Saturday, August 21, 2010

2010 Squak Mountain Trail Half Marathon

August 21, 2010
Squak Mountain - Issaquah, WA

Since May of 2003 I have run 176 races of distances of 200 meters to 50 miles and today I was completely humbled by a race more than I can remember in quite some time. My work travel schedule left me overnight on a Friday in Seattle so I signed up for the Squak Mountain Trail half marathon in Issaquah, Washington. They also offered a 50km, but I had just enough time to run the race, clean up and make it to the airport with minutes to spare to catch my flight back to Huntsville. As I found myself walking on some of the killer climbs atop the mountain, I wondered if I would get home at all.  This turned out to be one of the more difficult races that I have completed.  Luckily the weather was a cool 58 degrees at the start so we didn't have weather to deal with on this gorgeous morning in the Pacific Northwest.

This was a very low key, first time event with a small field. The selling point for me was the advertised elevation change of over 7,000'. I love to climb and this was a great chance to get in a quality effort before flying back home. The race started off with an immediate climb on a gravel fire road starting at 350'. The first third of a mile was easy going before ducking off on overgrown single track trails. They were so narrow and winding that numerous blow downs were concealed by the growth and even though I didn't go down, I am sure that someone after me did. This was a lollipop section for about a mile and a half before returning to the road. I was leading the way but was fairly certain that the pack was not far behind. I had already passed some of the 50km runners who got an early start more than an hour before.

What ensued was one of the toughest sections that I've come across in any race. From mile 1.73 to mile 4.04 we climbed from 524' to 1971' or an 11.8% climb in that section. I held strong for the first mile on the fire road, but began to walk some in the latter portion as it switched to technical trail and was passed as we neared the summit. From running so much on my forefoot, my calves were on fire and my feet actually felt numb. My splits were a humbling 9:12, 8:21, 9:36 and 12 flat.

At the top, we ran a two mile section around the eastern and northern edge of the peak. The trail was mixed technical single track with rocks and roots to boulevard width where I was able to pick up the pace. I turned my already twisted right ankle again and had to proceed gingerly after that. It took a little while to shake the garbage out of my legs from the climb, but eventually I got there and began to feel better before the 6 mile mark as I tossed in a low seven minute mile. The new inov-8 x-talon 212's that I was wearing were working well as they provided good grip on the gravel climbs and on the faster flat sections. Any more shoe that that would have been too much.

From the 10km mark we started a series of three rolling peaks with the first one being 600' of climb. I walked substantial amounts on this mile and clocked just over an 11 minute mile. Being just over half way completed, my energy stores were drained and I was feeling defeated by this course. I took some Honey Stinger Gold which seemed to bring me back to life a little.

There were two more climbs of 400-500' with valleys in between over the next few miles. The course kept looping back upon itself and was decently marked but I kept questioning the flags as I thought at some point I had made a wrong turn as I began to see runners coming from the opposite direction. I toggled my GPS over to the map mode just to make sure I was at least going in the right general direction. I didn't know that there were some sections with two way traffic so after that I started to question each turn more and more. Twice I went back to the intersections to make sure I had gone the correct way. After the single aid station at mile 9, the rest of the course was supposed to be "down" but the "down" didn't really start until after the 10 mile mark.

There were some people hiking up the southern face of the mountain so I asked and got a gauge of how far I was from the end. I was certain that the GPS would not accurately capture the distance with the density of the forest and the valleys masking the signal. They let me know I was about half way down from the summit which turned out to be about two miles from the finish. It was looking to be a fast finish as we had to drop from 1,750' down to the finish at 350'. The trail widened out and without any switch backs, was mostly a straight drop. I rolled through the last two miles at a high 6 pace as I was able to stretch out my legs with a longer and more normal stride than the short choppy steps from the early climbing.

I crossed the fire road one last time and with a quick push on the final section, I crossed the "line" in 1:55:05 and in second place. I really can't imagine having to repeat the loop for a second time and then having to throw in another 5 mile loop on top for the 50km. I loved the difficulty of the course but had enough of Squak Mountain for one day! 8:47 pace for a half marathon and I was very proud that I didn't die out there.

