Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Running

The year has gotten off to a great start so far. I've put in 226 miles for the month while staying healthy and pain-free. Things are going as planned with each workout having a purpose. After starting off with a good 5k and a week later setting a 50K pr, I've recovered well and back on track. Having fun is still top priority and there has been plenty of that with lots of running with my normal training partners a couple of times a week. Karla and I get on the track every Tuesday for some quality running with the emphasis now on some 800 meter yasso's to get ready for the marathon in March. Lisa usually joins us for our Saturday long runs and occasionally we get in a Thursday afternoon run together. And on a really good day Jenn gets a chance to run with me too.

We just had the first real snow in a year so I've had the weekend to relax at home and get caught up on some stuff around the house. And some running. Since it didn't look like we could get to the trail to run together on Saturday, Karla and I met Friday afternoon for a nice 20 miler on the American Tobacco Trail. Just as promised the snow began Friday night and by Saturday morning there was about 5 inches on the ground and it was sleeting. I waited until late afternoon before heading out for a little run in the snow. I took the camera along and here is a link to the pictures.

It was overcast, cold about 22F and very windy for that 4 miler. On Sunday the sun was out the wind had calmed to a little breeze and it warmed up to about 32F making for much better running conditions so I went for 6. I was lucky that so few cars have traveled out on the roads in my area that the roads were not slippery as I ran along on the crunchy snow.

Looking forward to a great February now!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50K 2010

I think the worst thing about running on a cold winter day is thinking about the cold. But once you get going and warmed up a bit it's not so bad and you can think about other things.

I met with Karla, Jenn and Lisa in Cary at 5am for the drive down to Winston-Salem and we made good time and were able to snag the best parking space in the lot, directly across from the port-a -potties and 50 ft from the starting line. With the temperature at about 17F there was very little socializing before the race and we spent most of the time sitting in the car staying warm while we prepared to run. With 5 minutes to go we finally headed over to the start and the beginning of the days journey.

My plan was to go out for the PR attempt but I knew I needed to hold back a little until I got warmed up and not push it too much the first half of the race. So at the sound of Don Besse's bugle we headed out onto the trail. I was running along very comfortably sticking to the plan at just under 10 minute pace until the hill at 1.3 miles in and after reaching the top I gradually picked up the pace. By the time I reached the 1st aid station around the 3.6 mile mark I was ahead of pace and feeling great. I just grabbed a cup of water which I poured half down my chest and was quickly on my way.

The next 3 miles I knew I was going a little too fast but I was having a hard time slowing down. Quickly into the 6.5 mile aid station, I just grabbed some gatorade, spoke to friend Charles West who was crewing and helping out and then I began the next section on the paved greenway. This is a good place to make time but it is also a pretty section ,especially where a creek goes through a rock cut between bluffs with the railroad up on the hill. When I got to the 1st turnaround, I was just a little over a minute ahead of pace averaging about 8:50 ( shooting for 9:00) so I made a real effort to back off the pace on the return trip. Three minutes after making the turn I saw the ladies, Lisa, Jenn and Karla and I stopped just a few seconds to snap a picture and took off again.

Back at the aid station I grabbed a couple of chocolate chip cookies and ate them as I walked up the short, steep hill from below the dam back up to the lakeside and then took off running again. The next several miles were uneventful as I settled in and relaxed. I was maintaining a very even pace, feeling good and enjoying the day. It was nice to see many friends on the out and back course and to offer and receive encouragement. I had several people tell me that I looked strong and relaxed but looked like a man on a mission. Normally I do a lot of talking but not when I'm racing for PR's !

I reached the halfway point exactly on pace in 2:20:10 and was quickly on my way out again. The race was really just beginning now and a lot can happen in the second half of an ultra, but I knew if I could just stay relaxed and stick to the plan I should be able to hold it together. A little less than 5 minutes out I saw the ladies once again still smiling and looking great. But I knew they were still too fast and told them to slow down as I snapped another photo.

My split to the next aid station was exactly the same as the last time through and dead on 9 minute pace. A quick gel and gatorade and out I went. The next 3 miles I began to slow slightly but was maintaining the same effort. I reached the final turnaround about 2 minutes behind 9 minute pace but still ahead of pr pace. I felt a surge of energy and excitement and ran the 1.25 miles back to the next aid station in 8:40 pace and then walked up the dam hill again. Just as I crested the top I saw Karla and Jenn. I could tell they had finally slowed down but they looked great. Of course being the beautiful ladies they are they always look GREAT ! I was sad to hear that Lisa had taken a fall and had decided to call it a day after about 20 miles.

At this point it looked like I had the pr in the bag as long as I didn't fall apart so I backed off the pace a little again just trying to stay comfortable until I reached the last aid station. Including the walk up the hill I averaged 9:39 pace to the last aid station where I took one last gel. All I had to do now to guarantee the pr was maintain at least 10 minute pace the last 3.6 miles. I hit the split on my garmin and over the next several miles I was very happy to see that I was not only well below the 10 minute pace but was actually speeding up a little.

I finally came to the last hill and knew when I reached the top I had less than 1.5 miles to go and so I started to push the pace knowing I didn't have to worry about bonking now. And it was amazing. Although a much slower pace, I was pushing the effort like I was finishing up a 10k and as I crossed the line I had set the new pr by 2:47 in a time of 4:44:11. Lisa was there to greet me and then we waited for Karla and Jenn to finish. I was eagerly watching the clock and hoping to see them come out of the woods in good shape and sure enough they finished strong and smiling. It was Jenn's 2nd best ever and Karla improved from her Derby debut by 3 minutes.

