Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pumpkin Pie 5k

Normally I wouldn't even consider a 5k worthy of a race report, and I'm still not sure that it even is, but it's been forever since I've posted anything on here or even raced so it looks like there's going to be one.

This particular 5k was on a course I had raced 4 weeks previously, so going in I had expectations of beating that time and setting a new PR.  This was to be the 3rd 5k in 4 weeks and my intense training schedule of slowly building up my run base with slow, steady daily runs of increasing duration had yielded my first open sub 20 min 5k the first time on this course and a 19:20 the previous week despite the fact that I spent the entire back half of the course looking for a spot on the course to quit because of stomach issues.  Seriously pedestrian times but I was happy to see them given how it seems like it's been years since I've done any sort of speed work with the continual tendonitis issues in my ankles.  For now, these 5k's get to count as the speed work in my training plan.

There were slightly more people at this race compared to the last time I had raced this course where there were about 100 people in the event and I finished 7th.  I think I heard the announcer say 2,000+ people in the 5k.  I had a couple friends competing in the event, including one who I expected to run a low 17 min race.  Made sure to position myself behind him at the start line as well as make sure I didn't go out anywhere near as fast as he did.  Going out way to fast seems to be a historical issue for me as evidenced by my first ever race I did in CO after moving here from TX.  For that 5k I went out as hard as I could with the leaders.  Around a half mile in we were running right at a 5 min mile pace.  I finished in 20:06.  Tells you how that strategy worked. 

I wanted to run the first mile by feel.  Not too hard but starting to feel the hurt a half mile in or so.  Based on my previous races was hoping to hit about a 5:50 first mile fairly comfortably.   The first mile felt right.  The leaders were gone as expected but I was reeling in all the runners who were starting to blow up from their opening pace.  The Garmin beeped for the first mile right at the course mile marker which was nice for a change in a race.  A quick check told me I had hit the first mile in 6 flat.  Well off of where I wanted to be and already feeling like I was working much harder than a 6 min pace.  At this point I decided that no more checking the pace on the watch.  I probably wasn't going to be what I wanted to see.  The rest of the race would just be based on effort and trying to run down the next person ahead of me. 

I steadily picked off a few people and was passed by a couple of others.  I knew I was going to fade a bit from the 6 min first mile but was pushing hard and thought I was running about a 6:15 pace.  With a little less than 1 mile left I was caught by a kid I had passed way earlier in the race.  I say caught not passed because of the incredibly annoying way he would surge past me, blow up and fall back only to surge again.  It may not sound annoying but it totally is.  Also, what is up with always having to end up battling it out with some kid late in a race.  It's always a lose/lose proposition.  See my Leadman 10k report for the last experience.  I finally made one of his little blow ups stick and pulled away with a quarter mile left.  Running all out and still got chicked in the finishing chute. 

Slumped across the line and noted that the clock read 19:4x something.  Instantly hoped that the course was massively long because that was no where near the time I was expecting or hoping for.  A quick look at the Garmin told me, nope, pretty much dead on.  Showing 3.14 miles.  Always nice to run an accurately measured course though.  Quick scroll through the data showed that those miles I'd thought I was hitting 6:15's were more like 6:30's.  Felt like a complete bum at this point but after a few minutes faced the reality that a month ago I would have been very happy with this time.  Pretty much spot on from my last race on the course and it's been a long month of heavy training. 

Was considering another 5k this weekend but I think with a very heavy week of training plus a few more weeks before things lighten up a bit I'll enjoy a weekend of longer runs on some trails.  Next likely event is shaping up to be the opening race of the Chilly Cheeks duathlon series.  Been a long time since I'm been on a bike in race conditions so should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Steamboat Springs and Xterra Buffalo Creek triathlons

Not sure why I've waited so long to do more racing in Colorado but the courses I've raced the last two weekends were a couple of the most scenic, fun and in the case of the Xterra last weekend, the most challenging I've done in quite awhile. 

