Monday, March 29, 2010

RR Yakima Marathon

Race Report
Sat, Mar 27/10
Yakima River Canyon Marathon
Yakima, WA
Marathon # 328
3:47:45 – 1 AG

I didn’t expect to write this report for another week or more but have access to a computer so might as well write it up while it is still fresh in my memory. After turning 66 last week I can’t be sure how long the old mind can retain memories any more. Heck I can’t even remember where I leave my keys most of the time?

As I mentioned in my last report I was trying to ‘key’ on this race since the course was reported to be a fast downhill course. I ran into a wee glitch the week before the race when Morton’s Neuroma flared up again in my left foot. Luckily a few days rest and another few days of cross training provided enough ‘rest’ time for the pain to subside and we left Florida on my birthday.
We arrived in Seattle late Thu night and stayed with our son Chris and he drove us across the Cascade Mtns on Fri to Yakima, WA. An ‘old’ (dating back to our early careers in Canada) friend living in Selah, WA- Mike Howell and his partner Beverley- invited us to stay with them.

As we approached Yakima we exited I 90 and drove the actual marathon course on Hwy 821 between Ellensburg and Selah, WA. The course follows the Yakima River through the Yakima Canyon and is very scenic with the river always on the right side and majestic hills and cliffs on both sides of the narrow road. The course is point-to-point and drops 300 ft from start to finish. However there was a slight catch – one small hill in the first Half and four hills in the 2nd Half – and two of them qualified as BAH (Bad Ass Hill)! When we climbed (drove) the 1st BAH at mile 14 I knew it would be tough – but the 2nd and BAH at mile 22 was a bitch! But at least I knew what to expect.

We arrived at Mike’s, unpacked and headed straight to the Civic Center in Selah to pick up my race packet and attend a reunion of the 100 Marathon Club, NA. Bob and Lenore Dolphin organized and manage the North American chapter of the 100 Marathon Club. They are also the race directors of the Yakima Marathon. All the volunteer work (plus Bob still runs marathons) must keep them in good shape because they are both in their young 80s? Bob & Lenore have been inviting me to run their race for years but there always seemed to be an international race to conflict with their date. Last year I committed to run their race and even bought airline tickets – but you know what happened – I suffered that strange/mystery injury and had to cancel. But I had finally made it to Yakima!

I met several old friends and members of the 100 Marathon Club that I hadn’t seen in years and even Mike enjoyed the war stories. The members introduced themselves and gave a short biography of their accomplishments and at the end one member tallied that the 40 members present had run a total of 8800 Marathons and Ultras! Yep – it was a room full of fanatics and nuts! But we all understood each other’s obsession/addiction!
I skipped a pasta dinner organized by the Club for dinner with our hosts so we could reminisce about the good old days and brag about our grand kids. On Sat morning my son and regular Sports Manager slept in while Mike drove me to the start line and cheered me at the start. The weather was great – a chilly 35 F at 8 am, low humidity and a light breeze. It was sunny but the course was blocked from the sun for the first few hours so I wore a throw-away T-shirt until the sun broke over the mountains around 10 am.

I planned to go out at an 8:15 pace and hold that pace as long as possible to see if I could break 3:45 – maybe even 3:40? The first 4 miles were flat or a slight downhill so I passed mile 1 in 7:58 and then slowed the pace down to 8:10s. The only uphill in the first Half at mile 5 slowed my split down to 8:26 but then I was back down to 8:15s. I passed mile 10 in 1:22:50 and reached the Half in 1:49:10. I was on pace to break 3:40 but knew that the 2nd half would not be that fast because of the hills and especially the BAHs! The first BAH climbed about 150 ft from mile 14 to mile 15 and slowed my split down to 9:49. That shocked me and I tried to make up some of that time over the next few miles and in hindsight that probably cost me my sub 3:45 target! After another (up)hill at mile 17 my splits slowed to 8:40s until I started to climb the BAH – or Dam Hill as it is called - at mile 22. That Dam Hill climbs 300 ft over 1 1/3 miles! I figured the best/smartest strategy was to climb it smoothly and methodically rather than charge up it. I wanted to have energy left over at the top since the final 5K dropped 300 ft to the finish line! Unfortunately that methodical climb resulted in an excruciatingly slow 10:57 split and that really cost me my sub 3:45 goal!

I tried to lower the hammer and make up for that loss of time on the final downhill and the final mile was my fastest split (7:56) of the race but not good enough to break 3:45. I sprinted across the finish line in 3:47:45. I was disappointed in my time but not my effort. I left absolutely nothing on that course! I might have run a wee bit smarter but I had given it everything I had on that day! Thankfully my time was at least good enough to win 1st place in my Age Group so I will have to live with that!

