Posts Tagged ‘Summer Sunstroke Stampede 5k’

Wednesday night marked the 9th race in the 12 race Sunstroke Summer Stampede 5K series.  It would be my 8th race in the series, which was my goal from the start this year.  I wanted to run enough of the races to qualify for any year-end awards I might be eligible for as the series takes your 8 best times to come up with your series average.

More importantly, I wanted two solid months of speed work on Wednesday nights to get my race legs back into their pre-Austin Marathon condition before training really got started for the NYC Marathon.

It was going to be a hot race for sure as the temperature on my thermometer in the truck read 102 on the drive over to the course.  I decided it would be wiser to drive over and run just a short 1-mile warm-up at the park than it would be to run 2 miles from the house to the race start.

Just too hot for a long warm-up like that as my core temperature would rise too much and it would hurt my performance during the race.

I had run a moderately paced (7:27 min./mile) 8.3 miles on Tuesday morning to kick of NYC Marathon training, followed by a 2,250 Meter continuous open water swim out on the lake Tuesday at lunchtime.  That’s 1.4 miles of swimming without a break, longer than the half-ironman swim distance of 1.2 miles.

I knew I wasn’t going to be setting myself up for a personal course record on Wednesday night, but my pre-race goal was to try to tie that time of 19:14 on the Brushy Creek Course.

Pre Race:  There haven’t been too many times that I knew at the start of a race that my legs just weren’t with me.  But this was definitely one of them.  I stretched, ran my warm-up, even a few strides at a quick pace, skipped and swung my legs and hips but just couldn’t shake that concrete leg feeling.

This happened at the Harvest Fest 5K last October, the Boston Marathon in 2010 and last night.  I suppose that three instances of “dead legs” in more than 40 races is not a very high percentage, but when it happens to you, it certainly isn’t a lot of fun.

Not being an “A” race, I wasn’t very worried about it, but if you are going to bother racing, you might as well race fast I figure.  The plan was to go out as I normally would and hope that my legs “snapped to” after a half-mile or so.

Mile 1:  I was chatting away with my friend Joe McClellon as the starter got us ready to go, instead of my usual squat down as a last stretch, before I knew it we were signaled to start and I was firing out across the timing mat.  The heat was pretty oppressive and I thought about what my opening ½ mile split would be.  I felt like my legs were still not all the way there and I settled into 5th position. 

At the half-mile point my watch beeped with a time of 2:49.   The identical opening ½ mile split I ran two weeks earlier on the same course, but I felt a lot different doing it.

I decided to slow down a bit and lock in to a pace that felt comfortably hard.  A runner slipped past me on my right and moved out ahead of me by 15 meters or so.  I locked in and just focused on my breathing and my stride.  At the top of mile 1 my second ½ mile split came in at 3:11.  A 6:00 minute flat opening mile, which was only :03 seconds behind my race two weeks earlier.

A decent start, but there was still a long way to go.

Mile 2:  We hit the dam and ran down through the switch back and back onto the gravel trail.  The runner ahead of me had stretched his lead out to about 25 Meters.  With nobody behind me to push me, if I wanted to “race” with anyone, I was going to have to close on the runner ahead.

My next ½ mile split came in at 3:02.  Right about where I wanted to be for that split as I had run 3:03 and 3:05 the two races before on the Brushy Creek Course over this interval.  My legs were starting to feel a little more “awake”, but I was far from crushing it out there.

As we made our way up the short hill toward the turn around point which falls right at the 1.85 mile mark on this course I had cut into the runners lead up ahead of me.

I navigated the cone, grabbed a quick splash of water at the aid station and pushed on towards the hill that would take us back up and over the dam.

At the top of mile 2 my ½ mile split was 3:08 – a 6:10 middle mile, :04 seconds slower than the race two weeks ago.

Mile 3:  As we made our way up the hill I was now just behind the runner in 5th position.  The trail is narrow here and there were runners coming down the other side of the course right at us.  I picked a wide spot and pushed past the runner, lengthening my stride a bit as I went past.

I wanted to clear him quickly and not enter into a back and forth pace-quickening duel.  This was the toughest part of the course and I needed to have a little bit left in the tank for the final push across the top of the dam.

My ½ mile split came in at 3:18, exactly the same as two weeks ago which was surprising as I felt like I was running slower.