After grabbing a few cookies and filling my water bottle, I was in the rental car and on my way to the airport. I stopped at a park to take a "shower" in cold bottled water and just barely made it to SeaTac in time to board before they closed the doors. I had maybe 10 minutes to spare in the entire process so I am glad that I didn't walk more than I already did!

Results will be posted here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shoe Mileage

Since the first steps I took as a "runner" in 2003 I have kept detailed records on the number of miles put on each shoe.  This started off as a way to determine when the get new shoes and now it is sort of a nostalgic look back at the types of shoes I have worn.  Early records are not so good for brand/model, but it is what it is.

Now this is just for entertainment purposes only!

Shoe Miles Status
Adidas 1 Retired
Adidas 2 Retired
Adidas 3 13.08 Retired
Adidas 4 152.05 Retired
Asics Kayano X 177.84 Retired
Nike Zoom Air Miler 410.34 Retired
Nike Air Zoom Swift Vapor 431.40 Retired
Nike Air Zoom Swift Vapor 2 458.23 Retired
Nike Air Zoom Swift Vapor 3 330.91 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Orange 1 499.00 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Orange 2 453.68 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Orange 3 297.24 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Orange 4 409.82 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Red 1 412.89 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Red 2 277.43 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Red 3 402.74 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2005 Red 4 1193.77 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2006 Blue 1 217.85 Retired
Nike Kyotee Trail Shoes 1 174.42 Retired
Nike Kyotee Trail Shoes 2 473.77 Retired
Nike Zoom Air Elite 3 359.75 Retired
INOV8 Terroc 2007 1 482.53 Retired
INOV8 Terroc 2007 2 250.89 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 2007 1 497.29 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 2007 2 555.18 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 2008 1 242.80 Retired
Montrail Odessy 2007 53.00 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 2007 3 309.39 Retired
Saucony Fastwitch 2008 1 130.06 Retired
Nike Marathoner 2006 1 83.30 Retired
INOV8 Roclite 295 2008 1 537.98 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2008 1 439.65 Retired
Saucony Fastwitch 2008 2 200.04 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 2007 4 377.41 Retired
Nike Air Kyotee 2 169.03 Retired
Saucony Fastwitch 2008 3 177.92 Active
INOV8 2009 Roclite 295 1 391.85 Retired
Saucony Tangent 2008 1 341.28 Retired
Nike Air Pegasus 2008 2 162.81 Retired
INOV8 2009 Roclite 295 2 464.37 Active
INOV8 2009 Roclite 295 3 472.77 Active
Soloman XT Wings 2009 217.50 Retired
Mizuno Wave Rider 2009 370.62 Retired
Mizuno Wave Elixir 4 2009 1 315.08 Retired
INOV8 2009 Roclite 305 1 276.47 Retired
INOV8 2009 Roclite 305 2 241.70 Active
INOV8 2009 Roclite 295 4 84.15 Active
INOV8 2010 Roclite 295 1 154.49 Active
INOV8 2010 Roclite 295 2 0.00 Active
INOV8 2010 xtalon 212 1 56.24 Active
INOV8 2010 Roclite 312 1 82.99 Active
Asics DS Trainer 2009 1 302.11 Active
Asics DS Trainer 2009 2 107.78 Active
Nike Lunar Glide 2010 1 95.47 Active
Nike Lunar Swift 2010 1 51.26 Active
Nike Lunar Racer 2010 1 42.18 Active
Other 1710.00 Active
Average 319.89
Total 17593.77

Monday, August 9, 2010

2010 Lake Antoine Classic

As part of my marathon training, I had planned to carve out three weeks where I could specifically focus on this race. I had the luxury of doing all of my tempo runs on the course as it is run on the trails around Fumee Lake in Iron Mountain, MI. My wife Laura and I had spent the previous six weeks in Iron Mountain and she had just flown home for work so I put much energy into this race. I had been sticking to my mantra of late where I was training with less volume but a higher percentage of quality during my runs. I had a good race plan and was ready.

