Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Against My Better Judgement

Against my better judgement, I have decided to go ahead with the Quicksilver 50 mile race on May 10th. I was contemplating dropping it down to the 50k distance because of the difficulty I had at the Ruth Anderson race a little while ago. I mean, if I couldn't do the 50m there where it is flat then how could I have any chance of doing it in the hills with over 8,000 ft of elevation gain?

Well here is my reasoning. First off Ruth Anderson was unusually difficult conditions to run in. The winds were 25-35 mph with gusts into the 50 mph range. And the gusts weren't every once in a while... More like one after another. Anyway, with those winds it was a lot harder to run through. I wasn't running too fast of a pace, wanting to make sure I didn't use too much energy, but the wind more than compensated and made sure I used all my energy. Plus, my calves were getting pretty sore by about mile 17 because I was leaning into the wind and pushing through it.

Second, the course was a loop course, bringing you back to the start every 4.5 miles. I've found in the past that I don't do loop courses too well. At Pacifica earlier this year I ended up dropping at the 30k finish, which was the fourth time passing through the start/finish area, and if I would have ran the whole 50k it would have been 6 times through there. This makes it harder for me because as I get more tired I know I have that many more opportunities to just stop. Whereas the other races where they were out and backs, or maybe one loop back through the start/finish, I was able to run much more easily. Reasoning: when you are doing out and backs the territory is all new and therefore easier to run through as you are experiencing everything for the first time, and you know you must get from point A to point B. There are no questions or chances to doubt yourself. You just hunker down and do it.

Finally, the fact that the run is in the hills will make things easier, I think. Tougher, yes, but forced walks will not tire me out so much and will not drain my morale. Little breaks do wonders for me while running. Not little walk breaks on a flat course, because then you think to yourself that you should be running. But forced breaks in hills are necessary and par for the course. And in this manner I can break it up into two parts. The first 50k is one long out and back loop with a little over 5,000 ft elevation gain. I've actually ran worse elevation gains than that, so if I make sure and eat and drink properly than getting to this point is no problem. The last 19 miles or so is over 3,000 ft elevation gain and will be the point where all I need do is go out to the turn around point 'cause then the only place to go from there is back.

Sum it up, windy conditions won't hamper my energy and strength and sap anything out of me that I had (although it should be pretty hot that day, so things might be just as bad in a different way). A non-loop course forces me to go from point A to B, if for nothing else to make sure I get back to my car and to where there is food and water. Finally, the hills will effectively break up my running and force me to walk, thus giving me the necessary breaks for not only morale but for my energy and muscles as well.

In theory, that is. Theory didn't go too well as the wind came and blew any notions I had away. Hopefully this time it will be better. And I am okay with receiving a DNF. In fact I am going with the full knowledge that this may very well happen by electing to try the 50m. I'll try my darndest to make sure that doesn't happen, but I will also be prepared if it does.

After all, there is one thing this course will help me with (as compared with Ruth Anderson), and that is that it will help my stubborn side take over and let it do the big walking and talking. Then I can sit back and enjoy the ride.

In theory, that is.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

PR at the windy Ruth Anderson 50k

Things don't always go as planned. I had signed up for the Ruth Anderson 50m and was primed and ready. Granted I hadn't trained as well as I should have since running the Napa Valley Marathon in March and the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon 2 weeks ago, but I thought I could persevere. I never once thought that the wind would come in and have such a devastating effect, not only for myself but for a lot of other runners.

Ruth Anderson 50k - 5:46:10 (11:10 pace; 14/31)

The day didn't start out too well when I was lost in San Francisco. The exit was a tiny little exit with a small little sign. I drove right past it. A few wrong turns later, and then I was back on track. So I reversed the directions and instead of turning left, I turned right in order to get back on track since I was now coming from the opposite direction. Long story short, I didn't get to the start line for close to an hour after it started. The race directors were very accommodating though. I had already figured that I would have a start time an hour longer than my actual run but they pulled out another stop watch and gave me my actual time! I was blown away and I must give a huge thanks to Rajeev and all the other volunteers.

Back to the beginning. Stepped out of the car and I was frozen immediately. I had assumed the day previously, without checking the weather, that it would be great conditions. Luckily my grandmother warned me that it would be cold as a big cold front was coming in. So at the last minute I grabbed some gloves and a long sleeve shirt just in case. These were the first things that I put on when I stepped out of the car and I was still cold!

