Sunday, November 25, 2007

Derby 50k 2007

Well, one out of three is not too bad. In fact in baseball that would earn you a big contract.
But whatever the outcome you can't miss having a great time at this little gem of a race that Mark Long has given us down in rural NC. The race is low key but certainly not low quality with ample aid, friendly volunteers and a good course for a fair test of your endurance and ability.

This would be the fifth edition and my fourth time running. In 2003 I was still new at this ultramarathon stuff and having just run a marathon a couple of weeks before , I didn't feel I was ready to race. But being a recent member of the MTC, I wanted to come join in the fun so I volunteered. After riding around with Mark most of the day, I ran the last loop with Jay and Anita Finkle. Ever since then I have returned to race and have set a PR for the distance each time.
This year I had three goals. One was to set a PR. Two was to run the whole race other than stopping for aid. And three was to run 9 minute pace. I was joined in the drive down from Wake County by my good friend and frequent training partner, the dark-haired lovely Jenn Ennis. We arrived at the Derby Community Bldg at about 7am and went inside to warm up and visit with friends. Ben Dillon and Mark Davis had also come down from Raleigh representing the NCRC. Soon enough it was time to head up to the start finish area so we hopped in the car with Tony along for the short ride to Derby Road.
It was a chilly morning, near 22F with a bit of a breeze but the sun was shining and the forecast was for near perfect conditions, around 50F. Mark said go and off we went. I made sure to start easy since I hadn't warmed up but was soon on pace and moving through the field. By the first mile the pack had already spread out with about 15 fast runners already pulling out of sight and just a few others around me. One guy passed me and quickly moved away and I settled in to a comfortable pace.
Suddenly out of nowhere at about the two mile point, I had a sharp pain in my right hip that made me skip a step. It repeated a couple of times and I was worried that if it continued that my race would be over early. I had been running on the soft shoulder of the road so I stepped back onto the pavement hoping the even surface might help. The pain did go away and soon I was pulling into the first aid station at about 3.3 miles. Already the lead runners were well out of sight and the one guy was 1/4 mile away. Two other guys passed me there and David McKay was coming in just as I was leaving. Just some water and I was out quickly in pursuit.
The rolling hills began as you leave this first stop and I soon repassed the two guys and ran strong up the hills until the 2nd aid station. We leapfrogged again with David just behind shadowing us as I left. The next section is my favorite of the course, mostly downhill and then turning on the dirt road. I was running well but took a pit stop along the way and allowed the two guys to catch me once again. I repassed them on the hill on the way to aid station three and that would be the last time I would see them.
As I left aid station three and began my second loop, I couldn't believe how great I was feeling. This was awesome. I had been so sore and feeling beat up since my back to back marathons two weeks ago but at this moment I was feeling strong and confident. I couldn't remember my time from last year but I felt I was a little slower. Even so, I was on pace for a Pr and feeling good so I began to pick up the pace a little.
I had only gone a little further when suddenly the hitch in my giddy-up returned. This was not good. I'm feeling great and on pace but my hip is giving out on me. I prayed that God would just let me get through this race andI promised I would rest and not race again until January. I guess God liked the deal because it would not give me any more problems the rest of the day.
Even with the record number of entrants this year, it is still a small race but I was a bit surprised how spread out we were by now. You can see for about a half mile at least while on Derby Road and I could only see the one guy that had passed me in the first mile way ahead. No one was behind me now except my shadow David about 5o yards back. I continued to run strong and things were pretty uneventful for awhile. I felt I was slowly closing the gap on the runner ahead but as I came into the first aid station again he was disappearing over the hill and as I left, David came in right behind me.
Once again I was strong on the hills. I had been running by myself the whole run so I was focusing on the runner ahead and using the chase to occupy my mind. I felt I was still closing in although he was at least1/4 mile ahead still. I came into the second aid station again and he had stopped and was meeting with his crew. He started out before me but he was toast. He began to walk and I ran by and that was the last I saw of him. I would not see another runner in front of me for the next 3 miles. Just as I was about half way up the hill to the third aid station. I spotted a figure ahead of me walking and running slowly up the hill. I caught him just before the top and saw that it was the legendary Ray Krolewicz. Ray was very encouraging to me and said I was now the first grandmaster in the race. Ray and I are within a couple of months of the same age.
My time for the second loop was almost identical to my first loop. I was running very consistent pace and still feeling good. Now all I had to do was hold it together for another lap. A quick look back and there was no one behind me but David still shadowing me and up ahead nothing but miles of road still to go. I was in and out of the first aid station again and facing the hills one last time. They were certainly tougher this third time but once again I was able to run all of them.
I soon came to the marathon point which Mark has painted in the road. My time of 3:58 :14 was the first time I could compare to last year when I had passed through in 3:54:56. I was over three minutes behind last year but I still felt a PR was mine as long as I didn't blow up. Last year at about 27 miles I had hamstring cramps and had to slow and do a lot of walking those last miles. As I entered the second aid station for the last time, I was tiring but still confident.
I was doing OK but as I hit the dirt road I could really feel my energy waning. David finally passed me looking strong and I had no intentions of trying to keep up with him. My goal was to keep moving and get that PR. As I nearly reached the end of the dirt road I spotted a figure ahead walking. It turned out to be Scot Haywood, which surprised me. I expected he would have been finished already. He asked me how far we had left and when I told him only about 1.5 miles, it seemed to inspire him and he took off running. I was now just shuffling along and as I turned onto the pavement and up the last hill my 2nd goal was gone. First had been 9 minute pace and now I had to walk. Oh well, I still had that PR if I could just keep moving. Matt Greene had run a smart race and went powering by me up the hill. I began alternating about 15 seconds of walking with a minute of running until I finally reached the top of the hill and I then knew I had it. Running strong back on the flat, I crossed the line a very happy guy in4:46:58, a pr by about 1.5 minutes. Although there are no age-group awards, I was the first runner over 50 years old for the second year in a row.Looking back at last years splits, I was behind pace all day so it was only in the last 5 miles that got the PR.
I quickly changed into some warm dry clothes and waited for friends at the finish. I was hoping Jenn would have a good day and I didn't have to wait long to see her. She had also run a smart race and set a new PR of 5:22:08, about 19 minutes improvement for her over Frosty 50K back in January. We waited around about another 30 minutes and then headed back to the community building for the delicious spaghetti lunch provided by the ladies from the local United Methodist Church.

