Posts Tagged ‘Lake Pflugerville Triathlon’

The third Saturday in June arrived and for the fourth year in a row that meant that it was time for the 43 mile ride up to Holland, TX for the 38th running of the Holland Cornfest 5K.

It would be my final title defense in the Male 40-44 year old age group in Holland having won the event each of the last 3 years. Wins are nice, and the Cornfest Trophy is one of the coolest I’ve seen in my years of racing – but I go back each year because the small town of Holland, TX – population 1,121 puts on a great festival race.

In keeping with tradition, my friend Neil picked me up at 6:00 a.m. for the ride up to Holland so I could ride back home with Dawn and Landry after the parade. I woke up, got in the shower to warm up the muscles and had my bagel and a banana.

I drank a grape Gatorade, chased it with a bottle of water and it was time to go. Race temperature was going to be over 80 degrees at the 8:00 a.m. gun. A steamy start to our double-race weekend.

We arrived to packet pick-up, I grabbed my number 16 bib and ran a quick 2-mile warm-up after talking with my friends Erin and Dan who like me would be competing in the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon less than 24 hours later. It’s comforting to know that I was not the only lunatic doing both events this year, but we were basically the whole minority.

As I changed into my race shoes after wrapping up my easy 2-miler in 17:32, I started to lock in on my strategy. I wanted to run a race almost identical to the 2011 5k. Start out with an opening 1/2 mile in the 2:53-2:55 range, then lock in to 6:00 min./mile effort and hold the needle right there until the final 1/4 mile and try to push to the finish.

The Holland course features 225 feet of climbing over 3.1 miles as well as a cone turnaround at the half-way point that requires you to come virtually to a stop robbing you of your cadence and momentum. It is not a “fast” course, but it is one that if you run it with a sound plan, you can run a solid time.

Without having run a 5k race since the Lights of Love 5k last December, an incredibly long time between short races for me, I was a bit nervous about finding my pace. I ran a few strides after changing into my race flats and then ducked into the starting area.

One of the best parts of running a small local event is the quick start. The race director walked in front of the chute, told us we would go one the whistle and quickly counted it down. “Ready, Set, Go!” – and we were off.

MILE 1:

We got out extremely clean and were leading the runners up the hill on Main Street. I throttled back a bit and a few High School and College age runners slid past on my left. I was running in 8th position and tucked in behind a crowd of four.

My legs felt strong and my cadence easy. I decided not to adjust over the first 1/2 mile and just run to the beep on my watch. I would see where we were at that point and adjust effort accordingly if we were either ahead or behind of the 2:53 mark.

At the beep I glanced down at my watch and saw the first split – 2:52. Perfect.

I stayed even knowing that the initial rush of adrenaline carried me to a sub 3:00 opening half mile. No reason to back off on the effort, my body was going to slow down as we approached the first long uphill climb on its own.

We reached the first mile marker with a second 1/2 mile in 2:59, an opening mile of 5:51.

MILE 2:

The second mile begins on an upslope, rewards you with short recovery downhill for about 1/10 of a mile, then the arching left turn up to the top of the course just prior to cone turnaround. After making the cone turn, it is back uphill to the end of the mile.

It is the slowest part of the course, pushing it too aggressively here is not a smart move, it is just a matter of how much time you are going to give back to the clock. Not having raced at 5k pace recently hurt me here. I found myself let my mind wander for a moment and realized I needed to snap out of it. The race would be over before I knew it and I needed to keep my foot down on the accelerator.

My third half mile came in at 3:13 which was a bit slower than I hoped, followed by 3:00 flat closing mile 2. At the 1 mile to go sign I slid to the left of one runner and the fixed my eyes on the back of a runner in front of him. I would chip away at him and take him on the last uphill section.

MILE 3:

Having a runner up ahead to chase helped me keep my cadence and I clocked a 5th half mile in 3:03. I made my way up to 6th place and was running :20 seconds or so out of 5th place. I was running out of real estate, but knew that if I focused on catching the runner in front of me, there was very little chance of anyone catching me from behind.

We crested the final hill at the High School, made the right turn onto the home stretch and turned in an identical 1/2 mile in 3:03. All that was left was a kick to the finish.

I closed hard to the line dropping down to 5:23 pace finishing just :03 seconds behind the 5th place high school runner.

18:56 – 1st Place Age Group, 6th overall. Just :05 seconds off of my time from one year ago on the same course, which was a great outcome as we have not raced a short distance event like this one in almost half a year.

In fact, the difference between our last two races in Holland really came down to our closing kick.

1/2 mile 1: 2011 2:53 2012 2:52

1/2 mile 2: 2011 3:01 2012 2:59

1/2 mile 3: 2011 3:13 2012 3:13

1/2 mile 4: 2011. 2:58 2012 3:00

1/2 mile 5: 2011 3:04 2012 3:03

1/2 mile 6: 2011 3:01 2012 3:03

Final Kick: 2011 :41 2012 :47

The course tracked slightly longer this year which added a bit to my final kick, but the splits were so close throughout the race, I am going to call this one basically a dead-heat with last year.

So now it is time to focus on rehydrating, refueling and trying to get that eye of the tiger back for tomorrow morning’s race. It is tough to peak on back to back days so if things do not go perfectly tomorrow I am going to try to cut myself a little slack.

It is Father’s Day after all.

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Yesterday was our last day of training this week with back to back races looming now less than 24 hours away. After an up-tempo run on Monday, a swim and 35 mile ride on Tuesday, 10 mile run on Wednesday and finally a swim and 20-mile ride on Thursday the hay is in the barn.

