Posts Tagged ‘Summer Sunstroke 5K Series’

Wednesday night was race number 5 of the Summer Sunstroke Stampede 5K Race series.  After last week’s race downtown on Town Lake, the series returned to the Brushy Creek Trail right behind our neighborhood.

I prefer this location over the Town Lake course for quite a few reasons as there is no rush hour drive for me, the trail system is much less congested and there are no streets to cross, baseball players to dodge or parking lots to run through.

The one advantage that the Brushy Creek course does not enjoy however is topography.

The Town Lake course is very flat with only 36 feet of climbing spread evenly over the 3.1 mile course.

Town Lake Course Elevation Chart

The Brushy Creek course features 71 feet of climbing, which is not too terrible, a little more than a seven story office building, but the elevation change is concentrated for the most part from mile 2 to mile 2.5 as runners climb from 778 feet above sea level up to 833 feet at the top of the dam.

Brushy Creek Trail Course Elevation

There is also a 180 degree switch back over the last 200 meters of the climb that requires runners to forfeit their forward momentum to navigate the turn.  It is a very technical course and by my estimation appears to be somewhere between :06 and :10 “slower” than its counterpart downtown.

Both courses feature a “cone” turnaround where you have to come virtually to a stop to make a quick U-turn, grab your water cup and head back on your way.  These races are also run predominantly on loose gravel, also adding to the challenge of posting a fast time.

All in all, I love everything about this series as I know it is making me stronger and faster for our road races later this summer.  Steel sharpens steel after all.  If you are going to pick a race series to help you get faster – you might as well pick a tough one.

Pre-Race:  I tried something a little different this week as I have started to really feel like a longer warm-up is benefitting me in these shorter races.  I ran a 1.5 mile warm-up last week before the Town Lake race and ran a new series PR of 19:14.

So last night I decided to leave the truck in the garage and run over to the race start from the house.  It was exactly a 2-mile warm-up from my drive-way to the starting area, covered in 16:13.  My ½ mile splits were just about perfect as I gradually increased the pace:  4:09, 4:07, 4:00, and 3:56.

I arrived at the start feeling like most of the soreness from this past weekend’s tiling job had left my body.  My legs were feeling pretty “racy”.  I paid my $10 entry fee and drank a bit of Gatorade.  Hung out in the shade chatting with my friend Joe McCellon and started to think about goals for the race as Joe left me to warm-up.

As much as I would like to have shot for last week’s personal series best time of 19:14, I thought that trying to come in under my time on this particular course from 2 weeks ago was a more sound plan.  I had raced very well that night duking it out with Sarah Mark over the final 2 miles to finish in 19:23. Hopefully I would have another runner to push me this week.

Mile 1:  In keeping with the low-key nature of these race starts, we assembled as a group behind the timing mat and with very little fanfare we were off with the starters “Go”.  I settled into my opening half-mile pace in 5th position.  I felt like I was running right where I needed to be as Joe and Scott Rantall sped off ahead of the group.  They would be duking it out over the early miles.  Scott running a new course record in 15:59 or 5:09 pace.  They were long gone before we hit mile 1.

I clicked my first ½ mile in 2:53 only :01 second behind my opening half on this course two weeks ago as well as my opening ½ mile last week at Town Lake.  Just about perfect I thought.  I felt like I had run the opening mile just a touch too fast two weeks ago, so I backed off the pace slightly and let a runner slip past me.  My second ½ mile came in at 3:09, :07 seconds slower than the race two weeks ago, but I was betting that would help me over mile 2.

After all these races, I feel like I’m still trying to put together the perfect strategy.

Mile 2:  As we started the second mile I made a conscious effort to wind the watch a little bit and increase my leg turnover.  I passed back the runner I had let slip by and reclaimed my spot in 4th place.  He fell off my shoulder quickly as I feel like he went out a bit too fast, and I ran alone for the rest of the second mile.

With nobody to push me and nobody to chase, I knew this was a critical mile.  I needed to make sure I didn’t let my mind and my effort wander and keep hammering away with that 98 degree heat beating down on us.

My two ½ mile splits were 3:03 and 3:05.  I had made up :13 seconds on my time from 2 weeks earlier over the same mile after “giving away” :08 seconds on the opening mile.  I had a shot at a new course record for me if I could keep it together, but we were approaching the start of the climb back up to the top of the dam and I was running all alone.

