Monday, September 29, 2008

Was that a long run ?

I've gotten spoiled. I've been running 90 minutes on Sunday most Sundays since two weeks after the Hartford Marathon- last October. There were some races in there and a few 75 minute runs, but hey, I ran 90 minutes two Sundays ago in the afternoon after a sprint triathlon.

On Saturday, I took a really close look at my workouts because I knew I had two workouts Sunday and I realised I had underestimated my run. The schedule said- 2 hours 30 minutes in B...

Wow- totally understandable, but from a training perspective, I've only ever run longer than 2.5 hours once, and 2.5 is generally the back end of my long runs, and I figured I was one week away from my biggest training week for Florida.

Does that mean that I have a 3 hour run in my future ? Not sure.

But if I do ? I can do it. Sure, my achilles was sore by 1:50 or so and by the end, I was pretty damn glad to be stopping, but I ran even splits, I covered a lot of ground, and I really worked my nutrition. It was grueling, but then again, so is running the IMFLA marathon...

Thanks coach. I needed that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chasing Ghosts

I was late to the Ride for Rick because I got lost. I missed the 313 turn-off, ended up on 67 instead of 63, and as a non-native, getting lost in CT is still something that happens to me when I don't prepare properly.

I was about 5 minutes late when I parked the car and by the time I used the facilities, I was well behind any of the riders. How far behind ?

20 minutes. That is, it took me 20 minutes to catch the very last person on the 50 mile ride.

I really wanted to ride with other people. I never get to ride with other people- 95% of my rides are alone. I left with plenty of time, but hey, it was my fault I was late. I spent 2:17 minutes riding 48.5 or so miles (I don't have a computer at the moment) doing one thing- chasing tire tracks.

It had been raining for about 24 hours, but the great thing was the road was wet, but not WET. So I could see tire tracks the whole time, right from the very start. It's really a shame that I didn't have all my prep-work done. I had packed my bike in the car and my gear, but the bottom line is by not planning the drive, I had - Had what ?

Actually, I had a very good workout, even if it wasn't very social. Exactly what I need for Florida, where I'll come out of transition trailing well, trailing an awful lot of people. Unlike Florida, the 50 mile route Eric Hodska laid out (Eric, who created the idea for this event, who is just a guy with a great big heart and the ability to follow throw on anything he sets his mind to), is a conundrum of hills. You climb early, and you climb often (although you fly at the end of the ride).

I rode the whole time, trying to catch the front group. Why ? Because I can't help myself and I prefer my challenges to be impossible ? Let's face it, I'm not going to catch real cyclists who start out of the parking lot with more than a thirty second lead. I knew I wasn't going to catch the really good riders, but the chase ? Yeah, that was a good thing.

Charity ride or not- let's face it, the real important thing here is raising money for a great cause- I need to be getting my head around the Ironman in 6 weeks.

This ride might have been lonely. In the fog, maybe even dicey. But in the end- just what I needed...

I didn't catch the lead group. But I basically caught everyone else, and I got to ride in a way I'd never otherwise ride that course. Next year ? I get there half an hour early...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nutmegman Half-Ironman, Part III

I put two pairs of running shoes out in transition. I always want to have two choices in any long race- a pair of racing shoes and a pair of lightweight trainers.

But you have to make up your mind what to wear on the bike. You can't get off your bike and not know what shoes you are taking with you. Same thing with food. I had plenty of blocks and gels and I'd decided that as much as I like the cliff shot blocks, they just aren't right on the run. I had a gel right away.

John was talking us all up in transition. He made what as far as I know was his only mistake on the mike. He was giving me running props, saying I would move up, and then called me a 'world-class' athlete. Clearly he meant 'fifth-guy-on-a-small-school-cross-country-team' class athlete. But he gave me an idea of what was on the table in front of me, and so I headed out, with a plan.

This plan was to attack the downhills and really manage the uphills but stay conservative on them- that's something for another blog post.

As I headed out I noticed that there was a guy in a red skin suit (or I think it was a skin suit) getting ready to exit transition. I also saw the first woman running her bike into transition. I knew she was a pro, or at least that there was a pro there, and I'm an average enough triathlete to know that if I can beat any pro, man or woman, I've had a good day. So I had people in front of me, people behind me, and that's a good way to exit transition.

