Posts Tagged ‘TX’

Saturday marked the 39th year that the small town of Holland, TX would be gathering to celebrate bringing in their cash crop on the 3rd Saturday in June.  Fourteen years ago, celebrating the 25th Cornfest, Holland added a 5 kilometer race.

I was talking with a runner who had been to just about all of the races over the years who shared with me that at first the race organizers used to bus the runners out into a cornfield 3.1 miles to the finish line, and run a point to point race back to town.  What sounded at first like a great race to me was then explained a little bit further.

“The worst part was the start when you ran through the field with corn head high on both sides of you.  No breeze, stifling heat – it was pretty steamy.”

In the days leading up to the race I saw on the website that the festival was moved to Holland City Park and would not be taking place on Main Street as it had in years past.  This meant a change to the race course which I had not expected, so even though I would be running my 5th consecutive Holland Cornfest Race – 2013 would be a different race than in years past.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be as hilly I thought as I lay in the driveway stretching waiting for my buddy Neil to pick me up.  What I did know for sure was it was much hotter than the past couple of years.

The temperature was already 77 degrees two hours before race time, and the humidity was in the high 80’s with overcast skies and even a few scattered rain drops hanging around.  I had read an article just the day before that talked about hot-weather racing and that running by perceived effort instead of by “pace” was the way to go.  Just because you can run an opening mile of a 5K in say 6:00 minutes flat in 50 degree temperatures does not mean you can run one in 80 degree heat.

Or let me put it another way.  Yes, you may be able to run ONE mile at 6:00 in 80 degree heat, but you are going to have an awfully hard time running a second and third one.  We’ve covered this before, but your body’s response to higher temperature is to bring more blood to the surface of your skin to cool you off.  More blood traveling to the surface of your skin means less blood going to the muscles that are doing the work.

Less blood to the muscles means slower times.  So you need to adjust accordingly.  What seems to be right for me is 5 seconds per mile for every 5 degrees over 65 degrees.  So on an 80 degree day, I would be looking to run 6:10 pace for the 5K instead of 5:55 pace.  To put that into race time terms – something around 18:55 for the 5K instead of 18:10.  Add in a little extra humidity and I started to think that a time around 19:00 minutes flat would put me in a pretty good position in Holland.  A race where I have been fortunate to run in the top 10 overall over the past two years finishing 8th in 2011 and 6th in 2010.

My race plan came together for me on the ride up to Holland.  I was going to run my opening mile at 5:50 pace which would put me in a position to break 19:00 minutes given the inevitable drop off in pace as I heated up.  I should also at that point have a solid place among the top 10 runners and would lock-in at that point.  Try to maintain my track position and not let anyone catch me from behind.

Pre Race:  Neils’ daughter Megan was joining us this year for the first time.  New to running, Megan who is 12 had been showing a lot of promise on her school team.  This would be her first 5K and I was interested to see how she enjoyed it.  We made the 50 minute drive up to Holland and found the city park.  As we pulled in to park I noticed a large fair ground this year with rides for the kids and food vendors.

Landry would be coming up with Momma Bear after the race wrapped up for the parade and “candy grabbing” as the people on the floats and the fire trucks throw out candy for the kids.  She had been talking about wanting to go on a Ferris Wheel for the last week or so – I think it must have come up in a book she was reading at school.  So it looked like she was going to get her chance.

I checked in, grabbed Bib #2, and went off to run a 2-mile warm-up which would let me see the first mile or so of the course.

I started out at a smooth pace in my heavier trainers, 7:30 was my opening mile and by the time I reached the course marking for 1 mile in/1 mile to go I was already dripping sweat from my brow and down my shoulders.  At that pace in the winter time, I would not feel a drop of sweat until the start of mile 3.  It was definitely a hot one.

I wrapped up my 2-miles in 14:50.  Legs felt nice and snappy, but the humidity was pretty ugly.

I changed into by Brooks T7 race flats, visited with my friends Erin, Paul and his son Jonathan for a few minutes and it was time to duck into the chute for the start.

Mile 1:  As I have been doing for some time now, I had my watch set to record 1/2 mile intervals – giving me a little bit more feedback for a short distance race than simply looking at my split at the end of the first mile.  By that time in a 5K you are almost 30% of the way through the race.  A little bit late to make adjustments from there.

At the gun we got out smoothly and tucked in behind 2 young runners.  One just out of College, the other was Paul’s son Jonathan who was now 16 and running strong.  He had set a new personal best for the mile this year in 4:42.  I felt like I was in the right place and glanced down at the end of the first 1/2 mile – 2:52.  I was right on target for that opening 5:50 as the second 1/2 mile would be slightly slower having gotten over the adrenaline rush from the start.

