A PW, a slow race, plenty of social time, and the time I deserved!
In the year prior to this half, I ran a total of less than 10 miles. That includes the two 5k races I did ahead of this half, including one the day before. So could I expect a good result? Definitely not. But perhaps, given that, finishing is its own success? If so, I’ve definitely lowered my expectations.
My splits for this race highlight a moderately slow start, and continued and consistent slowdown through the course of the race. I walked once at mile three, then by mile nine, was doing walking, then jogging, then walking, then jogging through to the end. I did meet up with a fellow slow runner at that point, and we spent most of the last hour chatting about racing, friends, etc. Just a nice “get to know you” and “encourage you along” chat to reach the finish line.
With absolutely no training, it’s about the best I can expect, so in a way, I’m happy I went forward and completed the run, but there’s nothing about this that says “I kickstarted back into running,” nor did it lead to a refresh of being a runner. It was just a nice day for a longer run, and a good excuse to get some miles in that I haven’t done in several years.
The triathlete training bible talks a lot about different type of races. “A” races being the big one or two you train for in the year, “B” races being ones you put effort into, but don’t push and train to the edge, and “C” races being those that you do, just as part of training, and just to do. No pushing, no risk, you’re just there because you love to race. That’s what Clarksburg was to me; a chance to do a 20 mile, pre-marathon, typical Sunday training run. In that light, I got exactly what I wanted out of the run, I finished, I had good times with a friend, I accomplished some speed work I never thought myself capable of, and I loved it. As a bellwether to my CIM success, all signs point to positive. Yay me!
Let me just say, this is what was meant by “Avenue of the Vines,” not the “Bovines” event. The course was beautiful, the day was perfect, I couldn’t have asked for better run conditions. The course meandered through the streets of Clarksburg, a small town just along the river, south of Sacramento. Parts of the run went through wineries, parts through country roads, parts along the levy above the river tributary. It was amazing, quaint, and perfect. In a heartbeat, I’d do this run again.
I usually title this part, “The Race,” but since I wasn’t really racing, I’m just going to call it the run. As a training run, I didn’t push myself at all. I told Harry when I was trying to get him to do this (which he had a good excuse for missing, being in Oregon),
that I wouldn’t race it, but would rather run alongside him the whole time. Well, Harry didn’t show, but Amanda did! So, I extended the same idea over to running with Amanda, and we did the first 15 miles of Clarksburg together, chatting, keeping our minds off of injuries, and just enjoying the beautiful course. Thanks, Amanda! I would rather run with friends any day, and it’s friends who’ve helped me get to where I am today.
So anyway, the first fifteen miles were pretty mild. We paced in the low 9s to start, but as injuries and a week of sickness began to catch up with Amanda (I still can’t believe she ran twenty miles after being sick all week long), our pace slowed down to the mid 10s. Around mile ten, I forewarned Amanda that I might take off around mile fifteen, depending on how we were doing. Well, right at fifteen, Amanda’s injuries really started to get to her, our pace was down to about 11s, and I felt the need to push myself a little more. So I took off for the last five miles… and it was awesome.
For the last five miles, I was running (depending on headwinds) between 6:50s and 8:20s. I would have never thought that, after fifteen miles (my longest run ever at that point), I could kick it up to run sub 8s. Frank, at mile 18 or so, told my that I could catch up with Hiroshi, and try I did. Just thirty seconds, he said, and at the 400 meter mark, I saw Hiroshi ahead. His pace was slower than mine, and I thought I had him, but that 400m mark put a fire under his feet and he sped up, leaving me to come in just a few seconds behind him. It was a nice push to bump up my speed just a little more, and I had a great time doing it.
If you were to ask TBF coach Dan Foster about fueling, there’d be a quick answer, almost a mantra: early and often. After this week, I can totally agree with that, not even just on the performance of the day, but on its affect on subsequent days.
Sunday, I raced the 7th annual Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon (see below), and did fine, but raced that as a training run, not as a real race. Two days later, I ran 7.5 miles with Harry, and really struggled. Our pacing was ~9:20, and I was the driver of that. At mile 1, I was already gu’ing (or in my case, Hammer Gel). By mile 3.5, I felt like I’d run 8 already. By mile 6, I was exhausted, and it was taking everything I had to keep going. If I can’t do 28 miles in a week, how am I supposed to do 26.2 in one day?!