So as I started everyone else had already finished one lap around the lake, which is 4.475 miles. I soon started and was playing catch up to some of the slower runners, passing many. This was not a good sign. I had told myself that I needed to maintain a 10:30-11 minute pace in order to not burn out. The first mile came around in 8:15! By the time I finished the first lap I had maintained an 8:37 pace, and this was after I tried to slow down some!

The second lap was better as I slowed it down to an 9:15 pace, which was still too fast. But I was feeling great. The wind was playing a huge role in how myself and everyone else was running. The west side of the course, which is less than a half mile away from the ocean (seriously, I've never been to Lake Merced and was surprised to find a fresh water lake so close to the ocean), had strong winds that slowed you down a lot, but it still wasn't too bad yet.

Lap 3 was a little better for me as I was finally able to slow myself down to the manageable pace I was shooting for in order to finish the 50 miles. I still felt very strong and wasn't considering dropping to the 50k at all. I was in it for the long haul.

Lap 4 was the first inkling of a problem on the horizon. The wind was picking up quite a bit and was forcing me to walk through it instead of blow a lot of much needed energy in pushing through it. Even at times the wind would gust in so fast and hard that my walk would almost be put to a stand still! My calves too were tightening up, but this was nothing new so I didn't worry about it. My pace now was where I wanted it, but that was more from the wind slowing me down than me actually making a conscious effort to run that slow. To this point I had ran 17.4 miles.

Lap 5 was where I ultimately decided that there was no way I could keep on trying for the 50 miles. My pace had dropped to 12 minutes and I was walking a ton more, and not just on the windy side. I had started resorting to running for a while and then taking short walk breaks. This happened throughout the whole 5th lap. Oh, and the wind was only just getting started. It had actually spread down the whole west side of the course, whereas it was only on the northwest side earlier.

Lap 6 was a killer for me. That was my slowest lap by far and my calves were playing games with me now. Kind of funny, though, because I would be running along and have to walk in order for them to not cramp. Then a little bit later I could run on it without any problems (a surge of adrenaline? maybe a surge in endorphins that helped mask the discomfort of the calves? who knows, but it was strange). The wind was in the 30-35 mph range now and I was ready to be done and out of the wind and cold. But I still had one more lap to go. Incidentally, I hit the marathon mark here at about 4:42:22, which was the fourth fastest time I have ever ran that distance. Who knows how fast I could have ran it because of two factors: I started slower than I normally would for a marathon and, of course, the wind.

Lap 7 was a good effort. I sped it up some and tried to not walk as much. Ultimately I came in only a little better than the previous lap, but I will take any better, no matter how small it is. I was glad to be done, though, even though I was a bit disappointed that I didn't give the 50 mile distance a try.

But there is always good that comes out of everything, and in this case I ran a PR for this distance. Granted, the other 50ks had big elevation gains, but a PR is still a PR. And I knew coming into this that I hadn't trained well enough for the 50 miles, nor, for that matter, the 50k, so any result was a positive for me. Coming so close off the heels of the Headlands Marathon two weeks ago I am happy with this result. I was going to try for the Quicksilver 50m in three weeks, but will probably have to drop that one back down to the 50k. A 50m is in my future, but I will bide my time and make sure that I am properly trained before I attempt the next one. Another positive, this is the third longest distance I have ever ran (behind 33.5 and 31.2), which is always a step forward.

Here's to happy running and good health! Again, cheers to the volunteers at the RA Endurance Runs. We couldn't do this without you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pre-race thoughts of the Ruth Anderson 50m

Kind of late, both in a post and in the actual time, but I wanted to write some quick thoughts on tomorrow's race. My first 50 miler, and it is an easy one at that. Not saying easy, really, only that it should be easier than other 50 milers because it is a flat loop course with no hills. I haven't trained too well since the Napa Marathon where I ran way faster than I ever imagined I could. I think this effort will suffer because of this, but I am hoping I can hold on to some of my former tenacity and push through and finish.

