Saturday, June 24, 2006

RR - Slacker Half

Race Report
Slacker Half Marathon
Loveland Ski Resort, CO
(elev: 10, 630 ft)
1:41:55 - 2AG

Maddog is Back!!!!!

After the total exhaustion and collapse I suffered in my last two races I wasn’t sure or confident if I would ever race again? I did not know if the collapse was due to:
a) A strange virus/bug that attacked and kicked my butt for about one week
b) Over training because of Maddog’s ‘Suicidal High Altitude Training Program’
c) All of the above

However by the Tue following the unfortunate DNF at the Estes Park Marathon I started to feel much better. When I started a normal 10-mile training run along Lake Dillon I felt so good/strong that I decided to try some mile intervals – managed to run four 1-mile intervals at 9,100 ft @ sub 8-min pace! And felt good even at the end!

Maddog was ready to declare me healthy and fit to race again! But I wasn’t so sure and on Wed morning I ran a hard/fast 10-mile run on my favorite hill loop on Red Mtn – a 500 vertical ft climb over two miles! I felt amazingly strong during the run so I decided that I was ready for a tougher test on Sat. I would run (note I was careful not to use the word ‘race’) the Slacker Half Marathon since Maddog had already registered me for the race as part of his program.

Thus on Sat morning I found myself lined up on the start line at the Loveland Ski Resort at 8am with 800 runners. The weather was great – sunny and a temp of 49F. The race starts at 10, 630 ft (two miles above Sea Level) and climbs for the first ½ mile. The course then drops 2100 vertical ft over 11 miles of rolling hills to finish in Georgetown at 8,500 ft. My plan/strategy was to run smart – start slow and easy and if I felt OK I would pick up the pace. Thus I was a wee bit surprised/shocked when I passed the 1st mile in 8:01 sucking desperately for air. Still sucking for air at mile 2 in 15:37. By mile 3, I had settled into a smooth and easy 7:30 pace although my lungs were having difficulty keeping up with my legs.

The course emerged from a dirt/gravel road and trail in a National Forest around mile 5 and dumped onto a paved service road along I 70. I hit a ‘lull’ on mile 6 as it climbed gradually for about 1/2 mile. At first I thought, “Oh NO – it is happening again” as I began to feel very tired and an old fart passed me and I couldn’t respond! But when I crested the hill at mile 6 I seemed to recover and picked up the pace again on the downhill. I didn’t think the old fart was in my age group so I decided to just keep him in sight. I passed mile 10 in 1:17:45 and began a very steep downhill on a paved bike path. This is the steepest part of the course – drops about 600 ft over 2 miles! I stretched out my stride and let gravity carry me down the mountain while trying to reserve some energy for the final mile that is flat with several short, steep hills!

I passed mile 12 in 1:32:22 – much faster than I had expected. I had closed on the old fart but we were both struggling to push our tired legs through the hills on the tough final mile.

Maddog wanted me to make a final push but I was afraid that I might crash if I pushed any harder. I struggled to follow the old fart across the finish line in 1:41:55.
As we walked through the finish chute I learned that he was only 56 years young! I was very glad that I had not tried to kill myself passing him!

My time of 1:41:55 was 2 seconds slower than last year and unfortunately only good enough to win 2nd place in the Senior Division! Damn – I failed to defend the Senior Title I had won the previous two years because there was another (60 year old fart) in front of me! I should be a wee bit disappointed because I am in much better shape this year than last year when I was still recovering from the knee surgery. But I am too happy/thankful to confirm that the main cause of the exhaustion/collapse does appear to have been a virus and not over training - or just Old Age! And more good news – the pain/problem with the right hip that plagued me on the 3 previous races is gone!

Thus I am confident that I can resume Maddog’s ‘Suicidal High Altitude Training Program’ including the next race he has scheduled – a very challenging and brand new/inaugural marathon in Summit County on July 9/06. The race starts at Copper Mtn @ 9600 ft - climbs to the top of Vail Pass at 11,100 ft. – then runs 15 miles through a National Forest @11,000 ft before returning to Copper Mtn. The average elevation of the course is more than 2 miles above Sea Level!
Anyone care to join me – still time to sign up?

Stay tuned for the race report!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

RR - Run The Rockies

Race Report
Run The Rockies
13.1 Miles
Frisco, CO
June 10/06
1:49:44 – 1AG


Those 4 words sum up the race! In hindsight I should have listened to a good friend who advised me to skip the race because of the problems I was suffering with my neck and legs! But NO – OH NO! Maddog would never skip a race he has signed up for unless he had a broken – or missing - leg!

So at 8:30 am on Sat morning I found myself on the starting line of “Run The Rockies’ Half Marathon at Copper Mtn (elev: 9600 ft). At least the weather was nice – sunny and a temp of 52 F. There were about 500 runners in a 10K and Half. The 10K is downhill and fast – the course drops 500 vertical ft to finish in Frisco, CO at 9100 ft. Everyone takes off too fast because the decline is gentle and it is possible to haul ass. The biggest problem is trying to suck up enough air/oxygen to keep the legs moving!