Here is a link to the results. I was 31st place out of 137

I am very happy and proud to have come back so far in the past year to be able to set a 50k pr at age 54. It was also amazing because I did not do any Chi running or any Pose Method. I have not done any Cross-fit classes or leg weights. And most amazing of all I actually wore shoes !!!! So how did I do it? The old fashioned way. I ran a lot and trained hard and smart. And most of all I have to thank God for giving me the strength and health to do what I love and for wonderful friends and family to support me.

Here are some pictures that Alan Wiggs took with Ben Dillons camera on the course.

And here are the few I took.

I didn't want to stop and take many since I was trying to run fast. I only paused for 2:30 seconds the entire race at the aid stations, to snap the two photos of the ladies and to pee one time so I obviously wasn't lolly-gagging around or wasting time .

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Frosty 50k Preview

2007 when this picture was taken I called it the Not So Frosty 50. As you can see from the short sleeves, things were a bit warmer than usual in January.

My first time running this race was in 2003 and it was my 2nd 50k and 2nd ultra so my time then of 5:56:49 was a pr for me. I returned in 2004 running in a couple of inches of snow and set a new pr of 5:50:52. I returned for my 3rd visit in 2005 on a cold day that never climbed out of the mid-20's and lowered my pr again to 5:34:40 in my 17th ultra.

These times seem so slow to me now but at the time I was very pleased with my improvement. I had to skip the race in 2006 as I was focusing on trying to get in a Boston qualifier in February. I had just lowered my 50K pr by a huge amount at Derby in 4:55:53 as my training had reached a new level. I really hated to miss it that year because it was the ultra debut of my dear and lovely friend Jenn now known as my Ultra Angel and I really wanted to run it with her.

In 2007 , the warm year I returned once again and this time shared the run with Jenn. It was a wonderful day despite Jenn having some lower leg pain issues.

I returned again for my 5th time in 2008, hoping to go for another pr which had since been lowered twice more at Derby and was now at 4:46:58. I made a good effort for 20 miles and was slightly ahead of pace but by 22 I was beginning to slow and nothing I did could turned it back around. After tripping at mile 26 I knew there was no point in pushing it anymore but I was still able to manage a course pr of 4:59:09.

I had to miss it again in 2009 due to my injuries and taking off the whole month of December. Part of the plan for my recovery and comeback was to take a complete year off from running ultra's and I did that, going back to Derby this past November which I ran with Karla.

But now it's time to go for it once again. At age 54 and after 32 years of running and going into the 8th year of running ultra's I will be running my 6th Frosty 50K and my 53rd ultra (not counting a few dnf's over 50 miles) I will be going once again after a PR ! The training is going great, I feel better than I have in years and feel confident I have a good shot at running faster than ever.

The only thing I don't like is that I can't run with the ladies. Jenn will be going with us, Karla has the bug and is ready to run her 2nd ultra and Lisa is making an attempt to cross over to the darkside for her ultra debut.

Stay tuned to see how Ultraman Joey and his Angels and Princess's perform. It's definitely going to be Frosty this year with the starting temperature forecast to be in the teens Brrrrrr.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Starting the New Year off right

What better way to kick off the New Year 2010 than with a race? Well, for most of the past several years I have started it off as a volunteer at the NCRC Resolution Run 5K but I decided I wanted to give racing it a shot and get an idea of how the training has been going so far.

The race is held on NCSU's Centennial Campus and is by no means a flat fast course. You don't expect to run a pr here unless you've never run a 5k before. Of course I'll never set a 5k PR again but it is fun to see how fast I can push myself and occasionally do well in age-group placing.

We were really lucky with the weather, in the mid-40's and the rain from last night had stopped. I arrived about an hour before the start and with about 30 minutes to go I went for a warm-up mile with Jenn for company. A few last minute preparations and we headed over to the starting line. A quick look around revealed a lack of some of the really speedy runners from the area so we lined up right at the front with a couple of hundred others behind us.

NCRC president Brad said go and I took off at what felt like a fast but reasonable pace. The first half-mile is downhill so it's important to get a fast start but not too fast because the hills are coming. Before the race I had wondered if I might be able to break 23 minutes here. I felt confident of going under 22 on a flat course but I knew this would a difficult and painful race. At the last minute I decided to go ahead and aim for 22:30. If I couldn't do it at least the pain would still be over quickly. Blowing up in a 5k is a lot different than blowing up in a marathon or ultra.

I passed the one mile mark 6:46 which was about right considering that it was mostly downhill. I could count the runners ahead at the turn and I was in 38th place. Mile two was a different animal altogether. A short uphill, a short downhill and then continuous climbing. I backed off the pace trying to maintain the effort but it was still hurting and I huffed and puffed that mile in 7:28.

The course continued to climb and by the time it finally leveled off I was gasping but as soon as I made the turn I quickly recovered and was able to get back up to speed and began the push to the finish. I was now in 35th place at the turn and steadily moving by people on the downhill and with a 10th to go I found a bit of a sprint. It's nice to have zip in the legs again ! Woohoo !! 22:20 !!!

I'm not sure what my overall place was but it was in the top 30 and that was good enough for 3rd in the 50-59 age-group. I feel the effort was my best since 2005 when I ran 21:12 on a flat course in Selma. Obviously the hard work, higher mileage and track runs are paying off and I believe as good as I felt today that there will be a lot of good times in the year ahead. Now lets see how it pays off when I go 10 times the distance at the Frosty 50k next weekend !