Saturday, March 5, 2011

2011 Green Jewel 50k Race Report

Today I raced the Green Jewel, a 50k through Cleveland's Metroparks, mainly following the all-purpose trail (AKA bike path) from Rocky River to Brecksville.  I had run this race in 2010 (my first 50k) in 5:01, and I knew my training was better so I was primed for a big PR!

My brother in law Ken was kind enough to let me park my car at his house and drive me to the start at the Marina in Rocky River.  I got my number, pinned it on my shorts, and waited in the car with Ken until the last possible minute.  The weather was chilly & rainy, and more rain was forecast (100% chance) all day long.

We lined up, Vince started giving detailed instructions, until someone just shouted "Can we just start?" and shortly we were off.  A pack of 5 started out as if this were a race, leaving the rest of us in the dust.    Two more followed in a chase pack and I was somewhere around 8th for the first little bit.  I ran with Dan H for the first couple miles, (8:05 & 7:52) and we were briefly passed by 2010 WRTR Race Series Champ Mark C.

Aid stations were roughly every 5 miles, and I had a loose plan going into the race that I would pick up the pace for the middle mile of every 5-mile set.  The path is mostly flat (for the first 24 miles) and I wanted to vary my pace so I didn't fall into a rut of slow and slower.  So on the 3rd mile, I picked up the pace (7:22) and caught Mark.  This would be my fastest mile of the day.

Mark and I ran together for a couple miles (#4 7:56), discussed blogs, I entertained him (I hope) with a story about pizza delivery, and then he skipped the 4.9 mile aid station, I stopped for a Hammer Gel and some Gatorade.  Leaving the aid station we had to cut through the grass as there was about 2 feet of water covering the trail at this point.  My 5th mile was 8:32, and Mark was gone, never to be seen again.

Miles 6 & 7 were steady, 7:52 & 8:08.  I was trying to simultaneously run the tangents and dodge the puddles.  Mile 8 was my pick-up, and I ran 7:39.  Mile 9 was 8:00 and shortly after that I was at the 10 mile aid station (closer to 9.3 on my Garmin).  This time I remembered to split my watch on the way in and out so I knew I spent 54 seconds there, another Gel and some Gatorade and Endurolyte capsules.

Leaving the aid station, my next 3 miles were 7:56, 8:00, and 7:56.  Mile 13 was my pick-up but it was also uphill so another 7:58 was all I could manage.  Sometime around here Victoria drove past for the first time with Luke and George.  My own personal cheering section, what a bright spot in a dreary day!  They would leapfrog me on the course, stopping to cheer every couple miles for the rest of the day!

At this point, a group of 3 runners (Sean P, Mike, and Lee) had been gaining on me and then falling back during my pick-ups.  Miles 14 & 15 were 8:17 & 8:22, the latter including another brief aid-station stop.  After the aid station, the group caught me and I ran with them for a bit, running 7:53 & 7:46.  Only Lee stayed close during my 18th mile pickup which I ran in 7:32 (my 2nd fastest mile of the day).

The 19th mile was 8:43 and included another aid station.  I tossed my gloves into Victoria's van, and Luke joined me to help pace me in.  Which was fantastic except he liked to run beside me, which interfered with my tangents, and he didn't have any amusing stories to take my mind off the pain.  Actually my legs were kind of tingly cold and almost numb at that point!

Luke and I caught and briefly ran with Mike G, out for a training run on the course.  He let us go and I instructed him that whoever caught him next, he should have a long conversation (to keep them from continuing on to catch me!)

I decided to forego any more pick-up miles until I was safely through the major hills which started around mile 22.5.  My 20th - 22nd miles were 8:05-8:21-8:11.  Then the first major uphill mile was 8:43.  The final aid station was in the 24th mile.  Between the uphill, stopping for Gatorade, Endurolytes, & Coke (no Gel) and stepping off the side of the road to pee, that .58 of a mile took me 8:08 (14:04 pace).

Coming out of that aid station, after the hill, I had been hoping to make another pick-up and finish the race strong, but my legs did not agree.  I knew in my head that it would not hurt any more to run fast than to run slow, it would just take more time.  But I could not generate any legspeed.  Miles 25 & 26 were 9:04 & 9:01.

The 8:00 per mile pace that I had kept for the first 22 miles had me at a projected time of around 4:08.  But now that I was around 9 from mile 23 on, I reset my goal to 4:20.  I was still running with Luke, and I looked down as my watch hit 26.2 miles in 3:37, which would be my 2nd fastest marathon ever (out of 7 tries)!

