Saturday, June 28, 2008

2008 Spirit of America 5 mile

2008 Spirit of America 5 mile
Decatur, AL
June 28, 2008
Official Results from River City Runners

On Tuesday the 24th I was absolutely not going to race this weekend. I had run 20 races this season to date, including 19 races in the last 16 weeks. My legs were really just tired and I thought that I needed a break from racing for a few weeks to get the spring back in my step. The spring that I have not felt since late February. Then Laura convinced some NOBO runners to race at Spirit of America in Decatur. When she registered online she asked me if I was going. Reluctantly I said yes. Really though, who was I fooling? Despite anything I say, I was always going to race. I just needed to think that I wasn't, if just for a few days.

I have officially stopped looking at the weather for summer races in Alabama. I just plan on 75-80 degrees by the start and bright sunshine with a hint of humidity. That was pretty much the same for this race.

This was a stagger start based on 2006 WMA (World Masters Association) age grade tables. Basically the older and more female age groups started first and then every minute started another group of runners. I would start in the last group (M18-34) 20 minutes behind the first group. The concept is to start apart and finish together, as opposed to starting together and finishing apart. Then awards are given at the finish to the top 10 male and top 10 female runners.

We watched all of the fast guys in there 40's and 50's and all females head out in front of us. The gap to the open class of females was 6 minutes, which would be impossible to make up in 5 miles, especially on Emily and Linda. Finally we started out on a grassy loop around the Point Mallard Soccer field. I had Tyrone Harris and Jason Reneau in my bracket, so that would give me some people to chase for a mile or so.

The first mile was on the grass and part on the road and came in at 5:51. Footing wasn't great on the field and the grass was slightly wet. I really liked the concept of getting to see new runners that I had not run with before. Also it was motivating to turn on the jets and pass as well. I felt decent, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to hold this pace in the heat, but I was going to push it and hold on as long as I could. I was running shirtless in this race and was dripping sweat right from the start. It was very, very hot.

The second mile was on the road with a slight incline and timed at a 5:53. I was still passing people left and right which pushed me to run harder and harder. If I could only have people to pass the entire race I would be able to hold on. This was about the time that I saw Laura and a few other runners that I knew. Everyone seemed to look pretty strong for this stage in the race. This was about the last time that I saw Jason, as he was about to enter the woods ahead of me.

The third mile was half on the road and half on the trail and timed at a 6:03 (2:58 on the road and 3:05 on the trail). I grabbed water in this mile, taking a small drink and dumping a small amount on the back of my neck to cool down. I knew that there would only be one more chance for water and in this heat, I knew that I needed a little dash. The trail was very winding and difficult to maintain a constant speed. There were still runners ahead of me who started early that I had to pass and it was not impossible, but strenuous to pass on the trail. Everyone wants to run the shortest distance, which means a straight line and often times I would have to take corners wide or having to slow down to pass people as they ran together or were in packs. I may have been able to hold onto the sub six minute pace had the course been out and back, but with this narrow 4' wide winding trail, I knew that it was not going to happen.

The fourth mile was all on the winding trail and run in the shade. I ran a 6:08 (3:02 and 3:08) and I started to struggle a bit. I was feeling sick to my stomach and really had no choice but to slow down if I wanted to be able to finish strong. There were fewer and fewer runners that I passed now. The ones that were still ahead might very well stay ahead of me. I had no idea what position I was in, as I really couldn't see more than to the next corner. The fatigue was setting in here and I looked at my watch 100 times from mile 3.6 to mile 4.0. I just couldn't believe how slowly the time was ticking by.

The fifth and final mile was still on the trail and except for a few times that the trail ended and ran out onto the road, was similar in nature to mile 4. I only passed maybe a half dozen people in this last mile, including Dogman around the 4.5 mile mark. I think that he started a few minutes ahead of me, but I am not sure how many. After a 3:06 first half mile, I really dropped the hammer and started to cruise in. I could see two runners in the far distance and I thought that they were male. Did I need to pass them to make the top 10? I had no idea. Since that was the case, I had not choice to push and see what would happen. I ran a 2:40 last half mile split (though the last mile measured only 0.96 miles) and as I made the last climb up a small hill at the end, the 2 male runners in front of me finished. I haven't seen the results, but they were maybe 5 seconds ahead of me.