It's a great little run and I had a lot of fun as usual. Just don't tell anybody. We like to keep it small and there is a limit.

Here are the photos

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Tale of Two Marathons

It was the worst of times. It was the best of times. Well, actually it was a great weekend no matter what the times.

Day 1. The Battle of Richmond 11/10/07

I was very relieved that the rain had stopped by the time I awoke in my motel room. With overnight lows in the 30's, rain would mean miserable conditions and possible hypothermia. Had it once and once is enough for a lifetime.
I found my usual parking space and headed over to the Omni where I saw a few NCRC people, Bob, Steve and Paul. As I was walking to the start I saw VHTRC friend Martha Wright. She would be running with one of the four men that had run all 29 previous editions of the race.
John Price, a long time ultrarunner from Va Beach was at the start next to me after having run Mt. Masochist last weekend. He would go on to get a Boston qualifier today.
We were soon away and I was surprised as I passed mile one, how easy it felt even though I was to fast. I had was expected my time to be at least a minute slower the first mile so I tried to slow down, but the next mile was even faster. That's when I stopped to take a picture and force myself to slow down after turning off of Broad Street and onto the lovely Monument Ave. We had been running into a little headwind but it would hardly be noticeable now for a long time. The temperature was great and I was feeling good and confident.
The next several miles passed quickly and I had settled into a good pace and was right on track for my goal. I resisted the urge to push too much going down the reverse Lee's Revenge Hill. The next section from about 7 to 10 miles is my favorite on the course. After passing through one of the party zones we cross the James River on the old Huegenot Bridge and then a run a couple of miles along the river. It is very scenic and flat making for most enjoyable running.
As the course turns away from the river at mile 10, we enter into a series of hills for the next few miles. The last time I was here I hardly noticed them but today I was not feeling too strong.
But as I approached the half I was right where I wanted to be in 1:46:27. The only problem though was the last two miles I had slowed and I wasn't feeling like picking up the pace. Mile 14 was again too slow but the 15th mile is almost flat and I was relieved to find I was right back on pace in 8:06.
But then we turned onto the Lee Bridge headed back into downtown and directly into a strong headwind. I could feel my strength being blown away and that mile took over 9 minutes. The next mile is a long slight upgrade mostly into the wind and it too was over 9 minutes. At this point I knew it was about over for the qualifying attempt but I wasn't ready to give up just yet. Mile 18 was flat and out of the wind so I pushed the pace hoping to find I could still run 8:10's the rest of the way . But it was not to be today. I didn't feel bad, but just didn't have the strength to run the pace I needed. Even with pushing effort I was only able to muster an 8:59 mile. At that point I grabbed a cup of gatorade and stepped off the course. My race was over and now it would just be was a fun run to the end.
I stretched my legs for a minute while drinking and eating a gel and then began the final 8 mile journey to the finish. My goal now was to just have an easy run and save as much energy as I could for the next days run with Karla. It took a a couple of miles but I soon was running well and the miles passed fairly quickly. I was very happy to reach the end and the downhill finish without cramping and feeling ok. Quatro Hubbard passed me with a half mile to go and urged me to push to the end with him. I declined the offer telling him to go ahead, I was saving myself for OBX now. Even with the slowing down, I ended up running my 3rd fastest marathon ever in 3:55, so it wasn't really a bad day. However I would not advise anyone to run 3:55 the way I did today.
As usual, they did a great job putting on the event. I made my way to the food tent to try and quickly replenish some of the calories I had expended. I talked to Jeff Branin while scarfing down some pizza. I also had some chocolate milk, the perfect recovery drink in my drop bag. It would have been great to have had a little time to visit with a few friends at the finish but I had to hurry away and make the 3 hour drive to Manteo.