On cue our second 1/2 mile came in at 2:58 – a 5:50 first mile.  One thing I noticed was how easy my cadence felt compared to other 5K races.  I could definitely notice a slight change in my running economy due to the track work we had been doing.  The weather however was making me feel like this was pretty much suicide pace on a hot day and I decided to gradually slow things down.  I was thinking that something like a 6:10 second mile and 6:15 third mile would let us run through to the finish, place well and not dig too deep of a hole that it would take us several days to recover from.  As Marathon training was going to be right there staring us in the face on Sunday morning.

As we started mile 2 the last thing I thought to myself was – “Don’t do anything stupid.”

Mile 2:  A young runner came past me at the mile 1 marker and huffed on by.  I compared his breathing to mine – which can tell you a lot about your competitors during a race.  He was breathing like he was in the final 800 meters of the race.  I let him slip past me and knew that I would be returning the favor pretty quickly.  We dropped back into 4th place but I did not try to respond.

Just before getting to the cone turn-around we hit the third 1/2 mile split in 3:01.  I slowed to make the 180 degree turn, grabbed a cup of water to throw over my head and another to take a quick sip.  I would give away a handful of seconds here, but not running for a PR – it really was irrelevant.  I got a chance to take a peak at the runners behind us to see if anyone was looking strong and closing on me as the course would retrace itself back to the finish.

My friend Paul was running in 5th position, 300 meters or so behind me, followed by a handful of runners who I had close to 1/4 lap of a track on.  I wasn’t worried about being caught from behind as we were all going to be slowing a bit in the heat.  I caught up to the runner who had passed me previously and slid by him as he was faltering badly.  We were running back in 3rd place – about :20 seconds off of the leaders.

At the beep we hit the 4th 1/2 mile split in 3:08.  a 6:09 second mile – 6:05 or so pace given the cone turn and water stop.  Just about right.

Mile 3:  One mile to go and it was getting pretty rough.  Always a tough point in the 5K, but I was soaked through my shorts, socks and shoes in sweat and just battling to keep my effort even through to the finish.  We hit the 2.5 mile mark in 3:10 and the 3 mile mark in 3:09.  All that was left was the final kick.

Finish:  I hung in close enough to see the winner cross the finish line ahead of Jonathan by a handful of seconds.  Not risking anything I decided to just gradually press on the accelerator and end at about 90% effort.  Not an all out sprint, but a fast-finish to wrap things up in a strong fashion.

18:56 was our time – 3rd place finish, our highest ever in Holland and we had accomplished what we had set out to do which was take home our 5th consecutive Age Group Award from the Corn Festival.

Post Race:  I was able to see both Neil and Megan finish the race before I went out for an easy 1-mile cool down.  On the way back I ran next to Sandra who was running her first ever 5K race.  She had to stop to walk a couple of times as we chatted over her last 1/2 mile, but I was able to tell her about how I started running, all the places that it had taken me and how much she would be able to gain from the sport if she was just able to stick with it during the period of time (just starting out) when it is the hardest, and the most people quit.

I ran her all the way to the last 200 meters and then dropped her at the cones so she could speed to the finish on her own.  The announcer called out her bib number and name as she ran under the finish arch and I smiled.  Hopefully it marked the start of something great for Sandra.

At the awards ceremony I got a nice surprise as when I was called up to the stage the announcer said, “And in first place in the Male 45-49 age group category …. wow, that is a fast time …. Joe Marruchella.  Joe comes up here every year to race with us, thank you for being here.”

Landry had quite a time at the festival this year.  Not only did she get on the Ferris Wheel with Dad – and I have to be honest, I had my doubts about how great she thought the ride would be once we got to the top.  But she LOVED seeing the park and all the rides, animals at the petting zoo and people down below.  She is such a big girl these days closing in on her third birthday now just a little over 2 months away.

We had some great local barbeque, and Landry played on the playground going toe to toe with some of the big kids before it was time to get going back to Austin.  Moving the festival to the City Park was a great move by the organizers as it seemed like there were close to twice as many people there as last year.

So in our last race before we age yet ANOTHER year at the end of July, we wrapped up a pretty solid age 45 year or racing.

We were blessed enough to start and finish 13 events from the 5K to half-ironman, set new PR’s in the 5K, 5-mile, Half Marathon and Half-Ironman, age group in 11 out of 13 events and miraculously win two of them.  In a year where I focus constantly on the one event we had to miss – the Houston Marathon due to injury – I have to remind myself that we had a pretty successful last 12 months.