As soon as I got to the end of the chute, Jon Elmore told me that I just missed the award level, which was the top 10 male runners. The two older guys in front of me were 9 and 10. If I had a full 5 miles (0.04 miles more) I would have passed them easily and been in the award bracket. It's not all about the awards, but the were nice wooden awards with engraving and race details. River City Runners usually goes all out and this was no different. For pure superficial reasons, it is nice to put something on the mantel to remember the race by. As it stands, I will have this race report and my bib number.

In the end I was the 5th fastest runner overall of 185 total at 29:45 and finished 11th male with the adjusted handicap starting. In true scoring, I would have taken 1st in M30-39 with Jason being pulled out of the age group as he was in the top 3.

Top 10 by time
Place Name Age Sex Time Net Time
1 Tyrone Harris 28 M 0:47:23 0:27:23
2 George Dewitt 49 M 0:44:29 0:28:29
3 Jason Reneau 32 M 0:48:55 0:28:55
4 Nathan Lewis 17 M 0:48:11 0:29:11
5 Eric Charette 32 M 0:49:46 0:29:46
6 Josh Long 29 M 0:50:22 0:30:22
7 Marty Clarke 46 M 0:48:25 0:31:25
8 Emily Hardin 24 F 0:46:03 0:32:03
9 Mathew Dunn 15 M 0:50:19 0:32:19
10 Barry Ege 55 M 0:47:34 0:32:34

My monthly mileage is looking to be about 310 miles with 3 quality runs per week. I don't think that this is too much, but maybe with a few less junk miles on non-quality days, I'd be in a little better shape.

We did about a 5 mile cool down with Linda, Andy, Joey and Emily and Wayne Heckler running with me. We basically retraced the course but at 50% the speed:) It was nice to get to know Emily better and for her to meet Ultra Wayne.

Thanks for Eric Schotz, Jon Elmore and the rest of the River City Runners for putting on a fine event. As always it was well coordinated and they had cookies at the end which I love to snack on with my Endurox Recovery Drink:)

In the future, I'd like to see this race run similar with a small change. It would be nice to stagger start runners based on their 12 previous month best 5k time. Then I would be running against other 5k runners in the 17:45 +/- 15 to 30 second range. This way you would run with other runners (male, female, all ages) that are the same speed. This would produce a truly spectacular finish as I think everyone would come in at the same time. You would be running the whole race next to people who are the same pace. You wouldn't really have to pass anyone, if they ran close to their 5k time, then you would all finish at the same time.

Future plans include taking a race break this coming weekend and trying to run a fast 10k in Crystal Falls, MI at the Run Your Bass Off race.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

2008 Cross Country Race Series

Week 4 June 24, 2008
Laura and I race directed this week with Steve and Jennifer Carter in Minnesota with Taylor's for the Fleet Feet Conference. It was fun, stressful and rewarding all in a few hours.

I was hurting coming in, with a knot in my inner right calf that I just could not work out. I certainly was not on top of my game and knew very quickly that this would be a hard run, but not an all out effort. Plus I was struggling with an blocked right eye tear duct that left me with an infected eye and eyelid. This was really bothering me and I had worked from home for the last two days.

The weather was steamy compared to the previous weeks that we had run here and I decided to carry a bottle with a little bit of water in it for the 3 and 2 mile race.

I did not push Linda down in warm ups:) She fell on her own accord. Maybe it is how I lull people into a state of comfort with my chatting while we run that causes them to forget their surroundings and fall down. Maybe not:)

In the 3 mile I ran a 19:24 for 7th overall. Splits were (3:05+3:10)=6:15, (3:07+3:45)=6:52, (3:19+2:58)=6:17. I walked up part of the hill.

In the 2 mile I ran a 13:16 for 5th overall. Splits were (3:20+3:34)=6:54, (3:19+3:03)=6:22.

Week 3 June 17, 2008
This week at the races was a little different as I ran a double today and was in the middle of a mileage junkie phase. This would be my fourth 14 mile day in a row when all was said and done.

I arrived late because of extended family in town and would have to leave early in the end. I rushed through a 2 mile warm up just in time to stretch for a minute before the start of the 1 mile. Normally I would just use the first run as a true warm up, but I ended up running with Jason Reneau and we ran a little faster than normal. We ran stride for stride and clocked a 6:28 (3:24 and 3:08). I knew that tonight would be a fast night.