Day 2- Run with the wind at OBX 11-11-07

The drive down to the Outer Banks from Virginia was uneventful. I stopped a couple of times to stretch my legs and try to stay as loose as possible. I talked to Karla on the phone and she told me the weather had been yucky with rain but the forecast was looking good for Sunday. A quick stop at the expo to pick up my race packet and then I checked in to my motel. I took a quick shower and then headed over to Manteo for a nice dinner with the Werners and Jerry and Linda. I was tired of course and with another early morning wakeup call ahead we all retired early.
On race morning the shuttles to the start were right on time and very efficient in getting the runners to the starting line. I quickly found Karla and Jerry as well as Margaret Cooper and Lisa Howell from Raleigh. After the disappointment with yesterdays time I was looking forward to just having some fun running with two of my best friends. This would be an especially great day running with Karla again. Last year was special, but with her undergoing the cancer treatments it was a difficult slow run for her. She has been growing stronger in her recovery at an amazing pace lately and I was hoping she would have a good run. Her goal was 4:30 and if things went well, maybe 4:22, a 10 minute pace. I was also hoping that I would feel good enough to stay with her the whole day after running so hard on Saturday. Jerry lined up with us with his own goal of trying to get to the finish in as good a shape as possible after not training nearly enough over the past year.
We lined up near the back planning to start off very relaxed and gradually pick up the pace. As we began, my legs were a little stiff and sore but not nearly as bad as I expected and within a half mile I was loosened up and feeling pretty good. The first mile came too quickly though in 9:35 and the second mile even quicker in 9:25. At that point I told her I would take over the pacing. She was feeling great but we had a long way to go and now was not the time to be pushing. Over the next few miles our pace varied a little but we had settled in to about averaging 10 mp.
It was a gorgeous, sunny morning with the temperatures in the mid-40's, near perfect for racing.There was a steady wind about 10mph with gust up to 18 but unlike last year the wind would be at our backs most of the day giving us a gentle boost. The three of us remained side by side enjoying ourselves, the great conversation and the beautiful scenery for the next several miles. We passed by the waterfront on a greenway, then through nice residential areas. We approached the Wright Brothers Memorial and this year due to some minor course alterations we circled the entire monument still feeling good and having fun.
Around 10 miles,the course enters Nags Head Woods, a very pretty natural area of wooded dunes. It is a dirt surface through here with several gently rolling hills. Nothing too steep or too long but enough to effect the pace a bit. Jerry had pulled slightly ahead of of us for some reason but Karla and I continued enjoying our time together doing what we love most, running and talking. After about 2.5 miles the course turns off the dirt road and climbs a single track trail over a sand dune for about a half mile. The surface is soft dirt and pine needles. I told Karla that I think they should re-surface the trails on Massanutten Mt just like this. The trail comes out of the woods at the 13 mile mark and Jerry slowed and waited for us. Our time at this point was still slightly faster than Karla's fantasy goal of 4:22, even with the slowest mile of the race just behind us on the trail.
That 13th mile on the trail over the dunes was our slowest of the day in about 10:50 and I expected that we would not be running any more sub-10 minute miles. Boy was I wrong. Karla was feeling great and after a 10:02 14th mile the pace began to pick up again. She was working me a lot harder than I expected and I was thinking to myself that I hoped we could both hold the pace. Jerry was still hanging with us but as the pace picked up we could tell he was began to feel the effects of little training. We ran a 9:47 and a 9:44 before turning off the highway again. At that point Jerry sent us on our way with best wishes and backed off the pace. We turned into the wind for about a half-mile and it took us 10:02, the last time we would be over 10 minute pace.