Unlike the bike, the run sends you only about halfway up the hill out of the park and then you hook a right downhill to the lower campsites. As I was heading out on this out and back I was watching the people coming the other way, including a woman who had a good lead on me. What ? That didn't make any sense. I'd passed all the women out on the bike course...

I ran steady down the hill, but tried to moderate my effort. I almost felt like I was going too hard. I so didn't want to blow up on this run. I get some positive feedback about my running and it is a perceived strength, however, in a long race, I'm just like everyone else. If I'm going to have a rough patch or a meltdown, it will be on the run. the sun was out now, it was getting warm, and I had a plan. I had to stick to it.

I went around the cone and started back up, having run a mile. I had an athlete close ahead in front of me. But I was discouraged to see that the guy in red and the woman both had held their position relative to me. Having run a whole mile, that was not what I wanted. But I concentrated on making the catch and did that quickly. Then I climbed up out of the park, enjoyed the brief downhill, and then started climbing again.

This second climb was harder than the one leaving the park. George's Hill Road. I didn't seem to be making great progress catching the runner in front of me, and then the lead bicycle-leading the first runner- came through. Wow- that about a half hour deficit...

I passed the relay woman somewhere in all this but the long climb up Georges Hill on the first loop was the hardest part of the race. I was sure the people behind me were crawling up my back, not that I would look. I was tiring.

And then it was over- a quick right hand turn, a dip and then a little more climbing but very moderate. I hit the three mile sign and took one of my gels. The plan was one every three miles. And I started to feel a lot better. I got to a downhill section and really started to work, made a couple more passes before the turn around, and took plenty of water. One of the volunteers had said 'You have a nice long downhill to recover' as I'd headed down Jackson Cove.

What she didn't say was what the climb back out would be like. It was another out and back and I really didn't feel like I'd opened anything up on guy in red or woman pro. But I kept it moderate all the way back to Georges Hill and then opened up on the downhill. Everyone going out was great- lots of encouragement as I passed people and I tied to do the same. When I got back to the entrance to the park I took another gel. My stomach didn't really like the gel, but I knew it would be important to overcome that on the second loop.

I rounded the cone and headed back out. I ran that first mile again and got a look at the guy in red and the woman pro. I'd open a small- small- additional gap. But that gave me a lot of confidence. I wasn't just holding them off, I was starting to separate from them.

By the time I got out on the climb up Georges Hill I had another athlete in my sights, although he was still a ways off. I was also passing first loop runners.

At 9 miles, I went for a gel, but didn't have any, so I took one from a volunteer. Banana-strawberry ? Oh well.

I made the pass before the turn-around at Jackson Cove and was told I was in the fourth by Mike Baker, who I'd passed. That was nice of him to let me know where I was and said I was looking good and he wished he had my legs. We traded conversation a little and before I know t, I was at the turn-around. I encouraged all the volunteers to just throw water on me and they did such a good job of it that I was almost too wet and I felt a little heavy climbing up and out- it's basically all climbing back to Georges Hill Road.

This time, I could see that I'd opened up a bigger gap on the people chasing me and that gave me a big lift. I started digging for more- the guy in third was out there in front of me.

I ran hard to the entrance to the park. And then I flew through that last mile. It was some of the best long course running I've done- I really felt good and ending with a mile downhill is awesome.

I didn't catch that last guy, but I made t pretty close: by cutting his lead from 14 minutes to two. Of course, the top two guys crushed me.

I came into the finishers chute, John said some outrageously nice things and I bellowed that I wanted some NIN. He delivered a ten-pack. If there had been beer during the massage, I'd have given the race an 11 out of ten. I even finished early enough to sit down and talk to the really good guys that finished this awesomely tough course under 4:40...

It also can't be overstated that this race is probably one of the most environmentally friendly races I have ever seen, and that is a big deal !

I learned a few things:

1) Not to undervalue what running skills I have. I had a good bike, but it was the run where I did all the damage and got back into the race (more or less).
2) Confidence feeds itself as the race goes on. Staying patient early and making consistent gains had me relaxed in the second loop of the run and I really ran well because I felt good about how the race was going.
3) Gu and blocks DO mix, just as long as you use them in separate legs. I think I have my Florida plan...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nutmegman Half-Ironman, Part II

Any questions about what this bike course would be like were answered in the first mile. The climb out of the park was just that. A climb. As Mandy had warned, there was a downhill and a sharp turn. Then you started climbing again.

