Saturday, August 30, 2008

2008 Monte Sano Road Races

2008 Monte Sano Road Races 10k
Huntsville, AL
August 30, 2008
Official Results

Sometime just after 7:38 on May 26, 2008 I swore that I would never do two races on the same morning with little rest in between. That was just after finishing the Cotton Row 10k which has substantial elevation change. On that day, I would have 82 minutes of rest before running the 5k race. I felt horrible in between the races and struggled through the 5k, logging my worst road 5k in years, albeit on dead legs.

Somehow I had forgotten this resolution when I signed up for the Monte Sano Road Races. Why not take the race setup at Cotton Row and make it harder? Ok! The Monte Sano 10k starts at 8:00 am, is run on a more difficult course with more elevation change on the two loop course featuring two cone turn arounds on a gravel road. Then, if you are fast, you may get 50 minutes of rest before the start of the 5k, which runs just 1 loop of the 10k course. It sounds like a bad setup with disaster written all over it. Yet I still signed up and I still ran both races, despite trying to deny my attendance up until race day then swearing off the 5k before even finishing the 10k.

The Monte Sano Road races are the last two events in the HTC Gran Prix scoring system and I had slim hopes of garnering enough points to move up into the top three finishers. Despite a poor showing at the marathon (point wise) and missing a few easy-pointing earlier season races, I had come on strong in late spring and continued to get large amounts of points through the summer. I had to gain 100 points on the HTC president David Purinton in the standings top move into 3rd. I figured that I needed to have some sort of combination of major points for me and little to no points for David, all of which seemed doubtful. I knew that he was going to make it as Ben was running the 5k, so unless he fell down (hey, I didn't really push Brian Robinson down on High Trail this spring, despite rumors) I'd have no chance.

The 10k started with a fairly large field of 313. It was fairly stacked at the top with Jason, Donald, Lucas, Varick, George, Greg Foreman, Hot Rod, Brett, Francica, David, Shane, Mike Green and Candace. All contenders in their own right.

I decided to start out easy and not drop a 5:20 first mile like other middle distance races I had run lately. I would try to run even pace for the entire race. I started out with a 5:45 first mile as we left the lodge and ran out onto the gravel road, climbing the hill toward the ranger's house. I am not sure of position, but I think I was somewhere in the top 10. I was holding back a little, knowing that I had another race after this one to run as well. I held pretty true on the second mile, which included the cone turn around and ran a 5:53 mile. I was running with Todd and decided to make a move and pass him up on the fast downhill. I was chasing Jason and didn't want him to get out of site. I again held true at 5:48 on the third mile and same through the turn around at the lodge feeling pretty good. There were lots of people cheering and I heard Beth call out my name as I turned and went back out for another loop.

The second loop was all about staying even and not falling off too far, holding my position. I was in 6th overall and feeling good. My next 3 mile splits were 6:03, 6:03 and 6:02. I made one last push up the final hill and made the turn into the lodge. I sprinted to the finish and ended up running 37:01 for 5:57 pace. This was a great run compared with Cotton Row and A&M 10k races, which are generally thought of as harder races. In those events, I went 37:53 and 37:44. I had cut 7 seconds per mile off of A&M and 8 on CRR, in this warm day on a harder course.

Of the 313 starters, I finished 6th overall and 16 seconds behind Jason. Little did I know that he had run 10k of warm up beforehand! I was 2nd in M30-34.

2008 Monte Sano Road Races 5k
Huntsville, AL
August 30, 2008
Official Results

There were 491 starters in the 5k, which was 50 minutes after the end of the 5k. I went to change clothes and just cool down (body temperature), as I did no cool down run in between. I wanted to rest my legs.

The 5k draws lots of high school stars as school is in session and they have been training for this event. If I was fresh, I could contend for the top 3, but with 10k already on my legs, I would have to just hang on!

My first mile was all about easing back into race pace. I was in about 50th place at 1/2 mile, but would start to pick it up climbing the hill and running out on the gravel road. I logged a 6:05 first mile and chasing Jason again.

The second mile was nearly the same as the first, at 6:07, which included a fast downhill coming out of the woods. I had passed a ton of people going into the woods and coming out, dodging runners left and right.

At the water stop, I decided to get some quick fluids and stopped at the aid station near the ranger station for 4 or 5 seconds. No one was around me so it didn't affect position. Then I went out to the overlook and tried just to remain even.

