Hedge your bets…

It’s always good to have options. ~ Ned Braden

BB10K: 40:07.18, 480th OA, 13th in AG

I like to look at every race as a learning opportunity. Two weeks ago, I would have thought it far-fetched to expect to break 41-minutes on the difficult Bolder Boulder course given how my speed was coming around following Boston (read: it wasn’t) but as race day drew nearer, my turnover improved and I actually thought I had a shot at a sub-39 at today’s race.

As you can see, that was not to be but the overall experience of my very first BB10K was very positive. I got some more “big race” experience, I got to race against some fast gents (and ladies) and I got in a great tempo effort without breaking myself. What may outweigh all of these, however, is that I got to fully appreciate the benefits of setting intermediate goals.

Big race: One would think that running with 54,000 of your closest friends would result in a fair amount of cluster fuckery, particularly in the early stages of the event. I have to give the BB10K crew props on this one for sure as their seeding system and overall organization proved to take a bit of the “big” out of my “big race” strategy. I was expecting to have to battle my way to my corral and then work through the frustration of crowds throughout the event (and much more so in the first couple of miles). The event start system was structured in such a way, however, that I was able to stroll up 8-minutes before my wave started, find my teammates running in the same wave and genuinely enjoy the early going of what I expected to be a chaotic start. Sure, there were some spazzy maneuvers and occasional crowds with which to contend, but nothing near what I was expecting. Kudos.

Speedy: The BB10K is a world-class race that draws fast runners from around the world and getting the opportunity to run among some of the world’s best is a treat. Throughout the week leading up to the race, Boulder streets were filled with world-class talent and it was terrific to get to see their prowess up close and personal. It was also quite nice to be able to run with others throughout an event vs. starting too fast, trying to hang with the front group, deciding that you are being an idiot and going out too fast, then dropping back into no-man’s land between groups for the remainder of the event. Not like that has happened to me or anything. *cough*

Effort: My race strategy was to stay in control and glide the first four miles then try to punch the last 2.2. I was able to accommodate these goals for the most part though I went a wee bit hard on the Casey hill just after mile 4 and had to recover on the following downhill and my punch lacked much… well… punch in the final 1/2 mile but I felt fine immediately following the race and am confident I will not miss any training volume due to the effort. Which probably really means I didn’t go hard enough but I certainly didn’t want this training race to get in the way of my training so I suppose I’ll chalk that up  in the “mission accomplished” column. Or something.

Goals: The biggest takeaway from the BB10K is that I neglected to set intermediate goals and my motivation suffered toward the end of the race. I left 7 seconds on the table for a sub-40 race and that is just lame. My only time-goal for the event was my ambitious sub-39 and once that became a statistical improbability, I had no other goals targeted and my focus waned. Poor planning on my part for sure but certainly something to take into consideration for future events. It is always a good plan to have something for which to strive even if your primary goal slips. Lesson learned.

All in all, I had a great day and am excited to give it another whirl next year. Hopefully by then I’ll have a faster qualifying time so I can race with the big dogs in the A wave. Since I am not really a 10K kind of runner, I suspect I will have to remain happy to finish 3+ hours in front of the elites.

~stubert.

2011 Boston Marathon recap…

Here’s a little story I’ve got to tell… ~ The Beastie Boys

2011 Boston Marathon: 3:06:16 PR

Boston has long been considered a marquee marathon event and I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this year’s event. Though I did qualify at the 2010 Denver marathon, I missed out on the very quick registration window and had to call in a favor from my coach, Mark Plaatjes, to secure a special invite to the race. So glad he was able to pull some strings to get me into the event as it was certainly an experience I will never forget.

Getting there
From the moment I stepped off the plane, Boston proved to be a welcoming and friendly town. I jumped on a water taxi with several locals who were gearing up for the night’s play-off hockey game between the Bruins and Canadiens and had a duffel bag full of beer with their names on it to properly lubricate the evening. They introduced themselves and their friend who was the taxi boat pilot then inquired about my visit. Once I informed them I was running the marathon on Patriots’ Day, they promptly handed me a beer and congratulated me on my upcoming run. They then joined in cheering me once we reached my destination and I departed the taxi with a big grin on my face. Great way to kick off the weekend and big event.

