Archive for December 3, 2010

Normally I don’t pay much attention to the name of the race I’m entered in.

Uptown Classic, Turkey Trot, Marathon, Half Marathon, Bridge Run they’re all pretty much the same right?

But when a race has a name like The Decker Challenge, it might be wise to pay attention.  The next stop on the Austin Distance Challenge for me is the half-marathon at Decker.  A week from Sunday, 8:00 a.m. at the Travis County Expo Center around Decker Lake.

13.1 miles is no short distance to race.  With the exception of the marathon, the half-marathon is pretty much “it” when it comes to middle-distance/long distance racing.  You may find an occasional 30K or 20-mile road race, but they are few and far between.  For many runners, running “the half” is as far as they can imagine going as let’s face it, the marathon is not for everyone.

With a 17-mile run in the books last Sunday and an 18-miler on the schedule for this Sunday, I must be able to go out there and crush that half-marathon right?

Wrong.

You see there is a big difference between running and racing

A training run like last weekend’s 17-miler was run at 7:08 min./mile pace.  That may seem fast, but “fast” for me these days is running somewhere down  in the 6:30-6:40 min./mile for runs of 12-15 miles.

It takes a lot of effort to hold a pace like that for close to an hour and a half. 

Challenging?  You bet.

But that is not what has me most uneasy about our race next weekend.  It is the course at Decker that changes the event from the Decker Half-Marathon to the Decker Challenge.

The Decker Challenge is one of the longest running and most well-respected races in Austin.  A windy course with historically poor December weather on the lake, can make Decker a tough race.  But it is the hills that put the “challenge” in the Decker Challenge.

Decker Challenge Elevation Chart

The way I like to put an elevation chart into perspective is to equate each 10 feet of climbing with a story in an office building.  The 849 foot climb at Decker is roughly the same as running up the height of an 85 story skyscraper, while covering 13.1 miles. 

Now that’s a challenge.

Another rule of thumb I go by is that if a hill has a “name”, it must be a pretty tough hill.

Hurricane Point – Big Sur Marathon

Gallows Lane – Litchfield Hills Road Race

Cardiac Hill – Peachtree Road Race

Doomsday Hill – Spokane, Washington

Heartbreak Hill – Boston Marathon

I could tell you a story about that last one.

“The” Hill at Decker appears to be the hill at mile 10, nicknamed, “Quadzilla”.

Coming so late in the race, with 5 more kilometers to go, it will be important to manage my pacing just right to run a great time on such a challenging course.

One of the reasons I decided to continue with my Hill Repeat Training throughout training for the Austin Marathon was due to this race as well as the Austin course itself. 

Most marathon training programs that include any kind of hill work recommend a reduction in the frequency.  Perhaps once every three weeks or so.

For me, it seemed that as long as I could still hit the repeats hard each Thursday and see improvement, it made sense to continue with that workout each Thursday morning.  When I get to my 20-mile and 21-mile long runs, I will back off the repeats that week to get ready for those key workouts.

After the initial 10 weeks of hill repeats this summer, I thought that I was really crushing the hills.  Getting stronger and stronger as the number of repeats reached 10X per week, and my speed up the hill increased.

What I’ve seen over the past four weeks however has me even more encouraged.  I continue to drop my average repeat times and am now knocking on the door of a sub 1:40 .30 mile repeat up a climb of 65 feet.

Hill Repeat Progress

I plan on passing on my hill repeats this Thursday as the Decker Challenge approaches, giving me fresh climbing legs for Sunday.

To further prepare I plan on driving out to the course this weekend to log a few miles.  I want to be able to visualize the hills and really “know” just how steep the climbs will be.  No surprises on race day.

Once Decker is in the books, just two races will remain.  The 3M Half-Marathon on January 30th and the Austin Marathon on February 20th. 

3M could not be more different from Decker, as it features a fast, downhill course.  That is a race where we will be looking to really make some noise.  Perhaps we can even make a run at a time of 1:25:00.

The goal for Decker?  Anything under 1:30:00 on that course would be a time to be proud of.  I’m not sure that the stars will align for us to run quite that fast.  The winds and weather that day will surely play a role.

As for the hills?  There is not much more we could be doing right now to get ready.

Afterall, It’s just a hill.  Get over it.