Posts Tagged 'racing'

Race: Empire Runners Cross Country 2010

The Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders have been fielding a women’s racing team this season, and we are making small steps toward getting a men’s team off the ground. To this end John McDougall and myself joined up with the ladies in Santa Rosa for a USATF Cross Country race. This happened to be the home turf of Carrie, a virtual acquaintance from the Runners’ World Online Forums, who I met in person for the first time.

I had not raced cross country before, and studied the course map with interest before going. The sections had names like “Rocky Roll” and “Gravelator” which all sounded a little challenging. So I showed up wearing my new trail shoes. Having looked at the course a bit I shamefacedly jogged back to the car to substitute something a little lighter. Part of the course was paved, and the rest was mostly smooth dirt and gravel wish some rocks and a couple of steep slopes to make it interesting. So this was basically trail racing only faster, being just 3.4 miles long. Perhaps this would not be too bad, although I was starting to regret having run 14 miles the day before.

The women raced first, the leader finishing in around 20 minutes. Nice. The depth or talent at these USATF events is quite impressive. Carrie was part of host club team, and put in a fast time. I remarked later that she was lucky I lacked a camera, since her “race-face” while kicking for the finish looked quite intimidating. She had a camera, and took the picture below.

The masters men started from the wide line and ran across the grass before joining a paved uphill path. I was startled by the crump crump sound of the cross-country spikes that some of my fellow runners were wearing. Back on the dirt and gravel, I realized that I had gone out too fast and this was a pretty high-caliber bunch I was with. I settled in and let an occasional runner pass me. My road shoes performed just fine until we reached a gravel path that ran down the back base of an earthen dam. I had to slow quite a bit to stay upright, allowing two runners to go by. Oh well. Things got better after that and I held my own for the second and third miles. Part of the loop was run twice, including that downhill, and one runner came by on the second descent. This ticked me off, so I stayed right on his shoulder on the single track that followed, pushing the pace from behind to wear down his kick. As we hit the paved trail again I passed him and managed to look like a proper runner at the finish.  Mid pack, but hey, most of these guys are younger than me.

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Race: Tilden Tough Ten 2010

A cool wind blew fog through the trees at Inspiration Point, and many of the 300 runners kept their sweats on until the last possible moment. Last year the Tilden Tough Ten was held in somewhat unpleasant heat, but we congregated for this year’s race on Sunday in decidedly different conditions. A range of running apparel was on view, with many opting for long sleeves or multiple layers. I crossed my fingers and wore singlet and shorts, my only nod to the conditions being woollen gloves. There was to be no messing around. I was on a mission and I had a plan.

The plan, discussed in a previous post, was basically to take things very easy for the first four miles, get more aggressive on the steep trail section in miles five and six, then go fast for the remaining four miles of hilly asphalt. The mission was to complete all this in under 80 minutes to earn a sub-80 shirt. This was the only award I could reasonably expect since this race draws a very deep talent pool, particularly in my age group.

“Taking it easy” basically meant averaging around 7:30 for the first four, in anticipation of the next two miles being considerably slower. I had figured that if the average pace displayed by my Garmin was no worse than 8:15 by mile six I would have enough speed to retrieve an 8:00 average by the finish. Using the GPS in this fashion allowed me to keep an idea of my progress without having to do any fancy calculations. However, there was a snag with this approach that I should have foreseen. More of that later.

I joined a group sheltering in the lee of the rest rooms, and a vaguely familiar guy in glasses came up and said Hello. “Are you Jim? I read your blog! It’s nice to meet someone famous.” He went on to say some nice things about it. It was only later that I realized that I had been talking to Jeff Teeters, who really is famous in Bay Area running circles. Nice guy.

We started on the initial short uphill, passing over the timing mats being used for the first time in this race, then commenced a longish downhill. Look at the pace – Easy does it! Holding things to 7:30 felt really easy at this point, like starting a marathon. Temperature-wise things were OK too, although we were still sheltered by trees in this area. I took an interest in the other runners, particularly the ones passing me. I know that this course punishes over-aggressive early pacing, and mused about seeing many of these these people again later. I was right about that. Pace was showing 7:20 at the first mile marker, OK for this mostly downhill mile. I ran this first mile sub-7 last year, which was way too fast. The next two miles rolled along uneventfully (7:33, 7:29). Some of the volunteers at the first aid station looked decidedly chilly. I was quite comfortable by comparison, despite being exposed to the crosswind on the open hillside now. The fog grew thicker, blowing up the hillside in clumps at considerable speed. Was there a tailwind component? Not sure. Someone was blowing a whistle up ahead, and an aid station appeared through the murk. Volunteers standing downwind of a truck with outheld cups. Thanks guys and gals. I don’t envy you at all, standing out here in this soup waiting for a bunch of runners to appear. For the half-mile uphill leading to the end of the asphalt I started to exert myself a little, and passed a runner. It still didn’t feel much like a race yet. At the end of the asphalt the pace so far was showing 7:35, which was satisfactory. Now to see haw fast I could manage the dirt section.

