Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Recap - Flying Through the Year in Racing

It's already time to wrap up another year. Time to review the ole spreadsheet and see what to make of the last 12 months.

Overall I'd give the year a B. A few big highlights. Some minor disappointments. A lot of fun though. Can't complain. Still love this running lifestyle. Life is good.

Saturday I will go to Austin to spend the rest of the year with family. Luckily, the weather looks favorable, so I hope to get in some good runs while I'm there. Projecting out, I should finish the year with about 1,330 miles, which would be my second highest since 1980.

My only serious injury was in January, when I strained my calf six weeks before the LA marathon and lost most of 4 weeks. Since then I've been running pretty consistently all year until taking some voluntary cutbacks in November and December.
I finished 15 races this year, tied for my high. But I've done 14 or 15 races yearly for six of the last seven years, since I started this blogging thing.

The first was the Super Bowl 5K, where I was testing my injured calf, but ended up finishing strong and getting 2nd AG with 21:02. run4
That had me feeling better about the LA marathon the next week. But I was still expecting to drop out or bonk hard after a 5 week "taper". But Loop magic appeared in the form of  about 20 Loopsters who came to town to watch the Olympic trials and run the race. I had the BEST time hanging out with them, and then race day brought a miracle despite the heat, and I cruised to my best marathon in 4 years and bagged a BQ in 3:31:32. Highlight of the year!
After that I switched my focus to speed. My next 7 races over the next six months would be 5Ks. I went to track workouts regularly, added more tempos, and kept my longest runs under 12 miles. I had one goal; to get under 20:00. I was close, but it never quite came together. Still, I was mostly content to be close. (If you like race reports, they are all linked)

March - 20:45

April - 20:51

April - 21:32  Tiny race in Kentucky netted 3rd overall


May - 20:15 Getting closer!

June - 20:10  Maximum effort wasn't quite good enough.


July - 20:40  Course record at least!


August - 20:27  That's as good as I am.


So I set that goal aside (for now) and did some other stuff. A one mile on the track? Yes, please! I managed to tie my old man PR of 5:52 even with leaving some in the tank.


How about the local 10K for the 16th time? Always fun. 44:28 was no AGPR but I was happy with the effort.


Two weeks later I dropped in a ten miler at Surf City, since Loopster Gwen was in town, so why not? Again I couldn't quite get to my goal time, but had to be happy with the 7:24 average pace.


And in my usual over-racing style, added a half two weeks later in LA. Things really caught up to me here, and I bonked hard to a 1:43. But I got to hang out with three angels, so it was all good.


So I started a plan to cut back for the rest of the year. But I still had three more races already scheduled for the next four weeks! D'oh!

I used the excuse of pacing to rein in my speed at the Philly half. Good plan! I had a great time running with Gwen and looping it up with dozens of the Loop's finest at LoopPhest 2.


Then the Turkey Trot 5 days later turned out great and I managed an actual 3 mile PR of 20:01. Apparently I was still in fine shape, and that helped me end the year feeling positive.

But first I had one more race; a ten mile trail race in the Arizona desert, which was all about having fun and enjoying running (But still pushing yourself and winning your AG).

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So now I am rested after some low mileage weeks, and starting Boston training. Looking forward to another fifteen races next year, many meetups and lots of good times. Merry Christmas to all, and Happy New Year! Catch you in 2017!

After three days in the Desert Fun, I was looking at a river bed

Here you go.

It was time for my annual golf trip with my high school buddies. This year we went to Phoenix, eight of us renting a house in Scottsdale. We golfed Thursday and Friday on the lush green golf courses among the cacti.
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Then we went out to the real desert, with nothing green in sight, to do a trail race. There were plants and birds and rocks and things, there was sand and hills and rings. The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz and the sky with no clouds. The heat was hot and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound.

And it looked kind of like this.
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The event had races of five different distances, from 5 miles to 50 miles. I decided ten miles was enough for me. Just a fun weekend run on some rocky trails. About 100 people gathered together, and off we went into the desert.

My only goal was to have fun out there, push it a little bit, and beat the one friend who joined me in the ten mile. (The others ran the 5 mile). And I DID have fun! Trail running just IS fun! This trail was all single track, with enough room to pass, but just barely. There were TONS of rocks everywhere, so you had to watch every step. Plus it was constantly going up and down - like big moguls; Little five foot hills every 50 feet. Up. Down. Constant turns. Never a dull moment. Add in the challenge of racing - trying to keep up with the person ahead of you or hold off the footsteps you hear behind you - and it was a fully immersive experience! Like virtual reality, except it was actual reality.

