Saturday, June 30, 2007

PCTR Pacifica 21K - Pacifica CA

I went to this local race originally intending to do the 50K. Though I do almost all of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs, I had never run Pacifica. I don't like to race in the fog of Pacifica. And I prefer races that aren't multiple loops as this one is.

I was still battling a plenitude of minor ailments from the previous weekend's marathon and duathlon at Pacific Crest. So my goal was just to finish the 50K in any time, however slowly. With that in mind, I told Rebecca that she didn't need to crew me at this race.

I ran out slowly up the first loop up to North Peak. A lot of good climbing, nice scenery, and single track. I still didn't like the cloudy weather, but a pretty course. I was running very slowly, still very stiff from last weekend's marathon and duathlon, intending to try to do the 50K. I finished that first loop in around 1 hour and 18 minutes. I lingered in the start/finish area before going out on a second loop, eating salted potatoes and refilling my water bottle.

I then ran out on a shorter 9K loop, with two steep hills. I started to pick up the pace on these hills and passed several runners. At the top of the second hill, I picked up the pace running down. But I twisted my ankle and had to hobble down the hill for the last mile or so. Trail running is about gutting through twisted ankles and tweaked knees. And I have several experiences of the pain going away. Certainly I plan to have to do that in the future. On this day however, I gave myself a break and took the 21K finish when I came in after the second loop.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pacific Crest Olympic Duathlon - Sun River OR

Wow, a chance to do a duathlon! A sport which I love which is pretty much dead. It was worth dragging my sore and weary bones out of bed the day after the Pacific Crest Marathon for this rare opportunity.

Rebecca dropped me off at 8am at T1, which was 25 miles away from the Sun River resort (we had stashed a pair of running shoes at T2 the evening before).

getting dropped off at T1

She then took off back to the resort to participate in her 10K which was also starting at 9am. I rode my Quintana Roo Caliente tri bike (with some ancient Zipp 404 aero wheels) from where she had to drop me off to the T1 transition area.

Most of the duathlon riders had racked their bikes already, so I had to park mine at the end of the tri racks, way away from the exit. Eventually the riders started lining up to start the duathlon in waves of 2, first come, first served. For some reason (probably to simplify timing computations) they did not start the duathletes until the triathlon got underway. Rather than stand in line, I sat down in the sun next to bike and waited for the line to move through, before going out as the last rider. The first triathlete was coming out of the water just as I took off.

I felt great and passed many riders on the road back to Sun River. The course had moderate rolling hills and was quite windy. I felt fine though in my aero wheels. As was to be expected perhaps, given that its so long since I did a tri, I had a couple bike problems. The rings above the headset were loose and rattled around distractingly (probably didn't really hurt my speed). Also I couldn't quite engage the highest gear (53x11). This did actually slow me down. Nevertheless I did manage a 1:04 split (between 23 and 24mph).

I lost some time in transition looking for my shoes. They had added racks so my shoes weren't where I expected them to be. The day after a marathon at elevation I just wanted to run eight minute miles in the 10K. I managed a run split of around 47 minutes. I felt good about that.

After an excellent Broken Halo IPA, Rebecca and I headed out to drive to Portland before our trip back.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pacific Crest Marathon - Sun River OR

Pacific Crest is a weekend endurance sport festival held in Sun River, Oregon near Bend. Five thousand athletes and their families descend on this little resort in Oregon's high desert every year. I was intrigued by it initially because it was a chance to do a duathlon, a sport which I enjoy immensely, but which has pretty much died on the West Coast. I planned to do the Olympic duathlon (25 mile bike and 10K run) on Sunday and the marathon on Saturday. No plans for PRs were in place since I knew that the altitude of over 4000 feet would slow me down.

Rebecca and I flew from SFO to Redmond/Bend Friday evening and drove the 15 miles from the airport down to Bend. We had a great meal at the Merenda Wine Bar, which has a stunningly good wine list, possibly the best by the glass selection I've seen. I prepared for the race in great style by sampling liberally from it.