I passed two more runners on the rollers just as the leaders passed in the other direction. They looked impressive. Then came the steep downhills, skidding a little in my road shoes but staying in control thanks to to some patches of grass at the edge of the trail. One section here had been chewed up by cow hooves before hardening in the warm weather. It had smoothed out a little in the two weeks since we previewed the course, but still demanded attention. More places gained here. We reached the turnaround and started back up the hill. It was hard to pass anyone here due to the mass of runners coming the other way, but I used occasional gaps like an impatient sportscar driver on a crowded road. On the steepest section I did get somewhat stuck behind one runner and started to power-walk, keeping pace with his short uphill jog. A gap opened and I walked around him. He seemed somewhat startled by this and stated to walk too. A couple of guys ahead were walking as well, and I stated to run again as the slope lessened, passing them also. The strategy seemed to be working.

The pace display was at 7:59 when I regained the asphalt, which was cheering. I had covered the two dirt miles in 17:36, rather faster than I had allowed for. The sub-80 shirt, while not yet in the bag, was looking within reach. After the next downhill the pace showed 7:56, and it stayed within a second of that figure. The gloves were now in my waistband, this was becoming warm work and I was very glad I had not worn long sleeves. I picked off an occasional runner. There was quite a headwind now and it seemed the majority of people in my neighbourhood were slowing down. Except for one. “Good Job” said a young woman who cruised past. For a moment I wondered if I could speed up and stay in contact with her, but she was going at quite a clip and why take the risk? It looked like my goal was in the bag.

But was it? I had noticed that the Garmin’s mile splits were coming in ahead of the actual markers, but presumed that the difference was not significant. At 7:57 pace, I was 3 seconds per mile ahead, 30 seconds in 10 miles which seemed like a decent cushion. In fact the Garmin was optimistic by 2%, which amounted to 5 seconds a mile. I did not know it but I was falling behind schedule. I plugged up the short steep hill (dubbed “Puke Hill” by Karen A), reached the 9 mile marker, and switched to the elapsed time display. Hey wait a minute, I do not seem to have as much time as I thought to do this last mile. Better speed up! So I did. I passed another runner, then the only two I could see were a seemingly unattainable distance ahead. Here was the half-mile pole. I checked the time. Argh! 1:16:32. I have less than 3.5 minutes to cover the next half mile, uphill! I turned on the jets, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I still had jets at this point. Unlike the closing miles of a marathon, which to tell the truth are hard to enjoy, it was now quite pleasurable to be going all out. Those two guys were duly reeled in, and I crested the final hill. Someone called out “Go Jim!” as I accelerated towards the line and used most of the chute to stop. While a volunteer was ripping my tag I remembered to press the Garmin’s stop button. 1:20:04. Had it been four seconds since I crossed the line? The timer walked over. “You are the last sub-80”. Welcome words indeed, although I later discovered that my chip time was 1:20:00.22. Such precision in a trail race! I wish I had started my final charge maybe half a second earlier!

But I’ll keep the shirt. I beat last year’s time by 7:08. Yes it was hot last year, but still!

Ivan Medina, who won by 23 seconds in 0:59:05, (Sub-60 shirt!) was a not-very-close second when I saw him at the turnaround, so it appears that conservative early pacing worked for him too. And Jeff Teeters? He was 6th overall, and won my age group (50-59) in 1:04:21. I actually came in the bottom half of this group, 15th out of 26. Sheesh, tough crowd!

Dusting Off The Old Negative Split

Saturday provided a rather interesting practice run, and got me thinking about pacing strategy. The LMJS training group previewed the Tilden Tough Ten course which we will be racing in two weeks.. This is an out-and-back along four somewhat hilly miles of asphalt trail and a fifth mile of very hilly dirt trail. I had a vague plan to do some tempo running during the session but started out at a very easy pace, chatting with my fellow runners, and enjoying the beautiful weather. This was easy running. When I got to about mile 5, I found myself alone and started to increase the effort level. Miles 5 and 6, being on steep trail chewed up by cows, were necessarily slow,  and I didn’t push it too hard, walking up the steepest hill.  Once I got back on the asphalt trail I got down to business, staying close to tempo effort the rest of the way. Not race effort, just tempo. I got a surprise when I looked at my watch at the end. I had completed the course just 68 seconds slower than I raced it last year.  OK, that was a hot day, but it still seems that the easy-then-hard effort had produced an efficient result. Here’s the course profile from my Garmin.