Or rather, I started climbing again. Since this is my only actual skill on a bicycle, this is a good thing. The bad thing was that the cable for my rear derailleur is so badly stretched out that there's just no way that I can get into the low gear, or get into it without risking throwing the chain. So I put it in 21 and started climbing. I wanted to save big ring 23 for the really bad climbs and also while I've never snapped a chain- I'm no Eric Hodska- I have blown up more than one rear derailleur on a training ride.

I was breathing hard. While I'd had a great swim for me, I was still tired, and not only that, my left ear was plugged shut and no amount of banging on my helmet could fix it. It would stay plugged for about 25 miles, kind of affecting my balance.

Margit's lead was not insurmountable. I caught her about 7 or 8 miles in. On one hand it always makes me feel good to catch her because she's such an awesome swimmer and no slouch on the bike. But at the same time, I feel bad. That's probably not a big lift for her for me to pass her.

I ate some blocks, drank some Gatorade and worked my way by people, then got out to 188. I started what is really a kind of stair-step set of climbs, up, up, and up. This was some hard work, with no access to the small front ring. And I have an oversized big ring.

I saw the first cyclist, the race leader, headed downhill, in the aero blazing along as I climbed at 10 mph. Then I saw another. I started counting. At eight, I stopped counted and I made a decision. I decided that I really would be patient today, that I would keep it in my head that this bike loop would have to be ridden three times and I didn't need to get where I wanted to be- top 3- on the first lap. Or the second.

Still, I was moving up pretty well, and then I hit that damn hill Mandy said was a 2-6 minute climb. I went to big ring 23 and stood halfway up and stamped up the hill using my Thomas Voekler impression- yes, it's ugly. I passed a CT Heat athlete and he said 'That's not fair.' He caught me again on the next downhill and I let him get 5 bike lengths and then got back to work. He was a little heavier than me, so he had good momentum on the downhills but never really opened a gap. There were four or five people in a clump at the end of the 188 section and I set my sights on them.

We turned onto Hull Hill's road. He started making his passes as did I, but the gap between us vanished and I decided I was going to have to pick it up a notch and get out in front, which I did.

The first loop of a multi-loop course is the best one in some ways because you know what you are doing. Once you get on that second loop, things start to get a little confusing. After this group that I'd passed, the number of people in front of me was small enough that there was no regular pattern of catch and pass.

There was also no chance to establish a smooth rhythm on the course. It continued to either go uphill or downhill, and not little gradient changes either.

The second loop of the course cut out the climb out of the park, and actually basically began with some nice downhill, but twisty so you had to be reasonably careful- followed by a 90 degree left-hand turn and you guessed it, more climbing. This climbing was a fairly short section followed by one of the more twisty downhills. On this second loop, I noticed that when we descended, everyone was looking back a lot. Worried about the people coming up behind them ? I guess it might have been about safety...

Although there wasn't a ton of people in the race you never really felt alone and you never went that long without seeing your fellow athletes. I went by one who I'd been closing on- he'd parked the bike and ducked (just barely) off the road to urinate. I'd found a flat/downhill section on the first loop to do that while riding. I never saw him again.

Back out on 188, I was starting to tire of the big-ring climbs...

As I went up the last climb going out, I passed the one of the top two women. I needed a second to collect myself and she decided to pass me back, which really annoyed me. Mostly because I knew once we finished peaking, that I was going to be going by her again on the downhill in about ten seconds, and I would have to do it with auto traffic on my back- there were two cars halfway up the hill and closing fast. With cars and bikes on the other side of the road, there was a potential for the pass to be dicey, but at the speed I'd be going it would be pass or crash (or brake).

That's exactly what happened. I blew by her on the downhill just as a car went by, but oh well, that's what you get for trying to manage everything in your head instead of just going with the flow of the moment.

I hit the turn-around and had already dropped her. I got halfway up that big climb again and decided I had to try and get into the small ring. My legs weren't burning or anything. I just was not climbing efficiently. I eased the lever down, gave a gentle down stroke with my left foot and it went into the small ring.

I got to the top of the hill and considered just leaving it there in the small ring, but of course that was a ridiculous idea. I had to go back to the big ring, and then was able to get back to the small ring on the next hill. After that, I stayed in the big ring until the third loop.

I felt like I was starting to get some rhythm as I hit Hull's Hill road again. My speed was still averaging below 20 MPH I think, but then again, I'll never know....

