Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Madness 50K

 When Doug Dawkins, aka The Boogieman posted this event for his Wild Card run for 2012 I was already looking forward to it  and hoping it would fit my schedule before he ever posted the date or the details. It turned out that the chosen weekend fit my schedule perfectly and with it being just three weeks ahead of the Boogie the timing would be just right for training.

 But this would not be your normal 50k. Rather running straight through like a normal race we would be running 10 x 5k beginning at the top of each hour with our finishing time figured by adding the total of each of those individual 5k's. This would involve a little strategy trying to figure out how hard to run each lap. Go fast and have maximum rest time in between or take it nice and slow?

 The event was going to be held on some Gamelands in the Sandhills near Hoffman NC at the lodge where hunting dog field trials are held. Doug had rented the area for the weekend so we could camp on site so after work Friday I made the drive down to hang out with some friends and get ready for the race the next morning. Around 7pm I hopped in the back of Doug's pick-up with Jimmy Ballard to go out and mark the course which Doug had already wheel measured to give us an accurate distance for the race. This tour would play an important part in my strategy as you will soon see but first a little description.

  Sand. Lots of sand. They call these the Sandhills for a reason. Fortunately Doug was able to avoid most of the hills. We began on a sand road which became very deep, like running on the beach at high tide. This worst part was only about 1/4 mile long but since this was a lollypop shaped course we got to finish up each lap with this at the end.  So anyway we then made a left onto another sand road but it was not as bad. About 1/2 mile later we made a right turn onto another sand road and then a quick left into the woods and a harder packed sand jeep path with pine straw and dead limbs. To this point it was predominately a decline from the start but never steep, about a 1% grade. At the 1 mile mark we had about a 50 yard hill, the only real hill on the course.  We continued on a little further and then came out of the woods and made a left turn onto another sand road with one short section about ankle deep. Then  another left onto another sand road, mostly flat. This was exposed along a field until the 2 mile mark when we re-entered the woods for a short time again and a little harder packed dirt surface. Then we started slowly climbing back up that slight incline  again coming out of the woods and making a left and then a quick right turn which put us back on the spur section to the finish.

  So on race morning I lined up to start  at 7am for the 1st of 10 laps with 35 others, of which about 1/2 were friends. It was a very pleasant morning and I was looking forward to enjoying the day. I had decided on a strategy of beginning slowly and just getting a feel for the course and see what a reasonable overall pace I could expect. After that I would pick it up a little and see how long and steady I could hold the pace. Things were going according to plan and I was way back around 20th or so for the first half mile but then as we made the right to begin the loop I saw that people had missed the quick left turn into the woods. I begin yelling for them to turn and then led the  ones behind me and the ones that were close by onto the proper course. I was still taking it easy and snapping a few pictures with 5 or 6 others right around me as we passed the 1 mile mark in about 9:50 when It dawned on me that all the runners ahead had missed the turn. I decided to go for the glory and see if I could actually lead the race for the first lap and took off picking up the pace considerably. So much for my pre-race strategy.

 Well, it was fun while it lasted. My lead lasted for about 1/2 mile before the eventual overall leader , Tommy Neeson would blow by me. I made it another mile before Marie-Ange Smith, the women's winner would pass me. I ended up coming in 5th in 28:02 for that first one, feeling good. I would spend most of my time resting between laps with Jay and Anita Finkle under their tent. I met these super nice folks back in 2003 at the first Carrboro 50k when they had just started dating and have had the pleasure of calling them friends for a long time over many miles since then. Anita was racing today while Jay was crewing and watching their dogs.

   I decided to see if I could run close to 9 minute pace on lap two  but rather than start slow and then go crazy like lap one I would try an even pace. That worked out ok and I actually ran a couple of seconds faster than lap one in 27:58. I knew then for sure there would be no 9 minute average on this tough course. the deep sand just zapped to much energy out of you and I knew it would be compounded as the day wore on.

 By lap three it was starting to get pretty warm and with the sun rising higher in the sky things would get tough with only about 20-25% of the course in the shade. I just settled in to a comfortable pace for the next several laps with my pace gradually slowing a few seconds per mile each lap. In between I would drink up and get in some calories and sit in the shade until about 5 minutes before the start of the next lap when I would get up and loosen up a little bit.

  Things were going well and I was feeling pretty good and having a lot of fun but by lap 7 it was just HOT and I was forced to take a walk break through the deep sand at the end of the loop. Doug had a hose set up by the lodge and so after each of the next few laps I would hose down to try and cool off as much as I could. I thought I had been taking in enough fluids but being not too bright I had not been carrying water on during the laps so before going out for lap eight I got a little smarter and filled up my hand held to carry the rest of the day. It was probably too late but it did help some and keep me from completely dying out there.

 The thermometer in the shade by the finish area said 88F as we headed out for lap 8. I still felt pretty good overall and was able to run almost all of it except for the worst sand at the end again. Lap nine  was tougher and I walked the little hill at mile one for the first time and then I had to add a few more walk breaks to keep the heart rate down.

 It was up to 90F as we headed out for the last lap and by now I was toast and looking forward to calling it a day. I had hoped to pick it up a little bit but there was nothing left and I struggled in with my slowest lap of the day. Phew.  Ended up 10th place so I was happy with that. Results are here
 It was a wonderful day overall and I enjoyed the time spent hanging out with a great group of people, most if not all of which are MTC members.  Thanks to Doug for putting this together  and the 3 volunteers that gave up a whole day for us to play, Charles West, Chuck Bingham and Rupert Medford.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time to re-focus.

