Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Takin' It To The Limit (One More Time) - 5K RR

From 6/10

I got up at 5:20 and was headed toward Anaheim (with my faithful DW by my side) before 6. Time for another 5K. It was cloudy and misting with no wind. Perfect conditions. I took a leisurely 1.5 mile warmup. Felt OK. Not great and energized, but not feeling sluggish and awful like it seems like I often do before a race.

Here is the course map. We start at the green dot, head South for a mile, and make 3 right turns to go around the rectangle, finishing with two lefts and a sprint to the checkered flag. Perfectly flat.
I ran this race 4 years ago and set my over-35 PR of 20:06. Today's goal was to beat that, and get under 20:00 for the first time in 20 years. My goal strategy was to get out about 6:30 or under, stay under 6:30 for mile 2, and then try to hang on and finish strong. 19:59 is 6:26 pace.

I had 6-7 friends there from my track group, Club Ed, including coach Ed himself. He is a little faster than me, but I beat him once (when he was out of shape) and it is always a goal to try and catch him.
At the start, Ed was just ahead of me with some of the other speedier guys from my group. As we took off I found myself right on his butt, and had to tell myself not to pass him. To use him as a pacer. To relax and stay in control. First Garmin check after 100 yards showed 6:11 pace. Yep, ease up. Don't go crazy. I was running hard but stayed in check and the pace dropped.

After 1/4 mile or so, Ed started to pull away a little. I maintained effort, as I was still seeing a lap pace of 6:20 and it was too early to push. He got about ten yards ahead, but I was focused on him and stayed about ten yards back through the first mile. I saw pace was in the high 6:20's. I felt pretty good. It was fast, but I felt comfortable that I could hold it.

After the first corner I checked G and it showed 1.13 miles! Somehow I missed the first mile marker (not marked) and didn't feel the buzz on my wrist. So I didn't know my split. I assumed it was about 6:28 because that's what I saw last time I checked. And that's what I had for mile 2 lap pace. That gave me a little boost of confidence. Hey, maybe I actually can run sub 6:30 the whole way! Never mind the sandbagging excuses. It looked like I would have a good shot today so I better go get it!

I focused a little harder and pushed. Passed a few people, and I noticed that Ed was starting to come back to me! Alright. New goal. Focus on Ed and try to catch him. Just get to mile two at 6:25 pace and let mile 3 take care of itself. I was definitely feeling the pain. I couldn't think that there was still more than 1.5 miles to go. I just stayed in the moment and treated it like a two mile race.

Pace dropped to 6:25, and then I saw a 6:23. Alright! This hurts, but I can keep it up for now. Saw the mile 2 marker this time on the road and G showed 1.99 miles. OK! Mile 2 was 6:24. And Ed was right in front of me. I went by strong and left him behind. Now I had no one personal to focus on ahead of me. But there were other runners to catch. I gradually reeled a few in. But the pain was getting to be intolerable.

About mile 2.2 my arms and legs both started to tie up. Lactic acid was building and I could feel my form faltering. I was hurting bad, but my lap pace still showed 6:23. Just need to hang on and get to the finish and the suffering would stop!

But damn, still a long way to go. Made the last right turn and just focused on getting to the next street. I could see my lap pace slipping to 6:27, 6:29...I was slowing but that was the best my body could do. In the last half mile I started to audibly groan or grunt every few breaths. The grimace was on, the head was bobbing. Why do I do this to myself! But I focused on the glory of a 19:59 and knew I had a shot if I could just hold on...

Left and left and there was the balloon arch, a tantalizing 300 or so yards away. I tried to go a little faster to see if there was anything left. Not much. Half way there I heard someone coming up on me, glanced left, and saw coach Ed! I dug deep and found a little bit more and kicked hard and held him off.

Did I mention that coach is 64?

With just a few seconds to go I spotted the finish clock. And it already showed a 20:0x. What?! Dang! I pushed through the finish anyway and checked my watch. 20:12. Official time was actually 20:10.
My new favorite race face.
It took a few minutes for the pain to stop. It was a bit disappointing, but I actually felt pretty good about the race. I gave it 100% and didn't leave anything on the course, and that's all you can ask, right? And I got a new season best and only 4 seconds off my AGPR from 4 years ago. So in 4 years I haven't got any slower, and at my age, that's good. And I beat Ed!

Plus I still think I could have run faster if I hadn't done that 16 miler last Saturday. Plenty of time left in the summer to try again.