The temperatures were very cool in the early morning hours but were up to the upper 60's by race time at 9am. That may seem cold to Southern standards but we have had some great morning weather for running lately in Michigan so this felt a little warm. Standing at the start line it is always tough to determine who is the tough competition and being an out-of-town race for me, I didn't recognize many people. After the gun and within the first 50 meters it was clear who I's be running with.

Leading the pack was Jake Keehan, a stellar runner from UW-Oshkosh who I have run against before. Jake is a real good guy and works for Fleet Feet Fox Valley and luckily today he was running the 5 mile race, else he would have pounded me into submission. I was closely tucked behind Jake as we left the park but as the two races split at the next intersection, I began to run the tangent toward the opposite corner. I was followed stride for stride by a younger runner wearing a singlet from St. Olaf College. We made the corner off the pavement and turned onto the two-track trail that lead back toward Fumee Lake. Our first mile was split a little faster than I had planned, hitting the mid 5's when I was thinking about taking it out at 6:00 and picking it up from there. Having competition at this race meant a total change from plan and it was no longer about running my projected time, but about winning.

Just after the first mile he mentioned that it was a nice day for a trail run. We made some small talk before turning around the gate at the end of the snowmobile trail and heading down to the lake loop. I ran through the first aid station, not taking any fluids per plan. We continued on, running side by side at times, and with him closely drafting behind me. As the course was rolling through miles 2 and 3 the pace drifted a little but was fairly steady and by the time we had a third of the race in the books, we had averaged 5:45 pace.

Running this pace wasn't easy but with all of the hard running I had been doing, it wasn't overly difficult. The only concern I had was that my tempo runs had not been overly long in distance and I wondered how long I would be able to hold onto this pace. We continued to run together, at times so closely that he would either bump my (wild) arm swing, or kick the underside of my foot, like cross country. We continued to talk a little and as we veered left on the gravel road section toward the cone turn around, we chatted some more. He turned out to be a pretty nice kid and finally I asked for his name. He was Anders Nienstaedt and although he was from Iron Mountain, he ran track and cross at Kingsford, which was my alma mater. He said something that was very cool and although I will probably botch it in memory, but he said that it was nice to be racing with me and have competition for the race. After the cone, the first person that we saw was fellow friend Drew Richmond of Iron Mountain. Drew was running strong in third, but was a few minutes behind so I knew that it was me versus Anders for the win.

Knowing that Anders was running for St. Olaf, I knew that I was overmatched but was giving it everything I had. My parents and some immediate family were waiting at the finish line and this race meant a lot to me, as it was the last race of the summer spent at home in Upper Michigan and I wanted to add my name to the list of runners to have won both distances at the "Classic." I had won the 5 miler in 2008 and was also trying to avenge a 2nd place finish in the 15km two years before that. Regardless, I was hitting it hard and there was no doubt when this race was over, I would have nothing left.

We splashed through some mud on the south side of the Lake and joked about it. It was a very friendly atmosphere and the longer we ran, the more he earned my respect. His focus was the 8km so this was longer than his normal race but he was staying tight with me. The pace slipped a little as we ran through 10km but the average was still below 6 minute miles. I was starting to think that I might be running at personal record pace if I could just hold on to anything beloe 55:40. It is tough to have a decent 15km PR when you live and race in Huntsville as the only race of the distance in the immediate area is the hilly and tough Monte Sano 15km road race. The face that I was holding on to that pace on this morning, given the rolling terrain, loose gravel and soft sand on trails made me feel great; the training was really paying off.

Most of the race had been shaded but we had two short sections in the blazing sun before coming off of the lake loop. I had been focusing on the north side of the lake, but had a recent strong run on the south side, which was where we were at during a mostly downhill mile 7. I should have been hitting on all cylinders but instead I was starting to struggle a bit. Thoughts of pushing the pace late were now fleeting and near the 7.5 mile mark, Anders began to pick it up. In reality I think that it was a combination of him sensing that the pace had slowed and instead of slowing with me, he ran steady and I fell off even more. For the first time all day, I was out of the lead and within a few seconds, out of contention. I told him good luck and then we separated, although I would continue to see him just out of reach for the rest of the race.

