Sunday, April 26, 2015

Big Sur International Marathon

Div PlacePlaceTimePace
122/285997/342904:10:009:32 min/mi

Registration

I can't start a blog about Big Sur without starting at the beginning, with registration. Getting in to BSIM is difficult at all times, often voted as the best destination marathon, many more people want to run Big Sur than are allowed to.

The 2015 registration process was split into five stages. Four traditional signups across different times of the day and days of the week, ostensibly to create some equity across regions, work schedules, and time zones, and one lottery. On the first traditional signup, Harry, Joy, and I were all at our desks, frantically hitting refresh to try and get in. Within four seconds, the seats were sold, and Harry successfully got into the race, but Joy and I didn't. The next three were similar situations, one I tried to do remotely via phone as I was in San Francisco at a work event, one I missed due to being out with the family, and one I had a similar situation as the first. Joy successfully registered in the next three rounds, but I was left to the luck of the lottery. Fortunately for me, I was successful in getting into the race with the lottery, so all three of us who were training for the race were able to get in. Yay!

Training

Out of my three previous marathons, I had a variety of training, from constant and consistent, to severe under-training. My undertrained races proved that by mile fifteen or twenty, I would be cramping and underperforming. Knowing this race to be one of the most difficult to complete, I knew I couldn't scrape by, but would have to be amazingly consistent in my pre-race work. If you've read my blogs leading up to this, you know that I completed a lot of races leading up to this, enough to help ensure success. Yet, just racing would not be enough: I should be running 30 miles a week at minimum. And yet, I didn't. Life, as always, as well as a lack of training partners running at lunch (kids keep me from early morning training), meant that I was very consistent in my long runs, yet barely if ever ran my weekday runs. What I learned from this training is that, enough cross-training and enough distance building means that I can complete a run by just building up my long distance training, but I can't get any faster or better without adding in the base work during the week: hills, track work, and mileage. My training wasn't good, but it was enough to do a consistent and full marathon instead of a half marathon plus some walking. I didn't run the whole thing like my PR, but nor did I find myself unable to run the last few miles, either.

The Bus Ride

Over five percent of Big Sur's budget goes to buses. That's over $150k, for bus rentals. Why? Because how do you get over 8,000 to the start when the roads are closed, the parking lots are where you stand to prep the start, and there are no hotels nearby? You bus all of them, one way, in one shot. 185 buses taking 8,000 people from fourteen locations to eight different start zones. So at the buses, by 4am, to hit the starting venue by 5:30am and have the race course cleared for the starting gun at 6:45am.

The Beauty

This is the first race that I have ever done where runners, and not the type who go in a pack and celebrate running as a big social event (and there's nothing wrong with that), but the real runners stopped to get out their phones and take a picture. Anyone who didn't, either didn't have a case that could carry their phone, was drop-a-phone-phobic, was blind, had already run it several times, or had no sense of beauty. When else do you get to actually exist, not behind windows, but out in the clear along the PCH for four beautiful hours?

The route begins at its namesake, in Big Sur State Park, and winds its way up a closed-to-traffic Highway 1, finishing in Carmel. Between the iconic Bixby Bridge, the ocean views along the whole route, and the top of Hurricane Point, there is practically no point which isn't awesome in its beauty. And while one friend of mine said that his PR is on Big Sur, I followed the advise of the rest of my running friends and took advantage of the scenery to make this a race I truly enjoyed, not just ran. And yes, I took some selfies, too.


The Race

As you can tell by the rest of this blog, the race itself wasn't as big of a goal as the venue; however, out of the three marathons I've done so far, only the first was truly successful. The second and third were plagued by undertraining and cramping, and so my goal was to do a good race, even if not my best. Running the whole course with a 9:32 pace, I'd consider successful for that goal.

The first ten miles, leading up to heartbreak hill, I kept a pretty relaxed pace of low 9s, running with both Harry and Joy for the first few, and keeping my heart rate in zone two. A quick pit stop before the big hill, and I was heading up to catch up with Harry. The whole way up the hill, my mind was on relaxed and easy running, and I averaged 10s all the way up, though my heart rate jumped up into the 170s to get to the top. I had been warned not to blow out my quads on the downhills, so I kept my same mid-9s pace on the way down.

By the next few hills, I still kept up the same mantra, relaxed on the way up, slow on the way down. Not long thereafter, I caught back up with Harry, and we were running together again. Then, we got to the the first big hill after mile 22 in the Carmel Highlands, and things changed for me. To quote the race organizers: "Just the mention of the Highlands strikes fear into the hearts of Big Sur vets. It is a series of short steep hills made all the more brutal by the sharp cant of the road which wreaks havoc on tired quads and tender ankles." About half way up the hill, I began to feel like I might cramp up, and I know from my previous races that once I reached that point, there would be no turning back. I said "good luck" to Harry and began walking up the hill. I reached the summit, and said "screw it" to my plan of backing off on the way down. I knew, if I was going to do decently, and be walking up the hills, I'd have to make up time downwards, and if I was going to cramp, I needed to take advantage of every opportunity I could. So up the hill I went at low 9s for the first half, 15s for the second half, and I came down in the 7s and 8s. Shortly thereafter, I shocked Harry by catching back up with him. "Never thought you'd see me again, did you?" "No" was the honest reply.