Race rehash: I added trendlines to the pace chart below to show the different parts of the race.The spikes are just GPS glitches.
First 0.3 miles: A too fast start and easing off to get to race pace.
0.3 - 1.0: Steady but still slowing from 6:30-6:40. My lap pace showed faster due to the fast start, and I didn't get my 1 mile split which was 6:34, so I thought I was in better shape than I was.
1.0 - 1.2: Renewed competitiveness made me pick it up.
1.2 - 2.3: Steady hammering at about 6:25 pace
2.3 - 3.0: Body starts to run out of fuel and pace slows. Mile 3 was 6:31
3.0 - 3.1: Sprint! 6:09 pace for the last 0.12. That's actually slower than normal. I was dead.

In two weeks there is another race. You can bet I'll be coming back, running back, coming back for more....So put me on a highway and show me a (finish) sign, and I'll take it to the limit, one more time.

Another 5K Race Report

From May...

Let me set the table first with a little background.
You probably remember my goal for this year was to get sub-20. Started off with a nice 20:45 in March. But then the next two races were disappointing (20:51 and 21:32). The last month or so, it seems like my legs were always tired. I didn't feel the pep I needed for a good race.

Since this week promised a fast course and some good competition, I vowed to rest up a little more, and committed myself to going out at goal pace and sticking to it as long as I could. No wimping out and wondering what if. Suicide pace strategy. So my plan was to go out at 6:40, and then get into the 6:30's (at least) and keep it there. I didn't expect sub20 yet, but I really needed to break 20:45, and I wanted to get under 20:30 to feel like I was making progress.

The past week of workouts was encouraging. Sunday I did 8.2 miles on wood chips and felt some pep returning. Paces were good and I felt strong. Monday I had a chance to run with Meb, since he showed up at a Local Running Store (not my usual one). So I adjusted my schedule and did 3 miles with a legend (and 100 others). And got a photo.
So I took Tuesday off, and I also skipped the gym this week. The leg strength work always leaves my legs tired for a few days. So Wednesday I was feeling rested and did 8 miles of hills. Again, the mojo was on point! I was running faster than usual and feeling strong. So I then took Thursday and Friday off and came in to race day feeling confident and rested.

The event was the Armed Forces Day 5K. We have an Armed Forces Day Parade here (longest running in the US), and this year they brought back a 5K that they used to have years ago. It goes along the parade route, so it's kind of fun to see the stands set up for cheering fans. Sadly no butts in the seats for the 8AM race since the parade wasn't until 11:00. But still fun. It was sunny and about 60. Beautiful day. The course was nearly flat and lots of straight, but there were three u-turns.

Here is the long straightaway during the parade. Note the huge Eucalyptus trees that line the street the whole way. Pretty cool.
It starts and finishes at the bottom left. We start South and u-turn after 100 meters. Then turn right for a long straight run. U back and take a little detour before turning left to the finish.

In addition to my time goal, I also had some good competition to motivate me. Scott is a guy from Tuesday run group who always runs real hard on Tuesdays, usually ahead of me. And he talks a lot of smack. He's 58 and fast, but lacks race experience and confidence. So he bet me he would beat me, so we were racing for a beer.

Also, I have a new training buddy, Eva, in both my Tuesday and track groups. She's 30 and fast, usually beating me in intervals, but we run together a lot. I figured she would beat me, but I hoped to stay close.
OK, enough background! Let's race!

 At the gun I just tried to stay in control until we got through the u-turn, and then the next 1/4 mile had a little 10 foot rise. Enough hill to notice, so I planned to stay relaxed and not burn out early. Pace was about 6:45. Perfect. I moved by Scott already. Eva had bolted from the start, and already had 50 meters on me at the turn. Fine. Good for her. Instead, her friend D was running side by side with me, using me to pace off of. Which was great. Having a partner always makes it easier. The two of us started moving up the field, passing the people who went out too fast. Our shared energy as we passed people really helped. Because it was starting to hurt already. Pace was stubbornly staying around 6:43. But, even though I was feeling it, it was good pain, not soul-sucking, "why am I doing this" pain. Went through mile 1 in 6:45.

Before we ht the next turnaround, D had slipped back a little. Eva had got maybe 100 meters up on me. But I could tell she was starting to come back to me now. Slowly. But it definitely gave me something to focus on. My mile two lap pace was dipping under 6:40. I was working hard, but I felt like I could keep it up. Made the turn, and saw Scott was maybe 50 meters back. Figured I had him beat, because I was not going to be slowing down. I was passing people. No one was passing me.