I started the third loop chasing a guy that was about 200 yards ahead of me. I knew now anyone I caught I was going to have to put time into because I was starting to overtake people that might be competitive on the run. However, I was also lapping people (that had started late in the second lap) and that always makes for a confusing journey. I did get past him finally and we both passed a third person- I had to work on the downhills because he was definitely riding aggressively on Bower and Oneill. I turned back onto 188 and started climbing. When I got to the first real hill, I popped my chain into the small ring, excited about having the option.

It came off instead of shifting down. I tried reseating it by shifting up but it wasn't having it so I hoped off. I got passed by the guy I'd just passed. He asked if I needed help, I said no and grabbed the chain with my right hand and reseated it on the big ring. Normally I try to use a finger, but in a race- my whole hand was covered in grease, which I wiped on my shorts.

I passed the guy again on the next hill and built a small lead into the turn-around. Taller, leaner, he looked like he'd give me a run for my money on the downhills- I mean, he looked like a cyclist/triathlete after all. So I decided that I had to get into the small ring on the biggest hill- halfway up I did, and it was the last hill I climbed in the small ring in the race. Then I really absolutely bombed down all those hills on 188 like someone was chasing me to do violence.

After I turned onto Hull Hill that last time, I ate some food, drank some gatorade and what do you know ? I caught some people. I thought maybe they were second lap people, so after I got a small gap, I got up as much momentum as I could and peed. I immediately got passed back. One of the guys, in yellow, had a 41 on his calf. We started climbing the last hill before Maple Tree Round and something big and black went by me just as I was about to pass this guy.

I looked down. My brand new computer was gone. I looked at that 41 and decided to keep climbing. Turned out he was on his third lap.

I never really gapped the guy and as we got onto Georges he was pushing me. The road down was rough and there was that sharp turn, so I let him by and concentrated on staying back and giving him room.

He beat me into transition, and I beat him out.

Next: The run

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nutmegman Half-Ironman, Part I

Sometimes, an A race sneaks up behind you and hits you over the head when you aren't expecting it.

Once again, I want to preface this by saying that this race was really well run. I've been to races 10 time this size that were half as well run. The venue was very well thought out- parking was close to transition, there was a real bathroom, the whole area showed a lot of forethought in the setup. While the crowd that showed up to race was game, I hope that next year there's a bigger turn-out.

I got almost no sleep the night before the race. Could have been anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours, but it was pretty weak. I was dreaming at five am when Margit woke me up- that I was in NYC trying to find someone without a cell phone. This dream, by the way, sucks.

I got up and immediately nearly choked to death on a whole wheat mini-bagel. I didn't know they made whole wheat mini bagels, and I had even less of an idea how freaking dry they are, or how bad an idea it might be to try and gaffle one down after being awake for thirty seconds. I sent one of my host's bananas after down after it and started thinking about how that all would taste coming back at me in the water.

Still, it was great of Helena and Chuck to host us and it's pretty rude for me to complain about their food- but completely right to point out my own stupidity.

The pre-race was pretty laid back. The mist was laying pretty hard on the water and when Mandy announced the half-hour delay there was no bitching and moaning from the assembled athletes. That was good, because as much as a shortened swim is usually good for me, that would have sucked for the race. Margit and I spent some time talking to John about how they'd had to pull the weeds from the first 100 yards of the swim.

Then, it was time to start. That was pretty laid back. The men started off, and we had a fairly good sight line to the first green bouys. There was some jostling early but I just put my head down. So many races the swim starts and there are bodies everywhere and I feel like if I put my head down, someone will kick me, there's no water to catch, and all that. So I put my head down, I started swimming, and wow, that works. You can catch water even when everyone around you is beating the hell out of it. I know anyone who is a swimmer already knows that.

Once we got to the inner markers, it was a little crazy out to the outer markers. There was a boat with police rack lights on it and you couldn't even see that at first. I could also smell the bacteria in the lake- by 9 that night my nose was running faster than I had.

At the turn, I was farther over to the right than anyone around me and one of my competitors yelled 'Hey Buddy, over here.'

Thanks- I had just caught sight of the buoy and the encouragement was welcome.

There were two buoys at the far end of the course and yes, the women who started two minutes behind me where already swimming over me.

I swam back in with a lot more confidence and did my best to get in line with other swimmers and not be so far off to the right it was crazy, with mixed results. I finally climbed out of the water, ran along the beach, and then jumped back in.