Harry and I paced each other through the easier sections, and I kept up my walk/run up and down the hills, and we kept going this way till around mile 25. Then, looking at my watch, I had a realization. The last time Harry and I did a big run together was a couple years ago at Shamrock'n, and when we got near the end, he fell back and I pushed it in to the finish. Had he known that he was going to be eleven seconds off his PR, that would have been enough motivation to push it into the finish. So knowing his marathon PR, and looking at the time, I realized that if instead of pulling back as we both felt like doing, we just pushed a little harder, Harry would PR in Big Sur! My fastest mile on the race was mile 24 (assisted by a nice long downhill), and my final mile was in about eight minutes. I had enough left in me to push a bit harder than Harry into the end, so I came in front of Harry, but he got a PR! Harry finished in 4:10:06, beating his 4:10:52 PR, and I finished in 4:10 even. The end result was a race I did about spot-on to expectations, and enjoyed tremendously.



Final Thoughts

Anyone planning on doing more than a marathon to check off that tick on their bucket list should plan on doing Big Sur. There's a reason that it sells out so fast, and is consistently featured in magazines and top race lists, it's worth every bit of training to go run this course. And while I may not do it again, I'm extremely happy that I did it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Shamrock'n Half Marathon - Eighth Time's the Charm

Div PlacePlaceTimePace
47/390244/646701:39:067:38 min/mi

PR! PR! PR!

TL;DR? This post can be summarized with "I GOT MY FIRST PR SINCE 2008!"

Past the excitement of this statement, underlies a large amount of elements coming together unexpectedly to me getting a PR on a race I only expected to treat as a "B" race. And honestly, there's no way that this would have happened without my training for Big Sur, my half marathon the weekend prior, and encouragement from Mai Tran, a karateka friend.

The Race

I don't need to talk about Shamrock'n... again. The race is one that I've run every year except the last, and that's only because I was living in London and not Sacramento. It was my first race, it's the race I've done even in years when I'm not running, and it's a race that I hope to continue for many years to come. It's close to home, a fun course, big enough to have a lot of energy, and yet not Disneyland or Nike big. Half marathons are still the perfect distance for me; I don't need to train much if I don't want to, yet I can still pull off a great run if I put a month or two of work in.

Thus, coming into the race this year, it's not that Shamrock'n was a goal race, that's Big Sur. Neither of my BSIM training partners, Harry or Joy, were running it with me, but there is never a year when I don't run into folk form STC, TBF, work, or other places that helps add to the fun of the race for me, and this year was no exception. I had been looking out for a few people that I knew were running the race, but beyond one coworker, I was at the start line before I found any of the key individuals, and that was Mai. Mai had invited me to go on a couple of training runs with her this season, but as she is an early morning runner, versus my preference for lunch time, I never did run with her. Yet once I hit the corral, I found her getting ready to start.

Not content with my typical mid-pack starting position (I do like to track the "I passed XX people" stat), Mai grabbed my wrist and pulled us nearer the front of the corral. After the guns had gone off, I went to start my normal "ease-into-it" pace, but Mai had different plans. I like to start about 30 seconds behind my goal pace for the first half mile or mile, then ease up a bit as I get my stride. Mai, on the other hand, started us out at 7:30s. Not to be beat already by someone who's generally my pace, I kept up with her for a rapid start.

What happened next was not what I expected. By mile three, our pace had picked up to 7:24, and I was still feeling pretty good. Mai began to flag a bit (and I do mean just a bit), and so at that point, I had the choice of slowing down from what I was doing, or going on at what could be a PR pace for me. I bid Mai farewell in mile three, and kept going strong. We had started about behind the 1:45 pacing group, and had caught up with them by then, but I decided to keep up the pace I was making and to keep running.

At about the half way point, I caught up with the 1:40 pace group. Now, I knew 1:40 would get me a PR, as 1:41:34 was my Disneyland '08 time, so catching up with that group was a big blessing; I could cut my pace down to theirs (a nice 10 second relief), and still make it in for a PR. Through the next six miles, I mostly kept up with the group, dropping behind a couple of times and picking it back up when I had a moment or three of rest (and by rest, I mean running an 8min/mi for a few seconds). My HR had climbed from the high 170s into the mid 180s, and I knew I was pushing about as much as I could, but I had a goal I could achieve, and that was enough to push me. By the last mile, the pace group was about 50 yards in front of me, but a last minute sprint put me just behind them, and my final result was a 1:39:06, over two minutes faster than my last half marathon PR.

Thus, a little early encouragement, an attitude of yes I can, and a group to run alongside and pace myself with brought me to a new PR just ahead of my big race. Woot!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2015 Lost Trail Half Marathon

Race Logo
Div PlacePlaceTimePace
7/1132/10502:06:169:38 min/mi

The Race

The best part about racing with TBF is the history I have with the group. Two years of twenty-hour weekends running the events, and to come back as a racer feels comfortable. I know the people, I know the organization, and even if eighty percent of the volunteers are new to me, it still feels like the same group I spend so much time with. So coming into this race, I didn't come with the idea of winning, or even treating it as an A or B race, it was just a fun event, on a course that's outside of my usual training routes, with some extra organization and support that makes it a more fun venue.