In the first mile we all fell into place very quickly. Self-seeding worked this time. I started trailing a couple of ladies who were going at a good pace. We passed a couple guys in the first two miles. Then I went by them for a bit. But they caught and passed me on a big hill in mile 4. I took a short break at the aid station and caught my breath and drank some water. Because, you know, desert. Then I noticed my friend not too far behind so I got a move on.

The last six miles I think I only passed two people, and no one passed me. I was just plugging along, working at the hardest pace I could while still negotiating all the rocks and hills. So fun anyway though. Like it was me against the course. I stubbed my toe a few times, but never went down, so that was a victory. The last few miles I was feeling the fatigue but tried to keep up a good effort. I was passing slower runners from the 25K race every so often, so that helped give me people to chase.

Eventually the Finish area appeared and I celebrated a successful day on the trails.
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Later I checked results and found no men over 50 ahead of me, so I'm calling it an AG win, even though there were no AG awards. Not counting the 55-year old woman who beat me... We all got a glass for finishing, and our group did a toast to our runner friend who just passed away, who should have been out there with us.
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So it was a great getaway weekend. Played more golf Sunday and also did a 4.4 mile hike in the desert. Ate lots of good food, played some poker, drank some wine...yeah, life is good.
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Mojo Lost and Found - From Philly to Turkey Trotting

Since October I've been feeling a little burnt out. Runs just weren't feeling as good as usual. Speed wasn't showing up when invited. I think I was tired. The disappointing RNR half on 10/30 confirmed it, so I cut back and took it easy for 3 weeks. No speed work. No tempos. Trying to recapture my mojo before a gauntlet of three more races in three weeks.

Then the election happened. And a friend died. And the runs weren't getting any better. I was solidly depressed. (Not clinically, but, you know, blue)

But Philly was coming up, and I was hoping for some loopfest magic to spark me. However by the time I got to Philly, I had talked myself out of trying to race hard and get a good time. Originally I hoped to beat last year's 1:37 from Rehoboth. But I think the last race sapped my confidence, and with everything else bumming me out, I decided to not go for it and risk another disappointment. Instead I would take the opportunity to run with Loopsters!

So I dropped back one corral to start with Dave and Gwen and Caitlin. But first I had to hug this guy in the fast corral.
By mile one it was just me and Gwen, and I ran with her the rest of the way. I knew her goal. I knew her training. I knew her strengths and weaknesses. So I did my best to help her reach her goal of NYC qualifying. It was close, but a balky hammy cost her just enough.
But pacing was lots of fun. Of course we got the good weather on Saturday. The course was pretty. I got to run at a pace that didn't kill me, but was still fast enough to be a solid workout - I was working out there too. But I was enjoying the race atmosphere. And I had someone to talk to! Pacing is fun!

The rest of the weekend was great too. I loved seeing some old friends and meeting new ones. Cheering for the marathon was cold, but we had each other. And watching runners reach for their goals never gets old. It was a fun day and very inspiring.
But I was still a bit depressed. Partly because almost everyone had disappointing races and some big goals were missed. Partly because Philly 2016, while fun, was not like Philly 2011. That was a peak experience from a different time - meeting SO MANY people for the first time, and the energy level was insane. And it was more of a party atmosphere that year. So being in Philly seeing the same sites made me miss that lost Loop era, and many of the friends I made that I haven't seen for years now.

Oh well.

So I got home still blue, not to mention tired and jet-lagged after 4 long flights in a week. But then things started to turn around this past week. I had a positive meeting Tuesday on a family thing that I'll go into at a later date that had me feeling better. I ran Tuesday night, and while it was only 4.3 miles, the legs felt pretty good considering I just did a half on Saturday.

Then Thursday was Thanksgiving and the day dawned warm and sunny. A perfect day for the local 3 mile Turkey Trot - my 11th time for this one. Again I went in with low expectations, and just wanted to see what I had. But I did think if things went well, that I still had a shot at my 3-mile PR from last year of 20:10. The "A" goal was sub-20. (If I can't do it for a 5K, maybe I can do it for 3 miles anyway) That's 6:40 pace.
Two mile warmup felt good, so I lined up near the start and aimed to go out at 6:40 and see if I could hang. The race is not timed (it's a fun run), so I would have to trust my Garmin. It is dead flat and mostly straight. No excuses.