It is really easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the negative and poo-poo the positive when you are training and racing.  But it is just as important to look at the positives and not always dwell on the misses.

That said, just two weeks ago I registered for the Houston Marathon in January of 2014.  I know me well enough to know that I cannot see the word Houston, hear anyone mention the city or even see the Astros in the box score and not think about my missed race last year.

For me to say that I have something left to “prove” at this point is pretty silly – Prove what?  To whom?  But when it is all said and done and we are no longer running marathons, I don’t want to have to think about Houston as the race that got away from me.  Fast or slow, PR or not, I am going to cherish just being at that starting line healthy and I am going to run my ass off.

See you in January Houston Marathon.  12 months late, but better than never.

 

Sunday marks the 31st running of the Schlotzky’s Bun Run here in the 512.

An Austin institution that added a 10K race just last year to the traditional spring 5K.brlogo_2013

As I was putting together my spring plans coming back from the Achilles strain that had us on the shelf for 5 weeks over the winter, I knew that one of the fastest ways for me to get my speed back would be to do a little bit more racing than we normally do this time of year.  Sunday will be our 5th race in the last 56 days, which even for us who tends to race fairly frequently is an aggressive pace.

3 5K races at the Texas Independence Day, Thin Mint Sprint, Red Poppy 5K and two 10K races at the Cooper River Bridge Run and Schlotzky’s.

No PR’s during this stretch of races, and really none were expected.  The courses, our fitness level coming back from injury and our goals for each event did not lend themselves to those types of performances.

What I have seen however is what I have hoped to see, which is steady improvement, not a single peep from our Achilles and a return of my racing mindset.

Closing 400 at Thin Mint Sprint

Closing 400 at Thin Mint Sprint

After Sunday we will have only one more race on our calendar before we stand at the starting line at the Big Cottonwood Marathon on September 14, as we will be once again heading up to Holland, TX for the Cornfest 5K for the 5th year in a row.  Still Age Group undefeated in Holland, I’d like to keep that streak intact for at least one more year.

But after that race it will be nothing but training for Cottonwood the remainder of June, July and August.  It is going to be a hot summer here in Austin, filled with new workouts with our coach and training group and fitness gains that will put us on the starting line in September the most prepared and dialed in marathoner we have ever been.

On Sunday at Bun Run we are going to let it all hang out.  My race plan is not going to put us in a position to approach our PR of 37:30.  That will have to wait for the Fall and the IBM Uptown Classic.  But I hope to run a solid 1 min faster than we did at the Cooper River Bridge Run three weeks ago.  A solid :10 second per mile improvement should be a good target given the course differences and improvement to my fitness level since Charleston.

So there will be no overall wins this weekend, no PR’s, no age group accolades likely.  Just another stop on the way to Cottonwood and hopefully a time of 38:19 or better.

Sunday morning for the 5th time since Texas Independence Day – Boom goes the dynamite.

Last year when I started to entertain the thought of competing in the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 this October the thought of swimming 1.2 miles in Open Water didn’t really scare me.  I had covered that distance a few times without stopping in Quarry Lake here in Austin last summer.  It was more a matter of finding a rhythym and staying smooth and even.  I might not be a fast swimmer, but I can knock out 2,250 meters in the pool or lake pretty comfortably.  Swimming 1,931?  Doable.

Running 13.1 miles to wrap up the Ironman 70.3?  As I write this post my 7 half-marathon finisher’s medals hang on hooks less than two feet away.  Alongside them are my 8 marathon finishers medals and a couple of team ultra-marathon medals from the past two Ragnar Relay Races I’ve completed.  My training log is literally littered with hundreds of runs in excess of 13.1 miles.  The run?  Bring it on.

It was the 56-mile bike leg that had me nervous about Longhorn.  56 miles just “sounds” like it is a far way to go.  That’s a long ride on my Harley, and I don’t have to pedal one bit on the Deuce.  Could I really hang in the saddle for 56 miles?  Well after the Pflugerville triathlon on Sunday my friends Jay and Ed talked about riding “long” on Thursday.  Perhaps out to the general store in Andice, TX and back.

The first thing I though was – 56 miles.

The ride out to Andice is a pretty common route for the triathlete and road bike community in the North, Northwest part of Austin where I live.  It is done on a weekend morning usually, most of the time as a group where at the General Store in Andice you can stop and get yourself one of their famous “Turnaround Burgers”.

It was a ride I had always wanted to do, but was not comfortable heading out there on my own for the first time.  What if I got lost?  Flatted?  Had a mechanical issue with my bike?  It was a much safer proposition with a crowd.  So with Jay and Ed heading out on Thursday morning, I decided to mix up my training schedule for the week and making the plunge.  50+ miles in the saddle.

I rode the 4+ miles to Jay’s house to rendevous with Ed who lives just a few houses down and Jorge who was going to join us for the ride.  The solo 4 miles gave me a chance to warm-up a bit, get up over 20 mph to get the legs firing before we settled into a much slower, easy pace for the ride out.

The miles ticked by effortlessly, and before I knew it Ed was turning back to cap his ride at 20 miles.  He is racing at the Buffalo Springs Half-Ironman this weekend out in Lubbock, TX and was saving some energy for race weekend.  Jay, Jorge and I rode out Parmer Lane, heading up and down the rolling hills out to Andice.

As we rolled into the small town the General Store appeared at the end of the road.  We were halfway there.

We got off the bikes, walked into the old cedar plank floor general store for some drinks and saddled back up for the ride back home.

The General Store – Andice, TX

As the miles ticked from 30 to 35 to 40 I felt strong on the bike.  Just a couple of days post race, my fitness level really is in a great place right now.

As we hit the big climbs with 12 miles to go to my house we parted ways and I rode back solo at an up-tempo pace averaging over 20 mph for the last 1/5 of the ride.

I crossed that “mystical” 56 mile mark as I turned at the light at Avery Ranch Road and Parmer Lane, making the left turn to our house, the final 2 miles that wraps up each of my training rides.  I thundered uphill past our pool, back down the other side of the climb to the last group of rollers before banking hard and turning into our neighborhood.

I kept the cadence high, pounded on the pedals and rode to our home finishing up at 58 miles.

My final 12 miles were my fastest of the morning at 23.9, 18.7, 20.7, 21.2, 20.6, 21.8, 22.0, 16.3, 22.3, 18.1, 19.7, 23.1 mph.

It was a ride at 80% effort, so I am nowhere near where I will need to be to race hard over this distance come October.  But it was a solid first attempt at a “long-ride” and just logging the miles and banking that time in the saddle was a big victory.

Ride Elevation Chart – 58 Miler to Andice

All of a sudden 56 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal at all.  It feels just the same as the first time I ran a 20 mile training run before my first marathon.  Until you cross that line you have doubts about doing it.  But once you reach it, you realize there is another line just a little bit further out ahead of you that is firmly within your reach.

By October we will have ridden our first 100K Ride, our first 75 miler and eventually our first century ride of 100 miles.

I might need to stop inside the General Store in Andice and get a Turnaround Burger for that one.

You know those mornings where you roll over, look at the alarm clock and you can’t quite seem to remember what day it is and what you have to do next?  Well Sunday morning was that kind of morning for me.  I had gone into the bedroom to lie down early after a day of racing on Saturday not really intending on falling asleep, but just to get off my legs and rest a bit before bedtime.

The next thing I knew I woke up, rolled onto my side and saw the alarm clock – 3:58 a.m.

As I blinked away almost 7 hours of sleep I reached over to check my alarm which was set at 4:00 a.m.

Then it hit me – you’ve got another race today, better get moving.

I rolled out of bed, shut off the alarm before it sounded and gingerly walked to the bathroom.  I had the usual post-race tightness in the hamstrings and calves, but all things considered I felt pretty decent.  I brushed the teeth, started to wake up a bit and hopped into a hot shower to loosen up the muscles and started to think about what lay ahead.

500 Meter Swim, 14 Mile Bike, 3 Mile Run – Lake Pflugerville Triathlon.

This would be our first year racing “Lake P” as it is known around Austin in the Endurance Athlete Community.  A friendly, smallish Triathlon that caps registration – this year at 800 entrants.  The Transition Area is “Open”, meaning that you can rack your bike anywhere that you like, you do not have to rack within your age group – so I decided to head over a little earlier than I had originally planned to get a good spot.

I had packed everything the night before, the only things left to do were to retrieve my frozen water bottle for the bike out of the freezer, load up my cooler with a couple of Gatorades and waters, put my transition bag in the truck and load the bike in the back.  I grabbed my run watch out of the charger and I was out the door in less than 5 minutes.

Arrival:

I made the 25 minute drive over to Lake Pflugerville and entered the parking lot about 5:10 a.m.  I was one of the earlier athletes to arrive, so finding a good spot to rack and set up transition was not going to be a problem.

I made my way over with my bike and bag to Body Marking and ran into my friend Jay Tedder.  He was a couple of athletes ahead of me and we decided we would rack our bikes in the same space.  I got my race number 430 written down both arms, across both of my quads just above the knee and my age group written on my right calf “45”.