Since I've run this course (or similar) twice in the past, I knew what to expect, and I knew not to work too hard at any point since the hills run through the entire route, so I took off easy, didn't work too hard, and enjoyed chatting with a few people when I could. I expected to breeze through the hills since I had done a decent amount of hill training in prep for Big Sur, but I will say that they were harder than I remembered. I'm not training quite as much as I should for the upcoming marathon, and to make this post short, I'm not entirely satisfied with what my performance means for April, but I was just a couple minutes slower than my last time on this course (2012) and felt okay, just not great. It definitely met its goal of a much more interesting training run for this short-weekend training day. I just hope this means I won't do poorly next week at Shamrock'n.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

California Kids Triathlon - 2014

SportTimeRankAG
Swim+T1 6:31 80/123 50/68
Bike 15:41 93/123 57/68
T21:35
Run 3:17 69/123 42/68
Total 27:05 176/246 53/68

The Race

The last time we went to the California Kids Triathlon, put on by Change of Pace, it was a whole family affair. Four kids racing, two in a parent-child division, starting early in the morning and finishing in the late afternoon. This time, the only kid wanting to compete was the youngest, Tripp. His last tri was when he was three, this time at five years old, it was bound to be a very different race. He was just a few weeks out of "floaties" in the pool, hadn't spent much time on his bike, yet was much more
confident than a child with about thirty minutes on training wheels as he was on his first race.

I got to be the chosen partner for this race, putting this as my first triathlon since the IM 70.3 Oceanside. 25 meters in the pool, a one mile bike ride, and a quarter mile run means a less than thirty minute race, less time than it takes us to drive to Davis to get there.

Tripp was definitely in a great mood for the whole race, much different than when we came out two years ago. He had a lot of confidence coming out of the pool without floaties. And on that trip, each time he rode by a playground or a bench, he'd be asking to sit. I had to help him up every hill, and encourage him the entire thirty-plus minutes of the bike ride. This time, out of the pool, he was rushing off to get ready for the bike. On the bike ride, he flatly refused help at any point, and though he was getting passed every few minutes, he was intent on continuing on in race fashion. And as he got to the run, he was off as fast as he could go.

I had a lot of fun joining Tripp on this, his third triathlon. Even though I've stayed out of the sport for the last year, I'd love to have any of my kids continuing to participate in tris or in running with me. The attitude of most athletes in the sport is fantastic, the continual feeling of team, without the pressure of the "win the game" attitude is healthy, and it is something that I enjoy doing myself. While my kids have seen me fail, they've also seen me succeed in a big event, and it's something that I want to have them see in their dad. I hope Tripp continues to race into the years to come, and that I can be there with him while I still can.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Karate Journey

While it may not be a race, per se, it seems that, instead of putting out just another rarely-updated blog, this one is the best place in my personal blogosphere to begin talking about martial arts. It at least is somewhat fitness related, and a better location in my overall pursuit of fitness and personal self than other places.

My martial arts journey starts at Sac State under the instruction of Sensei Joan Neide. Like most Sacramento Uechi karateka, I begin as a student fulfilling my PE credits in a way that seemed much more fun than just a simple tennis class, or weights training, or other... Neide Sensei introduces us to a very traditional form of Okinawan Karate, steeped in tradition, and based in classic, but simple (or so it seemed) forms. I work, I complete, and I extend, finding the experience fulfilling enough to join her in extra-curricular classes where she taught her continuing students on Friday evenings. It was there that I find others who were fully committed and passionate about Uechi Ryu, and also where I meet Sensie Van der Volgen.

Fast forward a year, and I am training five to ten hours a week, picking up some weekday classes with Neide Sensei, focusing on two evenings out at East Portal Park with Robb Sensei, and pursuing Uechi with a passion. Three years of solid training, and a definite progression under Robb's tutelage, and I my art, I can't see myself doing much more. And then real life intrudes, I'm married, with a household, a demanding job, a past-time with computer gaming work, and too many things pulling me in different directions. My next two years of training are spotty, at best. I still feel myself a Uechi Ryu karateka, but essentially drop out of progressing, just showing up enough to realize how little I am advancing.

Then comes 2006, my year of no longer being fat. My weight has continually increased to a peak of 215 pounds, and I hate it. I spend so much time sitting at the computer at work, and at the computer at home, and no part of my life includes exercise. I start Weight Watchers and lose ten pounds. A friend of mine encourages me to run once (huffing and puffing behind him), and I begin a virtuous cycle of fitness and weight loss. And it was also in this year that I start Ying Jow Pai Eagle Claw Kung Fu. How gruelling! A system heavily into high leg kicks gets the heart pounding, and the amount of work I put in is intense! I spend an entire year with Eagle Claw, to realize that, while beautiful and effective, I will never have the flexibility to be a good Kung Fu practitioner. I have learned enough to believe that there is value in each system, but that some systems are appropriate for some individuals, and for me, Eagle Claw was never going to be that.

Now to 2011, I have four kids, and want martial arts in my life again, yet life is even that much harder. Damon is invited to "buddy day" at Kovar's, loves it, and wants to participate, and yet most exposure I have to Kovar's comes from working out with Kovar's Black Belts dropping in on a class of Uechi, and whining and hating it, and me looking at them like they're lousy. Yet, this could be a way to continue martial arts, albeit not my preference, but to do it as a whole family, so I join in the first trial month.



A month later and four of us are enrolled in classes, I'm not missing a workout, and I'm enjoying the arts again. I still think my concerns are valid, Kovar's is pretty indiscriminate about their student expectations (compared to what I'm used to), and allows students to continue with a much more objective and less subjective set of criteria for advancement. In other words, you get what you want out of it and can get by with not-quite-enough in my opinion of skill, and yet still progress through belts if you've shown up and learned, with very little in skill at the skill as part of the measurement. However, I also see some martial artists coming out of the system who are fantastic, and realize that it's possible to get a good, but different, set of learnings from what they teach, and it's valuable enough for me to continue. In short, you get out of it what you want.