Coming back toward the finish, I battled with a younger runner, taking turns with the lead. We traded a few times before I made a hard push past the hikers lot and up the final hill. Despite the time on my feet, I was still a good hill climber and knew that I could put some distance on him in this short quick uphill. My final mile was 5:59, which was great considering the aid station stop.

I made the final turn and snuck a quick look to make sure that I had built a safe lead coming into the finish. I ended up running 18:54, finishing 11th overall and 2nd in M30-34, again right behind Jason. This was a much better performance than my 5k at Cotton Row (which was also after the 10k, but with more rest).

This was an exhausting day to say the least. When the dust settled, I would earn 65 points for the 10k and another 65 points for the 5k, which displaced a lower point effort from the beginning of the year. This meant that I finished 4th in the Gran Prix standings, behind Jason, Donald and David. This was a move up from 14th place the year before. Overall I am very, very happy with this. I really look up to the guys that finish ahead of me as great runners, so to be amongst them feels pretty darn good.

Now it's time to start the 08-09 Gran Prix in the Open Men's standings, chasing Jason, as Donald and David move up to Master's men's. It should be an interesting year.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

2008 Running of the Bulls

2008 Running of the Bulls
Huntsville, AL
August 23, 2008
Official Results

I had been targeting this race for a few weeks knowing that it was a relatively flat course that could produce some fast times. Although I have been really intent on breaking 17 minutes in a 5k race, I really haven't been training for it. I've been sick and unable to really kick it, plus the August dog days of the south have been mild, but still hot for speed work. It's hard to expect stellar results when my speed work has been racing.

The weather looked like it might cooperate this morning as I drove over the mountain. It was overcast but humid. Tropical storm Fay was starting to affect our weather patterns. The temperature was in the low to mid 70's.

I signed up for the race on Friday night and knew that I would be facing Jason Reneau and Brett Addington who are both in M30-34. We might very well be the top 3 finishers in some sort of order. Upon arriving at the race, the rumors were confirmed and the Randolph Cross Country Runners were there, which meant Keith Buell. I saw him run a pretty commanding race here last year, breaking 17 but not having much competition in the process.

I did a 2 mile warm up, running partly alone and then for a few minutes with Wayne Heckler. Just before the start, I also saw Sean Allan and Trey Broadway. They are both capable of winning races if they are well trained. Sean was a last minute entry after I talked with him last night at Fleet Feet.

The Running of the Bulls is an out and back course on the Hampton Cove Greenway. It really does give you the feeling of being in Pamplona, as it is very tight and winding, and on the way back after the turn, the leaders get to fight through the rest of the field in masses running 4 wide across the path. It is mostly blacktop and very flat. The only challenge is that at the 2.9 mile mark, the course winds up onto an overpass and winding back down and under the road, going uphill to the finish.

My plan was to run splits of 5:30, 5:25, 5:25 and change for sub 17.

The first mile was fast, very fast. The starters were lined up pretty close to pace at the start, but as with many young runners, they went out to fast. Within 30 seconds I was lost amongst 20 other runners, despite starting in the front. I knew that it wouldn't last and quickly I would be near the front. The course is winding so it would be smart to run the tangents and save steps. I ran alongside Jason for the first half mile or so and passed most of the younger runners. At the mile mark, I was in 4th, trailing Keith, Jason and Trey. I had Sean and Brett very close behind. The mile was much faster than planned, clocking 5:23.24. I had been in this position before and I wanted to start slower today as to have more at the finish.

The second mile was more comfortable in pace. We passed by Blake (Thompson) heading down toward the turn around. This was a great turnaround on the cul-de-sac, as opposed to a cone turnaround, making it a fast transition. The aid station was just past the turn and I was feeling the heat and needed some fluids. I appreciate the fact that people volunteer for races, but there should be an age limit. After Trey took water, the next water option was a 7 year old (guessing) girl. I went to grab the cup from her and she backed off, as she was afraid to be splashed with water. I missed the cup and pushed on. I didn't need a ton, just a splash to get the dryness out of my mouth and pour the rest on my head. I am not suggesting that she cost me the race as I was the one that missed the cup. I should have been more aggressive with it.

