Monday, March 29, 2010

Run for the Border Half Marathon - Race Report & the Verdict

The next step of my marathon training was to determine exactly where I was fitness-wise. I chose the Run for the Border Half Marathon as the test. Luckily, I had the best race crew in the world at my side.

D and I packed up the Little Lady and headed for Rye, NH. I only took an hour and a half to reach Wallis Sands State Beach, so we had an hour to kill. Thankfully, the little girlie was in a great mood and was psyched to chill in the car with us. And, staying in the car was the right call because it was windy. Really windy. This would be the theme for the day. With so much time to kill and really long lines at the porta-johns, I decided to go for a short jog. I didn't really see the need to warm up because I figured I had enough miles to do that. My plan for the day was to run 8 miles at marathon pace (7:27 per mile), then really push the last 5. With the way my week went, I was skeptical this plan would go well.

Eventually, it was time to start the race. Or so I thought. Along with my fellow runners, I headed toward what I thought was the start line. We all milled around the registration tent, until eventually the crowd started to cross the parking lot. Apparently, the start line was on the other side, but no one had any idea what was going on. Because of the chaos, the race started at least 5 minutes late, and at that, it barely started. Someone must have said, "Go," because everyone started running. It was very odd.

Once I started moving, I knew that in .1 miles, I'd come to the 7-mile mark. Yeah, this race was a little weird because the half marathon course is the final 13.1 miles of the 20-mile race. Since you need the extra .1 for the half marathon, we started at 6.9 miles into the 20-mile race. Follow that? Trust me, it works out. All that being said, I never saw the 7-mile mark. No big deal, I'll get the 8-mile mark. Well, I never saw the 8-mile mark, either. I was expecting signs, but they were just painted on the road.

Throughout this first mile, I kept dropping back. As D said to me later as she watched the start, "Wow, Ryan's in 11th place!" Somewhere in my head, I knew I was going a bit too fast, but I was behind three guys that were breaking the wind nicely. But, then I dropped back behind another pair, and back again, and back again. Eventually, I decided that I needed to run my own race, so I resolved to run alone. I fell in with a group, and we actually did a fair amount of chatting. At some point, we crossed over the 9-mile mark, aka the 2.1 mile mark. I didn't hit my watch because I didn't realize it until the group decided that that was indeed the mile marker. I'll get the next one, but I recall something in the 14:50ish range.

Did I mention the wind? Yeah, it was windy, and it was mostly coming straight at us/from our left. You see, the course follows Route 1A south, which is right along the ocean...literally. The road did curve on a few occasions, but only briefly, and it wasn't much of a reprieve. The wind was also messing with my mind as I really having trouble gauging my pace. And, admittedly, it became clear that I hadn't done enough marathon pace runs to really have my internal clocked dialed. That being said, I was feeling pretty comfortable. D passed me, and I was waiting for me at the 10-mile mark.

"How you doing?"
"Great, but I sprinted the first half mile!"
"Because I'm an idiot."

I grabbed my 3.1 mile split: 22:33. That averages out to 7:17 per mile. Faster than I wanted. Not ideal, but not horrific. But at this point, I was starting to feel my pace.

Mile 4: 7:27. Nice. Still windy.
Mile 5: 7:38. Less nice. Still windy. This mile split makes sense because I was feeling a bit not so great here.
Mile 6: 7:28. Nice. Slightly less windy. Feeling much better.

The regular finish line for the race is in Salisbury, MA, but due to bridge construction the race finished at Hampton Beach this year. So, mercifully, this change took the race course inland off of Route 1A. Off Route 1A, meant out of the wind. As soon as we turned, not only were we out of the wind, but the terrain changed: hills! OK, minor little bumps, but this change felt terrific. The timing was perfect, and I felt relaxed and great.

Miles 7 & 8: 14:39.

Obviously, I missed a split, but I did get the 8-mile split, which was key. So, after all that craziness and inconsistency my 8-mile split was 59:46. My goal was 59:36. Time to roll.

