Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tobacco Road Half Marathon. Success !

Yes, I must say I am very very happy with the way this turned out !

  Leading up to this race my training had been going well but as I mentoned in the preview, I didn't taper other than 3 fairly easy days before the race and I had just completed a hard BQ attempt at Myrtle Beach 4 weeks ago and a pesonal best course run at Umstead Trail marathon 2 weeks ago. With these things on my mind I was reasonably confident I could at least have a shot at a sub 1:40 but also aware that it would not be easy no matter what happened and there was always the possibility that some lingering fatigue would de-rail my attempt in the latter stages of the race.

 With that, I was very happy that the weather forecast was looking to be ideal for running hard. I did a one mile warmup and then worked my way to the start and  lined up right behind the 1:40 pace group led by Jeremy Hong and Matt and Meghan Craver. I don't usually pay much attention to pace groups and will run faster or slower depending on how I feel but today I thought I would at least try ad keep them in sight for awhile. Well as soon as the race started I fell behind them in the large crowd of runners and as always there seem to be too many people that like to line up near the front that really have no business being anywhere near the front.

 After the first half mile things spread out enough that I could get into a rhythm and settle into what felt like a comfortable pace. I hit one mile in 8:00 , about 23 seconds too slow but I wasn;t worried and thought with the congested start that I was currently running closer to goal pace. The pace group was still a pretty good ways ahead of me an I just relaxed and didn't worry about it. Sure enough mile 2 was dead on 7:37. I had plenty of time to chip way at the deficit in the first mile.

 We turned off of the road and onto the trail around the 2.5 mile point and by now I was getting comfortable with the pace and put it on cruise control. I was very happy to hit mile 3 in 7:17. It felt easy and with that one mile I was close to making up the deficit. I still had not made up any ground on the pace group but shortly after that I noticed the gap was beginning to close as Jeremy must have backed off the pace a little. That first mile or two on the trail is pretty quick in the direction we were going and I hit mile 4 in 7:24. This was awesome. I felt great and was now moving ahead of goal pace.

  I clicked off another good one hitting mile 5 in 7:27 and by now had closed the gap and was right behind Jeremy. Matt and Meghan had moved on ahead a ways at that point. Shortly after that I moved ahead of Jeremy and just decided to go for it. However the next mile is on a slight upgrade and I backed off the effort just a little. Maybe a little too much because mile 6 was 7:46 but when I made the turn at the halfway point I was still ahead of pace and moving well.

 Things suddenly got very crowded with the two way traffic and the bulk of the 2,500 runners coming towards us now. I had caught up to Matt and was running right behind him but it was shoulder to shoulder and large groups coming towards us 3 and 4 abreast made it very tight and nearly bumping runners squeezing by. This is an awesome event but it is just a bit too crowded to have that many runners on such a narrow course.

 Mile 7 was a quick 7:22, enough to make up for the slow mile 6 and keep me with a cushion. I felt strong  through mile 8  in 7:25 and was now beginning to believe I  may have a shot at not just the sub 1:40 but maybe even cracking 1:39 !

 Mile 9 was slightly upgrade again but I passed it in 7:35 and was finally beginning to feel the effort but I still was sure I was not going to fall apart.. But mile 10 was getting tough and I was beginning to feel a stitch coming on and had to back off the effort a little. It was a disappointing 7:48 but then things leveled out and I was able to pick it up again. We turned back onto the road at 10.5 and the push was on now. Mile 11 was 7:38. I was digging deep now and focusing on trying to reel in a couple of guys up ahead that looked like they could possibly be in my age group.The time I was aiming for would have gotten me close or onto the podium for an age group award in just about all the previous races so I was trying to go for every second.

 Mile 12 was even better with a 7:23. Oh yeah, one more to go. Sub 1:40 well in the bag but how close to 1:39 ?  One more hill and then a turn back into the park with about 1/2 mile to go. I caught up to Meghan again and we ran together the rest of the way. Passed mile 13 in 7:23. I was thinking I would be closer to 1:39:30ish so when I saw I actually was going to finish in1:39:03 I was of course wishing I had been able to find just a little more speed somewhere. Ha ! Actually I am super satisfied and happy with the result ! 

  During and after the race I had quite  few people, some that I know and others that were strangers running in  close proximity comment on how smooth and relaxed I looked and how I made it look easy. That makes me feel good of course and the fact is I felt great nearly the whole race.

 I ended up 5th out of 56 in my age group so I am pretty happy with that being an old ultra runner that has been focused on the Umstead 100 since finishing Myrtle Beach.  Stay tuned for more exciting adventures !

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tobacco Road Half Marathon Preview

 Well, I'm sneaking another race onto the schedule this weekend. It's not that I hadn't thought about it but it really didn't fit into my other plans for this year. Last year the full marathon was the target race for me and Amy as we had trained really hard to get a Boston qualifier but things didn't turn out quite like we had planned. So this time around it was decided to go for it a month earlier in Myrtle Beach. Well that didn't turn out so well either due to an  injury  that caused me  to be a  bit behind on the training and then race day turned out to have really nasty windy weather. Now it's looking like an extra month of training and some better weather would have been better but it is what it is.

  So anyway,  training for Boston is on the back burner for awhile as I am now focused on three big ultra's in the next 3 months. But then I was thinking that I would really like to take advantage of the great training I have been doing to put some speed to the test. There is no way I could give a quality effort at another BQ right now but a half is another story. I think I can put in a solid effort and still be able to recover and train for the Umstead 100 coming up in 3 weeks.