In looking around at the start of the 3 mile race, I could not believe how many fast people were there. This was an all star class better in talent than previous weeks and any race I can remember. Reneau, Riddle, Bowman, Purinton, Taylor, Blaise, Chase, Satterfield, Temple, George, Mike Greene, Elmore and a ton of other fast UAH studs. Plus Emily, Brooke and Linda on the female side. A-m-a-z-i-n-g-!

I pushed hard out of the gate thinking that I would just see who wanted to race and who was just out for a jog. I pushed for the first half mile behind Bowman 2:58, but was quickly passed by Riddle and George and Jason. By the 1 mile mark, Temple passed as well and despite a 6:06 first mile, I was now in 5th place.

The second mile was 3:32+3:12=6:44. I struggled up the hill and it took a long time to get my legs back. It was basically the same result as last week. I ran a good start and then my legs felt like cement coming up the hill. I really felt the fatigue of miles and racing when climbing this hill.

My last mile downhill was 3:12+2:49=6:01. I had to push really, really hard in the last half mile as I could tell that Blaise was closing in on me. I would say that he made up 1/8 to 1/4 mile on me in the last mile. I talked to him afterward and he said that he really turned it in. I was all out and just holding on.

In the end I CR'd the course for me at 18:39. This was about 5 seconds faster than last week. I was pretty happy with that. Riddle ran with Reneau and Temple ran with Bowman. Then there was me, pushing alone. Either I need to get faster to hang with these ultra-fast guys or someone else needs to get kinda fast like me so we can duke it out. I'd love to run against someone who would battle with me week in and week out.

After a quick break, we went out on the 2 mile race. I really don't know how I was able to run 12:22 last year on the 2 mile. I think I must have done this on really fresh legs. I ran my tail off and was still 11 seconds off that CR for me. My splits were 3:11+316=6:27 and 3:12+2:53=6:05 for 12:33. I finished 4th overall in a much smaller field. I was going to hold back and run slower, and even mentioned that to Dink going out. But like every other competitive environment, once I warmed up, I really turned it on late and cruised in. I was not gassed when it was over, but fairly fatigued.

All in all, it was a pretty good night again. That makes 16 races in the last 100 days. What am I thinking? I don't even have a goal race in mind!

Week 2 June 10, 2008
I was feeling relatively sluggish before running tonight. My body had just gotten used to central time again after a week in Las Vegas on pst. I also had raced hard on Saturday at Eurocross, and had amassed 3 days in a row of 10+ miles. Plus after a 2 mile warm up with Linda and Joey, the other runners began to arrive. Despite this being a 'fun' race, the number of fast runners who I had not seen in many months were all walking up to run. As far as the fast runners to total runners ratio, it was much higher than I had seen in quite some time. Again, 'fun' race, but I was still intimidated. Names like Satterfield, DeWitt, Allen, Eaton and a dozen current and former UAH track stars all decided to show up on the same night.

My plan (as it developed) for the 3 mile race was to push the pace early and see who was going to run seriously and who was just there for fun. We ran in a pack through the field and into the woods around turn one and it was clear that maybe but a dozen people who contend. By the mile turn around (0.42 miles), I threw in a burst of speed and passed two guys to take the lead. From there I continued to run hard as the course goes through it's rolling hills. I went through the first mile in sub 6 pace.

As I ran down the hill and into the flats near the highway, I could tell that it was down to maybe 5-6 people, but couldn't tell who they were. I knew someone was close behind, but I didn't sneak a peak to find out. I saw Joey as the out and back trails combined and he looked surprised to see me in the lead. Either that or he was surprised to see the gap that the top 4 runners had put on everyone.

The course was really dusty and without any water to wet my throat, I resorted to a tactic that I despise; licking the sweat off of my arm. I just need enough to ease my breathing on a damp throat, as opposed to sucking are when the windpipe feels like sandpaper. Disgusting? Yes. Helpful? Slightly.

I started to climb the hill and then realized that I was being tracked down by George. He has been strong lately and I could tell that he was running the hill with power. I chatted with him for a second as he passed and continued the climb. At the top my legs felt dead, but I pushed on anyway. My half mile split (for the mile with the hill) was 3:27.