After the race our hosts gave us a tour of the Yakima area including a visit to a brew pub and a winery for tasting. The Yakima Valley is an agricultural region with fruit, hops and vineyards. Add a great dinner with lots of wine and my legs weren’t feeling any pain when I went to bed? On Sun morning Chris drove back to Seattle by himself while we waited for our other son Jason and our precious granddaughter Priya to pick us up. Mike and I attended a breakfast with runners and members of the 100 Marathon Club so I could say my farewells and a special thanks to Bob and Lenore. It is a great race and a great event. I recommend the race to all runners!

Later that morning Jason and Priya picked us up to continue our journey to Hermiston, OR. Jason is working a remote (one-week) shift in Hermiston for his Radiology Partners. Since his wife Ami is pregnant again (our 2nd grandchild) and working all week in Portland we agreed to join Jason for the week to babysit our precious granddaughter while he works. What a blast!

The Radiology Partners rent a beautiful house situated on a cliff overlooking the Columbia River with views for miles! There is a great dirt trail below the cliffs and along the river. Priya and I enjoyed a pleasant 8-mile run along the Columbia River on our first day and we will explore that trail in every direction before we leave. She loves to run with her Pappy! Life doesn’t get much better!

At the end of the week we return to Portland with Jason and Priya to visit Ami and then head back to Seattle by train to spend a few more days with Chris before returning home.

These long easy runs with Priya should be good for my new race/running strategy and my next race in 3 weeks. Remember – I am going to run for fun – just like the fun I am having on the morning runs with my precious Priya!

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 15, 2010

RR - Live Oak, FL

Race Report
Sun, Mar 14/10
Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Marathon
Live Oak, FL
Marathon #327
3:47:15 – 2nd OA

I didn’t have a race planned for mid- March since my hometown marathon got cancelled. I was actually planning to key on the Sarasota Marathon to regain my AG title but that plan vanished with the cancellation. I boycotted the Half-marathon because of the exorbitant fee ($75) and looked for another race. I found a small inaugural marathon being run in Live Oak, FL to support the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch. We had driven by Live Oak many times but had never explored the area so we decided to make a weekend trip and run the new race.

It was a longer-than-expected 4-hr drive north to Live Oak. We explored the small town (6500 residents) and then found the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch – a ranch for troubled and neglected boys. It is a large ranch located on the Suwannee River in the boonies of North Florida – only 15 miles from the Georgia State Line. I had been informed that there would be a small turnout for the race but I was surprised that only 25 runners had registered for the races – only 8 runners in the marathon! I had a quick look at the course – a 6.55 mile loop on paved roads through and around the Ranch. There were at least 8 short hills – ‘gentle’ rolling hills in the loop –but we had to run 4 loops so you can do the math for total number of hills in the marathon! None qualified as BAH (Bad Ass Hill) but on the fourth and final loop those ’gentle’ hills didn’t feel so gentle anymore?

The race start had been moved to 7:30 am because of Daylight Savings Time and there were no street lights on the Ranch. The race started at an arena/corral in a field so we had to run a wee bit of cross country on each loop – and be careful where we stepped!

Pasta dinner was a disappointment as was the town of Live Oak. The only Italian restaurant in town was a Pizza Hut? And there wasn’t much entertainment either so we got lots of sleep before the race.
It was a chilly 43 F at 7 am as I drove back to the ranch in the dark. However the sun rose just before the start and the temps warmed up to a pleasant 60F by the end of the race. The humidity was low with a light breeze – i.e. perfect weather for running!

As mentioned the course was a 6.55 mile loop that was actually a trio of loops. This configuration made the race more exciting and challenging because you saw the small number of runners/competitors more often and could gauge your position in the race. I started out with a lead group of 5 runners and by the time we completed the 1st loop I figured the pecking order/positions for the race had been established.
A male runner in his 40s took the lead from the start – followed by another male runner in his 50s- followed by a young male runner in his 20s – then Maddog followed by a female runner in her 30s. At the end of the 1st loop (56:21 split for me) those 5 runners were all within 1/2 mile of each other with the rest of the runners spread along the course. By mile 9 or half-way through the 2nd loop I had determined that the very young male runner about 200 ft in front of me was the leader in the Half and I was not concerned about him. I mistakenly assumed that the female runner about 200ft behind me was also in the Half but I kept wondering why she wasn’t pushing harder to catch the male leader and win the Half? I could have easily pushed harder and passed the young male leader to win the Half?
When I completed the 2nd loop and the Half in 1:52:26 our positions had not changed. By then the leader had a 1-mile lead on me and the 2nd place male had increased his lead to ½ mile and I was pretty sure that would be the finish order unless one of those runners crashed – or broke a leg? Nevertheless I decided to continue to push the pace though the 3rd loop to run at least a fast 20-mile tempo run and then hang on as necessary for the 4th loop?

