California International Marathon

December 11, 2009

Liz and I trained for one marathon this year – California International Marathon, in Sacramento on December 6, 2009.  I’ve been working for a couple years toward a sub-three-hour marathon, and this was the year I hoped to achieve that goal.  We picked CIM because it is reputed to be fast and because it was Liz’s first marathon in 1988!  We’ve both been going to Max King’s Tuesday Performance Group, and I hired Max to coach me… and he did a superb job of preparing me to meet my goals.  Max did such a good job, in fact, that I’d raised the bar a bit on my goals – I wanted to run a 2:55 and hoped to place in the top three in my age group.  Getting a podium position depends on who shows up, of course, and there are plenty of guys my age capable of beating me.  A podium would be a matter of luck even if I ran my best.

I run by feel and heart rate, but I also like to have a pace in mind to keep me focused.  The plan was to stay comfortable for the first half (heart rate of 135 should be perfect), and Max thought that I’d probably be running a 6:30 pace for that comfortable first half – if all went well.  The plan then called for me to pick up the effort for the second half, with another increase in effort at 20 miles.  It matched exactly how I’d run in Chicago last year except that my comfortable starting pace was 7:00 last year.

It seems my marathon reports are more about the weather than anything else.  It’s true again for this one.  I checked a number of forecasts, NWS, weather.com, local news, etc., and they all agreed it would be cool or maybe even cold.  And most of them agreed it would be sunny with little wind.

Liz and I arrived in Sacramento on Friday evening and checked into our hotel near the finish. We immediately sensed trouble when we walked into our room – the walls and windows were vibrating with the bass line of the very loud music coming from the party in the hotel’s banquet facility near or room.  We quickly called the desk and asked to be moved to a better room, and were disappointed to hear that we were out of luck.  We made a couple more complaint calls to the front desk before the walls finally stopped throbbing at 11:00 pm.

We cruised through the expo Saturday morning and (uncharacteristically) made a few purchases.  The Clif booth was handing out samples of Margarita Shot Bloks, and they caught our eye because of the “3X Sodium” sign attached to the samples.  They turned out to be tasty, too.  While we were checking out the salty Bloks, we noticed Shot Roks, a recovery product we’d not seen before.  Those were tasty, too!  We ended up buying some Bloks and Roks.   We also visited the Runners Wrap booth where we each spent $5 for a Tyvek shell and $1.50 for a pair of gloves.  We planned to take lots of clothing to the start to give us lots of choices, and disposable warmth just increased the odds we’d have the right clothing for the entire race.

After the expo we went for a short run to wake up our legs. An easy jog warmed me up nicely and a set of 4 strides left me feeling powerful and energized.  With our new-found vigor we took the light rail out to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.  Liz had done the research and found a delightful store readily accessible from the train.  We had lunch there and stocked up on groceries to get us through the weekend.  My stomach often rebels during races, and I’ve learned that I often do better if I snack on yogurt, bread, bananas and other simple fare throughout the afternoon before a marathon.  Back at the room we converted one garbage can into an ice bucket to keep our perishables cold. We were almost ready to settle in for the duration with our snacks and a couple books. The remaining problem was that Liz had already finished the book she brought. Liz made one more outing to a bookstore and returned with something to read and we were ready to relax.  My sister, Nancy, and her husband, Rich, were also in town for the marathon and invited us out to dinner.  We explained that we were done with the outside world for the evening and declined the invitation.  We organized our gear.  CIM was serving Ultima and water at the aid stations.  Ultima has very little carbohydrate, and Liz and I don’t do well with gels, so we decided we’d have to figure out something else to do.  Actually, Liz had figured it out – I was thinking I’d get by on Ultima until Max asked me about four times about my backup plan for nutrition.  It finally sank in that I’d better have a plan, so I joined with Liz in figuring it out.  Liz and I have had pretty good luck with Gatorade Endurance formula.  It was served at Chicago last year and we had trained with it before that.  It got us through the miserable heat of Chicago last year and generally doesn’t upset my stomach, so we decided to try to carry our own supplies of that product.  We bought a couple Amphipod bottle belts at FootZone.  The 12-oz bottles are flattened and curved, and they ride very innocuously in the small of the back.  We filled the bottles with triple-strength Gatorade and planned to sip a bit of the stuff and have a water chaser at some of the aid stations.

We set the alarms (I always take two alarm clocks, doesn’t everyone?) for 3:45 and curled up with our books.  Around 7:00 p.m. we heard music again, but much quieter this time.  Even with the music, Liz drifted off around 8:00.  It seemed the previous night’s noise might actually have been useful – we were tired enough to fall asleep early. I dozed a bit, too, but we both snapped awake when the party abruptly changed between 9:00 and 9:30.  It was loud again, and sleep was no longer a possibility.  I knew it was pointless, but hoped I’d feel better after making another call to complain to the front desk.  It didn’t help, of course, and I was just agitated.  As it had the night before, the noise stopped at 11:00 and we were able to get to sleep.

3:45 came too soon, and we stumbled out of bed and pulled on the clothes we thought we were likely to start with.  The hotel had fruit, coffee and bottled water in the lobby starting at 4:00, so we went downstairs to partake. The bananas we’d found Saturday were far too green, so it was nice to find ripe bananas when we arrived in the lobby.  We each picked up a couple bananas and a small cup of coffee before heading back up to our room.

We finished getting ready and were back in the lobby a few minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive (at 5:00) to take us to the start.  Some folks were waiting for the bus out on the sidewalk, but we joined Nancy and Rich in the warm comfort of the lobby.  There was a lot of energy in the air as everybody was pretty keyed-up and a little anxious. We had a nice visit with Nancy and Rich, and met some of the other guests as we waited. The entire time we were waiting, buses had been moving in a stop-and-go fashion past the front door.  The brochure had said our bus would pick us up between 5:00 and 5:15.  A little after 5:15, Liz and I looked at each other, nodded, and decided it might be a good idea to walk a few blocks down the road to the official headquarters hotel where we were certain we’d be able to catch a bus.  Nancy and Rich had more confidence in the system and chose to stay at our hotel.  We learned later that the bus never came, and everybody from our hotel ended up making the same walk to the headquarters hotel.

Liz and I arrived down the street just in time to miss a wave of buses that had just filled.  Buses streamed past us for a couple minutes – just long enough to make us nervous – before another set pulled to the curb and opened their doors.  We hopped in, found seats that were not on the wheel (I made the mistake of sitting on the wheel bump on the bus in Boston – there is little leg room and it becomes uncomfortable very quickly).  The bus was warm, we were happy and calm and certain we’d make it to the start in time.  Now we could go back to being nervous about the race.

