30 October 2010

Doc Sears Fall Classic

There was another Saturday morning event down in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.  The Doc Sears Classic is a 4.65 mile paved loop course put on by the Lewis-Clark State College cross-country team.

I didn't plan to race hard, and didn't even bring my Garmin or watch to run with.  But my legs were feeling pretty good after about a mile even though my last three weekends have been marathon, half-marathon, and ultra-marathon.  I moved into third place just past mile 1 and ran a couple miles about 50 meters back from the two guys running together in front of me.  

Around mile 3.5 my legs were still feeling good and I was closing the gap between me and the front runners.  So I thought I'd race a bit.  :)  I snuck into second place with about a mile to go and was gaining pretty good on the leader.  But when he glanced back and saw me about 20 meters behind and gaining, he showed that he had something left in his legs too.  I gained on him, but it was too little too late -- I crossed the finish line in 28:02, seven seconds behind him.  (results)

Second race this year I nearly missed by showing up late.
Here I am rushing to the starting line.

Cruising along the Snake River

Loving my Brooks Green Silence

Near mile 4.5 -- The eventual winner is in the blue shirt
ahead of me as we weave through the walkers.

Keep running!


26 October 2010

Goblin Valley Ultra 2010 - Race Report

I had a great trip.  It was amazing to run the Goblin Valley Ultra with my family.  Two of my three sisters, Melanie and Lisa, ran their first 50k.  One of my three brothers, Adam, ran his first 50k.  My sister-in-law, Jennifer, ran her first 50k.  And my dad ran his first 50k since quadruple bypass heart surgery in December '08.  It was such a pleasure to be a part of it all.  I'm so proud of them all.  (Sadie ran the race too - and I'm proud of her as well.)

Goblin Valley is worth a visit if you're traveling to or through southern Utah.  Southern Utah, as a whole, is gorgeous -- but Goblin Valley's landscape is particularly unique.  (Free knowledge: If you've seen the movie Galaxy Quest, then you've seen Goblin Valley -- it's where the rock monster scene was filmed.)

The course was an out and back through breathtaking desert.  The six of us planned to run the course together.  Dad has had a slow (for him) recovery from his surgery and hasn't returned to ultrarunning shape as fast as he'd like.  He hadn't done a run over 20 miles in nearly two years, and contemplated switching to the 25k option before the race.  But last year he ran the 25k option, so he decided to stick with the 50k to, at the very least, run the back half of the course even if he had to drop at the turnaround point.  The rest of the group were in marathon shape, so they were confident and excited to tackle the longer distance.

We all had an absolute blast running together for the first half; when we weren't running in a group, we were rarely more than shouting distance from each other. There was a mile or so of pavement at the beginning, then the course was mostly dirt road.  The views were everything I love about the desert. Dad was plugging away the entire time.  One foot in front of the other.  Perpetual forward motion.

Most of the course was relatively flat, with any elevation change the long and gradual variety.  The course did have a few short, steeper climbs (and some of the best views) in the miles near the turnaround point.  Dad hit his low point on the trudge back up the hills after the turnaround. (Side note: the course was a bit short this year as the turnaround had to be moved up because the road at the original turnaround was washed away in a storm the day before the race.)  We were all aware going into the race that he was going to go as far as he could and then drop if he needed to. But we all wanted to stick with him for as long as we could while still making sure that we could finish under the cutoff time if he dropped.  His pace had slowed considerably, and he was starting to hurt pretty bad.  I asked him how he was feeling and he said he was going to try to make it to the next aid station near mile 16 and drop.  I told Adam to go ahead with the ladies and don't wait on us.  I planned to stick with Dad until he dropped, and then I would catch up with them.

Even though he had slowed considerably, Dad was still under the cutoff pace, so I wouldn't let him drop at the next aid station.  We had some time cushion and I calculated that he could finish under the time if he could hold his steady walk.  I told him that as long as he was under the cutoff pace he wasn't allowed to drop.  So we made it through the next aid station.  Then the next.  Slow and steady.  One foot in front of the other.  Our overall pace was getting slower and slower, but we were still sitting under the cutoff time.

He got a boost around mile 21.  His walk quickened and he ran a few of the downhills.  Mile 22.  Mile 23.  Mile 24.  When he started talking about how tired he was and what he was planning to do when he got to the finish line (instead of "if the sweep vehicle comes, I'm going to get a ride with them"),  I knew that dropping out had left his mind.  Some might see that as insignificant, but it's HUGE when an ultrarunner visualizes being at the finish line instead of other (less finish-y) options.  I knew his mind was in the right place and that it was just a matter of time (which we still had enough of) before we hit the finish line.

Tacked on to the end of the out and back course is the highlight of the race: the mile or so through Goblin Valley proper.  We run within a couple hundreds yards of the finish line before running past it and then dropping down into the valley for a big loop with the goblins.  The rest of the gang had already finished their first ultra and everyone was there to cheer us on.  Melanie and Lisa joined me and Dad (and Sadie) for the goblin loop.  

I crossed the finish line with my dad in 8:09:14. (results page)

I can't tell you how proud I am of everyone.  Dad for his long recovery from heart surgery, and Melanie, Adam, Lisa, and Jennifer for there amazing performances in their first ultra attempt (I think all four of them could handle a 50 miler soon).

Four years ago, my dad was the only one in our family who could call himself a runner.  Now there are six of us who can call ourselves ultrarunners.  Pretty awesome.

Enjoy the photos. (I had trouble narrowing down from the over 280 photos I took during the race. I think that's a record for me.)

Moon setting on western horizon

Sun rising over Goblin Valley in the east

The goblin chasers are off!
Melanie (right) and Jennifer

Melanie, Lisa, and Dad around mile 3

Jennifer and Adam and the early morning sun

We've dropped into a shallow canyon near mile 8

Melanie and Dad

Adam and Sadie

If there's peace during an ultra, you're not doing it right

Melanie, Jennifer, and Lisa climbing out of the canyon bottom...

...and making their way to the ridge

Sadie knows when it's photo time vs. running time 

Amazing views as we near the turnaround point

Here we are just before we split up.
Me, Jennifer, Adam, Melanie, Lisa, Dad

It's just me, Dad, and Sadie for the rest of the way

Desert solitude
Dad and this desert road had an epic battle for about 5 miles.

Sometimes majestic views are worth running for,
no matter how much you're hurting.

Goblin Valley

Melanie and Lisa joined us for the last couple
miles through Goblin Valley.

Goblin Valley

My impression of a jazz-dancing goblin

Goblin Valley

Crossing the finish line with Dad.

Days like this are why I keep running.


18 October 2010

Lewis-Clark Half Marathon race report

Since I began running in 2007, I have run 7 marathons and 15 ultramarathons.  Surprisingly, until Saturday's Lewis-Clark Half Marathon in Clarkston, WA, I had never attempted a half-marathon.

The race is put on by the Seaport Striders, a club about 30 miles south of where I live.  I've participated in a couple of their races this year and I really enjoy them -- they're low-key and low-fee.

When I woke early to the thermometer reading 30-degrees F, I took a deep breath and finally admitted to myself that summer had gone.  And what a great summer it was.  But no time to waste, autumn is here and it won't wait for me.

Sadie and I drove down with my buddy, Joe.  No dogs allowed for this event, though, so Sadie had to wait for me until post-race to get some running in.  It was a bit warmer down in the Lewiston-Clarkston valley, with a temperature in the low 40's for the start.

The course is a flat out-and-back along the Snake River.  I seemed to remember that I had hit the half-marathon split during my Foot Traffic Flat marathon in July at around 1:25, so I thought that was a good aiming point for this race.  I hadn't done much speed work since then, and even less since my Run Across Idaho in August.  But I knew I could run a sub-1:25, I just didn't know if I had it in me for this particular morning.

A group of about 10 shot out like a gun.  Our pace was pretty quick and I settled in behind another guy at the back of the lead group for the first mile.  A 5k fun run was attached to the half-marathon and they started at the same time as us.  My impression was there were only a few people doing the 5k, but when we reached the 5k turnaround there were about 6 or 7 guys ahead of me who made the turnaround.  I found myself in third place about 50 meters back from the leader, Joe, and a guy tailing him.

I hit the turnaround point at 42:30 (6:29min/mile) and still in third place.  However, the fourth and fifth place guys were close enough (maybe within a minute or so) that I had a bit of incentive to pick up the pace a little for the second half.  I fought the urge to glance back to see if they'd gained ground on me until about mile 11 when my wheels felt like they were going to come off.  I looked back and saw no one behind me.  Not sure what I would have done if I had.  :)

There was a very small (but very noticeable!) climb up to the finish line, and I rolled across in 1:24:09 (6:25min/mile) for third place overall.  My buddy Joe was overall winner.  Full results.

