Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011 – Recovery + Crash + Rest + Tour de Pee Vee Half Marathon

It’s been a while since my last post, because honestly, there hasn’t been too much to post about.  Following Transrockies I took a few days off and did some easy runs.  To get ready for my next big race – Chicago Marathon, I followed the easy week with a 90mile week, but was struggling with low energy in my workouts.  The third week out from Transrockies was more of the same.  I hit around 115miles for the week, but on my last run of the week, which was a long run on A1 Forest Service Road, my body broke down on me.

After that I run, I did some thinking… Looking back, my body has been tired since I was about 2weeks out from Day 1 of TransRockies.  Though I took some down time, I don’t think it was enough… my body is pretty hosed.  First it was due to the wicked training we did for TransRockies.. then add the actual TransRockies race and I was pretty well in the tank. 

As such, my focus over the next few weeks… Get Rested.  Hit Some Solid Workouts.  Get Ready to Run Fast at Chicago.  So this week, my miles dipped down to just under 70miles, but I had a solid 200m workout on Wednesday, and a good tempo run on Saturday at the Tour de Pee Vee Half Marathon in Prescott.

The race was a really low key “local” style race.  It started at 7am, so I had to wake early and hit the road by 4:30am… ouch!!..

The course was surprisingly difficult.  Not only does it start and finish at an altitude of 5,100ft, but the race was constantly rolling up and down hills.  It was not what I would call a fast race, but it was fun to run over some new terrain.

I ended up posting a 1hr 12min 15sec time over the course, which I was pretty happy with considering the level of difficulty.  This was good enough for 1st Place and a new Course Record.  Coming into the race, my hope to run right at 1hr 12min “comfortably”.  I felt I achieved this as I never felt as if I had to dig too deep, excluding a couple of the long uphills around mile 10.

At this point, I feel as if I am headed in the right direction.  I think that my original goal of running a 2hr 17min Marathon at Chicago is not out of reach, but it really all depends on what happens over the next couple weeks and on race day.  I am going to focus on what I can control and I think good things will happen…

Tour de Pee Vee Half Marathon Course Profile:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011 – TransRockies Stage 6 – Finish it up!

Course Description:  Well the course designers didn’t make it any easier on the last day.  It’s a 24mile day that starts out with 3miles of Road Running taking you into 3 fairly tough climbs totaling 5,100ft of total elevation gain.  The finish is about 1mile after the last climb down a forest service road.

What Happened:  Mike and I were prepared to run a solid day.. recovered and relaxed.. but focused.  The mood at camp the last night was very subdued.  All of the teams that we had been battling over the past few days had now let their guards down (including Mike & I) and talked a bit more.  It was good to see that even though the competition was fierce all week, we could all let it go and enjoy each other’s company.

Despite the relaxed nature of camp, the next morning we had to finish the race.  Stage 6 started out just as all the other stages.  Very Steady.  We were clipping along at 6min – 6:20min/mile pace til the first climb.  At that point, Mike and I had about 30sec on the field and decided to work the climb.  By the time we were at the top, we began to relax a bit and kept it mellow on the downhill.

Starting the next climb, both Team Bend and Team Salomon had closed the gap significantly and by the time we hit the 2nd Aid Station, Team Bend was no more than 20sec behind.  They were working it pretty hard.

In response, Mike & I put our foot on the gas.  We kept it going til we got to the final climb.  At this point, my mind almost “shutdown”.  We were dragging up the last climb. Definitely our slowest running all week.. but mentally it was tough to push, because I kept thinking, “It’s over.”

Well, we slowly got up the last climb, and booked it down the last 1.5miles into the finish.  Approaching the finish line, it started to sink in…. We just WON TRANSROCKIES!!!!.. Crossing the finish line Mike & I exchanged hi-fives, hugs, etc..

Mike was an AMAZING partner.  He is an amazing runner.. but more importantly, an amazing person.  There were a lot of moments I felt like I was just “along for the ride” as he drove us to victory.

The competition at the event this year was unbelievable.  It was a dog-fight all week.. .but a real blast.  I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

The support from all the Flagstaff Runners (+25people) and Flagstaff Volunteers was out of this world.  When things were going well, they were there with hugs.  When things weren’t going so well, they were there with open-hands to help pull us up.  I knew Flagstaff had an amazing running community, but after this years TransRockies, I have a whole new appreciation for this town and it’s athletes.  AWESOME!..

The support from Flagstaff went beyond the folks at the race.  The well wishes we received from the folks not at the event was equally impressive and equally appreciated.

