GTIS Race Report

First, do enough training. Then believe in yourself and say: I can do it. ~ Haile Gebrselassie

New PR: 1:26:24, 68th overall, 3rd in division

For a race in which I didn’t actually start feeling okay until past the half-way point, this one turned out well. I had zero expectations for this one so goal-setting was a bit of a challenge. Arbitrarily, I settled on 1:25 as a pie-in-the-sky goal, PR as goal #2 (though actually had my old PR wrong so nearly screwed this up) and a sub 1:30 as my “I’ll be okay with that” goal for the day.

My other objective for this race was to get a bit of a feel for the whole remote-start-line aspect since I will need to repeat this style of race-day shenanigans in November. I am not sure I really nailed any of it, but it was good practice.

I slept through my alarm a bit and was pretty tired as I zombied my way out the door around 5:30. Jammed up to Idaho Springs and made my way to the busses that took us up to the starting line in Georgetown. My buddy, Caleb, found me in line so we were able to hang out on the way up the hill and throughout the pre-race warm ups and whatnot. His friend, Mike, made it a trio.

We milled around the start area for about an hour, got our numbers, tried to stay warm, etc. With about 30 minutes to go before the start, we warmed up a bit (ran the first couple miles, which were on a loop, and did some strides) and then bullied our way into the front of the starting corral.

Pretty quickly after making it into the corral, it was time to race. I ditched my t-shirt and water bottle and we were off. I was pretty far up front so had clear sailing for the first couple of miles which featured some hills (up), tight corners, and relatively steep downhills. My buddy, Rafa Pacheco (who ended up 24th with a solid 1:21), ran by me about 1.5 miles in and we exchanged words of encouragement. I definitely went out a bit on the spicy side (have to knock that off) but settled into my target pace fairly quickly, though I wasn’t feeling super well.

I really struggled to find my pacing and shake whatever was causing me to feel so bad in the early going. Finally, I ducked into a toilet around mile 5.5 to relieve myself and this seemed to make things improve in the next couple of miles. I didn’t really start to feel okay until around mile 7 when I was able to pick up my pace on a stretch of dirt roads and start picking people off. I actually felt human for the next several miles, lost my rhythm a bit on a short uphill around mile 8.5, was able to recover from that and motor through about mile 12.5 then faded just a bit on the run up to the finish. After a couple of final turns, I was done with a new PR (barely) of 1:26:24.

Lessons learned: I certainly didn’t approach this race with as much focus as I probably could have and didn’t really eat or sleep as well as I should have in the week prior. I went out too fast but was able to overcome some wonkiness early, which was nice. Mostly just focused on staying smooth and working on form when things weren’t going quite to plan. At New York, I am going to try to get off my feet once I make it to the starting line. I definitely didn’t do this well yesterday. I also plan to take more clothing to the start as I was a bit chilly waiting for the race to get rolling yesterday.

All in all, it was a solid effort and a good race. I plan to do a recovery run today to see how things shake out and don’t think I’ll lose any real training time (another goal for this one). I feel like I am on track at this point and am hoping this event really helps kick start the rest of my NYC training. If you are looking for a fun half, I recommend the GTIS. Good stuff.


Pre-race work-out

Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. ~ Military Adage

For the past several years, I have implemented the same pre-race strategy: take 2 days before the event completely off, run my pre-race workout the day before, get off my feet. For those of you looking for a good, pre-race workout, here’s my approach (thanks to World Champ, Mark Plaatjes):

  • Warm up for 20 minutes
  • Do 4, 20-second strides
  • Run 1-mile at race pace
  • Get off your feet

Today, I did this workout up at my house, so the warm-up was a little spicier than I would have liked (given that there are approximately 150 meters of consecutive “flat” places to run anywhere near my place) but the strides felt progressively better as I worked through them. I give myself enough time to recover completely between each set, then recover completely before trying to lock in my race pace for the prescribed mile. Today, I was a bit on the fast side but it was good to shake things out. Since I don’t normally race half marathons, I am not as familiar with my pacing so I went out a little too hard, then backed off in the second half mile. Still was about 15 seconds faster than my fantasy target race pace but I felt solid.

I am using tomorrow’s race from Georgetown to Idaho Springs (GTIS) to get my head wrapped around logistics a bit. New York is going to require some patience in the early morning lead-in to the race. Guessing I’ll be taking a train to the ferry and then jumping on a bus to the start line so I am going to use the bus-to-start cluster tomorrow to get myself more in tune with that nonsense and “practice” the waiting game that I’ll inevitably face in November at NYC.

Tomorrow’s race should be interesting. I have only raced two other half marathons. The first was in March before I raced Boston and I felt like I put in a pretty solid effort. The second was a couple months after Boston in the run-up to San Francisco and that one was a bit of a disaster. I have three goals in mind but am mostly focused on starting a bit conservatively and finishing strong. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Level up: Sub-3 Completed

Be the banana. ~ Susan Nuzum

Way back in the 5th century, a wise person said, “Patience is a virtue.” After running a 2:58:47 (gun time) at the Eugene Marathon this weekend, I could not agree more. Throughout the first 20 miles of this race, when I felt so good and wanted so badly to run faster, I kept telling myself, “Be patient,” and doing so paid off in spades.

Everything came together for this race: a solid training cycle, limited injury/wonkiness complications, good focus and preparation, fantastic weather, a good course… the list goes on. Sometimes, one can have everything prepped and ready to go and one small thing throws off the whole endeavor. But for me, at the 2012 Eugene Marathon, all the stars aligned and I had a great day of running.

The Prep:
After running a solid 5K in January, I decided that perhaps my fitness had finally returned. I was physically crushed after Boston last year and it took forever to recover. This effort, in the off-season, really helped bolster my confidence that I had returned to form and was in a good position to take another stab at the sub-3-hour barrier. My team was training for Boston so I just settled in to their regimen and started looking for a different race to run this Spring. I settled on the weekend of April 29th since it seemed to a) fit my schedule well and b) not push me too far out of the team’s cycle. This would give me a couple more weeks to prepare, the opportunity to tack on another long run or two onto the program and the ability to include a slightly more extended taper. OKC and Eugene were contenders and Eugene won out with the promise of “less bad” weather potential (Eugene could be rainy but never has extreme storms or heat like can be found in OKC) and more appeal on the travel front (sorry, Oklahoma). Plus, I have been trying to support areas with my travel dollars who do a better job of not discriminating against others and Oregon wins that competition hands-down.

Leading up to this race, I was more focused than any other event in regard to nutrition and attention to staying rested and healthy. Rach always keeps me very well-fed but I have a tendency to add snack calories here and there and have been known to be less disciplined than I should be when it comes to sodas and whatnot. Starting at the end of February, I made sure to pay special attention to my snacking, soda and beer consumption and made sure I was getting a lot of extra sleep throughout the week. I run enough (and generally snack very little) that this probably didn’t make a huge physical impact, but mentally it made me focus a lot more and feel like I was really sacrificing for this difficult to achieve goal.

My workouts were formulated with the help of Mark Plaatjes, who is just fantastic. Pretty much stayed on a similar plan of attack as prior cycles but added one over-distance run (28 miles) and several “fast-finish” long runs to the plan. Frankly, most of my longer runs didn’t go as well as I would have liked but having completed several marathon training cycles at this point, I knew that getting them done was slightly more important than hitting every split right on target. Again, patience paid off.

Race weekend:
I headed out to Eugene on Friday and went straight to the Expo to pick up my bib and get that nonsense out of the way. Eugene is mellow enough that I probably could have flown in on Saturday without creating too much stress but I didn’t want to risk bad weather or other factors getting in the way of my travel. Eugene has some great vegetarian options as well and I ended up gravitating to Cafe Yumm for meals on three different occasions during my stay. I picked up some general provisions at Trader Joe’s and after driving the first 10 miles of the course and dinking around Eugene for a bit, headed back to the hotel to watch a movie and hit the sack early.

Saturday, I did my standard pre-race run (slightly extended to get the lay of the land so I wouldn’t be confused at all on race day). I ran from the hotel to the start (about 1.75 miles), then did some surges (4) on the way back toward the hotel, then did 1 mile at race pace on the course. Felt fine and dandy. I then headed out to King Estate Winery to meet family for lunch and some wine tasting. I spent the rest of the day with my feet up and head down, either watching movies or napping (briefly). I hit the sack early and the next morning, it was go-time.

