Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Location: Lovell Canyon - Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, NV
Race Coordinator: Calico Racing
Event: Labor of Love 100M, 50M, 50K, Marathon, 1/2, & 10K
Start Time: 7:30am
My Distance: Half Marathon
Weather: 60-80°F; very dry (10% RH)
The Labor of Love is, according to the Calico Racing website, "A 2 day running festival offering a distance for everyone offering back to back opportunities!"
What I love about Calico Racing events are the variety, location, and sense of adventure of their events. None of them are in the middle of the city and instead are out in the surrounding wilderness. This race was no exception.
Not only was this race in the foothills of the Spring Mountains, it was a 2 day running event with a number of racing possibilities. This race was promoted as a "running festival [that] offers something for everyone!" There were races for both the serious ultra runners as well as for the casual runners or for those the website referred to as "ultra curious." Perhaps I am falling close to the later category?
Saturday's races included a 100 mile, 50 mile, marathon, half marathon, and a 10k.
Sundays's races included a 50k, half marathon, and a 10k.
Runners were encouraged to run either the 100 miler that started on Saturday would take both days to complete, or to run in a combination of races from both days.
An ultra marathoner in his early 60's, who I met on the race shuttle on Sunday, ran the marathon on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. We had an interesting conversation about ultra training. He said his original plans were to run the 100 miler, but since he had to talk at a work conference on Saturday afternoon he instead only had time (only!) to run the full and half marathons. His training for a 100 miler consisted of 25 miles on Saturdays, 15 miles on Sundays, 10 miles on Mondays, 5 miles on Tuesdays, 15 miles on Wednesdays, and 10 miles on Thursdays (I may have the mileage mixed around on the weekday runs, but it's close enough). Altogether, he runs around 75-80 miles a week (By contrast, I've never run more than 35 miles in any given week). And by running the full on Saturday and the half on Sunday, the races actually fit his schedule perfectly. How many people can say THAT about their racing and training schedules?
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, Friday night, laid out all my clothes for Saturday and all my gear. The forecast was for highs in town around 93 and lows around 70, but with the race being in the mountains and at elevations between 4,500-5,500 feet, it could potentially be 15 degrees cooler at the race site. So, I made sure to pack some extra cold weather clothes, just in case. After all, it did SNOW during this race just last year! Well, I didn't end up needing any of it.
On Saturday, I woke up at 4:40am and checked the outside thermometer which said it was 70 degrees (as advertised). I dressed then and quietly filled my Camelbak and ate a banana and a thin bagel. I had a couple of small glasses of water and brought a bottle of water with me, but I decided to not drink too much water before the race and rely on my Camelbak during the race. I did not want to be sitting in line for the porta-potties multiple times before the race or have to stop by the side of the road during the race. I filled my 70oz Camelback with 30oz of Powerade and 40oz of water. I also put a bag of peanut butter m&m's in the back pocket in case I needed some energy.
I was out the door before 5:30am and drove the scenic route through Red Rock Canyon. It took me a little under an hour and I was at the designated parking area before 6:30am with plenty of time to do my final pre-race prep and grab the shuttle to be at the start line before 7:30am.
In the parking area, the temperature was still a little chilly in the mid 50's. After just a couple minutes the sun came up, and by the time I caught the shuttle and made it to the start line just 15 minutes later, it was already easily in the 60's. The race director, who of course had been there extra early to get everything set up, was wearing a beanie and long sleeves. The rest of us were mostly in our shorts sleeves and shorts with a handful of racers wearing jackets. It was a hodge-podge of varying states of dress. By the time the race started it was probably already 70 degrees. When we finished it was at least 80.
Tbe 100 miles, 50 milers, and marathoners all started out at 7am. Us half marathoners started at 7:30, and then the 10k at 8am.
It's wasn't a huge race. Approximately 100 total runners ran the half marathon. I started towards the middle-front of the pack. The race was chip-timed and it took me 11 seconds to cross the timing mat.
The half marathon race course was simple. Start 150 feet from the intersection of Highway 160 and run up Lovell Canyon Road for 6.55 miles and then turn around and come back. The only complications were the hills. From the start to mile 4.5 is a 750' elevation gain. That leads directly into a mile of downhill where we lost 300 of those feet. Then it was gradual 75' uphill again to the turnaround. Of course, that meant that we had to then re-climb the 300' hill on the return trip. That was going to be a doozy.
