Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 5k challenge

Sometimes I have stupid ideas, however, I can not claim full responsibility for this one. I partially have to blame my friend Brad. On his blog he posted that he wanted to run a 5k every week, under 20 minutes. One of the things he wrote was, “Ambitious, but will demand consistency that I need in order to improve my speed throughout the year.” This struck a chord with me as I read it, and for a few fleeting moments, I thought it was a great idea, and  (and this is where I got stupid) I told him as such in the comments section – now, 20 minutes is way out of the question for me, my PR is 23.34 – so maybe I will shoot for 24.

Once I posted the comment of course I immediately regretted it.  And then Brad went and saw it and commented we would be able to provide accountability for each other. Crap. I guess now then I am committed.

So, here are my self imposed rules –
    • one 5k every week. Yes, that is 52 x 5k’s
    • 24 minutes or under. (60 seconds grace for January only – I have only ever twice ran under 24 minutes)
    • It can be on the treadmill, down a hill, on the flat, a split in a longer race, it just has to be done
    • It can be a race.
    • Late spring, I will sign up for a 5k race, shoot for a PR and adjust my required weekly time target to within 30 seconds of that race time. In the fall, I will race another 5k and adjust again
Anyone with me and Brad? Feel free to make up your own rules too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

and just like that, it was over

and just like that, it was over
A quick think back a week ago – it was Thursday, and I was getting ready to head to Phoenix for the Javelina Jundred 100 mile race. It was the last day of my streak – you see, I had convinced myself that if I ran every day, it would force me to train well, to go out and run even if I didn’t want to – I had ran every day for over 10 weeks – not one day was missed – my mileage was over 500 in that time span. I had raced 3 marathons, a 5k and a 50k in the preceding 5 weeks – not mention Hinson Lake and the Really Really Really long shirt run in September. I had a marathon PR and a 50k PR. Add to that course knowledge from 4 laps last year. In short, I think I prepared well.

I even had a vague plan – take it easy the first half of each loop, lots of walking as it was mainly uphill, then open it up some on the second half of each loop. I figured about 3:15-3:30 for the first couple of loops – slowing down to 4:30+ for the night loops – even 5 hours, pick it up in daylight a small amount, and that would give me something like a 28 hour finish.

I was ready.

As soon as I arrived in Phoenix – I met my friend Dave in the running store he works at – “IRun Phoenix”. A great store, they had everything I needed for last minute supplies – it is owned by a trail/ultra runner, so the selection was great (http://www.irunshop.com/). Then off to Javelina Jeadquarters to get the schwag. Gotta love a race that gets you a 12-pack cooler. AND a t-shirt. I caught up with some friends then headed to Dave’s to get some sleep.

My plan of trying to stay on East Coast time for the week I was working on the west coast meant that the 4:00 am alarm did not feel so bad, I was ready to go in 15 minutes, armed with some fresh Cost Rican coffee and a bagel (another friend of Dave’s was crashing there – Felipe from Costa Rica). Just after 5 Felipe ad I got to the McDowell Mountain Park – the organization and shuttle service to the Jeadquarters was flawless. I met up with John from NC and his buddy Matt who graciously offered to crew for me.

6:00 am, it was go time. No pressure, take my time and just plod the first half of the course. I took video and pictures of the marvelous sunrise and moonset. Halfway round the course starts more of a gentle descent – learning my lesson from last year, I did not pound down these hills – just nice gentle running. Loop one, was finished I about 3 hours and twenty something. Perfect
After a fairly quick turnaround at the start finish area, it was back out the way I had come, and up the hill I had just ran down. Nice and easy to the half way point then pick up the pace. The plan was working – I felt great. Second loop was uneventful. I fuelled well, hydrated well – and back to the start finish in 6 hours and fifty something. Perfect. Again.

At his point last year, I had lost 8 pounds in weight and was badly dehydrated – the cooler weather and smarter running meant that was not the case this year.

I changed socks, and was back out for lap 3. Again, another uneventful lap. Unfortunately though, I met up with John who was sitting at the aid-station 7 miles from the start/finish area – he told me he was done, with problems in his shins. I could see they were swollen. I chatted with him for a few minutes before heading back. 45 miles done in 10 hours and fifty something.

Knowing it would be getting dark this loop, I took a longer break to get ready – switching to a long sleeve shirt, preparing headlamp, switching shoes (at this point, the rocks on the course were beating my feet up – so I switched from the 101’s to the more cushioned Cascadias – all a part of the plan.)

