Sunday, May 29, 2011

Part 2: "Thank you sir may I have another?"

After the disappointing race out on the range, I was really feeling the blues about running poorly after putting in such a hard spring of training. Part of the disappointment was that I couldn't finish the task I started, which was to really run fast again in a race since I walked away from running in college to pursue other things. The Sunday morning after the High Desert race, my good friend Mike Lapp mentioned that he was going to be running the following Saturday out in Marsing for another half-marathon. I had already been thinking about joining him, but then he said that not many people were registered and I really got excited about him and I running near the front of a race. My poor race was fresh in my mind, and I decided that giving another shot at the 13.1 mile distance wouldn't be that far out if I could recover well during the week between. After a week of ice baths, easy runs, and lots of laying down, I found myself at the starting line of the "Legacy of Service 1/2 Marathon" feeling pretty good physically, but feeling even better spiritually and emotionally after finishing my teaching commitments for the school year.

Warming up before the race I simply asked God to help me put my hope in Him as he commands in Isaiah 40: "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." The race was to honor the fight against ALS and raise money for local church missions, so I was pleased to have a prayer said before the start. We were all standing there for about ten minutes as they made some speaches about ALS and said the mentioned prayer. I felt as many eyes were checking out the big cross on my back and I felt as if God was holding me there at the start like a lamp on a stand. "Bring it on God, I want to glorify your name in this race."

The course looked to be a great one, going uphill for the first 3.5ish miles and then super flat for 6 miles, and finally a big downhill run to the finish of the loop. The weather was also looking much more promising for running fast, race time temperature was around 49 degrees and there was just a light breeze... Perfect!

Mike and I typically run pretty similar in workouts, so the plan was to take off together and then see how things went after we ran through the first few miles but, when the gun went off, it wasn't long before I realized that today might be a special day and I should just trust God to see where he might take me in this run...

Two guys jumped out to an early big lead, then a couple of stragglers, and finally me. One of those stragglers just happened to be a 12 year old named Jack. Here was a young kid named Jack who ran this race, I remember him because he must have thought I looked fast in my yellow FCA Endurance singlet because he came over and talked to me at the starting line and compared me to ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek... that'd be something to run like that guy... anyway, Jack ran supererb for a 12 year old. I passed Jack on the 2nd mile and we chatted about the two guys leading the race... "Do you think those guys are for real?" I said. "I don't know, they look pretty old" Jack responded. Trying not to laugh too hard I replied, "Well, I guess I better go and find out..." and with that I felt the competitive juices start firing and I started reeling in the early leaders up the first uphill miles of the race.

I kept in pursuit of the two at the front until I caught them at the 3 mile mark. I was running easily up the hill so I decided to keep on the gas over the top. We came through the 3 mile mark in 21:08 and I hadn't even started feeling like I was working yet, so I pushed on right past the leaders and ran a 6:46 mile to finish the uphill and level out to the 4 mile mark. At this point, one of the runners who had been leading, named Brandon, had joined me and we chatted about the weather and such and powered to the 5 mile mark at 34:37, or a 6:42 mile for those keeping track. When I looked at my watch I couldn't really believe what I was seeing, I had no idea I was ready to run these kind of times, so I anticipated a break-down later on but kept pushing on with Brandon because I really wasn't redlined and I had no reason to slow down at the moment.

After the 5 mile mark, Brandon and I really dropped the hammer and rattled off the next few miles in 6:25, 6:35, and 6:32. After the 8 mile mark, I was thinking about the win so I backed off the pace a bit to see what Brandon would do, to my surprise he slowed down too so I knew he was hurting or he would have kept going; we ran the 9th mile in 6:43. I couldn't believe what was happening, yet I still felt in control. I was sitting in the lead and it appeared that my competition was starting to feel the pressure so right after the 9th mile aid station I noticed Brandon dropped back to take in fuel and I took off. The 10 mile had a significant drop so I opened up and ran a 6:13 mile. By now I had a decent lead but hadn't cracked Brandon so I kept on the gas and ran a 6:11 for mile 11.

Just when I thought I might have had the win locked up when right after the 11th mile aid station Brandon came back on me and we battled until mile 12 where he pulled away. I couldn't respond to his surge and even though I finished the last 2.1 miles at 6:20/mile pace Brandon went home with the win. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't pull out the win, but who can complain about a 12 minute PR (1:26:38) and second place overall. Mike finished with a good race himself, just breaking 1:34 at 1:33:59 and 5th overall. Oh, and Mike's Dad Richard busted out a 15 second PR as well, coming in around 1:59 and change.

Following the race I met up with Michelle who had brought the kids out and I chased Myles around on the playground while Kara ate her lunch. It seemed like God was giving me a great big bear hug and a high five for a race well run. I hope that I have that feeling again sometime soon because it is truly addicting. I felt content that I had regained at least part of the speed I once had but on with my God backing me up this time. It is a moment worth remembering, so I'm glad my face shows the joy in the following picture.

(Myles always seems to look way cooler in these things than I do so I let him do the honors and receive my second place medal.)