My plan for this race was to try to run my training pace of 10-11min/mile instead of my usual race pace which is closer to 9 min/mile. There would be no PR, today. I didn't want to push myself too hard and then end up struggling during Sunday's race. So, instead of pushing to break 2 hours, I hoped to run closer to 2:15 or 2:30, but hopefully closer to 2:15.
This race was going to be a big mental challenge because I was going to have to fight myself every step of the way.
Even tho I am only racing myself and in no real danger of winning a race, I still have a former racer's mentality. If I am running with someone, I make sure I stay with or ahead of them. I always have my eyes down the road and try to slowly reel in the next runner ahead of me. If I pass someone, I want to make sure to keep up my pace so that they don't pass me back. I try to power over the hills, running up every single hill and then making sure to "crest" each hill with an extra push. Always trying to grab that extra second that could mean the difference between a PR and second best. Catching as many people as I can in the last couple miles and then kicking in to the finish.
So, this race was going to be a huge internal battle to slow down and conserve energy for tomorrow.
It took a few miles for me slowly back off. I timed my splits on my watch, and despite the uphill, I hit the first mile mark in 9:38. It was time to back off. I was running with a few different people who I knew I should be able to beat, but I had to fight to not push myself to stay with them or overtake them. After two miles the runners thinned out significantly and that made it easier to run at my own pace. The continued assault of rolling hills and the upward ascent also helped me to slowly ease up on my pace. By the time I hit the 4 mile mark I had managed to slow to a 10:45 min/mile pace, but I was still feeling good. I was just making sure not to push myself too much up any of the hills.
Then the race got interesting.
During the race I would take a few drinks from my Camelbak at every mile marker as I went along. As I drink and the bladder slowly empties, the pack gets looser on my back and I end up continually tightening the chest strap throughout the race. As I started the long descent from the 4.5 mile mark, I pulled on the chest strap to tighten it up, again, and the clip on the left side popped loose. It didn't break, and it's not too difficult to hook back on, but I was on a fairly steep 6% downhill grade. I fiddled with it for a few seconds and finally had to stop to walk for a few seconds to fix it. Nothing major, but definitely an annoyance - and I hate to stop running and risk throwing myself off my pace or getting out of the groove.
After the downhill was over, it was back to running uphill again to the turnaround point. I was starting to tire and was worried that I wasn't going to make it back up the hill - at least not without walking.
After the turnaround I took it kind of easy on the downhill to rest up for the impending hill of doom. I stopped to walk once to take a picture of the impending hill (of doom). It seemed like I wasn't passing that many people and I felt like there was a lot of people in front of me or catching me from behind.
Then I hit the hill (of doom). I was determined to run up the entire hill. I went up the hill with short quick steps. It started with a couple of smaller rolling hills before hitting the real steep section. I passed a couple of runners and went back and forth with another runner who would stop to walk then run past me then stop to walk again. Up ahead I could see the majority of the runners walking up the hill. Finally, I hit the steepest portion of the hill. My legs were burning and pace continued to slow. Finally, I decided it was not worth the effort to run up the rest of the hill and risk having super tight legs the next day, so I stopped and walked. I hate walking and I know I could've conquered the hill, but I needed to not kill myself on the first day.
I ended up walking only about 100 yards up the steepest part of the hill. Once we went around the corner I could see that I was actually fairly close to the top of the hill and it was beginning to level off. So, once I hit the last turn I began to run again.
Then, once I hit the top of the hill, I knew it was all just a rolling downhill for the rest of the 4.5 miles to the finish. The walking on the hill had helped my legs stay somewhat fresh and I quickly speed up to a nice quick pace.
This was where a few things came into play. First, I really should've drunk more water before the race. Despite wearing my Camelbak and being able to drink at will, I could not drink enough or catch up on my hydration. I was trying not to drink too much so I wouldn't have to stop to pee during the race, but then when I needed to be hydrated, I wasn't. Then, somewhere around mile 6, i tried to catch up on my drinking and ended up with a side stitch for about a mile. Second, since last October, I had only run in weather about 60 degrees just twice and was not acclimated to the 80 degree temperature during the last stretch down to the lower elevations near the finish line. It felt hotter than I expected, there was little or no shade, and there was very little if any breeze over the last few miles. Finally, I picked up my pace for the last downhill too much too soon. Somewhere between mile 9 and 10 I could feel the combination of all these factors beginning to sap the strength from my legs. Fortunately, I was aided by gravity from running downhill.