Up first was the Steamboat Springs Olympic triathlon.  I went up a few days early to camp, preview the course and get in some mountain biking and trail running.  Steamboat Springs might be my new favorite town.  Great roads for cycling, mountain bike trails that are fast and flowing and great food for when you get off the bike. 

We had a beautiful campsite up above the town and direct access to a couple of great trails.  The first one was 3+ miles of fun singletrack that descends straight down into town.  In the opposite direction was what turned out to be one of my favorite trails I've ridden.  Fast and flowing sections, a couple rock gardens, creek crossings and incredible views.  A couple shots from the trail below.

Sunday was race day at another gorgeous venue in Steamboat.
The lake was beautiful but my swim wasn't so much.  Ended up having possibly my worst ever swim in an Olympic race and came out with a lot of ground to make up.  DU pool has been closed for most of the summer and I've been very lazy about swimming elsewhere.  My swim time sadly reflected that lack of work.
The bike course is a rolling out and back that rides fairly fast.  All the mountain biking from the days before might have added some fatigue to my legs since I couldn't get up to my normal power but turned in a decent ride and came in under an hour.   Still a ways back from the leaders but had made up some ground.
The run was another rolling out and back course.  Legs felt pretty dead coming out of transition but focused on the turnover and they came around a mile or so in like they usually do.  Coming back from injury I haven't been running much as I slowly build back up the volume and definitely nothing fast but I still ended up with one of my best olympic distance runs off the bike.  It took 5+ miles before anyone passed me which never happens and I was able to make a late charge in the last half mile to pass an athlete in my AG.  Ended up 4th in 30-34 which is probably the absolute best I could have hoped for given my awful swim.
A week after Steamboat was Xterra Buffalo Creek.  This was going to be my first Xterra race in over a year since Beaver Creek last season.  I'd meant to do a lot more offroad racing this year and signed up for Lory and Curt Gowdy but Lory was canceled and I got sick before Curt Gowdy so this was it.  The race was Sat but I made the 2ish hour drive up on Friday afternoon so I could get a pre ride in on the course.  Lots of people were camping but I decided to sleep in the back of the Jeep instead of dealing with a tent.  Plenty of room with the back seats laid down. 
For the pre ride I got incredibly lucky and headed out at the same time the RD and another guy were heading out on their bikes to mark the course.  I'd have been completely lost otherwise.  Had a great few hours rolling with them and got a good feel for the course, including a nice little crash on a fast single track section where I let myself lose a bit of focus and washout in a loose corner. 

Nice bit of road rash on the arm as well as hip and knee.  Always fun when you're going fast enough to catch enough hang time on your crash to notice your landing and feel relieved that there aren't any large rocks.

The swim is in a picturesque little lake nestled in the mountains at about 8,000 feet elevation.  The course is a 2-loop out and back.  I wasn't expecting much better then the previous Steamboat but I was about 2 min faster and felt much better in the water. 
The bike leg is one of the longest in the Xterra circuit at 22 miles.  It's a good mix of jeep roads, double and single track.  I really need to spend more time on my mountain bike.  I can probably count on both hands the number of times I've been on it this year and my skills aren't good enough to match up against even the moderately good riders out there.  Consequently I was getting passed most of the day until we got to the final 3+ miles climb back to transition and I was able to use some of my bike strength to reel in a few people as we crawled along at 3 mph. 
The run was on single track for the first half then onto a dirt road on the other side of the lake as we came into the finish.  Straight out of transition there is a solid half mile climb before it turns into fun rolling trail.  There were lots of twists and turns, a creek crossing and some quick sections down through rocks or logs where you had to watch your step and keep your feet moving quickly.  I passed a couple people on the climb and a few more on the single track.  Once out on the road I could see others ahead of me and concentrated on running each of them down.  I ran out of room trying to catch the last guy at the line but fortunately he wasn't in my age group.
After how many people had passed me on the bike my best hope was that I had cracked the top 10 in the age group but somehow I ended up in 2nd place.  That result is likely more a reflection of who wasn't at the race rather than my performance but it was still nice to be back on a podium after quite some time. 
Both of these events were two of the best I've done in quite awhile in terms of production and both were put on by Without Limits.  I'll definitely be racing more of their events in the future around Colorado and I'm looking forward to the new Xterra in Aspen for next year that they just announced.  Big thanks to Wattie Ink and Greater Than coconut water who have supported me all season even though I've been injured for most of it and getting a very late start to racing.  Up next I'll be heading back to Steamboat Springs for the cycling stage race over Labor Day. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Return to Racing