And now, it's 2014, I've almost reached the level of belt at Kovar's that I have at Uechi, and I begin reflecting on my arts, since it is definitely part of growth. I definitely still consider myself a Uechi practitioner first and foremost, but I believe I'll get my black belt from Kovar's first, and I'm not disappointed by that. I've learned a lot of practical skills, spent hours working on drills that instill a practical art, yet have left behind the forms of its traditional roots. The things I have learned have definitely rounded me out a lot, and given me new exposures to things outside of the realm of one particular art. I still try and drop in on a Uechi class a few times a year, but I can't find the time to commit to being there when it means three to four hours away from home, versus ninety minutes. And so I'll be a Kovar's black belt, yet a Uechi karateka, and somehow make that my style, incorporating it the same way I have my week of tai chi in Costa Rica, my ten or so hours of Jiu Jitsu, my year of Eagle Claw, my Thailand trip to a muay thai gym... all to be my art. And yet, when I have my moment to the mat of solitude, it's still Seisan that I warm up with, and I still try to find the Sanchin in everything I do. Perhaps I'm still just learning.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ironman California Oceanside 70.3

SportTimePaceRankAG
Swim 41:04 2:07/100m 1763/2283 275/331
T19:15
Bike 3:51:51 14.5 mph 2095/2263 321/329
T25:42
Run 1:57:42 8:59/mi 834/2203 145/322
Total 6:45:34 1711/2203 272/322


My First Tri Since the DNF

So you DNF your first race. It's depressing, quite a downer, and de-motivates you from continuing. Three years later, when you decide to sign up for another race, you train hard and work your best not to DNF, right? Well... I thought I would. I got panniers so that I could commute to work on my bike. I planned several swims. I trained for CIM and Shamrock'n. No sweat! Except that... I didn't do any of that except the running part. In 2012 and '13, I rode 120 miles, total, 47 of that leading up to the race (and none over 21.7 miles). For swimming, I trained once each in May, June, August, and October, and then once two weeks prior to the race. So training up for IM 70.3? Yeah, didn't do that. But I've learned that I can complete a 70.3, as long as I'm just there to finish. I can't fake it on a full IM.

T minus One

Oceanside is a beautiful city, and thus, when presented with a place to go and watch a race and a holiday weekend as well, my parents, my sister and her kids, and my whole lot came down to join us for Easter and a race. We had a pleasant holiday the days before the race in Tahoe, and drove down as a family to Oceanside to enjoy the Easter holiday on the beach. Meeting up with the family was a relaxing way to spend the time, and I enjoyed being able to stop by and pick up my bib and gear while the kids of both families spent time playing together.

I dropped off the gear the day before, made my way through the vendor area, and grabbed my bib. Having realized on the trip down that I'd forgotten my sunglasses, I took advantage of the sales to buy myself a new pair of Rudy Project sunglasses. We spent the evening with the family, and I prepared to race the next day. Despite having five people crammed into a tiny two-queen room (since one decided to stay with the cousins), and a sub-optimal way of getting ready in the morning (trying not to wake up the kids), I woke up in the morning, hopped on my bike with my gear in hand, and made my way to the swim start.

Being part of a tri club, it's not uncommon to run into fellow members out at a local race. So when the person next to me at swim start at a race hundred of miles from home saw my jersey, and commented that he was a member too, I was shocked. It was great having a fellow club member, Silas Bauer, at the race with me. As we prepared for the start, it gave me a great opportunity to chat, and stay centered as the moment for the start arrived.


The Swim

When I swam in IM Arizona, I realized that most of my training meant little. By that, I mean that within a few hundred meters, any speed or agility had been depleted, and I was left with Dory's mantra. For half the distance, it still felt the same way. I hadn't trained this time, so the initial energy reserves lasted a bit less, but the same general feel of "just keep swimming" was present through the forty-odd minutes of swimming. The swim start was pleasant enough, and the course meandered out into the bay, then back towards the beginning in somewhat of an L shape, but I'm not a super strong swimmer. Folks continued to pass me all swim long, and I just keep going and going. 1.2 miles isn't very far, especially compared to my previous 2.4. I felt strong enough coming out of the swim, and was happy to get out of my wetsuit and move on to the second stage of the race.

Camp Pendleton, aka the Bike


I was probably most excited about the improvement of the bike course for this race versus Arizona. In Arizona, it's a long, straight stretch, there and back, with multiple laps. For Oceanside, the route goes up the coast, wanders through the mountains, and heads back into town in one long loop. The area was beautiful, even if there were posted marines all through the course (you are on a base through half of it!), and the change in scenery and altitudes was fantastic.
I in no way worked hard. 14.5 mph is a pace I can keep up near indefinitely, and I knew my biking wasn't strong, so I didn't push myself at all. My goal was to stay healthy, keep moving, get enough fuel (six honey stingers), and make it out to my strong sport. I definitely met that goal. I used my action cam to record the bike, though only captured the first twenty minutes. If you want to see me get passed by loads of riders, you can check it out on YouTube.

The Run!

Sub 9s was way better than I expected. As I mentioned in the intro, running was the only sport I really trained on in the previous year, so saving up enough energy by taking it easy on the bike (and getting passed constantly), meant that my run consisted of non-stop passing of other athletes. It's a great feeling to spend two hours running past person after person. I never slowed, I had plenty of energy (though I was tired), and I kept booking it till the end. Being in the slowest of 10% of the riders was definitely balanced by being in the top half of the runners. It was a great way to finish the race, and it was a blast getting to run by the family who were busy playing at the beach during my run. D and my parents were able to catch me on the run as I went by, and D even made it to the finish for me crossing the finish line. The feeling of completing the race after my last let down was great, and I'm glad to have come back to the sport without a DNF. Next time, though , I'll definitely need to train more.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shamrock'n Half Marathon - Take 7

Div PlacePlaceTimePace
74/382477/619001:45:04.88:01 min/mi

Oops, this is number seven, not eight

One thing I like about this race is that, well, it feels like home. Shamrock'n was my first race ever, and even in the last couple years of not racing, I've still continued to do it every year; even if training for it meant a couple of runs ahead of time, and nothing
more. On my bib, I wrote "Shamrock'n #8", but I realized before it started that it really was only #7... Oops! Oh well, Sharpie to the rescue.