The bus ride was long.  Surely we weren’t going to run all that distance back to the finish! Surely the buses took some circuitous route! Along the way we saw lots of frost, so it was pretty obviously below freezing. The sky was just getting a little color as we stepped off the bus.  There was little wind and not cloud in the sky.  The sunny and calm forecasts appeared to be right.  It was brisk out, but not too bad, and I was sure it would be pretty comfortable once the sun came up.  I decided I’d wear shorts instead of tights.  Liz thought it more prudent to stick with tights – thinking she could tolerate a little overheating late in the race better than freezing early on.

The lines at the porta-potties were short enough still, so we made that stop and headed to the gear drop.  We made our final clothing choices and checked the rest.  The crowd was thick at the gear drop and I lost sight of Liz.  I gave up looking for her after a few minutes and went off to warm up and secure a spot near the start line.  CIM uses clock time for its results, and I was hoping to get a podium position in my age group.  I didn’t want to lose a position by being polite and taking a big start delay.  It was surprisingly open near the start line.  There were, in fact, several fast-looking guys doing short strides back and forth across the road next to the yellow tape that marked the line where we should line up.  I still needed to do strides so I joined them.  After a couple minutes the crowd finally started pressing in and I took a place just a row back from the tape.  Only then did I notice that some people had gone around the start area and were doing strides in the wide open spaces beyond.  It was too late by then, but I felt a little silly for not having noticed earlier.

As the start time drew nearer, the number of people in front of me grew rapidly.  People were squeezing in all around and some were appearing on the other side of the tape.  I joined the crowd slipping under the tape and was about 5 rows back when officials dropped the tape.  I heard a count-down and thought it was for the wheelchair racers, but noticed a lot of excitement in the crowd.  I decided to be ready to go if it happened to be our countdown.  Sure enough, runners started when the countdown got to zero.  There had been very little fanfare for the wheelchair start 30 seconds earlier – I hadn’t heard or seen a thing.  We were off, though, and it took only a few seconds for the crowd to spread out enough to run comfortably.

The plan was to start comfortably, and hold a 6:30 pace – if that was comfortable.  My pace in the first mile is often faster than I want it to be.  Liz had reminded me that my Garmin could show me pace in the current lap – and we both have our Garmins automatically clock a lap with each mile – so I could keep an eye on my pace during each mile.  The problem was, of course, that it was too dark to see what the Garmin was telling me!  I couldn’t see heart rate or pace.  The Garmin’s light wasn’t enough for my aging eyes, either, so I ran the first mile by feel.  I did better than I usually do, but was still too fast.  Volunteers called out the elapsed time and the pace at most miles, and I heard 6:17 as I passed the first mile marker.  I backed off and passed the second mile just as 13:00 was called out.  Perfect!  I don’t remember much about those miles – I was so focused on how I felt and staying upright, that I hardly noticed what was going on around me.  After the second mile I started to notice more, but my universe was still pretty contained.  I was very, very comfortable, and felt I’d picked the perfect amount of clothing. Pace was perfect.  Heart rate was perfect.  I felt great!  Around 3 miles I grabbed my first water and slipped on ice that had formed where water had spilled.  I felt a short, mild pain in my left quad as I jerked to keep my balance.  And I wondered how bad that ice spot would get as more water spilled.

My leg felt OK, and I hadn’t fallen, but it reminded me to be careful! At about this time I noticed a bank of low clouds in the direction we were headed.  “Oh, well,” I thought, “maybe there’s some fog that’s a little slow to burn off.”  A couple minutes later, though, I noticed leaves swirling around a little too vigorously and felt an unpleasant gust of wind.  “Well, that was odd”, I thought.  It didn’t take long before the sun had been obscured and we were being buffeted by winds that were stronger than expected.  Meanwhile, I continued passing mile markers at perfect 6:30 intervals.  I still felt great.

I’m amazed how little I remember about things along the course!  After the race Liz, Nancy and Rich were all talking about this thing and that thing they’d seen… and I just remembered pavement and stripes.  I know I was looking around.  I guess I was just a bit disconnected early on.  I remember uphills and downhills and turns and potholes and intersections and a couple places with horses skittering about near the road, but I don’t remember where they were or how they related to each other.  I was trying to see water stops far enough in advance to get a swig of Gatorade and put my bottle away before taking a cup of water.  I was doing well, sipping a little Gatorade every few water stops and having a bit of water a little more often.

One thing I did notice, though, was that the wind was getting stronger, the sun was definitely gone, and I was getting colder.   Mile 9 was 6:38 (from my Garmin – I don’t remember my splits)  and my left quad was starting to hurt where I’d felt that little stab when I’d slipped.   After a couple more miles I noticed both quads felt a like somebody had unzipped them, stuffed a brick in with the muscles and zipped them back up.  My legs were getting heavy and hard to turn over, and I think it was because they were cold.  The good news was that I no longer worried I’d hurt myself when I slipped.  I was just cold.

My race plan would have me pick it up after passing the halfway point.  I was only slightly off pace, (1:25:46 at the half) but was feeling poorly enough to know I was going to have a long day.  I increased the effort, but it was more than offset by our turn straight into the wind. Mile 14 was 6:41 and mile 15 was 7:03 – straight into the wind.  My legs started feeling better, though, and I think it’s because the increased effort warmed them up a little.  Uphills felt better than down.

My hands got colder, too, and clumsy.  I was having trouble getting my Gatorade bottle out, opened, closed and back in its holder.  To get the bottle out I was twisting the belt around so I’d have the bottle in front of me where I could see it.  In one of the twists I managed to tear one side of my bib, and I noticed my number flopping about and dangling from an attachment at only one corner.  I didn’t want to risk being disqualified by losing my number – CIM made it clear my number had to be visible at ALL times and that I could be disqualified it was not visible.  I tucked most of the number into the waistband of my pants – the bib was visible, though my number was not.  I knew I’d be hard to find in the race photos, but I also suspected this wasn’t going to be a race where I’d want to see how I looked.

My nervousness about losing the last corner of the bib caused me to be more cautious about twisting the belt when getting my Gatorade bottle.  That and my clumsy, cold hands made it harder to get my bottle, and that ended up causing me to miss my sips of Gatorade at several water stops.  I was carrying two gels, and thought I should probably take one of them at 17 miles, but my fingers were so cold by then that I didn’t think I could open the gel packet.  My head was cold, too, and I think it made me stupid.  I pretty much neglected my nutrition in the last 9 miles.