After I passed the 9 mile mark, I looked up and was discouraged to see the highway way off in the distance. When I hit the 3 mile mark, I was so focused on my sapping strength and grabbing water from the water station (even tho I was wearing my Camelbak) that I forgot to hit my split button for at least 15-20 seconds. I drank half of the water and poured the rest over the back of my head and neck. Thanks to the hot, dry desert weather, the water dried up really fast and only cooled me off for a few seconds.
Somewhere between the 10 and 11 mile marks my energy level was so low that I was battling myself to keep running. Somewhere around the 12 mile mark I decided that it was okay to walk for a bit to conserve my strength for the next day. There was no need to push myself to keep running since I was not going to get a PR and I wasn't going to get any beauty points for running the entire race. Plus, I had already stopped to walk at least 3 or 4 times, already. So, I walked for about 30 seconds and chugged a bunch from my Camelbak before starting to run, again. But, as a consolation, I was not the only one suffering from the extra heat. This was the first really hot weekend in town and no one was really ready for it, including the out of town runners (of which there were a lot). I heard many conversations after the race and before the next days race about how almost everybody wasn't ready for the heat. After all, last year it SNOWED during the race. And, the runners in front of me were not running much faster than I was, either. We were all definitely all equally affected.
When I passed the race photographer shortly before the mile go mark, I did NOT want to have a bad photo taken, so I tried to focus on my form and speed up a little and pray that I didn't look like I was dying.
Basically, the whole last 7 miles of the race was a real morale killer. Starting with the the uphill climb to the turnaround point and then turning around and seeing the huge hill I had to climb, and then suffering up the hill and down the other side, I was continually thinking to myself, "How the hell am I going to run this again, tomorrow?" I was very worried that all the hills were going to seriously tighten up my calves, hamstrings, and quads and that I would barely be able to run the next day, much less run up these hills.
When I closed in on the 13 mile mark, I remembered (and could see, which was what jogged my memory) that since the start of the race was a short downhill over a wash, that it was going to be about 150 feet of an uphill climb to the finish. Gah!
I wasn't sure if I had enough in me to do my usual big kick to the finish - and there was no one close enough to catch -, but when I hit the bottom of the wash I decided that if I sprinted, the hill would go faster. So, off I went to the cheers of my wife, daughter, and sister-in-law who had all come out to see me finish. That was a huge spirit lifter and made up for any lack of energy I had previously felt.
The fun part about the races put on by Calico Racing is that they have re-usable chips. So, you have to zip-tie them to your shoes and then once you've finished the race, you are met by volunteers wielding scissors or wire clippers. So, you've just finished an exhausted 13.1 mile run and the first thing you have to do is stop and stand still so they can clip the zip-ties and take their timing chip. It makes for a few nervous, wobbly seconds. But, on the plus side, it does give them a stationary target for handing out finishers medals.
So, they took my timing chip, handed me my medal, and then I made a beeline for the food table and had 2 small cups of chocolate milk and half a banana. My stomach, however, was NOT happy with me. I was NOT hungry at all and had to force myself to eat the banana (tho, I had no problem with the chocolate milk, or finishing off the contents of my Camelbak).
My wife drove me back to the parking area so I could get my truck and drive it home. I drank most of my water bottle on the hour ride home. When I got home, I took a quick hot shower, then filled up the bathtub with cold water and sat in the cold bath for 10 minutes. It was as close to an ice bath as I could find on short notice and I really hoped it would help. I took a 45 minute nap and then tried to force myself to eat some more.
Other than not feeling very hungry, I ended up feeling remarkably good. My legs never tightened up and I felt well enough to attend the 2nd birthday party for our friend's son. As luck would have it, they served macaroni & cheese and a vegetarian lasagna which worked out perfect for me.
In the end, despite the weather and my mistake of not drinking enough fluids before the race, I still ended up running just under my goal time of 2:15.
However, I was worried how I would feel in the morning and just how well I would be able to run those hills on day two with tired legs.
Here are my splits (as timed by myself on my watch) for Race #1 with two caveats. The splits for miles 10, 11, and 12 are off because I forgot to hit my watch for at least 20-30 seconds at the 10 mile mark and again I forgot to hit my watch for at least 5-10 seconds at the 11 mile mark. So, my 10 mile split is probably closer to 9:18, my 11 mile split is probably closer to 9:33, and my 12 mile split is probably closer to 9:11. I'm not sure exactly how that all works out, or how I managed to even run that fast while feeling so terrible (other than the fact that it was all downhill and I had gravity on my side).