I had a tough time climbing the gravel road out of the lake loop and back to the snowmobile trail; the hill really took a toll on me and it was hard to get back down to target pace. A 6:23 in mile 8 was tough to swallow, but I still had a decent shot at a personal best. I ran back through the gate and saw Jake, who after this outright win, had changed and jogged back out onto the course to cheer us on. He gave me some encouraging words and I marched on. I knew that I had to be around 54 minutes flat at the 9 mile mark to have a shot. That would mean 5:12 pace or better in the final push and despite laying it all out on the line, I just didn't have anything left in the tank. I finished just off the time at 55:42 and 2nd overall. I know because of the way I ran this race that I made my parents proud and I am sure that Laura was equally proud from afar.

I can't complain as after friending Anders on Facebook, I discovered that he had run a 4:05.74 for 1500 meters just a few months prior, so he had me dead to rights the entire race. It was great to push each other and even though he said that I was leading the way, he really was just running tempo pace and then had plenty left late in his young legs start a long 2 mile kick to the end. I give him much props as I gave it my best shot and he won going away. Drew ran well after the turn and finished 3rd, sneaking in just under an hour at 59:59. My other local running buddy Steve Orchard ran strong in the 5 mile, finishing 2nd overall at age 50.

My gear for this race was perfect. I was wearing my new inov-8 x-talon 212's. I had feared that the tread would be too aggressive for this course but with the footing would have been miserable without them. They were so light that the made the fast miles feel easy and after sloshing through the mud, they dried out quickly and I never slowed because of it. I was also wearing the 2XU Compression Calf Guards and never had any calf fatigue. They always get some funny looks, especially at a small race like this, but they were so effective and I can't see racing without them.

Now back to training for California International Marathon and Comrades 2011!

Friday, August 6, 2010

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

It's early September of 1985 and along with 24 other 4th graders, we sit restlessly in our chairs as Mr. Spanton goes over the first homework assignment for the new school year. We need to write a paper on how we spent our summer vacation and turn it in by the end of the week. Undoubtedly the entire class groaned in unison as it was still warm outside and the last thing that we wanted to do was to write anything down about the previous 104 days of summer in which we were still trying to extend. As I recall I wrote about our family trip to Mackinaw Island, how we rode the ferry across the straights and got to see the Mackinaw Bridge. What I didn't include where the things that you don't necessarily appreciate when you are 9 years old, like spending time with family, enjoying the great outdoors without oppressive snow and just being a kid.

Fast forward 25 years to the summer of 2010 and although the summer is not over yet, I find myself tasked with the same exercise; trying to spin a tale of how I spent my summer vacation. While having long since moved away to college and onto a professional career now in the foothills of Alabama, this summer I had the opportunity to work remotely from Kingsford, Michigan. This was the town where my parents have spent most of their lives and where I grew up. Most of my job is preparation for software demonstrations that I give to power companies, which involves travel so it doesn't really matter where I live, as long as I have my laptop and an airport nearby for travel. So after figuring out some logistics at home, I packed up the car with the dogs and set out to drive the 900 miles north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I had some initial thoughts of how the summer might unfold over the course of the following 51 days, but what happened was not what I expected. Somehow along the way I remember the importance of family, the pure enjoyment of running and that you need far less to be happy than you actually have.

Let's first start with the fact that the last 7 weeks have not been a vacation; with work travel and our busy season today is the first day that I have taken off, including working through the 4th of July. There have been multiple trips to Kansas, South Carolina, Houston and even back to Huntsville. While here in Kingsford, I have my "office" set up in the kitchen where my laptop and monitor are hooked up to the internet so I can access work files and participate in conference calls. My normal routine would be to wake up early and after letting the dogs outside to do their business, I was typically working by 6:30am. My dad would laugh because my work uniform was most often a pair of split shorts and technical shirt that I had put on after the run from the night before and would wear during the run on the current day. Just like at home, I would drink coffee all morning, eat lunch around noon and find some time to plan out the run for that night. To be honest, I probably worked more efficiently and turned out more productive work in the last two months than any other two month stretch in quite some time.