After checking into my hotel, I headed out to find some food and was able to navigate the mass transit system, the T, with ease. I found a Whole Foods, grabbed some provisions and a salad for dinner, then jammed back to my room to eat and relax after the long flight.

Prep and expo
Sunday morning, brought better weather than  when I landed and I met up with the Gijima team to get in a quick, warm-up run and visit the expo to pick up our numbers and race gear. To put it mildly, the expo was a total cluster with thousands of people milling around and generally going apeshit for race paraphernalia and swag. Not really my scene but I made a donation to the retail juju and bought a couple of hats to commemorate my participation in the event and then headed back to the hotel to rest a bit prior to dinner.

Mike, one of my teammates and a former Bostonian, wanted to head to dinner a bit early to do some shopping and I took this as a perfect opportunity to get a guided tour of part of the city. We headed to the North End via the T and about a mile walk and made our way to Quincy Market which I dubbed “Ye Olde Historic Food Court”. This was a market in the 1700s which has been tuned into a mall complete with a gigantic Food Court and is a big enough draw from both an historic and retail perspective that it is among the top-four most-visited tourist sites in the nation. At least that is their claim…

From Quincy, we headed a few blocks away for a quick detour to see Paul Revere’s house then jammed around the corner for dinner at Artu. Decent food but our party was way too big to provide any opportunity for efficient service. We grabbed a van back to the hotel and I hit the sack.

Ready to rock
I was up before my alarm and quickly put on my gear and got everything ready to roll. Loraine hired a van to take us to the start in Hopkinton and everyone seemed excited for the race though some of us slept better than others. The start is southwest of Boston and requires about an hour drive but traffic is unpredictable so we left the hotel at 7:00 to ensure that we would have plenty of time for our commute. We arrived shourtly before 8:00, checked out the Athlete’s Village, and found a spot to lie down in what proved to be chilly, windy weather conditions prior to the start. I was very glad I brought a couple of trash bags to keep the wind at bay and donned all my layers to hunker down and wait for the call to head to the start.

I hit the john one last time before walking/jogging the half mile or so to the start. I found a good spot to do a few surges then found my corral in Wave One and got ready to start the event. For those interested in running the race in years to come, I would recommend keeping your layers on as long as you feel necessary as they collect discarded clothing right at the start. There are also decent opportunities to warm up near the start line so my insider’s recommendation for Wave One runners would be to head down that way early if possible (and allowed). Other suggestions include bringing trash bags and cardboard to lie upon before the event so that you can stay warm. The lines for the Porta Potties also tend to be shorter in the Athletes’ Village early on vs. jumping in line at those located immediately adjacent to where the busses drop you off. There are also a number of johns at the start for last-minute needs.

The race
It was finally time to get my run on and after cramming into the proper corral, we were off! Since I queued up in corral 6 it took a while to reach the actual start line and traffic was a lot heavier and spastic than expected. One of the drawbacks to running a big race, I suppose. I had anticipated really needing to hold myself bak at the start but found it all I could do to spin a 7:20 first mile. This put me about 30 seconds off pace from the onset and was a little frustrating to say the least. I took things in stride, however and worked over the next few miles to try to gradually make up time.

The first mile of the course is very downhill and then the course trends downhill for the majority of the first half of the race. I was coached by pretty much everyone to not go out too fast and did my best to just stay mellow and even. I rolled a couple of semi-quick splits during this time as I was trying to make back the time lost in the first few miles (and during a quick pit stop) but really tried to just be very chill. We spun by some  wooded areas in the outskirts of Hopkinton and other Boston suburbs, ran by a biker bar with a bunch of leather-clad Harley riders who cheered enthusiastically and generally were treated with a steady stream of cheering race fans all along the course. As with any race, there were places more populated than others but this was definitely the best race I have done where crowd numbers and volume are concerned and it was greatly appreciated.

Miles basically ticked off and though I didn’t feel spectacular, I was doing well and was cruising along at my target pace. By the half, I had made up most of my deficit and was now within a few seconds of my target time. I knew I would need to run a solid second half but everything was going to plan. By mile 17, however, I was starting to feel the effort and knew I would be well-challenged to meet my target goals for the day. I met Mike at mile 18, ditched my glasses and picked up some more gels, then headed up the Newton Hills.