And back out after 20 minutes or so. I was a little slower now on the power walk up the hills, my 50 mile split was 12:20 – which was really where I thought I should be – I figured that put me on course for a 28 hour finish. I felt good but I rested a while at the Jackass Junction aidstation, I took in a couple of cups of Ramen Noodles to get some calories in, and headed out. After a mile or two, the course flattened out, and the strategy of preserving energy for the second half of the course was paying off – I was walking strongly on the flats, and jogging slowly on the downs – even picking people off who had seemed to go into an early death march. The night was cool, the noodles had kicked in and I felt great. There is a aid station about two miles out from the start/finish, I needed nothing there so just sailed on through to get to the finish – it was looking like my 100k split would be about 15:45 – almost 3 hours faster than last year. I was very happy.

and just like that it was over

Just half a mile or so later I managed to kick a rock, and in the process of successfully preventing myself from falling, I managed to land awkwardly on my right leg, and I twisted something on the inside of my knee. It kind of felt like a rolled ankle, but in my knee. My normal routine when I twist my ankle is to swear loudly, but keep moving ad the pain will eventually subside. It didn’t. IT was especially painful going down hills.

Back to the Jeadquarters – my friend Adam (www.sedonarunning.com) sat me down and got some ice. John and Matt were also there to offer sympathies (and a beer). Even though the pain subsided with the icing, it was still painful to run. After 30 minutes of icing, sitting and thinking about the prospect of going out for another 15 mile loop, I pulled the plug and took the beer that was offered. In my head, that was the decision made. DNF with a sub 16 hour 100k (A PR)

and just like that it was over.

So, a few days later – here are my thoughts. Within a couple of days, my knee felt fine. That alone caused more angst, because it of course crossed my mind that I probably should have sucked it up and continued. The sensible side of my head though said that perhaps dropping was the right thing, because I did no additional damage and was able to recover. Who knows?

but it was over.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My first movie production

I pieced this together using Windows Live Movie Maker. Some movie clips I took during my 100 mile run and also some photos I took. The other name for this movie is "The 12 minutes you will never get back"

Respecting the Hell out of Javelina Jundred.

Javelina Jundred is a 101.4 mile run in the Arizona desert. The scenery is absolutely spectacular – if you like deserts (I do). The ancient Saguaro towering over you as you run, the mountains in the distance. Plus the wonderful support from the volunteers. It is billed as a Jalloween party – many wearing costume.  (All the “J’s” are silent by the way).
The approach of sunrise shortly after the start
The moon getting ready to set
Mountain backdrop
The beautiful ancient saguaro
more saguaro
Female winner and second overall Jamie Donaldson. After the race, Jamie contacted me and asked if this photo could be used by Hammer Nutrition in one of their ads. It was published in Ultrarunning Magazine a month or two later
Spectacular sunset. Hope that this year I will get to see a second sunrise.
I bolloxed up at Javelina last year. The curse of most endurance runners was probably my main downfall – yep, going out too fast. Plus, I could also blame the wig – I am not used to running with hair.
The course is actually quite deceptive. Flat at the start, and then a very gradual incline for about 5 miles, then a 5 mile drop – barely noticeable. Not by any means do these climbs have any significant elevation gain. You barely notice it – and that is the problem. You see, you start slow being smart, and then somewhere around half-way through the loop you suddenly feel great, the pace picks up – but… that is gravity doing that. Meanwhile as the pace is high, sudden thoughts of potentially hitting sub 24 come at you. After 15 miles, you arrive at Javelina Jeadquarters feeling great, looking forward to the big sub-24 buckle. They run “washing machine loops” at Javelina, so you head out the way you have just come – back up the hill you just flew down – except, you try and keep the pace the same as when you were coming down, plus of course it is getting hotter.
Last year, by the time I had finished the second lap, I was pretty tired and pretty badly dehydrated. I was actually down about 8 pounds. To be honest, I never really recovered from that – even though I sat down for 30 minutes or so to get some fluids in me.
I did do two more laps – but really struggled through them both, eventually dropping at 100k. There were some of those moments where you feel like you are moving well, but soon realize it just took 25 minutes for a mile.
As I type, I am sitting on a plane, listening to music. Freebird by Lynnrd Skynnrd just came on. It brought back a memory of last year – after I had decided to drop, and I had about 2 miles to go to the S/F area, the very same song came on – I cranked the volume up and sang my heart out while playing my air guitar. Thankfully there wasn’t anybody around to hear me (and no doubt it scared the rattlesnakes and coyotes away. As I sit on the plane – I did turn the volume up, but no singing.
Reliving that memory has just given me an idea  - I am going to ask as many people as I can to recommend a song – I will make a “friend” playlist, and play through the list when I need perking up
This year, I won’t be stupid, this year no dreams of sub 24 or anything so ridiculous will enter my head. I will remember the hills are there, and I will be smart. I will not wear a wig. I will not bollox Javelina.

