Saturday, April 7, 2012
When looking at all the races and weekends available on the calendar during this time period, the weekends of March 24th and March 31st stood out as the most logical to push hard while stillallowing for a proper 2-week taper leading up the Lake Sonoma 50. Then, on the weekend I didn’t race, I was planning a trip for my wife and I to visit friends in Los Angeles. Ultimately, I wanted a race where I had a familiarity with the course and where other top local ultrarunners had run so that the result could provide a better gauge for where I’m at physically in relation to my myself as well as the community at large. Of the races being offered, this one and one in Pacifica on the 31st were the best bets. While Pacifica packs a bigger punch as far as elevation gain is concerned, Pirate’s Cove (which uses the same course as the Rodeo Beach in December) has a more similar profile to Lake Sonoma.Going into the race, I was coming off the 3:53:59 at Way Too Cool with 2000 ft. less climbing. I felt fairly well recovered and ready to get close to that 4 hour 50k barrier once again.
I came into the race with a little more confidence in my abilities this year and the ability/desire to push a little bit more throughout the race. The PC50k course record was 3:59:23 by Victor Ballesteros, an accomplished ultrarunner and fellow Tamalpa teammate. While 4 hours sat in the back of my mind, I knew that would require a sub-2:25 opening 30k loop before entertaining that as apossibility. Based on training runs out there in admittedly drier conditions, I had a really good handle on a sustainable effort that I could hold that might bring me in under 2:25 for the first 30k. I ultimately geared my mind to shoot for a 4:00-4:10 time range with a “take it as it comes” approach for that final 20k. I just wanted something to gear my pacing towards in to gain more and more confidence and fine-tune the pre-race and in-race Paleo-adapted fueling strategy. The weather wasn’t really something I thought too much about before the race. But with skies opening up the night before the race and a constant drizzle coming down at Rodeo Beach, I knew the trails would be a bit muddy but didn’t really allow that to play into my race strategy which was just to go hard and not worry about things I can’t control. Besides, I always feel like bad weather on a familiar course is a good thing for me. Knowledge about where the tread is firmest on particular trails and the confidence to find the right lines to run on to push it is invaluable to me as a runner and competitor. I always want to put my best foot forward and expand the possibilities about what times are possible even in less than favorable conditions. The start was typical of PCTR races: Very mellow, easy-going and relaxed. As always, there’s always a familiar face to see with Kermit Cuff jokingly jockeying for position with me nearthe front and Rick snapping our picture before the start. Before we knew it, the 10 second countdown had begun and eventually, the starting siren blaring from the megaphone sent uson our way up the 1 ½ mile climb up to the WW2 era Bunker Hill. The climb has a mix of trail, road and stairs which provides a nice mix of running early on to engage the senses. I can usually push it fairly well on these trails in my Brooks Racer ST5 road shoes, so that’s what I went with for this race. I added a warm headband and gloves to my normal Headlands outfit to keep comfortable and leave me with little excuse for trying to push hard.
Early on, I went to the front with a couple of other runners trailing close behind. One of my big emphases this off-season has been to stay consistent on the climbs. Even if I wasn’t burning it up, I wanted to stay in constant motion and start to save those precious minutes that I’ve tended to lose in large quantities to the lighter folks that can’t be simply made up for on the downhills. Eventually, the gap grew to what looked like a good minute and I started to enjoy simply being in my own space. After treading gently down Wolf Ridge and powering down Old Springs, I scooted through Tennessee Valley at the 4ish mile mark in just under 33 minutes. This is about what I was thinking based on past races. The key for this first 30k loop, though, would be this next 6.6 mile loopback to Tennessee Valley along the Miwok trail, Coyote Ridge and Pirate’s Cove areas. There was plenty of hills that, although not extremely difficult, present great opportunities to work on staying in motion. I would have to be back in Tennessee Valley sometime around 1:26-1:28 in order to keep that 2:25in sight.
The initial mile long climb up the Miwok trail gave me a bit of a glimpse of what to expect: slick rock interspersed with a filthy, soft mud. However, the trail didn’t start getting really interesting until I crested Coyote Ridge over looking the Pacific Ocean. The ground here was just a big sloppy mess that in certain parts looked more like a big slip n’ slide than a runnable trail. While some sections where runnable with support from grassy roots, others forced me to mix in a bit of my skiing technique to keep up my pace. It didn’t diminish the joy of just being out there and running. Rather, it heightened my senses and made me aware that turning the throttle down on certain parts would be wise in order to avoid falling off the cliffs overlooking Pirate’s Cove and the Pacific Ocean. Coming back to Tennessee Valley from the Pacific Ocean along the Coastal Fireroad was a bit less eventful with a firm footing allowing me topush the pace a bit. I came to the aidstation at 1:28:15, getting a quick top-off of my water bottle and then leavingon my way. Now, returning to run thetrails run by the runners in the shorter distance events, I started to see theimpact of the wet weather and the well-worn trails on my footing. I wasn’t losing significant amounts of timeagainst what I do on these trails in training. But I think like Coyote Ridge and Pirate’s Cove, these trails werecausing me to work a little harder and not always move in a straight line inorder to find firm footing. Seconds hereand there eventually add up, but my focus was again on just moving along withthe pursuers out of sight now. There’s not too much to highlight about traversing theridgeline overlooking the San Francisco Bay, except to say that even in drearyweather the Golden Gate still looks as good as ever. I was able to start to get back into the 6:XXmin/mile pace on the flattest single-track and the eventual drop back down into Rodeo Valley and the Beach area.