I was able to hold pace in the 6:40s through mile 21, but it consumed all my attention to do so.  I don’t remember much from that section.  I do remember, though, that people were starting to stream past me.  I wasn’t able to do arithmetic very well, but I knew I could still finish under 3:00 if I could keep my pace at or below 6:52.  My Garmin tells me that mile 22 took 7:00, but my feeble brain did the arithmetic wrong at the time and I thought I was running much slower.  I thought I was going to miss 3:00, and had the first little glimmer of “so what, I don’t care.”  I recognized the need to get some positive thinking going, so I focused on other goals.  If I couldn’t beat 3:00, I could at least get a new personal best (previous best was 3:08:22 last year in Chicago).  And maybe I could hang on for one of my other odd goals – 1.5 times the world record would require something under 3:06, and a couple minutes faster than that would put me within an hour of the world record.  Having some (apparently) achievable goals in my head helped me get my motivation back.  About then a group of 10 or so guys came by.  I thought they were probably the leading edge of the 3:00 pace group and I decided to do whatever I could to stay with them.  I surged to catch up and found an extra bonus of being out of the wind.  Any lapse in concentration, though, and I’d find myself a few meters off the back of the group.  I think they pulled me along for a few miles.  My universe had shrunk to watching a few sets of shoes just ahead of me.  I didn’t notice much of anything beyond those shoes.

With a few miles left, the group split.  Five or so guys pulled away, and the rest of the group suddenly let down.  I tried to stay with the faster guys, but simply didn’t have the speed I needed.  I found myself running alone for the last mile or so, and tried not to let down.  I felt like I was dropping to 9:00 pace, but my Garmin says mile 25 was 7:05 and mile 26 was 7:20.  That’s a lot better than I thought I was doing.

I was finally starting to feel warm.  I still had on my hat, gloves and the Tyvek shell.  I removed my hat and stuffed it in a pocket, and started trying to remove the Tyvek.  I found my hands just wouldn’t help out.  The shell was too long and bit baggy, but Liz and I had discovered that we could solve both problems by tying together the front “tails” of the shell (in a loose knot over my stomach, in the style of pin-up girls from the 50s).  The shell had simple snaps to keep it closed and they popped open with ease.  But I couldn’t get the knot untied.  So I gave up and kept the shell on – though I suspect it acted as a parachute at the worst possible time.

At long last I saw the sign for mile 26 and the subsequent turn into the finish area.  I’ve always had some kind of kick left, but my Garmin says I didn’t speed up a bit in the final tenths.  When I made the final turn and could see the finish and the clock, I was so happy.  It was a huge relief to be able to stop.  2:57:27 gun time.  2:57:22 chip time.  A new personal best by exactly 11 minutes.  It instantly switched from a bad day to a great day!  I had persevered through the dark moments of self-doubt that fill the final miles of a marathon, and I had not let down.  I was very happy. 

This guy should have worn tights!

I picked up my medal and a space blanket, had my chip clipped and even stopped for a posed photo – with my torn number out and dangling awkwardly.  There was a food area with hot pancakes, but I didn’t want any.  The Clif booth was handing out Shot Roks so I took a couple of those and a cookie from the booth next door.  Finally I grabbed a half a bagel and headed to the gear check.  Gear bags were being spread out in a wonderfully organized grid that made them easy to find, but bags had not yet all been unpacked, and it took the nice volunteer a while to find my bag in a pile.  My hands (and head) were still pretty clunky, so I fumbled with the bag for a long time before I gave up and tore it open.  I had a recovery drink and dry warm clothes I wanted to get!

After I was dressed and refreshed from the contents of my bag, I wandered back to the finish to look for my brother-in-law, Rich.  He hoped to beat 3:30, and the clock showed 3:35, so I suspected he’d finished and I didn’t bother looking for him.  I found a spot where I could watch the women’s finish, and started looking for Liz and my sister, Nancy.  I had trouble staying focused, and realized it would be easy for me to miss either or both of them.  There was an ever-increasing wave of finishers crossing the line. Suddenly, though, I saw my lovely wife!  With a big smile and beautiful, strong strides she crossed the line at 3:58:26 (gun time – her chip time turned out to be 3:56:43).  I knew her goal was to beat 4:00, and my eyes filled with tears of joy!  I made my way to the fence where I hoped to get her attention.  Still smiling and looking good, she picked up her space blanket and medal and had her chip clipped.  I caught her attention and she came to the fence for a congratulatory kiss.  She stopped for a photo then we headed to the food area.  Lines were huge for food, so she opted just to go to gear check and get out of the crowd.  She spotted where results were posted, though, and took me over to discover I had taken 2nd in my age group.

It was a short, three block walk back to our hotel.  Next to the hotel is a delightful coffee house, and Liz further made my day by mentioning that she had carried $20 in the race and we could stop for coffee!  Hot coffee has never tasted better.  Back at the hotel we got a call from Nancy – she had finished in 3:46:05 and Rich had run 3:27:12.  Everybody qualified for Boston 2011 (2010 has already sold out), and we all feel inclined to go.

After getting cleaned up we went to the awards ceremony.  It was fun to get my plaque, but the highlight of the ceremony for me came when Keith Wood came forward to collect his award for winning the men’s 80+ age group with a time of 4:14:05!  He got a well-deserved standing ovation!

We finished the day with Nancy and Rich joining us for a nice dinner.  The hotel was blissfully quiet and we drifted off to sleep early and slept soundly.  It had been a long but satisfying day.

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The Dirty 2nd Half

October 19, 2009

Super Dave and the FootZone crowd started a fall race a few years back.  A 12 mile race and a 6 miler were offered and were called the Dirty Dozen and Dirty Half Dozen.  It was held at Wanoga Snow Park – quite a distance out of town – and it never was a very popular race.   I ran it in September 2006 and 2007.  In 2008 Super Dave moved it to October, and I missed it because Liz and I were in Chicago for the marathon.

When I had last run it Liz volunteered and worked with timing at the finish chute.  Super Dave had mentioned that they’d give the race one more year, but would discontinue it if turnout didn’t improve.  Liz suggested that he consider turning it into a half marathon and tying it to the very popular Dirty Half. She suggested calling it the Dirty 2nd Half and offering awards for the best marathon times of a combined Dirty Half and Dirty 2nd Half.  Super Dave took the idea and ran with it.  This fall he offered the inaugural Dirty 2nd Half.  Runners responded and nearly 400 people signed up – far more than the 160 that signed up for the best year of the combined Dozen and Half Dozen.

Liz and I wanted to show support, so we both signed up.  Super Dave refused to let Liz pay for an entry, so she got in for free to acknowledge her contribution to the race.  Max is continuing my buildup for the marathon in December, but said the Dirty 2nd Half would fit well into his plans for me.