However as I climbed a series of rolling hills near 16 miles I was surprised to see that the 2nd place male had started to fade and I had closed the lead to about ¼ mile. I was even more shocked when I made a turn- around at 16 M in 2:17:27 to find the young female runner still riding my ass and only about 800 ft behind me? Obviously she was running the marathon. I was shocked – Maddog was scared shitless!
Maddog now had a double dose of motivation:
1) He could smell blood and a 2nd place Overall if he could pass the male runner who was fading
2) There was a female chasing his ass and about to pass him.
Now most of my readers know that Maddog is an old relic – a male, chauvinistic pig! In the good old days he would never- ever- let a female runner pass him or beat him. In the good old days he could do something to prevent that. However in the past few years he has had to eat a lot of humble pie and accept the fact that good old days are gone as he watches pretty young ladies pass his ass often and he cannot respond. Oh SHIT! I knew what was coming and I knew I could not stop it!

Maddog took over the race. He was determined – No – OBSESSED – that Hell would freeze over and he would run my tired OLD ass six feet into the ground before he would let that female pass him! There was no point arguing with him – I decided it was best to just relax and go along for the ride. Maddog lowered the hammer and dropped the pace to 8:30s. We caught and passed the 2nd place male near Mile 19. He asked me how old I was – he was 57! I made another turn and noted that I had increased my lead on the female runner. I completed the 3rd loop and reached Mile 20 in 2:52:16. I had hoped to ease back on the pace at Mile 20 and cruise the final loop but that was no longer an option since I was no longer in control of the race! Maddog kept pushing the pace. When I climbed the series of short hills and made the turn near 22 miles I noted that the female runner had also passed the 2nd place male – and had closed the gap down to about 500 ft! Damn that woman! Was she trying to kill me?

For I knew what was going to happen! Maddog was possessed and dug deeper and demanded that my old bod find some energy reserves to push the pace harder. I just kept my mouth shut and tried to shut down my brain so it could block/ignore the pain and agony that was sure to follow! When I made the final turn-around and passed mile 25 in 3:36:32 I was happy to see that my lead over the woman had increased again to about 1000 ft. I figured that lead should be safe because it would be very difficult to make up that distance in the final mile. But not Maddog! He wasn’t willing to risk a dramatic/heroic last-minute challenge and have that woman pass his ass in the last mile so he dug even deeper and screamed at my old bod to give one more jolt of adrenaline and somehow/somewhere found a small reserve of energy to push the pace even harder! Only when I made a final turn near 26 miles and stole a peek over my shoulder to discover that she had not closed the lead did Maddog ease back a little and let me cruise across the finish line in 3:47:15 – and 2nd place Overall. The young lady (38 years old) finished 90 secs behind me. I congratulated her on a great race and thanked her for riding my ass for 26 miles and making me push the pace. I also talked to the winner who strangely/coincidentally happened to be a Canuck from London, Ont?

I was very happy with both my time and performance on that hilly course. It should be great training for my next race in Washington State in 2 weeks. The Yakima Marathon is a fast downhill course with rolling hills and a couple of BAHs so hopefully this was a good training marathon?
And Yakima will be the last marathon I key on this season. Yes – you read that right and I ask all my readers to remind me of that statement/pledge. Thanks to smarter training I have remained injury-free since recovering from those mystery back injuries and I have no intention of going down that path again. Thus I need to ease back on my training and racing after Yakima. I am finally going to follow the wise advice of my good friend and mentor Wally Herman and ‘run for fun’ during the summer race season.
Wally will be very happy to hear this news!

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 01, 2010

RR Tampa

Race Report
Sun, Feb 28/10
Gasparilla Marathon
Tampa, FL
Marathon # 326
3:48:53 – 1 AG

Several months ago I selected the Gasparilla Marathon as a race to run for two reasons:
1) It was billed as the ‘final voyage’ of the Gasparilla Distance Classic Races because the marathon is being discontinued after this year.
2) I wanted to ‘key’ on this race for a fast time because the course is fast and flat and times can be good if the weather cooperates.
However reason #2 started to fall apart when fate and circumstances didn’t seem to fall in my favor? First there were the disappointing races in Jan followed by the week of ‘Gluttony & Sloth’ on the cruise followed by a week of illness (cold and congestion). After the Bahamas Marathon I was only able to complete a few LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs before I suffered another setback with a minor stomach virus. Thus I did not have much confidence or motivation going into this ‘key’ race!

A number of friends and fellow runners from our local Club planned to run the race also and on Fri I accompanied a few lovely young ladies to Tampa to pick up our race packets and buy a few items of gear at the race expo. We all agreed that we preferred to stay at home and drive into Tampa early on race day so we met at 4am on Sun morning and I drove three lovely ladies into Tampa. When we arrived at the Tampa Convention Centre near the race start at 5 am the weather was perfect for racing - a temp of 45 F, dry and a light breeze. During the race the weather became sunny and the temps never rose above the mid 50s!