Yes I missed my friends in Huntsville, my weekly trips to Fleet Feet and Starbucks. The first few weeks were pretty tough, but with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and my BlackBerry, I was never more than a nanobyte away from catching up with them. Being in the minority of runners here, most days I would either run alone, with the beagles, or on occasion I would get together with an old friend to do some track work at the high school. What I found in those lonely hours afoot was my affinity for running. I remembered why I started running all of the years ago and recaptured my zeal for the sport.

I felt a little like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire at times, sharing his revelation of the mission statement. I was running fewer total miles, but I was running a higher percentage of quality miles. More tempo runs, more track work, more hill repeats, more pickups during a long run and more races, yet with a lower volume. I managed to regain some of the speed that I had from the fall of 2008 when I was setting most of my personal records and before my love for ultra marathons and long runs developed. I have hardly stepped foot on a paved road this summer as most of my runs have been on gravel roads, trails, snowmobile trails or deer paths which has done wonders for my health. I will attribute much of this to the gorgeous summer weather in Northern Michigan, where highs in the 80's where high and mostly the mercury never got about the upper 70's.

While the cool weather was a driver, so was the fact that I had rediscovered my appreciation for life. Being around family and seeing friends from your childhood made me more relaxed and with far less stress from the daily grind. I was able to focus on running quality and not trying to figure out how I was going to fit a run in when times were busy. If it was raining or if I just wasn't feeling it, I turned around early or just didn't run all together. In the same breathe, when I did feel good I would pick up the pace, focus on faster leg turnover and crank out some fast miles. Some weeks I would have 4 or 5 days in a row with quality running where I was hitting it hard every day and while my monthly mileage may have dropped from the normal 350-400 down to 250 I was running better and enjoying it so much more.

I managed to work in several races during my sojourn from Huntsville, including a trail marathon in Florence Wisconsin on the first weekend I was here. I ran very well that day, despite no marathon training whatsoever and earned the overall win on a course that included a river swim at mile 18. This victory fueled my training as I would go on to run very well in Copper Harbor at the Run the Keweenaw stage race (6km hill climb, 12km trail race, 25km trail race) finishing 3rd overall. I had a good showing at the Twilight 5km on the weekend that I had to travel back to Huntsville for work, running 17:14 which was faster than last year in tougher conditions. More recently I ran a season best 35:56 on a very hilly 10km course in Iron River, Michigan which earned me the victory. I have one last race to run, which will come tomorrow at the Lake Antoine Classic 15km trail race.

I wish that I could explain the feeling more accurately but unless you are in the situation, it is difficult to understand the metamorphosis that I have gone through. After my time here I feel like my running has improved, I am closer with my family and my dogs have gotten some quality "Dad" time on the trails. I think it all comes back to the simplicity of life where you don't need much to be happy. I spent the summer living on whatever I was able to fit into the car and left behind a house full of things that will be there when I get back, but that I don't need. I want to make changes to my life as soon as I get back home to Huntsville to help simplify life and show the people close to me how much I appreciate them. You won’t see me quitting my job or anything like that, but you will notice a nicer, more pleasant and friendlier Eric as I take some of these life changing revelations that I have learned during the summer, back home with me. When you are able to step back and take a look at your life as I have been able to, you start to understand what is important.

A perfect example of happiness was a trail run I went on earlier in this week. I went out the door without a watch and with an empty water bottle. I set out across the river on the train bridge and toward the Spread Eagle Barrens. From there I ran on some gravel roads that turned into grassy Jeep roads that turned into single track that turned into some bushwhacking. I used the sun as my guide for direction, blackberries and raspberries along the trail for fuel and water out of passing streams for hydration. I was gone for a few hours and have no idea how far I went, but I know that I was running pretty damn fast out there and enjoying every second of it. Toward the end of the run I had an option of crossing the train bridge or making my way toward the highway to get back to my parents. I chose the third option which was to swim across the fast moving river to the campground, trail shoes and all. I was running through the woods and making waves in the water like I was a kid again with no worries in the world.