This year, thanks to CIM, I was a lot better trained. Harry and Joy had been doing more running than I had, but I had joined them on a sixteen mile run starting up Costco hill, as well as a few other runs. So while I only did 10 runs in the two and a half months leading up to Shamrock'n, they averaged 7 miles each. I was pretty sporadic, though: two runs one week, zero the next, two the following, then zero, then three... you get the picture. Harry, on the other hand, is back into marathon prep, and is pretty solid in his training. As usual, I went into this fully expecting to be beaten again... as did he.

Race day

So packet pickup done, race day comes. I have been working to cheapen up on my running: gatorade is free at work, so why am I buying Gu (or actually, Raspberry Hammer Gel)? That said, I spent a month's worth of Gu money downgrading my water bottle. Don't get me wrong, I love my Camelbak, but I've watched coworkers switch to the smaller ones for shorter runs, and I was hoping to carry less weight on my arms. Harry and Joy had both decided to try this marathon solely on supplied hydration, but I'm too much of a wimp to go that far. I bought myself Nathan's little bottle. Enough to get me from stop to stop.

So after dropping off my bag with my STC buddies, we were off to the start just as the gun was going off, just like last year. While I believe that is not a way for me to get a PR, for that every second counts at this point, I wasn't going for a PR this year... that was Harry's job. I was just hoping to stay social through the start, and maybe the first half or quarter mile, then start picking up the pace after the warm-up.

The rest of the race went pretty normally. The small bottle worked great. Using the race fuel was plenty sufficient, though looking back, I guess Nuun doesn't have any carbohydrates, so I really only fueled up with my single Gu
packet? Guess I should check closer next time! My performance wasn't stellar, but wasn't bad either, coming in fourth of my thirteen road halfs. The better news is that Harry broke his PR (which he missed by only seconds last year), so the main goal of the race was a success! On sadder news, I still beat Harry, even though he out-trained me. Coming into mile twelve, he had to pace back for a bit, and I wasn't willing to give up anything at that point. We were still within shouting distance, as he responded to my call-out of mile 13! Oh, and starting at the back of the wave, I get to use my favorite statistic again... I passed 4,939 people on the run, in a field of 6,190!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

California International Marathon - CIM 2012


Div PlacePlaceTimePace
331/4454088/649604:45:1210:56 min/mi

The Race - A Timeline View

I've decided to try something a little different with my blog this time. Instead of a long, textual experience, I figured a timeline with what was happening and going through my head would be a bit more fun, as well as give a better view of what my pace and everything was like.

Wakeup, morning breakfast of a bagel and some PowerAde, followed by a Clif bar later. Get the morning prep done, and off to Harry’s at 4:45.
-3:15
-2:00
Arrive at Harry’s, have a chance for some discussion on last-minute plans, get ready for the morning, and head off by 5:20 to the bus stop.
Bus stop at the Convention Center, grab the second to last bus, with only 6 people on board. Didn’t realize until I checked later that the busses were only supposed to run 5-5:30. The walk to the stop was pleasant; light rain, moderate temperature. The bus drive to Folsom was insane, the bus was being blown across lanes by the intense wind, rain made visibility tough, and we could hear chatter from other drivers getting lost.
-1:15
-0:30
Getting ready to race. Final stop at the zillions of port-o-johns (they stretched for over a hundred yards), and to get the sweats bag dropped off. It’s so windy and rainy, people are hanging out in the busses. I’m so frazzled by the insane weather, I forget to finish tying my shoes, and forget to take off one layer under my jacket. Oh, and I left my garbage bags (make-shift rain gear) at home, so I guess I’m wearing my actual rain jacket.
Race start! Over seven thousand runners, ready to go. Seems like very few people dropped out due to rain. (6496 official finishers)
Go!
9:03
Mile 1
Dodge bags all mile long. Seems like half the runners decided to ditch the rain gear for the run.
Eek! Shoe untied. That’s what I get for being out in the rain not 100% prepared. Ditch Harry, tie it, then try and find him as I catch up.
8:30
Mile 2
Shoe number two goes out, shoe one is too loose. Ditch Harry again, tie both, then lose Harry for over a mile. Our plan to find him doesn’t work, as I pass him apparently, then slow down on hill to find him again.
7:39
Mile 3
8:22
Mile 4
Left shoe’s too tight. Stop one last time, this time at a water stop and adjust. The top of my left foot feels like it’s bruising, and I can’t go on with it like it is. Ow!
8:43
Mile 5
Definitely not running my best. Race times are usually 8s, I’m closer to 9s. A bit tired through the hills, but it could be the rain and wind doing it, too. Ah well, no PR definitely (but I didn’t expect it due to the weather and training).
8:55
Mile 6
8:38
Mile 7
Into old Fair Oaks, Harry is definitely doing better than I am, a bit more energy, and bit better performance. I guess training well pays off, eh? My knee has been hurting me for a mile now, enough that dropping out is at front of mind if it doesn’t take more than a mile or two to go away. Foot still hurts too.
9:07
Mile 8
8:52
Mile 9
8:45
Mile 10
9:04
Mile 11
See you Harry. Good luck on your run. Glad we could run this far together, and I’m happy to see you feeling confident enough to take off.
Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Thanks for braving the weather to come out and see me. Nice job weather-proofing the SLR, I hope it survived okay.
9:44
Mile 12
9:29
Mile 13
And hello to the rest of my family. Stop and walk to give hugs to everyone, even though I’m soaked. Still too cold and wet to give up any clothes, so it’s just a quick hug and hello, then back off to the run. The kids have already seen me DNF once. Now that the foot and knee pain are tolerable, I’m not backing down. Estimated finish: 4:15-4:30
1:58:46 – my second worst half marathon time. Definitely not doing great this run. As long as I’m not doing well, might as well stop at the port-o-john to make this more comfortable.
10:13
Mile 14
10:19
Mile 15
10:33
Mile 16
Time to start kicking in to a walk/jog. Things are starting to hurt, and I feel the same cramping coming on that I had at mile 15 on my training. Guess it wasn’t just electrolyte issues, just a matter of under-training.
12:19
Mile 17
12:24
Mile 18
Definitely getting very slow. Run till I feel the cramps come on, walk till I feel them go away. Watching pace groups go by, and estimate about a best-case 4:30 finish.
12:30
Mile 19
12:49
Mile 20
At least I have lots of company. Loads of runners are now in the same walk/jog boat I’m in.
14:56
Mile 21
Thanks for the beer!
13:22
Mile 22
Nothing will change from this point on. Just keep up the miles, track the mini goals (Watt/Fulton/Howe, check!) and find my way to the finish… eventually. I hurt, but not enough to stop.
12:22
Mile 23
13:12
Mile 24
Quarter pint of Guinness? Don’t mind if I do! Bonn Lair always has a group of supporters there to keep runners content. Harry even had a full pint when he realized he wouldn’t hit four hours.
13:23
Mile 25
13:05
Mile 26
Official Finish: 4:45:12
.2
Official Pace: 10:56 ... ugh!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ragnar Relay - San Francisco to Napa Valley

