That DAM Half Marathon Race Report…

The Dash likes. ~ Dash Parr

1:26:50, 8th Overall, 3rd in Age Group PR*

*Full disclosure, this was my first half marathon, so a PR was inevitable.

I had high hopes for this past week’s race (That DAM Half Marathon) and I really wanted to throw down a good time and solid effort. Fortunately, my bod cooperated and turned a tough course into a fantastic time (both clock and experience).

The day started with an early alarm to get to the Colorado House Rabbit Society for our monthly volunteer session. Rach was extra-special awesome and got up VERY early in order to facilitate an early exit by yours truly in order to get down to the race in a timely fashion. We cleaned bunny runs quickly and I changed into my race kit and scurried out the door at 8:30. This provided plenty of time to get down to the race, get in a short warm up and get ready to run my first official half marathon.

Cool temps, overcast skies and steady-but-mild winds greeted us on race day. The field wasn’t particularly deep but there appeared to be some decent talent on the starting line on Cherry Creek Reservoir Dam Road when they started us right at 10:00. The first 2.5 miles ran across the dam itself and featured flat terrain and a bit of a cross wind. Like most races, things started to split early with two runners breaking away very quickly (eventual winner and SUPER speedy Japeth Ng’ojoy 1:13:46 and runner-up Trent Joseph 1:18:04). Needless to say, I wasn’t keeping up with these fellas and settled in about 10 meters off the back of the main group. This proved to be a mixed group of runners and I had a feeling that the group would eventually break apart as those with more experience and fitness dropped those who had gone out a bit too fast.

I eventually grouped up with several other runners who were pacing about the same as my target and we took turns leading for a bit until the first major turn of the race. At this point the course dropped significantly and we broke up again. I ran with one of Colorado’s top Masters racers, Jay Survil for a bit until I dropped a glove and had to spin back briefly. After this foible, I ran just off the back of Jay and and Chris Smiley (I believe) until the turn at mile 6.55.

After the turn, I picked it up a bit and quickly fell into a good rhythm despite the uphill return into the wind. I was passed by Mark Bockmann at about mile 8 and fell in behind him for a bit until I feared blowing up and retreated to a more comfortable pace. Miles 9 and 10 were a bit of a trial through the steepest portion of the course but I managed to stick with low 7s pacing and hang in there to the return to the dam road. At this point, I knew I only had 2.5 miles to go, still felt relatively fresh and was still running with good form so I set out to chase down a couple of people still within reach.

I caught Michael Nothem with about 2 miles to go and after a brief battle of wills (he did NOT want me to go past), I managed to surge and drop him in the final minutes of the race. I finished strongly into the wind with a final mile of 6:28 and yoinked a sub 1:27 for the day. A solid effort all around.

This tees me up pretty well for Boston and was a definite confidence booster going into the final 6 weeks of training. I really need to get a couple more long runs under my belt before the big event and am guessing Mark has those on the schedule for the following few weeks. This also qualifies me for the New York Marathon and I am considering that as my fall race instead of doing Denver. Need to pull the trigger on that fairly quickly if I am going to do so. Guessing I’ll have another shot at it, however, if that seems like too many big events in a single year.

Good stuff.

~stubert.

Weekly summary extraordinaire…

Yeah man, but it’s a dry heat. ~ Hudson

A crazy week weather-wise devolved at the start to treadmill sessions then closed out with a solid long, easy snow run in Boulder. Funny how things can turn around. My running mileage lagged a bit for the week but when you toss in a skate-skiing session on Friday and the fact that the mercury at the casa on Tuesday and Wednesday was scraping the high negative 20s, I don’t feel too bad about how the first week of February turned out.

Monday’s easy run reinforced for me the value of the shake-out run. My legs were a bit sore and definitely on the cranky side after Sunday’s long effort and the first quarter mile of my run Monday left me thinking, “What the hell are you doing?” I have been at this long enough to know that if you stick with it, sometimes the early grumpiness wears off and after about 1/4 of a mile, my legs shook out and I started to feel really great. Just took it easy and let it develop: 3.31 in 00:30.