I'm not sure a 10k even warrants a race report/blog entry, but since this is the first event I have actually raced in over a year, it's going to get one.  I participated in Racine 70.3 a few weeks ago, but in reality I was no where near "racing" there.  The swim was terrible even for my low standards, and I spent the majority of the bike riding well below my ability while telling myself I was really saving my legs for the run, intermingled with a mental dialogue where I blamed the less-than-ideal road conditions for not riding well.  Once on the run, I jogged/shuffled my way through 13.1 miles while working to convince myself that I was really thankful to be on the run course of a 70.3 and injury free for the first time in over a year.  Definitely something to be thankful for but not the mindset I needed to be in to be racing hard. 

Analyzing the race afterwards, I knew that I hadn't put out an effort anywhere close to what I was trained for.  Physically I had a lot more to give, but mentally I knew I had completely forgotten what it takes to push through pain and adversity in a race.  It's really not that hard in training. Typically you're only training one sport at a time, and it's not that hard to keep running till the end of the prescribed time or pedaling through the last interval because you know you be done after, or get a break before, going hard again.  There are no breaks in racing, and I seemed to have forgotten how to handle that. 

Realizing this, coupled with the fact that I was forced to make a dramatic change to my season's race plans and pull out of IMMT due to some family issues, I decided that the rest of my season will be shorter events where I can focus on going hard all the time and re-learning how to push through the pain that is racing.  I'll be doing a few road triathlons, a couple Xterra races, and mixing in some road and trail running races as well.

Which brings me back to the Leadville 10k.  A 10k at 10k+ feet of elevation sounded exactly like the kind of race where there would be some guaranteed suffering.  The course is an out and back, with the first 3.1 miles dropping down roughly 400 ft in elevation down to the turnaround then reversing course back up to the finish line.  It wasn't a straight drop, but it had several rollers and one longer climb about a quarter mile into the race. 

I ran down from the start line and up the climb in the pic above for a warm up and knew the race was going to hurt like hell when an easy jog up the incline was already making me feel like I was in oxygen debt.

Standing at the start line was a wonderful feeling.  It's been far too long since I've competed, and even though I didn't have any expectations of placing, I couldn't wait to run hard with zero worry about the injuries of the past year.  With the first section downhill, it was a fast start.  I settled in by the time we hit the first climb but ignored the watch since I didn't want to know what pace I was running.  It's probably not a good sign, though, when you're a quarter mile into the race and your lungs feel like they are going to explode and you're trying make your breathing sound more normal so no one around you thinks you are getting ready to die.  To make me feel even better I was passed by a tall blonde on the first hill who was carrying on an easy conversation about the weather with another runner as they cruised past.  The first mile flew by pretty quickly at a 6 min pace as the front of the race started to stretch out.  About 1.5 miles in I heard footsteps behind me and a man and another woman started to pass me.  I'm in nowhere even decent running shape and haven't run a 6 min mile in well over a year but I had to see if I could go with them -- even more so because they were both at least 50.  So 50 isn't close to being an age where you start to slow down, but I couldn't let myself be blown off the road again.  At least they were breathing hard.

I hung in with them for another half mile before I started to let a bit of doubt creep into my head that I couldn't keep holding 6 min miles and be able to run the last half without completely blowing up.  Doubt is the biggest enemy in racing and something I've got to learn again how to block out.  So I got dropped by the 50-year-olds.  I looked them up post race and apparently they are pretty legit.  I still got my ass kicked my someone almost twice my age though, which is awesome.

They both killed me and she ended up beating him by a few seconds and almost catching the lead female who had passed me earlier.