I ran all of mile one with one of my gal pals from track club. She kept me honest and helped push me. First peak at pace showed 6:50 so I pushed a little bit more. Went through one in 6:38. It hurt. But like it's supposed to hurt. 5K hurt. System check was good so I kept pushing. Maybe I could do this!

My pace buddy dropped back in mile two, but I pressed on. Pace was slipping a little, but not too bad, and I felt a little energy still in the tank, despite the pain. I hit mile two in 6:45. I wanted to slow down, as we always do at the start of mile 3, because, well, it hurts. But the legs were still working, and I realized I wasn't REALLY working that hard. Not 5K PR hard. So I pushed it.

Mile 3 brought the grimace, and a little stomach discomfort. But some timely pressure releases took care of that. I picked some people to chase down and persisted through the pain. I figured I had a good shot at the PR, and maybe even sub-20 if I pushed hard. So I did.

I didn't even look at my watch the last half mile. Just tried to hang on as the lactic acid built up. As I crossed the finish I tapped my Garmin and looked down. 20:00.8

Last mile was 6:36. So close. Sure it's not 5K PR pace, but on this day I will take the 3-mile PR and be thankful. Besides I really wasn't working that hard...(he says afterward)

It had a miraculous effect on my mood. Wow, I guess I've still got some speed left in me. It was a beautiful day in sunny So Cal, and I had a lot to be thankful for later at the feast (at a friend's house). I've been feeling loads better ever since.

To top things off, Saturday morning I joined my speedy club for an 11-mile run over giant hills. And the legs responded wonderfully to the challenge. I felt strong powering up the hills, and fast gliding down. I guess the downtime helped out because I feel like I am back and ready to train. Still, I am going to keep December moderate, since I am traveling a lot, and will really start ramping up in January for Boston.
I'm back. Life is good.

For Keith

A great friend of mine died last week. I've known Keith since 8th grade when we met on the cross country team. Through high school we shared countless memories, many of them while running or racing together, and we became best friends. After I moved away we stayed in touch and in the last 15 years a group of us would get together annually for golf and a race.

Five years ago, Keith got pancreatic cancer which was already in his liver. Stage four. It was a terrible blow and we all figured he had few months left. Yet he fought hard through multiple chemo treatments and kept running. He made it into remission and was cancer free for a while. He got to see his daughter get married and his sons grow into adults. He ran more half marathons and 10Ks.

But it came back and eventually cancer won. Or as he put it, "we ended in a draw. I died but the cancer died too." Yesterday I attended his memorial service which celebrated his life. Included was a table with many of his race shirts and medals.

I wanted to get a run in while I was in town, and we quickly came up with a good idea to honor Keith. We would run the race course of the local 10K that he ran for the last 40 consecutive years. He was the only person to have run that race in all 40 years of its existence and was very proud of this streak. He scheduled his chemo so that he would not miss it.

So six of us hit the road just a few hours after his service, on the First Annual Keith Ainsworth Memorial 10K. It was a beautiful sunny day; Warm for a Minnesota November at over 50. (But still a little chilly for one Californian)
The rest of the runners were locals who had done countless runs with Keith over these roads. We ran at conversational pace and shared stories about Keith. The course was along Lake Minnetonka and I loved being back home. It brought back many memories from long ago when I trained on these roads and in this weather as a teenager.

We certainly missed his presence in the group but we had many happy memories of him to carry with us. Afterward we downed a six pack of his preferred beer - Bud light - and toasted him. I'm sure Keith would have been pleased.
Cheers, buddy!

Sometimes the Race is Not the Thing

Back in June on "National Running Day", some friends from my track group talked me into signing up for the Los Angeles Rock N Roll Half. Mainly because of the 1-day sale price of $55. And the fact that they were three pretty young women. And at my age,when three pretty young women invite you somewhere, you go.
So I added it to my busy race calendar and continued to focus on speed instead of endurance all summer. Apparently 30 miles a week is not enough to train for a good half. But I was still hoping to run under 7:30 pace and feel stronger than I did at the ten miler two weeks ago. The course was hilly, but there were as many ups as downs, so it should balance out, right?