Miles 27-28-29 were slower, 9:26-9:49-10:44.  Even though 28 & 29 were mostly downhill!  In the 29th mile as we crossed a highway overpass (over the turnpike?) and I suddenly had an upset stomach.  I walked about 100 yards, then got going again slowly, still feeling a little queasy.  Somewhere in here Mike G caught us again and he and Luke ran ahead.  Some pacer that kid turned out to be!

Mike eventually doubled back, meeting me with about 1.5 miles to go and encouraging me the rest of the way.  I picked up the pace slightly for mile 30 in 10:16, another downhill mile.  Unfortunately at this point the downhills hurt worse than the uphills.  I got passed by the 2nd woman, Terri L.  Also in the last mile, despite picking the pace up again (to 8:59) I got passed again by Josh (who was absolutely flying) and then I got passed yet again by an unnamed guy in bright green as we turned in the driveway to the finish.

My final time was 4 hours, 26 minutes, and 8 seconds, a PR by 35 minutes!  I'm not sure on my exact place but I think I was in the top 15.  Results aren't posted but I do know there were 87 finishers!  I hung around for a couple minutes, congratulated several friends, picked up my shirt (very nice!) and some Muscle Milk, then I knew Victoria would be anxious to leave so I headed to the car.

(Update:  Results are up and I was 14th overall, 7th Master)

I sat in the back and got into some dry clothes, but in the process my calves cramped up badly and I cried out in pain!  I doubt Victoria had any sympathy as I brought this on myself!

This is likely my last ultramarathon for a while, as I am trying to focus on the WRTR Short Race Series this year.  But it is a fun race on a beautiful course and I will likely continue to make it an annual event!

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Chili Bowl 5k Race Report

Saturday was the Chili Bowl 5k, the first race of the 2011 Hermes Road Race Series.  I did well in the series last year, finishing 5th overall, so I wanted to run well in this race.  My training is going better so far this year as far as getting miles in, I joined a new lunchtime group and this has increased my weekday mileage by about 2 miles per day.  I haven't been doing much speed training but I did run 2 indoor track races in January (a mile and a 5k) so at least I do have that.

After a brutally cold 2nd week of February, this week was much warmer, with temperatures in the 50's Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday.  Unfortunately, a strong wind Friday night brought back colder, more typical February weather.  Temperatures were in the low 30's, and a fierce wind blew from the north.

Luke and I arrived early, picked up our shirts & numbers, and went for an easy warm up from about the 1/2 mile mark out to the turn, and back.  This enabled us to feel the wind and I realized it would have a huge effect on the race.  I remarked to Luke that as we turned around Cleveland Browns Stadium and got out of the wind, we would have to focus and regain our form, the wind was really strong enough that you had to lean into it.

Back to the car, we both changed into shorts, we were among the few (but of course Frank Z. still raced in a singlet, no long sleeves, he is tough!)

Warmed up a little more over to the starting line, wished a few friends good luck, and lined up in the 2nd row.  You can see me just to the right of the middle, blue Team Fox shirt & black hat.

I started quickly and by the time we got to the intersection of Prospect & W 6th, the race was starting to sort out.  There were 2 guys out front, and then a small pack of at least 5.  As we headed north, straight into the face of the wind, I tucked in behind this pack.  My goal was to get to the mile mark in a good position but expending as little energy as possible.

I've said it a few times, but the wind really was affecing the race here, despite running downhill towards the lake.  As I neared the corner of Browns Stadium, I made a move around the pack.  I figured they had to be tiring and would try to drop as many as possible right there before they recovered from fighting the wind.  I didn't wear my Garmin as I know the tall buildings near the start mess it up, but the timer at the mile called out 5:40 as I passed.  I thought this was a little slow but again, I blame the wind.

I felt good, now in 3rd, and gaining on 2nd.  Seemed like 1 guy had gone with me, with all the wind it was hard to hear and I wasn't really sure who was where behind me.  Heading out Marginal a short ways towards the turn, I lost a spot and was 4th.  Making the turn around the cone, I lost another spot but shortly moved back into 4th, passing the guy who started out in the top 2.  Now we were heading west, partly into the wind.  I pass the 2-mile mark in 11:28, so my 2nd mile was 5:48.  Not bad at all!

We make the turn back south towards the finish, now the wind is finally at our back, and this is so nice that I almost didn't notice the uphill.  But most of the last mile was uphill.  I knew the last guy I passed was still with me so I ran strong up West 6th and then picked up the pace even more about 100 yards before turning onto Prospect.  I wasn't all-out sprinting yet, saving a little in case someone passed me, but no one did.  Which is suprising looking at this photo.  The next 6 guys were all within 14 seconds of my finsihing time of 18:10.

