Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tapering Towards Ultra

I’m in the midst of my taper for my upcoming 50k that looms a mere 9 days away.  I don’t find that I get terribly moody during a taper, I mostly get bored.  I’m so used to allocating time for running and cross-training that I just feel like there are holes in my day.  I even got up at 4:15 this morning to do a short run before an early work call, and because it was raining outside I went back to sleep and will do the run this evening.  It just didn't seem worth all the stretching and getting soaking wet for a short run.  That’s something I would NEVER do during the meat of a training plan.  Taper lazy more than taper madness for me.

I’m still not sure exactly what I’m feeling about this race.  Training has gone very well, and I feel good about my fitness.  I’m looking forward to my first run ever beyond 26.2 miles.  I’m just not sure about the whole beach/tide thing after my practice runs a few weeks back.  I’m mostly just hoping for good weather, and we’ll all just deal with whatever Neptune throws our way on the shores of the Atlantic.  I’m definitely looking forward to some good (bad) food after the race and a beer or three to celebrate.

They finally posted the times from the 5k I ran on Friday.  I finished in 2nd place with a time of 20:27.
I’m still surprised by my time and pace, and I think I could push it and go sub 20-minutes if I sign up for another one.  Depending on how recovery goes after next weekend maybe I’ll shoot for that sometime this Summer.  Haven’t really given a lot of thought to my running plans after this race.  Hopefully they don’t involve any doctors or PT.  That would be another first for me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

From Next-to-Last to Next-to-First

Surprised, to say the least.

That pretty well captures my reaction to my first attempt at racing a 5k on Friday night.  The only other time I did a 5K was a run/walk with my son last year, where I finished in 217th place out of 218 participants.  I though at least I could build on that finish.

I felt pretty sure I could hold around a 7:00 mile pace for the whole race, and I knew that based on last year’s results that would give me a shot at a good finishing place.  When we lined up for the start I saw a couple guys that looked pretty serious, with the tell-tale shaved legs to go with the fact that they were actually toeing the starting line, so I figured I’d try and stay close to them for pacing.  They went out fast – honestly too fast for me, but we all got left in the dust by a kid that blazed out of the start and never looked back.  I figured he would burn out after a couple of miles, but he never slowed down.  I think he might still be running.

After about a mile I was feeling pretty good, and was moving along in 5th place.  After mile 2 I was in 3rd place, but really only running with one other runner since turbo-boy was so far ahead we couldn’t even see him.  The guy in second was actually the husband of a woman my wife works with, who just randomly happened to be at the same race.  This guy has done multiple Ironmans, marathons, a 50-mile Ultra, and just did his first 100-mile Ultra a couple months ago.  Super nice, super down-to-Earth guy, but when I saw him at the start I figured he was going to eat everyone alive.  On a hill around mile 2 I caught up to him and passed him, and still felt pretty good.  The whole course was surprisingly hilly.  For some reason I assumed it would be much flatter.

The last 1.1 miles I tried to push the pace and hoped I wouldn’t flame out.  By the time I crossed the line the kid that won had already changed his clothes, eaten his dinner, and was doing his homework, but I still felt good and completely surprised that I held the pace I did.  I was so surprised that it took at least a minute before my brain turned from pudding back into a functioning organ and I realized that I hadn’t stopped my watch at the finish.  Thus my finish time was …  ?????.  No idea.  Nothing posted online yet, and I also didn’t think to ask anyone after taking full advantage of the free post-race beers.  All I have are the splits for miles 1-3:

Now the focus shifts back to my first 50k in less than 2 weeks.  At this point I just hope that I stay healthy for the next 12 days, that the weather cooperates, and that the high tide on race day doesn’t force us to run in the water too much.  I’d like to have some skin left on my feet by the time I reach the finish.  More importantly, I’m planning all the assorted food I’ll be eating after the race that I haven’t had in the three months since I decided to lose some weight before the race.  Mmmmm … pizza.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Running First - Racing a 5K

Looks like tonight will mark another first in my progression as a runner … racing a 5k.  I got an email a couple days back from one of my relay teammates with a link to a charity race tonight for Juvenile Diabetes, and since there amazingly aren't any conflicts with one of my kids’ activities, I’m going to give it a go.  The fact that the race entry fee includes two beers and dinner after the race may have had something to do with the decision … but I’ll go the altruistic route and say it’s all about the charity.
Technically this will be the second 5k that I have ‘run’, but the first was a very different experience.  Last year my son decided he wanted to try a 5k, so we signed up for one and ran it together.  We actually mostly walked it together, but it was a lot of fun, and the fact that it was his idea was awesome.  We finished next-to-last, and next-to-next-to-last, and I’ve never been happier with a result.