Mile 3:  This is the part of the course where Sarah and I really started to chase each the last time I raced at Brushy Creek.  There were no footsteps behind me to be heard and the third place runner Colin was a solid :30 ahead of me.  Too far to realistically chase I was pretty much on my own.

I pushed hard up to the top of the dam and then started to once again regain some pace over the second half of the mile.  My two ½ mile splits were 3:16 and 3:10.  My sixth half mile was only :01 slower than my second.  It was going to be pretty close to come in under 19:23.  It was all going to come down to the kick.

Finish:  I hit the last 1/10 of a mile and could make out the finishing clock counting down the last few seconds under 19:00.  I kicked hard and tried to really push through the finish, just before the finish line Dawn was there holding baby Landry and I could hear Dawn say, “Here comes your Daddy” …. Too tired to smile on the outside, I had a big smile on the inside as I hit the timing mat.


:04 faster than two weeks ago and another course best for me in the series.  It was good enough for 4th place overall, 1st place in the Male Masters (over 40) division.

Post-Race:  I walked down to the water and Gatorade, caught my breath and then walked back to turn in my timing chip and meet up with Dawn and Landry.

I had a great time introducing Landry and Dawn around to Tom, Jason, Joe, Colin, Pete and a few of the other runners that I see just about every week.  The highlight of the night for me though was during the awards ceremony while I was holding Miss Landry.

At school the last week or so they have been working on “clapping” and Landry has picked this up very quickly as well as saying bye-bye and waving to us.  Sometimes she does that when it is more of a “Hello” situation, but hey, she’s 9-months old, give the kid a break right?

But last night as all of the Age Group winners were called up for their awards, Landry would clap along with everyone else in attendance with the announcement of each winner.   When the clapping stopped, Landry would stop.  She would wait to hear the next name, then clap along with everyone else.

It was absolutely the coolest and she got quite a bit of attention from all of the runners and their families.  A year ago I was running the same series and Dawn was 6 months pregnant.

Amazing how things change, and how much cooler things are one year later.  I’ve got a pretty great little “race fan” right now, it might be time to try out that jogging stroller this weekend.

Wednesday night was race number four of the Summer Sunstroke Stampede 12-race 5K series.  We were back on the Town Lake course in downtown Austin, our fourth 5K in as many weeks.

A week ago I felt like I finally regained the snap in my legs and the drive and determination needed to really “race” the 3.1 mile course.  I followed up last week’s 3rd place overall, 1st place Male Masters finish with a couple of really strong workouts on Friday and Saturday.  As I was going over my pre-race plan in my head on the drive downtown I kept arriving at the same thought.

Race hard for the entire 3.1 miles. 

Don’t look at your watch, just race hard.

Last week’s new series PR of 19:23 was a pretty fast time for a trail course given my age and abilities.  If I could shave a few seconds off of that time on a 98 degree night that would be wonderful.  But I really wanted to just run by effort as no matter how fast I run in this series, the real goal is to prepare for the Holland, TX race on June 18th.

Peaking for that race will take the right mixture of hard days, easy days, rest days and up-tempo work.  Not getting burned out or injured is the key right now.  Just keep taking steps forward and racing to the best of your abilities I thought.  We’re already faster than we were at any point last summer in this series, and last year turned out pretty well when the calendar flipped from September to October.

Pre-Race:  I got myself parked, went down to the start and paid for the race, strapped on my timing chip and relaxed a bit on a bench along the trail.  We were about 60 minutes away from the gun, so it was a little too early to warm-up.  I just sipped on my Gatorade and tried to stay out of the sun.  It was 98 degrees, but there was a nice little breeze blowing in off of the Colorado River (Town Lake).

At 6:35 I met a runner Joe McClellan from here in Austin.  He was going to be chasing the course record of 16:08 set just a couple of weeks earlier.  An accomplished local runner who ran a 2:40 Marathon this year in Austin on a tough, tough day, Joe is way out of my league.  He’s thankfully 14 years younger than me – so race on I say!

