Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brian's Beachside Boogie

These race reports will be coming out of order for a while. 6 days before I ran the Feed the Need 5K, it was a cool but sunny Sunday morning in Hammonassett.

I always look forward to Brian's, not because I've won the race- I'm pretty sure those days are gone- but because I like duathlons and this one supports Myelin research and is put on by some great people. I had a new bike this year too, so expectations were a little higher- on the other hand, with the long running I've been doing helping Maureen prepare for Boston runs of up to 22 miles), it was suggested to me that I hadn't seriously or properly trained for the race.

I had put about 100 road miles on the mountain bike, including riding it out to Madison and then posting up a stinker at the Madison 5 miler (30:18). So I had a brick under my belt, but nothing to write home about and I hadn't raced on a bike since Florida in November.

I rode about 3 miles warm up, on the sand towards Meigs Point and the road back to the start. It was cold and I had on riding gloves, and they seemed like the right call. Until I started doing strides to continue my warmup. I go through this every year- the gloves are perfect for the bike but too hot for the run. I've run with them and gotten so overheated I toss them off at the end of the run and then suffer.

It seems like a small thing, but these are the small things you obsess about before your first multi-sport race of the season. So I looked at the tope men there, I looked at Coach Kelli. They were all wearing gloves like mine so I decided to stop worrying about it.

The race is different each year, depending on how many pure runners are there. Some years a large pack bolts out at the start of the race, making thing difficult, other years, most of the athletes seem to understand they are at a duathlon and you can't just blow up the first 2 mile run. This was one of those years were no one really went out and ran above their ability level.

That is to say, two of the guys were crazy good- the race winner was Yale and a guy that's run on Hitek USATF team, and they took off right away, leaving Dave Ellis, myself, a guy named Graham and one or two others running in the B group. And Kelli Montgomery, initially. I wasn't really sure exactly what Kelli was doing as I watched her running ahead of me. I thought it was an aggressive first run for her, and imagined that she would fade, still, I put in a little bit extra to pass her.

We got out on the back part of the run and I have to say that it felt good. I was worried that it was going to feel extremely hard running like that. But it didn't. I felt good- ready to get on the bike. But I have to say in the bike of my mind I'd heard a lot of chatter about the sand and I was thinking about it as I ran in 5th on the 1st run.

I'd decided to go with bike shoes this year and the change was quick and easy.

I made it out of transition no problem. And then, within 30 seconds, my race was off the rails. There was a lot of sand on the course, and I tried to dodge some. Instead I went right into it and as I tried to torque my way out I threw the chain off front ring. This was not a good thing. Assuming it was the back ring I tried to reset it without getting off. Between the wasted time trying to torque it back on and the time actually getting off and resetting it, I lost 30 seconds, lost any contact with the guys in front of me, got passed. I was then tentative all the way to Meig's point, after which I was on the road. I was able to attack again on the road and claw my way back into 5th from 7th.

Then we got in the woods and I dropped a place again. I was on the aerobars almost the whole time- that's just how I ride. If it's flat grass, well then, why not stay efficient. I did pass the guy that was second on the first run and if was a tiny bit tentative, he was flat out tentative.

The worst part of the course for the sand was the very back of the course, just before transition. The sand was deep and I kind of had to baby my way through it. Then I was riding by transition.

My second loop was definitely better than my first. I lost a little ground out to Meig's Point, absolutely screened my way down the road to the woods, and then lost only one place again the entire way back. However, when I got close to transition on my second loop, I was coming up on people who were just completing their first loop, and some of them had gotten off their bikes and were walking. This pretty well sucked, trying to pick my way through the heaviest sand on the course, riding, while other people were walking, and not leaving much of a hole.

I still managed 5th on the bike, but I've been fastest bike there on maybe 2-3 occasions, and this was not one of those days. I give my bike effort low marks.

I came into transition, swapped my shoes for my running shoes, and headed out. Graham was just ahead of me, maybe 5 or 6 seconds, and that was nice to be honest.

The second run at Brian's is a monster. It's dead flat, it's two miles, and except for the twists and turns it's super easy. But, if you went hard on the bike, you're shelled. When you go out on the run alone, and I've done that both leading and not leading the race, you don't run well. I had a man to chase down and that was incentive.

I worked the catch patiently. I knew my only options were 5th place or 6th place and I wanted fifth, so I took my time and made the pass when it made sense to do it, and then I tightened the screws and ran as hard as I could. For the next mile I felt pretty confident, but about half a mile from the finish I started regretting not taking a gel at the start of the run.

The wheels did not come off, but they sure as hell wobbled a lot. That last half mile was hard work. But I got the gap I needed and inched out Graeme by a mere 17 seconds. I have a feeling that once he gets into full race shape, he's the one that will be inching me out at races (or maybe yarding me out).

Despite the bike mishap I cut 36 seconds off last year- trimming 12 off the run and 24 off the bike. I could have cut a full minute off the bike I think.

After the race I had a chance to talk to the race winner and Graeme, among others, and I have to say, this race might be small, but it draws some fast guys and a lot of nice people, all supporting a great cause.

I really love this race...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Feed the Need 5k- 3 for 3 !

I prefer to plan ahead for my races, kind of have a plan during the week, and certainly I like to get up in the morning and know I am going to a race. Such was just not the case.