My plan was to run smart – a 7:30 pace for the 1st 10K and then slow down to an 8- min pace for the final 7 miles through rolling hills including 4 miles of very nasty BAHs (Bad Ass Hills). Plan didn’t last long! By mile 2 my lungs were burning and my right hip was killing me. By mile 4 my lungs were on fire and I was struggling to run an 8-min pace. I knew right then – that soon- that it was going to get very ugly and painful!

I managed to struggle past the 10K finish line in 47:39 but I was hurting! I wanted to quit and call it a day but knew there was no way to convince Maddog to quit a race once he had started so I pushed on. I crashed (hit the WALL) at mile 8 as I started into the BAHs. My legs were wasted and the right hip was really hurting! At that very moment an old fart passed me – and I didn’t care! There was just no energy left to sum up any willpower or desire to compete. I figured the only thing I could salvage out of this race was an opportunity to train the old bod to cope with the pain and fatigue. Somehow I managed to keep the wasted old legs moving – refused to walk – at a 9:30 pace through the BAHs. When I finally emerged on the return loop through the BAHs at mile 12 in 1:40:41 I was surprised to see the old fart was only ¼ mile ahead?

I was lucky – I had been granted a reprieve – an opportunity to redeem myself! I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself – to quit whining – to dig deep – to ignore the pain – to regain the willpower and desire to win - and to lower the hammer and pace back to sub 8-min! I caught the old fart around 12 ½ miles! I knew there wasn’t enough left in the wasted old legs to get into a pissing match so I wisely and quietly dropped in behind him and followed him until there was about two minutes left to the finish line. Then I made my final move! I blew past him and continued to sprint until I crossed the finish line in 1st place (AG) in a very slow and totally pathetic and unworthy time of 1:49:44! Sad News – the old fart I beat by 13 seconds turned out to be only 52 years young!

Nevertheless my time and performance was so pathetic and disgusting that I was embarrassed (once again) to go to the podium to collect the Gold Medal for 1st place in my age group. But I figured I earned it for perseverance and pain!

The only good thing to come out of that race was a clear – VERY CLEAR – realization that my legs are wasted and my old bod is tired from Maddog’s relentless and intensive ‘Suicidal High Altitude Training Camp’! I don’t give a SHIT what Maddog says – I am taking a few days off next week to let my wasted legs and tired old bod rest and relax to get ready for a challenging race next weekend. The Estes Park Marathon – ‘the highest paved marathon in the world’!

Stay tuned for (hopefully) a better race report!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

RR Steamboat Springs

Race Report
Steamboat Springs Marathon
Steamboat Springs, CO
Sun, Jun 4/06
3:38:06 - 38 OA - 2 AG

This marathon was the first of a tough racing schedule that Maddog had established for the month of June. I looked forward to running the race because it is rated in the ‘top ten’ scenic courses in the country and I had run it and won my age group the past two years.

I had two goals:
1) Win my age group for the third straight year and defend my senior title
2) Beat my course PR of 3:44:50 (2004)

However as race date approached a few circumstances beyond my control arose that could seriously impact my goals:
1) Weather – the forecast called for hot weather with highs in the mid 80s on race day
2) Health – a few days before the race I was suffering severe neck pain. I believe it was the same problem I experienced last summer when inflammation settled in my neck. Any movement of my head caused severe pain. Of course the pain got worse on Fri night which meant I could not visit my orthoped until Mon for the Steroid Pack needed to cure the problem. In desperation I started taking Ibuprofen in spite of the high risk and history of internal bleeding that it causes to my stomach. The drug enabled me to control the pain enough to get to the start line on Sun.

On Sat the sports manager and I drove over to Steamboat Springs – an old western mining town that has been converted to a ski and summer resort for economic survival. After picking up my race packet we did our usual stroll along Main St. and bought a few more Indian artifacts to decorate our house. After a traditional pasta dinner and a few more Ibuprofen I retired to bed for the early start on Sun. I had to take two more Ibuprofen on Sun morning (on an empty stomach) to get me to the start line – and I carried two more through the race in case I needed them. However once the race started and the endorphins kicked in I felt no more pain in my neck. Those endorphins are wonderful little buggers – and you wonder why I run??

The marathon course is point-to-point so we were bussed 26 miles northwest of Steamboat to the start line at historic Hahns Peak Village at the base of an extinct volcano. The race starts at 8128 ft – drops about 100 vertical ft over the first mile and then climbs to the highest point of the course –8178 ft. at mile 2. The course then drops 1400 vertical ft over the next 18 miles although there are several rolling hills. At mile 20 the course climbs about 300 vertical feet over three miles and three BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) before dropping back down to 6728 ft at the finish line in Steamboat.