It turns out he gave me a pretty grueling week leading up to the race.  He gave me a long run Monday (20+ miles) and a speed workout Tuesday and another long run Thursday (23+ miles).  When I asked how hard I should push it in the race he said I could go as hard as I wanted to, but suggested I might be wise to start out slowly.

Race morning was pretty chilly, but clear and sunny.  I wasn’t familiar with the course, but knew that it would climb – a lot – to about 4800 feet.  I chose light tights and two shirts – a light short sleeve under a slightly heavier long sleeve.  And, of course, gloves.  At the start line I suddenly worried I was over-dressed.  The sun felt pretty warm.  With a pretty low-key “go” we were off and running.  I hung back with a couple friends from TPG – thinking I’d get a very good tempo run if I stayed with them.  After about half a mile, though, we had to string out to get onto a narrow trail, and I surged a bit to get out of the crowd.  With the surge my competitive juices kicked in and I kept going.

It was fun to see that the mile markers were for the second half of a marathon.  A little short of a mile into the race we came upon “Mile 14”.  It is the Dirty 2nd Half!  I stayed very comfortable down the hill and across some flat double track.  I found my groove and was having a pleasant time.  I was very surprised to realize I was catching Shane, someone I normally can’t stay with.  I had a few moments of self doubt – worrying I was going too fast.  Then I realized I was fine and decided Shane was having a bad day.  Shane and I ran side by side for a while.  As the road turned from flat to moderately uphill we slowly reeled in a guy who happened to be in my track.  When we caught him I needed to either surge a bit or drop back so I could step into Shane’s track to go around the guy.  I chose to surge.  When I was far enough ahead to step back to my original track I did – expecting Shane to be right beside me again.  But I was surprised my surge had dropped him.  Shane must have been having a very bad day!

I ran by myself as the road got steeper.  I was working pretty hard, but felt comfortable.  On some of the straight sections I could see a couple guys ahead, and I could see that I was slowly closing the gap on one of them.  When I’m fit, I rather enjoy a long, steady grind up a hill like this one.  I finally caught the guy just as the road leveled out at the top of our climb.  At the same time we were both passed by Joel, a strong, fast guy in his 40s.  We passed a few trucks in the road full of folks out cutting firewood – they were a bit surprised to see us running out there.  With the climb behind us, it was time to turn downhill onto a single track.

The first section of single track was rocky and it was hard to keep a rhythm.  After a while, though, it smoothed out and was twisty with banked turns.  I was pushing pretty hard and having a lot of fun!  I still felt great and was pleased that Joel was still in sight.  Then the trail got a little steeper and a little twistier.  And the snowbush was tall and dense.  It was like racing down a narrow, twisty canyon.  I’m glad I didn’t encounter anybody on that section – sight distance was very short.  When I came out of that section I couldn’t see Joel anymore – he’d dropped me.  The trail got mellower and then had a couple uphill sections.  On every uphill I was reminded that I was finishing up a hard week of training.  But when it was level or downhill, I was still feeling strong.

Around 10 miles I really started to fade.  I’d passed a few guys in the mile or so before, and I could hear them closing on me.  I dug a little more to keep them behind me across a section that my legs really didn’t like – mostly level but with those hill/valley pairs the Forest Service builds to keep vehicles off roads.  They are small but steep – one step up, two steps down and a final step up to get out of the hole.  I had no spring in my legs and those dips were uncomfortable.

I held off the guys behind me until we hit an obnoxiously steep uphill at 12 miles.  I moved over to let them by and was surprised to find only one guy was there.  We had dropped the rest of the group somewhere.  I struggled up the hill and tried to collect myself for the short distance to the finish.  About half a mile out I was pleased to find Max cheering me on.  Once again he’d won the race and jogged back out to cheer folks in.  I wasn’t having any fun anymore, and I felt like I’d slowed to a crawl.  I was very happy to see the finish area come into view and got across the line without anyone else passing me.  I ended up with a time of 1:32:49.  I was extremely happy with the race.

When I got home and downloaded the data from my Garmin I discovered that I wasn’t slowing down at the end (except on that last, obnoxious hill).  That was a surprise.  I was also surprised to see that my 15 minute cool down jog was just enough to put my mileage for the week above 80 miles.  I’d never had a week like that before, and it was very confidence-inspiring to have such a good race at the end of such a tough week.  Max’s coaching is working!

XTERRA Trail Running National Championships

October 19, 2009

Last year XTERRA brought its 21K Trail Running National Championships to Bend.  The XTERRA brand and the National Championship were both intimidating, so I didn’t run it in 2008.  When I saw Max win and many of my running friends finishing I regretted that I’d not signed up.  As it happened, XTERRA had agreed to hold the race in Bend in 2008 and 2009, so I decided then that I’d sign up for 2009 as soon as registration opened.

I was one of the first runners to register, and the XTERRA Trail Running National Championship was one of the three races I wanted to focus on in 2009 – the other two were the Dirty Half in June and the California International Marathon in December.

Liz and I went out to check out the course early in the summer, and were surprised to find the Forest Service had destroyed several roads that had been used in the race in 2008.  The road obliteration was so effective that the roads were absolutely unusable – they were turned into shin-deep powder.  We couldn’t even walk in the old roads.  It would be interesting to find out how the course would be adjusted for the race in September.

The day before the race Liz and I went out again to see if the course had been marked.  We found the course had taken the most obvious detour around the first destroyed road, but it looked like the race was going to follow the second destroyed road.  We encountered a couple guys marking the section along the second road, and they said it would be a cross-country section and they were marking a route next to the former road.  The route they marked would require us to cross the road, though, so I scouted out a place to cross the road where I the ground was a little more solid and I might not fill my shoes with dirt.

Race day morning was lovely.  A little warmer than I’d hoped, but not bad.  Max had suggested I warm up for 15 to 20 minutes starting 45 minutes before the race, and to run a few strides with 15 minutes remaining.  I had always done my warm up and strides closer to the start time, so it was nice to learn I could spread them out a bit.  I felt warmed up and just a little nervous when we lined up for the start. There were a few announcements, and we were told the course was a bit short – something like 12.8 miles.  A loud cannon was supposed to signal the start of the race, but it apparently failed to go off.  There was a verbal “go” and a few people went.  Then a few more started. Finally the masses got moving and we were underway.

I settled in to a very comfortable pace, and even chatted a bit with other runners in the first mile along the river. I stayed pretty comfortable in the steep, quarter mile climb out of the river canyon up to the haul road.  The haul road is a pretty gentle climb, and I picked it up a bit for that section.  Everything was going well, and I was feeling very solid.  At about mile 4 we left the haul road for a section of pretty tame single track.  As we left the road I could see a group of guys I knew to be pretty fast.  I felt well positioned and comfortable.