The course is unique in that you are running and when you get to the 50k finish you have the option to stop and collect your time or continue on to the 50 mile finish (or 100km if you so chose). So I will feel it out tomorrow and see how I am feeling at the 50k finish and decide whether I should push it through to the 50 miles. I am stubborn, so I will probably attempt it nonetheless. And what is the worst that could happen? Push on and run 40 miles and have to stop and get a DNF? Oh well, at least I tried.

So some hopes. I think I will run it at a slower 10-11 minute pace and see how I feel. This should allow me to finish the 50k in about 5 hours or so. So even if I walked at 3 mph the rest of the way that would give me a 12 hour total for the 50 mile. So hopes are to finish the 50 miler anywhere from 10-12 hours and I will be happy. Hell, so long as I finish I will be happy.

Here's to happy running, although in a few short hours I am sure I will be asking myself the typical mid-race question: Why, O Why do you continue to put yourself through this? Answer? Because I can, we can, everyone could, if they put their mind to it. So push the limits I will.

Lake Merced here I come.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Walking To The Finish Line of The Headlands Marathon

It seems that the Napa Valley Marathon at the beginning of March, in which I ran my first sub 4 hour, took a lot more out of me than I expected. I knew I would be ill prepared for this marathon, and it definitely showed. Alas, I indeed did walk to the finish line. A little deceptive, but true just the same.

Golden Gate Headlands Marathon - 4:49:50 (12:20 pace; 16/27)

The day didn't start off on the right foot. I had showered and eaten a large breakfast before setting out on the 1 hour 24 minute drive to Rodeo Beach in Sausalito, CA, and I didn't realize that I had forgotten to put body glide on my nipples! Oh, the agony of remembering my first marathon where my nipples were rubbed raw from my shirt, or of seeing other runners with blood running down their shirt. I swore I would never forget to put on the body glide (incidentally I did remember to apply it the other chafing spots at least). This put a spark of doubt before I even started.

The race started and we set off immediately up a hill that would last for about 2 miles. Incidentally, this is virtually the same trails that I ran for the Rodeo Beach 50k and had ran my best race thus far. I knew immediately that I was not going to repeat myself. I stowed away my pride in my back pocket and began the long grind ahead of me as the hills seemed to take a lot more out of me than normal. By the time I was coming up to mile 12 I was already doubting whether I would be able to continue, as this is a two loop course where you pass by the finish line. In fact, you have to walk past the record keepers at the finish line to get to the aid station.

But on I pushed, and not only was there the 2 mile hill in the beginning with some rather steep parts, but at about mile 4.5 is another 2.5-3 mile hill that has no respites. Just keep going up. By the time I rounded the valley and came in view of the Pacific Ocean the wind had picked up and I had to literally lean into the wind in order to stay up right. And this was where the deceptive title comes into play. To get to the finish line, and the half way point as well, you have to run down the beach, in the heavy sand! I don't know if you have ever tried doing this but you can't get a firm footing, then your foot is heavy as you try to lift your sand covered foot. Needless to say, I wasn't having any of this so I walked. Yup, I walked to the finish line. Luckily the last 200 ft. went up the bank and onto concrete, so I didn't have to literally walk across the finish. But it was all the same.

This was a very hard race, and I only have myself to blame. I haven't been running as much so my body wasn't used to the long running, as well as doing only one trail training run recently. And the aid stations were pitiful. Water at every aid station (some with sports drink), and food at every other aid station. And the food was not appetizing at all. I had to resort to my Cliff Shot Bloks which held me over, but certainly wasn't enough to sustain myself for the whole distance. And this is the story of my running career so far: not eating or drinking enough. Interestingly enough, and you would think this would be lesson enough, my two PRs for the Marathon and the 50k both came on days that I ate and drank as I should have. Says a lot right there.

And on a side note I am a little irked at Eviro Sports, the organization that put on the event. They put a note on their website, What's in a distance?, that tries to explain this away, but c'mon, couldn't they try and get a little closer to the actual marathon distance? As is the distance only came in at 24 miles! Imagine finishing your marathon or half marathon and believing you had just set a PR that was faster than a road marathon or halfer! Okay, a bit extreme, but still. I understand a bit off, but 2.2 miles! So if it was a marathon my time would have been more like 5:15, which was still a PR for a trail marathon, so woohoo for me!

Oh well. You win some, you lose some.