Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wharf to Wharf Race Report and LoopMeet!

Whew! It was a whirlwind 3-day weekend, with a 6-7 hour drive each way, a trail run, loop meets, tourism, gastronomic excess (burgers, pizza, burritos and french toast, for starters), and a fabulous little 6 mile race. Loved every minute!

Last year, when several of us got together in San Francisco, Medievalist (or V, from now on) suggested we do the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf in 2013. It is a 6 mile beach run that sells out its 15,000 spots in days! It is a 41 year old local tradition and a big rolling party. 52 bands (supposedly) line the course. It starts next to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and its famous roller coasters, and you run along the coast to the next little fishing village. Beautiful course! Of course I said I was in.

We ended up not being able to reserve Alice's Loop mansion this year, but V offered to put me up in her dorm at UC Santa Cruz, where she is academic dean for a summer camp for young brainiacs. So I spent two nights in spartan surroundings. Brought my own sleeping bag, pillow and towel, and re-lived college life, in a small way anyway. UCSC is tucked into the wooded hills and offers fantastic trails to run on. So we did! As soon as I arrived Friday at 5PM, V and I went out for over 5 miles of "shake-out". Although it was a little hillier than I like my shake-out runs, it was great to run in the shade of giant redwoods.

Then V and I put on our matching Boston marathon jackets and went out for a delicious burger at a place called "burger". And we stopped by her office, where she has papered her wall with bibs.

wtw 003

Saturday I drove V up to Stanford to show her around. She is stuck without a car every summer, so hasn't had a chance to explore. It was fun for me to go back and relive old memories, and V really enjoyed seeing the campus - especially the track! Here is a shot of the main campus from the top of Hoover tower.

wtw 005

Next we had a Loop-meet lunch. Alice and her DH had just drove up from LA, and we met with them and John Wayne who lives in nearby San Jose. It was fun to talk running and loop smack over some delicious pizza.
wtw 010

Saturday evening we decided to drive the course so we were better able to visualize our race. Good thing, too! Because the "rolling hills" were kind of nasty. I always like to know the course ahead of time, and it made me much more comfortable after seeing it. There were numerous little ups and downs - steep enough to notice! And also lots of turns. Tangent running would be critical! Here is the elevation and map.


OK, not HUGE elevation, but 30-40 feet can be pretty darn tough over a short distance! The course was really pretty too. Ocean and beach views, cute old neighborhoods, lots of variety, lots of fans and bands everywhere. I highly recommend this race!

OK, Goals: My training is going well, so I felt I had a shot at my over age-40 10K PR pace, which was 6:59/mile. So, I was shooting for sub-42 for this 6-mile race. I felt it would be tough, but possible. I would be OK with sub-43 too as a B-goal. Plan was about 7:15 first mile, then close to 7 for mile 2, and sub-7 the rest of the way in.

V and I were up early and hit Starbucks for some coffee. We worried about the crowds and parking, but everything was smooth and easy, so we were in our "elite" corral (top 1000 runners) with over an hour to go.


Had a leisurely warm-up of 0.7 miles, some time to chill, and then it was time to roll.

Thanks to the corral system, the 15,000 people were not a problem, and I was out of traffic within seconds. My conservative start worked, and I didn't have to slow myself down for once. I was right on schedule. By the time I finished mile 1 at 7:09, it was starting to feel hard already. This really wasn't much slower than my mile repeats at 6:45; The ones where I get to stop after a mile and rest. "Oh, yes, 10Ks are painful, aren't they. Sigh. Oh well, stick with the plan."

And mile 2 started with a nasty hill. I practiced patience, but was heaving for oxygen by the top. My mile 2 lap pace was showing 7:26, but I knew the rest of the mile would be down. So once I could breathe again, I pressed back on that gas pedal and got into serious race mode. By the end of mile 2 I had dropped it to 7:06.

The next few miles rolled. There were downs where I used gravity and opened it up and felt confident. There were ups that took a little piece of my soul away. Lots of turns so I could focus on the tangents. Plenty of people to pass to keep it interesting. I was sub-7 now and it hurt. A lot. But I felt like maybe I could maintain it for a while. Mile 3 came in at 6:53 and mile 4 was 6:54. But the Garmin was losing distance to the official mile markers, and I was still about 15 seconds over 28:00 at 4 miles. At this point, I had almost given up on sub-42. I was hurting bad and couldn't imagine two more miles at this same pace. I was just trying to hang on.

Mile 5 is the worst. The finish is still so far away, and the pain is just telling you to slow down. RIGHT NOW!! I just focused on getting to mile 5. Because I knew the last mile would come with some adrenaline. Somehow I kept going. I picked a woman who was at my pace and stayed behind her as we passed all the other dying runners. It is amazing how that can help. I got to 5 in 6:59. Hanging on.

