Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Random Last Week Thoughts

Time is winding down. Taper madness hasn't been quite as bad this time around as it has in the past. I've still lost some confidence, but I don't think you can taper without that. I just have to tell myself that tapering is part of training and it is preparing me better. But the facts are that running long and hard increases my confidence and I miss that during a taper.

I've run across some words of wisdom and some random thoughts that have entered my mind that I'll just share with my readers.

One that I know I'll keep with me was something that Trent Dean said to me as we were running cool down miles together after the Heart and Sole 5k. Trent said, "Don't let self doubt be the reason you don't break 3 hours." Very wise. I needed to hear that. Thanks, Trent.

A second came as I was eating lunch in my car and listening to Jim Rome yesterday. He interviewed Hunter Mahan who just won the Match Play Championship. Hunter just went head to head with the best golfers in the world and won. He has overcome some very public failures to find himself in that position. His mindset is very positive, but it hasn't always been. He said that he had to let go of letting his score and his results define him. His score and his golf ability do not define who he is. My performance Saturday does not define who I am. The thing he said that stood out to me was something like this... "The most difficult thing about excellence is that you have to have the belief before you can get the results. It's really hard to believe you can do something without seeing the results. But you'll never see the results if you don't first believe." I have to believe I can run a sub 3:00 BEFORE I can do it.

Another random thought came from watching the recent UFC Lightweight Championship fight between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar. Benson Henderson, the new UFC champ is my favorite fighter. He's respectful, humble, and constantly improving. And after his last loss, he made NO excuses and just worked harder and harder and harder. He exemplifies a commitment to excellence. Nobody will outwork Benson Henderson. Between the 4th and 5th rounds of the 5 round championship fight, Benson's corner asked him, "Do you have 5 good minutes?" Benson just grimaced, almost insulted that he asked the question. Again, the question comes louder, "Do you have 5 good minutes?" Benson, still grimacing, said, "I got 15 coach!" A final time, even louder, "Do you have 5 good minutes?" Benson, this time with a serious look on his face, replies, "YES SIR!" That was very inspiring to me. Bendo was prepared and was celebrating his preparation.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One Week!

How does the date of the marathon always sneak up on me? It has. Here I am one week away, and feeling unsure and not quite ready and needing to work a little harder for this race. At the same time, I'm feeling relieved and ready to take a little break from training. Taper madness they call it.

All things considered, I've had a good training cycle for this marathon. I've missed only very few workouts. My mileage has been a little higher than ever. I do believe that I peaked just a little early, though. I was probably in my best shape ever in early January. I definitely haven't improved since then. Hopefully, I haven't gone too far backwards.

Last week was pretty normal. I got in all the key runs, even though I was traveling. I did a 3x1 mile workout that I always do a week and a half out, 5:44, 5:45, and 5:41. It was probably a little harder than it should have been.

Today, I did a 13 miler. I wanted to run some miles at marathon pace just so I'd remember what the pace felt like when I was relatively fresh. It was very weird. I was going to run 5 easy, 5 at MP, and 3 easy. I ran 5 easy. Then, when I started the marathon pace miles, the effort was more difficult than it should have been. Then, after 5 MP miles, I had to take a quick bathroom break and I started running easy. But, every time I looked at my watch, I was running at marathon pace. I ended up running the last 3 at marathon pace, and it felt like easy miles. Really weird. I hope I'm able to relax like that on Saturday.

So, yet again, I'm feeling fat, out of shape, and I have no confidence that I'll come anywhere near sub 3:00. Taper madness. Why does my mind do this to me?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heart and Sole 5k

This is a very good race. The weather was awesome and the course is very flat and fast. This is a no excuses PR course. I may pick it as my next one to aim for a 5k breakthrough. Thanks to Jon Elmore for scoring the race today and for keeping the running scene going in Decatur. He gives back a lot!

I ran 18:17 for 3rd overall and first in the 35-39 age group.

Up front, I'll just say that it wasn't a good day for me. I had a long stressful week at work and just a garbage diet. I barely scraped in 80% of my planned miles. Add to that some lingering personal battles (Ugh, will these ever go away?), and I knew that I had no real chance for a good race on Saturday. I pretty much had 10 or so nights of tossing and turning instead of sleeping. And I feel a twinge of a chest cold coming on.

But I signed up anyway. It's a 5k. Every runner should just run them once in a while. Pin on a number, go, and have fun. I haven't run a road race since Thanksgiving, so I needed to turn the legs over. I also wanted to see how much 5k speed, if any, I had lost from focusing on marathon training.

I warmed up a bit with Brandon York, and when we got to the starting line, I knew that he would win the race by a LONG shot. Could I notch a second place finish today? I saw a few kids, but none of them looked like cross country studs. I figured I'd be able to tell if any of them were a threat within a half mile. And I saw one other guy wearing a sleeveless shirt and Nike Lunaracers. Yeah, I need to watch out for him. He's dressed just right for the weather, and those are racing flats. This isn't his first 5k, and he is no doubt a sub-20 guy. Otherwise, I think I have this.