The Hills
The hills at Boston are a bit deceptive. The first of the four Newton Hills is the most daunting and each has a bit of a flat/downhill section immediately following which allows one to coast and reset for the next effort. These three miles were difficult and I struggled to maintain my pace. I think that my electrolytes were all out of whack by this point (more on that later) so that certainly didn’t help. My plan was to feel pretty strong at the top of Heartbreak Hill then punch the last 10K. Unfortunately, this was not my day and by the top of HBH, I was feeling anything but “punchy”. I crested HBH amid drunken shouts of encouragement from spectators (they do get more and more raucous as the day progresses) and then tried to put in a good effort in that final 6.2 miles.

Last 10K
Honestly, the final 10K is a bit of a blur. I wasn’t feeling sharp at all and struggled as I lost time in almost every mile. I did calculations throughout to see if there was any opportunity to meet my sub-3-hour goal for the race and could have pulled it off as late as mile 21 or 22 but just had no more go. I lost time in all but 1 of the final 6 miles and put in as big of an effort as possible to ensure that I scored a PR at the finish. Definitely an area on which I need to work and I predict a lot of long runs with the last hour at race pace in my immediate future. The crowds were supportive through the finish and I came through the tape at 3:06:16. A new personal best.

Aftermath
Immediately after crossing the line, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I had a similar experience (though less pronounced) at last year’s Denver Marathon and shortly after stopping, I felt really woozy and my vision began to degrade. I stopped to rest my head on the barriers after grabbing some water and shortly thereafter decided that standing was not a good idea. I wanted my head a bit closer to the ground in the event that I was unable to maintain a standing position and sat down on the curb. Volunteers came over to see how I was doing, and though I felt pretty terrible, I knew I needed to get back up else my legs would seize. The volunteers helped me up, I walked a bit farther down the finish corral then my vision continued to degrade and I decided sitting was again in order. I plopped down in a wheelchair and the volunteer asked if I thought a trip to the medical tent would be prudent. “Let’s do that,” I responded and he whisked me off to the tent to ensure that nothing terrible was going on.

Once in the shade of the tent and lying on a cot, I started to feel better. My blood pressure was taken (a very low 80/50), my feet were raised, Gatorade and chips were administered and I continued to improve. Within minutes my vision returned to normal and after some light PT-aided stretching, my leg cramps subsided as well and I was ready to get back up. I thanked the staff for their assistance and made my way back out into the throng to collect my gear bag, some additional food and make my way to the T for the return trip to the hotel.

The T was jammed but very easy to navigate and the public transport gods were on my side. I didn’t have to wait at a single stop to make my connections and i was quickly back to the hotel where I had a massage scheduled. The massage felt great. Not sure how therapeutic it actually was but it was nice to get some attention to my aching legs and shoulders. I then headed back to my room, soaked, ate and watched a movie before heading down to the bar to meet up with the team. I triple fisted drinks (beer, coke, water) and generally felt good. The legs were a bit sore and I was fatigued for sure but my recovery seemed to be happening quickly, which was nice. We grabbed dinner close to the hotel and I was in bed by 11.

Tourist time
Tuesday morning featured heavy skies (and legs) but I was determined to get out and see some of Boston’s famous sites. I considered doing a Duck Tour (amphibious bus tour of the major landmarks) but really felt that a walking tour would be good for me and would allow me to take in the city at my own pace. I traveled to the start of the Freedom Trail, purchased a $3 umbrella to stave off the dripping skies, and got my tourist on. Walked the vast majority of the trail (skipped one short leg to Monument Hill as lunch beckoned) and even toured Old Ironsides, which was entertaining. I then jammed up to Harvard on the T to check out Harvard Square and then made my way back to the hotel in time to pick up my bags and make my flight back to Denver.

Just a fantastic experience overall. Not sure if I will be back next year or not (it is a bit of a logistical nightmare even when incredibly well-prepared and supported) but I would highly encourage anyone who qualifies to get to Boston to run this thing at least once. The conditions were pretty perfect for this year’s event and World and U.S. records were set by the elites. All in all, a fantastic race and great town.

Next up… San Francisco in July.

~stubert.