I eventually cruised through the 30k mark at theStart/Finish area in 2:27:15, stopping for about 30 seconds to refill my bottle(thanks, Rick!) and go. I had prepared abottle with more GU Roctane, my fuel of choice, to get me through the rest ofthe race but could not locate it where I had left it. I just took off, knowing I had enough to getme through the next section but not enough for the final hour of the race.While a bit bummed about not finding my pre-prepped bottle,I just focused on my uphill stride and getting to Tennessee Valley sometimeshortly after the 3 hour mark. The trailhad sufficiently been torn up on the downhills here that I just relaxed and gotthrough it as expeditiously as possible.While a more ambitious approach might have been more desirable oncertain downhill sections, I still had plenty in the tank and looked forward tokeep pushing forward for the final 8 miles after TV.
I cruised into Tennessee Valley in 3:04:45 and made amistake I wish I hadn’t. My body lovescalories and when it’s fueled, it moves well.However, there is a small 20 second detour you have to take to get to theaid station table versus going straight up the steady grade of the Marincellotrail and the final 8 miles of the race. After refilling my water bottle from a spigot on the trail on the waydown to Tennessee Valley, I didn’t really feel like shopping and didn’t thinkthe lack of calories for the next 40+ minutes would do much to me.What happened over the next 4 ½ miles wasn’t what I wouldcall a meltdown or collapse; just more of a grind than anything else. I could chalk it up to the course being sloppier overall, but that certainly wouldn’t explain consciously easing into aslower pace on the downhill sections with firmer footing. I think it’s that little bit of extrastruggle and extra soreness in the legs that seems to let me know that I coulduse some calories. As the miles passed by and the possibility of being chased down waned, I just focused on maintaining a consistent pace and getting to the finish line to get warm.
I picked up a couple of chocolate chip cookies and some electrolyte fluid at the last aid station before cruising down the Coastal Trail and into Rodeo Valley to the finish.I ended up crossing the finish line in 4:13:59, looking for shelter atlast on this progressively wet and cold day in Marin. It was a good time overall considering I wasnever really threatened or pushed and can be looked at favorably by mosthistorical standards on that course. I’lltake the 1st place in a small overall field, with the medal and mug that comes with it. While it may not have been the best day to run for time, it was a great to run nonetheless as I look forward to the Lake Sonoma 50 on April 14th and the Miwok 100k on May 5th. Bigger challenges await……
Monday, March 12, 2012
Now, confidence is one of those tricky, hard to quantify factors in a race. Being overconfident or underconfident can lure one into a strategy not best suited for what someone has exhibited in training. Of course, there are those who thrive off of pushing their bodies to the limits from beginning to end and those who thrive off of running from the back only to strike hard in the later stages of a race. Very few of us truly know what’s gone into a runner’s training, so trying to extrapolate what actually happened from the race results can be tricky at best. That being said, I’d had my fair share of confidence-knocking races where things went wrong and the finishes have ended up feeling like a torture-fest. Even though I felt like coming under 4 hours was definitely more than doable from a fitness standpoint, I’d had enough poorly executed races to cause me to take a more measured approach. I’d really set up 2012 as something that I’d wanted to be another breakout, step up year. While I trained through Jed Smith and continued to tinker with the nutritional and fueling recommendations of the Paleo Diet for Athletes I had started at the beginning of the year, Way Too Cool was the first race of this year I had really set as a benchmark and wound down my miles over the two preceeding weeks to come into it fresh. Of course, winding down the miles was in part due to simply being sick with the flu for a week. Although I’ve still had some nagging congestion, I was much better during the last week before the race.
The goal coming in was to run under 4 hours (following 2011 splits of others) and I was going to stick to it with a re-evaluation half-way through the race. With 3,600 ft. of total elevation gain, it play faster than many of the trail 50k races out there. Realizing that the race’s flatter first 8 mile loop seems to bring out faster paces, my tactic was fairly simple. Hang in the back of that second tier of runners in the 15-20th position before opening it up in the middle miles of the race. I also kept an eye on the lead woman, Caitlin Smith. believing that based on past results would probably be shooting for a sub-4 time. Based on what I’d seen of her on the local Bay Area running scene, she never struck me as someone prone to going out too fast or too slowly. It seemed like a fairly sound way to put myself in a good position early on.