Tuesday’s group run was canceled due to extremely cold temps so after completing some early morning emergency house repair (you don’t want to know), I jumped on the treadmill briefly to get in a few miles before having to head into work. Nothing to write home about: 3.6 in 00:30.

One item of note, it is amazing how good -6° feels after crawling around in the snow in -26° temps.

Wednesday devolved as well and the 1:15 easy run I had on the schedule turned into a quick one: 5 in 00:41.

By Friday the frigid weather had departed the area and I was in the mood for a skate ski. I have been hoping to add skating to my regular regimen but for the second year in a row, it just hasn’t come to pass. This was only my second outing for the year but I felt amazing and was able to cover a LOT more ground in a shorter amount of time and without resorting to stopping on long uphills to catch my breath. Just cruised around a bit at Eldora: 6.34 in 00:50. Later that evening I jumped back on the ‘mill to get in a quick surge run. Had 45 on the schedule with 6, 20-second surges but figured the morning’s effort counted for something so cut it short. 6 surges, 3 miles, 24 minutes.

Given the lack of duration for my runs this week, I decided to opt out of downhill skiing on Saturday and headed in to do a tempo run with the Gijima group. We started at the East Boulder Rec Center and made our way along the Bobolink trail to Marshall road where we started what was supposed to be an 8-mile tempo run. I wasn’t feeling super great but just worked on my form and tried to lay down splits in the 6:30 range. Somewhat successful. We made it back to the start after about 6 miles of tempo so a few of us tacked on another mile and called it good: 10.71 in 1:20.

And to round out the week, I did a long, solo run this morning in Boulder. We got quite a bit of snow overnight so side streets were a bit of a mess. I started out on the Boulder Creek path, ran west for 3.5 miles then headed back to the path that parallels Broadway to the south. Though many of the pathways had been plowed, they were still a bit on the slow side but I made good time heading south back to Marshall, over to Cherryvale then back to the Creek path. I finished up with a bit of a fade on Goose Creek and surface streets but got in a good run at a pretty low level of effort: 20.38 in 2:45.

All in all, I am happy with where I am sitting right now. I am a little nervous about being able to get in quality runs prior to Boston but today’s 20 was confidence-boosting for sure. 10 weeks to go before my first big race of the year. I am planning to complete the Winter Distance Series with another 10-mile race on the 19th then will test the waters with a half maraton on March 6th in Denver. Either of these races could be complicated by weather conditions but I am hoping they will be able to show me something about my level of fitness heading into Boston. Time will tell. Conditions pending, I’d like to do another sub- 1:05 (perhaps even push that a bit lower but definitely work on a stronger finish) at the 10-mile event and will be looking for a sub- 1:26 half. At least those are the numbers that I am considering.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

~stubert.

Line up the ones…

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming. ~ Frank Shorter

Time for a recap. Somehow I managed to end January 2011 just 5 miles shy of my digits for January 2010 (190+ miles for the month). That, was a bit of a surprise actually given that I didn’t log any marathon-ish distance running during the month. Kinda cool. I have definitely started working on quality and it seems to have paid off in relative speed out there. Good stuff.

Overall, this was a decent month of training and my one race went very well and gave me a lot of confidence going into the season (Frosty’s Frozen 10-mile: 1:04:48, 17th OA, 1st in AG). I have been working with the Gijima running group the past few months and have benefitted greatly from Mark Plaatjes’ tutelage and marathon-distance-focused training. Mixing up my standard routine has kept me from burning out (though there were a couple weeks in December that were a bit on the weak side). All in all, I have managed to stay consistent, relatively injury-free and have challenged myself with solid (yet attainable) racing goals. All of this has made me a better runner and we are only 1/12th of the way through the year!

The proverbial icing on the equally proverbial cake this month was getting a surprise invite to the Boston Marathon this Spring. I had just qualified for Boston last fall when they opened up registration for the event and I wanted to let my Denver finish (3:10:48) soak in a bit before signing up. Based on previous years’ patterns, I thought I would have at least a month to figure out my plan and I was amazed to see later that evening that the event had already sold out. Wow. Shortly thereafter, I started training with Mark and Gijima and discovered that they were going to Boston as a group. Needless to say, my initial slight disappointment for having missed the sign-up window turned to a bit more sour.