I remembered that the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile was downhill to the finish. I knew once I got back to the ocean view, it was downhill from there. But that first 1/2 mile of mile 6 took FOREVER! Hang on, hang on. Better yet, Pick it up! Yes, you can do anything for a mile! Go get it! So I picked it up a little. I didn't have the energy to check my watch and see my pace or try to calculate my chances of sub-42. I was just giving everything I had.

Finally I saw the ocean. It would be over soon. I was passing more and more people. Sweet, sweet downhill!! God bless you! Flying!!!


Mile 6 was 6:40, and somehow G made up some distance in mile 6, so I finished with only 6.02 miles.

And 41:45!! YES!! 

I was completely exhausted. V was waiting for me at the finish after her awesome race, so we had to do one of these.


We were quite happy.


If you go back to the elevation chart you can see my pace in blue. Check out the dip in the last 1/2 mile. It showed 6:20, 6:10, sub 6! And for the last .02 it said 4:24 pace. Sure, why not! I gave it all in this one and could not be happier!

V and I eventually cleaned up and celebrated at the Santa Cruz Diner with Mimosas.

wtw 011

And then I had to get back in the car for the 6+ hour drive home. Long day. But a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rolling over the odometer again, plus my first taste of coached speedwork

When you've been running as long as I have, the miles do tend to pile up. So Tuesday I rolled over 24,000. Next up is my bucket list goal of 24,901, or the length of the equator. Should hit it early next year I figure.

For you numbers geeks, here are my annual totals. I have always kept track, but some years got lost due to computer crashes or what have you, so some are estimated. 1979 is documented however, hit 2,000 exactly!

Annual Totals
1975          150
1976          350
1977          900
1978         1,800
1979         2,000
1980         1,757
1981         1,222
1982          351
1983          159
1984          134
1985          314
1986          298
1987          144
1988          200
1989          200
1990          500
1991          331
1992          637
1993          415
1994          523
1995          867
1996          531
1997          295
1998          352
1999          172
2000          241
2001          741
2002          859
2003          400
2004          250
2005          225
2006          387
2007          455
2008          607
2009          870
2010         1,015
2011         1,302
2012         1,328
2013          731
Total  24,013

And for the graphically inclined...


Obviously I peaked in high school and the first year of college, and then had a long period of not really running a whole lot. But I never stopped for long! Then my renaissance started about 2009, not coincidentally when I joined the Loop. This should be my 8th straight year of increasing miles! Shooting for 1,500 this year.

And here I am in 1980...

Grandma's 001 - Copy

Anyway, let's talk about this week.

After the 5K on the 4th I took Friday off, 6 on Saturday and 9 on Sunday for a solid weekend. Monday I got back to the gym after missing the last two weeks (I skip my weekly gym workouts on race weeks). Then Tuesday I did the 6 mile hilly trail run with my LRS group. And Wednesday I went to a new group for speed work.

This group is called Club Ed, and is coached by a guy named Ed, natch. All of the local fast runners are in the club (over 100 members). They have their own racing singlets and can be seen dominating all the AG awards at local races. Kind of intimidating because some guys are REALLY fast. But there are also guys at my level and plenty that are slower too. I know some of them from my other local group, so I finally got up the nerve to join in the fun.

Every Wednesday they have interval workouts at the high school track. Coach Ed (who is also a very fast runner in his 60's) determines the workouts - same for everyone. He lets us know piecemeal what we will be doing. So we don't know what is left on the plate every time we step to the line. He tells us to run "at 10K pace" or "at 5K pace" or mile pace, and everyone just figures their own pace and goes. He then reads off the times every lap. I barely checked my Garmin all day other than the first 100 meters of a few runs to make sure I was in the ballpark.

So I chatted with a few guys and got a general idea of the protocol. They said we generally do about 6000 meters of speed. We warmed up for about a mile (after I already warmed up for a mile). Then we did "straights and curves" which means we accelerated the straights and jogged the curves for 4 laps, with the accelerations going from mild to fast. It was a nice warmup to get ready for intervals.

There was maybe 50 people there. I turned out to be near the middle, a little faster than the middle. After  a while you get an idea of people that are in your speed range and tend to run near the same people each time. It certainly was easier to run faster with a group than it is by myself. All my speed work since college has been by myself, so this was a fun change. I really liked it! Memories of high school...

