Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beach2Battleship Half-Ironman -- 11/7/2009

The Beach2Battleship 1/2 IM was definitely my "A" race on the calendar this year. The late season date was a good thing and a bad thing -- I'd had plenty of time to train, but also plenty of time to get tired of training too. Credit here to Coach Debi Bernardes for help keeping me focused when I was sick and tired of working.

But except for a couple weeks hurt by family business and an asthma flareup, training had been solid. I felt good going into the race, and I was confident I could knock my old 1/2 IM PR (5:41) down quite a bit. Competitively, it's been a good year for me, but I've stuck pretty close to home -- I was looking forward to getting out in a bigger race and seeing how I'd stack up.

Got to Wilmington the day before, and hopped around town picking up my packet and driving out to T1 (there are separate T1 and T2 areas). Dropped my bike off, and by then it was late afternoon. I skipped a tune up ride and run and we went off to dinner and then hotel check in. I relaxed the rest of the evening by taking a stroll down the River Walk and packing my bags.

Saturday was up and at 'em early. Carmel drove me down to T1, where I got marked, dropped off my T2 bag and put my bike gear in place. Then it was back to the car to stay warm. The morning was cold, in the high 30s, but temps were due to rise quickly as the sun came up. Finally it was time to go, and I caught the bus to the swim start. Got there with over an hour before the 1/2 swim started, but settled in and chatted with fellow athletes while sipping coffee from my thermos (got some envious looks for that). Talked to Brad Yoder, who looked ready to go (and I believe he got a PR, if I'm not mistaken).

A bit after 7 AM the full-distance racers zoomed by up the inlet. The swim looked like it would be as advertised -- fast, thanks to a strong tidal current. Then at 8:30 our waves started taking off, and finally it wast time me and the rest of the old guys at 8:55. The water was a bit cold but not frigid, and it was easy to settle in comfortably on the swim. I flew up the inlet, took a left at the big boat, and then spent a fair amount of time figuring out which way to go. After some unnecessary zigging and zagging, I got to the marina dock, and climbed one of the numerous ladders to get out.

Swim -- 27:12 (gotta love that tide!)

After trotting along the longest run to transition I've ever had, I got to my bike. The sun was up, and the air was warm -- the original plan of armwarmers and gloves went out to window. I stripped off the wetsuit, stuffed it and the rest of gear I didn't need into my bag, grabbed my bike and got going.

T1 - 5:50 by my watch -- slow, but about normal given the long run and the necessity of packing your wetsuit in a bag so it would get returned later.

Right away I felt strong on the bike. After a few twists and turns we settled into the first of many flat, fast segments on smooth 4-lane roads and headed north. A lot of people had started in the waves before me, but that gave me a lot of people to pass, and kept me feeling strong and confident. About 10 miles in the bike course rolled onto to I-140, a bypass road around Wilmington. This was heaven -- an entire lane of Interstate highway blocked off, smooth pavement below, and a slight quartering breeze. 90-100 RPM, 23-24 MPH -- the miles slid away underneath my wheels.

We turned off the bypass and headed north, with more good pavement, then turned west onto a 2-lane.My rhythm was still steady, and drinking and nutrition seemed right on schedule -- a drink every 15 minutes, with gels and eCaps added in at 30 minute intervals. My only problem was a constantly running nose -- the salt water of the swim was more effective than a neti pot at clearing out my nasal passages. Wipe, spit, rub my hands on my shorts -- the glamorous life of a triathlete!

Then the turnaround point and it was time to head back south. The breeze was no longer at our back, and had turned into a steady headwind. We retraced our steps, rolling south towards T2 at the battleship USS North Carolina memorial. The headwind was starting to pick up at this point, though not as badly as it did for the full distance racers to follow. Still, it was an effort to stay focused and stay within myself as the ride dragged on.

Finally a highway sign "Battleship 3 Miles." All right! Except for -- a bridge? A big one too, rising high enough to cross the Cape Fear River and let ocean-going ships underneath. Note to self -- pay better attention to the course maps next time. Not to worry -- I downshifted to the small ring, then up and over. Down the other side, a hard left onto a narrow road lined with spectators and suddenly the dismount line.