After passing Blake again, we started to come across the rest of the 230 runners. As I mentioned, they ran 4 wide in places, making it tough to fight through. I was running neck and neck with Trey now and trying to pass. Finally we hit a bend in the trail and I took the opportunity to run out and turn in front of him, putting him behind me. I wasn't sure what to expect in doing this, but I wanted to be in the top 3 at the end. The second mile was slightly slower, clocking 5:28.08, for a combined time of 10:51. I was still on pace to break 17.

After passing Trey, the people started to thin out and it was just time in front of me. I started looking at my watch more and more and the distance was passing by very slowly. I think I looked at my gps a dozen time in the next half mile. It was a 2:49 split, which was off my pace, but not disaster, yet.

This is where I really started to struggle. The fast start was not coming back to haunt me. The only thing that was of benefit was that Jason was slowing slightly also, so I wasn't loosing much distance. He was maybe 8-10 seconds ahead and had been for awhile. My pace fell off and as I looked at the GPS, I was barely under 6 minute miles. I thought that Trey and gang would be right behind me and would blow by at anytime. Little did I know that they were slipping also.

I came upon the ascent up to the overpass and took a quick look back. I had a little lead, but not much. Coming down off the overpass was nearly like a cone turn, as I had to almost stop to make the turn. I was now down to a a trot running under the highway, before seeing the crowd and picking it up. I knew that I was well over 17 minutes but still had a shot at a personal record. I sucked it up and ran through the finish strong. My 3rd mile was 5:44.87 and final time was 17:18.72. This was 5 seconds faster than the Outback race a few weeks ago in Sheffield. I was 2nd in M30-34.

I struggled through the chute, trying to get out of oxygen debt by taking a few deep breathes. I shook hands with Keith and Jason and moved along. Trey and Sean came through 5 and 8 seconds after me, respectively.

So like I said when I started this blog, I am disappointed, but it is not well justified as I really have not been training to break 17, so in the end I am happy with my results. That makes 14 top 5 finishes this year and 6 top 3 finishes in the last 7 races. Now I just need to start doing more track work and true tempo runs. I have to race the Rocketman Tri running leg of the relay tomorrow, but quality work starts Tuesday.

After the race I had a really good cool down running with Jason. We did 3 miles at about 7 minute pace, after taking a 5 minute break when the race was over. He was in the middle of an 18 mile day, in which he ran a great 5k. Unbelievable.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

2008 Lake Antoine Classic

Charette Returns Home, Wins Classic

By ERIC CHARETTE, Senior Writer
August 2, 2008

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. - In a closely contested battle, a runner with local ties outlasts the rest of the field in the 2008 Lake Antoine Classic 5-mile race on Saturday. Eric Charette, now of Huntsville, Alabama won the race by a mere 5 seconds over his closest competitor, capturing his first race victory in 100 career attempts.

"The race played out almost exactly as I had scripted it in my head when I developed my race plan," Charette said, after returning back to his home town specifically to run this race. "I've always said that running races starts with training, is followed by a well planned strategy for the race, then it all comes down to execution."

Charette later indicated that his plan was four-fold; to go out hard in the first mile, possibly taking the lead in order to set the pace. This would separate the serious contenders from the rest of the pack. Then to run a relaxed pace through the middle miles over the rolling hills on the west side of the lake, pushing hard but not all out. Then at the beginning of the last mile to lower the pace as to take the potential kick out of anyone that trailed closely, as he knew that he doesn't have the finishing speed of other runners with younger legs. Then after the last turn, to take a glance behind him to assess the situation in order to determine how he would need to run the last quarter mile.

As the race began shortly after 9am, the sprinters quickly took the lead before exiting the park and out onto the road with Charette among them. It was wasn't until just short of the half mile mark that Charette took the lead. As planned he pushed the pace early, clocking a 5:22 in the first mile, building a lead of 8 seconds over the nearest runner.

"I felt pretty good early on this race, despite having to run into a mild head-wind on the way out," Charette said. "I knew that the first mile was run much faster than I could hold for the entire race, but this was part of my plan and I had executed the first part flawlessly."

The "Classic" course, now in it's 31st year, runs around Lake Antoine on the roads and provides little shade for runners. The course is mostly flat, but provides some short rolling hills in the middle miles that challenge even the best runners when running at top speed.