With my wife there to drive me up from San Francisco and provide support along with the folks from Injinji who were on-hand as a race sponsor, I ready to run. As the gun went off, people came storming out the gates early. With the first 1.5 miles run along a flattish, rolling road before turning onto the trails, it was a good opportunity to let the legs get warmed up early as well as position myself for the coming single-track trails. Even with the first mile ticking off at 6:15 pace, a lead pack as well as a secondary pack began to form. The lead pack must’ve had 6-8 runners in it with the secondary pack comprising at least 10-15 runners. I was at the back of this secondary pack, allowing the other guys to set the pace. With very little wind out on a mild, crisp morning in Cool, CA, the pack’s only function was to serve as a pacing mechanism. Once the race finally veered off-road, it became a bit congested making my positioning near the back a bit precarious on the downhills. Way Too Cool attracts a variety of road and newbie-trail runners, making technical downhills a bit of challenge for me in a group this big. While the pack stayed fairly close together, I found some of the runners in the group hesitated quite a bit on some of the more rutted, challenging downhills. I found myself stopping to prevent running into the guy in front of me. I would’ve loved to have simply scooted on by, but the 10-15 folks up ahead would’ve made the move somewhat pointless. The only move I made past a few folks was coming out of an uphill in order to keep within viewing distance of Caitlin who was at the very front of this group.
The plan was to come into the 8 mile mark at 56-58 minutes, so when I came through at 54:48 (chip time), I was pleasantly surprised. The distance came up 1/3 of a mile short on the Garmin, but no harm no foul with that. Just before the timing mat, there was the first aid station. While the others stopped, I scooted on through quickly and efficiently while picking up a pre-prepared bottle of NUUN water w/ extra gels for the rest of the race. After the congestion at the mile 8 aid station at the Start/Finish area, I found a nice little niche on the 3.1 mile somewhat flat fireroad and technical downhill to the American River. The field began to spread out somewhat, although I continued to peer ahead to sight Caitlin when the terrain opened up. The focus was solely on making sure I’d hit my next mark of 2:00 or under at the 16.7 mile aid station along the River.
Once along the river, the course opened up on an expansive dirt and gravel fire road that allowed runners to pass or drop back as they pleased. I tried not to drive too hard on the ups to maintain a pace or let loose too much on the downs to “regain time”. Caitlin remained just ahead as the miles seemed to tick away with ease. Even though I was shooting for an average time of 7:30 min/mile to the 23 mile mark, the pace seemed to fluctuate between 6:45 to 7:15 without a huge surge in effort at any one time. I picked up some more water quickly at Maine Bar (Mile 16.7) before dropping in another full NUUN tablet in my bottle on the way out. My watch indicated 1:44:XX, even though the watch was over a mile short of this posted distance. I didn’t really try to analyze it, but the time did bring a bit of a smile to my face. If I just kept moving even on the ups, I was going to be in good shape for the end. Beside, while the aid stations seemed to come a little quicker than the Garmin would indicate, I’d had a feeling it would all “average out” in the end as it seems to do in many races.
Average out is exactly what the course did, with the next 4.3 mile section seeming to go on much longer than the posted distance. After the last section, I ended up passing Caitlin on the hills which she walked (which was puzzling at the time) but picking up a new running partner. The woman who passed her for 1st place, Tyler Stewart, ended up playing leap frog with me for quite a few miles. She would scoot along the flats at a fairly brisk pace, while I was climbing the inclines with a smoothness and consistent effort that would bring us back together. While the competitiveness aspect of running with another runner in a race does tend to creep in, my sole focus was on maintaining a good pace and keeping myself in position for that Sub-4 hour finish. I knew that Sub-4 was good enough for top 15 the year before, so keeping on target would allow the placing to take care of itself. The Garmin ended up posting close to 5 ¾ miles for the next section, and as I stopped to re-tie my shoes for a minute after my bottles were refilled with water, Tyler took off ahead. No matter, since I left the aid station in ~2:30:45 which was right between my target times of 2:26-2:36.