Bike -- 2:46ish (timing problems with the event, not quite certain, but about 20.5 avg.)

A volunteer grabbed my bike (new experience for me), and directed me towards my gear. A smooth transition and it was time to run.

T2 -- 1:42.

The way I see it, the run is make or break in a tri. My plan was to start steady, walk through the first four aid stations, then pick it up to the end. The run course takes you from the west side of the Cape Fear River, over two tall bridges, and then dumps you onto the riverfront of Wilmington, on the river's east side. From there, you climb south into a lovely city park, then turn around and retrace your steps back to the battleship.

I fell in with a smooth-running 30 year old woman and kept pace with her, successfully navigating the climbs over the bridges. I knew I'd have to come back over them, though. After 4 miles, I started cranking up the pace.

As we hit the turn around at mile 6.55, I pulled off to the side to brush off a pine needle that had gotten caught in my sock. Immediately I saw a "54" on the calf of a runner passing me. Now it was time to make a move. I matched stride and then putting on my best "hey I'm enjoying this" grin, I dug in and picked up speed.

"Don't look back" I told myself -- just keep going. I caught another AG runner -- "53." Then another -- "50." Mile 7, mile 8, mile 9. Now I was feeling the strain. My quads and calves were tightening up while I tried to hold form. I snuck a look back when I turned a corner. "54" was about 50 yards back, but "53" and "50" were gone.

Unfortunately, I was about gone too. At mile 10, I was feeling slightly nauseous, and my quads and calves started to seize up on me. I dropped the pace a little. Mile 11, and time to climb back up the bridges. I looked back -- 54 was still there, running steady.

Mile 12 -- the cramps were coming more often, and my pace kept slowing. The last bridge to climb was a struggle, and some stronger runners started to pass me. Finally I was at the top. And at the top 54 made his pass -- I tried to match pace but couldn't. A little deflated I pushed on, waved and smiled for Carmel as she took my picture and then did my best finish line pose as I crossed.

Run -- 1:52:16

After about 30 minutes of lying in the grass feeling ill I'm was finally ready for some pizza and beer. I'd hoped to break 5:10, but the last few miles killed that chance -- 5:13: 58 was the final total. In retrospect I was still happy -- I put myself in position to make my move on the run, and when I saw the opportunity I went for it. I got beat by 54 (congrats, Steve Thompson, of Chapel Hill, NC), but he had to earn it.

Icing on the cake was a nice plaque, carved from a genuine teak board from the deck of the battleship USS North Carolina, for 2nd place in the 50-54 AG. Pretty cool, and a pretty cool day.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Buck Mountain 1/2 Marathon -- 10/11/2009

A race report in three parts.

Prolouge -- This has to be about as low key as any race out there. It's put on by Charlottesville's local running store, Ragged Mountain Running Shop, primarily as a test "race" for their fall marathon training program participants. It's open to anyone, though I had to call the shop to find out when it started -- 7 AM (ouch). There's no entry fee (donations to Meals on Wheels are accepted), no splits being called out, no road closures, and the water stops are self serve. Mile markers and directions are simply chalked onto the road.

What it does have is an incredibly scenic course in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, with some challenging hills. It's a fun course and a great test.

Part 1 -- I started out easy, planning on keeping the pace under control for the first four miles. Mile 1 slid by in 7:24, and I was feeling pretty smooth, so I decided to stick around there. By mile 3 I was on my own, with one runner about 200 yards ahead, and nobody in sight behind on the curving roads. Mile 4 was a long downhill, and I stretched it out to pick up some time.

Mile 1 -- 7:24
Mile 2 -- 7:27
Mile 3 -- 7:39
Mile 4 -- 6:58 (downhill)

Part 2 -- As the course turned onto a gravel backroad, I kicked it up a gear. This stretch was tougher, with some long climbs, and some short, steep ups and downs. I started making time up on the runner who was ahead of me, and concentrated on keeping my tempo up on the hills. Around mile 6 I was overtaken by a group of 6 post-collegiate runners, members of the Ragged Mountain team. Not sure why they'd ever been behind me, since they were running effortlessly as they passed. Around mile 7, I caught the runner I'd been chasing, then we turned back onto the main road with a long downhill. I took the opportunity and picked up the pace as mile 8 finished.