Second loop, same as the first. I really felt like I had a good swim, although I have a feeling the course was short. I'd be amazed if I could swim a 1:07:58 in an IRonman, but I'll take a sub-34 half-iron swim, that's for sure.

Transition was slow. Too slow. I decided on a cycling jersey, but putting an unzipped jersey on in transition is not as easy as in my closet. I tried gloves but gave that up as too complicated, then stuffed each pocket of the jersey with one type of item- blocks, gels, and endurolytes. The whole time, John Hirsch, doing great work as MC, was telling me about how big and getting bigger Margit's lead was, suggesting at one point it might be insurmountable.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nutmegman Half-Ironman

I'll write my race report tomorrow, because I have a day off, but I wanted to get a few thoughts down, because wow, I had a decent race- and some fun.

This was a great race. Mandy did an awesome job of setting up a fair, challenging, well-marked course that was well supplied, well-staffed. The swag was the best I've seen in years. And John- anyone who plays not one but 10 NIN songs on request is a man among men. Awesome.

Backstory- Last year I finished third at what was at the time Connecticut's other half-ironman, Extrememan in Madison. This was a disappointment. With only 75 people in the race, I finished 3rd because I couldn't keep track of where I was on the race, and when, thinking I was fourth of fifth and started to melt down on the run, I didn't fight it. I was in second at the time and closing on a win.

Fast forward a year- Extrememan didn't survive, and Nutmegman was moved to a new, closer venue very close to some great babysitting- Margit's friend Helena. So we both signed up. And as I wrote yesterday, my goal was just to have a solid race and undo the damage I'd done last week at Hammerfest. I just wanted to have some fun on what I was sure would be a challenging course, be solid, swim well. This sport is hard work, but on a good day it's tremendously rewarding and a lot of fun.

Then I get my race number. 4. Bret Favre's number. I admit it. I felt a little pressure there. And I slept like it.

New race goal- sleep like I sleep before IMLP 2006 (7 hours straight through). Not 2 hours. Maybe 3. Felt like 0.

And the end result. As John pointed out as I was finishing, they called it right. I finished 4th. I earned the number, maybe even deserved the number. And hey, a number is just that. Meaningless. It's how you race. Today's was good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Number 4 ?

I'm doing a half-ironman in the morning, and the plan was to use it as a warm-up for Florida, which means concentrating on mechanics and form and just having a solid, but not spectacular race, not worrying about my age group or anything else.

That plan goes like this:

Swim: Concentrate on taking a longer, slower pull. That means being less tired because I'll be reducing my turnover. The goal for Florida is to swim faster, but in the short-term this strategy will probably slow me down.

Bike: Knees into the top-tube, high cadence, steady effort.

Run: Have the last mile within 15 seconds of the first mile. That means running more like it's an Ironman than a half-ironman.

In short- the goal was to race this race like it was an Ironman and use that experience for a springboard. Then I showed up at packet pick-up and the number I got ?


Regardless of how I do I want to thank Mandy for getting Margit and I set and I'll thank John ahead of time for being there to pump us up and cheer us on...

ps- still have the same goal. an A race is an A race.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hard Easy Run

Today was one of those days I don't usually have.

I had two runs today- 45 minutes at lunch and an hour after work. I had a great run at lunch- very motivated, everything felt good, the music was sweet. It was a great break in another long day.

Then I came home. I stopped at the grocers and again at the Buds. I grabbed a Heath bar and gaffled it down before my run and that was probably a bad move.

I was on the road as quickly as you can be when you are feeding four cats every day. The run started off slow. The first seven and a half minutes took eight minutes, or rather, it took eight minutes to get where I wanted to be at 7:30. It was a nice late afternoon run, it was sunny, just barely warm enough. But I didn't really feel that good. I felt like I had little or no energy, like I was struggling to keep my pace.

I ran out through the marsh on the nature trail and the first half of the run just never clicked. This was the second late-afternoon run in the last month that felt this way- not my A game, that's for sure. But then I hit the turn-around, and things started to click. I no longer felt all wrong- whatever that means- I started getting my stride, the music sounded better.

Moral of the story: Don't snarf down a candy bar and go running for an hour....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mouse Update

The same mouse somehow got into the house- apparently when I went out for my ride yesterday. No question this was the same one. My cat Tremmy caught it and then I released it to the wild....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hammerfest Triathlon

This race is best seen in the bookends.