When we started, Brandon was way out front as expected. A kid hung in second for about 200 yards but quickly fell back. The guy in the Lunaracers (I met him later and learned that he is Trent Dean.) was just ahead of me. So, there's the top three. About a half mile in, Brandon had a good 25 second lead on us, so I asked Trent if he was going to go after him. He laughed and said I could try if I wanted to. We ran stride for stride until about 0.75 miles in, and I made a move toward the lead because I wanted to be running a little faster than the pace he was setting. I wish I had done that earlier because this first mile was too slow at 5:47.

He hung with me for most of the first half of the race. Just before the 2 mile marker, I noticed that I had a good 10-15 second lead on him. I knew that to give up second place, I would have to come back to him or make some mistake. As we passed the aid station just past the 2 mile marker, I was judging by the sounds of the cheers and figured that my lead was about the same, maybe a little more. Mile 2 was 5:44. It really felt faster than that, so I was a little worried that I was losing steam and would give up some of my lead. But I would have to run a 5:50 and he would have to run a 5:40 for this to even be close on the last 0.1. I'd have to give him some time.

I cruised in the 3rd mile, wishing for the end. I could feel him gaining on me, and the effort to maintain my pace was getting more and more difficult. But I didn't give him much because I ran that 3rd mile in 5:46.

How on earth did I come in 3rd, then? Oh, he gained on me in the last mile, but I had what should have been an insurmountable lead. Until I missed the final turn. Ugh. He didn't miss it, but he did yell at me and I turned around, but it was too late to catch him. The next runner was nowhere in sight, and I had no chance to catch him or to break 18 minutes. So, I just coasted in.  He ran 18:10 or so and I ran 18:17. It's nobody's fault but mine that I missed that turn, but it is frustrating as can be.

After the race, I congratulated Trent and ran a few miles with him. He is a super nice guy and he's working hard to break 18. Today was almost his day. I wish he had stayed with me the whole race, and he said the same. We would have broken 18 working together, I'm sure.

I've gotta stop missing turns in races.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Can I Bum a Smoke?

So, how's it been since Mountain Mist? Last week I was on the 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM shift at work. I ran every opportunity I had, but it wasn't much. That's why it took me so long to get the report done. I simply haven't had time. Then, a quick trip to Denver that got me caught in a blizzard trying to get me home left me too exhausted to do my long run last Saturday. So, I skipped it. It's the first time I've skipped a scheduled long run in a long time. Oh well, I'm chalking that up to recovery from Mountain Mist.

This week has been much better except for some personal struggles. But I've gotten the miles done, mostly. I did 5x1200m on Tuesday. That felt pretty good. 4:11, 4:13, 4:13, 4:14, 4:14. Done. Mid-week 15 miler, done.

Then the long run today... The schedule called for a 22 miler. I had 4 pre-teen girls in my house last night, and I didn't get in bed until 1:30 AM. Then, it was about 30 degrees with winds from the NNW at about 20 mph. I just couldn't find the motivation to get out the door. My wife really encouraged me. She doesn't just tolerate this hobby of mine, she fully supports it! She told me that if I didn't go now, I wouldn't get it done today. At least three times, she said, "Go run." Thanks. 22.5 miles done.

So... What about the title of this post? So, I'm cruising along, feeling pretty good considering the miserable weather and the wind. I'm about 11 miles in running along at a sub 7 minute pace. I'm running my usual route and I see someone walking up ahead. I don't think anything of it really because I'm in a neighborhood and he doesn't look terribly out of place. He flagged me down and asked me for a cigarette! Seriously?!?!? I'm dressed in running gear, wearing a GPS watch and carrying a water bottle. Do I look like someone who would be carrying a pack of smokes? I really couldn't believe that just happened!

So... that's my past two weeks in running.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Alabama's Toughest Trail Run

I've gotten a little push from some folks for a Mountain Mist report. At least I have a reader or two left! :)
I Finally broke 5 hours!!!!
Photo Courtesy of James Hurley

First, as usual, I have to give credit to Dink and Suzanne Taylor for directing this most excellent event! Also, I'd like to give credit to Huntsville Track Club for their excellent timing services for this race. This is really one first class ultra. It's a privilege to have an event of this quality so close to home!

Yes, I remembered my shoes this year! I don't think Matt or Lanier will let me forget that mistake from last year. I was a little confused about what to wear. I felt cold, but I knew that the temperature would rise and that I would get hot. I opted for the less is better philosophy and went with shorts, short sleeves, and gloves. That ended up being wise as it did get warmer than I expected.
Photo Courtesy of James Hurley

One of my favorite parts of this race is hanging out with friends pre-race. Chatting strategy, giving encouraging words, laughing, seeing folks I don't always see, etc. etc.