1 9:38 - 9:38.20
2 10:10 - 19:49.06
3 10:30 - 30:19.22
4 10:45 - 41:04.88
5 10:26 - 51:31.79
6 9:44 - 1:01:16
7 10:35 - 1:11:51
8 11:24 - 1:23:16
9 12:05 - 1:35:21
10 9:48 - 1:45:09
11 9:13 - 1:54:23
12 9:01 - 2:03:25
13 9:54 - 2:13:19
13.1 0:42 - 2:14:07
The final results? I finished just under goal time with an official time of 2:14:07.
I finished 34 out 99 runners.
I finished 7 out of 16 runners in my age group (M30-39).
All things considered, it was still a pretty good race. And had I not been running again the next day, I would've done a lot of things differently. Regardless, I am still happy overall with the results. I only wish I had been a little smarter with my hydration and finished feeling a little better.
The Start Line
The Hill (of doom)
My daughter watching me finish
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
It's Springtime in Las Vegas. That means it's time for roller-coaster weather.
On March 31 the high was 85.
April 1 was 67.
April 4 was 82.
April 6 was 67 again.
April 9 and 10 was up to 87.
April 14th was down to 58.
Today it's back up to 81.
I think I'm going to puke.
So, just one week after the weather in the valley dipped into the 50's with rain and it snowed in the local mountains, I will run my first race on Saturday where the forecast high is 94 degrees. And my second race on Sunday has forecast high of 98.
I kid you not.
Thank you, weather dot come, for this lovely bit of horrible news.
Fortunately, the race will be run in the local mountains with elevations between 4600' - 5400' (compared to 2,100 in the valley) which *should* keep temperatures at least 10-15 degrees cooler. We will also be on the west side of the mountains which may also give us some helpful extra shade for the first part of the race when the low temperatures should hover in the 60-70 degree range. There will not, however, be any real tree cover to speak of since the treeline begins at around 7,000' on the east side and over 8,000' on the east side. Will just be fields of scrub brush, Joshua Tree, and the occasional stunted Pinyon/Juniper.
This is one of the few times I will also be grateful for the 7:30am early morning start time. By the time it begins to really warm up, I will hopefully be hitting the 8.5 mile mark and the long descent down to the finish line.
I was planning to pack some cold weather gear - just in case - but it seems without some major shift in the weather that may be a pointless exercise. I would probably be better served by packing a few extra water bottles in an ice box and some extra sunscreen.
Look for me. I'll be the one wearing flip-flops, zinc oxide and a wide-brimmed hat.
Monday, April 16, 2012
I had been hoping that my run on Saturday was going to be a good one to boost my confidence going into my race this weekend. In the end, it was helpful, but not as helpful as I had hoped.
When my wife and I joined the new gym a few weeks ago, the manager let us know about the local running club that meets there on Wednesday nights, and then we both added their page on facebook. The manager said that they would run no matter the weather.
So, on Thursday, he posted that he and the owner were going to be there on Saturday morning at 8 to run 5 miles and encouraged everyone to join them.
My run on Saturday was going to be 9 or 10 miles, so when I finally got out the door at 7:10, I decided that I would run 4 miles, and then turn and run the extra half mile down to the gym and meet them and then run 5 miles with them to give me somewhere between 9 and 10 total miles.
I had never run with the running club, so the one thing I was worried about was how fast everyone else would be running since they were doing only 5 miles and I would already have run over 4 miles and would be tiring as I would be finishing close to 10.
Well, it seemed like a good idea, but it didn't work out as I planned it. Since I was running 4 miles before meeting them, I ended up running those 4 miles as if I was ONLY running 4 miles - a little too fast.
It was drizzling all morning, but when I got to the gym a little early and no one was there, I just figured they hadn't shown up yet. 5 minutes after 8, there was still no one else there, so I called my wife who informed me that the manager had cancelled the run.
Oh, well. I was still going to get my full run in, anyway, and at least I didn't have to worry about keeping up with anybody.
I stopped in at the Wal-Mart that was next door and hit the men's room and the drinking fountain. Then I ran the last 5+ miles of my run. I definitely ran slower than the first 4 or so. About half way in I got a side stitch that finally went away after a mile.
