Saturday, February 26, 2011

Race Judicata 10k

After a couple 5ks, it's time to move up to the 10k. In college, the 5k was the longest I'd like to go. Anything longer than that and I would zone out and not put in the effort I needed to. I guess I've lost my speed and mojo in my age because I really like 10ks. The pace isn't as aggressive as the 5k (10-15s per mile slower), which enables you to slightly relax and with all of my marathon training, 5ks feel way too fast.

The Fangtastic 5k was two weeks ago, so was hoping I'd gain some extra fitness from that race and I also got in my first 100+ mile week of the season last week (102.1 miles). Looking at the elevation map of the race shows how insanely hilly it is. A large portion takes place on the roads of the famed 11.2 in Percy Warner Park. Percy Warner is famous for its obnoxious hills and there were at least two of them on this course. I wasn't sure what the competition would be like but my friend and sometimes training partner, Chris Herren said he was running. Chris runs on the course a good bit and is a billy goat on the hills. I thought I would be a little more race fit than him but the amount of elevation changes favored him.

My main goal was to just give a really hard, intense effort and really make myself hurt. I was using this primarily as a tune-up for the Tom King half marathon, which takes place in a couple of weeks. Chris wanted to relax the first two miles before getting in his groove. I thought this strategy really suited me because there is a killer hill in the second mile before having some downhill and flat sections for the next couple of miles. My plan was to try and drop Chris during this part before the hills come again because I'm a really terrible uphill runner.

I did my usual 15 minute warm-up (5:00 very easy, 5:00 normal, 5:00 medium) combined with some drills and several strides. I was feeling loose and ready to go but when I got to the line, there was no sign of Chris. It turned out he was out-of-town, so I would most likely be out front by myself. I had no idea of a time goal but Alex Moore told me that no one has ever broken 33:00 on the course. I then made that my goal and was ready to go.

When the gun went off, I took my time finding my rhythm. I ran with the pack for the first 1/4 mile or so and then slowly left them. The first mile is primarily downhill and loses about 50 feet of elevation. I hit that marker in a relaxed 4:53 and was dreading what the second mile had in store. From about 1.25 miles until 1.75 miles, the course climbs nearly 200 ft, which is an insane amount and rivals the worst hill in my parts, High Cliff Dr. Luckily, I went out relaxed enough that my legs were still somewhat fresh, so while the hill put some major brakes on me, it didn't completely wipe out my legs. I passed the mile marker with a 5:49 split, which was a huge slowdown but I was just glad it was under 6:00. The only thing I could think about while climbing the hill was that you have to be insane to run the Flying Monkey Marathon out here.

The third mile was the most downhill of the race. It lost about 150 feet, which is a significant amount. I thought I would be able to fly this mile but I was still feeling the effects of the second mile. However, I was able to split 4:58. With a 15:40 three mile split, I was significantly under 33:00 pace but that included two downhill miles.

The fourth mile had you climbing for the first half before letting you have a downhill second half. I knew there was an 180 degree turn somewhere on the course but I couldn't remember where. It felt like I was on the course for a long time and since I'm terrible with directions and have gotten lost in a lot of races, I was worried that I took a wrong turn somewhere. I was debating turning around and backtracking but I saw my friend David Hudson running with his Brentwood Academy kids on a training run and since he didn't say anything about me going the wrong way, I thought I was good to go.

Eventually, I saw the turnaround sign and all was well. After turning around, I saw that I had a really big lead and I saw that Alex was in position for a second place finish (he also ran the 5k, shortly before the 10k). I ended up with a 5:16 split, which still meant I was well under 33:00 pace, with just two miles to go.

My pre-race plan was to really hammer the last two miles and I tried to push but the changes of rhythm and being out in front alone really made that difficult. The fifth mile had a lot of short, steep climbs and drops with some flat segments thrown in for good measure. I don't deal with changes in rhythm very well, so whenever I had a flat section, I'd really try to open up and run hard. I really found my groove this mile and split 5:07.

The last mile was the second most difficult of the race. It had several short climbs but what made it really bad was that my legs were almost dead at this point, so the "short" climbs felt like mountains. I knew I had sub 33:00 locked down but I still wanted to run really hard. At the beginning of this mile was the famed "golf-course hill." It wasn't particularly long but like I mentioned, my legs were almost trashed. On the hill, I was absolutely crawling. I had to be running well over 7:00 pace up it and after this hill was done, I had a couple more short climbs.

Luckily the last half mile included a nice little downhill and was flat until the finish line. I tried to push again, without going overboard and ended up splitting 5:30 that mile and ran my last .2 miles at sub 5:00 pace (59) to finish in 32:32, to get the course record. I was really pleased because while the time didn't appear very fast, this course is easily 45s-1:00 slower than a flatter course. And after the race was over, I recovered really quickly. I'm feeling confident for Tom King in two weeks and think I can average the pace I did here, for the next seven miles on the much flatter race course.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Predators Fangtasic 5k

This is the race that I was both looking forward to and am nervous about. I knew Ryan Snellen was running and he's a really tough competitor. While he's been busy with work for a while, he ran 13:57 in 2009 and he wins nearly every race he competes in around here, so I knew the task was going to be tough. I've had a couple workouts with some faster running in them but am still in pretty rusty 5k shape. A couple of weeks ago, I actually ran a workout with Snellen and Alex Moore and felt really good but Snellen hurt me pretty badly on our last interval. I knew this course was pretty hilly, which is a weakness of mine. But after looking at race results, I saw Snellen usually runs to win, so he probably hasn't dug very deeply into the well the last year or two, so my plan was to really make him hurt in the second mile and then try and leave him with a mile to go.

The weather was almost perfect temperature wise for the race. When the gun went off, Snellen and I ran side-by-side and it seemed like both of us were waiting to see what the other wanted to do. The first mile had some climbs and some strong headwinds in some parts and we passed the first marker in 5:07. I knew that was too slow, so I tried to push on the gas some. The second mile was a little more rolling with a couple bigger hills that I tried to push hard on. At one point, I had a very tiny gap on Snellen. I started thinking that Snellen was about to crack but as soon as I did, he was right back beside me. We hit the two mile in 10:13, which gave us a 5:06 second mile.

With such a slow pace, I knew I was in trouble. My only shot to win was to immediately ramp up the intensity, so I made a hard move and wasn't planning on letting up. Snellen was game and was still at my side. The last mile is by far the fastest mile of the course and has a long gradual downhill, along with some flat sections. I wasn't having any luck cracking him and with under a half mile to go, he put a gap on me. That was more of a mental blow because I knew he would be very hard to outkick, especially with all of my marathon training in my legs now. I hit the three mile marker about two seconds behind him in 14:51 and tried to push again. I gained about a second on him but couldn't catch him and he beat me 15:19 to 15:20.

Running a 4:38 last mile was really motivating but I was frustrated with how I ran. While in college, I was dead after a 5k, I recovered very quickly after this one. Marathon training and racing is all about staying relaxed and patient and I carried too much of that to the race today. 5ks are fast and intense and I forgot how that is really supposed to feel. It's never a good thing to try out for a rock band when you've been playing in a jazz group for the past several months. After reflecting on the race, I realize I ran the first two miles around 10k effort and had way too much left that last mile. I don't know if I would have won because Snellen looked really strong but I should have run under 15:10 today. But on a positive note, 15:20 on this course is a really fast time and gives me confidence in what I can accomplish this spring and I'm sure Snellen and I will wage battle again.