Interestingly, I realized after the race that the guy who finished 5th was Sean P., a guy I met running downtown a couple months ago that suggested the lunchtime running group!

After the race I congratulated several other runners that finished around me, and turned back to look for Luke.  He also ran well, you can see him here in yellow.  Not a PR, but a good time for him considering the wind.

Luke and I headed back to the car, changed into some warmer clothes, watched many other runners pass, and then I went out for a cool-down through the flats.

We then heaed back to Tower 230 for the awards.  Along with the water and granola bars, there was also chili being served to all runners.  Luke and I each won a useful age group award, a chili bowl.  The shirt was pretty nice also!

I'm not sure about the top 3 runners that beat me, they weren't in the Road Race Series in 2010.  But I did beat the guys who were 1st, 2nd, and 7th in last year's series so I am off to a flying start!

Next race will be the Green Jewel 50k in 2 weeks, followed a week later by the popular St. Malachi 5-Mile Race, the 2nd race in the Hermes series.

Hermes put on a great race Saturday.  There were over 950 finishers!  Most impressive, by noon they had posted not only the results, but also a video of the start and over 100 photos of the finish (on Facebook)!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Run For Regis - Trail Half-Marathon

Yesterday Luke and I headed to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for the Run For Regis races.  The run starts together at the Ledges shelter, and there are 2 loops, of about 5 miles and 8 miles.

The half-marathoners turn left and run the 8 mile loop, followed by the 5.  Marathoners and 50k runners turn right and run the 5 first, followed by the 8, then both again (and the 50k people add another 5 for good measure).

I entered the 50k but decided a few weeks ago that I would run the half instead.  There were several reasons for this:
  • With the weather, running slow for 5-6 hours didn't sound like much fun
  • I'm racing a mile on an indoor track at CWRU this Saturday, and wanted to be recovered
  • Victoria had plans in the afternoon and I needed to be home by 12:30 to work the day-care
I wasn't sure what the competition would be like and assumed most of the "veterans" would opt for the longer distances.  However, local college runner Patrick Fisher told me before the start that he was doing the half, so any hopes for winning went out the window.

I wore YakTrax Pro's over my shoes.  I have run in these several times with no issues but yesterday the left one would slip to the side, off my toe, every 2-3 miles.  I think I was pushing off harder than normal in an attempt to run "fast".  Not that you can run very fast in 6-8 inches of snow.

In the early part of the race, I was running 5th with a group of 3 right behind me, including Jim Chaney.  I talked with Jim a little and found out that he is the narrator for the Burning River course videos, which I really appreciate! (Even though I haven't done the race yet, I have viewed the videos to prepare for other runs in the area).

Eventually I stopped and stepped to the side to adjust my YakTrax.  I got going again and was now in 8th.  Another 2 guys were following right behind me and we ran together until I stopped again to mess with my shoe.  Now I was 10th, but a couple of them must have stopped at the 8-mile point and not continued on.

My first 6 miles were progressively slower, starting with 8:21 (mostly downhill) and slowing to 11:03 for #6.  Everything from 5-12 was in the 10's or 11's except for #9 (where I got lost).  Miles 10 and 11 were quicker than all but the first 4, at 10:03.

I really appreciated those volunteers that directed runners and worked at the aid stations and at the finish line.  What a hard job that is on a cold day.  Thank you!

After checking in at the start/finish area at 8 miles, I headed out on the 5-mile loop.  In the next mile there was a sort of canopy of pine trees overhead, covered with snow, it was so beautiful and peaceful!  I got to a spot where I wasn't sure if I should go left or right, and that cost me a couple minutes, I was hoping another runner would come along behind to show me the way but eventually I started walking and after a bit I saw an oranger streamer which showed me I was on the right path.

Pretty soon I did hear some runners catching me from behind, I worked hard the last 2-3 miles to hold my position, and in the results I was 8th overall out of 103 runners!  I think this is my best finish yet in a WRTR race!  My time was 2:22:22, results show 2:23:20.  Either is fine.

That is me in the picture, wearing the blue shirt, finishing strong (I hope).  Also wearing the glove/mittens I won at the Vertical Runner raffle on Christmas eve!

It was great to see many friends and other runners, and it was fun to hear some of the comments, as I was the only runner in shorts!  I was running hard though and generating lots of heat.  During the race I never was cold and never regretted the decision.

After the race I walked / jogged back out on the course to find Luke, he ran the half also and did well, finishing 31st in just under 3 hours.

He is in this picture, in the white jacket.  He really seems to enjoy running and racing, I guess he is crazy like his old man!