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.