In retrospect, I believe it to be 100% a fueling issue. Monday night, I did a weights workout, then went to bed. Tuesday morning, I did 30 minutes of cardio on a bike, a weights workout, and then a workout with my PT. Throughout the day, I ate about 1500 calories of food, then went on the 7.5 mile run. I was already in a deficit before I even started the run…
And the big lesson of the week was this: for the two days following it, I was tired, exhausted, and felt ill — all from exercising on a heavy deficit. So when I think “early and often,” I need to think beyond just that day, but realize that failing to do so can knock me out for a couple days. Not only does that undo the work I did by working out unfueled, but it sets me back. So early and often needs to apply to my every day life — plan out my workouts, eat for success, and stick to the plan.
Out on the home turf, the course is beautiful, the run lightly challenging, the logistics well executed, and the weather and timing were perfect. While my performance might not have been superb, the course definitely met and exceeded my expectations. Would I do this run again? Absolutely. Will I beat my time next year? I better!
Friday night, I had my first Master’s swim class. Now, that’s something for my training logs, not here, but it definitely affected my pre-race readiness; my calves cramped up badly in the kicking drills, and by Saturday morning for my warmup jog, they were still hurting. Sunday, as I got ready to run 4B, I could still feel the pain inside my calves. Not the right way to start a run.
Harry told me ahead of time that he wasn’t going to be making the run, but I was still expecting Amanda. Looking around, I did run into Mark E, a few STC fellows (Frank, Hiroshi, good to see you both!), and Micki and Paige, but by start time, I was alone. Oh well, I was here to train, and train I shall do!
Beautiful, scenic, hilly… altogether a great location, which is why it’s a great place to train. The mile markers were amazing, 25 foot tall poles with large banners. The new experiences on a course like this? Not being able to see the people beyond right in front of you, and not seeing the mile markers until your on them. And the worst of that, not seeing the next water station… which has big gu timing impact.
Thankfully Micki warned me ahead of time to save some energy for the last mile, or I’m not sure I would have been ready for such a long uphill, but as the announcer said as I sprinted across the finish line, I saved too much. For anyone doing this, the last half mile or so is all uphill, from the lake level up to Natomas St, and not the gradual version that you have during the start. A few switchbacks, and a steeper ascent, and you’re quite glad you’re done after that.
I underperformed compared to my last two races, but I didn’t taper off in prep (10.5 miles on Tuesday, a Master’s swim on Friday, and five miles the day before), and I didn’t push myself to the limits, so I’m not disappointed. In fact, I got exactly what I expected out of the race; a little worse than my normal, but not horrible. And considering the knee injury, the hills, and my cramped calves, I probably performed better than previous races.
I tried using Clif Cran-Razz electrolyte drink in my water bottle instead of water, and I believe I’ll go back to the basics. Electrolyte tabs, Hammer Gel, and pure water for my personal stock of fuel. I’m still not comfortable sticking to
race-supplied water, even though that seems the norm. I like to fuel when I need it, and to take gel, that means having my own water. For this race, not being able to see the water stops ahead, and thus gu in time to finish before the stop, that was probably a good thing.
Place: 228/239, 4:45:28 Swim + T1: 0:27:29, Bike + T2: 3:50:35, Run: 0:27:24 Course: 750m swim, 31k MTB, 5k run
I was not ready for this, it was too cold, and overall not an enjoyable experience. Had I been more than a novice MTB’r, and had the weather been like that of Sunday, I probably would have enjoyed the race. However, between the weather and my poor performance, I’m disappointed in the race for myself. I’m not sure whether I will do this race again next year, but if I do, it’ll only be if I train considerably more than I did this year.
I got roused from bed at 10pm the night before by Amanda for good reason… it had started to snow (see the pic above). What a great way to start a race. :-/ Fortunately, one of my co-workers had forewarned me of the possibility, and I had stopped at REI on my way to race day and picked up $200 of cold weather gear. If not for this, there would be no way I would have even finished.
The morning of the race was freezing, as expected. Reading race reports and hearing from friends, it was still sub-30 degrees when I got out to the venue (6:30am). The night low was 20 degrees, and the day high was 52. Ugh. Getting ready, my feet and hands were already going numb, which isn’t a good sign. Just look at the ice collecting on my bike seat while waiting.
The venue, Incline Village NV, was great. It’s close to some perfect MTB trails, the beach access was good, and while the distance from beach to transition was long, for a MTB venue, it’s a great spot. Go figure, since it was picked as a championship venue. Our cabin was only two blocks from the start, so it was perfect for walking to and from the venue as needed.