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that since the Umstead 100 miler I have "just " been running. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I think the time has come to get back to training again. Other than a random tempo run or the occasional few mile repeats on the greenway I have not done any speedwork since the Boston Marathon in April 201l. As soon as I ran that I immediately began focusing on the 100 and geared all of my workouts toward running as well as possible there which meant a lot of practice laps on the course.

 Looking ahead, my schedule for the year is still mainly focused on ultra's with my biggest goal of running as many miles as possible at the Badgerland 24hr Labor Day weekend and 6 weeks later the Oil Creek 100.  One is pancake flat on a track and the other is on single track trail with 19,000 ft of climbing. I will have some specific workouts for each of those as the time draws nearer but they really are quite different.

 But that brings me back to the point of this post  which is to explain what I mean by training again. Well, in 2005 when my friends prodded me into trying to run a Boston qualifier which was 25 minutes faster than I had ever run a marathon before while I was in the middle of a full ultra schedule ( I did 13 that year) I began the Grand Experiment. Was it possible to train as a marathoner, knock off 25 minutes off my pr while still performing well in the ultra's. Well the answer proved to be yes, I can and in addition to getting the BQ, I set a lot of course pr's and finished some tough 100's over the next year.

 Recently while running with one of my Angels, and training partners,  100 miler Amy, she told me her goal now was to back off of the ultra's and focus on running a BQ by next March at Tobacco Road and then do     Boston in 2014. It just happens that her qualifying time and mine are the same, 3:40. So I figured, what better way to stay motivated than to try and help Amy achieve her goal and have fun doing the training in the process. My hope is that it will once again bring some speed back for me so I can run some quality marathon times and help with my ultra ambitions over the course of the next year. With the new entrance policy for Boston we really need to run under 3:35 to guarantee getting into the race which means setting a pr for me. To be honest I find that to be very unlikely but miracles do happen. They sure did in 2006.

 Stay tuned !

Monday, May 14, 2012

Capital City Classic 10k

 and now for something completely different;

Back when I was much younger and early in my running,  10k was the most popular distance for  road racing but now it seems they are pretty hard to find with 5k's and half-marathons being more popular. Of course nowadays I hardly ever do any short road races but every now and then I'll do one for fun.  Looking back it was exactly 3 years ago on Mother's Day weekend that I last ran a 10k. I did that one in about 49:30 a day after a 51 mile bike ride and running in the Clayton 5k with Karla. I wasn't really planning on running one this year but since I work for Capital RunWalk part-time and they are a sponsor , I was able to get a free entry. the date fit  in the two weeks right in the middle of my schedule of 50k's so I thought it would be fun to see how I could do and get in some faster pace running.

  The weather couldn't have been better for May with the temperature in the 60's and not very humid. There were a little over 300 entrants including my co-worker Bobby Mack, the course record holder , and several other from our store sponsored racing team. I did my usual pre-race warm-up routine and then lined up with about 5 minutes to go. My only plan was to run as fast as my body would allow and hope that I could average about 8 minute pace which would be about the same time as I ran in 2009. I haven't done any fast paced running lately and have just gotten back to normal after Promise land so I really wasn't very confident and I was feeling pretty sluggish during my warm-up.

  As they race began I started easy and eased my way up to race pace. As we approached the 1 mile mark I was thinking to myself that I hoped it would be at least 8 minutes because I knew I wasn't going to be able to go any faster. I must say I was very relieved and happy when I checked my split and saw that it was a 7:31 opening mile. Phew, now I could just relax and settle in. Mile 2 was a little slower in 7:47 which was fine with me. I was still building a cushion and feeling good.

  Mile 3 had a lot of downhill and I was cruising along and enjoying the day. One really cool thing was that the 3 mile mark was in the neighborhood and along the course I ran on 35 years ago when I first began running. At that time I was living just one house off the course on Lenoir and Boylan Ave.  The mile 3 marker was in the wrong place but I saw the mark where it should have been so that mile was 7:37 and shortly after that I passed the 5k mark in 23:37 with visions of a sub 48 dancing in my head.

 Well what goes down has to go back up. Most of the next mile was on a boring section along MLK JR Pkwy with a long gradual rise. It didn;t slow me down too much because I hit mile  4 in 7:47 but it was wearing me down and as soon as the course turned onto Wilmington St and the little hill there, I could feel the effort and the cadence slowed down. I had to back off the effort and re-group a bit until after passing the Capital Building where it turns slightly downhill again. The 5 mile mark was two blocks down from there and I was disappointed that I slowed down all the way to an 8:22 as  I had really hoped to keep the pace under 8 the whole way.

I was feeling better now and knew I could push the pace back down a bit so I knuckled down and even with the climb back up to the capital I was able to run mile 6 in 8:03.I must say i was very pleased with my final time of 48:37, a 7:50 average pace at this point. The race only gave awards to each age group winner but I was 4th in my 55-59 group. considering I mostly run ultra's these days I'm very happy to be able to make a decent showing when I jump in with the regular road racing crowd.

 that's it for now. the next couple of races will be back in ultra distances.