The Holland 5K on Saturday was my final race as a 44-year-old.  From here on out I would be competing with the 45-49 year olds for the next half-decade.  It was an odd thought to have so early in the morning, but I was a little sad about leaving my last age group.  It was definitely a tough, challenging group of competitors in Austin.  Now I was the “young guy” again, looking to establish myself in a new sport, with a new group of athletes.

Set-Up:

I racked my bike next to Jay in a good spot, just 7 racks from the Swim Entrance, about half-way up on the left-hand side.  I would be able to grab my bike and head right out of transition to the mounting line very easily.  Then repeat the process coming in from the bike course, re-rack my bike and hit the Run Exit within 400 meters.  Perfect.

I laid out my transition mat, placed my run shoes down with my quick tie laces at the read, my run watch, wrist band and my race belt that held my number 430 bib in place.

Next it was my bike shoes opened up as far as they could go.  I rolled up my socks, ready to be put on wet feet on top of my bike shoes and placed a small towel and squeeze bottle of water next to them to clean my feet coming out of the swim area.

I placed my helmet on my aero bars, straps open and my riding glasses inside ready to be placed on when I approached the bike.  I clicked in my Garmin bike computer.  Put in my frozen water bottle filled with Gatorade in between my bars so it would thaw out and checked my tire pressure.

Ready to go.

Pre-Race:

I grabbed my goggles and silver swim cap, hit the porta-potty for the last time and got ready for the swim start.  I ran into my friends Erin and Dan who were at the Holland, TX 5K on Saturday – Erin was the 2nd place female overall, crazy fast runner – Ed and Jay who I was racked right in between.  At first we were all laughing and joking around, but as the first swim waves took off it started to get a little more serious.

I spoke with Jay a bit when Ed left to go off with the 30-34 age group.  In 6 minutes I would be wading out into the water.

The Swim:

As they called our wave I slid into the water, fixed my goggles and went under to get wet and acclimate to the water temperature.  The lake felt just a little bit chilly, which meant that after 50 meters, it would be perfect.  Wind was calm, the water was pretty smooth, but my wave had 50 athletes competing.  It was going to be crowded.

I decided to stick to the outside of the course so that I would have limited bumping and fighting going on as swimmers tried to cut close to the buoys.  This was going to make the distance that I needed to swim longer, but I was willing to trade that for cleaner water.  There was also some hydrilla and seaweed type greenery that we were going to have to battle through heading away from the shoreline and on the way back in.  Perfect I thought – just what I needed, a little more difficulty added to my weakest event.

At the horn we were off and I fell into a comfortable pace right away.  I did not feel like I was really “swimming fast” but I was relaxed and seemed to be holding my pace with the swimmers around me.  I was sighting ahead and staying to the right of the crowd, with just a couple of swimmers bumping into me over the first 100 meters.

We reached the second buoy and the course made a slight left to the midpoint as the course was set up like the roof of a house.  Straight up the side for 200 meters, 50 meters slightly left to the highpoint or “roof”, then a tight left turn to head back the other direction for 50 meters followed by another slight left turn and then 200 meters for home.

At the Red Buoy, or the high point of the course I got caught with two other swimmers, one on each side of me.  A couple of bumps on the arms and one shot to the leg by a kick.  I decided to swim around to the outside of the athlete on my right and I got out of the wash.  It cost me some time however.

I hit the last 100 meters and encountered the green stuff from the bottom of the lake.  It was catching in my fingers and hands as I entered the water, shortening my glide, catch and pull.  I tried to keep it out of my head, stay relaxed, keep breathing and swim to the finish.

I hit the flats, got vertical and pulled off my cap and goggles – I knew my swim as not “fast”, but I had made it – time to get moving.  We had some people to catch.

Swim Time:  12:42

Transition 1:

I ran up out of transition, grabbed a cup of water, and navigated the left turn to the stairs.  Ran down carefully to make sure I didn’t slip and fall and then ran into the bike area.

I wiped my feet, pulled on my socks and then both bike shoes.

Glasses on, Bike Helmet on, hit start on my bike computer and pulled down my bike.

I ran with my bike shoes up the hill out of the racks, made a right and reached the bike mounting line – I pushed off, threw my leg over the bike and clipped in.

Transition Time 1:51 – pretty solid.

The Bike:

Like the last two triathlons that I competed in, I hit the bike hard in an effort to make up for our slow swim.  I flew through the gears and was at top speed within 30 seconds.  The course was “flat”for Austin Standards, just 300 feet of climbing along the course over 14 miles – the hills that were there to tackle were mostly in the second half of the course.

Biking out of transition

I stayed on the front edge of my seat and hammered away.  I was hoping to average 21-21.5 mph on the bike which would put us in a pretty solid position heading into the run leg.  I was a bit surprised at how strong my legs felt firing away on the pedals after racing on Saturday.