Looks like a positive-split course, does it not? dropping about 200 feet on the outbound leg, then gaining it back on the return. But if you don’t count the middle two miles of trail, it looks much more even. Still hilly though.

Although it’s a trail race, there are some pace goals here. Running it sub-80 minutes gets you an imprinted shirt, and there are others for sub-70 and sub-60. Last year no one went sub-60. I only have to cut 6 minutes from my practice time to get a sub-80 shirt. Rather than try to compute a pace for each mile, I shall simply have the Garmin display average pace from the start which will give me an idea how I’m doing relative to that 8:00 goal. Last year the middle two miles took me 20 minutes., so the other 8 should average about 7:30 pace. My plan is to get to the 4 mile marker at 7:35 pace, and the 6 mile marker at 8:15 pace, about 90 seconds in arrears. Then I will “put the hammer down” as they say, and claw it back in the last four miles. That’s the plan, anyway.

Race: Emerald Nuts Across the Bay 12K 2010

I did this race for fun without any significant taper, because it seemed a shame to miss it.
I met fellow-Brit Carpe DM (Dave) from the RW forums in the start area. Turns out that we’ve both been in the US the same amount of time. He had no trouble finding me thanks to the Brooks outfit.
About the Brooks outfit: I’ve been accepted into the Brooks ID program, which gets me some deep discounts on shoes, etc, and they sent me a somewhat eye-catching race uniform, in yellow and black. Easy to spot.

Despite being quite a large race, there are no chips. Instead there are wave starts at 15 minute intervals. They check bib numbers on the way into the start area, to prevent anyone from getting a 15 or 30 minute leg-up on their time. There were pace signs to show us where to line up, and like a dummy I lined up where the sign said I should. When the gun went there was a sea or runners between me and the line, so it took forever to get across. There was plenty of weaving to do in the first mile. The first mile was mostly downhill into Fort Baker. I managed this in 6:55, despite having to go around quite a few runners. Mile 2 is the steep hill to get up to the bridge. I held my ground here, and got up in 8:10. Once I got up onto the bridge, I set about passing runners. Each time I selected someone to match my pace to, they seemed to falter and disappear, except for one young guy who came back each time. I think we exchanged positions three times during the race, and he edged me out at the end. All the other passees dutifully finished behind me.

Mile 3 was the bridge deck – 7:15. I probably should have gone a bit faster here, but I was feeling the previous day’s 8-mile run up at Tilden and was being a little cautious. An injury would not be welcome with two marathons coming up!
Things sped up a bit in the next mile, with some sharp downhills – 6:35. A disturbance up ahead, someone had stopped. A young woman was standing by her team-mate (same uniform) who had fallen on the downslope. Having got to the side and sat down, the faller waved her buddy on. There was blood on her leg. There was a turnaround at Fort Point under the bridge and I got a view of the leaders. Plenty of pained race-faces there. The next two miles were flat, covering Chrissy Field and the Marina Green. – 6:59, 7:03, I was still passing the occasional runner, including the Good Samaritan. I set my sights on a tall woman about 100 yards ahead in a multicolored outfit. She and her male companion were also passing other runners, but perhaps I could reel them in before the end. The gap got gradually smaller, until it was about 30 yards when the Fort Mason hill came into view. Now it just depended on how good a hill runner she was. She was strong. She left her buddy behind, and I passed him near the top.

The downhill to Aquatic Park is a pretty steep thing to run. I concentrated on good posture and kept it smooth, not taking any risks. I was gaining on her now. Then her buddy came past me, bounding down the hill slap, slap, slap! At the bottom, he slowed and I blew by him in the final 100 yards. That descent must have done a number on his quads. Someone was yelling “You’re not jogging now!” This turned out to be Loraine, who was there supporting husband Dan and, for the moment, me. I didn’t catch Tall Woman though. She’s more than 2 decades younger than me it turns out, so that’s OK.

54:36 was my finish time, a 36 second improvement over last year. Not bad considering I didn’t really taper for this one, and ran it somewhat carefully. I had been a little puzzled by the time on my Garmin which was 8 seconds less than the official time. I was going so slowly at the start that it had auto-paused!

Club buddy Dan was over the moon at the finish, having exceeded his expectations and run it in under an hour. (59:14) He had activated the virtual partner on his Garmin, and knew a good race was in store when he was still ahead of the little man at the top of the mile 2 hill!


Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)

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