To Aid 1

I actually started on time this year! Yay!
I was a little concerned about the race to the trail head. I hadn't warmed up at all, and I'm just not used to blasting out at that pace. I do better to start slowly and then finish strong. I ran about a 6:50 mile to the trail head and scooted down Walnut hill pretty quickly. I immediately slowed down on Mountain Mist trail to relax a bit from the fast start. Several folks passed me here. I just let them go and ran my own race. I hung for a while here with FFRT teammate Tim Pitt. I late on Mountain Mist, just before the climb to South Plateau.

From there I ran mostly alone until I caught the current female leader on the Family Bike Trail. I ran with her to the aid station, but I could tell that she wasn't going to be able to maintain that pace.  I don't know what happened to her after I passed her. I hit the aid station at 53:21. That seemed to put me well on course for a sub 5 hour.

To 3 Benches
I flew down the Warpath descent passing several people, which was tricky on the downhill. Then I settled behind a group after it flattened out at the bottom. When we exited the woods headed toward the power lines, there were only two left in the group, Matthew Vest and me. I learned that he also had a sub 5 hour goal, and we ended up running most of the rest of the race together, taking turns leading.

I set the pace on the K2 climb, and it seemed to be just about right because Matthew didn't feel the need to pass even though I offered. Also, I had plenty of energy for the goat trail after we topped out. Like all the aid stations, I was in and out as quickly as possible at 3 benches. I was only there for as long as it took to fill my bottle. 1:39:51 and still on track for 5 hours.

The "Halfway" Point
The aid station at Fearn is considered the halfway point, even though it is at about 17 miles. It typically is the halfway point for time. The run from 3 benches was fairly uneventful with Matt leading most of the way here. He really enjoyed the trip through Stone Cuts.

There were some nice photos at the Cold Springs crossing just before the aid station.
Photo Courtesy of Marc Davis

My goal was to get to the halfway point without being tired. Mission accomplished. I felt really good. Also, my motto all day was, "Take what the course gives and give what the course takes." Again, in and out of the aid station as quickly as possible. 2:29:24, right on track for 5 hours.

To Land Trust
This was another uneventful section of the race. I was a little slower coming down Bluffline than I should have been. I'm not sure why. It felt fast, but it wasn't very fast at all. I was starting to feel a little tired in my legs, but I still felt good, as good as I ever remember feeling at this point in the race. 3:03:53.

On To Waterline
This was without a doubt the best I have ever run on Railroad Bed Trail and Alms House Trail. Here, I put some distance on Matthew. But it came at a price. When I got to the end of Alms House Trail and turned left onto Waterline, I felt completely beat up! I ended up walking almost all of Waterline. I saw Matt behind me, so I sped up a bit and realized that I was about to puke. I actually wanted to puke. I knew I'd feel better, but it just wouldn't happen. I was having an awesome race to this point and probably had a legitimate chance at sub 4:50. But I fell completely apart from this point onward. Matt passed me at the top of Waterline and encouraged me. I stayed with him to the aid station. 3:48:54. I knew that I could run the last 10k in less than 71 minutes, but I wasn't sure I could keep it together from here to the end of the race.

To Rest Shelter
I hung on to Matt as long as I could. He pulled away and out of my sight at suicide drop. I was sick, miserable, and wanting to puke still. So, I ran gingerly and cautiously down the steep, technical descent to McKay Hollow. I really ran this section as poorly as I could have. I struggled badly, but I never fell.

Slush mile wasn't as bad as I expected, but I was struggling to just put one foot in front of the other. I was longing for Rest Shelter climb because I knew I'd be near the end. It couldn't come soon enough! When it came, I couldn't run a step. I could see David O'Keefe up ahead, but I knew I had no chance of catching anyone. I had passed William Ansick back on Bluffline, and he passed me fairly strongly on this climb. I just had nothing left. I wanted to puke. Badly. I just couldn't. Ugh. It was so bad that when I got to the top of Rest Shelter climb, I asked if I could drop out! With 1.8 easy miles to go, I asked to quit. I'm thankful that the aid station volunteer wouldn't let me do that!

The End
On that 1.8 miles that I was talked into running, I was barely able to slog it out. It was my stomach, not my legs. I just felt awful. I fell twice during this stretch, the only times I fell all day! I was just enduring, running slower than a 10:00 pace. I just couldn't go. I just fell apart. If not for the stomach issues, I really believe I could have finished much stronger. I finished in 4:56:53 which was better than my goal.

Oh well. I'm very pleased with the race. I broke 5 hours and I know I can do better. With better course conditions, a little better luck with nutrition, and more trail specific training, I can run this course faster. But I ran the best I could on that day!