Charette held true to his plan, running the middle miles at a pace closer to what he would average overall. His splits came in at 5:36, 5:47 and 5:38 for miles two, three and four. The third mile was comparatively slower paced than the other miles as this would include the hills along Devereaux St and Lakeside Dr. In the section of the race, the nearest runner to Charette, Tim Hebert from Fort Collins, CO, closed in on the lead, making it a two man race.

"I knew that he was lurking behind me and that he was getting stronger and faster in the middle miles," Charette said after the race. "There aren't many tight turns where you can look behind to see the chase pack, so I could sense him there but had no idea how close he was. I did know that I was dictating how the race was being run and running relaxed was part of the plan for this part. I was preserving energy for a hard push in which I would try to build more separation over the pack before the home stretch."

Eric Charette had been in this position before, having recently lead a 5 kilometer race in Florence, AL before he was out sprinted in the last 100 meters by two younger runners, resulting in a 3rd place finish.

"I wasn't about to lose the lead like I did a few weeks ago. I knew that in order to stay in first, I would have to show the field that they would have to run 10-15 seconds faster than me in an already break-neck pace from miles 4 to 4.5."

Charette, who has now been running competitively for merely 5 years, just topped the 10,000 mile mark for his career. He also owns 60 top 10 finishes and averages in the top 10% of his races more than 90% of the time. He has become more dedicated and driven in 2008, as he has already run 25 races since early April. Other than a weekend off after the Boston Marathon, Charette has raced every weekend, often twice on the same day, in chasing his first victory.

"I was really gunning for a victory at the 'Bass Run' a few weeks ago in Crystal Falls. We had great weather that day and I ran a near perfect race but just couldn't stay with the leader, Jake Keehan, a freshman runner for UW - Oshkosh." Charette would finish in 2nd at that race, adding to his career total of 9 second place finishes.

As the runners came into the final turn onto the east side of the park, Charette held a short lead over Hebert.

"Rounding that last corner was the first time that I could clearly see Tim. This was a great feeling because I knew that he would have a difficult time closing the gap in the last quarter mile," Charette said. "At this point I told myself that I only had to hold on and endure for less than a minute and the race would be over."

Coming through the gates into the park, Charette sprinted toward the finish line pumping his fist in victory. Finishing with a time of 28:01, Charette claimed the overall honors by 5 seconds over second place, earning his first career victory.

"I knew that I would have to run at least a mid 28 to have a chance to win. I have never run faster than a mid 29 in a 5-mile race before but using my recent races as a guide, I felt that I had a fast time in my legs," said Charette who lowered his personal best by 80 seconds for this distance. Running 16 seconds per mile faster than he had ever done so for this distance, Charette had raced to his script and won in front of the hometown crowd and his parents, Dennis and Drema.

"In running as many miles as I do, I have been over this scenario a thousand times in my head. How would I perform when it really mattered, carrying the lead into the final stretch? Would I falter under the pressure of the situation and succumb to the competition, or would I stay mentally strong and finish what I had started when I took my first steps as a runner back in 2003?"

Charette would answer this question in grand fashion with a story-book ending. "It takes a lot of will to keep trying when you have failed at something 99 times before. It would be easy to quit, but that's not in my character. I may never win another race after this, but knowing that I was able to do it on this day under these conditions makes the years of training all worth it."

Tim Hebert would go on to finish second overall with a time of 28:06. The top local runner would be Andrew Kangas, rounding out the top 3 with a time of 29:47. Perennial local runner Steve Orchard took 4th.

After the awards were announced, Charette said "I may be holding the first place award, but credit goes to so many people that made this happen. From my wife Laura who tolerates my dedication, which she calls an obsession, to my parents, my training partners back in Alabama, to the Fleet Feet Racing team and many others. Without all of them and their support, I'd never have started running or kept up with it for so long."

So what is next for Charette? When asked, he replied, "I am unsure of what I will do next. My short term goals have been met, which including qualifying for and racing the Boston Marathon and winning a competitive race. My long term goals remain as trying to break 3 hours in a marathon and running more ultra marathons. I'd really like to go beyond the 50km mark and maybe run a 50 or 100 mile trail race someday. On the other hand, I am in great shape for road racing right now and I might be better well suited to chase the marathon time goal first. Either way, today's win will only drive me more to run and chase my dreams even more."

The 32nd running of the Lake Antoine Classic is tentatively set for the first Saturday in August, 2009.

Eric Charette writes race reports after every race and posts them at