We were both surprised the next two miles were a couple of the fastest of the day. Karla was still looking great (as always) and I was feeling better than I had a few miles back. Now we only had a 10K to go with one big hill, the Baum Bridge between us and downtown Manteo. We continued to run well the next couple of miles, and as we approached the bridge I was afraid I would have to walk part of it and then try to catch Karla on the downhill side. It was a pleasant surprise to me that I felt fine and we powered up to the 23 mile mark atop the bridge in 9:55.
Still going strong we finally made the turn towards Manteo with just over a mile to go. This was directly into the wind and for the first time Karla told me she was feeling tired. One more right turn and the finish line was just ahead. We were all smiles as we crossed in an amazing 4:18:57 surpassing even her fantasy goal for the day. Not only had we run a negative split but averaged almost 15 seconds a mile faster the last 10K than we had the first ten miles.
Frank was there with the camera to greet us and after a few minutes we started to make our way around to watch for Jerry. We didn't make it as Jerry had continued to run well after backing off our pace and finished under 4:30 and we found he and Lynda walking towards us.
What a wonderful day spent with wonderful friends. I am so happy to see that Karla is improving so fast and I know she will be back better than ever by next Spring and get her Boston qualifier. The OBX people did a great job with the race this year. All of the minor problems from last year's inaugarul race were corrected and improved upon. The minor course adjustments and the new finish line in the historic downtown Manteo waterfront area were appreciated by everyone.
I took some photos while running in both races although it was hard to take too many while running faster in Richmond. Frank added a few from the finish. You can view the photo web album here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Big Weekend Ahead

As usual, I plan the events I would like to run about a year in advance. This helps in scheduling since so many events are getting hard to get in to and also aids in preparing to achieve the goals I set for myself. So about a year ago while looking at my list of want to do's, I decided I need to get another Boston Qualifier. I had originally planned to only run Boston one time but since Karla had cancer last time and we had to run slowly just to finish, we have decided we must go back and race it now that she is cancer-free. So I decided with my full ultra schedule planned for 2008 that I should go ahead and try to get a qualifier this Fall so I could concentrate on ultra training.
I have run in Richmond 3 times before and it is a fairly fast course and comes at a good time of year for weather and my training so I chose it. Two years ago, the usual suspects Karla, Jerry and Margo made the trip with me as I tried to qualify. I was not quite ready, but despite cramping up in the last 4 miles, I set a PR and we all had a great weekend. I was hoping to have the whole group run return with me, but Margo was running in Raleigh and Karla and Jerry wanted to return to OBX . I could have tried for my qualifier there but being a runner of little brain, Ultraman decided it was a good idea to do both! So this Saturday I will be running fast at Richmond ( I hope! ) and then run with the Marathon Princess like last year at OBX. Jerry may try running with us this time.
My training has been going pretty well despite having plantar fasciitis since August. I have been treating it aggressively since I figured out what it was and it is improving greatly even while maintaining my mileage and adding speedwork back into my routine. My biggest concern was whether I would have enough recovery time after running at Hinson Lake 6 weeks ago. I had been a bit sluggish and had a sub-par run at the ATT 10 miler but in the past 10-12 days the life has returned to my legs and I'm feeling confident of a good run.
Anyone who wishes can track my progress in Richmond Saturday morning. The race is having live updates at the half marathon and 20 mile marks . I hope to hit the half in about 1:47 and 20 in about 2:43 .
You can find the race website here
I am bib number 788

Monday, November 05, 2007

City of Oaks Marathon

Here are the photos I took at the marathon yesterday.
It was great to see a marathon return to Raleigh and it couldn't have been a better day for it. The general consensus is that the RD and all the folks from Raleigh Running Outfitters and their volunteers did an excellent job with the race.