I got up late for a Saturday morning- almost 7 am, and instead of heading right for the bike I settled in, had a banana and some coffee, then got on the computer. Maureen Terwilliger imed me and asked me if I was going to do either of the races at Hammonessett. I was confused because as far as I knew there was just a race at 11:00 sponsored by Soundrunner. That didn't work out with the scheduled egg hunts for the morning, and in fact, no workout plan seemed like a good one.

So I looked the race up on line and it was at 9:00 and the entry fee was 25 cans or boxes of food. It was 8:00 AM. This is what a bad plan looks like. I got dressed and got my stuff together. That took 15 minutes, making a bad plan worse. Bolted out of the house, stopped at Walgreens and bought 24 single-serving boxes of cereal and drove at high speed to the ark.

I managed to get there about 25 of 9 and it was windy and cold and there was a long line for the porta-potties. It was kind of odd, being in exactly the same place as my last race just 6 days earlier, but instead of an off-road duathlon, I was running just a 5k. There was no time for a proper warm-up so I just went over to the starting- where I was alone- and started doing strides. The wind was definitely going to be a factor and I was trying as much to stay warm as get warmed up. Finally people started coming over, first the wheelchair athlete and a few stragglers, then the other 300 people doing the race. The crowd was big- a lot bigger than I remembered from the other two times I'd run the race.

I was listening to Evanescence as usual. But I decided that I was going to put the music away for the race. I had some small hope of winning the race- I'd won it twice before and although last year's winning time was 16:55 which let's face it, I will never see again, I didn't see that guy. People lined up fairly quickly and they started giving instructions. When they described the course the wheelchair athlete said 'Don't worry, I'll be in front', and I have to admit, based on my my recent experiences, including Disney, I wasn't sure that was going to be the case.

The race starts in the opposite direction from Meig's Point- you run all the way to the end of the road for the east pavilions, hook a left and head back. They gave the wheelchair athlete a minute head start, and with the wind blowing it just got colder and more raw, but finally, we were off.

I didn't waste any time. I got out in front and started running hard, not crazy hard, but hard. I had control of the race right from the start and my first fear was that I would not be able to maintain a steady, hard pace. It's easier for me at this stage in my racing to run under 18 minutes chasing people than it is being chased. I reached the turn around and took it massively wide, too wide, sloppy running, but I didn't care. I re-established my line and went for it....

The wheelchair had come back to me right away- I was going faster than he was, and I ran him down not because I think it's cool to out-run a guy in a wheel chair (it's not, although it is cool to outrun someone on a bicycle), but because he was in front of me.

I could hear the footsteps behind me...

While most of the field had already separated, there were a few guys on my heels and I tried to settle in as I ran back by the pavilions headed west. This was that dangerous time in a 5K, the first maybe half mile where you can simply blow your race up and end up wishing you actually had a brain in your head... so I found my stride and really just pushed it. I was almost to the round-about when I got caught from behind, run down and passed...

I hate that... I rarely have a chance to win a race, and when I think I do think I can that moment where I realise I am wrong is a bitter one.

The guy that went by me was wearing a Coast Guard Academy cross-country uniform. However, instead of thinking how I was up against a college kid- a college cross-country runner- I looked at his form. It's slightly uphill to the round-about and as soon as he passed me I felt like he slowed a little. With the wind mostly in our face I considered tucking in for about two seconds. The I just attacked again.

I was able to re-establish my lead, and hold it. I made it through the roundabout and was running hard. They had told us to stay right and I was on the yellow line, running as steady/hard as possible. I heard his footsteps and he was cutting the tangents through the curves, so I let him lead from behind in that respect and did likewise. It was hard running, there was no lead car or lead bike, just me hauling as much as I could and his incessant footsteps.

While I like to lead, there is something nerve-wracking about being in front and having someone so close behind. We reached the tear drop and I was still holding a few seconds. One of the volunteers said 'You're almost there' as I went through the drop and it always amazes me how the perception of the course they have and you have could be so different. I felt like the finish line was a forever away.

I ride my bike in the park a lot, time-trialing from the entrance around Meig's Point and back out, and I'd just done Brian's last week, so I know the road and it's an advantage. As I went through the point Brad, the Coast Guard runner, was close enough that I didn't see him at all. I burst out through the point and started right down the middle of the road.

There were people everywhere, headed out as I was headed back and they were cheering but some of them were also in the way. No worries. I just picked my way through the crowd, most of whom seemed to be in a half-mile stretch, then just ran as hard as I could. The road finally splits with a median and I stayed on the left side until we got close to back to the roundabout, when I crossed because I knew that we'd have to go right around it. I plowed through the median starting to feel like the gas tank was nearly empty.

On the straightaway, pavilion in sight, I finally looked back. I loathe looking back and think it sends the wrong message, but I needed to know if I was going to have to make a tactical decision.

I wasn't. He wasn't in contact.

I heard 17:28 and I was getting close to the final turn into the parking lot, maybe 20 seconds from winning the race. I hit the turn, went through, saw the clock, and knew I could beat 17:50 so I keep pushing and got a 17:49. I waited for Brad in the chute, who finished 7 seconds back, we talked for a few minutes and then warmed down together.

I know it was small race, and not the most competitive field, but I was pushed the entire way, I ran my fastest 5K in a long time, and most of all, had fun with a last-minute, unplanned and slightly crazy decision.

Plenty to be happy about...