Joe and I chatted a bit and ran a nice leisurely paced 1.5 miles in a little over 12 minutes.  It felt good to loosen up a bit and get the blood flowing in the legs.  I ran into my friend Sean Lilly who wanted to warm up a bit, so I trotted up and back to the bathroom on the trail to add another ½ mile or so to my warm-up. 

Ready to go.

Mile 1:  At 7:00 p.m. on the nose we lined up after getting course instructions from the starter.  There were about 120 runners in the race, so we would be leaving in waves of about 20 or so in order to keep the racers distributed evenly and not cause too much congestion for the locals.

I was hoping to lock in around 5:55 pace over the opening mile.

At the gun I settled in a few strides behind my friend Brendon who typically runs somewhere around 1 minute faster than me over a 5K.  It was warm, but my breathing was nice and even.  I had set my watch to record half-mile splits again, as I liked receiving more frequent feedback on my pace. 

Usually I just record splits every mile, but for the shorter races finding out that you are running too fast or too slow at the end of a full mile is too late.

After crossing over the two boat ramps and winding along the trail I covered the first ½ mile in 2:52.  5:44 pace – just a bit too quick.

I dropped a bit further off of Brendon’s pace and locked into a comfortably hard pace.  Before I knew the second ½ mile came and went in 3:02.  An opening 5:54 mile, too fast especially in the heat, but not a bad opening to the race.  I was going to have a hard time over the final mile for sure, but it was a little too early to start worrying about that.

Mile 2:  This is the very “technical” mile on the Town Lake Course.  A lot of turns, navigation of two baseball fields with young children and spectators on the trail and then crossing over a parking lot twice and onto a city street for about a half of a block.  Tough to hold pace through this section of the course as your natural reaction is to let off of the gas just a bit going through this gauntlet of activities and human bodies.

My two half mile splits were 3:08, 3:13 for a second mile of 6:21.  About :06 slower than ideal, but not too bad considering this is the mile where you need to come to a virtual stop to navigate the turnaround cone and grab a sip of water at the aid station.

Mile 3:  At the start of mile 3 I could feel my legs starting to get heavy.  Unlike the previous week where I had Sarah Mark to race with over the final mile, I was basically running alone again.  I tried to stay focused on not letting my mind or my pace wander and keep pushing.  I was hoping to run another mile in the 6:20 range, which should be good enough for another series PR.

I hit the 2.5 mile mark with a ½ mile split of 3:10.  Man was it hot.

The next ½ mile came in at 3:12 as I navigated around a truck that was parked across the trail head access, another :02 slipped away.

Finish:  I pushed as hard as my legs would turn over the final 1/10 of a mile covering the distance in just :36 – right at 5:55 pace.  Amazing how much easier holding that pace felt just 19 minutes earlier.

Final time of 19:14, good for 9th place overall, 1st place in Age Group.

I managed to take :09 off of my series PR from a week earlier, and :23 off of our first race on the Town Lake course two weeks ago.

Our race times so far over the first four weeks of the series are:

19:42. 19:37, 19:23, 19:14

We’ve made some pretty solid progress over the course of the last month.  With the race up in Holland now two weeks away, we have a great shot of breaking  back below the 19:00 minute barrier as that race while featuring a hilly course is run on asphalt instead of the softer and slower crushed gravel trail.

We will need to run just 4 of the next 8 Summer Stampede Races to qualify for any year end awards we would be eligible to receive, as the race directors average the runners 8 best times over the course of the series.

I will be out of town traveling for two of the races in June, so the best we can hope to do is race in 10 events.  Those weeks we’ll be on our own, doing our speed work by ourselves in NYC and Tampa respectively.

Wednesday night was the 9th race in the Summer Sunstroke Stampede in Brushy Creek Park here in Austin.  There were a lot of things going on this week that made the race a little more “serious” than in previous weeks as members of our office here in Austin were racing with me as part of the “Get Buff at the Ruff Challenge”.  Our Company name is RuffaloCODY – hence the title to our challenge.

The rules were simple – I needed to complete the 5K course in less than half the time of the final finisher from our office to win.  If they were all able to finish the course in less than twice my race time – they would claim victory.

A win for the team would mean an outing on Lake Travis here in Austin for their group paid for by the loser – me.