When I reached the switch back I glanced down over my left shoulder and saw that I had opened up a :05 or :06 second lead on the runner behind me.  I couldn’t hear his footsteps I thought to myself, so if it stayed quiet behind me across the dam, I would be able to hold on to 5th place.

With nobody else to chase it was hard to stay focused on pace and stride.  I tried to think about closing out this last ½ mile as strong as I could as this might be my last race of the series.  As I reached the top of mile 3 my ½ mile split was 3:08, :05 seconds faster than the same stretch two weeks ago.

I didn’t make up all of the time lost, but I was surprised that I had thrown down a pretty solid ½ mile so late on a hot, hot night.

The Finish:  With no footsteps behind me I navigated the final turns and kicked to the finish.  The final 1/10 came in :39 seconds, which is just about spot on what I have been closing out the races in this series with.

19:18 total time, 5th place overall, 1st place Male Masters.

I was :04 slower than my goal time/course record, but given the way that I felt pre-race and the amount of training I have been doing recently including a fast paced 15-miler on Sunday, I was pretty satisfied with the result.

Post Race:  There were 99 participants out for the race on Wednesday night.  Jason, Anne and Bill from my office made it out to race, (all claiming age group awards which was pretty darn impressive), and my good friend Tom was out as well.

I ran a nice and easy 1.35 mile cooldown as we were waiting for the results to be tabulated and awards prepared, then enjoyed a nice frosty adult beverage with my friends.  (Thank you Jason!).

The race series has been great to me this summer.  I was able to get in some quality speedwork once a week for two months, spend some time with some great Austin runners, make a few new friends along the way and head off into NYC Marathon training a healthy and respectably fast runner once again.

This is going to be a special training cycle for me with my Mom battling through her treatment(s) for brain cancer.  I’ve tweaked my plan a bit, added some more miles, some more hills and another race or two to keep me honest.

It’s going to be a tough 17 more weeks of preparation, but the end result I hope will be that I stand among 45,000 runners on November 6th in the greatest shape of my life.

I will have never been faster.  Never been stronger.  Never been better trained and never been more determined.

That is the only recipe I know for how to continue to train for this particular event.

The marathon is a cruel, cruel race that does not discriminate.  There is no room for woulda, coulda, shoulda when it comes to the 26.2 mile footrace.  Whatever the clock says in November I am willing to own 100%.

The time to do the work necessary to excel that first Sunday in November is right now, not 17 ½ weeks from now.

All in once again. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yesterday was the 2011 running of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

It was the first time in three years that we were not there slugging it out with the Pittsburgh course.  Instead I ran a nice, leisurely 15 miles in near perfect conditions here at home in Austin.  7:44 pace, 1 hour 56 minutes and 1 second.  The run came on the heels of our very first “brick” workout on Saturday which was quite a workout.  More on that in a little bit.

I had a lot to think about on my Sunday long run as my friends Jason, Brendan, Mark, his wife Tammy and Maddy were racing in the Steel City.

The conditions in Pittsburgh were very similar to the last couple of years since the race returned after a hiatus from the city.  Windy, humid and rain falling once again, made for some tough sledding.  Tammy and Brendan were able to battle through the elements and achieve their first ever Boston Qualifying times.  So happy for those guys.  Maddy and Jason dug deep and finished the race with gutty performances on a tough day.

Me, I just cruised at an easy pace, enjoyed the sights and sounds of our local trail and thought about Dom quite a bit.  How many things have changed since the 2010 race, and yet there I was, still logging miles, thinking about training and racing.  More determined than ever to chase down another goal.

22,000 runners participated in the Pittsburgh race in 2011.  It was just too soon for me to return to that particular marathon to be completely honest.  The emotions of marathon day which are always tough for me to keep in check would have been over the top for me this year.  The Pittsburgh Marathon used to be, “where I qualified for Boston” when I reminisced about the event.

Now it is, “the last time I saw Dom”.

I know that I will return to run the event again.  It may very well be next spring depending on the deck of cards that life deals us.  But I know that I need to write another chapter at that race.  One with a happier ending.

This week is going to be another step forward in gauging our fitness level and determining where we need to go from here with our run training.

We will be participating in Wednesday night’s Summer Sunstroke Stampede 5K Race #2 of the season.  This week the race moves to the Town Lake Trail, a course I have never run before.  I’m hoping for a faster track than the one we have out at Brushy Creek.  If nothing else, the hill and the dam will be absent.  But we should also be a bit further along after last weeks race, and this weekend’s workouts.