Race day:
Up at 5:25 to get ready, I ate some food (1/2 a bagel w/almond butter and banana, a cup of coffee, some gatorade), did my  warm-ups in the room, then headed out the door at 6:25 to jog over to the start line. It was cool and overcast – perfect racing conditions – and after 4 surges in front of the line, I joined my corral. I ate 4 Clif Blocks and finished off a 12oz Gatorade before the start, chucked my short-sleeved warm-up shirt off-course and after getting a quick pep-talk from Meb Keflezighi, we were off.

I was seeded in Corral A, so was pretty near the front of the pack at the start and was able to settle into my race pace quickly. Way different than some of the larger races I have done where the first mile or two are incredibly frustrating from a pacing standpoint. I started looking around for people to run with and settled in with one guy who claimed to be wanting to run 2:58. After running with him for a bit on rolling terrain, I dropped off as we were ticking off 6:40s and I wanted to be super conservative through 20. As with most of my experiences running at (or near) sea level, hills were super easy. I would just maintain pace up hills and people would come back to me. By the first mat at the 5K mark, I was right on target pace (21:30ish, 6:45 pacing) and I kept these even splits through at least mile 20. My plan was to run 6:45-6:50 pacing all day unless I was feeling fantastic after mile 20 and I nailed it.

The majority of the hills come in the first 9 miles of this race and honestly, they were not a big deal at all. Training at altitude on hilly roads builds the strength and confidence to master most hills and dropping 6000+ feet in elevation makes them a breeze. The steepest hill on the Eugene course came on 19th street, about mile 9. I sailed over this one with a guy from Philly who was aiming for about a 2:58. He told me his last two marathons were 3:00:22 and 3:00:28 and he wasn’t going to let that happen to him again. Eventually, I dropped off his pace and he finished a bit in front of me for the day so a special congrats to him on breaking 3-hours!

The course loops back on itself and we passed Hayward Field at about mile 9 and sets off east along the Willamette River into Springfield, home of the Simpsons. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this portion of the course and was pleasantly surprised to find us running in a forested park area for a bit then nice, residential neighborhoods. I crossed the half-way mark in 1:28ish and kept rolling.

By mile 16, I was starting to get tempted to pick it up a little bit as I was still feeling fresh and relaxed and was nailing my 6:45 pacing. Whenever these urges arose, I reminded myself to be patient and continued to run relaxed. I am so glad I took this approach as the last 10K of pretty much every marathon I have run has been particularly difficult and Eugene was no exception. We ran along Pre’s Trail in central Eugene for a bit then headed west along the Willamette. I started feeling the effort around mile 18, flubbed a gel hand-up at mile 19.5 (for which I circled back briefly) and by mile 20 was content to work out the math of what I needed to do to get in under 3-hours and delay any notions of picking up the pace for if I started feeling better. There was a great cheering section at mile 20, which really helped and as we crossed a footbridge for the final leg of the race, I was feeling drained but confident I could get this done. I walked briefly through an aid-station at mile 23 but then just kept thinking, “Run sub-7s,” all the way in. The sun came out at mile 24 and even though my legs were dead, I motored in. At mile 26, Hayward Field came into view and a felt a wave of joy as I stepped onto the track and pushed the last 150 meters to the finish. 2:58:47 gun time, 7.5-minute PR, 87th overall and 13th in my age group. Good stuff.

The Aftermath:
Post-race, I took some time to relish the moment in the recovery area, sat down and ate some chips for a bit and drank a couple bottles of water. After about 5 minutes, I felt ready to get going so started my walk back to the hotel. Met up with a couple people who were out spectating and pacing friends and generally took my time getting back to the hotel. I was tired, of course, but not destroyed like after other races. I took an ice bath then went out to grab some food and a celebratory beer with Heather and Ewan North. Ewan had some stomach problems during his race so didn’t finish as well as he had hoped but still managed a top 10 2:31, which is impressive to say the least. I headed back to my hotel, ate some more and hit the sack early.

Monday, I woke up starving and had time for a fantastic breakfast at the Morning Glory in Eugene, then headed south to hike Spencer Butte. The weather on Monday was less agreeable than on race day (drizzley and socked-in) but it was good to get out to get my legs moving and hike around in the forest. I had a bit more time to kill before my flight so checked out the Hydrangea Gardens in Hendricks Park then jammed out to the airport for my return flight. All in all, a fantastic weekend adventure.

