Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"That's as Good as I Am" - 5K RR

After her Olympic Marathon, where she finished 7th in 2:26:08, Desi Linden was asked about her race. She finished with:

“I thought I ran really well, she said, later adding, “I put everything out there. I’m not upset at all. I wish I were a little bit better. I wish I would have been closer. But we went all in. And that’s as good as I am.”

I loved that. She is such a good racer, and has a great attitude. She does her best, and doesn't let the lack of a medal get her down. It reminded me of how I felt after my 20:10 5K in Anaheim in May. I wanted sub-20. I worked really hard for it, but I came up short. But I still felt good. because I gave 100% effort, and at the end of the day, "that's as good as I am". Afterward I didn't have the burning need to get those eleven extra seconds. I just felt good.

Since then I've been pointing toward one more 5K on a fast course, and another chance for sub-20. Training has gone pretty well, but I didn't feel like I had gotten significantly faster. I knew it would take another supreme effort to run that fast again, and part of me feared the pain. Because it really hurt. I just went in planning to do my best, aim for 6:25 pace, and hope I had it in me.

It was a bit warm. 60's, but the sun was out on this shade-free course. I felt pretty sluggish on the 1.5 mile warmup. The crowd was sparse, so I figured to medal in my AG. There was a 10K as well which drew some of the better runners. Only a handful of my running group friends were there. I started with my RB Eva, who I often run with in training. She normally beats me in speed work, but I managed to beat her in a 5K earlier, and also beat her in the 1-mile. She tends to go out too fast and fade.

As we started, Eva was good and stayed with me at about 6:30 pace.
After about 1/2 a mile she started to pull away and I told her "Good job. Now go get it". I was feeling it was fast enough for me, so I let her go. There were two women ahead of her at the time. But she ate them up in the next 1/2 mile and went on to be first woman finisher. I never caught her.

I was settling in at 6:35ish pace and before mile 1, I had already mentally given up on sub-20. This was as hard as I thought I could maintain. Actually I wasn't sure I could maintain this. But I was working. Hard. I passed several people and was about tenth place at mile 1 in 6:36.

Mile two was dead straight and mostly flat. I just had to hammer as fast as I could. But I couldn't get the pace to drop. 2nd woman passed me here, and I tried to hang on to her for a while.
But the pain was showing.
This shows the course. It is next to LAX. The area on the left used to be a neighborhood that got torn out when the airport expanded 40 years ago. On the right is the beach. We headed to that oasis you can see on the right, and then had a nice little downhill to get to the beach road, which was the last 3/4 mile back to the finish.
As I got to mile two a guy passed me. Looked like he might be in my age group, so I hung on to him too. Mile two was 6:38. Sub-20 was gone, but a nice fast last mile could still get me a good time. Of course I was dying by now, but you know, racing.

On the downhill, I went by both old guy and 2nd woman and tried to maintain the momentum into that last long straightaway. The lactic acid was piling up in my legs and my shoulders. I started to lose form. Mile 3 pace was under 6:30 after the hill, but I was starting to fade. Just needed to get to the finish. I saw Eva ahead of me starting to come back, but I didn't have enough time to catch her. My body just wanted to quit, but I could see the finish. I just told it we would be there soon and it would all be over. Just hang on! I still wanted a good time, and I wanted to stay in front of the guy I could still hear behind me! So I kept the hammer down.
I pulled away and felt safe, but then some other guy came by fast. And he looked to be my age too! I couldn't stay with him, but he helped me push the last 1/4 mile. Luckily he was a bandit and pulled off before the finish.

Finally the finish arrived and I kicked with what I had left and then I could commence the pain withdrawal. Mile 3 was 6:37, and I ended up with 20:27. Somehow I was 5th overall, 4th male and 1st AG. Turned out the guy behind me was in his 40's anyway. Once I could breathe normally again the world looked a lot rosier!
I was plenty happy with that race. I gave as much as I could, and left nothing on the table. That's as good as I am on this day. And that's a good place to be.

DW was there taking pics and we relaxed at the beach where there were surfers and dolphins.

Decided to do a little photo shoot. A BP for old-time's sake.
Life is good.

Friday, August 12, 2016

One Fast Mile

My track group has an annual event called the Silva Brothers' Mile. It is on or near the birthday of these twin brothers that have been racing each other in the mile for about 40 years. They are my age (54), and one brother has won every single year. But the tradition continues, and it is a festive atmosphere, with maybe 30 people coming to watch, and a second beer mile after the fast one. T-shirts are made and sold. No official results. Just a chance to run a hard mile.

Here's some of our good looking and speedy group.
We warmed up just like our weekly workout, with 4 easy laps and then 4 laps of short accelerations. Then one 200 at race pace and a little jog and it was race time!

Warmup strides.
Since this was a true mile and not 1600, coach marked a line 9.34 meters back from the finish line. I didn't have much time to get nervous as we gathered up at the start and got ready to roll.

My B goal was to go sub-6. My only other mile race in the last 20 years was when I ran this race two years ago and surprised myself with a 5:52. I felt I had a good shot to break that time too. My A goal splits were 90, 89, 88, 84, which would be 5:51. I felt pretty confident of sub-6 and would be disappointed if I missed it, but 5:50 seemed scary for some reason.

Anyway, off we went.
I stayed in lane one and settled in to my spot behind the people I'm normally behind, and ahead of the people I normally beat. Checked my watch twice during lap one to be sure I was near 6:00 pace. Yep.