On Saturday we will be participating in our 2nd consecutive Congress Avenue Mile.  We ran our first timed mile last year at this race in 5:26.

I am hoping that we will be able to shave :10 seconds off of that time this year as our stretch goal.  Before our injury back in March I had illusions of running something in the 5:10-5:12 range, but I think that is just a bit unrealistic given the time we had to take away from training.  But make no mistake, we’ll be letting it all hang out for that mile on Saturday morning.  It is a great event put on my RunTex, also serving as the High School Boys and Girls State Mile Championships.

Saturday brought something a little bit different to the training table as I conducted my first “brick workout” – these are the staple of triathlon training where you include two disciplines during the same workout, one after the other with minimal or no interruption in between, just as you would do during a race.

Usually when people refer to a “Brick” they are talking about a bike workout, followed by a run.  This transition is the most challenging physically during the triathlon, much more so than the swim to bike (or so I’m told).  The muscle groups utilized during the bike and the run while slightly different, are still closely related.

Fatigued legs from the bike, used to spinning at a high cadence are going to feel very “strange” when you transition to the run.  Learning to run in this state is going to be critical for me to post a good time in our strongest of the three disciplines.  To this point I have always started every footrace with legs that felt “great”, no matter the distance.  For me, to take off out of the T2 transition area for the 3 mile run will feel like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Learning how to deal with this in training will be a critical piece of our triathlon training as we prepare for July 31st.

On the other hand, we’ve yet to conquer the swim aspect of the triathlon, so for me, everything after the swim will seem easy.

Before I left for my 15 mile bike ride I brought my Running Watch and my running shoes and placed them in the garage.  I would go for my bike ride, return, pop off my helmet, glasses, riding gloves and bike shoes.  Put on my running shoes, strap on my running watch and head out for a 5 mile run.

The idea was to limit my transition to less than 2 minutes if I could.  The time spent tying my run shoes should be decreased on race day as I will have a pair of quick zip laces in my race flats.  But for Saturday, I had to quickly tie my shoes while standing on tired legs.  It was an education.

The 15 miles on the bike was very solid as I hit the hills out on Parmer Lane.   I covered the ride in 44:39 (20.1 MPH), climbing up 479 feet of elevation and racing back down 482.  I topped out with a cadence of 98 rpm (how many pedal revolutions I was able to make in one minute), with an average of 75.  My top speed was 31.8 on a nice long downhill stretch leading up to mile 10.

When I got back to the house I clipped out, leaned my bike in the garage against my workbench and changed into my running gear.

I rode in my triathlon race gear, which has a slightly padded seat, not like the large chamois in my bike shorts, and my tri-top.

I was surprised that the tri shorts actually had plenty of cushioning for the 15 mile ride.  I was hoping they would not bother me during the run.

I hit my watch and headed out of the driveway on foot after only 1:55 in transition.  Not bad I thought.

Over the first 2/10 of a mile I had absolutely no idea how fast I was running.  My legs felt incredibly strange, almost like I had never used them before.  A mixture of numbness and soreness that is hard to describe.  I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was running at 6:40 pace.

No possible way I thought, the watch must be recalibrating itself over the opening distance, I decided to just fall into a comfortably hard pace and hold it right there.  It would be similar to what I would do in a longer footrace, just run by feel, so it should be a good “test” for our first Brick Run.

I climbed up to the top of mile 1 and glanced down at my watch at the beep – 7:06.  Not too bad for an opening uphill mile.

I decided to ratchet up my breathing and leg turnover just a bit and rattle off four really solid miles in:

6:52, 6:42, 6:49, 6:46.

Total time 34:17 at 6:51 pace.

For my first triathlon on my birthday I will need to Swim 500M, Bike 13.8 Miles, Run 3.

On Saturday we knocked out a 15 M bike and 5 M run in pretty impressive fashion.  If we are able to get our swim down around the 12-13 minute range, we may have a pretty solid triathlon debut.  From there, who knows?

I know that when I ran my first 5K back in 2005 the thought of one day qualifying for the Boston Marathon seemed as likely as me walking on the moon.  Now, that is the absolute minimum expectation I have when I run a marathon.  So who knows.  We all have to start somewhere.

This week it’s all about speed, which is a great place to be.  Everybody loves to go fast.