The next morning we drove down to Sun River from Bend and got my race packet for the marathon around 7:00am. It was a chilly 55 degrees or so but clear and sunny. We headed out in a "procession" from the athlete village to a point on Sun River's encircling bike path. At 7:30 we started out running the gently rolling asphalt path. I had hoped there would be some hardpack trail but it was all paved. Beautiful views of the woods and lakes. But still paved. I knew I'd be hurting by mile 16.

I had planned to do each 13.1 mile loop in around 1:40 and finish in 3:20. I knew the altitude would hinder performance so I thought 3:30 was a reasonable fallback. I reached the halfway point of the finish area right on time. I felt fresh and thought I could even do a "negative split" of a faster second loop time. I took some Advil around mile 15 when my legs began to get sore. But it was no use. By mile 18, while I was still fresh effort wise, my legs were too sore and I slowed down to 9 minute miles. I finished in 3:37, 20th overall.

finishing strong, thirsty for good Oregon IPA

I enjoyed the race. If I don't get into Western States we'll come back again next year and I'll do the long course duathlon. We hung around afterwards while I downed some superb Broken Halo IPA and got a muchneeded massage to try loosen up my calves and feet for the next day's race.

Monday, June 18, 2007

La Sportiva Trail Running Trifecta - Snowmass, CO

This was a sequence of races held on Snowmass Mountain just outside of Aspen. Trail Runner Magazine was kind enough to send me out there for being Trail Runner of the Year last year. The "trifecta" consisted of three races: a 5 mile run up and down the hill Saturday morning, a hill run straight up Snowmass Mountain on Sunday, and a half marathon on Sunday up and around the mountain and down.

Rebecca and I flew direct from SFO to Aspen the night before, an easy trip since the direct flight from SFO to Aspen just opened up after several months of not being available. We drove the short jaunt from Aspen/Pitkin airport to Snowmass Village to stay in the Laurelwood Condominiums right next to the race site. When we pulled into the parking lot there was a large fat bear in the first available spot. With some large white object in its mouth (a sandwich? a human body part?). A thrilling start to our stay.

The next morning dawned sunny and glorious in what is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We went down to the race start to check in. We picked up some lattes on the way to the lift which carried us up to the race start. It was a small but hardcore field with grizzled trail racing vets such as Bernie Boettcher ready to compete with recent cross country collegians. The fact that I knew I wouldn't be competitive at elevation let me enjoy it more, with no pressure to perform.

The race director sent us off up the wide grassy fairway straight up the mountain. After a quarter mile of climbing we turned off onto some single track which turned into the woods undulating across the mountain face. Most of the course was then single track with brief jaunts onto fireroad. The race organizers had two aid stations set up, almost unheard of for such a short course. Although I had trouble breathing at this altitude I drank in the scenery, enjoying every minute. At sea level, I can't imagine a course I would enjoy more or do better at. It definitely reminded me of the short course Pacific Coast Trail Runs races (such as Mount Diablo two weeks earlier).

After 25 minutes or so I hit the downhill which contained a fair amount of fireroad. I didn't really bomb the downhill since we had a couple days more of racing, and my right foot's outer edge was still hurting from the Lake Youngs Ultra. I got passed by one young racer on the downhill and another older guy threatened to pass me. I finished at 46 minutes and change.

Finishing the five miler

Rebecca and I immediately hightailed it to Aspen to go to the Main Street Bakery Cafe for breakfast before the afternoon hill race at 1pm. After a good breakfast we headed back to the Village.

My right foot was hurting so I tried to ice it in an attempt to be able to run on it for the afternoon's race. I was unsuccessful so we instead ordered a masseuse in and relaxed by the pool for the afternoon before heading into Aspen for dinner at Bistro Rustique, a great little country French restaurant.

After Saturday's massage my foot felt fine, so we got up at 8am to walk down to wait for the half marathon start. This race started just a hundred feet up from the village based.

We ran up to where the five mile loop had begun and started doing the same loop counterclockwise. I was really moving slow as the altitude had begun to affect me even more the second day. I enjoyed doing it in the other direction this time, and as we got back down to the base of the loop we did another full loop of that five miler course. Once out we ran back down the mountain to the starting area. I enjoyed myself the whole time, treating it as a training run for next week's marathon at Pacific Crest at 4000 feet in Bend, Oregon. I finished just under 2:21, which I was happy with given all the climbing and racing at elevation.