Today will be a complete rest day, aside from a trip to the grocery store we will be laying low all day.  We will set-up the TRI bike with a good cleaning, adjust the brakes and pads, switch out to our race wheels and pack our transition bag for Sunday with everything except a few last minute items.

Then it will be time to focus on Saturday’s 5k up in Holland. I will look back over my last three races on the course, analyze my splits as they have changed over the years and come up with my gameplan for the first four half-mile splits of the race.

The final mile of a 5k is really about pain management if you have covered the opening two miles with a well executed plan.  At that point, fast or slow – it hurts just the same.  I just try to gradually empty what little reserves are remaining until the final 1/4 mile, run as hard as I can until the last 1/10 and then kick to the finish with whatever is left.

Heading into this weekend I thought about playing it safe and smart up in Holland to conserve some energy for the Pflugerville Triathlon on Sunday – but if there is one thing I know about racing – especially when I look down at my flats on Saturday morning and see Dom’s initials on my left instep. Playing it safe just isn’t our style.

He deserves better. So on Saturday and Sunday we are going to let it all hang out. If we run out of gas at some point, we’ll simply look for a reason to keep pushing and do the best that we can. Sometimes trying your best means a whole lot more than a few digits on a race clock.

Tomorrow morning – Boom goes the dynamite.

Last week I boarded a flight home late in the afternoon from Iowa.  It was a regional jet taking 26 of us or so into Dallas Fort Worth where I would connect to Austin and arrive home just before Midnight.

I had a long day, was facing a longer one to follow and was looking forward to a couple of hours with my phone off, no distractions and some time to rest and read a few chapters in my book.

As I settled into my seat two young athletes sat down behind me.  Just behind them were their two coaches who sat across the aisle from me and one row back.  I said a quick hello and thought about not talking running with them.  But I couldn’t resist.

I said to one of the coaches, “Looks like we’ve got a couple of fast runners on board this flight”.

The coach replied, “We sure do, we’re heading to a meet.  This one right here is a middle distance guy, the other is a hurdler”.

“Good for you both” I said, “I’m just an old marathoner.  I’m not too fast, but I can run pretty far.”

The second coach spoke up and said, “If you want to talk about marathoning, this is your guy right here” as he pointed to the first coach.  “He was really something else when he was a young man.”

My curiosity was of course about off the charts – I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I had to know.

I looked over at the coach and said, “Well, I’m new to the sport as I just started running back in 2006, but I’ve got 8 marathons under my belt, including a couple of Bostons.  I’m not done yet, still trying to break 3 hours.”

The coach looked over at me and said, “what are you 40 or 41?  You’ve got plenty of time to keep getting faster.”

“I’m 44 actually, will be turning 45 this summer.  I’ve got young legs though since I got such a late start.  Maybe only 12,000 miles on them to date.”

The coach said, “well, I’ve run 46 marathons and have about 80,000 miles on my legs.  I don’t run marathons anymore, but there was a time when I ran a whole lot of them.  My PR is 2:19.  I finished 5th in the New York City marathon in the mid 70’s, 12th in Boston a year later.  I made it to two Olympic Trials and qualified for a third, but of course with the boycott in 1980 I didn’t get the chance to run there.”

I was flying with royalty.

The next two hours went by in the blink of an eye.  We talked about training, running and racing.  What it was like to run with Bill Rogers, Dick Beardsley and Frank Shorter.  How the sport of running has changed, and what it was like as an amateur back in the 1970’s not racing for prize money but for the love of the sport.

I soaked up every bit of advice and running philosophy I could and talked about my summer plans to prepare for my first Ironman 70.3 and of course chasing 3 hours in Houston in January.

Out of respect for his privacy, I will not share the name of the coach, where he works today or where he lives.  What I will say is that after spending half a decade of my life trying to improve, mature and progress as a runner – I learned more about the sport in those two hours than I did during the previous 5 years.

With the arrival of summer we are at a crossroads in our training and racing.  We have the formula to prepare.  We have the base mileage and health to the point where we can push our training a bit further, perhaps to that 75-80 mile a week level when the focus shifts from Iron Man to Houston in October and we have the fight and the will to go after the final chapter in our quest for marathoning excellence.

At least the level of excellence as we define it.  Sub 3 hours.

But to talk to a truly remarkable athlete and an even more amazing man was truly a gift this week.  A week that was full of challenges personally and professionally. 

After great runs on Wednesday and Thursday Landry had fallen ill.  My plans for a swim Friday morning and a long bike ride on Friday afternoon were scrapped as I stayed home with our little one and helped her over her bug.

I was able to make a 30 mile ride on Saturday morning before that bug reared its head a second time in our household.  I got it full-bore and could not keep any food down.  Couldn’t think of eating and could barely drink enough to stay hydrated.  Three days and 4 1/2 pounds lighter, I am now starting my way back.

What was planned as a 111 mile week fell far short at only 73.  Those miles were great quality – just not the quantity that we had hoped for.

But on this Memorial Day, the first day of summer we are feeling more like ourselves.

Confident, assured and powerful.  We have some work to do with nutrition right now to get those calories back in us – but Tuesday morning we start anew.  After Landry is dropped off at school with Momma Bear away in Germany this week, we will start to hit it hard again.  Pushing the limits of our training to prepare for our first summer races in Holland, TX on June 18th followed by the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon the following morning on Father’s Day.

Summer is here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets.