Monday, June 18, 2012

US Mountain Running Championships

I ran at US Mountain Running Championships at the Mount Washington Road Race this past Saturday (June 16).  The race coincided with Sturgis or some other motorcycle rally in the White Mountains for no particular reason.  I think both events probably got in each others' way.  At very least, there were a great many motorcycles waiting to travel up the Mount Washington Auto Road when they reopened it after the racers came down.

Now that I've gotten the nonsequitor ramblings out of the way, I'll tell you what happened.  The race went out fast.  Within 20 seconds, half of my PowerBar PowerGels had fallen out of the pocket on my racing top.  Luckily, I had brought extras in case something like that happened.  I ran at or near the front of the pack and didn't look back, so I'm not sure how big the group actually was, but it felt big.  Eventually, Joe Gray and Sage Canaday broke away from the pack.  I caught a few glimpses of Sage but never got another good look at him until the race was over.  I ran against him a lot during college, so I suppose it's fitting that he's been in my last two races.

Eventually, Eric Blake and Tommy Manning got a small gap.  This put me in 5th place, and the 5th American.  The top 6 Americans qualified for World Mountain Running Championships, so I didn't have much margin of error.  To add to that, Max King, Simon Gutierrez, Tim Chichester, and Italian Marco de Gesperi kept passing me and battling for position.  I passed the halfway point in the realm of 29:20, so a little mental math made me believe that a sub 1 hour race may be needed just to qualify for the team.  About a minute later, at timberline, I decided that if I didn't make a very solid move very soon, I wasn't going to World Championships.

I caught the Blake/Manning group and kept surging.  Apparently I dropped Manning but Blake stayed with me.  I could see Joe Gray up the road, and decided that I had a chance of catching him if he faltered at all.  He didn't.  However, my surge did put Blake and I pretty far ahead of 5th place, and top 6 was really all that mattered.  In the end, Eric Blake out kicked me in sight of the finish line.  I held on for 4th.  de Gesperi was 5th, and Manning and Chichester rounded out the team for Worlds.  Also, Team Colorado beat the team record by 5 minutes.  This means that our entire top 5 averaged a minute faster than the previous record holding team's average.

The end result of all of this is that I will represent the United States at World Mountain Running Championships in Ponte di Legno, Italy on September 2.  I also have Sierre-Zinal coming up on August 12, but Mt. Washington had no effect on my start there.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cattle Stampedes are Good for Speed Work

No races this post to tell you all about.  Awwww.  Don't worry, I'm running Mt. Washington in less than 6 days, and that's the US Mountain Running Championships and the qualifier for World Mountain Running Championships, so regardless of how it goes, the next post should include something about that.

Anyways, I'm into a bit of a taper before Washington.  I had my last hard interval session last week and did a short long run today.  The interval session went very well.  I felt tired when I started today's run, but as the run went on, I felt better and ran faster every mile.  I also got myself into a little cattle stampede.

Somebody's cows got out onto the road I was running on.  Cows were on both sides of the road, and I prepared to run the gauntlet on the yellow line.  The cows on the left side of the road didn't like that, and I ended up hugging the left side of the road as the cattle stampeded down the right side of the road.  Luckily there were only about 10 or 15 cows and they stopped after maybe 100m.  But I did run faster to try to get around them so they didn't stampede into town, so that's why cattle stampedes are good for speed work.  I've been in worse.  A few years back I got caught in the middle of close to 100 cattle that stampeded for much longer.  I was literally surrounded by stampeding cattle that time, so comparatively this wasn't too bad.

Later in the run, when I was almost exactly half a mile from the finish, I came across more cows.  I'm not sure if they were the same ones or if somebody else' cows got out.  If they were the same ones, then apparently the cows wandered unaccompanied through town.  I couldn't see any broken fences or anything, so I'm really wondering if they might have been the same ones.  Luckily, this time two cows got a little nervous and I passed without further incident.  So hey, I survived my long run today.  Woo.  Or in this case, maybe moo.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Teva Mountain Games: Vail Pass Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran the Vail Pass Half Marathon, which is part of the Teva Mountain Games.  I had to wake up at 3:30am to make sure I was on the road by 4.  I had forgotten how much I hate 3:30am.  However, the swelling in my ankle was down substantially (see my last post), so that was good.

The Teva Mountain Games are a crazy event.  The people parked next to me left carrying fly rods and I saw one car with kayaks, bikes, and who knows what else somehow secured to the car.

The half marathon itself had a very good field.  Amongst the starters were the course record holder, the defending World Mountain Running Champion, at least three former Pikes Peak Champions, and this year's Bolder Boulder citizen's division champion.

The course was interesting for a mountain race, but I liked it.  The first 10km or so were like a road race.  We gained a little elevation, but not much compared to the first 10km of most mountain races, and ran through subdivisions, golf courses, parks, and a lot of the other things the town of Vail has to offer.  Then, the course started up Vail Pass on a bike path until the finish at 13.77 miles.

I like to know my body well, and that includes knowing exactly what to expect from caffeine.  I try to avoid caffeine unless I'm in a big race, and as such, am very affected by caffeine.  A few years back, I did a few tests during training and discovered that after imbibing any caffeine, I felt great for about 40 minutes, then dropped below where I had been previously.  The way the aid stations worked out, I had a choice between first taking caffeine with about 50 minutes to go or with about 25 minutes to go.  I opted for the 50, telling myself this would give me good incentive to finish fast, and give me a chance to see whether my body has changed in this regard.

Now, to describe the race itself.  I started out at a quick pace.  Within a minute, the rest of the field had opted to run their own pace.  By 4 miles, I had built up a 150m lead.  This isn't much with almost 10 miles to go, including the pass, though.  I kept up the pace, and by the 10km aid station, felt good.  At this point, I took my first PowerBar Energy Gel, a Double Latte flavored gel with 50mg of caffeine.  I then proceeded to miss the water cup I went to grab and had to go without water.  I knew that this was probably a little early in the race to have any caffeine in my system, but I wanted to know exactly how early.  I pushed the pace up the pass and extended my lead.  By the finish line, I had won by a little over a minute ten.  I figured out that my body can now take caffeine for about 45 minutes, because the last 5 minutes felt pretty tough.  But I put forth a good effort through the entire race and am very happy with how things went, especially given my last week and a half.

Anyways, it was a long day.  I finally got home at around 10pm.  I slept well last night, then woke this morning for an 18 miler.  It was a few minutes slower than my fastest, but I can't complain.  Less than two weeks until Mt. Washington.

Also, I had a very humbling experience yesterday.  On the drive home, I saw a guy doing 75 on the interstate on a motorcycle, wearing a bowler cap, holding a cup of coffee in one hand, the handlebar in the other, while a lady held him close.  I don't even own a bowler cap, a motorcycle, or drink coffee.  Plus, I'm single.  I think the only thing I had on that guy was that I had just won a half marathon up a mountain pass.