A victory for me would mean the office staff paying my entry to the Austin Marathon and coming to cheer me on at the race in February.

I knew going into the race that “winning” the above wager was highly unlikely.  In fact, I was rooting for my guys to come well under my adjusted time and earn the day on the lake.

That is not to say that I did not have a goal for Wednesday night as it was a race day afterall.  And that goal was taking on my friendly rival in the Male Masters Division – Bill Schroeder.

Bill is a fantastic runner here in Austin and actually serves as a coach to many in the area.  In the first two Summer Sunstroke Stampede Races that I participated in on the Brushy Creek Trail, Bill got the better of me both times and won the Male Masters Division.

I made some strides in my second race dropping my time from 20:23 to 19:45 and finishing only :18 seconds behind Bill.  The key in that race was getting out fast over the first two miles and then powering up the hill that stretches over mile three to the top of the dam.  I was able to close within a few strides of Bill on the hill, but he was able to pull away from me on top to claim another victory.

My strategy was to push the first two miles even harder this week, keeping in contact with Bill to the bottom of the hill and then taking him on the climb if I could.  It would only be .50 miles to the finish at that point – if I was able to get a lead, I was hoping that I had enough left to hang on at the end.

Starting Line:  I settled in to my starting area about 10 runners from the front and glanced back at the staff members from our office.  They were 20-30 runners behind me, laughing and smiling – looking very confident.   Standing next to Bill I shook his hand and asked if he was planning on “going fast” today.  He smiled and said “going under 19:30 would be a good time tonight”, I told him that was a fast time in my book and filed it away before the start.

With a PR of 19:28, I was going to be in for a fight if I wanted to run a sub 19:30 time on a hilly course with a race temperature of more than 90 degrees.  But that’s why you run the race ….

Mile 1:  We took off at the start and like the first two races I fell into a quick pace and found myself once again 10 yards or so behind Bill.  “Man, is this guy tough” I thought.  Wind was blowing from the North on Wednesday night, which made the first 3/4 of a mile into the wind.  I had a runner drafting behind me, stride for stride letting me break the wind for him, but I was not able to cozy up to anyone to do the same thing.  I was on my own, once again chasing Bill.

I pushed the pace a bit harder than two weeks ago and as we neared the first mile marker on the dam I glanced down at my watch on the beep – 6:02 for the first mile.  :04 seconds faster than my last race on this course and a bit closer to Mr. Schroeder.

Mile 2:  I focused on my breathing on mile 2 and I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling so great.  The combination of the faster pace, running into the wind and “chasing” had me working hard.  I was determined to try to keep steady at 6:15 pace over the second mile, which would give me “a fighting chance” at a 19:30 with the climb up to the top of the dam on mile 3.

I made the turn at the turnaround point, grabbed my cup of water, took a quick sip and dumped the rest over my head and down the back of my neck.  The water felt great …. my legs …. not so much.

I glanced down at my watch on the beep for mile two and had posted a 6:14 split.  Right on target, now it was time to climb.

Mile 3:  I made my way across the footbridge and shook out my arms, I was going to need them to hold a quick pace up the 6/10 of a mile climb to the top.  I looked up ahead and spotted Bill about 10 yards ahead of me.  There is a great advantage being the “chaser” instead of the “chasee” as I knew exactly how fast I needed to go to catch him.  Bill was steadily climbing but moving at a slower pace than I was, this was my chance.

I pulled even with Bill about half-way up the incline and felt his pace quicken a bit next to me, I pushed a little harder and was able to work in front of him for a few strides, then tucked in ahead.  Running up the crushed granite trail I could hear Bills footfall behind me, I was hoping to keep pushing up the hill and build a bit of a cushion so that I would be able to hold on over the flat portion of the race across the dam to the finish.

As I left the granite onto the cement ramp that takes runners to the top of the dam I was able to get a quick glimpse behind me as the ramp switched back 90 degrees in the middle.  I had opened up what looked like a :10-:12 second lead and was determined to hold onto it.  My legs and lungs were really burning across the dam, but I did not hear any footsteps following me.  I glanced down at my watch at the mile three mark and had turned in a time of 6:28 – only .10 miles to go. 