Miles 9 & 10: 14:03

I passed a few people, and I was rolling. Felt really, really good. I was cheering at the spectators. Good times.

Mile 11: 7:07

Still good...except for the last 1/4 mile of that mile.

"What happened that last 1/4 mile?" you ask. I turned right. I turned back on 1A, back along the ocean, back into the wind. Did I mention it was windy? What followed were the hardest flat—completely flat—two miles I have ever run. In theory, you could run close to the seawall, which lessened the wind by about 5%, but increased the nasty, salty sea spray in your face.

Mile 12: 7:38

Are kidding me? It felt more like 5:38. It was so windy, I had to flip my hat backwards, Over the Top style, for fear of loosing it. Unfortunately, it wasn't like flipping a switch, and it was still really, really windy.

Mile 13: 7:11

It felt like I should have been timed with a calendar. Either that, or they kept pushing the finish line back on me. It was ugly, but I held it together. D, the Little Lady and my parents were at the finish—that's a great way to end a race.

Final time: 1:35:48
22nd place out of 215 finishers. RESULTS

Overall, I'm really happy with how this went. I ran the final 5 miles in 35:59. If I hit the 8 mile split, I had set a reach goal of 1:35. So, to come that close with the wind, I'll certainly take it. I executed my plan, and it added up to a good result. Also, it's technically a half marathon PR...since I've never run a half marathon. I think I like this distance.

The Verdict

Again, the whole reason for running this race was to get a gauge for the marathon. And, the good news is that I ran well and it told me exactly where I am. It's clear to me that I'm not ready to run a 3:15. It's just not realistic right now. 3:25? Absolutely. But, I'm not interested in 3:25. Even though that would be a significant PR, that won't get me to Boston. So, I'm not going to go through the hassle, stress and expense of trucking the family up to Sugarloaf, so I can run the marathon. Plus, at around mile 6 yesterday, I decided that running a full marathon just, frankly, wouldn't be fun. I am stoked with this decision. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. And, I'm ready to kick some serious ass at the Pineland 25k!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Training Weeks 3/14 - 3/20 & 3/21 - 3/27

Admittedly, I've been a complete slacker in updating the blog, but that's because I've been a complete slacker in general. This week was completely craptastic, so my motivation to update last week was nonexistent. Consequently, the long term confidence is dwindling. This whole "marathon training" isn't quite going as planned, and, perhaps, it can't be done when you have a 5-month old child that hates sleep. It's a good thing she's cute because otherwise we'd leave her on a hillside somewhere.

Who me?

Onto the numbers:

3/14, Sunday: 8.25 total, Granite State Snowshoe Championship 10k: 58:11, 13/34.

3/15, Monday: 3 - 25:01, Suck Loop. Felt surprisingly good.

3/16, Tuesday: Off. Planned off day.

3/17, Wednesday: 5 - 43:51, Back Cove with D and the Little Lady in the B.O.B. We had an appointment in Portland, so we took advantage of the circumstance and the beautiful weather to run together. I'm definitely getting more comfortable pushing that rig.

3/18, Thursday: ~35:00, skate ski at Great Glen Trails. I only managed about 6k, but the snow was sooooooo sloooooooow, it was more of a workout than I bargained for.

3/19, Friday: 3 - 23:36, Suck Loop. Felt great.

3/20, Saturday: 20 - 3:29:47, Hedgehog Fat Ass hosted by Chuck and Katy. I arrived late, since I was on daddy duty, so D could get her planned run in. As a result, most folks had already put in ten miles by the time I arrived, and they were 10 tough, rugged miles. Chuck devised a terrific course of two distinct loops with plenty of singletrack, mud, hills and even the dreaded FIELD OF DEATH. This was not easy running. I planned for 20, and that's what I managed despite the unseasonably warm temperatures. Unfortunately, since I started late, I had the run the final 6.25-mile loop alone. Admittedly, I was pretty beat by the time I was only a mile or so into it, and decided to skip the climb over Hedgehog Mountain. I felt pretty strong the most of the way, and was pleased to get the miles in. It was clearly much warmer than I'd been used to as the insides of both my quads cramped up badly after I finished. I think Chuck was worried I was going to writhe around on his lawn all afternoon. Luckily, it took me so long to finish, none of the 15 or so Trail Monsters remained to see me.