LegMileageDifficultyPaceRoad Kills
#22.7 miEasy7:45 min/mi7
#144.7 miModerate7:45 min/mi3
#268.3 miVery Hard7:45 min/mi24

31 hours, 36 legs, 194 miles

For those that don't know what Ragnar is, there are currently fifteen relays offered across the US, from Cape Cod to Huntington Beach, the Keys to the Northwest Passage. All of the races are about 200 miles, and made up of teams of 12 (or 6 if you're an Ultra team) runners. Each runner runs 3 legs, averaging 17 miles total over 30 or so hours. For the Napa race, we start just below the Golden Gate Bridge, make our way up the coast to wind our way through Napa Valley, and end in Calistoga.

The race itself was a lot of fun. Thirty hours stuck in an aromatic van with six people, shuttling from place to place, supporting each other, running, competing, and having fun. Kim, Kerri, Kelli, Cyndi, Harry... thank you for making it a great fun time. Amy, thanks for organizing the whole thing! And Jenn, Kathy, Anthony, Chris, and Joshua... thanks for being my barely-seen partners in van 2. Seventeen miles wasn't really enough to justify there days of race time, and if I do this again, I think I'll do it on an ultra team, but it was definitely a whole lot of fun.

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

The main thing about this race, is that so much of your time is spent on logistics. With three to five mile runs, you're spending the first few minutes of each exchange trying to let the last runner stretch, relax, and settle down, then rushing out to the next exchange to make sure the next runner is in place before the current runner finishes.

On the longer runs, the same thing, except we get the chance to stop a couple miles in to the run, check on the runner, then move ahead to do the same another mile or two down the road.

On the breaks between vans, it's just enough time to get a bit of food, rest for a couple hours, then it's right back to the course to start again. I guess that's why one of their event shirts says "Run Drive Sleep? Repeat"

Van #1 -- the better van

Van #1Van #2

Better runners? Better attitude? No, really, I'm just talking about the better legs. Morning start, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Evening runs -- meaning we get a chance to sleep at night. And then morning runs -- we get to skip the 100+ degree heat.

My three legs were as follows: Leg #2 - 2.7 miles from the end of the Golden Gate Bridge quickly downhill into Salinas, and faster than my normal 5k pace! -206 feet in less than three miles... brilliant. Leg #14 - 4.7 miles of generally flat roads, with one large hill in the middle in Petaluma, starting in the early evening and finishing at dusk, pacing low 7s except for the hill at 9s. Leg #26 - 8.3 miles of moderately hilly roads along Highway 12 in Sonoma at 7am on Saturday.

A Slab of Lab or a Smear of Deer?

Road Kills are a new idea to me, and from my research, specific to this type of long-distance relay. Road kills are essentially a count of how many people you pass along the race. Could you do this on a normal race? No way -- I mean, I passed over 7,000 people on my first Disneyland Half, so there's no way to count that. But on a race with around 400 teams, spread out across 15 different start waves, and intentionally ungrouped, then counting your kills becomes possible.

So race leg one, just under three miles, and I pass seven people. Leg two, low sevens except for a single hill, and just under six miles... and I pass three people? By that time, I knew that single digit kill counts was pretty normal, but I figured with a good pace, three seemed too low. So going into my long segment on Saturday morning, I didn't have too much hope for a great number. Yet I passed twenty-four people on that leg!