 So, I remembered  that last year at the expo, Steve Hite, owner of the title sponsor for the half, BAYSIX had offered me a complementary entry if I wanted it so I contacted him last week and I was happy to find that he was still willing to get me into the race! Thanks Steve !

 The course is a fast one, the weather is looking pretty good temperature wise for good running and my training is going well. Despite running hard at MB last month and then again at the Umstead Trail Marathon I'm feeling pretty good and feel confident I can run well. Last September at the Half at Seymour Johnson AFB I was on pace to crack 1:40 for the first time since 2006 but my hamstring injury that I had been battling since early August flared up during the race and caused me to slow down to a 1:42 finish. I actually feel I am in better shape now so I am going ahead and saying it up front that  I am going for the sub 1:40. wish me luck !

 here is a link to the race website

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Umstead Trail Marathon 2014

  This is a great race put on by the Carolina Godiva Track Club and today was the 11th edition. I ran the first one back in 2004 as a training run for my 1st 100 miler in Umstead and had a very enjoyable day. I returned each of the next 3 years but since that time it just hasn't seemed to fit into my schedule. This year I am once again running the 100 and that combined with the fact that  I would be able to run with a comp entry thanks to sponsor Great Outdoor Provision and the CGTC  ,I was excited to have another chance to participate.

  My original plan was to just use it as a training run and with it just being two weeks after a hard effort in the Myrtle Beach Marathon I wasn't expecting to run all that well anyway. Just get in the miles and have some fun. As expected there were quite a few of my friends running as well as volunteering and I was enjoying the pre-race socializing. The weather was looking great with the chance of rain now at nearly zero and the temps in a good range for running long.

 Just before the start I spotted one of my dear friends and Angels, Margherita Scott so we lined up together and began the race together. She has not missed a single one of these ! The pace began easy enough and we were enjoying some good conversation. The trail was a bit crowded and after a mile or see we had to work our way around some folks so we could run our normal stride. Soon we came to the first section of single track and slowed down a bit. I used to run on these trails a lot but the past two years with my focus more on road running I've spent most of my time on the green ways and bridle paths. After mile 3 I moved on ahead of Margo and was feeling pretty good so I decided that maybe I would go for a course pr. Well as close as possible. The course has changed slightly since I ran in 2007 and includes another section of single track making it a little tougher.

 Ok, I know I said it was a training run but it is really hard for me not to run my best unless I am pacing someone else. I just can't help it !  We came off of Company Mill trail and onto Reedy Creek before turning onto Graylin, running down the hill and then onto Sycamore Trail. By now the instincts had kicked in and it felt like home once again on the single track and I was dancing over and around the rocks and roots like I had never been away. The next aid station and the first one I stopped for some water was in the B&B lot just past 5 miles. My average pace was close to what I would needed for the record but I wasn't too concerned with just another 1.5 miles of single track to go and it was a bit flatter than the previous 2 sections had been.

 Soon I was back on that section of the Sycamore trail and really enjoying myself. A young lady behind me commented on my hot pink dirtygirl gaitors so I proceeded to tell her the short version of how they came to be with the Karla story which she really enjoyed hearing. She then complemented me on how well I seem to float over the single track so then I had to tell her how I ran my first time on these trails back in 1979. Soon after that the trail came back to Graylin and we would be on the B&B trails for the remainder of the race. Up and down over every hill and some of them twice.

 Made the turn at the "T" and then a quick mile down corkscrew before making the long 1 mile climb up to the gate. The next aid station was there and I was glad to see Pauline there to fill my refillable cup they had supplied us with while taking a gel. This was around mile 10 and I felt ok. Not great but no problems. I started of down South Turkey Creek and soon found myself alongside Jim Wei. It was nice to talk to him and the next 1.5 were the fastest of the race for both of us. Now my overall average was right about where I wanted it. I just had to maintain !

 I've run this park so many thousands of miles now over the years so I knew the next 2.4 up N Turkey Creek were going to be some of the slowest so I just settled in and didn't try to push it and soon enough I was back at the B&B lot for another gel around mile 14 and still feeling pretty good. The next miles were pretty uneventful as I just tried to remain steady and only walking short periods up the steepest of the hills. I was actually a bit surprised at how well I was still running the ups.

 I made it back up S Turkey Creek and back into the aid station at about 19.7 miles and by now I was pretty confident that there would be no meltdown today but there were still 3 major hills to go and a few more minor ones. I enjoyed the long downhill past the lake and then prepared for corkscrew. I ran well and was happy to be passing people in these later miles rather than being passed. Now there was Cedar Ridge. I almost never go down this one and the uphill return really stinks since it is back  up to the 24 mile mark. I tried to run  strong down to the bottom  to make up a little time because I was expecting a slow  climb. By now I had the course pr in the bag so no worries there. I was actually still running up that nasty hill pretty strong too and once at the top I rewarded myself with a bit of Coke for the push up the final two miles.

 I continued to run strong to the finish with a nice smile, crossing the line in 4:33:57, a new race pr by nearly 5 minutes. The really cool thing about that is one, I am 7 years older and two, after just a recovery week after MB, I ran 44 miles in the 5 days leading up to this race with the workout on Friday at Marathon BQ pace ! Sweet ! All the hard work is still paying of and there will be some good performances in the months ahead.

 Stay tuned !