Mile 5 -- 7:57 (uphill)
Mile 6 -- 7:38
Mile 7 -- 7:44
Mile 8 -- 6:50 (long downhill)

Part 3 -- Now it was time to take it home strong. I had about 3 miles of long gradual ups and downs, then the course turned onto the final stretch, a mainly couple of miles back to the start. I paid for the downhill on mile 8 with a long uphill on mile 9, but then settled into a series of smaller hills. I kept my tempo well, and settled into a counting rhythm -- 100 steps, then switch the gloves I was now carrying from the right hand to the left. Another 100 steps and switch again. It kept my mind totally focused on the mechanics of running.

With the last turn onto the relatively flat ending stretch I started to pick it up. Still counting, but picking up the tempo for the first 20 steps of each 100. Mile 11, then picking up the tempo every 50 steps. Mile 12 came and I went for broke, finishing feeling pretty strong.

Mile 9 -- 7:50 (uphill)
Mile 10 -- 7:11
Mile 11 -- 7:10
Mile 12 -- 7:02
Mile 13.1 -- 7:57

1:36:54, 7:24 pace. Knocked about a minute off of my PR time from last year. Pretty good morning, all in all.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Naylor's Beach Tri Race Report - 9/27/09

I went into the Naylor's Beach Triathlon with a pretty specific goal. While my triathlon racing had been pretty successful so far this year, I felt like I wasn't quite performing up to my potential because of poor decision making and pacing. And with a 1/2-IM coming up, I wanted to improve that. Poor pacing in a sprint tri can be worked through, but in a 1/2-IM it could bite me pretty badly!

Heavy rain on Saturday kept me at home, rather than camping out at the race site, so the family staggered into the car at 5 AM on Sunday morning for the drive over. The rain continued intermittently, and when I got to the race it was coming down heavily again. I got my packet, hung out in the car, and finally slogged over to set up my transition area. Finally, 5 minutes before the first swim wave, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and a rainbow stretched across the river we'd be swimming in. The weather was great for the rest of the day.

I seeded myself at the front of my swim wave, and got off with no trouble. We were swimming in the Rappahanock River, which is wide, brackish, and tidal at the race site. Current was negligible at the start, but as I rounded the first turn and worked downstream, I found myself getting pushed strongly towards the left, and had to correct constantly. My swimming rhythm felt pretty good, so I told myself not to worry, it was the same for everybody. I managed to stay on course pretty well, sighting off the buoys and my fellow swimmers. As I turned the final buoy and headed in, I was pretty well satisfied -- the pace felt good, and I seemed to be pretty far up in the field. My watch gave me a split of 28:43.

T1 was a bit more of a thrash than I normally like -- not enough body glide on my legs and feet. But I got out in good shape and started off on the bike without much traffic around me. My mantra for the bike was "tempo." Paradoxically, my new tri bike has been a two-edged sword. I'm faster on the bike, but I'm also more tempted to go for broke and hurt my run leg. Today I'd keep the RPMs up, save my legs, and take what I got. The strategy felt pretty good as I was riding. I had a solid tempo going, but never put myself in the redzone. Nutrition went smoothly, with regular drinks from my aerobottle, and a GU at about the halfway point.

At about the halfway point of the ride we started hitting some fairly stiff head and cross winds, brought in by the changing weather. I kept to my mantra, downshifted to lower gears so I could keep my tempo up, and stayed patient. I came into the dismount with a stylish shoes-off flying dismount and went into T2 feeling good. The bike was unofficially around 1:16, for about a 20.5 average.

T2 went smoothly, and I was out on the run in no time. By now the sun was out and it was getting a bit warm. My plan was to split the run into three parts -- 2 miles getting into a groove, 2 miles picking it up, and surging to break up the last 2 miles for a strong finish. Holding it back a bit, I got into a good rhythm running and breathing at the start, and was encouraged to be picking off a lot of other runners. I popped two endurolyte tablets at the first water stop, then half a gel at the second, washing each down with water and pouring half the cup on my head.