That’s how you do it…

Thin Mint Sprint 5K FTW
Thin Mint Sprint 5K - Final Kick

Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth (yes, the truth) ~ Hot Chocolate

Jammed out to Vegas a couple of weeks ago and while I didn’t win anything at the tables, I did manage to yoink my first ever running race victory. Was not expecting that.

Prior to heading to the desert, I found a 5K to join and headed out there early Saturday morning after a fun-filled night with the GroundFloor Media crew at Tao. We were staying on the Strip in the Palazzo so I grabbed a cab and headed up to the North end of town to the Girl Scouts Thin Mint Sprint, got my warm-up on, met a couple of other runners, then coasted to a new PR and easy win.

The course was pancake flat with some tight spots and turns so I lined up at the front. Once the gun went off (actually, no gun), I surged ahead to avoid any congestion in the first few turns. That was the last I saw of anyone. I had one guy a few meters behind at mile 1 but after a quick surge, put distance on him throughout the rest of the race. Toward the end of the second circuit I started lapping slower runners which slowed me down a bit but I still finished with a new PR of 17:47. And yes, I receive a box of Thin Mints for my efforts.

Super pleased with this result and the opportunity to run hard and win!


SFO Marathon Race Report…

I have been taking a break from things for the past few months but wanted to come back with a race report from my last effort, the San Francisco Marathon, prior to running my next race. I have been struggling to regain my form since well before Boston, really and SFO was put down as an effort to not dig myself into a deeper hole. Though I think I was successful in not digging any deeper, I still didn’t have very much luck getting my mojo back and even took about 3 weeks off in September – running only 2-3 times per week – in an effort to get my feet back underneath me. I was just starting to feel my form coming back in late October when I caught a fairly aggressive cold that knocked me out for most of November. Finally feeling recovered from that endeavor, I am actually starting to feel sharp again. Just in time for next week’s Colder Bolder 5K.

The Colder Bolder is a seeded race that pits people of equivalent abilities (based on Bolder Boulder finish times) against one another. Fortunately, I had a less-than-stellar BB last spring so I get to run against the 40-42-minute group. Psyched to see how I can do but given I am just now ramping back up and the course difficulty, my expectations are fairly low. That has seemed to work in my favor in the past, however. So we’ll see how it goes.

And now, the San Fran Marathon race report…

San Fran is a crazy town. Way different than I expected but it lived up to its reputation in many ways as well. Going into this race, I had zero expectations. I didn’t even really know if I would finish and planned to race entirely on feel. I had some goals in mind but none of them weighed heavily on my mind as I ventured out to the Bay Area. Just wanted to have fun, run with good form and see where that took me.

I flew into SFO on Friday after about a 2-hour delay in Denver due to foggy conditions in San Fran. Upon landing, I was able to navigate the Bart easily and soon found myself in a throng of people on Powell Street, a short walk from my hotel. I jammed up to the hotel and was surprised to find my room available at a fairly early hour. Dumped off my stuff, headed to the expo, all good.

The expo was much smaller and more mellow than I anticipated. I bowed down to the retail gods and then made my way over to the MapMyRun booth to say ‘hi’ to fellow Colorado and #DenverLunchRun runner @boulderrunner (Todd Straka) who would go on to run an incredible half marathon on Sunday. I looked around for @sarahstanley with whom I have had the pleasure to run on at least one occasion but she was busy working as a race Ambassador so wasn’t available. After perusing the expo for a bit, I did a fairly intense yoga session put on by Lululemon then headed back to my hotel. A quick trip to the grocery store for some provisions and visit to Thai Stick for a bite to eat followed, then I settled in for the evening.

Saturday, I walked down to the Ferry Building to meet up with Todd for some coffee and to join the Lululemon shake out run. There was a decent sized group and several distances from which to choose. I had 2 miles + strides then 1-mile at pace on the schedule so, in standard form, Todd and I chose to run the full 3-mile warm up then do our strides and tempo. We got to run with Bart Yasso for a bit, which was pretty cool and checked out the new minimalist shoe from Saucony he was sporting (SUPER light). We ended up doing a couple of laps around Giant Stadium on the waterfront then I headed back to the hotel to put my feet up, ice my ankle and watch a movie and read. I headed back over to the expo later that day just to see what was going on and to get outside and see more of the city. Probably walked/ran a bit more than I should but again, I was here to have fun. Hit Thai Stick again for dinner then hit the sack.