Now past the two mile mark, I was able to get my legs back and push the pace to near 6 minute miles again. Near the next tee box, Mark Eaton also put a surge on and ran past me. He is a UAH runner and capable of a ~ 1:12-1:13 half if I remember right. He ran effortlessly as he closed the gap on George and then ran with him to the finish.

I ran the last section through the field pretty well, averaging around and then below six for the last 1/2 mile. As I made the second to last turn, I could see that Dwayne was behind me but that I could coast in if I wanted. I crossed the finish line in 18:43 (unofficial as of yet), which is 6:14 pace. I think that my previous best last year on this course was 20:07, so I had a great improvement. If I take out the hill climb, I ran the flats and downs (somewhat technical) in 6:06 pace.

I was very happy with the results given my pre-race lethargic legs.

After a non existent cool down, we went out on the 2 mile race. The numbers were down to maybe 50 and we went out slow. We ran behind Tom Smith's daughter through 0.20 miles as all of the guys didn't want to pass her. She is ~5? years old. Again, the pack separated and it was down to 4 runners. We went through the first mile in a high 6 and then the second mile in a low 6 for a finishing time of 12:59 (unofficial). At the 1 mile mark I asked the guys I was with (including George and Mark) if they wanted to pass and they said no; that they were just comfortable with the pace. This was a hard tempo run, not really a race. We chatted most of the time. In the home stretch, we ran shoulder to shoulder, crossing the finish line at the same time, making it a 4-way tie for first. The gal handing out the finish line cards through them up in the air and we randomly picked them up. I ended up with the #1 card by chance, but by no means was first. Two of the other three could have dropped me near the start, but we chose to run together for camaraderie.

Overall I feel pretty good for my first XC race(s) of the season.

Week 1 June 3, 2008
Traveling out of town and did not make it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2008 RC Cola-Moon Pie 10 Mile

2008 RC Cola-Moon Pie 10 Mile
Bell Buckle, TN
June 21, 2008

Signing up for this race was relatively last minute, with an online registration taking place on Thursday afternoon. I knew from research that this was a tough course and a large field, yet I put the $38.50 on the line, hoping for it to pay off in the end.

The day started early, with a 4:30 am departure from Starbucks with Joey Butler. Bell Buckle, TN is about 75 miles away from Huntsville, so for a 7am race start, we needed to get on the road in time to pick up our packets and timing chip. After crossing the Alabama/Tennessee border, it was mostly country, like country-country.

Bell Buckle was a quaint little town that exists because two roads intersect, and a rail road passes through. That is about the only reason that I could figure out. I had an unusual nervous stomach prerace and had to hit the bathroom three times! The last time was with 6 minutes prior to race time. After that I got to the start with 2 minutes to spare. Lucky for me, the race start was delayed for 2 minutes as last minute announcements were made.

The competition at the start line did not look like it was that strong. There were maybe a handful of 'fast-looking' guys, which was surprising that the field was nearly 800 deep. The gun went off and we crossed the timing mat. The first mile rose 119 feet before the 1/2 mile mark. The lead pack took off fast, but I settled into a comfortable pace 6:06. As close as I could tell, I was in 10th place at the top of the first hill. I made a push down the first hill, passing one guy, but quickly being passed by two others. The last half of the first mile was downhill with an 82 foot drop. At that mile spilt I was in 11th.

Mile two was again uphill, ascending another 100 feet. My time was 6:08 for the mile. I was feeling relaxed and my breathing was calm, but I seemed to be gaining on the runners ahead of me. In this mile, I passed the two runners back that passed me at the tail end of mile 1 and I passed one other runner before the water stop at mile 2. This put me into 8th. Through 2 miles I was aver ageing 6:07 pace.

At the mile two mark, we turned to the north and no longer had to look into the sun directly. The wind was not an issue, but the sun was starting to bear down, now from the right side, but still there. I passed up the water stop at the turn. I am not sure if this was the right decision or not, but I was closing in on the guy in front of me and he didn't stop, so I passed it up as well. Mile three continued to climb, but this time up even more. The climb in this mile was 188 feet. I ran very quickly on the downhills, picking up the pace and closing in on runners, while keeping it conservative climbing up. I was running behind a very strong masters runner for the entire mile. I just locked in on him and followed closely. The pace was good, even for the climb. I ran a 6:22, which was actually very strong given the hill climb.