Rudolph’s Revenge 10K Race Report…

We run to undo the damage we’ve done to body and spirit. We run to find some part of ourselves yet undiscovered. ~ John “The Penguin” Bingham

00:39:16, 17th overall, 4th in age group, PR

Cold weather finally came to Denver just in time for the annual Rudolph’s Revenge race. I opted to run the 10K event and hoped to put in a solid effort. My training hasn’t been completely up to snuff these past few weeks with numerous distractions and short days conspiring to keep me from putting in the miles I would normally like but I lined up with 600-odd other runner geeks to give it a whirl.

I made my way to the head of the queue to be sure to get out with the fast guys and targeted a sub-40-minute finish to wrap up what has been a stellar year of running and racing. After wishing a friend good luck (knowing I would be chasing him all day) I bounced around a little before the start, stripped off the garbage bag I was wearing to stay warm and we were off!

The first 100 meters of the run featured a very steep downhill into a tight bridge/right-hand turn and people were a bit all over the place jockeying for position and attempting to keep from getting clipped by the handrail. After this obstacle, however, the race merged with a bike path and headed north along the Platte river. I felt I was in a decent position as things shook out but quickly discovered the group with which I was running was going more slowly than I needed to achieve my sub-40 time, so I bridged up to the next group and settled in. After a minute or so, they slowed as well and so the first couple of miles was filled with little surges. I’d catch a couple people, they’d slow up, I’d bridge up to another group. This, as you might imagine, was a bit frustrating.

After about mile 2, I was stuck in no-man’s land for most of the remainder of the race and so had to rely on my own pacing to get me through. I didn’t feel terrific, by any means, but did manage to keep moving at a fairly steady until my right Achilles tendon started hurting as I crossed a bridge at about mile 3.5. One step it was fine and the next, not so much. Not sure what happened there but I just backed off the pace a smidge and soldiered on.

I must admit, it was pretty exciting to actually be at least within sight of the leaders of the race. I kept trying to haul people in during the last half but my Achilles problems weren’t really letting me move as quickly as I wanted so I just focused on retaining a semblance of good form and finishing strongly. With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I kicked as much as I was able and nearly caught the closest competitor in front of me in the steep uphill in the last 100 meters. I finished up in 39:16 and felt quite happy with that result. I realized after the race that I had run one previous 10K event in college and seem to recall finishing that one in about 45 minutes. So I’ll proudly take the new PR!

I have about 39 miles left to complete my final goal of the year – run 2,500 miles. Honestly, I have probably eclipsed this mark already as my Garmin usually reads a little short but to keep it honest, I am only counting verifiable mileage. So if I have a decent week, this goal could be reached in the next 7 days. If it is a bit thin (which it probably will be given my desire to get some skiing done and the Holidays), the mark may be passed in the last week of the year. In either event, I’ll keep you posted and shoot me a note if you want to join me during my 2,500th-mile run!

~stubert.

Got my trot on…

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice your gift. ~ Steve Prefontaine

Turley’s Turkey Trot 5K: 18:56, 37th overall, 7th in age group

Well that was quick. In atypical Stu-style, I went out and ran a Turkey Trot on Thursday morning. This was the shortest running race in which I have participated since High School and I must say, it was a blast.

I was a bit concerned about the weather going in given that it was 3° and windy as hell at the casa when I packed up the car to drive down to Boulder for the race. The weather report called for windy conditions and 15° temps at the start and well… they were wrong. It was about 25°, sunny and only slightly windy as I rolled into the East Campus area, got checked in and started warming up around Potts Field.

I was lucky to run into Caleb as I began my warm-up and then just as quickly lost him again in the crowd. There were ~800 people running this race and so locating people around the starting line was a bit of a challenge. I soon found Sierra, handed her my vest and then hooked back up with Caleb just before the start. After a short wait, we were off!

The first 1/4 mile was fast. Way too fast. Caleb asked me what pace we were running and I checked my Garmin to see 5:15 pop up on the screen. Yeah… that was a little spicy so I backed off and settled into an aggressive but comfortable 6:02 pace for the first mile. My strategy was to punch the first mile, float the second and then try to hammer home the third and as I passed the “Mile 1” flag, felt like things were going to plan and settled into a nice rhythm.

I picked off fast starters during mile two and as we started the second lap of the event found myself pulling a group of about 4 up the only hill on the course and into a slight headwind. At this point the word “strategy” popped into my head and I remembered I was in a race where this stuff actually might matter. So I dropped my pace slightly to let one of the others through then jumped in behind him. Yup… much better. I cruised the second mile in what felt like a sustainable 6:13 then put the hammer down for the final 1.1.