After two miles I was averaging around 7:30/mile and felt good. Picking it up, I hit mile 4 at around a 7:15 pace, and then started surging to break up my pace and stay focused. By the time the finish line came into sight I'd caught a group of 30-something runners, but couldn't quite hold with them as they found some fresh legs for the final sprint. Still, I was ecstatic with the run -- 44:47, my first time ever under 45 in a triathlon 10K.

All in all, a very satisfying day. I beat last year's time by about a minute, on a day when most times were slower than last year. More importantly, I'd really had a consistent, solid effort all the way through. A good training program was at the heart of that, but I helped myself by smart decision making -- it was a valuable lesson!

PS -- Got second in my AG, and won a plaque and a tote bag.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pepsi 10K Race Report -- September 19, 2009

Long time since I posted. I'll try to dig up my old race reports and get them on here.

Here's my most recent effort --

Summary: 43:01, 10K.

Long Report:

I've got a sentimental attachment to this race. It was my first race, back in 93 or 94, and aside from triathlon legs it's the only 10K race I've ever done. Got my 10K PR there in '97 at 43:07, and I've been shooting at that mark ever since I got back into my athletic "career" back around 2005. It's a fast course by Charlottesville standards, with a couple of hills at mile 2 and 4, but otherwise rolling, rural, and scenic.

The weather was good, in the mid 60s with just a bit of humidity, and there was a pretty good-sized field -- probably about 300-400 I'd estimate. Lots of UVA college students, including several teams in the off-season out for a good time. My plan, developed in consultation with Ms. Bernardes, was to start easy, around 7:10, then gradually pick up the pace. At mile 4 to the end, throw in some surges every hundred yards or so and try to kick it home strong.

The start was the usual scrum of inexperienced runners blasting ahead, but I found some space and settled down, telling myself "easy, easy." At mile 1 it wasn't quite easy enough -- 6:35. Damn! I chalked it up to a downhill stretch and resolved to settle down as we made our first turn on the double out-and-back course.

Through the second mile in 7:08, which included the first uphill. Not too bad. By now the field was spread out pretty well, and I was running pretty much alone. Mile 3 in 7:05, and I didn't feel too bad.

I started to pick it up just a bit over the next mile, which featured a couple of downhills, and hit mile 4 in 6:42. Another turn, and onto the last hill, and the inevitable period of pain that comes with any 5 or 10K race. I started to throw in some surges, picking up the pace for 20-25 steps every hundred yards or so. It helped break up the last couple of miles and kept my pace up pretty well.

Finally the turn into the school where the race ended. I saw the finish line clock -- 20 seconds left if I wanted to break 43 minutes. Dig deep and go! I hit the line right around 43, and gasped my way through the chutes, totally blown.

All in all, a good race. Snagged my PR, with an official time of 43:01, and got 2nd in M50-54. Looks like I'll have to wait for next year to try to break 43:00!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Year's 5K Race Report

Race: New Year's 5K, Free Union, VA.

Executive summary: Pretty solid race -- 20:49, 5th AG (45-49), and 29/367 overall.

Long form:

Back at the beginning of December I blasted through the Charlottesville Men's 4 Miler in 26:35. I felt primed for an attempt on a sub-20 5K at this race. It's a simple out and back, following almost exactly the same route as the 4-miler. We lined up for the start in pretty good conditions. Sunny, temperature in the 30s and rising, and a little bit of a head wind on the outward leg.

I settled in pushed the pace a bit early, maintaining contact with the faster guys longer than I usually do. The first mile split was a very speedy (for me) 6:18, but I felt good and hung tough. The second mile started to kick in a few easy rollers, but I was still feeling pretty solid. As the leaders started coming back past me, I counted positions and found myself in 25th (!) at the turn around. A glance at my watch showed me at a little under 10 minutes for the 1/2-way point. So far so good.