Miles: 39.25
Trail: 28.25
Road: 11

Big week for me. Very pleased.

But, it might have killed me. It's not a good sign that I do one tough long run, and I crash the following week. Beginning to think I should stick to the shorter stuff. Here's why...

Onto the numbers:

3/21, Sunday: Off. Planned on a short run to get the junk out of my legs, but both D and I spent the day lounging around my parents' house instead.

3/22, Monday: 5 - 41:12, Highland Green Loop. Quads still a bit sore from Saturday, but otherwise, I felt great.

3/23, Tuesday: 4.5 - 42:17, Mt. Ararat Loop with powerline extension. The day was crappy, and that's how I felt. I pushed myself out the door in the rain and the wind, but I'm not sure what I accomplished. I felt terrible. Soreness was completely gone, but that's the only positive.

3/24, Wednesday: Off. Exhausted.

3/25, Thursday: Off. I felt so awful when I woke up, I thought I was going to vomit—no exaggeration. I was off from work...but, I was also charged with taking care of the Little Lady all day. Not entirely restful.

3/26, Friday: Off. Felt good enough to squeeze a run in, but decided to bag it. Still not feeling great, so I figured pushing it would do more harm than good. Did I mention that the Little Lady has decided that waking up every two hours in the night is a good thing?

3/27, Saturday: 3 - 24:25, Suck Loop. Not great. Not awful. At least I got the blood flowing.

Miles: 12.5
Trail: 4.5
Road: 8

Not exactly the numbers that are going to lead to a Boston Qualifier. Like I said, one long run, and it all falls apart. Not what I was hoping for. Right now, I'm totally questioning the marathon in seven weeks.

That week doesn't deserve tunes.

Tomorrow is the Run for the Border Half Marathon. It is supposed to be a barometer for my marathon training, but based on this week, I'm not sure what to expect. Well, I'm not expecting much. The plan was to run the first 8 miles at marathon pace, and then push the last 5. I'm going to stick with that plan, but I'm not entirely confident. Even if it does go well, I'm not sure about the marathon. I guess I'll know more around mile 11 tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Training Week 3/7 - 3/13 & The Plan

A little out of order this week, but I wanted to make sure I got my race report done while it was fresh in my mind. And, in no way does that short change last week because it set me up nicely.

Onto the numbers:

3/7, Sunday: 6 - 1:09:15, snowshoe on the Granite State Snowshoe Championship course at Great Glen Trails. I figured if it was going to be a true home course advantage, I should get out and run the course. I didn't exactly make the connection from the nordic trails to the Aqueduct Loop the way Chris ended up laying it out, but it was close enough. It was a great run, and it confirmed what I already knew: the course was awesome and difficult.

3/8, Monday: 5.5 - 57:42, random loop through the Cathance River Preserve and Highland Green Golf Course with D. D's father was visiting with us for a couple days, and he offered to take the Little Lady for a walk while we ran together. We kept the pace easy and just wandered around in the mud. It was also my first run of the season in shorts—many innocent bystanders were blinded.

3/9, Tuesday: Nordic Meisters, 5k Skate: 17:41. I decided to mix it up this week and ski race. It was the last week of Nordic Meisters, so why not? To my surprise, I skied fairly well. My v2 is a sham, and I'm not particularly smooth. But, it was a good way to break up the week.

3/10, Wednesday: 5 - 40:55, Highland Green Loop. Felt good. Breezy day.