The next couple miles went by at a fairly hard pace but not all-out like I should have been.  Passed a few people and was passed by a few more.  At about mile 4.5 I was faced with my second chance at not losing an in-race battle.  I had completely failed at beating up on the 50+ year olds so when that fails the next logical choice is...


With all his Newton gear, he's obviously an 11-year-old sponsored superstar, so I shouldn't feel bad about the fact it took me 4.5 miles to even get him in sight.  Angie saw him warming up before the race and in typical supportive fashion noted that he was most likely going to beat me. 

I was gaining on him, but slowly, and it probably took me another quarter mile to get close enough to pass.  Passes need to be decisive to make the other athlete think there is no way they can go with you so I went hard by and heard the footsteps start to fade back....and then start catching up.  Shit.  Why isn't he dropping back?  I'm going to get re-passed by an 11 year old.  So much for blowing him away.  He ran back up next to me and pulled around in front. At this point I'm faced with two options:  a) stop and walk; We're about a mile from the finish and there are cameras at the finish, including Angie's, and there is no way in hell I can allow the possibility of losing a sprint battle at the finish with this wunderkind to be caught on film, or b)  run harder. 

I seriously contemplated "a" for about 5 seconds before ramping up the turnover and passing again.  For at least a minute the footsteps stayed right with me while I considered the fact that pictures of me barely beating this kid weren't much better then pictures of me losing.  Fortunately the sounds behind me slowly faded away, and I could bask in the knowledge that even if I can't outrun old people, I'm still better than the 8-13 age group. 

I managed to hold off one more late charge at the line by another runner to finish is the top 30 overall.  It hurt but it was racing again, and I wouldn't have wanted to be doing anything else.  I've got to remember to block out the doubt next time and stop thinking so much, but this was a good start back.  This weekend it's up to Steamboat Springs for the olympic distance state championship triathlon.  Been a long time since I've had a crack at this distance as well, so looking forward to 2+ hours of racing hard.

Last half mile.

Finally a downhill.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bonaire 2013 Dive Trip

Since there have been zero races to talk about this season I figured I'd at least do a dive trip re-cap so this blog gets some small amount of use.  My last dive trip had been in 2008.  Far too long ago so I knew I really wanted to make one happen this year.  The 2008 trip had been to Bonaire and since it had been awhile since I had dove I figured it would be good to go back to somewhere I was familiar with.  For reference, Bonaire is off the coast of Venezuela and somewhat near Aruba.  It is world class diving with a pristine reef and abundant sea life. 

The trip was Saturday to Saturday with a red eye flight down on Friday night.  2.5 hours to Houston with a 3 hour layover that was spent at the bar then 4.5 hours to Bonaire.  Landed at about 5:30 local time have slept a total of about 15 minutes the entire night.  Something about having an open air breakfast overlooking perfect blue water wakes you up though and I ended up feeling pretty good. 

The patio above the beach was the place for breakfast every day and literally steps from the room.

The plan for the first day was to get in one dive at the reel off the resort then sleep all afternoon.  The first dive went terrible though.  Could not equalize and spent the rest of the day stressing that my ears were jacked up and wouldn't be able to dive.  Fortunately zero issues getting down the next day and everything came back like I hadn't had a layoff from diving at all.

Bonaire is renowned for it's shore diving.  At the resort you get a small truck with your room and can drive to any site on the island and enter right off the shore.  The coral usually starts at about 15-20 feet with the reef dropping down in a wall to 100+ in most places.  Most of the sea life is around 30-40 so a typical dive profile was to go down the wall to around 80 into the current the come back at around 30-40.  The resort also had boats, something I hadn't taken advantage of in the prior trip so I had a good mix of boat/shore dives.  Most days were 2-4 dives with the rest of the day spent eating and relaxing. 

The sea life in Bonaire is incredible.  There isn't a moment you are underwater where the reef isn't full of fish.  We also saw sea turtle, rays, moray eels, spotted eels and octopus.  The pics below are a small taste of what we were surrounded by on every dive.  Some of these are mine and some are credited to Brian Pierce.