On the way out while popping another gel, I felt a gagging feeling coming on that had just surfaced on the last section. Feeling that the full NUUN tablets (360 mg sodium) w/ 2 gels (125 mg sodium per gel) per 20 oz. bottle were probably giving me too much sodium, I went with straight water for the rest of the race to help settle things down. It wasn’t debilitating per se, but it was still one of those things that makes you feel off-kilter and a little more tentative with pace. On the way out, I knew all I had to do was stay a little faster than 9:00 min/mile for the final 10 miles to finish under 4 hours. With a
couple of nice little climbs before and after Hwy 49, I just wanted to make sure I had enough of a cushion to absorb slowing down going uphill. Miles continued to rattle off with the average pace staying around 8:00/mile. About the only thing that seemed to phase me was a face-first spill just before a creekway with 3+ miles to go that left me a bit disoriented for the next couple
minutes. In the end, I didn’t need to burn the uphills, the flats or the downhills as long as I was moving. With no one within shouting distance of me, I just kept trying to relax and enjoy the comfortably cool weather while thinking about getting to the next aid station.
The next to last aid station, 26.3 miles in at Goat Hill, couldn’t not come fast enough. With 3:15:45 elapsed, I just needed to finish the last 4.7ish miles in 44 minutes. Every mile from then on out brought with it the satisfaction of being that much closer and putting that much more of a cushion between myself and an epic collapse. Even being passed just before the 29.63 mile mark at Hwy 49 couldn’t keep me from losing focus. Although, it did seem to light my competitive fire somewhat as I worked hard to track on the heels of the competitor in 14th place. After opening about a 30-40 second gap on me, I would close it to 50 ft. on the final ¾ of a mile before settling for finishing 11 seconds back in 3:53:59 for 15th place. Although it seems like the official D-tag timing from Capitol Road Race Management has this right, it appears UltraSignup has reverted back to gun times which added 4 seconds (not consequential) to my time but quite a bit of time to some other folks finishes. The tags are a necessity in a race with so many runners and a narrow starting line area.
Coming off the race at Jed Smith where I felt rather lethargic and unable to push hard when I needed to, most things about this race just felt right down to the surge at the end where my pace dropped close to 6 min/mile glancing at my watch. I didn’t so much as attack the hills as I took each of them methodically with very short steps which left me much more satisfied with my times on the flats/downs that would immediately follow. A little too much sodium at one point? No problem as I made the right adjustment to go to straight water.
That’s not to say there weren’t flats or downs over the last 10 miles in particular that I wish I had a little more confidence to push harder to shave more minutes. In the end, though, it’s a blessing to lay the right foundation and build confidence for future races. With the Lake Sonoma 50 and its stacked field on the horizon in 5 weeks, it’s safe to say that I’m going to need to raise my game to keep knocking down the doors in 2012.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Way Too Cool should be the 1st true test of fitness with 3 months of training and about 9 weeks of running-specific training under my belt now in this new "running" year. I trained right though the Brooks Falls Trail 1/2 Marathon as well as the Jed Smith 50k while in the midst of altering my diet based on the Paleo Diet for Athletes. While it felt great running the trail 1/2 marathon, I felt lethargic and unable to push the heart rate above 150 during the Jed Smith 50k. I'm hopeful that the dietary adjustments that I've made in addition to the added training (including a nice 200 mile, 2 week stretch) will yield the step up that I'm seeking in this race. While certainly not completely dissatisfied with Jed Smith (I'll take the 3:33 considering it all) run on the American River Parkway/Horse Trails, I am doing a full 2 week taper for Cool that should leave me fresh and ready to go on Saturday.
I'm still trying to figure out a proper goal time, but going sub-4 seems like a good plan to start from. Who knows, maybe I'll use the heart rate monitor and let my effort dictate my pace as the race goes on. Here's to great weather and a great race for all the 750+ participants!
Friday, March 2, 2012
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Here's the text of a run summary I put together for Injinji for a press release. Overall, it was a great, great day!
"The 3rd Annual Running For The Wells 5k/11k took place on September 10th, 2011 in the Presidio of San Francisco in the Community Area of the Sports Basement store. This charity fun run and BBQ benefitted the Uganda water well building projects of World Harvest Mission. Runners were taken along the trails and bike paths of the Presidio in a loop which eventually brought them back to Sports Basement. Over 100 people ran, ate or both on a perfect afternoon in San Francisco. Guests were also given the opportunity prior to the run to meet San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, who founded Generation Alive (www.generationalive.org) to help meet pressing global needs. Jeremy spoke to the group prior to the run about the importance of clean water and how he got involved in the movement to provide it around the world. All told, the event raised almost $5,500, which will be used towards the construction of 2 water wells in Uganda.
Guests who ran and donated took home a pair of Injinji Performance Toe Socks. In addition, all donors were entered into a raffle with prizes supplied by our other sponsors. The prizes included Brooks shoes, Brooks bags, a Diakadi Body of San Francisco gift certificate, and San Francisco Giants tickets. Our presenting sponsor for the event was Injinji with additional sponsor support from Brooks Running, Diakadi Body, Foods Co., and Sports Basement."
Event Info Address: http://seegundyrun.com/Running