3/11, Thursday: 4 - 34:41, Bike Path with the Little Lady in the B.O.B. I had originally planned to take the day off, since I was home alone with the Little Lady all day. As the afternoon wore on, I was unable to get her to go down for a nap in her crib, so I decided to take her out for a run. It worked, and I had a nice view the whole time:

3/12, Friday: 5 - 50:47, random cruise around the singletrack at Bradbury Mountain. I had a meeting in Portland, so I decided to stop for a run on the way home. Beautiful day on the trails.

3/13, Saturday: A few k of an easy skate ski at Great Glen Trails, ~25:00. I needed to get out and take some photos of the Carl Johnson Memorial Ski-A-Thon, so I just cruised around easily. Nice day.

Miles: 25.5
Trail: 16.5
Road: 9

Not a big week mileage-wise, but a good step back week. I felt really good on all my runs, so I think it was just what I needed heading into Sunday's race.

Tune Time!

No idea what's going there, but New Order is awesome.

The Plan

Looking ahead, my next race will be the Run for the Border Half Marathon on 3/28. My plan is to run the first 8 miles at marathon pace and then hammer the last 5 miles. "Marathon pace?" you ask. I've decided that I'm going to run the Sugarloaf Marathon on 5/16 with the goal of qualifying for Boston. This half marathon will let know exactly where I stand. If it goes well, I'll register for the marathon. Might be a pipe dream, but I'm going to give it a shot. I need to run 3:15:59. 7:27 per mile works out to about 3:15:10, so this is what I'm considering my goal pace. Can I run 26 7:27's in a row? No idea, but I'm going to try. I'm also planning to run that pace as long as possible when I get there. If it feels too fast at 10 miles, I'm not going to slow to 8:00's so I can finish in one piece. My goal is Boston. I have this nagging urge to cross this off my life list. Why not now? Again, I'll know a lot more in two weeks. Now, you may recall that I said that my plan was to run shorter races, avoid the crescendo of the big races and just race more. Well, with smarter training and smarter recovery, I think I can do both. Maybe...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Granite State Snowshoe Championship - Race Report

This race report begins here:

Now, I didn't plan to put my car here. I actually spent the night at the race site, Great Glen Trails, which just also happens to be where I work. Pretty sweet deal actually. But, I figured I'd get up early and head into Gorham around 8:00am for a nice relaxing breakfast and cup of coffee before the race. Just to get away from the race chaos in a stress free environment. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, the inch or so of very greasy slush sent me off the side of Route 16 when I was barely going 30mph. So, my stress free environment was me standing on the side of the road for almost an hour waiting for a tow the wind driven snain. That being said, I was very lucky to not get hurt.

I made it back to Great Glen Trails at around 9:30. I was very, very cranky, and unsure if I was going to race. Over the phone, D told me that I needed to race. I told her I would, but I still wasn't certain. At 10:15, I decided...well, what the hell...

I did a short 10-minute warm up on my snowshoes. I felt like crap. Luckily, it was so close to race time when I finished that I didn't have time to dwell on it. I threw on my singlet and headed out. I did one quick stride, and suddenly felt a lot better. In fact, I felt great. I was ready to go.

The cannon went off. (Yup, cannon. We only host events, so the boss can fire the cannon.) The snow went flying. I slid myself into a comfortable pace and position. At about a half mile, I looked up and could see the front runners stretched out in front of me. I was in 13th place, and that was the place I would stay for the entire rest of the race. And, I ran basically alone.

The course was awesome—cruel, but fair. Admittedly, I had a home course advantage. I've spent a lot of time running and skiing these trails, so I knew exactly what to expect. But, looking back, it may not have been an advantage because I may have held a little too much back on the first 5k, more on that later. The opening half was on the groomed nordic trails, and even with the inch or two of fresh slush, they were perfect for running. But, they weren't easy. The trails don't offer much flat, and they were constantly twisting and turning. Throughout this entire section, I was trailing the lead woman, but she was steadily putting space between us. Every now and then, I would glance over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of the guy chasing me. But, again, I was basically alone.