After a bit we left the scenic single track for a bit of time on roads to get around the first obliterated section of the course.  With the longer sight distance I could see that I’d lost the group ahead of me.  Perhaps I’d been too relaxed on the single track.  I picked it up a bit.  I was catching afew individuals, and nobody was passing me, so everything still seemed good.

Somewhere around half way I started feeling hot and thirsty. There were only three aid stations along the course, and I hadn’t brought my own water.  The day was warm enough that I guess I should have had a bottle with me.  At the next aid station I slowed way down and made sure to have a full cup of water.  I was still a little too hot to enjoy the really scenic bit of trail along the river that followed, and I felt like I was slowing down. About when the trail turned away from the river I caught up with a guy and was running pretty close behind him.  Partly because I was hot, and partly because I was watching his feet and the trail, I missed a trail marker.  I don’t know why he missed it.  We both zipped right past it.  Fortunately he pretty quickly decided something was wrong and asked if I’d seen a turn.  I scampered back along the trail a bit and found our missed turn.  I’m really glad he noticed!

I think the water started to kick in as we climbed back away from the river again.  I dropped the guy I’d just passed and reeled in another couple on the climb.  The mid-race sag was gone and I was turning up the intensity a little.  Over the ridge there was just a bit of single track back down to the haul road, and that’s where I really started pushing my effort.  I’d done several tempo runs out and back on the haul road, so it was a very familiar stretch.  I ran by myself until I was down the big hill and back on the river trail. I slowly caught and passed a few guys before returning to civilization and crossing under the Healy Bridge.  Coming out from under the bridge I passed one more runner and was happy to see Max cheering me on.  He’d won the race, done an interview or two and then had plenty of time to jog back up the course to greet me.

During the final half mile I started to fade.  The last guy I’d passed came alongside me as we passed the dog park.  He kindly told me to stick with him as he came by, and I tried, but my legs weren’t cooperating.  Just as I started through the tunnel I heard the announcer call out Katie’s name.  She should have been at least five minutes ahead of me, so I knew she’d had a bad day.  After the tunnel I could see the finish and knew Liz would be able to see me.  It gave me enough energy for a surge to the finish. I was very happy to be done and very happy with my time: 1:28:14

 I was less than a minute behind the winners of the two age groups ahead of me, and I felt very good about that.  And nobody faster turned out in my age group, so I get to call myself an XTERRA National Champion.  I even have a medal to remind me!

A Race at Hayward Field

October 19, 2009

Max told the Tuesday Performance Group he was recruiting a carload of folks to go over to Eugene for one of the summer’s all-comers meets.  The meets are held at Hayward Field and were started in the 1950s by Bill Bowerman.  Hayward Field has been the venue for many, many big meets, including the Olympic Trials in 2008.  There are only a few chances each year for the general public to race on this famous track.  This summer there were five Thursday evening all-comers meets offering a variety of track and field events and one distance race.  The distance race varied from week to week, and Max got a trip organized for a 2-miler on July 16th.

The plan was to leave Bend at 4:00 pm, run the race and return.   We’d have about five hours in the car, but I was excited about the chance to race at Hayward Field.  It turns out only three of us went over to race – Katie (one of the fastest women in town), Danny (very fast when he’s fit) and me.  Katie’s husband, Jeff (one of the fastest guys in town), also came along, and was kind enough to drive their van so we didn’t need two cars.  Max and Andy (the two fastest guys in Bend) filled out the list of passengers.  I felt like a kid – very excited to be heading to a race at Hayward Field with a van full of really amazing runners.

I was nervous about every aspect of the trip.  I didn’t know what facilities would be available – Would I have a place to change?  Would water be available?  So I brought lots of water and wore my running clothes under my street clothes.  I really felt like a kid going to his first dance in middle school.  I felt self conscious and intimidated.

We arrived in Eugene with enough time to change (of course there was a place to change, and a drinking fountain) and warm up, but not a lot of extra time.  So I felt foolish and self conscious holding everybody up as I undressed in the parking lot so I could leave my street clothes at the van.  In my nervous hurrying, I forgot to grab my heart rate monitor.  I like to track my heart rate in races to help me figure out what level of effort I can hold for a given distance.  It was not a huge problem that I forgot it, but I did feel a little silly.  And I felt a bit of panic when I realized I’d left it – thinking I might not know how hard I was running without it.  Then I decided it might be good to run by “feel” and not obsess on heart rate.

We entered Hayward Field and signed up for our race.   My nervousness increased a bit – there weren’t many old-looking or slow-looking runners in the area.  And there were quite a few spectators in the stands.  There was an aura of seriousness that further intimidated me.  Katie was getting nervous, too, and it seemed we each amplified the other’s jitters.  Max said it was good to be a little nervous, but thought we were getting a bit too worked up.  Max got us together and led us out for a warm up around the nearby cemetery.  Near the main track there is a short section of straight track with several lanes. When we were sufficiently warmed up, he took us to the little track where we could do dynamic stretches and silly, pre-race running steps.  We high-stepped and butt-kicked and skipped and ran backwards.  Then he sent us onto the main track to do strides.

There were races in progress and I felt really nervous being out on the track – as if I might be pulled over by the track police and cited for violating track etiquette.  But I ran my strides in the outside lanes and was not ticketed.  I was ready to go, and was now nervous that I’d not hear the call for my race.  So I hung out near the start line to reduce the likelihood of missing everything.

Max and I had independently decided upon 11:30 as my goal time for the 2 miles. Max told me to try to run about 1:25 for the first four laps.  He assured me I’d be too fast on the first lap – because of excitement – and that I shouldn’t worry about it.  And he told me I could pick it up in the last mile if I had anything extra.

Eventually the 2 mile race was called and a good sized group of young, fast-looking men and women showed up.  After a bit of fussing to get us lined up behind an imaginary line, the gun sounded and off we went.  I settled in where I thought I should be, and we got around the first turn and it looked like we’d sorted out nicely.  But some folks ahead of me started slowing and a couple guys behind came charging by.  It was a little crowded for a moment, but I got settled into a new spot and tried to stay smooth.  There was a timer calling out times at the start/finish, and another guy telling us how many laps were left.  I thought I’d be able to count to eight without help, but it turns out I lost track before the end and was very happy to have help!

I finished the first lap at 1:24, and was delighted to be so close to target.  Max called out subsequent lap times for me, and I stayed pretty close to target.  It was great to hear Jeff and Andy and Max all cheering me on!  Max also told me to drop my shoulders.  A couple times I was so certain I had them relaxed and down, but he’d tell me to drop them.  I guess I don’t yet know what relaxed shoulders feel like.