The great part about kills, though, isn't passing people, it's the ability for small goals to push you faster. A person a few hundred feet ahead? Time to pick up the pace. A group ahead... gold mine! Sub-7s? Mid-to-low 7s? There's no question that having some intermediate goals helped keep me energy going, even on the third day while running on two and a half hours of sleep.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

California Kids Triathlon

If you've read my blog post on PEKT, you could almost skip this blog, because this race was near identical. Similar results from the kids, similar (or the same) course, and a good time had by... most. Once again, the race was great, the organization was fantastic, and as a family, it was a great experience. Going out to a race sure beats plopping ourselves in front of the TV, or iPad, and I hope we get to do it many, many more times.

If you don't train, can you expect to get better?

Most of the kids have been gone since a few days after the last triathlon, and came back just two days before this one, so did they have a chance to train, and improve? Not really. So expectations coming into this triathlon were about the same as last time: just go out, have fun, and finish the race. And for most of us, that's exactly what happened.

Race morning arrives, and hits JT and Jordan the hardest, by far. They've been used to staying up well past midnight in Utah, and now it's 5am and they have to be up and ready to go. Add in some post travel issues for JT, and he's definitely not in the best shape to race.
No breakfast (though I had made a late night run for bananas, bagels, and oranges... he just chose not to eat), an aching stomach... I don't envy him a bit. He says he's fine, but I know what exercising on an entirely fuel-deprived body is like... not fun.

For the rest of the kids, the race was a much more positive experience. Jordan has since expressed that, not only does she like triathlons, but that is her sport of choice for the upcoming year.
Damon and Tripp both had a great time, and both improved their times and their comfort with doing the triathlon. It also helped immensely having the Bardinis there with lunch on hand, in order to keep the flow of the day much more fluid.

So what's next for the world of family triathlons? Who knows. If we can get the kids out to practice, I'd love to do more, but I don't want to go from race to race without anything in between. JT and Jordan still haven't gotten a chance to decompress from Oklahoma and Utah (they went straight to band camp after the race), and the other two are a bit young for any real training regiments, so time will tell what the next race will be like.
But I do know one thing, this won't be our last triathlon.

Oh, and one more thing, the results:
Swim+T1 Bike T2+RunOverall Place
Jordan8:56.4019:44.2410:55.6939:36.3322/23
Damon4:43.9512:40.895:21.5022:46.3447/84
Tripp6:32.4330:18.814:15.6441:06.8884/84

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blood Sweat and Beers - Auburn Trail 10.5mi

Div PlacePlaceTimePace
36/57143/42701:49:2910:26 min/mi

When a race is radically different than anything you've ran before, how do you tell if you did well? That's what's been running through my mind since seeing my results of the Fleet Feet Blood Sweat and Beers trail run. I mean, I've done trail runs before, but nothing with this kind of elevation profile. Thankfully, data analysis is what I do.

The Results

10:26 pace. Ten... twenty... six. For me, that's awful. I felt good on the run, felt like I accomplished a decent run and decent pace. But mid 10s? I've only done that bad when I bonked hard. So why the bad pace, or was this normal? Fortunately, as a local run by Fleet Feet, there's plenty of opportunity to compare myself to others.

Of the 112 runners I could find that ran both, I was 25th in my Shamrock'n time. For BSB, I was 28th -- pretty consistent. 46 ran faster on Shamrock'n than BSB, 66 slower, so I'm in the majority there. And the average difference was ~10 minutes, so my 1 minute delta is also pretty in-line, in fact, a bit better than expected. So if I use comparative analysis as a measure of success, than I did pretty well. That makes me feel better.

Race Summary

Hills, hills, and more hills. Every racer seemed to complain about the big hill at the end, but take a look at the elevation profile. The end is no different than the entire rest of the race... it's just at mile 10. There are certainly worse runs, but 10-12% grades through a large portion of the course meant that there was a lot of climbing. In fact, at one point, I was jogging behind someone walking up the hill, and realized that I wasn't closing any distance on him. And I'm jogging, why? Yeah, at that point, I started walking some of the worst hills.

The people along the course were very friendly. I ran along side two runners through most of the race, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, but generally nearby, and got to talk to them quite a bit about the run. I also ran alongside a few other people, and each time, it was great. There was a lot of encouragement to be had, a lot of people enjoying the tough course, and generally a sense, not of race competitiveness, but of social encouragement and engagement. I loved it!

Diane and Tripp, and Robert and Terri came out to see the race, though they missed the start by a few minutes. It was great, though, afterwards having family to see. As well, Micki (former TBF), Paul (from Carmichael Running Club), and a lot of other runners were there at the end to chat with, talk to, and commiserate with over the free beers provided by Hoppy Brewing Company. I mean, the race was named Blood Sweat and Beers, right?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Positive Energy Kids Triathlon

Introduction to Tris for the whole fam

Though I ended up with a bib (the best I've ever gotten) and medal (also the best), I can't say that this was really my race. Given the name, the Positive Energy Kids Triathlon, it was obviously a race geared towards kids. However, with Parent/Child divisions, Diane and I participated with Damon and Tripp, while Jordan and JT went out on their own.

So let me start by saying, this race lives up to its name. It's about having a good time, teaching kids about racing, and making everything fun for all the athletes. There are a lot of upsides to the race, the only downside being the wave start times (JT - 8am, Jordan - 8:55am, Tripp and Damon - 11:30am), a large split and a long day.

JT's Race

I think JT came in with the highest hopes, the most enthusiasm, and left with the most disappointment. More on that in a moment, but let's start with pre-race preparation. JT has been forced to bike on Mark's old mountain bike for the past year, so coming up to the race, it was time to get him a newer bike. Our goal was to find a nice road hybrid, but with how small he is, that wasn't a financially feasible option, so we went for second best: a really light, small framed mountain bike by Trek. The bike is great, and he rode it for tens of miles leading up to the race, preparing himself to kick butt on the bike segment.