There were two races and both reached their entry limits – 500 in the Marathon and 1000 in the Half. The race started at 7:30 am. It was sunny and a warm 56 F! Knowing it would get hot I dressed in shorts and singlet and for the first time started the race without my usual garbage bag for warmth! The past two years I had gone out too fast and ended up struggling (painfully) through the BAHs and the last 5 Km. I was determined to run ‘smarter’ this year! My strategy was to run 8:15s for the first 20 miles – try to run a 9- min pace through the BAHs and then back to 8:15s for the final 5 Km. That should get me across the finish line under 3:40. If I had a good day I might try to break the course record of 3:35?

I lined up on the start line with the BIG Dogs so I could check for old farts that might be in my age group. I let them pull me through the first downhill mile in 7:50. I knew that was too fast so I started to slow my pace down but still passed mile 5 in 40:02. There were at least two ‘old farts’ in front of me and two more passed me at mile 5? Decision time! I decided to slow down and not worry about the old farts in front of me. I was running an 8-min pace and nobody in my age group had ever finished this race at that pace because of the hills and the altitude. Since those old farts were running a sub 8-min pace they were either in the 50+ age group or I would see them later (hopefully)? By the time I reached mile 10 in 1:20:30 I had settled into a smooth and easy 8:15 pace.

I passed the Half in 1:46:00 – about two minutes faster than planned/desired but I still felt good. I knew that there would not be another 1:46 in the 2nd Half because of the BAHs and the temps were starting to soar but I still managed to hold an 8:15 pace through mile 20. As I passed mile 20 in 2:43:31 and started up the 1st BAH I spotted one of the old farts that had passed me at mile 5! I couldn’t tell if he was in my age group but I had to make the assumption that he was so I decided to chase him down. I thought it would be easy because he was walking up the BAH. But he was looking back over his shoulder (for me I later found out) and when he saw me closing on him he started running and surged ahead to increase the distance between us. That didn’t concern me initially because I figured that if he was already walking he would soon fade or crash? On the 2nd BAH the same scenario evolved. He started walking up the BAH and I closed within a few hundred yards before he looked back – and immediately took off like a scared rabbit? I couldn’t understand/believe how he could run so damn fast after walking? If I start walking in a race it usually means the race is over for me?

It was getting very hot – temps near 80 F and I was beginning to get frustrated because I was holding a 9-min pace through the BAHs and yet I was not catching this guy! I decided to make my move on the 3rd and baddest BAH at mile 23. As expected he started to walk and I pushed up that BAH and mile in 8:53 – but as soon as I closed within a few hundred feet he took off again! When I crested the BAH at mile 23 in 3:10:33 I made my move. I lowered the hammer and dropped my pace to sub 8-min over the next mile! But that son-of-a gun responded and increased his lead on me! I had used a lot of energy in that push/move and I realized by then that even if I continued to push and catch him he would undoubtedly respond and we would be in a serious (and painful) pissing match to the finish line! I decided to wait for the final mile because I knew there was a short hill around 25 ½ miles. I continued to close on him slowly and when he started to walk on that hill I made my move. Son-of –bitch! He saw me closing and accelerated again! With only ½ mile to go I figured the only way I could catch him would be to push my pace to the point of crashing and if he responded when I passed him (as expected) I would have nothing left to respond.
Instead I continued to push the pace as hard as I could (w/o crashing) and followed him across the finish line in 3:38:06. After we passed through the finish chute he collapsed on the lawn of the courthouse and I walked over to congratulate him on a good race and asked his age. Damn – 61 years old! Then I was even more upset when he reminded me that we had done the same duel (with the same results) last Feb in the Orlando Marathon!
He had recognized me when he passed me at 5 miles and was expecting me to chase him down by the end of the race! Shit! I had been so focused on my pace when he passed me that I did not look at him closely and failed to recognize him!

Thus for that painful duel through the BAHs and the last 10Km he knew whom he was competing with and I wasn’t even sure he was in my age group! If I had known it was he I would have changed my strategy over that last 10Km! But I have to tip my hat off to him and pay him respect. He is a good runner and he sure can ‘gut it out’ in a race when needed! I truly hope that we meet again at another race and I recognize him – Maddog will not let him beat me a third time!!!

After the sports manager took the obligatory finish line photo we returned to the hotel for a quick hot soak and shower and then went back to the finish area to check the results. I had finished in 2nd place in our age group so all those other old farts had been in the 50+ age group. I had finished 28 seconds behind the 61-year old runner (from NJ). I had also finished 38th Overall, which is the best finish I have had in this race. I had beat my previous PR by almost 7 minutes but that was not good enough for Maddog! He was very upset that I had lost 1st Place by a mere 28 seconds! I fear that there will be a lot of extra hill work added to my training program over the next few weeks to toughen and speed me up in the hills?

Now I have to start preparing for the next race/challenge – a tough/hilly Half Marathon next Sat. The Race – called ‘Run The Rockies’ starts at 9600 ft and finishes at 9100 ft in Frisco, CO.

Stay tuned for the next race report.