Thanks to everyone for the calls, emails, texts, etc.  Each bit of encouragement played a huge part in our success and was VERY appreciated.  Thanks!!!

The BIGGEST THANKS to my Wife & 3 Boys for their understanding and flexibility.  Love you guys!!

Mike and I "Finishing It Up"

Celebrating the Good Times!!

Interview at the end of Stage 6:

September 4, 2011 – TransRockies Stage 5 – Fired Up and Ready to Run Hard

Course Description: Stage 5 is basically Stage 4 stretched over 23miles vs 14miles.  You climb for about 10miles.  The grade gradually increases as you get closer to the summit.  Then you run for several miles along the ridge at an altitude of just under 12k.   Then you drop down some single track and forest service roads into the town of Vail.

What Happened:  At the end of Stage 4, Mike and I felt really solid.  I am starting to feel better on Day 4 and 5 than I did on day 1, 2, or 3.  So we are pretty fired up.

To assist in the motivation department, during the ceremonies for Stage 4, there was a brief moment of silence as they set up some equipment.  At that point, someone in the crowd yelled, “Flagstaff is going down!!!” We are not sure who yelled it.. or why, but we definitely deposited that in the “motivation bank” and planned to use it during Stage 5.

As we line up in Red Ciff for the start of Stage 5, we were fired up.  Adding more fuel, I see Max King is wearing his “skort”.  Honestly, I am not a big fan of this.  He did this last year on Stage 5 and beat my partner and I.  It’s just not a good feeling getting beat that way.  I looked over at Mike and words were not necessary… we were going to run hard all day long.

The gun went off and as with every day, several teams set the pace.  We were cruising along at about 6:30/mile for the first 3miles.  Eventually, the field spread out and it was once again Team Run Flagstaff vs. Team Bend. 

Around Mile 4, the grade got a little bit steeper, so Mike and I decided to push the pace.  Over the next few miles, we were unable to shake the guys from Bend, but we just kept applying pressure.  Before we knew it, the trail was getting steeper, and at that point, we started putting chunks of time on the field.  By the time we hit the summit, we couldn’t see who was in second place.

Not wanting to get caught, we decided to run even harder along the top.  As we got to the start of the descent, we still couldn’t see 2nd place.   We decided to continue cranking until we were at least a few miles out.

Hitting the single track downhill portion, our focus shifted on trying to stay on course.  Our pace slowed quite drastically as we scanned the course for yellow ribbons.  This hadn’t been an issue over the first 4 days, but today it seemed as if the markings were not adequate.  We closed out the downhill very cautiously, and before we knew it, we could hear the music coming from the finish.  At that point, we took a deep breath, pulled back and cruised in not knowing what was going on behind us.

We finished in a time of 2hrs 55min 25sec.  Team Salomon finished in 3hrs 8min 52sec (they got off course and lost a few minutes)… while Team Bend finished 3rd in 3hrs 9min 50sec.

Doing the math, we figured out that we increased our lead over 2nd place by nearly 15min.  Though it felt good to have a bit of cushion, we still had a long, hard Stage 6 to get through.  As soon as we finished, we had a brief chat… there would be no letting up.. and we would run stage 6 as if it were stage 1.  Finish it up. 

Mike & I Striding Towards the Finish

Interview Following Stage 5:

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 2, 2011 - TransRockies Stage 4 - Running with Fire

Course Description: Stage 4 is a climbers dream. It's a shorter stage, but what it doesn't have in distance, it makes up for in steepness. The course starts in Camp Hale where you run about 2miles to the base of the toughest, steepest climb of the week. The climb is about 3miles long and you gain nearly 3,000ft.. topping out at around 11,700ft. From there, you run on the top, which is a rolling net gain trail that lasts about 2.5 miles. Then you drop straight down for several miles.. running through a half mile long ice cold river whose bottom is rocky and ridiculous... but fun. The last several miles into Red Cliff are a slight grade and make for some very fast running.

What Happened: Coming out of Stage 3 and some of the drama throughout the subsequent day and evening, Mike and I were ready to race... and race fast. As the gun went off, we forced ourselves to take the first several miles somewhat subdued. The pace was set by Mario Mendoza, whose partner dropped out the day before. Apparently, he was on fire too, because the first few miles were sub6min pace. Pretty aggressive considering that we are charging towards a wicked climb. The biggest difference from today and the previous days was that Team Bend was starting out behind us. I wasn't sure if it was strategic or if after yesterday's super-human effort they were fatigued.. honestly, I hoped for the latter.