Finish:  The final .10 of a mile was tough as I had been running “in front” for the better part of 3-4 minutes.  For me it is much tougher to keep pushing my pace without “chasing” anyone in front of me as all of the really fast runners had long since pulled away.  I just concentrated on my stride, tried to run “tall” and even out my breathing to post a strong final tenth of a mile.

Final time 19:29 – only :01 from my PR set a few weeks ago at the Holland, TX 5K – which was a morning race on a much more forgiving course.  Not much to be disappointed about there.

Bill came in behind me at 19:44.  Pushing me to a great time for me and almost my second PR this month.  Thank you Bill!

Here’s the bad news – Osmani Hofstatter – who I had not seen at any of the previous races in the series posted an incredible 17:07 at the age of 40. 

@#$%! Are you kidding me? 

That is the great part about racing.  In the end, you are really only racing against yourself.  I was more than happy with my time – and I was able to exorcise at least one “demon” along the way.

The Wager:  After getting a drink of water and walking off a little of the pain from the race I went back to the finish line and waited for the staff to come through the chute.  Around the 29:00 minute mark they started arriving:

Michelle:     28:55 (3rd Place AG)

Jason:          29:49

Anne:           29:52

Ben:              32:34

Peter:           33:20

Sarah:          33:34

Another loss for Joe on this night.  Even that blistering 17:07 would have proven to be too slow to take down the staff.

I am so proud of the group as they hung together and got it done – I think they even had a little bit of fun racing last night, although I don’t expect them to admit it …. who knows what kind of craziness I would put them through the next time if they did.

After the quick “awards ceremony” the group and their significant others made it over to our place for a late-night barbeque – which was a great way to wrap things up.

(Back Row Left to Right) Jason, Anne, Ben (Front Row Left to Right) Joe, Peter, Sarah, Michelle

Now it is time to take it easy a bit over the next week or so as we will be taking our first crack at the 10K distance next Thursday night in the Honor our Heroes 10K Shadow Run at 9:30 p.m. on July 15th. 

I’m looking forward to racing in the series again in a couple of weeks, I don’t think I will be able to sneak up on Bill next time.  As for Mr. Hofstatter, as long as he is racing, I’ll just have to keep chasing after my 19:28.  17:07?  That’s FAST!

On the six-month anniversary of the Run for Dom blog we have a race report to share.  It is truly amazing to me that we have had so many visitors, supporters and friends visit our blog since November.  Thank you all so very, very much.

It was a very interesting race last night under all kinds of “strange” conditions.  To be completely honest I had virtually no performance expectations heading into the race.  Not only was the race during the middle of the work week on a Wednesday – it was held at 7:00 p.m.

For a morning runner like myself – who virtually NEVER runs after 7:30 a.m. at the absolute latest – the 7:00 p.m. start was the variable I was most concerned by.  I know how much the 10:00 a.m. start effected me at Boston this year – I could only imagine what an evening run would do to my performance.  There were quite a few other factors at play as well.

The course was sure to be slow as we had heavy rains in the area beginning at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning that lasted until well past Noon.  I know this as our house sits just .67 miles from what would be the turnaround point on the race-course.  Having run the trail several times a week for the past 3-4 years I am very familiar with how the course would fair under those conditions.  Let’s just say I knew where the puddles of standing water would be.

Nutrition on Wednesday was another concern.  Since I am a morning runner and typically do not eat much of anything before a run.  Even for a 20-mile training run during the height of marathon training, I bounce out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and consume gels during my run, no pre-run breakfast.  By 7:00 p.m. on most nights I have already eaten dinner and am pondering my evening snack.  This late start time had me questioning what if anything I should eat prior to the race.

I decided to just have an “Elvis” – a light snack of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana at 5:00 p.m. two hours before the start.  I was hoping it would provide me with enough fuel for the 3.1 mile race – but not make me feel “full” as I was trying to push pace.

Since the race took place on my “home-turf” I was curious if that would be a benefit or a detriment as I tried to hold a strong pace over the familiar course.  Running for me, like most distance runners, is all about rythym.  On training runs I typically get my leg-turnover to fall into a certain cadence and then simply let my muscle memory take over.

I questioned whether I would be able to run mile splits :45 seconds faster than my average pace on a course that I cover on just about every one of my run-days.  Would I be able to sustain that effort, or would my body “automatically” fall into a more comfortable and much more familiar “slow” rythym.