When it was announced last year, I had already decided that I would be returning to Richmond this year for a Boston Qualifying attempt. The course for City of Oaks, although a nice one is also a very hilly one and I knew there would be no way I could run a fast enough time so I would have to pass on it this year. I didn't even know if I would be able to see the race until this past Thursday when I found out I would not have to work Sunday. I planned then to attend the event and share the day with some of my best running friends. There would be numerous people from the NCRC and MTC running and I was looking forward to seeing as many as possible.
On Friday evening I attended a dinner with my good friends Margo and Bill, Jerry and Lynda and Frank and Karla and decided that race day I would jump into the race and run about 10 miles with Margo to get in a workout and take some photos along the way. Karla was going to run with Jerry and help him maintain a sane pace as he tries to return to form after not training much over the summer.
Sunday morning the sun arose with perfect temperatures for running. I arrived early and after visiting with several friends I made my way up the road to wait with Karla for the race to began. We didn't have to wait long before the runners started coming towards us. Two African runners had already separated themselves from the rest of the field by the first turn with a vast sea of colorfully dressed runners in pursuit, as they began the days journey. Unfortunately as the large mass of humanity swept by, I was unable to spot Margo in the crowd even with Karla's help. When we saw Jerry approaching I knew I had missed her so I began running with Karla and Jerry.
As we neared the 1 mile mark, an Amtrak train was passing by so I stopped to take a picture knowing I could easily catch back up with them. As I looked around I saw several other friends and started taking more pictures before taking off in pursuit. I was running on the outside of the course as much as possible so I would not interfere with the real racers and I carried my own water bottle, so as I approached the first water stop , I went over as far as possible to the other side of the road. I still hadn't spotted them although I had picked up the pace considerably. A mile later I realized Jerry must have gone to get water and I was way ahead of them. I considered waiting but then decided instead to pick up the pace even more and try to find Margo.
I was having a lot of fun passing through the field and spotting people I knew and stopping to take the occasional photo. I was running a lot faster than I had planned for the day but still no Margo. I thought maybe I would see Olga and run with her since she was aiming for 4 hours but as I arrived in downtown , I still hadn't seen either of them. I took a couple of shots of runners approaching the State Capitol Building as I neared the 5 mile mark. I then realized I had run the last 3 miles in 23 minutes even with the stopping several times and walking backwards looking for people. I decided then to shut it down and back off the pace and just wait to let some of my other friends catch up with me. This was suppose to be an easy workout anyway.
I stopped to speak to the Squires for a minute and then began again at a slower pace. About that time Matthew Greene from MTC caught me so we ran together for the next two miles and then at Cameron Village I sent him on his way and waited again. My overall pace was still way too fast. I took a shot of Thomas Asta and then took off again. I spotted the Dummars and Emily behind me so I joined in with them for the next two miles. I told them I was going to drop back some more and hopefully Jerry and Karla would be along soon, and when I looked back they were only about 15 seconds back with Mark Long and Pam Carpenter right behind them. What a great day!
I was surprised but happy to see that Jerry was having a good run and enjoying himself as we passed the 9 mile mark. He continued strong and began pulling away from us at a pace that Karla didn't want to try and match with her marathon coming up next weekend so from that point on it was back to a normal training run with my regular training partner, The Marathon Princess. After mile 11 we decided to run down the hill to near the 12 mile mark to visit with Jenn and call it a day with about 11.5 miles of actual running. After talking to Jenn for a few minutes we walked back up the hill to watch the finishers.

The day was a lot of fun and I got in a good workout. I would love to run the race sometime but unfortunately for me it presents a scheduling conflict that will not allow it next year. It falls on the same weekend as one of my favorite ultras, the Mountain Masochist and I will not be missing it again next year.