Half-marathon #1 in the books.  :)

Sadie wondering where her treat is

Look, Mom! I got a trophy!

I'm very excited for this weekend.  I'm traveling to southern Utah to run the Goblin Valley 50k.  Other noteworthy runners who will be toeing the starting line include:

-Dad (he'll probably opt for the 25k...still not fully recovered from his quadruple-bypass)
-Melanie (sister; her first 50k)
-Adam (brother; his first 50k)
-Jen (sister-in-law; her first 50k)
-Lisa (sister; her first 50k)
-Travis (brother-in-law; 25k or 10k)
-Sadie (my dog; her 3rd ultra this year)
-other family coming to spectate and support

It should be an absolute blast.

Finally, I am now officially entered into the 115th Boston Marathon scheduled for April 18, 2011.  Let the countdown begin.  :)

Keep running!


12 October 2010

Coloring the Air

Sometimes the success of a run should only be measured by the smell of the air.

11 October 2010

Spokane Marathon 2010 race report

After taking much of September off (Run Across Idaho recovery, Costa Rica trip), I am using October to slowly build my training back up as I get ready for my epic adventure in Chile this coming March.  

The race in Chile is all about running while tired -- there will be 4 consecutive days of marathon distances followed by a fifth day of an ultra distance -- so my training for the next few months is going to be focused on running long distances on consecutive days.

Saturday a friend I and went for a tough 15.5 mile run in the North Idaho mountains.  My legs were tired and heavy by the end of the run, and when I woke up early Sunday morning for the 1.5 hour drive to the Spokane Marathon, my legs were still tired and heavy.  Running a marathon on tired legs is good training.

I ran this marathon a couple years ago (3:49:12) and it was in the 20's at the starting line.  It wasn't nearly as cold yesterday, but the air was wet and brisk.  I didn't set a goal for this race as much as I tried to guess how I'd do on tired legs.  I figured I could finish semi-comfortably in the 3:30-3:45 range.

Gearing up

Nipple protection is key

Start of the 2010 Spokane Marathon

The course is scenic, with spectacular views of the Spokane River during a good chunk of the route -- but it's tough and hilly.

Doomsday Hill looms around mile 22.

Even though my legs weren't ever feeling great or fresh, they didn't feel too bad.  I settled in at around a 7:30 min/mile pace for the first 15 miles knowing that I wouldn't last at that pace for the entire course.  But as I've learned from earlier marathons this year, sometimes it's worth shooting a little higher than what you think you can do, because you might surprise yourself.  

And I had this waiting for me at the finish line:

What's better than a carrot on a stick?...

So though I didn't think I could keep a 7:30 pace, I decided that there was no harm in trying.  But by mile 22 I realized that I had been wrong and that there really was harm in trying, because my legs were hurting.  Bad.  To add insult to injury tired legs, this is about when the course throws Doomsday Hill at you.

I was toast after that, and cruised into the finish line at 3:24:57, which (to my surprise) was still good enough for 10/183 overall and 3/18 in my age group. 

I'm running so fast that no one even sees me.

Glad it's done.

This is a great marathon.  It's about as cheap as you'll find a marathon that provides aid ($25 if you don't want the t-shirt), it has great volunteers (and aid stations every 2 miles), great organization, and it's a beautiful course.  This year they even had a medal for the finishers.  It's a good one.

I'm going to give a go at a half marathon this coming weekend (I've never actually run a half marathon before) and then I'm headed down to Utah in a couple weeks for the Goblin Valley Ultra.


And last but not least, a HUGE shout-out to my sister-in-law, Jennifer, for completing the Chicago Marathon yesterday.  She scared us last year when she was in, and thankfully survived, this accident.  But after a long stint in the hospital, she made it a goal to run a marathon.  And she did it!  I'm very proud of her.  Jennifer inspires me more than any 2:10 marathoner out there. 

And isn't that what's great about runners?  We come in all shapes and sizes, with different speeds and abilities, and with different life stories, goals, and motivations.   

I'm a runner.  

You're a runner.

Let's all keep running.