On the way back I pushed a little more and slowly reeled Eva in. Went through two in 6:38, and then saw my lap pace for mile 3 was already at 6:30. Alright! I felt I could definitely hold on and make mile 3 my fastest. A 2016 PR looked  probable! On the little detour I blew by a struggling Eva and powered on. Now I had no one to chase but the clock. But I knew I had a good one and wanted to get every second. So I kept the hammer down and caught a few more guys. My form started to fall apart and I almost staggered a few times, but after the last turn, there was that nice 10 foot downhill to the finish. I pushed all the way in. Mile 3 was 6:28, and I managed 5:48 pace for the last bit.

Official time: 20:15! Negative splits. Solid time. Competition crushed. Yeah, I felt pretty good. Pretty damn good. The high lasted all day. Ended up 27th overall, and 3rd in my AG, which got me a $10 gift certificate at the LRS. Eva came in 2nd female and Scott was 20:57. I thanked Eva for the rabbiting, because chasing her butt really helped me focus during that mile 2 pain. That made all the difference.

So I'm happy, but I'm also planning the next one. My AGPR of 20:06 was 4 years ago at Anaheim. I'm planning to go back there in 3 weeks to run that fast course again and see if I can beat that. If not, there's still more chances down the road.

Life is good.

Just a Little Fun Vacation Race

From April...

The wife and I scheduled a little trip to Kentucky to see her family, so of course one of my first steps was to check the local race calendar to see what kind of race I can find on that weekend. It was still two weeks before Flying Pig unfortunately, but there were a couple of little races. One was a color run - no thank you! The other looked perfect. Small 5K fundraiser, very close by, 9AM Saturday start, $25. Sold!
I figured it would be small and I had a good shot at a medal. But when I checked the results from last year, I found there were only 68 finishers, and 21:00 would have placed 6th overall. So, REALLY small! AG categories were ten years, and they had medals, but only for first place in each AG. Just hoped no fast geezers showed up.
I of course alerted the local Loopvillian, Alisha, who has left the Loop but hangs out in Loopville sometimes. And she was excited to come by for a Loopmeet, and to do a little speed work before her Flying Pig race.
So DW and I got to the local high school on a cool morning, and found a good crowd of charitable folk who had come out to raise money for a local hospital hospice or something. Looked like lots of walkers and joggers. The course ran through a suburban neighborhood of nice homes and big lawns. Out and back, with some little rolling hills. Inclines really. No traffic control needed.
DW set up in front of a house down the street, and the homeowner came out and asked her if she needed a chair or a drink or anything. Real nice folks around here.
I warmed up about a mile and felt OK. The low-key atmosphere didn't have me feeling very competitive. I figured to just run hard and see what happened; A far cry from the commitment needed to push the pain meter to eleven and go for a PR. Whatever. This was more just a fun race.
As we neared race time, nobody was daring to go to the starting line. And I didn't want to be the first one. Finally some young guy moseyed in, and I followed. Then a couple others. Maybe ten people wanted to be near the line. The rest were just hanging back. I had only seen 2 or 3 people doing warmup runs of any kind.
So the starter said "Go!" and we started running. For the first 100 yards I was in front, running side by side with the young guy (he was 22), and a few others with us in a little pack going the same speed of maybe 6:45. It felt like a group run workout. Then a young girl (age 20), burst through and ran out ahead by ten yards, and another girl (16) followed her. The 22-year old guy followed too and they started to pull away from me and the others. This was the first 200 meters.
Here I am leading the 2nd pack after 1/4 mile or so. You can see Alisha a little behind me there.
So by 1/2 a mile I was alone in 4th. The other three were pulling away in a group, and I couldn't hear anyone behind me anymore. I was running at a good solid pace, but it felt hard enough. Didn't figure I could catch the younguns, so I settled in and just ran for a spell.
Mile1 6:50. It felt pretty hard, so I gave up on sub-20 and hoped to beat this year's PR of 20:45. But mile 2 was 7:07 and felt harder, so by the turn-around I didn't really care about time and was just running. The familiar pain was back. How do I forget this? Running 5Ks hurt. It takes strong will to keep going once that pain is on board. I needed motivation.
Luckily the return trip provided some. As I came around the U I realized there was a guy pretty close behind me, and several more not too far back. By the time I reached mile two I could hear the guy behind catching up to me. And that really helps the adrenaline kick up. I pushed a little harder and held him off. At the same time I noticed girl #2 had dropped off and was coming back to me. I reeled her in, and focused on the lead two. They were still close together, but they were coming back to me now too. Racing!
With 1/2 mile to go, they were maybe 100 yards ahead. I was red-lining, but, hey, it was the end of a 5K. So I dug down and found a little more speed. I was definitely moving up on them, but didn't think I had enough time. But maybe...
The last 1/4 was slightly downhill so I gave it my all. The girl was ahead, but I figured the guy would have a better kick and not get beat by a girl. And if I caught them, they would probably both have the youthful kicks to hold me off. Didn't really matter, as I ran out of road. The guy surged by the girl and won by two seconds, and I came in three seconds behind the girl.
Mile 3 was 6:53 and the last .13 was 5:43 pace. 21:32
You can see the winner on the left with his hands on his knees, and the girl on the right in blue. The guy was on his knees for five minutes. I think he was dry-heaving. I didn't even realize the guy behind me was so close.
I felt fine...
So now I wonder if I had pushed harder to stay with them at the beginning, would I have been able to win? Or would I have blown up from going out too fast? You never know. But my gut tells me I could have run faster. Oh well. Fuel for the next one (May 21st).
Alisha came in strong.
We hung around for our medals because we both won our AG.
Plus I got a $20 gift card for being 2nd male.
Fun times. The only way to travel.