I think for both of the older two, the biggest anxiety came from the swim, so JT also spent a lot of time at Grandma's swimming laps, getting himself sure that he could complete the whole swim competitively. And a mile run? Cake. So coming in, he was ready to be a competitor, and enjoy himself.

So it's race day, and swim time, and he's ready to go! JT did a couple warm-up laps, and then a couple times across the pool as they figured out where the start was from. Alas, with a hundred yards already complete, when it came time to swim, JT started
out too strong, got fifty yards in, and had already depleted his swim ability. He'd completed the whole distance (150 yards), just not during the race. This is where the "Positive Energy" comes in in PEKT. He wasn't DQ'd, he was just asked to come out with the final swimmer, and went to compete in the rest of the race.

The rest of the race went great, and JT was pretty positive coming out. But over the next few weeks, its obvious that the DNF in the swim has hit him emotionally, and he seems less excited about doing another race. Guess we just need to make sure he competes again and gets over it!

Jordan's Race

Of all of the kids, Jordan is the most experienced racer. Though this was her first tri, she's done enough runs to have race day nerves abated. She was cool, calm, patient, and ready to start long before the race began.

Jordan had several friends competing, and they took top spots in the race. For Jordan, finishing fast has never been the goal, just having fun, and doing great... and that she did. Just under six minutes on the swim (75 yards, plus T1), twelve and a half on the bike (2 miles), and a seven minutes on the run (half mile, plus T2). She came in 14th out of the 19 competitors in her age group, and came out with plenty of energy to keep having fun, and the desire to keep racing more and more!

Tripp and Damon

Diane and I accompanied Tripp and Damon on their races. 25 yards in the pool (once across), a mile on the bike, and a quarter mile on the run. I was, and am, proud of our little guys for doing this race! Tripp, at two years old, was the youngest racer on the field. And Damon biked so fast, Mom couldn't keep up with him running. Damon had a smile on the whole race, and Tripp hasn't stopped talked about his "Tri-apple-on" since.

I can't talk too much about Damon and Diane's race, other than Damon's competitive go-go-go spirit through the whole thing, and the smile I see on every picture we have of the race. That, and the fact that he just barely was out of training wheels, but raced hard on the bike... hard enough to blow past Diane's running capability. But being the one accompanying Tripp, there are plenty of adventures on the race that bring me smiles.

Like JT, Tripp came in without a bike that could get him racing. The race directors are pretty lenient on everything, but tricycles are not an option. So two days before the race, Tripp got a new bike with training wheels. A day before the race, he was practicing non-stop at the park. And by race day, he was wheeling along, mostly on his own.

Tripp and Damon both rocked the swim, with no help needed, and a drive to reach the other side. Damon was out fast on the bike, and Tripp was pretty ready to go by the time we reached the Bike Start. He did pretty good on his own, but about half way through the bike ride (29 minutes is a long time for a 2 year old), every bench was calling his name, and every playground was the place he wanted to be. But finding
the arrows on the ground made for a path he could follow to the end, and other than his inability to make it on the uphills alone, he did great.

Both boys finished up fantastically, and though Tripp and I were the last ones across the finish line (they actually started tearing it down before someone told them we were still out on the course), we actually had two other families with longer times than ours! (41 for us, 47 and 49 for the slowest finishers). And Damon's 23 minutes was fantastic!

I can't recommend enough this race for families. We'll be out again in early August to race it again for the California Kids Triathlon (same course, same group). This time, we'll do even better!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shamrock'n Half Marathon - Year Seven

Div PlacePlaceTimePace
63/274560/537301:48:108:15 min/mi

People I Passed: 3,210
People Who Passed Me: 16

The Race

Let me start with the differences between this year and last. Last year, I started training about a week ahead of time, with just a couple of small runs. This year, I'd run a half marathon the week before! Last year, I ran alone. This year, I ran the first 12 miles with Harry. Last year, I expected to do horribly. This year.... I still expected that, though hopefully better than last year. Last year, I ran my third-to-worst time for a half. This year, I was right in the middle of my results.

I've blogged before about the route, so I don't need to cover that, other than confirming that I do like it. The one thing I can talk about in this blog is the difference in jogging with Harry through the first twelve miles. Harry had definitely out-trained me... as usual for the last few years. However, since we had been running together for the prior month, we were in a good position to run together for the first part of the race. It's not unusual for us to run the first several miles together, or one of my best races had us running 11 miles together, then splitting for a final push. This time, we ran our longest distance together in any race; twelve miles.

We had a very solid start, and kept it up well. We were almost late to the start, so were some of the last ones to cross the start line, and thus we made good time, and passed a lot of people as we kept a steady pace. The advantage to running together is that, when one of you starts to flag in energy, the other can keep you going, and Harry definitely did this in the first half of the race. By the second half of the race, our roles were reversed. I don't think Harry has really pushed himself at the end of the race with the mentality of "I only need to push for this much further..." So at the half way point, I'm talking about us being half way there. At mile 10, it's about having only 3 miles to go, and visualizing the quick warm-up runs we do to see how little there is left to go. At mile twelve, Harry didn't have anything left to continue winning the mental game, and I took off. Little did he know that, if he had stayed with me (and probably could have!), he'd have gotten a PR. But he stayed strong, and so did I, and we both came in with good times for us.

It was a great run and race, and my most social half marathon ever. I really look forward to doing one like this again!