Running and Cycling uses very similar muscle groups – but they are not identical exercises by any means.  I had a feeling that I was going to feel the effects of Saturday’s race when I started the run leg.  But for now, it was time to make our move.

I stayed on the large ring and hammered away at the course.  At each beep of my computer marking 1-mile I would glance down at my total time for that mile and take a drink out of my water bottle in front of me.  As long as I stayed below 3:00 min./mile I was averaging over 20 mph.

My first 7 miles on the bike clocked at:  2:17, 2:48, 2:30, 2:46, 2:57, 2:46, and 2:58.

We made it around a curve to the right and climbed up one of the longer hills to start the second half of the course:  2:48, 2:49, 2:34, 2:34, 2:49, 2:39 were the next 6 miles.

A sharp right off of the frontage road of the toll way and we climbed back into what little wind was on the course for the final mile.  Then back up into the transition area and the dismount line – final mile 2:58.

Bike Time:  38:19 – 21.9 mph.

Transition 2:

I ran the best I could in my bike shoes back into the transition area and found my spot to re-rack the bike.  I flipped the bike around, slid the seat over the bar, took off my glasses and helmet and laid them on top of my transition bag.  Took off my bike shoes, clipped my run belt on with my bib number and made sure the number was in the front, put on my wristband and run watch, then slid into my race shoes.

I hit the water bottle for one last sip of Gatorade and ran out of transition.

Transition time:  1:20.  :10 short of outstanding.

The Run:

I glanced down at my watch and the time was frozen on 4:54 a.m.  My Garmin has been on its last legs for a couple of months, but I had been able to do a hard-reset of it to bring it back to life on a few occasions.  As I ran out of transition I tried to revive it – but it simply had given up the ghost.

I was going to have to run by feel for the next 3 miles.  No idea if we were running fast or slow as it is very difficult to gauge speed accurately coming off of the bike.  No matter.  I decided to run even at the hardest pace I could hold for 3 miles.  Over the last 400 meters or so I would kick to the finish with whatever we had left.

I had remembered that the Triathlon packet said that there would be water stops at the 1 mile and 2 mile portions of the run.  That would help me break up the run leg and just focus on the mile I was running.

I hung to the left of the course and gobbled up the athletes in front of me.  I was seeking out members of my age group with a number between 45 and 49 on their right calf, but I was running into runners from the earlier waves, 35-39 and 40-44 more than anyone in my group.

That was not necessarily a bad thing as I was gaining ground on athletes who had started 3 and 6 minutes ahead of me, but I was not able to find anyone to lock on to and “race”.

I hit the first aid station, grabbed a cup of water and poured it over my head as I went by.  The cold water felt good going down the back of my neck as the temperature was in the mid 80’s and the sun had broken through the overcast clouds.

When I reached the second aid station I heard a “Go Joe!” from my friend Ed as I went by – but I couldn’t do much more than raise an arm in acknowledgement and keep on pushing.  My legs were now starting to fight back in a big way after Saturday’s race.  On a day where I would have typically ran 8 easy miles at a pace almost 2 full minutes slower after a 5K race – I was right back hammering away as hard as I could.

We reached what I estimated would be the final ½ mile and I started to lengthen my stride a bit more on every step.  Perhaps dropping pace another :10 a mile, I felt like I had a little bit left before the kick.

When we reached the final straightaway and I could see the finish line chute in the distance I went into my kick.  2/10 of a mile, perhaps a little bit more – I emptied the tanks.

Final Push

As I hit the line the announcer said, “And from Austin, TX – Joe Marruchella ….”

Run Time:  18:41 – 6:14 pace.

Results:

Total time of 1:12:42 – A new Sprint Distance PR in the Triathlon

We finished 51st overall, 49th among the men, 6th in our Age Group.

Our run time was fastest among the 45-49 year olds, 6th fastest overall in the triathlon.  Not too shabby after racing the day before.

Post-Race:

We did not make it onto the podium on Sunday, finishing about 2 minutes out of the money, but that was o.k. as we know exactly where we need to improve.  We need to swim much more aggressively, practice harder and we are going to have to be willing to “mix it up” a bit in a crowd to shorten the course.

If I am going to compete in the triathlon the same way I do in running races, I am going to have to do so in the same fashion.  At a run only event I line up with the top area runners, I go toe to toe with them and trade licks.  I don’t back down, run for cover or hide out there on the race course.

I just thunder away and do the best that I can mile after mile.

I need to stop thinking about my triathlon “starting” with the bike leg.

I need to swim faster.

I will swim faster.