One bookend- my wife is primarily responsible for setting up the registration materials for the race, assigning numbers and waves, and so on. She went to drop off the registration packs at the race venue at around 10:30 PM the night before the race. She comes back at 11:10 PM- and tells me there's a mouse in her car (it had been living in a friend's shop vacuum used to blow up the buoys). Guess who was on mouse patrol.

Other bookend- Sunday afternoon, after a few hours to recover and a big (for me) lunch, I did my 90 minute run, to try and salvage the day. About 45 minutes in Depeche Mode's Precious was up on the iPod, and that run, in searing sun and heat that brought a thick haze to the shoreline, got good really quick.

I had to wait for Ian to wake up, then get him dressed and ready to go to the race. So I got there a little late, there was no one to watch him as I searched for a rack or racked my stuff. By the time I got in the rough water, it was 7:20, 10 minutes before race-time.

I was not ready to swim in the chop. I needed a good 10-15 minute warmup, and that didn't happen. That's my fault- as a result, I had a slow swim. That's all there is to it- it was slow.

I came out of the water right behind Steve Surprise, who started 3 minutes after me. We had roughly even transitions. I rode him down somewhere around the hill by Tom Girard's house. I then worked my way up on the first loop, then the chaos began. The second loop is full of first-loopers from other waves. Usually, you still pick up plenty of people in the second loop from your wave, but two athletes I know suggested that maybe the large group of people from my wave in front of me were taking advantage of one another's pace. Who knows ? I did not catch enough people on the bike.

I had a good run. I took out about 15 people, but that only worked me up to twentieth place. I ran by Joe Whalen, and he encouraged me to get my ass in gear and catch the people in front of me, some of whom I did.

Bottom line- I raced poorly. It felt like my second race of the season. It looked like the second race of my season.

I had a good run in the afternoon. That made me feel a lot better. Sunday is a half-ironman, and there, I have to race well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Madison Triathlon- er, Duathlon

It's been a long week since the race, but I thought I should get a few thoughts down about the race. The Madison race is one of three multi-sport races that I'm involved in- I set up the bike course for Brian's Beachside Boogie and just got back from packet-stuffing for Hammerfest, where I'll be setting up transition with some other people Saturday.

When we set up the Madison transition Saturday there was a lot of talk about what to do if we had miserable weather, which was the forecast, and we decided that we do a short (1.1/1.2 mile) run out behind the parking area if the swim was cancelled due to the rough weather.

On race day, I didn't get there until 6AM, so I missed the period of time where the water was rough and the decision to cancel the swim.

I spent that hour chalk-spraying the first and last quarters of the run (the rest was on a field), trying to get cars moved, and finally, doing the bike safety talk a few minutes before the race.

Once the race started, I headed out on the course with my mountain bike-it was raining lightly as I hit the first volunteer areas- some of them were still waiting in their cars and I was yelling 'they're coming'. The first men from the elite wave overtook me in about ten minutes and from that point I kind of rode back and forth on the course, stopping to help a few people who had issues, talking to volunteers and doing some very minimal repositioning (they mostly know what they are doing after so many years), and pretty soon, it was pouring rain, Lake Placid style. That only lasted a few moments.

I came in right at the back of the pack and cleared the way through the runners for the last woman, then went out to the first turn on the run course and helped out there.

I have to say that the athletes were very understanding about the format change and also very good-natured about the rain, the humidity (100% at least) and the whole day went really well.

The guy that should get a special pat on the back is Steve Surprise. With the race director out of town, the Jaycees leaned on Steve for advice and he did a great job tying a lot of things together. Way to go, Steve

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Haven Road Race 2008- Part II

So we turned onto Long Wharf. There was some wind, and it's a long stretch so you can see a lot of people. I worked on taking each pass slowly, and this was an area where there was plenty of opportunity to move up. I saw someone I know pretty well slip into a porta-potty- felt bad for him. You have to go bad when you stop during a 20K and it cost him.

Eric just kept up the pace. It was hard to tell which one of us was exactly setting the pace and I don't think either of us was entirely. We were both just running. I tried to give him a little extra room in the turns because when your quad is hurting, changing direction is tough.

The attrition started to become more visible. We went by people who were walking, stopping at the aid stations. Once in a while, someone tried to run with us as went by. I told Eric he should go if he was ready, but he stayed with me and we just kept moving up.