Why Do I Run?

From March...

Hey. How's it going? It's been 3 weeks since the marathon, so I figured I'd better throw an update up here to let you know I'm still here. Still running. Had a little time to get philosophical, so I'd figure it's something to talk about.

So in these three weeks, the goal was really just to recover and get back to normal. They say it takes 3-4 weeks to recover from a marathon, so I certainly didn't want to push myself too hard and get hurt or anything. Hell, I was still over the moon about getting a surprise BQ, so now I planned to not run another marathon until next April. So nothing to really train for.

But it turns out I just like to get out there. I noticed 6 of my 8 runs in those three weeks were with one of my running groups. So I guess I just like to meet up with other runners and do our thing. And maybe accept a few congrats for my race...

Week one I had the usual post-marathon soreness. It peaked after 2-3 days and was mostly gone by Saturday. So I decided to join the Mountain Goats for a Saturday run. Of course, the goats don't do easy runs. It was the usual ridiculous hill climb. I guess I could have cut it short, but, no, I did the full 11.7 miles. Felt Ok the first 4 miles. Then the quads reminded me that we just ran a marathon. Unfortunately I had a long way to go, mostly on steep downhills at that point. It hurt. A lot. Stupid.
But the trails are so much fun anyway. So beautiful up there away from the city. I never regret the 40 minute drive each way and getting out of bed at 6 on a Saturday, because these runs just make me feel alive and happy and grateful to live in such a place.

Monday of week two I was more conservative and just did a little 4 miler to shake out the soreness. Legs still heavy. Wednesday however I wanted to join the track group. I had a 5K in 3 more weeks, so I might as well do a little speed work, right? I told myself to take it easy and when the legs got heavy and tired after 5 400s (1:40, 1:35, 1:29, 1:29, 1:29) I shut it down. Good boy.

Saturday I joined the goats again. The legs were feeling much better this time, and I ran a challenging 10.5 miles with a group of 3 guys. We do different trails every week, so it never gets old. It was fun to run with the group, fun to push it up ridiculous hills, fun to absorb the fantastic views.
Week 3 had me meeting up with my Tuesday running store group. I cruised 7 miles and felt like I was back to my old self, pushing it down to 7:30 pace for the last few miles. Then I came back Wednesday to the track aiming for a full workout.

After the usual warmups and accelerations, we did 2x1200, with the goal of 10K pace first lap, 5K pace 2nd lap, and Mile pace 3rd lap. I hit the times perfectly and felt strong (1:45, 1:37, 1:30 per lap). Then we did 3x400 at Mile pace and I hit 1:25 every time. Then he had us do another 1200 same way, and I was still hitting it at 4:52.

Finally he asked for a fast 800, and my legs told me to bail after the first 150. too much. Didn't want to push my luck. Still, happy with a solid workout. I just love running fast, competing with others, and hitting goal times feeling strong. Looking forward to one more track workout next week before the 5K.

Took two days off and then joined the goats again for 12 miles of fun over ridiculous hills and some awesome single track. Again, the same feelings...This is why I run. Beauty, nature, feelings of strength and confidence, endorphins, camaraderie...pretty damn blissful.
Today, Sunday I went out locally for 7 on a very blustery day. Enjoyed my wood chip trail and then hit the beach. This time I went down into the sand and ran along the coastline for over 2 miles, where the wind was whipping up whitecaps and the waves were huge. Didn't care about pace, just enjoying nature on a sunny day.

Damn, life is good.