Rebecca and I headed off to downtown Aspen afterwards for the Food and Wine Festival which happened to be the same weekend. We had lunch at the Pacifica Seafood Bar, drinks at the Hotel Jerome and dinner at the Explorer bookstore (which has a cute vegetarian cafe amidst their eclectic stacks) before heading back to the airport for the 2 hour flight back to San Francisco.

It was a small crowd (seemed smaller than the 70 people they claimed). But I hope the race does well as the venue is perfect: both the oncourse scenery and the offcourse surroundings.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Lake Youngs Ultra - Renton WA

We flew to Seattle the night before and stayed overnight at the Renton Spring Hill Suites. Race morning dawned gray and cool (for June). We drove the six miles to Old Petrovitsky Road at 6:30am where a small group of 80 or so racers gathered. Some runners had chosen the 6:00am early start.

My goal was to run 1:20 for each 9.6 mile loop and finish in under 4 hours.

I took off at a slow jog and tried to take it as easy as possible. I was still fighting a little psoas twinging especially on the downhills, but thankfully didn't seem to have and calf, soleus or foot pain. The course itself was ideal for me: lots of rolling hills and all trail. It was a little weird that we were actually running _outside_ of Lake Youngs Park. The trail ran alongside the outside of the fence the whole way. I also would have preferred some singletrack.

I finished the first loop of 9.6 miles in 1:18 and Rebecca was there with Red Bull and chicken soup for me. I knew that I was running around sixth overall but didn't know that I was first master. I took off caught up to Ken McFadden, who had come in the first loop after me. Chris Davis passed both of us powering up the hills looking strong. Even though I was taking it easy, I did feel inspired to reel him in. Ken tagged along and we caught him about halfway into the loop. Chris announced that he was just doing two loops today. We ran together for a while and when I saw the last big hill at around 7 miles I surged up it. Ken stayed right on my tail. We then ran alongside each other for the last couple miles and both came in at 2:40.

I felt great on all the hills and I was feeling barely winded and fresh. But the outer edge of my right foot was hurting as soon as I got up from eating. I was looking forward to next week's trail running festival in Aspen and didn't want to reinjure myself, so I called it a day and tried to save some powder for the next battle. If I had known I was several minutes ahead for first master I might not have made the same decision.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pacific Coast Trail Runs - Mount Diablo 8K

This was the third time I've done this course. Mount Diablo is my second favorite race venue in the Bay area next to the Golden Gate Headlands (Rodeo Beach, Miwok, etc.). I like the way its uphill to start, mostly single track and great views throughout. Plus Wendell and Sarah's hospitality and race organization is always unmatched.

I dropped back to the 8K on race morning despite planning to do the 50K in my continued attempt to not exacerbate my recent injuries. The fair Rebecca was volunteering for registration duty this morning, so I was glad that she let me slide on the last minute change. The 8K started 15 minutes later than the 25K and 50K. Wendell told the other runners to follow me, but I protested that I usually get lost on this course.

We headed up the immediate steep fireroad hill until the single track through the fields opened up on the left. Then rolling flats and down rutted fireroad for half a mile until it the trail appeared up to the right. Running up the single track steep hill, it eventually opened up to fireroad for yet more uphill. Around and up it seems hard to believe that its only 1200 feet of climbing. Eventually I reached the high point on the fireroad before it turns off to the right on singletrack. I'm pretty sure noone was even close behind me. But instead of dogging it like I did last week I felt like I need to put in my best effort for the whole race, regardless of whether I was being chased or not.

I hit the peak at 25:30 this year, which I remember being around the same time as last year. But this time I let myself bomb down the hill without fear. And when I leveled out on the trail, I kept up the fast. This is how to run, running without fear, with total concentration, and leaving it all on the course. Give it all and let God sort out who wins.

I finished in 42:41, about three minutes ahead of the second place finisher, and a masters record for the course.