Next up, the Sawtooth Relay with the Galena Summit scheduled to be tackled. Brother-in-law and best friend Chris Stoffer will be coming out from Ohio, Mike will be there, and Joe Terrazas from Skyview where I work. It should be a great time with lots more good scenery and suffering...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 High Desert Race Report. Part 1: "Welcome to the Half-Marathon Chump!"

Well, now that the dust has long settled on the High Desert Half-Marathon that took place this past Saturday, May 21st, 2011, and I have had the chance to recover and dissect the race a bit, I'll provide an update on the race and my performance. To start, let me say that the race was well organized and the director did a fine job of putting together a tough course with lots of variety and challenge. I was particularly interested in this race since the course was my "backyard" during our three years living out at the Emmert farm. The race course covered the same trails that I rode regularly when training for mountain bike races, but as I found out, ridin' ain't runnin' baby. Race day turned out to be a toasty 70+ degrees, which is great if your going out on a bike ride, but not so great if you're going to spend 90+ minutes sweating up and down the open desert country. As you can see by my face in the picture below, I had a tough day out there, but more on that later...

The Course appears starts off with two small "bumps" that look relatively minor on the profile, but knowing the terrian a bit I knew that those bumps would be very significant to the later stages of the race. The first little bump wasn't really that significant, just enough to stretch out the race a bit, but the second one, man! that was a big hill. Its not a good sign when everybody is walking the 2nd mile into a half-marathon, even the eventual winner who ran a solid 1:26 and change for this very tough course. Following the expected suffering going up, I settled into a comfortable rythym for the middle miles and found myself in second place rather comfortably. These middle miles went up and down but the footing was the real challenge. I started to find it was hard to get into that numb zone on the irregular terrian. By mile seven, I noticed that my bandana I started with as a sweat band was completely saturated and I decided to chuck it, I think this was a big mistake because I found that afterwards I seemed to have a really hard time getting cooled off and most of my water was depleted as I started off into the no-man's-land between the mile 7 and mile 10 aid stations.

Shortly after ditching the bandana, I realized that I was probably in some trouble as I just couldn't get cooled off. I hoped that the downhill from the 7-9 mile mark would help me recover but the footing was just too tricky to open up and rest so I kept on chuggin along until the guy who had been shadowing me for the past 7 miles passed me and I couldn't respond. I underestimated my recovery I would get on this hill that is super fast and fun on a bike but only mildly soothing on foot. My only hope was that I could make it without too much damage to the aid station at mile 10 and recover some fluids before charging up the long grind to the high-point of the race and to the finish.

By mile 9.5 I had to walk.

I'm not proud of that statement, but when you feel your legs harden up and your head is pounding you just do what is best at that moment. I got passed by the 4th place guy shortly after that. He was moving along pretty good and I figured he pick off the guy in 2nd who looked to be struggling himself. Mike Carlson was in 1st place and was probably going over the top by the time we got to the 10 mile mark.

There were three of us who came through the 10 mile aid station within a minute or two of each other, and when we hit the base of the big hill it was a grinding slugfest to see who would survive. Unfortunately, for me anyway, I lost the slugfest and put in a 13 minute mile from mile 11 to 12. I could see the runners ahead of me struggling too, but there was nothing I could do. At one point I got really pissed and started running after one of the guys, but he looked back and saw me and took off as well. At that point I knew it was just me. Right before mile 12 another guy came up from behind and picked me off, there was nothing I could do. I had cramps in my calves, hammies, and glutes, and my head was pounding.

(This picture was taken on a pre-race run on the course from the high point of the race near mile 12, it doesn't look that steep, but that's the magic of photographs, they never look as good as in person...)

I managed to run the last mile in about 8 minutes, but only because I was being chased down by 6th place and I refused to concide one more spot and finish out of the awards. Crossing the finish line was a joyful moment, but seeing my kids in the back of our car with their aunt made it even better.

(Feeling the blues despite finishing a very tough race, I guess that's how you feel when you go from 2nd to 5th in less than a mile...)

(Sweet sight to behold, I love seeing these guys at the race, check out Myles' duds...)

Despite pounding the fluids for the next 2-3 hours I was in a funky state of dehydration, but after forcing down some fries and a burger chased by a large root beer from Artic Circle, I was starting to feel better. I even started contemplating what might have been on a different day. After all, I had put in the best training season of my life up until this point, I was hitting sub-7 minute/mile pace easily on workouts, and had even thrown in a couple of uphill mile repeats in the low 6 min/mile. So what happened? My guess is that the heat really sapped me, since most of my training is done in the mornings and the majority of afternoon runs I've done this year were still in cool conditions. I think that I might have missed my ideal taper a bit as well, that perhaps an easier week might have changed some things. As the brain cells started to work a bit better again, I began contemplating a rematch with the half-marathon, if only there was one to run... oh wait, I think Mike Lapp was going to run one next weekend...

Stick around for Part 2...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

High Desert Half-Marathon Sneak Preview

The weather held out for a great day, but unfortunately I wasn't at my best. I'll post details later when the electrolyte balance is restored and I'm in a bit better mood about the whole thing. Overall, I held on for 5th in the race and was able to get 2nd in the Les Bois Trail running series. Other than my slow time and dehydrated blubbering, I guess you could call it a success. Stay-tuned for more...