First we did 400 at 10K pace. I figured 7:00/mile for my 10K pace, but I got sucked in by the speedsters and went out too fast. not used to a 400 so slow! I eased back and cruised the 2nd half, but still ran 1:40. A short cooldown and then another 400, this time at 5K pace. I figured 6:30/mile for my 5K pace. But again I went out too fast and ran a 92. Another short cooldown and then another 400 at mile pace. I figured 6:00 pace (I wish) and ran it hard. Too hard again, and ran 84! I can't remember running a 400 that fast!

So I was beating my times and told myself to be careful because I didn't know what was coming. Well next up was a 1600 at 10K pace. OK, a mile repeat at 7:00. I can do that. I restrained my pace, found a good groove and used the other runners to keep me honest. I negative split each lap and finished with a 6:43. Felt good! Then we got two laps to cooldown.

Next up: 2000 meters! First 1600 at 10K pace, and then kick the last 400 very fast! Phew, OK. I took the 1600 about the same, a tad more conservative. Came through in 6:50, and then kicked like it was the end of a 5K and hit the last 400 in 88! Nice! Then it was two more cooldown laps.

Next was 1200 meters. First lap at 10K pace, then he said the next lap had to be faster, and the last lap faster still. How much faster was up to us. Lots of negative split practice! I ran my laps in 104, 95 and 90. For all of these intervals I was passing people and finishing strong. Beating my "rivals". It was fun.

I figured some 800s next, but no, we were done! Just 3 more laps of "straights and curves" to cool down. I thought "hey, that wasn't too hard at all!" Until I reviewed it and realized we covered 9.2 miles total. Yep, it was a solid workout. But I left feeling like I could fit in really well with this group. And if I did this most weeks, I would definitely get faster.

So today I rest.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Another 5K on the 4th RR

My Summer of Speed plan was to take my first try at 5K on the 4th. I had knocked out some solid speed work the last 4 weeks, so I thought I was ready for a good one. But then I had to go and do the double dipsea, because, well, you can't miss opportunities like that, right?

Well, my legs were completely TRASHED for 3 days after that mountain goat worthy race. Like, marathon-sore. Groaning every time you get out of a chair sore. Stair-avoidance sore. But I had a race to run, so I figured I'd do the best I could. Tuesday I thought I'd better try running, even though walking was painful. I did 5 miles and my legs felt like cement blocks. Didn't really HURT so much as just felt dead. No energy. It was a very strange feeling - seriously like the legs were cement or lead and I was just dragging them along for the ride. But I did manage to run 8:30 pace without dying. The thought of racing a 5K at sub-7 pace in 36 hours seemed ludicrous.

My season goal is sub-20, but for this race I had figured to shoot for sub-21. 20:30 seemed possible if I didn't have these brick-legs. Last year I ran this event in 20:52, so I wanted to beat that. In March I ran 21:01 so I wanted to beat that. Well those plans all changed. Now I just wanted to go out and see what I had. Maybe sub-7 was possible (21:45). Or maybe I would have nothing and run 24.

Thursday morning came and the legs felt quite a bit better. Still sore in spots, but much improved. I did a warm-up mile, and felt OK. A long way from feeling tapered and great and ready to race, but a ton better than Tuesday. So let's see what I have in me!

This race is a local tradition for 20 years now. This is my 11th time doing it. 2,800 people showed up with lots of joggers, walkers, kids, etc. And of course a lot of them wanted to start ON THE STARTING LINE. I was maybe 3 or 4 deep, next to a 7 year old who was playing games on his phone until the last minute. Somebody went down right at the start and caused a big clog-up, but I just missed it and kept going. I may have chuckled a little.

I was pretty happy with my start. I didn't go out too fast for once, but felt good and moved through the crowd OK. Felt in control and restrained. After two blocks I checked G and saw 6:42. OK! It felt easier than that, so I already knew this might be a good day. I kept it restrained but starting moving up the pack.
 4th 004
The elevation below is obviously nothing compared to the mountains I've been used to, but in a 5K, every hill counts. We start with a nice 30 foot drop, then it is a long steady uphill through mile1 of about 50 feet. Not real noticeable, but it gets to you if you are going too fast. Mile 2 is rolling with a few little sharp hills, and then mile 3 is the long gradual downhill where you can really nail a fast last mile if you do it right. Then there is a nasty bump right before the end, but at that point you're dying anyway, so it doesn't matter. I've raced this course so many times I like to think I know how to run it.

Also check out the heart rate. It quickly jumped up to the 170's and then just steadily climbed from there as I pushed my limits. Found a new Max of 193! PR! Mile 2 averaged 184, and mile 3 averaged 189 with a steady 193 at the end.