I knew from reading the race brochure that the largest hill started at mile 4 and climbed for 6 tenths of a mile, ascending another 170 feet in a single climb. This would either break me early or prove to help in the end. I ran very steady, now side by side with the masters runner and then passing him going up the hill. He caught me near the top, but his breathing was so rapid and mine relaxed, I decided to take advantage of it. I hit the crest and pushed very hard down the next hill to the 5 mile mark. The mile split was 6:29 meaning that I had run 31:13 through five miles or at about 6:15 pace through the hardest part of the course. Hitting the half way point was very rejuvenating as my legs were still there, and I felt surprisingly well. We would make a left and run with the sun at our backs for a few miles now and mostly downhill until about 8 miles.

In the next three miles I really started to turn it on. I was running in 6th place with the next few runners within sight. I could not see Jason Reneau or the other front runner, but that meant that with a push and if I could pass three more runners I would make the top 3. This was the weirdest feeling as I was all together mentally and not settling for a comfortable finish. I clocked mile splits of 6:59 and 6:56 now through 7 miles. I knew that I only had to suffer for less than eighteen more minutes. In this stretch I had passed a younger runner who was wearing long shorts and an under armour top and another top runner who stopped to walk. This was very surprising, but I did not question it. He had been running 6 minute pace for 42 minutes, which is not shabby for this course, so I assume that it was cramps and not inexperience. He said 'good job' as I ran by and I told him the same. He would end up finishing stronger, but today wasn't his day.

At this point, it was only a half mile more to the last turn and time for another hill. I came to the intersection and turned, seeing that the 3rd place runner was within reach. We climbed yet another hill and passed the last aid station with water. Even with the hill, I ran a 6:08 pace mile. I had been taking a little bit of water each time (at 4 and 6) and dumping a little on my neck. Despite this, the heat was really cranking up and my singlet was heavy with water and sticking to me. It didn't seem to be wicking any moisture away. I picked out a land feature that the runner ahead of me passed and then I looked at how long it took me to pass that mark; it was 20 seconds. I would have to run 10 seconds faster per mile for the last 2 miles just to catch him. Then if he was still strong (having not been pushed with the distance between him and the leaders being minutes) he would probably have enough for a kick. I decided that I was going to go for it.

Mile 9 was slightly downhill but I was increasing my stride rate and clocked a 6:03. I had made up maybe 10-12 seconds up on the runner. He was running without a shirt and he looked young, yet muscular with a quick and efficient stride. I knew that the only was I was going to beat him was by gutting it out. There was a hill from 9-9.25, climbing 83 feet. I pushed hard, running 6 minute miles up this hill and catching him before the crest. We ran together briefly, but I pushed hard on ahead. The last half mile was downhill, and I put a little gap on him of maybe 5 seconds. I gave a quick look back but could not see him, but that didn't mean that he wasn't there, I just couldn't see him.

Here is where it gets interesting. We were coming back into town nearing the end, and I saw a left hand turn that had 6-8 cones across it, blocking it off. I figured that this meant that the road was closed and we were supposed to run straight (and not turn). There was no one standing at the intersection directing runners and no markings on the road. I kept going straight for maybe 15-20 meters, point in the direction I was running, hoping that people standing down the blocked off road would see me. They did and yelled to turn, waving their hands in the other direction. What a colossal mistake! I had to stop, turn around and veer back into the road that looked like it was closed. My lead had disappeared and the younger runner was right behind me. I had lost my momentum and my focus. It was like the 2004 Olympics when Vanderlei Lima was tackled by a fan in the marathon; he never recovered and his edge and when from first to 5th. I ran quickly down the end, clocking a 2:46 last half mile, but in the end the younger runner passed me at the end. What was very annoying was that as we turned into a parking lot to cross the line, he brushed up against me, hitting my arm, then cutting me off by running front. He totally broke my stride and finished right in front of me. I am a very calm person, but I did not like the fact that he did this. I was fine with him passing, but in the fashion that it happened was very unprofessional. He was a young 18 year old kid who has a lot to learn.

In the end I ran a 1:01:20 (6:08 average pace) and finished 4th of 796 people. I was very, very happy about this finish, but it was spoiled by the ending. I had a very difficult time with the lack of race coordination at the end, which may or may not be my fault with not knowing the course, and the poor sportsmanship of the kid cutting me off in the chute. Again, if he was a better runner with a good kick, that is fine, but doing it that way was poor tact.