As we made our way to the climb, Mike and I quickly hopped to the front and started pressing the climb. Within a mile, the only teams visible were the Inov-8 Boys and Team Bend. As we continued to fire our way up the steeper grades, we began to put more space between us and the rest of the field. We committed to pressing the pace even more as we didn't want a repeat of Stage 2 where we got caught on the downhill and flat sections. By the time we hit the first ridge and closed out the final uphill portion, we had quite a bit of breathing room. Now it was time to crush the rolling section to ensure we had some space on the downhill.

We dug deep on the top and averaged 6min miles for the rolling, high altitude section. Now time for the descent. No holding back this time. Quads be damned.. we decided. We are NOT going to get caught this time.

Smashing our way down the backside, we both started literally screaming at the top of our lungs. All of the negative garbage from the night before was surfacing and now flying out of us via yells. Undoubtedly we looked and sounded insane, but honestly, it felt good and help to propel us down the mountain.

We made quick work of the river portion and made it through without so much as a slip. We then focused on turnover and hammered the final few miles into Red Cliff at a swift 5:20/mile pace.... crossing the finish line in an amazing 1hr 44min 33sec . Team Inov8 Finished 2nd in 1hr 47min 55sec .. Team Salomon finished third in 1hr 48min 00sec .. while Team Bend was fourth in 1hr 50min 16sec... For a point of reference on how fast all the teams ran, the winning time last year was1hr 58min 5sec

After finishing, we found out that Ryan Bak, suffering from a bit of a tight hamstring developed in Stage 3, had a tough time with some of the technical terrain and fell several times... He eventually needed stitches and damaged his toe pretty seriously... being a tough guy, he committed to finishing the event.

After today's effort, we regained the lead by a very slim margin of a little over 1min ahead of Team Bend. Day 5 was set to be another battle, but we were ready.

Inteview at the end of Stage 4 (nice look on my face to start the inteview):

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1, 2011 - TransRockies Stage 3 - At the Bottom of the Emotional Barrel

Course Description: Stage 3 from Leadville to Camp Hale is a relatively flat stage that covers 24.2miles while climbing only 2,800ft. You start at 10,500 ft. and finish at 9,300ft. There are two small climbs and a long steady descent.

What Happened: Even though there were no major climbs for Mike and I to take advantage of we were hoping that the overall elevation of the course would propel us to another strong day and hopefully help us build a bit more of a lead.

As the gun went off, we once again sat at the back of the lead pack and let some of the other teams set the pace. The first 3miles or so were on pavement, so I was able to relax and run without thinking much. As we approached the trail, the first small climb was in front of us. Mike and I, as in previous days, hopped into the lead and started pressing the climb. By the time we hit the summit we had about 45sec on Team Bend and a bit more on the rest of the field. Max and Ryan ate this lead up pretty quickly on the subsequent downhill and before we knew it they were out of sight.

The plan was to hold a solid pace through the next aid station and work the next small climb. We stuck with the plan, but for the first time all week, neither Mike or I had a lot of "zing" in our legs. I was dragging myself over the course to the first Aid station. The trail and surrounding scenery seemed to all blend to together. I felt as if I was barely awake.

At Aid Station 1, the volunteers inform us we are about 1min back... not too bad considering.
After trudging along through the middle miles, we hit Aid Station 2. We get the news that we are only 2min behind... I am thinking "Great. Maybe we can close a bit over the last 3miles and maintain our overall lead."

The next portion was downhill, winding single track. We pushed fairly hard to ensure we didn't lose much more time... and hopped down the final stretch of trail into Aid Station 3. We are told... "You guys are 6minutes behind!!!.." What the _ _ _ _?!!! How did that happen??.. After cursing for the next 3miles, we picked up the pace a hair and hoped that we wouldn't lose much more time.

As we came through the finish chute, we are actually berated by the announcer. "Well, the Flag Boys couldn't hold on and they lost the lead... The Boys from Bend really put it on them today".. and so on. Ouch!!.. not sure that was called for, but I guess it was true.
We finished in 2hrs 53min 55sec. Team Bend finished in 2hrs 47min 3sec. Last year's winning time was 3hrs 7min 4sec.

The next few hours were undoubtedly the lowest point of the race. We lost the lead. We were tired. Oh yeah, and it's only Day 3. I was starting to make excuses and become resigned to the fact that we may have to settle for 2nd place.

After a few hours of sulking, a few "things" happened at camp that sparked the competitive fires. By the time the Stage 3 ceremonies were over, I was literally on fire... I wanted to race.. now!.. After digging ourselves out from that emotional low, Mike and I now found ourselves with a new, fiery edge. We were ready to compete again. Bring on Day 4!!!

Mike and I making it through Stage 3.