It was a great day of racing and a great event at Lake Pflugerville.  Post-race Pizza, Ice Cream, Popsicles for the kids (and adults), Shiner Beer, Cold Water, Frozen Towels – all great stuff.

But the best part of the day was when Dawn and Landry arrived to spend the rest of the morning with Dad.  After a little while Landry spied the lake where the swim had taken place and said, “Landry water …. Landry water ….”

Ironic that my 21 month old wanted to go hop in that lake where an hour and a half earlier her Father had gone so grudgingly.  Once again, lessons are everywhere if you just pay attention.

Landry & Daddy heading to the lake.

Thanks Landry for reminding me the value of being fearless and in the fact that 90% of success is simply in showing up.  Dad is going to remember that next month at the Couples Triathlon at Decker Lake – and he is going to bring it.

Any way you slice it – it was a pretty darn good weekend of racing.

New Year’s Morning and less than 3 miles from our home they were running the 8th Annual Resolution Run 5K at St. Phillips Methodist Church.  Just seven weeks before the Austin Marathon, I was not sure if I would have the chance to do any racing before the 3M Half-Marathon on January 30th.

But New Year’s Day happened to fall during a step-back week for me, and even though I was coming off a 21-mile long run last Sunday and a tough hill repeat session on Thursday, this weekend’s mileage was greatly reduced.  Just 6.2 miles on Saturday and an easy 12-mile run on Sunday.

If I ran home from the race, I would be able to get my 6.2 miles in and do a little New Year’s Day Racing.  Sounded like too good an opportunity to pass up.

The only drawback about the race was the start time of 11:00 a.m., which is much later than I am accustomed to running.  Normally I just hop out of bed, dress, drink some water and head out for my run.  Sometime around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and I’m out pounding the pavement.

A 5 hour later start introduces breakfast, bathroom breaks etc., all things that can play havoc with race day performance.

I wasn’t too sure about my goal for the race, coming in the latter stages of marathon training when I am a little bit beat up.  But my legs felt pretty good on Saturday morning and I decided that I would let it all hang out.  Shoot for a PR at the 5K distance if I could get one and cross off one of my 2011 goals before lunchtime on day 1 of the year.

Pre Race:

Dawn and Landry were kind enough to drive me up to the race start at 10:00 a.m., an hour before gun time.  This would allow me to throw a pair of my training shoes in my race bag, change into them after the race and run home to get in my 6.2 miles for the day.

At the church there was hot coffee, Round Rock Doughnuts and Hot Chocolate.  There were also runners.  A TON of runners.  With just 10 minutes to go before race time, there were still more than 50 runners in line to register and pick up their timing chips.

The run attracted 575 participants this year, up 30% from last year’s race.  It was going to be crowded out there for sure.

Instead of my usual 15 minute warm-up prior to the gun, I decided to stay indoors up until 10:55 and just do a quick warm up in front of the starting area to stay warm.

Conditions were just about perfect for racing.  49 degrees and sunny with a variable wind blowing around 6-8 mph.  Shorts, Singlet and lightweight gloves were all I needed to be comfortable.  Not bad for a January 1st race day.

Mile 1:     I snuck into the starting area and tucked in just behind the first group of runners.  Normally this would be the “leaders” area, but there were some slower recreational runners up front.  Navigating the opening 2/10 of a mile was going to be a little tricky.

I’ve learned the value of getting off quickly in these short 5K races as the distance is not long enough to make up a lot of time if you post a slow first mile.  At the gun I zipped to the left side of the course and pulled up behind the leaders.  I was hoping to open with a 5:35 mile and settle in around 6:00 min./mile pace for mile two.

Down the opening stretch and through the first turn to the left my legs were churning quickly and I felt very light on my feet.  My Brooks T6 racers felt fast and light.  I knew my opening mile was going to be a quick one, but I was starting to get a little concerned that I got out too fast.

At the 1 mile mark my watch beeped with an opening split of 5:28.  Ouch.  Too Fast.

Opening Mile

Mile 2:     The course turned to the left and kicked off mile number two with an incline.  Nothing like some of the hills we have been racing lately, but it was definitely enough to slow pace :05-:10 seconds per mile.

I was trying to lock in at 6:00 min./mile pace but could feel my legs getting heavy.  Like most 5K races, the middle mile is the key mile for me.  If I am able to push hard and hold pace here, the final mile will just boil down to gut-check time.

I had a pair of runners pull ahead of me over this section dropping me back to 8th place overall.  I felt like the top 10 would be where I would be running given the field, so that was just about right.  I knew I wasn’t having a great mile however and as my watch beeped at the mile 2 mark, my thoughts were spot on.