So now as I face the reality of packing up the truck and mapping out the route to drive back home, I am taken back to 1985 all over again. There have been more than two decades of summers since then and some mighty fine adventures and trips that I will never forget along the way. I was able to spend more time this summer with my family than I have been able to since high school which was a solid 15 years ago. I was able to go for fun runs, take the dogs swimming and drink my fair share of New Glarus Spotted Cow. I was able to eat thin crust pizza as only can be made in the Midwest. I was able to look outside my office window and see the people floating on tubes down the river, or see deer run across the yard. I was able to reconnect with friends from the past and share memories of the summers gone by. I was able to watch TV with my Mom at night after work and dinner and help my Dad with chores around the house. Ok that last part is not true, but I did clean quite a bit and I cut the grass once. I was able to blog a little, and catch up on emails that have been cluttering my inbox for months. I was able to run around my old neighborhood which would jar memories of people and places from yesteryear. I was able to do all of the things that you can't do when you are back home for a weekend.

So on my last day here in Michigan I can't help but think that this has been a fine summer that will rank amongst the best I've had. I am sure that my parents don't want me to leave, but I'm ready to get back home and spend the rest of the summer with my Huntsville family and friends.

So how did I spend my summer vacation? Doing all of the things that I love and unlike being 10 years old, this time I appreciate all of them. I also am ready to make changes in my life to show those close to me how much I value them. Coming full circle, I think that Mr. Spanton would be proud of my essay.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

2010 Windsor Rodeo 10km

Earlier this week I had formally committed to running the California International Marathon in December. The grand scheme is that I would make a serious attempt at running sub 2:50 as a secondary goal, but the underlying reason is to use this as a qualifier for Comrades 2011. To achieve my primary goal of the A standard, I need to run another sub 3 hour marathon; something I have done on my last 3 road marathons. It will take significant training as this is no easy task, but I feel confident that given decent weather I can achieve the A standard.

As part of my 18 week training plan, I am going to try to get my speed back that I had in 2008 when I set most of my road personal records. The means to the end will involve a great deal of speed work, to which I have already been working on this summer while in Michigan. It also means several test runs to evaluate my fitness. The first test was the Twilight 5km a couple of weeks ago when I ran a 17:14. This time was faster than this year in warmer conditions. The second test was the 10km at the Windsor Rodeo in Iron River, MI.

I knew that being a first time event, and offering two distances (5km and 10km) that the field would be small and the competition would not be very high. I was not out for a victory, but a test of my 10km fitness given the amount of speed work I had been doing as of late.

After making the hour long drive to Iron River from Iron Mountain, I arrived early to find no one at registration. I drove around town to see if there were any course markings and I could not find any. When I got back at the school and waited patiently amongst a slightly disorganized registration line, I checked the 10km box on the entry form (which asked for signature, but not for name or address). The guy behind me commented about me winning the race and I said my biggest worry was not getting lost after I heard there was no lead car/bike.

I had some stomach issues before the race and while I was out warming up for a couple of miles, had to make a pit stop in the woods. I hoped that this would not plague me during the race. I made it back in time to suit up and move over to the starting line.

The non-competitive bike ride started just before the race. Standing at the starting line, I noted 2-3 people who looked like runners who might be up front and push the pace. The bibs were marked with orange or yellow stickers for the different distances, 10km and 5km. The race director tried to describe the course and said it was marked on the road and that there were some significant hills. I really did not know what to expect as I didn't know the area.

From the gun, there were a few people who sprinted out at 5:15 pace but by the time we made the first turn, it was down to 3 people, which included me. The first climb was 125' in just 1/4 of a mile or about a 10% grade. A very young kid wearing basketball style shorts and racing flats was in the lead, followed by me and another young kid with a mohawk and wearing an ipod. We had already caught up with some of the bikers, who were pushing their bikes up this hill; a testament to the difficulty. We split the first mile in 5:52.

By the 1.25 mile mark, I had caught up to the leader and ran alongside him for a few seconds. I noticed that he had a yellow sticker, which meant he was running the 5km. I told him that he was running strong and then I made a move to pass him by before making the turn to the left where the two races split. I glanced back at the turn and saw that mohawk boy also turned toward the 5km, which meant that I was out front and running all alone. There was one more competitive looking runner at the start who I knew was running the 10km but I didn't see him behind.

