to head to the buses. I arrived at the parking garage at 4:15, and made my way along with throngs of other marathoners to the buses that would carry us to the start. I boarded the bus, thankful for the warm environment, although it was clear that rain and cold were not going to be issues for this race.

The bus ride to the start was uneventful, as I could not see much of the canyon in the dark. I chatted with a guy in the seat next to me about our marathon training strategies. Driving the marathon course beforehand can be daunting as it becomes apparent just how long 26.2 miles is. In this case pleasant conversation made it pass quickly. The bus arrived at the start at 5:30 and parked as we waited for the race marshal’s signal to exit the buses. Some of the runners were antsy waiting and elected to get off then, but I was content to remain in the warmth and comfort as long as possible. At 5:45 the buses started dropping people off and we were informed that the race start would be at 6:15, leaving plenty of time to hit the port-a-potty. There was a long line, but plenty of “potties” so I was through in no time. All that remained was for me to doff my warm clothes and head to the bag check before lining up at the starting line. Soon enough the announcement to “go” was made and we were off.

The sun was just starting to rise and light the sky, and mist was descending off the canyon walls from the night’s rain. The field stretched out quickly and soon the sound of footfalls gave way to the chirping of birds as the sun began to illuminate the canyon. The canyon walls were wreaking havoc on GPS signals and I chuckled as a runner urged his friend to slow down as, according to his watch, they were running at 6:30 pace (we weren’t going faster than 7:30). By the 3-mile mark I had settled into a reasonable pace and was no longer having to pass slower runners. I tried to focus on my pace, but it was easy to drift with the scenery of the canyon flowing by. There are no spectators on the canyon part of the course, and the aid stations are 2 miles apart, which makes for a solitary run the first half of the race.

Soon after the half-marathon start is passed, the course starts leveling off into farmland. The confines of the canyon give way to open spaces remarkably quickly and added to the solitary feeling. All I would see for long stretches of road were a couple of runners in front of me, and occasional livestock. This was interrupted only by the arrival at “Ted’s Place” and the first spectator area of the race. Here the supporters crowd into the road forming a single-file space for you to run through. The cheering gave me a real charge as I finished one of the few uphill sections of the course. I fed off of the energy and ran one of my few sub 7:00 miles for the race here.

It was at this point that I began catching up to some of the people in the half-marathon, which had started an hour after the marathon. At first I did not understand why there were people walking along the side of the course, but soon I started passing people who were running slowly and realized they were half-marathoners. It was a strange feeling after running most of the race near the lead group to suddenly find myself at the back of the pack. Now it was even more difficult to find other runners to catch up to and pass, and motivating myself to keep running quickly was even harder with everyone moving so slowly around me.

Around the 20-mile mark that the race transitions from the road to a bike path, and it was here that I hit the wall hard. I found myself cramping up and I had to slow my pace substantially. This was hard for me as I knew that I had been on pace to make my goal (3:10), but now that goal was slipping away. I did not give up hope, however, and I battled to keep my pace as fast as I could, fixating on achieving a personal best time. Others were struggling around me though, and I passed a couple of other marathoners who were beginning to fade in the final miles as well. Each step became more of a challenge as fatigue set in, but I knew I would finish. Finally, we turned off of the bike path and the finish line was in sight. I fought hard to the line weaving through groups of half-marathoners as I went. As I approached the finish I heard the announcer call my number, “Marathon runner number 28…hold on we’ll get a name for you here…” I never heard my name, but that didn’t matter to me. What mattered is that I was finished.

Exhausted, I moved through the finishing chutes in a daze, but I heard the announcer calling the arrival of the fifth female marathon finisher behind me. I turned around to congratulate her. For most of the race she had been nearby, sometimes in the lead, sometimes behind, but her pace was amazingly consistent, and she had fought through to the end. She is only 23, so I have a feeling we will see Amanda Brown on the leader board again in the near future.

As I met up with Melissa and the kids I found it hard not to get emotional. It is difficult to miss a goal that you had been confident in achieving, even though the actual result is still a significant victory. I realize now that I ran this race better than I have run any other marathon, and was on pace to achieve a 3:10 time right up to mile 21. This course is deceivingly tough, with the continual downhill and banked curves taking their toll. Also, I realize now just how much energy I take from spectators, and the solitary nature of this race made motivation difficult. While it was certainly a scenic race, at the finish I felt like I was lost in a sea of back-of-the-packers. The announcer’s comment as I crossed the finish line seems to be a humorous reflection of the anti-climatic feeling of this race.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fort Collins Marathon

First off, my time for this race was 3:16:04, so no Boston qualifier yet. It was certainly disappointing not making my goal for this race, especially with my confidence going in. I was pretty emotional at the end, but I realized pretty quickly that this race was a huge PR for me, even coming only 6 months after my last marathon. So what happened?

I don't really know what went wrong in this race, perhaps nothing went wrong. If there is one thing that is true about the marathon it's that anything can and will go wrong over the distance; all you can do is do what you can with what you get. Today was great from a pacing perspective, and every mile for the first half was right where I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, I experienced some intestinal issues and was forced to use the port-a-potty at the halfway point. This took away about 2 minutes of time and I ended up crossing the 13.1 mark in 1:36:44. This would mean I would need a big negative split for the race, but I was confident I could make up the time. I spent the next 8 miles slowly catching up to one of the other racers that I had been running with for a while. She had been holding a very steady pace and I knew if I could get back I would have a shot. We hit a fairly big uphill and my pace dropped to 7:37 from the 7:07s I had been holding, but the next mile (20) was back down at 6:55. I was confident with only 10k remaining. At mile 21 though I hit the wall hard. I started cramping up pretty bad and had to slow down and regulate my breathing to keep going. My pace dropped to 8:20, but I was able to battle back and keep it in the low 8s (a considerable victory given how I was feeling). But, the loss took its toll and with 50 seconds or so gone on each mile the deficit added up over the last 4 miles and 3:10 was out of reach. I fought hard to finish, and I realized that this really was a tough course. With the continual downhill and the banking curves this course deals out plenty of pain.

I am really happy with how I fought through the pain at the end to keep my pace in line. Even though I missed my goal I ran a strong race, and it was paced perfectly. Without the "pit stop" I could have been in the 3:14 range I think, but you never know how things would end up. It was a great day for a race and a great time, I have nothing to complain about.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fire it up!

The hay is in the barn and the taper's done. I succeeded in keeping my mileage low these past two weeks with 46 miles last week and 32 miles this week. I kept up some quality miles this week as well with a couple of mile repeats on Monday and an acceleration to marathon pace yesterday. Also I've taken 2 rest days this week. All in all I think it has been a pretty ideal taper, and if I'm feeling flat on Sunday it won't be due to lack of recovery.

But today I am fired up, and almost uncomfortable with the extra energy. It's an amazing feeling to discover that you are used to living your life with a tank that's half-full, and that with some rest everything starts operating at a higher level. The human body is a marvel of adaptation, and with continued training it can accomplish amazing feats. My body is prepared for just such a feat, and on Sunday I will barely notice the miles roll by until 17 of them are gone. Then the real race will begin!