The race starts early (5:30) in order to allow runners to run across the Golden Gate Bridge so I set my alarm for 4:05 to ensure that I had plenty of time to get my act together in the morning. I ate some food, downed some liquids, donned my gear and headed down to the Embarcadero for the start. It is always fun seeing the ever growing masses pouring into sleepy city streets as one approaches the start of an early morning race and as I made my way towards the event, more and more people joined me on my trek to the start. I jogged the last mile or so then found the bag drop area and then got in line for one last pit stop before the race began. As the start time drew ever closer, I didn’t seem to be making much progress in line and eventually, I just bailed. I had already missed my official start with the sub-seeded athletes and wanted to get in with the sub-3-hour pace group if possible. I was a couple minutes behind that as well and started the event at the back of wave 2. Not ideal and a little stressful but I rolled with it and quickly passed over the official starting line to begin my day.

The first few miles of the SFO are flat and run along the Embarcadero. It was still dark out so there wasn’t a lot to see and I was focused on trying to catch up to the sub-3 group so I just worked on staying relaxed, making up some time but not pressing things. I quickly caught the 3:20 group and shortly thereafter passed the 3:10 guys. The first hill hits at about mile 2.5 and it is actually the steepest of the race. I flew up this and kept rolling. When you are from altitude, running at sea level is like cheating. You can really hammer hills and actually recover on the downs, which is particularly refreshing. Good times.

I finally caught the sub-3 group at about mile 3.5 and settled in with them running comfortably at 6:45-6:50 pacing. We ran through a park then another medium-length uphill on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Running across the bridge was fun and we got to see the leaders on the way out then all the runners behind us on the way back across. After crossing the bridge, the course rolls for a bit then climbs up into Golden Gate Park. At this point, there was a little confusion about the pacer switch off and we ran sans pacer for about 3 miles through the park. I stopped to relieve myself but kept the people with whom I was running  in sight (knowing that I was actually a couple minutes ahead of this group on the clock) and ran comfortably through the remainder of the park (about mile 16). The course then merges with the second half course and climbs up into the Haight.

It was during this segment that I started feeling the effort and though I was keeping the 3-hour group close, was starting to struggle to maintain good form. The official 3-hour pacer came by me after a tight, sidewalk section and I latched on for a bit then let them go. Again, my goal was to keep them in my sight as I still had a couple minutes in the bank at this point but the race diverts runners onto parallel streets on a couple different points during the race and at the first of these, I lost track of the group and this, coupled with my form degradation, made me decide to back off. So I took some walk breaks, spent some time drinking water at one of the aid stations, and generally tried to enjoy myself and hold good form through the remainder of the race.

The last half is decidedly less interesting than the first with most of the course running downhill through industrial areas and neighborhoods devoid of architectural interest. I just jogged it in at this point, not worrying about how fast I was going or what time I might get and fairly soon was back on familiar ground with about a mile to go to the finish. I made sure my last mile was strong, again with the focus on form, passed Giant Stadium then under the Bay Bridge and home in 3:18:48.

I ran the first half in 1:29:04 and the first 20 in 2:18:31 (pretty close to sub-3 pacing). Very happy with these numbers and my race overall. I think that if I were healthy, I could definitely run a great time on this course. The second half is way faster than the first, I felt pretty great for 20 miles and the course suits me well. Perhaps I’ll run it again next year and see what I can do.

Post-race, I was actually fairly miserable. I had serious stomach problems for the rest of the day and am willing to blame these on the electrolyte drink provided during the race. I had plans to tour the city after the event but ended up just sleeping and staying near the restroom. I was able to rally, however, and jammed out to Berkeley to meet Pete, Edy and Todd for dinner. After a beer, gigantic salad and pizza, I felt MUCH better and grabbed the last train back to San Fran then collapsed into bed.

Up early on Monday, I packed up my stuff and hit the town. I did my own little walking tour of SFO and wandered through China Town, up to Telegraph Hill and back down to the Embarcadero for lunch. I got to see most of what I had on my list but would love to go back to enjoy more of what the Bay area has to offer. All in all a great trip!


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