Since the run with my son was chip-timed, technically my 5k PR is 52:51, which I’m fairly confident means I’ll get a new PR tonight.  I really have no idea what kind of strategy or pace to use for a 5k.  I’m pretty sure I can hang somewhere around a 7:00 mile for 3.1 miles, so I figure I’ll just go out and try to settle into a 7:00 pace and see how I feel.  Bottom line it’s for a good cause, and no matter how much I might flail during the race they’re still going to feed me, so it should be a good time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Palmetto 200 Race Recap - Powered by Mimosas

The sweet smell of a job well done.  In the world of running relays, apparently it smells like Twizzlers and feet.

If you’re considering signing up for one of these relays, ponder no longer.  Sign up and don’t look back.  These things are way too much fun.

We met up in a sleepy fog in the hotel lobby in Columbia, SC at 5:30AM on Friday, piled into our still reasonably smelling vans, and headed for the starting line.  At 6:30AM the Mimosa Running Club’s first runner crossed the starting line in the second wave of runners, and we were off.  30 hours, 25 minutes, and 50 seconds later we crossed the finish line together in Charleston, and moved on to the eating and drinking portions of the race, where we fully lived up to our team name.  In between, we had a ball.

We came home with as many runners as we left with, and nobody suffered any injuries, so that’s a victory in my book.  Here’s a quick recap of my 3 legs of the run:

Leg 6 of 36, 8.01 miles, 11:10AM start

This one was toasty warm.  Not in an absolute sense, with the temperature only around 70 degrees, but in a relative sense to my typical training-run temperature over the last few months of somewhere around 35 degrees.  This was entirely on paved roads, and featured one moderate hill, and one big, ugly, angry hill.  Our team’s official uniform was either a tutu or a kilt, and since I didn’t have a kilt, I told my daughter I’d borrow a tutu.  Never let it be said I don’t live up to my word:

The teams were still fairly bunched up during this run, and although I didn’t plan to go out running very fast, I couldn’t resist trying to catch and pass a few people.  Managed to get by 3 people along the way, and really enjoyed running through rural South Carolina.  I was the last of the 6 runners in our van, so once I finished and we snapped a few photos, we headed off to the starting point of leg 13 and took a nice collective nap in the sun.

Leg 18, 9.68 miles, 8:39PM start

By the start of this leg we were about 2 hours ahead of schedule, so my expected midnight-run was a little earlier than planned.  It wasn’t any less dark, however, and definitely not any less remote.  I started out at a decent pace, and noticed a light coming up behind me – the only light anywhere around.  The runner came up to about 20 feet behind me, then just hung there for about a quarter mile.  I turned around to see who was behind me, but with their headlamp I couldn’t really tell who it was.  I asked if they wanted to team up, and got an enthusiastic ‘YES!’.  At that point my new friend Megan fell in beside me for a long run in the dark.

I could tell she was really pushing to keep our current pace, so I told her to pick a comfortable pace and I’d stick with her.  She thanked me for staying with her, and apologized for slowing me down, and I simply said there was absolutely no reason to apologize, I had nowhere I needed to be, and my only goals for the whole race were to make friends and have fun, and at that moment I was doing both.  She was pretty spooked by the environment, and I didn’t blame her.  It was very dark, and every farmhouse we ran by featured one or more barking dog that we could only hear, and could only hope was on a leash or behind a fence.  Over the next 9 miles we shared running and life stories, and the time passed amazingly fast.  Turns out she had gotten her masters in biochemical engineering two years ago, so I was feeling pretty intellectually inferior for most of the run.  Once we finished we shared a high-five and a hug, and I grabbed a late-night sandwich with my team before piling back in the van for another quick sleep break before our final legs of the race.