My second half split was 30:07, so I negative split the course by 1:13. In the post race, the results were posted as my and the kid having the same chip time of 1:01:20. In the awards, his time was announced as 1:01:20 (the same as mine) and he was given third place. Keep in mind that this was chip timing, so the fact that he passed me at the end didn't matter was it was all up to the chips to decide. I took first in M30-34 as the top two runners (including Jason in second) were taken out of our age group for overall awards.

This was a 10 mile PR and even as I glanced at my watch at 9.32 miles (15k) it would have been a 15k PR by over a minute. Actually, I kind of wish this day had been a half marathon as I think I could have held the pace for another 3 miles.

After a good lunch at Quiznos on the way home with Joey, I later checked the race results online. The chip time of the kid in front of me changed down to 1:01:19. If milliseconds were used the rounding was incorrect in the original race results, that is fine, but I'd like to hear an explanation of how the tie was broken otherwise, and why his chip time was changed from what was posted and what was announced in the results.

This memory will fade in time, but for now I am having a hard time letting it go. I am competitive in the sport and getting beat will push me to train harder. It may not be in your nature to do so, but I will let this be my mantra in the days to come, as I will not let getting kicked in the end happen again no matter what the case. That is what drives me. Healthy or not is arguable, but that is the way it is. At least I am honest about it.

Joey had a good day, setting a huge PR; congrats to him and thanks to him for driving me up there and then dealing with me in the aftermath of my meltdown. Not my best moment, though I tried to keep it in. He was a good friend for putting up with my crap.

So this is a blog; a chance to rant and rave about what is good and bad. That is what I am doing. To get over it, I needed to get it out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

2008 Alabama A&M 10k

2008 Alabama A&M 10k
Huntsville, Alabama
Saturday, June 14, 2008
USATF Certified AL00009JD
Certified Course Map
Official Race Results

This was the race that almost wasn't; for me that is! I was up early, as I do with other races, rising at 4:50am. I never looked at the start time online but just assumed that it was 8:00am. I normally arrive an hour early for races and today wasn't any different. On the way, I had awake-nightmares that the race was at seven am. Then again, I always have these and they never are real. Then I pulled into campus and saw a full force of police officers, followed by an aid station worker already standing at her station. When I pulled into the lot, I saw many other runners warming up, which was unusual for an hour early. Then I realized that the race was at 7:30am! I had but 20 minutes to change, warm up, stretch and get my head into the game.

When lining up at the start, it was an all-star cast of fast runners. Many more fast runners than I have seen in a race, well since Tuesday. Although, I knew that today was a race for everyone, while the XC races are not. Early favorites looked like Varick Clay, Jason Reneau, Donald Bowman and new guy Brad (whom I will later discover his last name). The first 2 miles of this is relatively downhill and you generally need to put some in the bank in these miles with the hard hills coming in miles 5 and 6. The gun was off and so was Clay. He sprinted out to a 50 meter lead, almost trying to prove something to the field. The rest of us climbed the small hill at the start and then began to run east toward the out and back. After Clay was Bowman and then Reneau by the 1/4 mile mark. I decided to throw in a short spurt of speed and put some other runners behind me. Little did I know that this would be the difference maker! Despite the low temps (mid 70's) the humidity was 90% after an overnight rain. I cruised through the first mile in 5:45. Marty Clarke yelled at me for looking at my watch too often too early... it is funny, but that is how I run. I use that as a data point along with how my body feels as to how I push the pace.

Just after mile 1, I could hear a click-click-click behind me. It sounded like track spikes. It was new guy Brad making his push after an easy start. He and I ran together and chatted a little to the cone turn around at Moores Mill. It was then that I got my first look at who was trailing, and by how much. The nearest group was Marty, John Elmore and David Purinton. John has been running well lately and Marty has fresh legs. I wasn't sure about David, as he just spent two weeks on a Church Mission trip in Peru and I didn't know what his rest/training/eating patterns had been like. Nevertheless, they were all close.