I finished the first four laps perfectly on target, but found I wasn’t able to speed up as I started the second mile. I sagged a bit with a few laps left, and heard Max call out 1:27.  It was my slowest lap, and it motivated me to push hard through the finish.  I was very happy to hear the lap helper tell me I had one lap left, and really put everything into that last lap.  I finished in 11:32, which was very close to my goal of 11:30.  I was very happy.

We all went to dinner at a pub and around 10:00 pm started the drive home.  Max offered to drive, and the rest of us were a lot quieter than we had been on the drive over.  I’m glad I wasn’t asked to drive, as the day had left me drained.  Too much nervous energy, but it was a great day for me.

Dirty Half 2009

October 19, 2009

To catch up and get back to blogging, I’ll post a few remembered races… here’s the first remembered race report.

The Dirty Half is the most popular running race in Bend. It’s a June half marathon run on some very pleasant mountain bike trails west of town.   There are some hills – generally up in the first half and down in the second half.   The first mile or so is on a wide, pretty gentle dirt road, and it funnels onto single track and turns uphill after that.  Passing is not easy on the single track, so a lot of racers go out too fast in an attempt to get good position where it’s easier to pass.    As a result, a lot of those fast-starters are a bit spent and slow down as soon as they hit the hill… and they’re hard to pass.  In the past I was a hard-starter, but never to the point where I’d have to slow on the hill.  I ended up running the whole first half too hard, and that left me running out of gas somewhere in the second half.

This year I had decided to go easier on the uphill and try to have more left for the downhill.  Max (by the way, I hired Max King to coach me, and his work with me started in earnest just before the Dirty Half) encouraged me in this decision, and further encouraged me to try to push hard on the downhill.

Liz also decided to run the Dirty Half this year.  Her training runs were fun and very promising.  But we both fell ill a week or two before the race.  We were pretty wiped out.  We both felt well enough on race day to go ahead an line up.  I think I was closer to well than Liz was, but I’m not sure I should have raced.  By the end we were both feeling it, and were sick for another few weeks.

Feeling tired from illness helped me stay in control for that first mile. I surged a little just before the single track, thinking I’d pass quite a few people.  But it turns out I wasn’t the only one surging.  It was a bit chaotic as a few of us ended up out in the brush, hopping over bitterbrush and bunch grass in the soft dirt.  The scene reminded me of something from a bad western.  Adding to the effect was the delightfully surreal appearance of a bluegrass band along the trail in the middle of the forest.  The Dirty Half has its own personality!  I stayed in control for the climb up Phil’s canyon, and passed a few people.  By the time the trail mellowed out between climbs, I was settled into a spot with nobody holding me up and nobody on my heels.

At the top of the climbing, we turn onto a wide, red cinder road for a half mile or so.  That half mile takes us down pretty steeply and right back up again.  As I turned onto the road I could see a group of runners a couple hundred meters ahead of me.  I had hoped I’d have a chance to pass a few runners on the road, but it looked futile to try to chase them down in the distance available.  At the bottom of the hill, though, I found my new coach yelling at me to “Catch that group, Dave!”

One of the things I like about being coached is that I don’t have to take responsibility for bad decisions.  If I decided to chase these guys and I ended up running out of gas – well, that would be a bad decision.  If Max tells me to chase those guys down – well, it means he thinks I can do it!  So I took off after them.  I managed to catch the group and passed all but the first two guys.  I slid into position behind them as we turned back onto single track.  The problem I faced at this point was that I was well above my comfortable heart rate, and I had a big group of guys right behind me.  I had to find a way to stay with the guys ahead of me while recovering.

I was quite surprised to find myself holding position and pace and feeling well.  My heart rate was still in the low 150s (I was hoping to be at 149 or so), but it felt comfortable.  I actually felt better than I had before the surge.  It was a fun discovery.  The guy in front of me was faster uphill than I was, but I’d catch up with him on the downhills.  We stayed together and pulled away from the crowd behind us.  At mile 10, the trail turns back uphill for a mile or so, and I fell back far enough to lose contact – even though I added some effort at that point.  I regained some energy heading down the switchbacks toward mile 11, and gave it another boost for the last two miles.  I closed some of the gap, but never did catch the guy ahead of me.

My legs were fading toward the end, and I was happy to see the landmark outhouse where the trail turns and makes a last, short descent to the finish.  I crossed the line at 1:30:55. My goal had been to break 1:30 this year, but I was happy with the time.  As I told Max, everything went according to plan except for being sick.  And it leaves me a little room for improvement next year.  It’s always good to have a goal!

The thing that stopped me blogging

October 19, 2009

The thing that stopped my blogging… and emailing… and lots of things… happened on Tuesday, May 19th.   That was the day Steve Larsen collapsed and died at our track workout.  Steve was an amazing athlete and his death was shocking and sad for many, many people.  The silver lining in all of this was, for me, a reminder to appreciate every day even more than I already do.  I don’t know how many more I get to enjoy.  I’m sad for Steve’s family, but it helps me remember not to take any day for granted. But Steve’s death also shut me up.

This blog gets about one hit a month, so I know it doesn’t make much difference to anybody else whether or not I write anything here.  I already knew this blog is just for me.  I thought it was going to be a place for me to reflect on my motivations and, maybe, some of life’s bigger issues… as reflected in running.  It hasn’t gotten to that place.  It’s been a place where I write about races.  And I’m fine with that.  When I re-read my race reports, I remember a lot of the emotion that I had at the time.  So it’s been a useful blog for me.  Sorry if it’s been boring for you.

But I don’t fully understand why Steve’s death shut me up.  I don’t feel compelled to write about it, but I know it is the event that quieted me.   I’m going to see if I can get back into writing here… hoping that I’ll get bored and comfortable enough writing about running… that I’ll eventually find myself writing something interesting here.

Eugene Half Marathon

May 7, 2009

Liz and I rolled into Eugene Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the expo for Sunday’s Marathon and Half Marathon.  We were both registered for the half, but Liz is just coming back from an injury and decided not to race.  It was pouring rain when we arrived; with a forecast suggesting it would be raining all weekend.   I’d been feeling tired for weeks, and the wet weather did not perk me up at all.

As the afternoon progressed, though, the skies cleared somewhat and Liz enjoyed a lovely run late in the day.  The course for this year had been changed in the section along the river near our hotel, and she ran that section to see what was new.  I stayed in the room and took a nap.  Liz returned with an upbeat report, and mentioned that the bits of rain she encountered were actually quite refreshing.  My nap, the change in the weather and her comments all contributed to a slight improvement in my mood.  But I was still not sure I was going to enjoy the race.