Not so much.

Anyway, it was a Halloween race, so I discovered I had an orange shirt with matching shoes, and talked my DW into turning it into a jack-o-lantern. So I made a little effort to have a costume, without sacrificing any speed.

My saintly wife agreed to get up before 5AM and escort me and the three girls that we carpooled with. And take pictures and hang around for a few hours while we ran. Here we are arriving downtown before dawn for the 6:45 start.

My goal for the race was 7:30 pace, but I was not confident, so my realistic goal was sub 1:40 (7:38 pace). But I was worried about the hills too, so I wanted to just go out slow, maybe 8:00 pace and work it down. Save some for the hills from miles 7-13. Here is the elevation. One nasty hill at mile 7, then a nice long downhill, but then a long gradual up from 10-13.

It was crowded, and I didn't really have time or room to warm up, so I had to start cold. Just a little jogging in place in the corral. There were about 10,000 people at the start, and no one monitoring the corrals, so although I was close to the front, I had to do a lot of dodging of joggers for the first few minutes. So after a 1/4 mile I was still over 8:00 pace and grumpy, and ended up speeding up too much to go around people. By the time I got to mile one, I was down to 7:28. Which meant I was really running even faster than that. Dammit. I tried to relax and slow down, but, well, you know how that goes...

The three girls were all out ahead of me too, and only one should have been. So I was working on catching them. For the next few miles the crowds had thinned and I got into a racing groove. But it felt like 10K racing groove. And this was 13 miles. Over hills. And I hadn't gone over 12 miles in 5 months. So it felt too hard. And yet the splits were 7:30, 7:28, 7:32. Right where they were supposed to be. But instead of relaxed and cruising, it felt like work.
But it was fun to run around the LA Coliseum, inside the fence. A few people jumped into the rest rooms there. There were bands playing and I tried to enjoy the atmosphere. It was out and back for 6 miles, and then out and back another way for seven miles, so I got to look at all the thousands of people behind me, many of whom were in costumes. That was kind of fun and distracting.

One fun part of the race was a group of zombies that were in the middle of the course, with Hollywood quality makeup and costumes, just shambling along looking like they might take a bite out of you if you didn't hurry along.

Mile 5 was 7:37, proving that this was not going to be my day. I already wanted to give up and jog. Thought about maybe taking a walk break on the big hill. Started to think what I needed to stay under 1:40. At this point I caught two of the girls who had gone out too fast. They were dying worse than me, so I had that going for me. Which was nice.

Got to look for DW in mile 6, so that kept me moving at 7:33. She got some artistic shots.
Then it was time for the big hill, which was an overpass to get over the freeway. I just gutted it out and tried not to walk. It sucked. And by the time I got over it, my legs were trashed and they never recovered.
I tried to pick up some momentum on the downhills, but it was just enough to keep me moving. After hilly mile 7 in 8:15, I could only manage 7:44, 7:45, 7:42 on the three downhill miles. Oh dear. My goose was now cooked. I started to bargain with myself on where I could take a walk break. Started to calculate what I could do and still stay under 1:45.

So with the towel thrown in, I just told myself to keep plugging. Get to the finish and call it a training run. A lot of others were suffering with me, as not that many people were passing me. We suffered together. Couldn't blame the weather either, as it was cool and cloudy. Mid 50's.

The last three were mainly uphill in 8:23, 9:06 (with a walking water stop) and 8:06 which included a nice downhill at the end, in which I just let gravity bring me home. Found a little effort for 7:14 pace for the last bit and finished in 1:43:32.

Good for 383rd and 30th AG of almost 8,000.

Soon afterward, I met up with the girls and life started to brighten up. E in pink ran 1:34. The other two were 1:45 and 1:48. We shared our stories of woe and commiserated. I got to be Bosley.
But it was fun to hang with them, and talk running, and take pictures and eat all the food. Being part of a group made this a memorable event, and not just another race. And by the time I got home I was glad I ran, and didn't care so much about the time.

What can you do? Am I right?
So Half Marathon #38 is in the books. #39 is coming up in three weeks in Philly, where again it will be about the people I'm hanging out with and having fun with, so I'm telling myself the time won't matter. (Because even breaking 1:40 now seems like it will be hard.) Maybe I can start slower...

Life is good.

And then I ate this.