6:05.  I needed to get it back together over mile 3. 

Mile 3:     There is something about the final mile of a race.  5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, Marathon – that final mile brings with it a certain rush.  I like to tell myself that I can do just about anything for a mile, and that helps me push hard when my legs and lungs start telling me differently.

The course started to wind out of the neighborhood and back uphill towards the start/finish area.  As soon as we came out of the clearing with 4/10 of a mile to go the wind that was blowing was directly into the faces of the runners.  Not the final push that I was hoping for.

At the beep mile number 3 came in at 5:48 pace.  Just 1/10 of a mile to go.

Kicking to the Finish

 

The Finish:     As the finish line came into view I was doing math in my head.  Our previous best at the 5K distance was 18:12.  When I glanced down at my wrist I saw 17:50, 17:51, once again, it was going to be awfully close.

I heard some footsteps behind me and went into my finishing kick.  It is always easier to “chase” than to “be chased” down the finishing stretch of a race.  I had nobody to catch up ahead, but was determined not to give up my track position.

As I kicked to the finishing chute I heard the footsteps behind me quieting.  I hit the timing mat with a time of 18:12.  (5:52 pace)

Tying my 5K PR to the very last second.

Normally I would have been disappointed with coming so close to setting a new PR, but given all of the variables surrounding the race, my workouts and mileage this week, I was absolutely not “primed” and rested for a “big race”.

To tie our PR, finish 8th overall and 2nd place in our Age Group was a pretty great way to kick off 2011.  The perfect way to start what I hope will be a great year of running and racing.

I even got a chance to hang out with Baby Landry post race and introduce her to some of our runner friends.

Landry Rocking Her Running Shoes Post Race

As for the run home, another 3.1 miles in 20:34 (6:38 pace), pretty solid way to wrap up our Saturday. 

Sunday calls for a 12-mile Marathon Pace run, leaving just 7 more weeks to Marathon Sunday.

Look out Austin; we’re looking pretty good right now.

Mondays are typically cross-training days for me.  I am usually pretty beat-up from a couple of days of tough running over the weekend and I simply need to back off and rest the legs to get ready for another week of training.

This week was no different as I decided to throw the triathlon bike on the trainer for a quick 15.5 mile ride to get the legs a little work, but save them from the pounding of a recovery run.

I’ve learned a lot about running since training for my first marathon in 2006 and one of the irrefutable facts remains that for me, five days of running with two days off is my “optimum” schedule.  It allows me to work hard on improving and reaching my goals, but also provides me with the downtime these 43-year-old legs need to stay injury free.

Not pain-free mind you, but injury free.  Two very different things.

I have my share of bumps and bruises just like any distance runner or endurance athlete does.  Which is why last week’s “step back week” was much-needed to allow me to get my legs “back under me”.  We had really been pushing the intensity over the last month and I simply needed to dial-back a bit.

What was interesting to see was the fact that I actually ran more miles last week (46.05) than I did the week before (44.85).  However, I only ran 13 of those miles at a pace under 7:00 min./mile.  The week before that number was closer to 20. 

That is an important lesson as it is not only the quantity of miles that need to be monitored, but the quality or pace of those miles needs to be carefully measured as well.  Effort is something that as an aging marathoner I will need to really examine if I hope to continue to progress as a distance runner.

Late Sunday night I had started to think about finding a local 5K race for this coming weekend to use as a “tune-up” with IBM still 19 days away.  As I hopped off of the tri-bike this morning after 50 minutes, my legs felt remarkably fresh.  I felt “Racey”.  Let’s do it I thought.

No matter how much I try to push pace on my training runs, there is no substitution for a true “race” to get those juices flowing and force me to run “hard”.  For me to get into that sub 6:00 minute/mile pace, I simply have to have a number pinned to my chest and a timing chip on my person.  That’s just the way that it is.

So, I took a look at the local race calendar and found a 5K just north of our home for Saturday morning.  The Harvest Fest 5K in Georgetown TX.  The race will be run at 8:00 a.m. at St. Gabriel Park – an area I have never run before.

The course looks like a nice flat out and back, some of which will be on the trail system. 

I’m not going to worry too much about “going low” or posting a “PR” this weekend as it is all about getting ready both physically and mentally for IBM on the 17th.  I do however want to run well, something in the range of 18:15 to 18:25 which will serve as a good boost of confidence with two weeks to go in our quest for that sub 40:00 minute 10K time.

I might even be lucky enough to have Little Miss Landry and Dawn at the finish line this weekend, making the Harvest Fest 5K her first ever race. 

Come to think of it, maybe we do have a PR in us this Saturday.