The second mile was mostly downhill as we ran north along a very busy county road 653. I got back into the grove and split a 5:39 second mile which felt pretty good. The third mile was more climbing in the later stages of the mile and the pace showed as I ran a 5:49, putting me at 17:20 through 3 miles. Turning onto Forbes Road just before the 3 mile split I took one more glance back and did not see a single person trailing behind. This would be my race to lose, though I was not about to ease up. I wanted to post a fast time to test my fitness and also to set a high water mark for people who run this race in the future.

Into the 4th mile I was feeling very relaxed and running easy. There was an aid station in this mile that was not manned, having just a cooler with some cups. The temperature was only in the mid 60's and I didn't need any so ran by. The entire 4th mile was again climbing and I notched a 5:57 split.

I knew that sooner or later we had to reclaim all of the climb with decent, I just didn't know where and when it would happen. It turned out to be mostly downhill from the highest point on the course at the 4 mile split all the way to the end. I got passed by one of the bikers, a middle-aged man who commented that I was looking good. He said that there was no one even close behind me, as he had gotten a late start and ridden through the pack. This was a confidence booster, and along with the downhill sections, I was starting to pick up the pace and increase my leg turnover. The 5th mile split was a 5:49.

I knew now that I had just one more mile to tough out and then the sprint home for the last quarter mile. The one thing that the race director did get right was that the course was accurately marked and measured. My GPS would auto-lap every mile just at the marker on the road, which was reassuring that the time I would post at the end would be legitimate. Also I was able to put away the fears that the course would not be marked as each turn had spray paint on the ground. They also had white signs that you could see from a distance, which helped to run the tangents of the course.

There were people starting to assemble in town for the parade, so the final mile felt easier than the preceding five. They weren't necessarily cheering for the runners, but jut seeing people made it feel not so lonely as the north countryside. I have had the taste of victory before but not that often. Coming into this race I had won 15 times of 175 races, or at a rate of less than 8 times in a hundred, so not very often. So infrequently in fact that when leading I get very nervous in the late stages that something is going to go wrong and I am going to get nipped at the end. Today I stayed strong in the final mile, clocking a 5:43, showing that the slow pace early on was paying off now with fresh legs late.

I did not see the 6 mile mark (until during my cool down) but I knew where I was again with respect to the school, so I started to accelerate. We had done cut downs at the track on Tuesday (2x1200, 2x800, 2x400, 2x200) at increasing pace to teach me to run faster toward the end and that I just was I was doing here. I had to dodge of few of slower 5km runners and ask the finish line volunteer which side to choose, as I think I surprised them with my time. I stopped my watch as I crossed the finish line at 35:56. After battling so many hills, I was very happy with the time.

After the took my bib tag (which they affixed to a board and would later blow off in the wind) I jogged back on the course to cool down. Jogging very slowly, I went back a full half mile before I saw the next runner. I would guess that 2nd place was 8-10 minutes behind, though I have not seen the official results yet. I kept jogging back and found Fast Freddy Jacobs and turned around, jogging with him as he finished.

The awards took some time to figure out, but I was very patient, knowing that it was a first time event and they were figuring it out as they went along. Eventually they announced all of the age group finishers for the 10km but did not announce the overall winner. Luckily I knew Freddy, so we walked over with the microphone and asked me for my time and age, to announce that I was the winner. Quite an unusual ceremony, but I felt it important to stay around. It was not for the recognition, but to help support the event.

All in all I think it turned out to be a very good day. I ran a little faster than I thought I would, and I had a lot left late if I had been pushed. It was a successful test of fitness leading into the Lake Antoine Classic 15km this weekend and the trail half marathon two weeks after that in Seattle. I can see that the hard work of quality miles, over quantity, is showing dividends and I will continue to work hard toward my goals.

It was also good to see Cheryl Scott again, from the local area. She notched a personal best for the 10km and won her age group. Congrats Cheryl!

Here is the elevation profile for the race.