I tried to hang with the last guy to pass me (who clearly had done this before – amazing form and leg-speed) without success but managed to stave off any other fast finishers and even picked off 5-7 people in the closing minutes of the race. I passed the “Mile 3” flag with my second 6:02 split of the day and uncorked my feeble version of a sprint for the last .1 mile (5:35 average pace) to finish in 18:56 – besting my target by a full minute. Caleb rolled in just a few seconds behind me and then we jogged around for a bit to cool down.

We both commented about how nice (and unusual) it was to start a race at 10:00 and be done by 10:20. The same day even! Pretty excited about this effort as it tees me up nicely to go for a sub-40 10K in a few weeks. Testing out some different distance events just to mix things up and keep it all fun. All in all, this was a great event and a lot of fun. I suspect I may make these events part of my regular regimen.

~stubert.

3:10:50…

That sounds like rock and/or roll. ~ Reverend Lovejoy

The Rock -n- Roll Denver marathon was a blast. Going in, I knew I hadn’t fully prepared for a fast marathon so was a bit unsure about how I would perform. Bounced back and forth about what time to target and, in the end, settled on running with the 3:15 group and then playing the finish by ear. Turns out, that was a decent, albeit conservative, plan.

Jammed down to Denver early on Sunday to swing by Caleb and Sierra’s place. Sierra had graciously offered to take Caleb and me to the start so we wouldn’t have to deal with the parking mess which is Downtown Denver. Caleb was teed up for a fast 1/2 marathon and yoinked a 1:32 or so. It was chilly at the start but not too terrible and I warmed up a bit on the grass in front of the capitol building before finally settling into corral #1 minutes before the start. After a poorly rendered version of the National Anthem (seriously, learn the words if you are going to get up in front of thousands of people and sing), we were escorted to the start line and were off.

The 3:15 group was paced by Mike, a 2:20 marathoner from Ohio so cruising us around at a 3:15 pace was not going to cause him any troubles. We started out slowly… just letting the group warm up during the first mile then slowly picked up the pace. By about mile 4, I needed to pee really badly and rolled off the front of the group to give myself enough padding to catch back up once done with my pit stop. I timed it perfectly and was able to rejoin the group around mile 5 as we entered City Park.

At this point, we were back on the 3:15 target pace and I was feeling fine. Pretty much zero effort to this point as we did a couple laps in the park through mile 8 or so. We exited the park, did a convoluted out/back on 17th then headed over to Cheesman for a quick lap around this iconic Denver park.

Upon exiting Cheesman, I was still feeling solid and decided to pick up the pace a bit and see what I could do. I rolled off the front of the 3:15 group around mile 12 and picked up the pace a bit as I crossed the half-way mark in 1:36:20 (or so). I pushed the pace through mile 15 where I started catching runners targeting 3:10. By the time we entered Washington Park and mile 17, I’d caught and settled in with a small group of people running at about a 3:09 finish pace.

This group thinned out considerably to two of us as we exited Wash Park (mile 20). At this point, I was still feeling like I could hold our 7:00 pace and we were staying right on target for a sub 3:10 finish. We headed north up Logan then turned onto 1st at which point I started to struggle to keep the pace. Based on our numbers, we should have had a decent buffer at this point and I lost contact with my fellow runner as we turned onto 5th and my leg speed began to fall off considerably. Miles 23 to the finish were less than awesome as I tried to hold on for a 3:10 finish. By mile 24, I knew that wasn’t going to be an option any longer so I just cruised in. Rach ran along with me for about the last mile, which was thoroughly kickass and I crossed the finish line with a new PR of 3:11:50.

Though I would have loved to uncork a sub 3:10, I was extremely excited about this finish time. It qualified me for Boston (which, unfortunately filled up in 8 hours), beat my previous PR by 12+ minutes, and put me in sniffing distance of running a sub 3-hour race in the future. Given that I didn’t really even train much for this event and quickly made the transition from dirt to road, I am very pleased with my performance and what this bodes for future races. I finished 89th overall (out of 2894 participants) and 8th in my age group. Not. Too. Shabby.

~stubert.