When the water in Lake Tahoe is warmer than the air, and you’d rather stand in the water than on the beach, something’s a bit wrong. It was actually painful standing barefoot on the wet sand, and I was amazed that the warmup swim was more enjoyable than standing around waiting.
The great part about the swim is the water clarity. When diving Tahoe, I’ve seen vis >200ft, the maximum distance possible in water. For swimming, this meant sighting was a breeze; I could see the swimmers 10 feet in front of me. It also meant that an no point in the swim could you not see the lake bottom. A bit eerie at 50 feet, but I really enjoyed that part of the swim!
As far as swim results, the lack of T1 separation, the extra time in T1 to ready myself for cold, and the run up the hill in shoes that didn’t work mean I really don’t know how I did in my swim relative to my expectations. It felt fine, not a great performance, but altitude breathing was a factor, and I think my time was adequate. I’d expect 15 minutes for myself, and add in the run and T1, and I probably did 18 minutes.
The Bike Hike
Here’s where it gets sketchy. For those that don’t know me, understand that this was my fourth mountain bike ride… ever. Lesson 1) road biking does not equate to mountain biking. My legs were far from ready for the constant and persistent climbing from the lake to above the tree line. I rode most of the first climb, but the next three major climbs were more hiking than biking, and one surprise hike after some downhills cramped my quads so badly that I had to stop to stretch them for five minutes. Lesson 2) if you can no longer shift because your fingers are so cold, and you worry about losing finger tips to frostbite, it’s too cold to ride. I bought the most cold-weather gloves Pearl Izumi makes, leg warmers, arm warmers, ear warmers, toe covers, and borrowed a friend’s wind breaker (thanks Harry!). Most of that gear was enough to survive and stay reasonably comfortable, except for my hands, which made me miserable and feeling unsafe. There was snow across almost every inch of the course, except for the final ride down the flume trail, and the area above the tree line.
I did find that I had less problems with my cleats and pedals than most other walkers. I could knock enough stuff off of my cleats in one smack against my pedals to clip in every time. That’s one nice thing in favor of the Candy’s (that and I use them on my road bike, so I didn’t have to learn to clip in/out).
The course was beautiful, the views, amazing (as long as you didn’t get distracted and fall off the cliff). In the picture to the left, you can see the trail we rode across on the far left. The picture was taken the following day, so imagine this same trail covered in snow, and this was the first portion of the ride. Beautiful, scenic, and a bit scary.
In short: I was not ready for this bike, and it shows. I did average on everything else, but was 7th to last in the bike for the recorded finishers. All I can say is that I DID finish, on the course that’s for the pros, in weather that was extreme.
Not much to say about this. Running is my favorite sport, the course was nice, though quite a tease as they took you near the finish, then off for another half mile before you actually finished, so I really enjoyed this leg. My pacing was not great for me, but okay (just under 9’s), and I enjoyed finally warming up my numb and cold body. I actually threw on my glove liners and ran with them to try and gain feeling back into my fingers as I ran.
It was a fun run, a great short course, and part of me wishes I had done the 10k trail run and just that.
And yes, I did sport STC colors 🙂
The Nitty Gritty
Excuse my geekdom here, but I need some relative results, absolute numbers are not enough…
Lowlights: ramping up to a 108 degree day, my time, my knee post-race, the size!
The first five miles looked about like the picture to the left…
For those of you who don’t get the reference, here it is another way: I passed 7,136 people while running, the majority of these in my first 5 miles. What this means is that my time was horrible (for me), to say the least. I felt like I was running intervals for those first miles, and yet, it was a whole lot of fun! The nature of the run kept Harry and I together for that time, because even if I’d wanted to go faster, I couldn’t. Sometimes he’d find a path through the people, and I’d sprint to grab it before it disappeared, sometimes I did. That in itself was a fun new scenario.
The day was about as awful as possible, Anaheim was the second hottest city in CA that day, at 108 degrees. The low during the night was mid-70s, putting our race in the 80s and 90s, with >50% humidity. Less than pleasant.
Fireworks went off at the starting line with the gun, which in itself was pretty neat. Then down the outside of the park along the streets, followed by a path through the employee areas into the back of California Adventure. Through CA Adventure, seeing characters there, and employees rooting you on. Then off to the main park, my favorite moment of which was when a character in the Mad Hatter costume is yelling “faster, faster!” in a great Hatter voice, while the teacups are spinning and the music is going behind him. Running through the castle, then back out to the streets.