Not long before bedtime, I was looking through the goodies we got at the expo, and I noticed a sample of something called Vitamin Water.  Well, I was a bit thirsty, and vitamins seem like a good thing, so I opened it and started sipping.  It was pretty tasty.  Between slugs I was reading the label.  With one gulp left in the bottle I happened to reach the end of the ingredient list, and discovered I was consuming caffeine.  Oops!  I immediately wished I’d read the entire label before I started sipping.  We went to bed early and I managed to drift off, but my eyes snapped open and I was wide awake shortly thereafter.  Sigh.  I often lie awake with race jitters, but this was something else entirely.  The clock slowly churned its way to 1:00 am before I felt drowsy again.   It seemed only a few moments later it was 4:45 and I was awake again.  The alarm was set for 5:00, so there was no point in hoping for more sleep.  I got up and looked out the window to see pouring rain and big puddles.  Ugh.

We went through all the steps of getting ready, but I was pretty sure I’d wimp out if the rain didn’t let up at least a little.  Liz wasn’t very excited about standing around in the downpour just for a glimpse of me trudging past with furrowed brow.  I normally like to arrive at the starting line with lots of time to spare, but I was dragging my feet.  Our hotel was about a mile from the start, and I figured I absolutely had to leave by 6:20 to have enough time to deal with warm ups, clothing drop and so on.  The rain seemed to be letting up a little as the deadline approached, so we decided to jog to the start in case it kept getting better.  I was even getting psyched enough to consider running in a pretty hard rain.  Race day magic was finally getting to me.

The closer we got to the start, the lighter the rain became.  The temperature was in the upper 40s, but I was pretty comfortable in short sleeves and shorts.  I decided to gamble and did not wear gloves and did not carry my rain shell.  It was uncharacteristically brave of me – I do not like to be cold!  I did wear a hat to keep the rain off my face, though.

There was no apparent way to enter the start area, so I followed a line of guys climbing over the fence to get in.  My plan for the race was to try for 1:25.  I lined up a ways in front of the 3:10 marathon pace group, as that was the fastest pace group offered.   There was just enough rain to be bothersome when I removed my cap for the national anthem.  Shortly, though, the cap was back in place and we were off and running to a shout of “GO!”

Despite a bit of nervousness that I’d lined up too far forward, I ended up having to pass many, many slower runners in the first quarter mile.  I tried not to worry about being blocked in for a few moments, and didn’t spend too much energy getting through.  I saw Liz as I climbed the first hill.  She was, as always, the best supporter I’ve ever seen.  That hill and a couple of turns helped string out the crowd, and we were settled into an orderly line well before the end of the first mile.  The first mile went by in about 6:20.  That seemed a little fast, but I was feeling great and my heart rate was right where I wanted it, so I didn’t worry.  I did ease up a tiny bit, though, just to be cautious.

During the second mile I saw Max and Kari.  Max runs the Tuesday Night Performance Running Group in Bend and is an amazing – really amazing – runner.  I suspect he was in Eugene to support someone he coaches.  Kari is one of the regulars at Tuesday nights, but she’s been sidelined for weeks and weeks with a hamstring injury.   It was fun to see familiar, motivating faces.   The second mile clicked by in 6:06.  Whoa!  That’s definitely too fast!  I eased up a little more and was supremely comfortable for the next few miles.

The rain was light to non-existent, I was feeling great, and I was comfortably holding a pace I was very happy with.  I was having a delightful run.  As we headed back toward Amazon Park, we were exposed to a noticeable headwind.  I’d been tucked in behind a small cluster of guys, but they were slowly dropping me.  I gave a little surge and caught them again for the benefit of the wind break, but they slowly gapped me again.  It felt just a little too hard to stay with them.  Better to face the wind by myself I decided.

In Amazon Park I saw Max and Kari again, and that was a good boost just as I was starting to feel the effort.  There was a big, noisy crowd at South Eugene High School.  That was a great distraction, too.  I’d forgotten that my bib had my name printed on it, so I turned my head a few times to see who had shouted out “Good job, Dave.”   It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t possible know that many people in Eugene, and I remembered the bib.

Next came another hill, and I knew to look for Liz somewhere near the top.  When Liz spotted me I was still ahead of pace for a 1:25, and I could tell she knew!  The woman next to her had a nice camera and was obviously taking pictures of me.  I learned later that they’d had a nice talk and Liz’s new friend had decided to take some pictures of me and email them to us.  The big smile on my face makes it obvious how much I enjoy seeing Liz along the way! 

Happy to see Liz - despite a hill and some rain!

Happy to see Liz - despite a hill and some rain!

 My legs were getting a little heavier, but I still felt great otherwise.  Even with the hill, the 9th mile went by in 6:40.  It seemed I was holding pace.

After cresting the hill I tried to relax into an easy cruise down the other side, but found I was getting a little tight.  When it flattened out I was no longer supremely comfortable.  My legs got more sluggish – it took more effort to keep them turning over – and a nagging discomfort was building.  It was different from previous races, though, in as much as I felt like I could keep going.  At the end of the 10th mile I was still ahead of goal, but I decided to quit looking at my watch.  If I was going to fade I didn’t want to know about it.  I focused on the last 5K and tried to make it as fast as I could.  I could hear my feet slapping a bit, so I concentrated on form.  With about a mile to go, a couple guys came by and I tried to stay with them.  The first guy opened up a gap, but the second guy didn’t manage to get away.  It really helped to have him to focus on.   My legs felt like they were in water, it was so hard to turn them over.  But I knew I was almost done and I didn’t want anybody else coming by.  The guy I was chasing caught the guy ahead of him, and they clearly energized each other.  They both looked a lot stronger and smoother than I felt!  I saw Max and Kari a third time just before turning the corner for the final, flat tenth of a mile to the finish.   I saw Liz waving and jumping along the rail a bit before the finish.  I was still too far away to read the clock, but I guessed from Liz’s excitement that I had a shot at 1:25.  When I was close enough to read it, I saw I was going to finish under 1:25!

My chip time turned out to be 1:24:08, and I am delighted.  Max’s Tuesday night workouts have made a big difference.  When it got uncomfortable, I had a new level to dig into and I was able to hold pace at a level that seems somewhat incredible to me.  Thanks, Max!

A 50 year old guy finished in 1:19:46, so I was not the fastest in the 50-54 age group.  But the fast 50 year old turned out to be the 2nd place master, and got a plaque for that achievement.  That took him out of the age group awards, so I got a nice plaque for 1st place in my age group.  It’s one of the last races I’ll run before I turn 55, so it was especially fun to bring home some hardware!