Because I knew the course, I knew how much harder the second 5k would be: all singletrack, a big climb, a long downhill, a mean roller coaster section, the hardest climb of the whole course, then downhill to the finish. How strong is your core? I was most concerned about the initial climb. Climbing isn't my strength, so I was running scared the whole time. I could no longer see the lead woman—she had really put me away—but as I continued the climb I also couldn't see anyone chasing me. I worked the uphill as hard as I could, even though I kept sneaking peeks behind me. My main goal for this race was to not get passed on the uphill. I accomplished that, and I knew that no one could catch me on the down. Once I reached the top, I really opened it up. I nearly went down a couple times, but I held it together until I reached the dreaded left hand turn at the bottom. At this turn is a nasty uphill, but I crushed it. I stayed pretty strong along this roller coaster section, until the powerlines. Suddenly, I looked up and I could see the lead woman ahead of me. I must have really been running well. I reached the last uphill and barely kept moving forward. I really focused on using my arms, and I may have actually said "Arms" out loud a couple times. The lack of oxygen makes things a bit hazy. I never walked a step, though, and was very relieved to reach the top. It was all downhill from there, and even though, I nearly went down twice in the last quarter mile, I kept it together to finish in 58:11, 13th place. I was beat and very soggy, but happy with my race. I finished just about where I hoped I would and thought I could.

That being said, I'm not entirely happy. I wasn't really focused going into this race due to my vehicular calamity, but I took myself out of a potentially great performance in the first half mile when I counted the places. I knew who was in front of me and thought, "Well, I haven't run with them in any race yet, so why should I start now?" Plus, knowing how hard the second half of the course was, I was worried about going out too hard. I didn't take that risk. I wasn't ready to mentally challenge myself and took myself out of the race. Sure, I may have blown up later on, but at least I would have gone for it. But, it was a good race, and a good way to close out my first season on snowshoes.


Race photos by Scott Mason (This is a mandatory click. Scott took some terrific shots in horrible conditions.)

I'm already looking forward to snowshoe season next year. Due to my schedule and the crazy weather, I was only able to make it to four races this winter. And, really, I can barely call my appearance at Feel Good Farm a race. At Pooh Hill, I realized that I could actually snowshoe race, and at I was really pleased with my result at Sidehiller. I wish the weather didn't scare so many people away from this race, as the course was the best I've seen yet. Plus, it would have been great to have a better turnout for the championship race.

Post-race, I heard all about how Kevin Tilton and Jim Johnson held hands crossing the finish line tying for the win. Better yet, I took home beer (and some of Kevin's) from the raffle. Then, me and my bungeed-together car made our way home.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Training Week 2/28 - 3/6

I'm a bit behind in the update from last week, but suffice to say the roller coaster pattern continued. That's not an issue, though, because I managed a solid week.

Onto the numbers:

2/28, Sunday: 12 - 1:38:39, Highland Road. This is a classic loop from Bowdoin College, and it's hilly. Not mean, but hilly. Also, this wasn't an idyllic Sunday morning long run. Instead, I didn't get out until late after spending most of the day running errands. With that in mind, I was surprised at how good I felt, and the pace felt pretty comfortable (8:13 per mile). I could have done without the wind in my face the last couple miles, but the views along the fields and by the ocean were terrific. All in all, a very good run. Comically, I fell. I pulled over to pee and slipped in the mud 5 feet from the road. Trail Monster, indeed.

3/1, Monday: 3 - 26:41, Suck Loop. Holy wind, Batman, and the trail sections were super squishy. I was a bit sluggish. Could have been from Sunday, but could also have been because I was hungry.

3/2, Tuesday: 4 - ~40:00, Nordic Meisters at Great Glen Trails. 10 minute warm up on snowshoes. Altered snowshoe course, approx. 4k: 21:21. 10 minute warm down on snowshoes. Due to the heavy snow (yes, I said "snow.") and wind the full course was blocked by a number of blowdowns, so the "long" course was made up of 3 laps around the short course. Of course, a large tree had also fallen on this loop, so we had to dodge that as well. I totally underestimated how difficult this altered course would be, but I was pleased with my effort.