My pace was dropping a little as I went up the hill, but I was OK with that. Still in control Mile 1 was 6:53.

Then I got a little downhill and caught my breath and felt pretty good, so I pushed it a little more. Through the turnaround and headed back and was feeling the pain, but it wasn't too bad. The last little hill pushed me over the edge into oxygen debt, but I knew the downhill was coming. Mile 2 was 6:39.

Then the fatigue from Dipsea caught up with me. Instead of hauling down the last hill under 6:30, I was fading fast. It took me a bit to recover from the last hill and my pace was close to 7 as I started down. I gave it my all, but didn't have the usual fire left in my legs or chest. And my motivation to excel was not there, so it was too easy to back off just a little bit and just get to the finish without dying. Still, I was working. I passed Captain America like he was standing still...

4th 013
4th 015

I saw my AG rival up ahead in mile 3 and was getting closer but I couldn't catch him. But I managed a pretty good kick. Mile 3 was 6:43, and G had .15 at 5:52 pace. Final time: 21:07

Well, pretty darn close to my original goals, and considering the handicap I gave myself, I am quite happy with that. I feel pretty good about lowering that a lot in the next 2 months.

This race was loaded with all the local speedsters. I finished 16th in my AG and 197th overall of about 2,800. Got to socialize with many of my running buddies after, and then headed home to start a long weekend with the usual post-race routine. Shower, Burger, Nap, Blog.

Next race in 24 days. I leave you with some local color. Enjoy the holiday!

4th 005
4th 006
4th 008
4th 020
4th 021

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Double Dipsea - Dang, that was hard

You may recall that I ran this race last year. In my memory is the incredible beauty of the trail, the great organization and aid stations, the fun people I got to run with and the post-race beer on the beach. Fun times

Apparently I forgot about the hills.

Good God. Selective memory is a crazy thing. Because two hours into this race,  I was NOT in a happy place.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the happy bluebirds and marshmallows and giggles.

The Dear Wife and I drove up Friday. We spent the weekend with a friend who lives right there in the Marin hills, not 1/2 a mile from the Dipsea trail. Friday evening we relaxed in Sausalito and listened to an outdoor jazz concert in the warm summer night. It takes a heat wave to be able to sit outside on the San Francisco bay at night in shorts. I hydrated with some wine.

Saturday morning we headed to Stinson Beach for the race, and found my Loop buddies. Everyone was in high spirits. It was sunny and beautiful - also very hot! Temps probably 80-90 during the run.

Mr. Bacon, Kynan and Laura, Me, Mild Sauce, and Will (who ran with us in the Portland 50K)

The Double Dipsea is an out and back race on the famous Dipsea trail. 6.85 miles each way, with two LARGE hills to climb and hundreds of steps, including 600+ in a row at one end of the trail. You are pretty much going up or down the whole way. And it is steep!

The race has staggered starts based on age and sex, so as the elder statesman of the group, I got to start first. The ladies would start two minutes later, and the other young guys had to wait 14 minutes after I left. Mr. Bacon was full of trash talk about how soon he would catch me, so I had a goal. Beat Bacon! I figured that Sauce would catch me at some point and maybe we could run together like in Portland. With the heat, I told myself to just run smart and have fun. But who am I kidding? I wanted to race too.

So off I went!

Soon to be followed by the lovely loop ladies!
dipsea 110
And the dapper young loop menfolk.
dipsea 111

Within 3 minutes I was walking. It just goes straight up. I ran out of oxygen quick and was thinking, oh boy, this is going to be a long, hot day. I ran when I could, walked when my breathing got too hard. Everyone was in the same boat. The trail was crowded. Lots of "on your left" as people passed. But it wasn't too crowded to the point of slowing me down.
My Garmin died, so I have no splits, but last year they ranged from 7:xx to 17:xx. I would average 13:05 for the day.
But it was fun. The trails were beautiful. People were friendly. And we were racing! In a sense anyway. And we get to run through this:


Just after a mile I hear a familiar voice, and Sauce has caught me already! The girl has some serious mountain goat genes or something because she can climb like crazy! We stayed together for a while, but I had to walk more than she could handle, so she slipped away on the long first uphill. I just kept plugging.

I didn't carry any water. I trusted the frequent aid stations would be enough for me. A little risky, but it turned out OK. When I hit the top of the first big hill, I paused for a hose shower, sponges squeezed over my head, and 4 glasses of water and ultima. Boy, that felt good! And then we got to run downhill - even better!