Leg 30, 3.66 miles, 7:36AM start

My legs were feeling really, really tight for this one, so I set out very slowly.  Turns out the slow running wasn’t the answer, so I picked up the pace, and the faster running made my legs feel much, much better.  This run took me through a country-club neighborhood for about 1.5 miles.  Beautiful setting for a run, but there was one small issue.  At the start they said if you didn’t see a race sign at least every mile, you’ve gone off course.  Apparently the country club wouldn’t let them put up any signs, so once I passed a mile without a sign I figured I had gotten lost.  There were no other runners to be seen, and no support vehicles since the entrance to the neighborhood was blocked by construction at the end where I entered, I got more and more convinced I was lost, but I plowed ahead for lack of a better option.  Finally, when I came out of the neighborhood I was met with a sea of signs.  Apparently they realized everyone on this leg would think they were lost, and tried to make up for it with quantity.  The rest of the run was uneventful, and when I tagged the next runner my race was done.

The finish-line and after party were outstanding.  Loads of free beer, awesome Mexican-food buffet, and our own plentiful supply of our namesake Mimosas, combined with far too much sleep and far too many miles made for a great time.

I have to admit that the subsequent shower and nap gave the party a run for its money in terms of general enjoyment.  Sunday morning we hit the restaurant ‘Toast’ for a crazy-good breakfast, complete with ….. bottomless Mimosas, of course.

The whole weekend was a great experience, and before we even left Charleston folks were already talking about next year’s run.  The event was extremely well run, the teams we met couldn’t have been nicer, and the weather was a little warm for a race, but perfect for just about any other activity.

Another first in my running adventures, and a great new group of friends that get my crazy love affair with running.  The wonderful and mysterious odors a group of unwashed, sweaty folks can create in the confines of a rolling support vehicle are just the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another First (for me) - Palmetto 200 Relay

Friday morning at 6:30AM 12 hearty souls, including myself, begin our 200-ish mile journey from Columbia to Charleston across the great state of South Carolina.  The event is the Palmetto 200, and this marks my first attempt at a running relay.  Slightly more challenging than the relay is figuring out when I’m going to pack for this thing.  After many, many years of traveling for work, there’s little I dislike more than packing for a trip.  At least I’m looking forward to this one.

It should be interesting, fun, and highly comical.  I’ve got three legs of the run, 8-ish miles around noon on Friday, 9.5-ish miles around midnight Friday, and another 3.5-ish miles Saturday morning before we wrap up sometime between noon and 3PM in Charleston.  I only know 1 of the other 11 runners, so it’s a great chance to meet some new runners and make some new friends.  If they can handle the smell of me after 36 hours of running and hanging out in vans together, then they’re alright with me.
I’m taking tomorrow as a training rest day to get a little sleep in the morning before this adventure, so this morning was my last run prior to the relay.  It wasn’t pretty.  My legs just didn’t have any spring.  I had “lifeless legs, black legs … like a doll’s legs.”  Hopefully there are a few of you who get that reference.  I’m guessing I just need more sleep in general.

In other unrelated news, one of my all-time favorite ad campaigns is/was the Nike campaign with the tagline “There Is No Finish Line”.  I’d love to have one of the old Nike posters with that slogan, but they’re apparently pretty prized possessions, and based on some prior eBay snooping, pretty pricey.  I like that tagline so much I put it on my RoadID.  Knowing this, a friend of mine sent me the following a couple days ago.  Good stuff:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Marching Past March ... Towards Tutus?

March.  In like a lion and out like a lamb?  This year it seemed to come in like a lamb and out like a fuzzy bunny.  Fair amount of rain, but a heaping helping of warm, which meant lots of training goodness.  No lions to be found.
I stuck very close with my marathon-training plan as far as running goes, and I mixed in a good dose of cross-training, although I fell a bit short on my swimming plans.  According to my nerdtacular spreadsheet, here are the cold, hard facts:

Running:  19 runs, 156.91 miles
Biking:  6 rides, 98.86 miles
Swimming:  2 swims, 2250 meters
Lifting:  8 trips to the gym

I am still surprisingly largely injury free.  I have my usual aches and pains, but nothing my good friend Advil can’t handle.  Since early February I’ve also managed to lose just over 10 pounds, which my legs thank me for on a daily basis.  Amazing how much less of a pounding it has put on my feet and knees.

Next up for my running adventures – my first relay.  A week from today 12 of us will be running the Palmetto 200 across much of South Carolina.  I’ve never done one of these before, but based on the emails being traded it should be good for a lot of laughs.  I only know 1 of the other 11 runners, which is a little out of my comfort zone (I tend to stick to people and things that I know), but that’s a big part of why I signed up.  If my experience with running-bloggers is any indication, I already know I’ll like this group before I even see them.