3/3, Wednesday: 5 - 40:45, Highland Green Loop. Windy. Felt OK.

3/4, Thursday: 6.25 - 1:01:42, Bradbury Scuffle Course at Bradbury Mountain. I had a meeting in Portland in the morning, so I decided to stop into Bradbury on the way home. Sadly, this was my first run at Bradbury since a certain race in September, which we will not discuss. I kept the pace very easy and just enjoyed being out on the trails. And, the trails helped me keep it mellow since the conditions were a touch tricky. Mud was a given and expected. I also expected to find snow and ice, which I did. The real tricky conditions were the sink holes on the Snowmobile Trail. I never knew if I was going to stay on top of the mud, or break through and wrench an ankle. A bit sketchy, but well worth it to be out on the trails again. Plus, I saw a snowshoe hare and two deer.

3/5, Friday: Off. Planned off day, but I probably expended more energy than I did in my running this week being on solo daddy duty all day. She's little, but packs a punch. Good thing she's the cutest baby ever.

3/6, Saturday: Ski (skate) - 8k, ~45:00 at Great Glen Trails. Warm, beautiful day on the snow. Felt great.

Miles: 30.25
Trail: 10.25
Road: 20

Again, a solid week for me, even if I did feel a but sluggish at times. The only negative is that for the year, my road mileage is now greater than my trail mileage. That's just not right. I'm working on balancing that out this week.

Also, the astute and observant reader will see that I added two races to the race calendar, over there ------->. I've formulated a plan for the spring, but I won't unveil it until the end of March. A couple things have to fall into place, and it all depends on how I feel. We'll see. Right now, I'm really focused on putting in a good effort at the Granite State Snowshoe Championship on Sunday. I'd really like to close out my first season of snowshoeing with a good race.

Retro tune of the week:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Training Week 2/21 - 2/27

Alternate title for this post: Uber-lame and super pathetic. Not a good week. My only excuse was the deflation of another snowshoe race being canceled. "Oh, not racing this weekend? Might as well sit on my butt and eat Ring Dings." (No actual Ring Dings were consumed, but I sure do like me some Ring Dings.) I seem to be on a roller coaster: one week up, one week down. I guess that means that this will be a good week.

Onto the lame numbers:

2/21, Sunday: 3.25 - 27:00, 2x Mt. Ararat HS Loops. Planned easy day following Saturday's long run. I was little tight, but otherwise good.

2/22, Monday: 5 - 44:30, Bike Path w/ D and the Little Lady in the B.O.B. Pushing that thing is not easy, but I felt good.

2/23, Tuesday: Off. Planned off day. I could have gone with a snowshoe run at Nordic Meisters, but knowing myself, I knew that I couldn't take it easy. The body was in need of an easy day, so an off day was the best choice.

2/24, Wednesday: 5.5 - 48:53, a mishmash of Mt. Ararat trails, Cathance River Trails, Highland Green Golf course. Planned on a loop through the Cathance River Trails, but there was too much soft and inconsistent snow to make it really runnable. It was also raining, and the snow seemed to be deteriorating with every step—not a lot of fun. So, I altered my loop, but that meant I was out of the woods and in the wind. Just a gross day to be outside. I did see 15 turkeys on the golf course, though.

2/25, Thursday: Off. There was a hurricane, and I'm a wuss.

2/26, Friday: Off. I could have run when I got home from work. Instead, I picked up Indian food and drank beer.

2/27, Saturday: 4.5 - 36:23, 3x Mt. Ararat HS Loops. Rainy and slushy. Started out feeling a bit creaky (I wonder why?), but felt good by the end.

Miles: 18.5
Trail: 5.5
Road: 12.75

Yup, like I said: lame. In short, that's not going to get it done. So, perhaps, the positive I can take from this is to not let it happen again. (Preview of coming attractions: I had a good 12-mile run yesterday.)

But, even in a lame week, there are awesome tunes!