It was like night and day. Now I was re-energized! I could breathe! And run fast! I flew down the rocky trail with little regard for safety. So much fun! Ducking under branches, skipping over roots and rocks. I never fell, and only stubbed a toe once. Some of the race leaders went by at breakneck pace. I followed them as they took a detour - I figured they knew where to go - and I ended up on a fire road which added a tiny bit to the course, but allowed free running without the trip hazards and people, so I could really open it up! Probably sub-7 pace for a while. Lots of fun!

Soon after I rejoined the trail I saw Mild Sauce ahead and caught her. So we got to stay together for a while. But once we bottomed out and started heading back uphill, she lost me again. And I went back to wishing my lungs worked better.

At the next peak, DW had stationed herself to get more photos. First loopster to get there was Mild Sauce, and she popped out a perfect BP.


Not much later I arrived and saw her mid-walk, so I broke into a trot to make it look good.

Not real happy with what that sponge bath did to my hair...No wonder I burnt the heck out of the top of my head.

Then Laura came by full of life and joy.

dipsea 128

And finally the guys, walking. Mr. Bacon is having trouble keeping up with the young'un...

From this point it was downhill again. Wheeeeee!!!! And then the 670 steps. It was still a bit crowded so it was hard to pass, so I just tried not to fall and kept going. Here is a glimpse of one small portion.


At the bottom it is about 50 yards to the turn around and more food and water. I saw Sauce there as we refueled, but she took off without me. I guess she wanted to win...I had a couple more drinks and grabbed a Clif bar for the road (bad idea to try and eat it without water on the steps). Then it was back up.
I still felt OK. The steps were starting to make my quads ache, but I was still moving, and passed a few people. As I went up, I saw Laura and the guys on the way down. Just a quick greeting, but it was nice to see them. Also nice to see Mr. Bacon still pretty far back! It seemed like I had plenty of room still, and I felt good about my chances!

After the steps, the hill keeps on going, so more walking, but eventually we crested and went by DW again, so here's some more pics from peak #3.


dipsea 135

I stopped to get a water bottle from DW, because I was feeling dehydrated, and some guy offers to take a pic of us. Sure, why not?
dipsea 140
dipsea 143
dipsea 144
dipsea 147

Then more fun downhill, including about 1/2 mile on road where I got to open it up to sub-7 and fly! But soon it was over, as we bottomed at Muir Woods and started the long uphill to Cardiac Hill.

This part is the most beautiful, with huge redwoods, narrow trail and funky stone and wood steps. But also the toughest. Very steep and goes on forever. I was just hiking now, and even had to take stop breaks from hiking to catch my breath and stretch my lower back which was really starting to hurt. I really was not enjoying this part because I was going fast enough so I couldn't breathe well. It was work, and felt like it. The legs started to shake on some of the steeper steps. And have I mentioned the heat? It was just shut up and keep going and hope it ends soon. Which it didn't.

After an endless climb, I finally heard the noise of the aid station at the top. Oh joy! Much drinking and sponge bathing, and I was ready to run down to the beach! Nobody caught me on the up, and I didn't think anyone would catch me on the down! So off I went at a decent clip. The last two miles were mostly down. The first part was through a beautiful rainforest, but some VERY steep steps that I had to slow to a walk for. My legs were not strong enough any more to absorb running down steps. The added strength needed to maintain balance was not there. So I was a little disappointed to let my body force me to slow down, but it wasn't for long. Regular downhill trail was no problem.

At one point you pop out into the open and see the beach far down below, and it's beautiful.


The last mile is fun, because the misery is over (other than a couple little inclines just to remind you). The breeze off the ocean felt great. I was booking, just in case someone was sneaking up behind me. But I managed to finish as 2nd Loopster (Mild Sauce was 3 minutes ahead at the finish) and snuck under 3 hours with a 2:59:24.

Laura was less than a minute back (so without the 2-minute head start, she beat me too). Then we all waited for the guys. Finally they came in together - 15 minutes after I finished. So I beat Bacon even without the head start. Let the taunting begin.

No, it was all good. We all celebrated together and went out to the beach for the traditional beer in the Pacific. My time was 47 seconds slower than last year. But the heat was a huge factor. My place went from 334 last year to 223. Last year I beat 47% of the field, and this year I beat 65%, so I'm happy with that. 35th of 66 in my AG. Lots of fast trail runners out there.

My legs were toast. It is now 4 days later, and they still hurt. Quads, calves, back and even arms. Steps and hills really take it out of you.

Bacon had to get back to his previously scheduled vacation, but the rest of us hung out and had lunch and ice cream in Sausalito.
dipsea 159

These two do everything together...sharing ice cream.
dipsea 161

And then they were off and I got to relax for another day with my wife and our local friend. It was a fabulous day on the trails with some great people in a beautiful place. Life is good!