Lastly, temperature.  I was not worried at all about thunderstorms or rain as I actually enjoy running in the rain – but the forecast was calling for 85 degrees with 79% humidity at 7:00 p.m.  That is “hot” no matter how you slice it and although I would only be running for approximately 20 minutes or so – the weather was certainly going to be a major factor when it came to my finishing time.

How would we deal with the above “variables”? Well, we were about to find out.

Because I like to break down every race into manageable bit-sized portions to keep me on track, I jotted down the following “splits” to bring me in at my goal time for the night:

Mile 1:  6:25, Mile 2:  6:15, Mile 3:  (uphill) 6:45, Closing .10 mile :35 – total time 20:00

I packed my race bag into the truck and headed over to the trail at 6:30 p.m. – just enough time to park, get my timing chip and do a few strides before changing from my training shoes into my race flats.  I decided to go with my Brooks T6 Racers in a game-time decision as I wanted to see how they held up over the 3.1 mile course.  To that point I had only raced in my flats in the Congress Avenue Mile a couple of weeks before.

This race was all about providing me with a tune-up for the Holland, TX 5K a week from Saturday – so I decided to make it a dress rehersal, right down to my socks, shoes, shorts and singlet.

Being my first time racing in the series, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but there was quite a good turnout with well more than 100 runners ranging from teens to 60+ years in age.  I did a few warm-up strides in my trainers then switched out to my racing flats, tied on my timing chip and got ready to roll.

Mile 1:  I wanted to run a quick first mile, so I got right behind the high-school boys who looked very “runnerish” and tried to hang with them for the first half-mile.  Without looking at my watch I felt like I was running at a nice comfortable pace and as we left the loop by the lake and headed up hill to the first mile check-point I thought I was running just about spot on my goal pace.

My Garmin sounded with a beep and I turned in my first mile at 6:24, just :01 seconds off of goal.

Mile 2:  At the end of a mile of running I am usually just starting to work into a nice “lather”.  Not too much sweat has accumulated on my running shirt and shorts and I am starting to “feel it”.  Wednesday night was a much different situation however as I was already soaked to the bone in sweat.

I was going to have to slow down my pace a bit if I was going to have anything left to crest the uphill section of the course from the 2.2 to 2.8 mile point of the race.

I had hoped to run a 6:15 second mile – but knew that was pure folly in the conditions.  I stuck with the effort I wanted to expend instead of fixating on my watch and at the sound of the beep at mile 2 I had turned in a 6:35 mile.  Those :20 seconds would be unrecoverable in the conditions, but I was holding my place among the runners and had not been passed to this point.  I was running a strong race and was anxious to see how I would fare on the climb to the top of the dam.

Mile 3:  This was a mile that I had originally hoped to run in 6:45 – but again – given the conditions that was probably a bit too aggressive.  I took aim at two young runners who I had been trailing by 100 meters or so to this point.  I knew that this part of the course was one I had run many, many times in my training and thought that it was my best opportunity to close in on them.

I kept my legs churning, stayed tall in my strides and began to gain on the two runners ahead.  I would reach and pass them long before we crested the top of the hill.  As I finally reached the 3 mile point I glanced down at my watch and had turned in a 6:47 third mile.  Strong split all things considered.

Finish:  All that was left was the final .10 miles where I would pick up the pace and kick to a :36 second closing time.  Just one second off of my goal for that final 1/10 of a mile.

Age Group Victory

Total time 20:23 which would amount to an age-group victory for me in my first race in the series and a 10th place finish overall.  Not a PR for me, but all things considered a time that I am proud of for a Wednesday night.

With our “big race” approaching in 10 days I will have to skip next week’s Race #6 in the series – but I do plan on making it to the next few races after Holland, TX.  Running these events will make my speedwork this summer much more enjoyable than running intervals and tempo runs on my own.

I fully expect my times to rise as the temperature here in Austin does the same thing.  But these weekly races will certainly make me a much stronger runner at the 5K distance and provide me with a great opportunity to log a lot of “race experience” in a short period of time.

Besides, who doesn’t like taking home a blue ribbon on a Wednesday night?