Sunday, November 29, 2009

Derby 50K 2009

Welcome to the Darkside . We have cookies. Big Cookies.

Wow, what a perfect day for running. Clear blue skies, in the 30's to start and warming quickly into the 50's with just a little breeze. We couldn't have asked for a better day for Karla's first ultra. We had originally planned for her to run her first at the Frosty 50k in January but with the way the Boston qualifying situation has turned out she changed those plans and decided on Derby for her debut. This will work out better for me too. I hope to make another 50k PR attempt and I think I'll have a better shot at that in January than right now. Whichever one she chose I was going to run it with her and it couldn't have worked out any better.

We met in Cary at 5:30 with Mountain Girl Lisa and Ultra Angel Jenn for the ride down in Jenn's truck. Lisa and Jenn were going down to volunteer and support us. We made it to Derby about 7am giving us plenty of time to make final preparations and mingle with friends, some which I haven't seen since the Boogie.

Right on time at 8am Mark led us outside to the start line. It was a little cold but already it was obvious this would be a great day. We lined up with Mike Walsh and Lisa who was planning to run the first loop with us before beginning her volunteer duties. Mike asked if we were going to be walking the hills and I told him only we if we had too. Normally I would advise a first timer to walk the hills which is normal for all but the front runners in an ultra but I had told Karla we would just take it easy and if things went well I thought she should be able to run just about the whole race.

We did start off easy and it helped that just about all of the first mile is downhill. Mark Long, the RD had altered the course this year so we would hit the first set of hills just past one mile instead of 3 miles. We settled into an easy pace and the hills were soon behind us and we approached the first aid station where Jenn and Susan D were working. This one is located at the corner of Sycamore Lane and Karla was impressed with the beauty of this stretch of road. It is also my favorite section because there is a nice easy downhill for about a mile before turning onto the dirt road of Cedar Lane.

Soon we were coming into the 2nd aid station and the beginning of the new section on the back of the loop. Like the old route, it has an uphill climb of about a mile. It seemed to not be quite as steep but was also a steady climb without the flat parts that gave you a little break in the past. The first loop seemed to pass quickly and we were back at the lodge. After a quick pitstop we headed out again with Lisa still with us. We had averaged around 9:45-9:50 pace for that loop and Karla asked me if we would be able to hold a sub 10 pace the rest of the way. I said, I won't so no but I will say probably not.

Tony Rouse passed us while we were at the aid station but we caught up to him within a mile and he would stay with us for the next several miles. It was nice to spend some time with him. He and I have shared many hundreds of miles in these ultras over the years but not in over a year. Once again we moved easily over the hills and soon were back at Jenn and Susan's aid station and Tom Herbst was also there now. Lisa dropped here to begin her volunteer time so Tony , Karla and I headed off again after taking a short break to snap a couple of pictures.

When we passed the 17 mile mark Karla commented that it was hard to believe we had already gone that far. We were feeling great and making good time but I knew that a lot could go wrong quickly in one of these. We passed through the next aid station quickly and headed onto the new section for the second time. About halfway up the hill I had to stop and water the weeds so Karla and Tony ran on ahead. I didn't want to work too hard going uphill to catch them and Karla was running strong. She begin to pull away from Tony and it took me nearly 3/4 of a mile to catch back up to her. Tony would continue to drop behind but it was nice to run with him for awhile.

Although we were still moving strong we had fallen below that 10 minute mile pace now but both of us still felt great. After another short break we headed out again for loop three. Mike Walsh was just ahead of us and we caught up to him for a few miles of this last loop. Karla wondered if we would be able to run the hills the 3rd time but once again we cruised up and over them easily. Soon we were back at the aid station where Jenn and Lisa were waiting for us. In and out quickly and just a short time later we passed the marathon mark in about 4:30. Mike had already decided to take off again and was soon out of sight.

When we passed the 27 mile mark on the dirt road Karla commented that she had now crossed over to the darkside and I told her that yes, every step she took now was a pr. We counted down the miles and soon reached that last long hill. We were feeling the effects of the previous 29 miles but were still running strong. When we reached the final turn and a half mile to go , Jenn and Lisa had walked over to cheer us on and take some pictures. It was a joy to reach the finish line and celebrate Karla's first ultra. She did a great job, felt great, ran the whole way except for potty breaks and refueling at the aid stations and did it with a smile. I have also never felt better running an ultra.

We never saw Margo out on the course but Lisa and Jenn were keeping us posted on how she was doing out on the course. She had already finished and headed for home by the time we were done but Margo did awesome in her first ultra. 2nd woman overall and a fantastic time of 4:53 !!

On the way home I think Karla was already thinking about the next one. Welcome to the Darkside Marathon Princess !!!

Here are the photos I took.

Here are the results

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Trots and Derby. Must be Thanksgiving

Seems my Thanksgiving Holidays are getting quite predictable. As always, there is the great time and food shared with my family but my day usually starts quite early when I could be sleeping in. I think it was 1999 when I ran the Ridgewood Turkey Trot and that was the last time I have run in it but I have been a volunteer every year since. At first I helped with registration and finish line and as a course monitor but the past three years I've been working the water stop. The race has grown quite a bit the past few years and reached about 3,000 runners this year making it a hectic time handing out the cups but it was still a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing so many friends out on the course and this year Karla helped out too. After the race I went out for a nice easy 5 mile run on the Greenway from Meredith College to the Art Museum and back.

And then the real fun is going back to the Derby 50k for the 7th year in a row. The first year I went down and volunteered and then ran one 10.5 mile loop with the Finkles. I have run the race the past 5 years earning my Veterans vest last year.

This year will be a very special one for me. For one thing it will be my 1st ultra since running it last year. I was just happy to be able to finish it and feel good while not doing any more damage to my injured muscles. After that race I took off 5 weeks from all running and biking so I could finally finish the healing process and now I am looking forward to easing my way back into the ultra world.

And this year is really going to be special because I will be running it with the Marathon Princess as she attempts her first ultra. Although she has run 15 or more marathons, 10 in which I ran with her, she has never entered an ultra before. As you know from reading my blog over the years, she is in great shape now and is excited to be crossing over to the Darkside. I also expect my friend the Boston Queen, Margherita to make her first ultra attempt if family obligations don't keep her away. If she runs I know she will do great. Maureen gave her the Boston Queen nickname because she easily qualifies for Boston just about every time she runs a marathon on her quest to complete 50 States and DC. Stay tuned. Report and pictures coming soon !

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boston 2010 is already Full?!?! Oh well.

I was really surprised when I heard Boston was already full in record time. When I ran in 2006 I was able to qualify and get in in Mid February. Last year it filled up by mid January. But Mid November !?!?! I wonder if there are actually that many more people that have qualified or that more of the charity organizations are filling up slots? Well it's no big thing. I had pretty much figured out it would be 2011 before we would be going anyway.

And there are a couple of good things about this now. First, there is less pressure to have to perform by MB. We will be able to put in a good training program for the Spring and if we don't succeed (but we will !! ) then there will be plenty of other chances. It also lets me have the luxury of going ahead and making some plans for next year that I was having to put on hold.

So now the plan is to go ahead and run Derby 50K this month and not worry if my recovery is a problem. Karla , Lisa and I will all run the half at Myrtle Beach and then make our first attempt at the new Tobacco Road Marathon in March. I'll have more on the schedule later when I do my annual year wrap-up and plans for the New year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

OBX Marathon 2009. Reality Check

Boston or Bust ? Well, I'm afraid it was bust this time around but that didn't stop it from being a great weekend. After working Friday morning, I made the 3 hour drive down to Kill Devil Hills. I decided to go straight to the race expo and pick up my packet. That turned out to be a good idea because soon after I arrived I found Lisa Howell. I would be staying with her and her husband Mike for the weekend so making arrangements for dinner would be easy now. Belinda Brown , one of her friends and former training partners that now lives in Richmond was also there and after a call Frank and Karla met us with us. After a nice dinner we headed to the house and were soon off to bed.

Saturday morning we were up early to go and support Lisa who would be running the 8k. The race started and finished at the local schools and toured through Nags Head Woods before returning to finish on the track. I had a chance to visit with James and Rebecca Moore from the Virgina Happy Trails Running Club who were also watching the race and would be running on Sunday. Lisa did great after just coming off an injury that forced her to withdraw from the marathon, finishing in 1st place in her age-group. We hung around for the awards and then off to a delicious breakfast followed by a nice afternoon of lounging around the Howell residence.

Mid-afternoon I headed out for an easy run and was joined by Belinda. We did a slow easy pace for 3.5 miles along a portion of the course since the house is just a block away and near the 6 mile mark. It was a gorgeous day and we were all hoping that Sunday would be the same.

Sunday morning turned out to be a bit warmer and was already about 6oF as we headed to the start. I was unable to go through my normal warm-up routine due to a long wait in the potty line and was disappointed not to be able to give Karla our normal pre-race pep talk. I found a spot close to the front of the 3rd wave and then all too soon the race began.

I was hoping not to go out too fast hoping for around 8:45 the first mile. Overall I needed to average 8:11 and I like to start a little slow and gradually pick things up. I felt great and the pace seemed ok but I hit the first mile in 8:15. Not really too fast so I didn't think too much about it. Just settle in and hope to be on pace at mile two. That one was 8 minutes flat, I was feeling good and easing off on the effort just a little I was ready now to put it on cruise for the next 24 miles. Miles 3 and 4 were perfect and although I could tell I was running harder than normal I felt good so I stuck to the plan.

Just past mile 4 the course turns off of a bike path and up a short but steep little hill so I backed off the effort not wanting to go into oxygen debt this early in the race. Quickly over the top and then relaxed down the other side and back onto the flat. Whoops, mile 5 was 8:27. I relaxed just a little too much. I picked it back up and as I neared the 6 mile point I saw Mike and Lisa watching for us. A quick greeting and I was gone concentrating on the task at hand. I hit mile 6 in 7:57, so I was happy to be able to easily get back on track but already I was thinking that I would not be holding this pace for another 20 miles.

But I wasn't ready to give up just yet. Things can change quickly and I know from past experience that sometimes you can start to feel better after the first hour. the next few miles are nearly perfectly flat and I was back no pace knocking off the miles like clockwork. Then as I neared Nags Head Woods and the 10 mile mark it was now obvious I was working too hard for this pace to be able to continue and when I hit the 10 mile mark and saw I was already 30 seconds behind qualifying pace I immediately shut it down. That mile was 8:21 and I knew there was no way I was going to be picking up the pace today. I hoped that by shutting down early I could avoid a total meltdown.

Now the plan was to just run as comfortably as I could to the finish and hope for decent time. If things went well I could still run close to 3:45, which is the timee I should have realistically been try9ing to run in the first place. I decided to take it real easy running the small hills through the woods and then picked it back up a little once I got back on the road. That's what I did for the next 3 miles and after crossing the halfway point I picked it back up to 9 minute pace. Soon I was passed by two young guys and they were saying that they were still on 3:45 pace which sounded good to me.

A part of me just wanted to start walking and wait for Karla to catch me and then run with her but as much as I would have enjoyed that, I felt I need to at least try to continue and maybe I could at least run my 2nd fastest marathon. Well by mile 15 I couldn't hold 9 minute pace and with each mile I got slower and just before mile 18 the axle broke and the wheels began coming off. I gave in and walked just before that mile marker and the survival shuffle set in.

As I left the mile 19 aid station I did some calculations and figured that Karla should reach 20 miles in about the same time I was going to get there if she was still on pace for her qualifying time. So I began walking backwards periodically looking back for her. At mile 20 I still couldn't see her but maybe if she caught me before 21 there was still a chance she could do it. But after a very slow mile, in 12 minutes, still no Karla. By now I was really shuffling along and finally as I neared the bridge about the 22.5 mile mark I saw her coming up behind. She still looked ok and was moving at a decent pace but now there was no way I was going to be able to stay with her. I ran with her about 30 seconds and then told her I'd see her at the finish.

The last few miles got really ugly. I noticed that I have actually averaged a faster pace in three of my 100 mile races than I did for the last 5 miles of this race. Lisa was waiting for me at mile 26 to run the last little bit and I was so happy to reach the finish line.

My time of 4:28:13 was disappointing but I was really expecting that outcome since I was not in shape to run 3:35 anyway. Karla missed her time by 8 minutes finishing in 4:13 but it was the fastest marathon she has run since being diagnosed with cancer in 2006 so that is a very positive thing. Now we just have to recover and get back on track with the training and hopefully if things go well we will be ready to give it another shot in February at Myrtle Beach and hope Boston isn't filled by then.

Here are a few photos from the weekend.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Boston or Bust? Heading to the OBX Marathon

After the way things turned out for Boston in 2006, Karla and I agreed that someday after her recovery we would return and race Boston, not just finish it. I don't recall the exact moment but sometime last year we decided it was time to get serious and start back training for it. Of course first I had to get over the nagging injuries of last year and I did have an Ironman I was committed to training for this past June. But you have to start somewhere so after taking off all of last December to let my legs finally heal we started meeting on Saturday mornings to build up to the long runs that we knew would be neccesary.

Once I completed the Ironman in June then we could really get serious and I could devote more energy to running and less on the swimming and biking. A couple of weeks after CDA, we began making weekly trips on Tuesday to the track to began trying to find some long lost leg speed. I also began running more days per week, getting up early before work some days to get in those extra runs. I also would do some tempo runs or repeats on Thursday. About this time Lisa Howell began to join us on our long runs. She is in the same age-group and had the same goal of running a Boston Qualifier at OBX. It is nice to have her along and on the days I had to miss the Saturday runs she and Karla could still get in a long one together.

Things have been going well. I am feeling better and running faster than I have in a couple of years. Karla is completely recovered from the cancer and is stronger than ever setting a 5k pr and just missing one in the half-marathon. Unfortunately Lisa had a hip injury and although she is back running again she had to drop out of the marathon this weekend. She will be running the 8k though and she and husband Mike are hosting me for the weekend in Nags Head.

To be honest, it will take a small miracle for me to run the 3:35 I need. All the indicators of recent races and workouts point to a more realistic chance at running 3:40-3:45 but hey, no guts no glory right? So I'm going to line up with the plan to give it my best shot. Most likely I will end up in a world of hurt but you never know. It could happen. Really it could.

I think Karla is in great shape and will run a great race and qualify easily and if not for the injury Lisa would have been there too. But whatever the outcome we'll have a wonderful weekend. Look for a report soon.