After an inauspicious start, it turned out to be a great day for a run!

Tuesday Night Magic

March 5, 2009

My lovely wife, Liz, has joined me for the past two Tuesday night performance running clinics. It took a while to talk her into it – she’s not enjoyed speed work in the past and she was worried about being too slow for the clinic. I eventually convinced her that it was a very laid-back group, and that there would very likely be someone for her to run with. I couldn’t promise it would be fun, but I guaranteed her it would be better than going to the track alone.

Her first time out was last week, and Max had us doing a tempo run on a loop around the park. There are parts of the loop without lights, so our tempo pace had to be fast enough to finish before it got too dark. Good motivation! Liz had a great experience and felt welcome and not intimidated. And we finished before dark!

Last night the workout was 6×1000 or 6×700 with a short rest between loops. The short workout often draws newcomers and a few people who need to leave early. Last night the short workout drew three newcomers, including Liz. By happy coincidence, the three were all about the same speed, so they stuck together and challenged each other. When the six loops were done Liz had run faster than she’d expected to, and she had fun. She’s sold on the magic of Tuesday night.

Wintery Mix

January 3, 2009
Winter weather was slow in coming, but has been strutting its stuff since it got here. Max canceled the Tuesday night running clinic a couple weeks ago due to cold and snow. And there was a stretch with snow every day. Very pretty. But it was still cold, and the snow was coming down just fast enough to require shoveling at home to get out, shoveling at the office when we arrived (the small parking lot and a couple hundred feet of sidewalks) and a repeat shoveling at office and home at the end of the day. With all the shoveling I was too tired and sore to get excited about running. Our little dog, though, never lost interest. We take him out for a daily jaunt in the park near the office. It’s about a mile total, and the little guy runs at least half of it – with appropriate stops at favorite trees and lamp posts. If not for the dog I’d have not run at all. Luckily I also had two or three spin classes a week to keep me working.

By the time the next Tuesday night running clinic rolled around, it had warmed up a bit and I’d gotten into the rhythm of snow shoveling (so I wasn’t always sore and exhausted). I actually looked forward to it! The paths had been cleared, but there was still enough snow that traction devices were required. Max gave us 1K repeats with 1 minute of rest between… it was fun and got me thinking about running again.

Then it warmed up and rained on top of all the snow. Slippery, yucky slush guaranteed to get your feet wet and cold. And the mashed potato slush would refreeze every night. Our spin classes took a one week break around Christmas. I was back to a short run with the dog each day.

A few days ago the rain stopped and the sun came out long enough to mostly clear some roads and paths. On Monday my lovely wife and I took the dog for a 3.5 miler and I added a couple miles on my own. It felt great! On Tuesday Max had to be creative because of a few very icy areas on the paths we use, but we got in a good workout and no one slipped or fell down. Wednesday was nice again and my wife and I took the dog for a repeat of the 3.5 miler. Our dog usually gets only one “long” run a week, and we hadn’t planned to take him again. But he’d been so enthusiastic on Monday and got so excited when we were getting dressed to run we decided to take him again.

Yesterday was New Year’s Day, and I planned to join the local running club for a 6 miler on the River Trail. It had turned warm again, so the trail was likely to be slush and mud, but I’d regained my runner mentality. I wanted to run. I was a little late in arriving and found every parking space full at the park. I saw several other cars doing a pass-and-review, too. I don’t know of any legal parking within half a mile, and I didn’t want to hurry to park and then run hard to catch the back of the pack. Plus, I knew I’d have a hard workout in a 90-minute spin class later that day. So I blew it off. Oh, well. The spin class was hard, and I would’ve had a really hard time if I’d done the run. It worked out. I’ve become such a wimp!

 

Jingle Bell Run

December 9, 2008

Early every December there’s a 5K run just prior to the Christmas Parade through downtown Bend.  It’s the annual Jingle Bell Run and it’s a fund-raiser for the Arthritis Foundation.  But it’s in December, and the weather is usually cold and icy and miserable.  So I’ve never participated before.  But this year winter has been slow to arrive.  The parade and the Jingle Bell run were the day before yesterday, and it was a freakishly beautiful day for running!

So I signed up at the last minute and ran in short sleeves and shorts.  I was curious to test myself a bit to see what amazing magic was being worked upon me in the Tuesday Night Performance Running Clinics.  My plan was to start hard and see how long I could hold on.  The Jingle Bell Run isn’t really a race – only the first three men and women are timed, and a lot of people show up in costumes appropriate to the season.  I lined up a row or two back from the front, but I found myself behind a couple of elves and a team of reindeer.  By the time I’d nudged myself around them, I was on the very front row.  There was a mix of folks up front, but most of the front row was filled with excited, eager kids – the kind who explode off the line and have a wonderful time for the first quarter or half mile.  The run follows the parade route through downtown, and the crowd was building and perhaps a bit bored waiting for the parade.  Old guys and kids alike got a few moments of glory as we charged down the parade route to the cheers of the parade spectators.  Bend’s old downtown is three blocks long, and at the end of that stretch is when the most exuberant of the kids started to fade.   It’s also where the truly fast guys started coming by me (they’d presumably been stuck for a bit behind some reindeer).  I didn’t count, but it felt like a dozen or fifteen guys came by.   After about half a mile I was settled in to line of guys that barely changed for the rest of the run.  One or two guys came by and one or two fell back.

My Garmin is set to beep every mile, and it beeped within a few feet of the 1-mile sign.  That’s always reassuring.  I glanced at the time at the mile, and it was 5:52.  Well, that was faster than I’m used to running!   I tried to keep myself at the same level of effort to see if I could hang on.  The first mile had a bit of downhill, and the second mile was flat or a little uphill… and there was a bit of a headwind.  So I expected to be a little slower.  But the second mile beeped at 12:14, so I’d managed only a 6:22 for the second mile.  The third mile was with the wind and generally a little downhill, but it had a noticeable climb in the last quarter mile.  I didn’t look at my watch when it beeped at three miles, but the Garmin tells me the third mile was a 6:24.  I’d say I was definitely fading.  My Garmin also reported a total distance of 3.2 miles, and it tells me I ran the final .2 miles at a 5:34 pace.   The Garmin reported a 6:10 average pace, but I don’t get too excited about the absolute numbers it gives me (I suspect it reads a little long, so I assume it thinks I’m faster than I am).  But I assume it’s probably pretty consistent, and I can compare data from different races.  It’s the fastest pace my Garmin has reported for a 5K, so I think the Tuesday night workouts are working!