Then, a week or so into the new year, I was talking with Mark about Boston and he said he thought he could get me in. He placed 6th and was the first American to cross the line in 1993 on his way to a win at the World Championships later that year. So needless to say, he was able to pull a few strings and secure me an invite entry. I haven’t gotten official word back yet but sent it in that very day and am all teed up for the big race in April.

Boston certainly poses some challenges. Qualifying is the first hurdle and men my age need to run a sub-3:20 to get the opportunity to run. I managed to knock this out at Denver last October. The second challenge is training through an unpredictable Colorado winter to be ready to run in mid-April. So far, we have had conditions that haven’t posed too much in the way of problems on this front but one never really knows what will happen in the weeks leading up to the big event. In late 2006, for example, Denver had two massive snow storms in one week that made running (especially at pace) VERY difficult for a number of weeks. I know the Gijima group did Boston that year as well and found themselves training in a parking garage for several weeks leading up to the race. There are race-day hurdles as well: Navigating the crowds and long waits for start times, the 6-mile downhill to start the event, the Newton hills and a fast, downhill finish all combine to keep one on ones toes.

I’ve booked travel and lodging for the weekend and will keep you posted throughout the next 10-weeks as I prepare for the race. Should be a good challenge and a lot of fun.

~stubert.

Frosty’s Frozen 10-mile Race Report…

Who wants to live in a world where dogs eat each other? ~ Gloria

1:04:48, 17th overall, 1st in age group, PR

2011 racing has started off well with a solid effort this past weekend resulting in a PR for the 10-mile, 17th place overall and 1st in my age group. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this one as I didn’t taper at all nor have I really done much speed work to speak of. Plus my mileage over the last couple of weeks has been less than stellar. So I picked a fairly aggressive target time and just went out to see what I could do and to provide a measure of my relative fitness this early in the season. Apparently, it is not too shabby.

The weather was on the cool side at the 10:15 start and I only warmed up a little while (mostly because I was running a little late and didn’t have much time to warm up). That probably played to my advantage anyway. The first couple miles were, as usual, a bit too fast. The lead group pulled ahead fairly quickly and I tucked in behind two guys who were running a bit faster than I had hoped but I was trying to avoid getting stuck in no-man’s land all day and hung with them until I deemed it prudent to just go back to my original plan of running mid-6s. So stuck I was.

After dropping off the pace a bit, I pretty much matched their tempo for the next few miles. Seemed like whenever I surged a bit to try to catch up, they did as well so I pretty much resigned myself to running solo for a bit and just ticking off steady times for the middle portion of the race. I picked off a couple people leading up to the turn around (moving up to 20th place overall at 32:58) and then was met with a slight headwind after the turn. Ugh. I picked up the pace a bit to try to catch the two guys who were still running just ahead of me and quickly closed the gap. I sat on for about 1/4 of a mile but they seemed to be fading a bit so moved around them and set my sights on the next competitor up the road.

I was now sitting comfortably in 18th place and passed the 10K mark in a solid 39:40. Kickass. Still stuck in the zone between potential running partners, I did make progress on two guys in front of me and caught one competitor with about 2 miles to go. He was fading fast so I was only provide brief respite as I tucked in behind him then surged past in hot pursuit of another two runners.

Though I tried to step it up in the last couple of miles, the solo effort into the wind had tapped my reserves to the point where my kick was relatively non-existent. I did pick it up as best I could and closed the gap on the remaining two runners within striking distance but they both had a bit more in the tank over the closing 1/4 mile and I was only able to hold the gap to finish in 17th at 1:04:48 – and 1st in my age group. Sweet!

This result bodes really well for my fitness this time of year and puts me in a good position to hit my target of a sub-3 marathon later this year. Just need to keep up the hard work and stay focused. Still figuring out my racing schedule for the year but am planning to run more of these shorter-distance races as tune-ups and test-drives. Good stuff.

~stubert