My good friend Linda and I had decided to run together. I had researched the winning time for my AG last year (3:50) but did not have any confidence that I could run a sub 3:50 race to be competitive? Thus I volunteered to pace Linda to a sub 4-hr finish so she could qualify for Boston. However she declined stating that she didn’t want to put any stress/pressure on herself because it messed with her mind. Instead we decided to go out at an 8:45 pace, do a gut check at 5 miles to see if we could hold that pace and just let the chips fall? However we made a slight tactical error by waiting too long in the Convention Centre to avoid the ‘brisk’, cool temps outside and when we finally tried to get to the start line we had to fight/elbow our way through 20,000+ runners (in the Marathon & Half). We ended up about 500 ft from the start line and it took three minutes to reach the start line after the race started. Then we were completely boxed in and that cost us a 10:12 split for the 1st mile! Fortunately the course opened up at that point and mile #2 was an 8:38 split. Linda then lowered the hammer and dropped the pace to sub 8:30s and I was just tried to hang on? When she passed mile 5 in 44:35 and a split of 8:16 I shouted that she needed (read- I needed) to slow the pace down! Although my legs felt good/fresh I knew I couldn’t hold an 8:15 pace for another 21 miles so I decided to slow my pace down to 8:30s and just try to keep Linda in sight. I managed to keep her in sight through 10 miles (1:27:29 and a split of 8:23). At that point the course looped back and she had about a 500-ft lead on me. I shouted to her that “she was doing great and to run her own pace and not to worry about me”. I kept her in sight until the marathon course rejoined the half course (11M in the Marathon and 8M in the Half) where the course became a mass of humanity – many Half participants walking and marathoners trying to pass them. I lost sight of Linda and never saw her again?

I passed the Half in 1:53:51 and a split of 8:41. I did another gut check and my legs still felt amazingly fresh so I decided to push the pace down to sub 8:30s to see if I could get sight of Linda again? I expected to suffer my usual energy ‘lull’ or low around 16 miles but it didn’t happen so I continued to push the pace. Still no Linda? Around 18 miles the course has a 2-mile loop around a residential area and a park before it loops back on Bayshore Blvd along Tampa Bay to finish in downtown Tampa. I was hoping I wouldn’t meet her on the return leg because that would mean she had a 2-mile lead on me? Nope - no Linda! I passed mile 20 in 2:54:04 and a split of 8:51. My final gut check- the legs still felt good! I calculated that if I could hold a sub 9-min pace for the final 10K I could finish under 3:50! I decided to push the pace and go for it! I managed to lower the next mile split to 8:42 but then the course emerged from the residential area at mile 21 and dumped onto Bayshore Blvd. I knew what to expect at that point and I was not surprised! The final 5 miles on Bayshore are along Tampa Bay and there is no shelter from a wind that always seems to be there and blowing from the North – which means it is a headwind!

Fortunately I still felt strong and was cruising – unfortunately I was passing many runners and there was nobody to hide behind and draft. I started to whine and moan and feel sorry for myself until Maddog handed me a dose of reality. He reminded me that EVERY runner had to face the same course – the same wind – the same obstacles – and to get over it – suck it up and push on to the finish line. He was right of course (it is nice to have a Maddog riding along to provide support when needed) so I lowered my head, tucked in my shoulders and arms to reduce wind resistance – sucked it up, dug deeper and increased my effort to maintain a sub 9-min pace into that friggin headwind! As I approached mile 24 in 3:29:31 and a split of 8:56 I thought I saw Linda up ahead – about 500ft in front of me? I dug deeper, pushed harder and caught the female runner at mile 25 – but alas it was not Linda! However I decided to hold the faster pace until I crossed the finish line in 3:48:53.

Still no Linda? I figured she had either whupped my ass or had stopped for a potty break and I had missed her? About 30 minutes later the group finally met up again at our designated spot and I learned that Linda had indeed whupped my ass – by 1 minute! She finished in 3:47:39 – a PR and a BQ time – a fantastic performance and time! We decided to wander over to the awards ceremony to check the results and our standings. I thought that Linda must surely have won or placed in her AG? I wasn’t so sure about my time because I figured that some of the ‘top dogs’ in my AG would have shown up since it was the ‘final voyage’? Surprisingly it was the opposite? Linda’s great performance and time was only good enough for 5th place but my time won 1st place (21 runners) in my AG!

Needless to say I was pleased with both my performance and time! Both were much better than I expected and I never experienced any problems during the entire race. I have regained confidence in my conditioning and once again have the motivation needed to continue training hard to key on one final race for the Spring season – in late March in Washington State.

Stay tuned!