Several of the rides were turned on, solely for our enjoyment. Then off across the freeway, through boring streets, marching bands playing along, high school cheerleader squads along the route, and lots and lots of water stations. Then through the inside of Angel’s Stadium and around the baseball field, then finally a return back to downtown Disney. The race logistics were solid, the support structure was great; 1900 volunteers and they were still short.
1:59:34 (9:07 min/mi, blech!), 1030 overall, 77th age group. Not good for me, but considering, I’m not too worried about it. I almost feel like it was more fun passing all the people, even with the time hit, just to say I passed over 7000 people! 🙂 Save the PR for another course, and another day. I had a great time, and a great vacation.
My first triathlon, so of course I was one of the first people to show up. I had the second parking spot, and was ready to go. Nerves definitely play a part, but there was no question in my mind that I could finish, just whether I could finish with a time that would satisfy my own goals.. but then again, for most of us, isn’t that always the case? Working for TBF, I’ve seen enough tris that this part of the race didn’t make me nervous, and I was happy to have scores of other STC racers with me that day to chat with and warm up my body with. Support is always one of the most crucial parts of racing.
I’d swam Lake Natoma before, so the changes in temperature as you swim didn’t shock me. The water goes from pleasantly chilly to cold often. What shocked me is how long this swim felt. I’ve definitely gone this far, in fact, do so on almost every swim I do, but with a slightly leaking set of goggles, very low visibility, and being passed again and again, the swim seemed to drag on.
My performance actually was almost dead-on with Amanda and Josh, all of us came within a couple minutes of each other, which based on our “normal” paces, meant Amanda kicked both Josh’s and my butts… go Amanda!
The FIT route climbed up Iron Point, right by work, across the freeway on Prairie City, then up the hill on White Rock. The ride wasn’t particularly difficult, but I felt quite downhearted at my performance. I was going, and going, and yet my pace was poor (for me), and I kept looking at my odometer, disappointed that I was getting further and further from the ability to make my 2:40 goal, just due to the bike.
When we got to the real climb, I could feel my lack of training kicking in. I run a lot. Swimming, I’d gotten into pretty regularly. Yet in my eight months of having a road bike, I’d only put in 200 miles. I knew I could do 24.8 miles, no problem… but I wasn’t prepared to burn out so quickly moving at a race pace. Only one person to blame for that… me.
All that being said, when I turned around from the hill, and started watching my speed, I noticed that I wasn’t slowing down much. My pace after coming down the big hill was staying 20+. The poor performance that had disheartened me so much was due to one of those “silent” uphills, and my spirits started lifting. I may not be able to make my 2:40 goal, but based on the pacing I was doing now, I could definitely beat my 3:00 “bare minimum.” Had I more cycling under my belt, I would have known all of this. Ah well, live and learn, that’s why we keep doing these!
My best sport.. and here’s the biggest disappointment for me in my performance, my legs were cramped the entire time, not because of my running, but because of my lack of bike prep. Ah, the crux of multi-sport, we can’t rely on our strengths in one sport to overcome weaknesses in the others, but must continue to work on all the sports together! So whereas an 8min/mi shouldn’t be difficult, I was thinking I was running 10s (and actually was running sub-8s). I’m actually surprised at the 8s, based on the amount of cramping and how I felt I was progressing, but this was my best sport. So where I was looking at a 2:40 for a goal, I got what everyone has reassured me is a respectable first tri time, at 2:45.
A serious athlete would probably follow up their performance with a nice recovery drink, some protein, and a chance to reflect and relax. But forget that, a big reason I do this is for the camaraderie and friendship! So off to Sweetwater for bottomless mimosas with the friends and support crew. Cheers! And thanks for coming out to my first tri.
Oh, and a huge shout out to Josh for finishing his first tri, with a bike time matching mine from a guy who had his bike just one month! And to Amanda, who’s time is right behind mine… which means in my opinion, she kicked my arse! And a final one to Gabe, who’s broken rib kept him from partaking. I expect you to be out here with us all next time! And you too, Harry, get back in that pool.
If you want a course to hit a PR, this could be it. 13.1 miles of absolutely flat, widely paved, closed roads with nothing in between you and the finish line but other races. For me, well, this was only my second race, and I’ve only been running for seven months, and my first race was at four, so I’d hope I’d improve between then and now, even if just a little.