At the end of lap one I had space around me. A gap of 5-8 meters ahead of me and no one too close behind me. I would stay in that position for two more laps. The guy just ahead of me was a guy that normally beats me, but not by too much, so I was focusing on staying close to  him.

Lap one was 90. Right on track and feeling good.
Lap two was about maintaining the pace. Starting to feel like work now. But I felt like a well-tuned machine - locked into my pace. Just keep pounding. A little more strain showing here as I hit 1/2 mile in 3:00.

Still, focused and steady.

As I entered lap three I knew I needed to push a little harder. I had just run a 3:00 half, but I wasn't dying, and there really wasn't that far to go...This is a race, after all!  It hurt, but it was more like workout pain than race pain. Yet I was on track for sub-6 since I knew I would finish strong, so I didn't feel the need to jump into the pain cave.

But the breathing started to get much harder in lap three. I was working hard now. As I closed on lap 3 I noticed the guy ahead of me was getting closer. Yet I wasn't dying. No lactic acid yet. Went through in 4:30. Dang. Time to shift gears and push it.

I rolled strongly past the guy on the first curve and drank his tears. Then I could see a few more people ahead. I was able to accelerate and it felt good! I blew past some people that were a lap behind and saw my friend Eva up ahead. She should be beating me easily like she does in practice, but she was fading bad and I could tell I could catch her. That helped me push hard down the back-straight and around the last curve. I flew by her and another guy and pounded down the home stretch. The legs still felt strong. No dying. No lactic. No wanting to quit.

Hit the finish in 5:52. An 82 second last lap to tie my AGPR. Yet this was definitely easier than the last one. Once I got my wind back I felt fine. I really wanted to do another one. Only faster. A little disappointed because I knew I could have pushed harder in those middle laps. I felt I could have run at least 5 seconds faster. But mainly I was happy for a great race. Another sub-6 at my age - I'll take it. Just wish there was another mile race I could find...

Another tradition is the second race - a beer mile. I skipped it because I can't chug beer. But it was fun to watch.

The winner ran 6:31. The same guy had just done a 5:05 in the regular mile, and got 4th. Amazing. The winner was 4:55 in the regular mile. Then we all went off to a local pizza place for pizza and more beer. Fun times.

4th of July 5K RR

So I came into this race pretty relaxed. I knew I wasn't going to shoot for sub-20, and knowing that took away some of the pressure and fear of pain.  My goal was to beat my AG course record of 20:48 from two years ago. I figured I was in good enough shape to take that down, although it wouldn't be easy. The course has little rolling hills that are enough to hurt. The first mile has a long gradual uphill, and mile 2 has a few rollers before mile 3 (on the out and back) has a nice long downhill. So it makes sense to start conservatively and not burn out on the hills.

So my goal was 6:40 pace or under. Weather was the usual perfect - marine layer overcast, about 60. Kind of humid though. Had a good sweat going on my 1.5 mile warmup. The course runs along the ocean much of the way. My track club was out in force, with maybe 25 people in uniform. It was fun to have so many friends there. The course goes along my Tuesday group run route too, so many of them were there also. Big crowd. Over 2,000 runners and walkers.

The race invited Kayla Montgomery to get some award. Not sure why the connection, but she was here from North Carolina and was briefly introduced before she ran the race. If you don't know her story, you should make time to watch this 12 minute video. Warning: you will probably cry. Basically, she has MS and when she runs her legs go numb, but she has become a state champion anyway. At the end of her races she collapses into her coach's arms. So I was kind of hoping to see that live. However she runs like 18 minutes, so not likely...

Started well, not too fast. First look at G showed 6:45. Good. Got around the kids and maniacs in the front. Cruised to the coast and started to push up the slope. Waved to the wife.

I started catching some people and felt strong. Coach Ed (who I beat by 2 seconds last time) was well ahead of me this time, but I had him in sight and hoped maybe I could reel him in later. Mile 1 was 6:41. Fine, but now it's time to push harder.

The 5K pain had come on board by now. But I saw Ed at the turnaround maybe 12 seconds ahead, and that gave me a reason to keep the hammer down. The little hills in mile two were pretty rough and had me huffing and puffing, but I got over them and finished two with a 6:37. OK, good, now mile 3 should be faster and I am on track to get my goal.

But as mile 3 started I could feel the lactic acid coming on again. I was in survival mode, just hanging on and trying not to slow down. I was still catching people, and the downhill certainly helped. But Ed was not getting much closer. A little though. I just kept pushing.

With 0.3 to go there is a little hill before the finish, just enough to break your spirit if you are at the tipping point. But I powered up it and found I had some left to go a little further into oxygen debt. Mile 3 was 6:35.

And right here I passed Kayla! I wasn't sure it was her, but as I approached the finish, the announcer said her name. My last bit was 5:56 pace and I finished in 20:40. Bam! Goal achieved.

Coach Ed was 6 seconds ahead of me. Another friend, Eva, was 8 seconds ahead of me. (You may remember I beat her in a May 5K) As I regained my breath I stayed near the finish to watch Kayla come in about ten seconds behind me. She didn't collapse, but she had a friend there to hold her up. She just stumbled a little (like many of us!). I guess she wasn't racing too hard at near 21 minutes. Later I read that she had pulled an abdominal muscle earlier and wasn't pushing too hard.

So I'm happy with that effort. Tough field - I got 13th AG, 122nd overall. Now I have no more races until 8/28, when I will run my 8th and final 5K of the year. That one is a fast course and I plan to pull a Pre, and go out at suicide pace and get that sub-20! For now I am taking a few days off and then it will be back to speed training!

Life is good.