A tale of two marathons

After the fast 50k on the New River Trail, and the plod around the Medoc Trail Marathon the preceding two weekends, I would be lying if I wasn’t expecting a huge amount of awesomeness  -- huge swathes of awesomeness in fact, at the Ridge to Bridge Marathon.
26.2 miles with a net elevation loss of 2,700 ft, cool weather and then there is me having found a little speed through the summer. So yeah I had great expectations.
The race director warns us on the website that running downhill for practically the whole distance wouldn’t be easy – “LOL WTF?” were my thoughts; I mean look at me, gravity most certainly is my friend.
I set a goal of under 4 hours. Now, let’s go back in time a few years. For my second and third marathon, I set that as a goal – sub 4. I kept getting injured though training for that speed. These injuries coupled with the fact I just figured I would never get the sub-4 meant I ended up deciding that I may as well go further instead – yes failing at sub-4 marathons was a significant factor that steered me to ultras.
Back to Ridge to Bridge……
The first 16 miles or so – yeah, I was well on target for sub 4. I flew down the hill, putting plenty of time in the bank. Now then, a couple of things come into play – it was cold first thing at the start, close to freezing. With that kind of elevation drop it gets warm quickly – maybe total temperature change was 30-40oF – so by about 16-17 miles, the warmth was a factor.
The last few miles are either flat or very slightly downhill. Except that is not how it feels. After the steep drops earlier in the race, it very much felt like an uphill climb – I heard someone describe it as like “running through peanut butter”. An my pace was suffering. Sub 4 still looked good, but the banked time was getting spent quite quickly.
This is when David (the RD) adds his own special brand of torture.  You can see the finish line, you can hear lots of cheering, and I also started thinking “perhaps my Garmin is actually right” (it had been fairly consistently reading 0.2 miles more than the mile markers – and I am used to that knowing that the GPS technology is not perfect.). But not to be – there is a wonderful loop of the parking lot to be done. Running round this loop, I knew it was going to be tight – just to pile on the torture, there is this tiny little hill just before the finish line. That was where the energy totally ran out. When I did cross the finish line, I stopped my watch and looked down, 4:00:01. Shit. If only hadn’t walked up that tiny hill. Shit.
I saw David and he congratulated me. I asked if he could confirm the actual chip time: He looked it up on the computer, then pointed at the screen and smiled. 3:59:58.8. Yeah! 1.2 seconds to spare.

Onto the next marathon 2 weeks later. City of Oaks Marathon. The inaugural City of Oaks (in 2007) was my second ever marathon.
I didn’t want to set any high expectations being as it was a week out from Javelina. Take your time Jimbo and get a nice last long training run in.
Yeah right.Eye rolling smile
It was a perfect morning for a run, and I went way too fast at the beginning. This was the biggest race I had done since OBX in 2008, and the crowds at the start made a change. And I found myself riding on others’ coattails.
Ebeneezer Church Road, from about 12-17 miles in I think. A long stretch of mainly uphill roadway that got very old. Especially as I could see the trails in Umstead state park. When I did eventually get to Umstead at the top of Gralyn Rd, it felt like a kind of homecoming. It is so much more enjoyable running there.
With 10k to go, I was beat, yep, I paid the price for going out early. It was all about just finishing now. (And getting a beer at mile 23 Hot smile)
Approaching the finish, I high-fived everyone I could see and even broke into some spontaneous dance (so good that on my way back to the car, I was congratulated for my finish. LOL WTF?), and then crossed the line. 4:32. Overall, I am happy with that.
So, there you have it. The last 5 weeks has seen 3 marathons and a 50k. A PR 50k and a PR marathon among them. I am coming out of it all free of injuries a little leaner, a touch meaner and ready to kick some Javelina butt. Whoah there Jimbo, careful what you say lest you upset the ultragods. What I meant to say is. I am coming out of it all free of injuries, a little leaner, a touch meaner and ready to respect the hell out the Javelina course……..