It was nice to see so many people that I knew after the turn around. It was almost like everyone coming through was someone I knew! I wished all of them luck, from Wayne to Tom Smith to Joey to Linda to Ben to Shannon and so on and so on. Brad laughed that I was the only one he knew:) Brad and I ran shoulder to shoulder until before the 2 mile mark. He said that he wanted to hold 5:45 pace or better and I knew that he could. Today I was hoping for a high 38 maybe. He took off and would eventually drop out of sight, passing other runners as well. My second mile pace was 5:50.

I struggled a little on the third mile back toward campus. A 6:02 pace doesn't sound horrible, but I was really struggling to hold onto this pace. We were coming back uphill most of the way with the hardest part of the course yet to come. Mentally I really thought about just walking off. It didn't last long, but I did think about it.

Once back on campus we climbed a small hill and then ran the back stretch downhill area to which we would repeat later on. I really cruised downhill and clocked a 2:54 first half mile of this section. I could still see Bowman and even though he was not pulling away, I was not getting any closer either. Making the right turn into campus, I got another look behind me, though it was very quick. I could not see any blue singlets, which were Fleet Feet team wear and worn today by all of the team members. Just before the hill climb we hit the 4 mile mark at 5:49 pace, bringing my total to 23:26.

The first time that I ran the hill was very humbling. I thought about walking, but was still in the middle of the race. My pace slowed drastically in this mile, clocking a 6:19, which included a 3:22 and a 2:57 half mile splits. The hill was everything that I had heard it would be. I ran it on Wednesday in training, but racing this hill was a much different story. I really had a hard time getting my legs back under me after the climb. I really didn't feel good again until going down the big hill. I think some of this was from tired legs, having done another 70 mile week and a hard 10 mile tempo on Thursday night. I did find a little lift seeing other runners on their first loop; passing by gave me a little motivation to run harder and finish strong.

The final mile started at the bottom of the big hill and would mean another hill climb toward the finish. I snuck another peak behind me turning into campus and thought that I caught a glimpse of blue. I could feel a push by Marty. I thought about walking the hill again, but at this point, I only had less than a half mile to go and pushed hard on without walking. The second time on the hill wasn't as bad as the first, despite tired legs because I knew that after the top and a fast recovery, it would be a downhill finish. Hitting the six mile mark, my split was 6:16 and I realized that I had a chance to break 38. I don't know where my head had been in the last half hour, thinking that I would be lucky to break 39? It was like out of no where that I know realized that I was going to run a faster 10km than Cotton Row a few weeks ago on a much tougher course in my opinion.

I had one last look behind me on the final turn and crossed the finish line in 37:44 (6:04 minute per mile pace). I was gassed at the end, taking off my soaked blue Fleet Feet singlet and gasped a little for air. I would find out later that I finished 6th overall of 105 people and 2nd in M30-39 of 18. I ended up 1st in age group prize awards as Mark Temple could not accept the prize money for 3rd overall (he still runs for UAH and this is against NCAA rules) so Jason Reneau was moved up into the money.

I am not sure of the finish order, but it probably was Clay, Temple, Brad, Jason, Bowman and then Charette. It was a close battle for 2nd in masters with Purinton, Clarke and Elmore duking it out. Many others had a good race including Eric Schotz who ran very well. New guy Brad is a great runner and is going to win a few races in this area before it is all said and done. Emily Hardin was top female, followed by Candace Jacobs and Linda Scavarda. In the end, the weather was on our side with cooler temperatures. The humidity was a factor, but not as difficult as the course.

Overall splits were 5:45, 5:50, 6:02, 5:49, 6:19, 6:16, 1:37.

1. Varick Clay Jr Age 26 34:32
2. Brad Schroder Age 24 35:24
3. Mark Temple Age 20 35:28
4. Jason Reneau Age 32 35:55
5. Donald Bowman Age 40 36:52
5. Eric Charette Age 32 37:47

So for the race that I nearly missed out on, ended pretty well. Now I need to figure out if I had something extra today or if I should have run Cotton Row faster, as I ran 10+ seconds faster today.

Thanks to Mike Greene for good race direction, Dean Bentley for the prize awards and many others for volunteering.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

2008 Eurocross 5k

2008 Eurocross 5k
UAH Campus Forest:)
Huntsville, AL
June 7, 2008

Have you ever had a day that things just don't feel right? I certainly am not one for making excuses; a bad day is just a bad day. I am big on analyzing performances to figure out what went right (and how to repeat it in the future) and what went wrong (and how to avoid it in the future). Today was a learning experience.