Also, towards the end I was definitely tiring. That made for some interesting mental games. I really wanted to speed up and run strong to prove to myself that it was just a mental thing (and also so I could finish sooner); however, I also wanted to stay at a slow pace to conserve energy since my race was just a week away and I was technically starting my taper, so there was no real good reason to speed up and run hard and wear myself out. So, I battled back and forth inside my head over whether or not to speed up and push myself, or keep it slow and smart. In the end, I kept it slow to the end to conserve energy which really was the smartest thing.
I ended up running just short of 10 miles (9.9). The first 4.5 paced at around 9:15 minutes/mile. The second 5.5 paced almost right at 10 minutes/mile. In retrospect, my pace for the last 5.5 miles isn't really as slow as it felt. I felt like I was running closer to 10:30/mile. So, it really was a pretty good run, I just didn't like how tired I felt for the last few miles. But, maybe if I hadn't stopped for 15 minutes while trying to meet the running club, or stopped for water at Wal-Mart - I would've felt better and maybe wouldn't have had that side stitch.
The part that's making me nervous, tho, is my Sunday run. My Sunday run was just 4 miles. This is my "day after my lsd" run. I know I can finish my race on Saturday. My "day after my lsd" run is supposed to ensure that I will be able to finish my race on Sunday.
My Sunday run I ran slow and easy, but from the start I felt tired and sluggish. My chest felt somewhat constricted like it was a little more difficult to breath than usual. Can't say I've really had that problem before. Usually it's tired or sore legs, not a breathing problem. I was still able to finish my 4 miles, but it was slow and difficult and I was having difficulty imaging running 9.1 more miles while feeling that way.
So, my confidence is a little higher than before after a pretty good run on Saturday, but thanks to Sunday, it's not as high as I want it to be.
But, in my head, I know that finishing these races is something that I've challenged myself to do and that I MUST do. I don't care if I have to walk or crawl. I WILL finish both of these races. I don't care how bad (or good!) I feel.
Last week I didn't get to sleep on time and I know that's caused issues with me in the past. So, this week I'm determined to make sure I get to sleep by 9, and definitely no later than 9:30, every night.
This week is my taper, so I'll be running 4 miles on Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, and 2 on Thursday. I need to make sure I get to bed on time so I can get plenty of rest every night because I will be up around 4:45am every morning to do my runs. My races this weekend both start at 7:30am and are an hour's drive away, so I will need to be in bed by 8:30pm the night before so I can be up at 4:45am to eat and get dressed and then be out of the house by 5:30am.
I can do this and I WILL do this. I know I can do the first race no problem. As long as I take it easy, I will have energy left for the second race. And as long as I finish the first race, I don't care how much energy I have left for the second race because I will finish if I have to piggy-back on a turtle. I'm definitely bringing my Camelbak for both races which will be filled with 1/3 Gatorade and 2/3 water. I will also have a pack of peanut butter m&m's in the pocket for emergency energy. The rest is all mental preparation.
I WILL do it.
I pray God will give me the strength and I will use that strength.
"Do or do not. There is no try." ~ Yoda
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." ~ John Wooden
"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it." ~ John Wooden
"Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful." ~ John Wooden
Friday, April 13, 2012
This is the race I will be running a week from this Saturday and Sunday.
It's funny how I feel somehow inadequate because I'm *only* running the half marathon distance while most of the races being put on are ultras which means I'm running in the second shortest races of the weekend. In any other race setting, the half marathon would be either the furthest or second furthest.
In any case, I will be getting 3 medals! I will get a medal for the race on Saturday, another for Sunday, and then a third "Love Me Two Times" medal for running races on both days.
How will I do?
If you had asked me that question 4 weeks ago, I would've told you these races were going to be a piece of cake and I had it in the bag and maybe even would push myself more than I really planned to in both races.
Now, I'm coming off 2 weeks of full rest from having hurt my back... and this week I have been feeling drained with an upset and crampy stomach from having the stomach flu last weekend which also made me run poorly during my 10 mile run on Saturday and skip my Sunday run.
Now, I am concerned that I won't even be able to finish one race, much less races on consecutive days.
I really need a good run this weekend to boost my confidence.
In any case, I still have 9 days to taper and for my body to rebuild it's energy (and my GI tract). I will just have to take it slowly and carefully for the first race and then I can relax and enjoy the second one.
I've been training for these races since the end of December. I can't let a couple weeks ruin the whole experience for me. I am going to do this.
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