Mile two passed -- 6:46. I'd definitely slowed, but I wasn't in distress.Still, the smarter runners who'd held back a bit were starting to reel me in, and I had no extra gear to shift into. By mile 2.5 it was time to hang on.

And I did -- I managed to find a little bit extra for the final stretch, but the clock didn't lie -- 20:49. No doubt about it, my overly ambitious starting pace hurt my overall effort. Still, not a bad way to start the year, with a sub 21 race at 6:42 pace. Onward to Myrtle Beach, with a valuable lesson learned.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MJH 8K Race Report -- March, 2009

Another race from the archives!

I've done the Martha Jefferson Hospital 8K for the last 3 years in a row. It's a great tune up for the Charlottesville 10-Miler, which follows in 3 weeks, and it draws a pretty big field (over 500 this year). The course is a real tester, winding up and down through the downtown streets of Charlottesville. There are over 20 turns on the course, and I can only think of about 2 spots that are flat. The rest is up and down, with an emphasis on short, steep hills.

Race morning was cool and overcast, in the upper 30s, but the expected rain was holding off. I got a good warmup run in, and went to the starting line in shorts, long sleeve base layer with a short sleeve technical shirt over top, gloves, and a polypro hat.

The start was a bit downhill, and one of the longer straights of the run. I'd been feeling a little nicked up over the last week or so -- a little knee pain and a tight hip -- but I was happy to feel good and smooth as I took off. The field strung out pretty quickly. It's one of the nice advantages of getting a little faster -- I can line up nearer the front and avoid the usual craziness of the crush at the start.

The first mile featured a couple of downhill stretches, and my time showed it as I hit the Mile 1 marker -- 6:30. A little fear at that, since I know I'm not that fast, and there were some tough stretches to come. I backed off on the throttle a little bit and settled into a good rhythm. I caught a few runners, but lost position to some others. No worries -- this felt good. Mile 2 hit at 13:22, a 6:53 mile. That felt solid.

As we twisted and turned through the streets, I knew the first real challenge was coming up -- a fairly long and steep climb near the 2.5 mile mark. I hit the bottom of the hill and started counting on every left foot strike. 1, 2, 3... I knew I could keep this up to 100 at least. 33, 34, 35...starting to get winded, keep the pace up. 75, 76, 77...near the top. Finally around the corner at the top and a chance to stretch it out on the next downhill. Mile 3 -- 20:06, a 6:44 mile. Good.

The next obstacle was looming. Near the end of mile 4, a San Fransisco worthy street that'll hit you like a ton of bricks. I kept my pace up, running strong with some 40-something age groupers in a loose pack around me, and we hit the hill. Counting steps helped here, at least to keep my mind off the uncomfortable thought that I might get sick. Finally we crested the top, and started down, past the Mile 4 marker. 27:00, a 6:53. Not bad.

The last chunk was anti-climactic. I was running strong, but the age groupers around me gradually pulled away. No shame on my part -- these guys were solid, and just had a little bit better top end gear. I was running strong, and powered up the last gradual climb and turned to do the final stretch. Across the line, stopped the watch and let it sink in.

33:26. 6:45 pace, and almost a 2 minute PR over last year's 35:15. Best of all, while it had been a hard effort, I never felt out of control, or on the edge of losing it. And with the Charlottesville 10-Miler in three weeks, the idea of running under 70 minutes seems like a real possibility.


Charlottesville 10-Miler Race Report - 4/4/09

I've been way behind on posting, including the news that I qualified for Boston with a 3:34:54 at Myrtle Beach on February 14. A sweet treat!

Here's my most recent race, the Charlottesville 10-Miler, on April 4, 2009

Executive summary:

1:11:04, 7:06 pace. 149/2300 overall, 7/92 AG (50-54 M)

Long report:

I imagine most running communities have a race like the 10-Miler. The local race with a long history that the hardcore runners aim at, but that also attracts a large community following. The 10-Miler qualifies: it's been around for over 25 years, and draws a field of over 2000, mostly local runners, whose goals range from picking up an AG win to seeing if they can actually run 10 Miles.