That was pretty much it until we went into the park. A woman went by us and that was what Eric needed to shake out the discomfort in his leg. By the time we'd finished climbing the hill and going down the other side to where the bagpipes were, he had a good 15 seconds on me. As I went over the bridge, I saw George Buchanan in the distance.

EH caught him, and they both took off- so much for catching up to George and getting a super-fast finish.

To be honest, the last two miles I felt like I was not really at that next level. However, in the last .4 miles, it all came together. I passed about half a dozen people including one of the elite runners right on the line.

Then it was beer and hanging out with friends, and all in all, a good day. I managed to trim 30 seconds off last year's time, down some serious Red Hook, and then mow the lawn...

Monday, September 01, 2008

New Haven Road Race 2008- Part I

It's a strange thing, this road race.

The 20k is one of the races I've run just about every year since I started running again. In fact, I just looked up the results and was surprised to find that this was my tenth straight year running. It was also my third slowest time, but in a pattern that's more positive, it was another race that I ran faster than the previous two years.

My plan was simple this year. Don't run crazy the first 10K, then try and work my way back into the race in the back half. I wasn't really sure where I was at- I'd swum in the Sound the day before and for the first time this year I'd gotten really stuffed up.

The race is hard in that there are so many talented runners there. I start in row 2B/3A, which is pretty close to the front. I always see a lot of people I know there. I ended starting right next to Pat Dennen, who is getting married- congratulations, Pat. Also right near me were Eric and George Buchanan. Eric was planning to try and run sixes and I joked with him about that, because he always says that.

We'd agreed to bring in Ryan Shea's dad to talk before the race start, and John Courtmanche was up there to introduce him even though John himself was running the 20k. Let me stop and say that until I joined the board of the road race, I had no idea what all needs to be done to get this race off the ground, and no one does more important work than John, our board president and a great guy. I've never seen him go five minutes without smiling.

The race started and it was a big jostle-fest. I started running at what I hoped was my pace and the hoards went around me. I didn't worry about it. At about the half-mile mark, Eric went by and I saw him wedge his way past the people in front of me- it's extremely crowded and he managed to move up pretty deftly. I stayed relaxed, tried to ignore the stuffiness in my head and just run, and not panic or get aggravated as people went by. I saw a few people I knew- Rob Barker, Frank Tirorello, Chris Dickerson.

We took the turn onto the first hill and I really tried to keep it smooth and easy. That hill, near Southern, is way too early to push on. I took water, drank some, poured some on me, and watched the people in front of me. Running away from me. I tried to lock in on the people around me and found someone that was running a good pace and just tried, again, for the umpteenth time already, to relax.

Then after three miles, I got passed by a pair of guys I know. They are both good runners in their 50s. However, they are they are also runners that, if I run anywhere between 6:10 and 6:20, I should go over the line in front of. I surged. It was the only time in race I did that. It didn't work. I did get ahead, but i was pushing too hard, and I started to think about it as I headed along that downhill part of route 10 prior to the route 34 intersection. I was running in the 6:10-6:15 per mile area, which was my goal. So why did I care if someone I felt I might have a fair chance of beating was passing me between mile 3-4 ?

I decided to let him go. That put him, the other runner he was with, and Zofia W. in front of me. I told myself that New Haven is a war of attrition and you just have to be patient.

Then next thing I knew, I was on route 10 past 34 and suddenly, I saw a runner walking back towards us on the sidewalk. I thought I recognised the general build and the sunglasses, and as I got closer I realised it was Eric- it looked like his thigh was hurting. I asked if he was all right or if I could do something and he said no, keep going. I might not mind seeing other runners come back to me as the race progresses, but I certainly don't want to see anyone hurt, much less a friend. But Eric's made of tougher stuff...

Next thing I knew, he was running alongside me. I asked him what was wrong, and as we headed into the hill, I tried to make sure we stayed moderate. I also dropped my Gu and had to go back for it, but was able to do that without losing any time. From this point to the 10 mile, I would be moving up and passing people, except for about two people. Although Eric's thigh was bothering him, we were working hard enough to pass the people in front of us. We went under 95 and sure enough, the same people that were running away from me before were now coming back. I downed a Gu and we started passing- Zofia, these other two guys, and we just kept moving up, slowly, but surely. There was nothing dramatic about it, just a nice steady rhythm of passing, dropping, passing, dropping.

We went through 10K at about 38:44...