I’ll be doing three of the relay legs, totaling around 22 miles, which fits in well with my training plan.  I also get the midnight shift, which should be pretty cool.  Apparently the uniform of choice involves either a kilt or a tutu, and since I’ve already exceeded my budget for this trip I can’t afford to buy a kilt, it looks like some of the ladies on the team will be making a tutu for me.  Oh the humanity.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Uh Oh

Signing up for a 50k run almost entirely on the beach.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’m still trying to effectively process what I ‘learned’ this weekend with my trial runs on the Outer Banks.  I had concerns going in regarding wearing regular road shoes for the run, but my Gel Nimbus seemed like they did ok.  I was wondering about relative effort running on sand versus roads, and it’s definitely more work on the sand, but not exponentially more.  Overall I feel good about my fitness level, and feel like my training is right on track for the next 5 weeks.  However, the beaches of the Outer Banks are a questionable location for a beach marathon.

The OBX beaches are very, very narrow.  There’s a reason the houses and roads are claimed by nature every time a hurricane rolls through.  The Outer Banks also take a beating when big storms roll in, which is why the Weather Channel loves sending their folks there to stand in ponchos and get the crap kicked out of them by the storms.  As a result, the beaches are not only narrow, they are also heavily angled towards the sea.  It’s also typically very windy in the Nags Head area.  The Wright Brothers didn’t pick this place to do some flying because of calm skies.

My trial runs consisted of an 11.5 mile run on Saturday morning, and a 12.5 mile run on Sunday morning starting where I finished on Saturday.  Aside from the first half-mile on Saturday, all the running was on the beach.
Saturday morning was fairly warm, and the first 4 miles were on a rare stretch of beach that was fairly wide, so I could run close to the water on nicely packed sand.  It didn’t really feel much different than a normal run on asphalt, and I was holding about an 8:30 pace.  Around mile 4 it started raining, and also around that time the beach got more narrow, and packed sand was hard to find.  Unfortunately, packed sand remained hard to find for the rest of the run.  My pace slowed to around 9:30, and I was weaving like I was drunk trying to find someplace where I could get a good foothold.  No such thing.  Net result, 11.51 miles at 8:59 pace.
I felt good at the end, and felt good about my gear, but was concerned about the overly soft sand and narrow beaches.  I spent several sections basically running in the ocean because moving any further up the beach would have put me in the dunes with sand up to my knees.  The downside of having spent so much time in the Outer Banks is that I knew the stretch of beach I would be running on Sunday, and knew it had the potential to be much worse.  At least the weather forecast was for sunshine and cooler temperatures.

Never trust the weather forecast.
Woke up Sunday morning to 20-25 mile per hour winds from the North/Northeast, temperatures in the low 40s, and menacing grey skies.  Sundays run was much harder than Saturday.  My legs felt good, no soreness and decent spring in my step, but the conditions were tough.  Very narrow beaches and very soft sand meant lots of time with wet feet and wobbly footing.  Thankfully the wind was mostly at my back, and because of the rain on Saturday it wasn’t blowing sand and sandblasting me.  The storm had created a shelf in the sand, which left the option of running below the shelf in somewhat packed sand and getting caught regularly by waves, or running above the shelf in sand that proved to be way too loose.  It never did rain, so I was able to keep my Garmin on my wrist and listen to music, but the footing was tough.  I don’t think the shoes would have mattered.  It got bad enough at one point that I was 2min/mile slower than I was on Saturday, without trying to be slower.  Net result, 12.48 miles at 9:28 pace.
I felt tired at the end, and could really tell I had been running on heavily sloped terrain.  I’ll call it a tie, but had we gone to the scorecards I think the beach might have gotten the win.

I’m now picturing stitching these two runs together on a single morning, and adding another 7 miles, and thinking this is going to be a long day.  I had convinced myself that maybe the tide had been close to high both days, and that was why the beach seemed so narrow and the water seemed so high.  When I got home I looked up the tide tables and found out that not only was the tide not high, it was actually an outgoing tide and was completely low around the time I finished.  On race day the tide will be high at 7AM … the race starts at 5AM … uh oh.  Also, race day has the highest tidal coefficient of the month, which, according to the website, means "we will have big tides and the currents will also be very evident".  Good times …. good times.

Bottom line this is going to be a serious adventure.  I’m still very excited about it, and all 35 of us will be in the same boat …. or might possibly be better off actually being in a boat.

The harder the race, the better the beer tastes at the end.