The 10-Miler also has a great course going for it. A scenic tour of the UVA grounds, downtown Charlotesville, and some attractive old residential neighborhoods. Crowd support is vocal and enthusiastic for much of the course.

I came into this year's race feeling pretty strong. I'd gotten my BQ at Myrtle Beach by running a well-executed marathon, and I'd blown away my 8K PR just a few weeks before. 1:10, 7-minute miles seemed doable. A stretch maybe, but doable.

Race morning was bright, sunny, about 50 degrees, but quite windy. I seed myself in the first 4-5 rows and took off with the pack. A little jockeying around for position, and working through the rolling roadblocks of people who didn't understand where to line up, and I found some space. The key to the course is to hold something in reserve for the end. The course gets progressively more difficult as you go along, and a too-optimistic start can bite you later on.

I hit mile 1 in 7:00 flat. Good and bad -- good because I felt great, bad because I knew that was probably about 15 seconds too fast. No problem, relax on the next mile. Mile 2, which curls around the UVA football stadium has one of the first big hills. I held back, trying not to get caught up in the excited runners who attacked the hill like Marines going up Mt. Surabachi. Mile 2 -- just under 7 minutes. Hmmm....still felt good, but had a nagging feeling that this wasn't good in the back of my mind.

Mile 3 featured some slight rises as we passed by the center of the UVA grounds, designed by Thomas Jefferson. A beautiful place to run, to be sure. I concentrated on a conservative pace and came in a little over 7 minutes. Good. As we moved into Mile 4, I got ready for the long downhill that heads towards downtown C-ville. This is a mile to bank up time, and I did, coming in at 6:45. OK so far -- I was under 7 minute pace and feeling pretty solid.

Mile 5 heads up the Downtown Mall, a brick pedestrian street. The crowds are enthusiastic here, and the confines tight, so there was a lot of shoulder-to-shoulder racing. A had a good stride going here, and clipped it off right at 7 minutes. We turned off the Mall into the hilly neighborhoods north of the mall. This is always a moment of truth. The hills here aren't long, but they're numerous and relatively steep. Mile 6, a little over 7 minutes -- still OK. A wave to my wife and son, and onto the last long hill of downtown.

Now my early enthusiasm was creeping up on me. I kept pace with most of my competitors, but I could feel my strength fading and hear my breathing getting a bit ragged. Hold it together -- over the top, and back across the downtown mall. Grab a Gatorade, regroup and prepare to take on the last three miles. Mile 7 -- about 7:15. Not good. Not a deal-breaker, but not good.

Into the wind now, I head up the longest straight stretch of the race. A long false flat leading back to the UVA grounds. Runners who'd run a smarter tactical race than me were overtaking me, and I kept trying to match their pace, eventually finding one runner to draft off of. Mile 8 -- about 7:10. A had about a 20 second defecit on my dream goal now.

Mile 9 would decide the race. The route hits the last killer hill here, an ascent up the UVA "Corner," a student-oriented business district. I had to hit this hard if I had any chance to get back on pace. It didn't feel good. My legs were heavy and I was hurting. You can throw all the cliches you want at a hill, but if you don't have the wheels, the hill has the advantage. Finally over the top, then retracing the route back up the race course. Mile 9 -- fail -- 7:35.

OK, time to regroup -- push for as big a PR as possible, at least go under 1:11. Then -- YOW -- calf cramps. Both legs. Shorten the stride, stay under control. I watched my pace setter disappear into the distance as I alternated between sets of short strides and longer strides, trying to work out the cramps. I kept my pace up as well as I could, but there wouldn't be any sprint to the finish today. As I saw the finish line in the distance I looked at my watch -- 1:10. Darned close. I took it in best I could, and got across in 1:11:04.

I got my hugs from the family and reflected on the race. It was easy to be disappointed, but that faded quickly. 1:10 would have required doing everything right, and I had nothing to be disappointed about. I'd beaten last year's time by over 2 minutes, and taken out a 10-year old PR of 1:13:01. And I'd learned a lesson, too. You've got to train, you've got to plan, but most importantly, you've got to execute the plan when the race comes. The longer the race, the more important that fact is. I'll get it right next time.