“This 13.1 mile, flat, fast course, will take place on county roads through the grape vines of Lodi. Enjoy the beautiful scenery with the mustard seed in full bloom.”
Sounds appealing, and the start of the race was at Woodbridge Winery, a promising start. The honest truth, though, is that this course ran by more dairy farms than wineries. In fact, I believe Woodbridge is the only winery I actually remember from the course. Those with hay allergies are strongly advised to use their claritin that morning!
Not nearly as many rooters-on as Shamrock’n, the course was a bit dull in its square corners and long country blocks. The only thing to watch are the backs of the runners passing you, or of those you’re working your way to pass. Still, I can think of worse venues and worse ways to spend my time. I enjoy running, and having people with me is encouraging. If you’re reading this looking at whether to run this race, my suggestion is that you use it as a nice training race, and not think of it as a key goal. It’s a fun place to be, makes for a good long course, and I’ll likely do it again, if it fits within my schedule, but I won’t go out of my way to make it.
Starting with a few glasses of wine from some fun race-bling — nice stemless glasses, we travelled through a series of wineries to wind down the afternoon, then headed out to Rubicon for a bit more relaxation. There’s no better way to finish a race than with the friends and buddies who help me get there. This is part of why I do this, to spend time with friends in healthy and fun ways. Thank you Harry, Amanda, Gabe, and to our supporters Josh and Ruby!
I can’t tell you what a thrill yesterday was. Not only did I exceed my own expectations of anything I would ever have done, but I had an amazing day, filled with fun, excitement, energy, and true joy. I was always told joy could only be found in Christ, but there is no better word to describe yesterday. The energy of life and of friendship is one of the most thrilling and compelling energies I have ever felt.
I have dropped 45 pounds in a year and a half, and I’ve gone from a guy who was sedentary and content, to one who is outgoing and full of energy. My whole self exudes confidence and fun, and I’m amazingly happy.
Now for the details of my run! I expected to finish in 2:15, in fact, I was planning on using Amanda as a pacer, since she has the most steady and perfect pace for long distance running. After mile one, however, I felt the energy of the day pulling on me, and ended up pulling ahead of my two friends, fully unintentionally. By the time I realized we were no longer together, I decided to keep going!
By mile four, I realized I was getting a bit tired, but was feeling like I was getting into that mile eating pace that just keeps on going and going. By mile six or so, there were a couple other guys, both who looked in much better shape than I, that I figured I could keep up with. So I paced them all the way until mile eleven. At any point, I’d pass by one, or another would pass by me, and though I doubt they were pacing me as well, it made for great inspiration and competition.
Each time my energy started to wane, and I’d feel myself starting to fade, I’d remember the lessons from Dr Lau and the running workshop and would just stand upright (straighten my column), relax my legs, and elongate my stride, and all my energy would come rushing back. Along with good solid breathing techniques (three strides in, five strides out, nice slow breaths for strenuous work), my body felt good!
By mile ten, I started passing some of the runners who were starting to run out of energy (like Harry did). That was a great feeling, seeing myself continuing to push those extra miles and knowing that my fears of early over-exertion weren’t holding me back. By the last 200 meters, I had enough to just bump up my energy a bit — not enough for a final sprint, but enough for a nice solid finish. And solid is how it ended.
1:46 for a finish time, averaging 8:06 per mile. My 3-mile pace! I’m so amazingly stoked by my finish, and feel great about it! Yay me! Finisher #309, and #18 in my age group.
On other great notes, Amanda and Harry were able to pace each other for the first 11 miles. And Amanda, my 10 min miler and steady energy and pacer, pulled herself forward to finish with a 9 minute pace, and broke two hours! That was so awesome! Harry was doing equally as well, but encountered his first “wall” and bonked at mile 11. He finished at just over two hours, still an impressive time, and still in the first half of the finishers! I know I would have been right there with him if I hadn’t done that 12 mile Lake Natoma run with Steve Lease and folks (thanks Steve!) And I know Harry’s got it in him to beat that pace by a long shot next time, and he will.
Anyway, that’s more than enough for one blog, but if you can’t tell, I’m still thrilled, and enjoying every bit of the high from doing this. I even think I’ll do a full marathon, this was that awesome. Just another major accomplishment, and I can imagine how wonderful I’ll feel after that.