I had a very difficult stretch of work leading into the race today. I had been home for 36 hours over 10 day stretch, including spending time in New Orleans and Las Vegas for two conferences. The last one was in 97 degree desert heat in which I ran 10+ miles a day on 4-5 hours of sleep each night. To top it off, I took a red-eye flight home on Thursday night at 11pm and arrived home on Friday morning. So my sleep patterns were completely off on race morning, and my body was still on Pacific time, so when the alarm went off at 4:30am, it was actually 2:30am to my body. I know from experience that I can be under trained but rested and race well, while being properly trained and tired is a recipe for disaster.

The temperature at race time was warm, nearly 80 degrees at 8am. In my warm up I was soaked already, before even crossing the first creek. I knew that the pace would be quick at first but likely slow at the end with the fatigue of this heat.

There were maybe 100 people lined up at the start line for this cross country race. I felt under-equipped with my Invo-8's on while other runners sported cross country spikes. Not running in high school or college (when most people acquired their spikes and still have them) hurt me here.

We took off quick, running the first of five 1k loops. The course was made up of a mowed field, with a few tight turns, two stream crossings, a short but quick hill and strategically placed hay bails. I wanted to be in good position before the stream crossing. The first crossing was preceded by a hay bale. I was cautious on this first crossing, and went in easily. The water was maybe up to my knees. Out of the water, through the field and back to the second water crossing. This one had a muddy entry, about 5' long before the water. I stepped through it, high stepped the water and climbed out the two foot bank on the other side. With soaking wet and heavy shoes, I headed up the hill and through the narrow trail in the woods. Two tight turns later, we had made our first loop.

I had no idea what position I was in, as it was difficult to see other runners ahead. I could see glimpses of Kevin Betts ahead of me and knew that Marty Clarke was lurking closely behind.

The water crossings got easier each time, as I became more adventurous and had more reckless abandon. By the end, I was leaping off of the hay bale and deep into the water. On one crossing, I nearly leapt over a girl. The crossings did get tougher in the aspect that 100 people traipsing through them made the water muddy and the banks to get out slippery.

By the 3rd loop I was starting to feel ill from the heat. This and lack of proper hydration this week was really making me sick. I was barely holding on. I was just thinking that I was more than half way and would only have to put up with this for a few more minutes. I was running about 6:30 pace or so, but since I wasn't wearing my GPS, I don't really know my exact splits.

Also in the third loop (if not late in the second) is when we started to have to pass people on the course. It was like the early stages of a marathon, having to bob-and-weave around people. This wasn't bad in the fields or on the grass, but some people would come to a complete stop at the water crossings. I have to admit this was a little annoying, but it was meant to be a fun race, so I guess I shouldn't take it that seriously. Yet it was still a race. I know that other fast runners commented on some slow runners taking offense when they were in the way. Some people even wore head phones (which is prohibited in HTC races) which made it difficult for them to hear when other runners approached from behind.

On each crossing, I could hear Steve Carter letting me know that Marty was catching up. I knew that he was there, and I also knew that I had no chance of holding him off. I had gone out too hard and was running on dead legs with 1/4 mile to go. We made the 2nd to last stream crossing and before the next short hill, Marty passed. I told him that I had nothing left. He still looked very good, and I think he was even holding back for the 8k race to follow. If he had been running the 5k only, he would have buried me.

Running up the last hill, I jumped off of the hay bales and not over them. I didn't bother trying to get into a good position before the narrow woods trail and even slowed to a walk going through, as there were young school girls walking 2 wide.

I came out of the woods, and jogged into the finish. My time was 20:21.

I haven't seen the official results, but I am pretty sure that I was 7th overall and 4th in M30-39. In my age group, Rob Youngren was first, Kevin Betts was second, and a name that I didn't recognize was third. Funny how things work out; I was 7th overall and 4th in my age group:)

This is a neat concept, but I probably would not do it again in the future. I like trails and ultras and races and such, but cross country is not really my thing. I am just happy that I did it, in my effort to run all local races at least one time.

In the end, I probably shouldn't have raced. I was tired, both in lack of sleep and fatigue in my legs. I will use this race as a learning experience for the future. In that respect, today was a good day.