Tuesday, July 21, 2009

50K 2009 - Aftermath

<-- At the Buckeye Trail, right after Boston, heading for Pine Lane.

The day after the 50K I went for a 6 mile “recovery” run and all the systems tested OK. The results are out and it appears that this is the fastest 50K BT race ever. Two examples: 1) There are 21 runners with time under 5 hours, vs. only 6 last year. 2) The first female runner (Beth Woodward) finished 12th overall with time 4:42. Last year (with a slightly better time) she was 3rd overall. I finished 25th. If I had maintained my pace (for a 4:55 finish) my placement would have been 19th.

About hitting the wall: I have always been proud of my strong and fast finishes in races, including marathons and previous 50Ks. I have never hit the wall in a race. I did not even think that a wall exists for me (for my body, nutrition routine, and distances that I run). So I was surprised how quickly and unexpectedly this came about.

Some people might say, you've run for 28 miles and there were only 3 miles left. Couldn't you just dig deep inside and find the strength to run them, even slowly? It was impossible. It's like saying, this car has been running for 300 miles and now it is out of gas. Can it just run 10 more miles? There was nothing left in the tank, so to speak.

My new system of eating a large breakfast before the run has served me well for up to 24 miles, but it needs to be fine tuned for longer races. If you are curious, here is what I ate at 6:00 am on race day (just one hour before the 7:00 am start): A large bowl of hot cereal with a sliced banana, raisins, walnuts, two teaspoons of peanut butter and honey at the top. Plus, an orange, and I had a glass of Gatorade. Not many people would think of running after this. A nap sounds more appropriate.

I am still glad that my collapse came from lack of energy and not from an injury (common among other runners).

After having completed 5x 50K runs (3 summer, 2 winter) I would like to try my hands (legs?) into something longer. I think I am ready for a 50 mile race. 100 miles is insane (for me, at this point). I wish the Burning River 100 also had a 50 mile section. I guess I can look for something further but I like to run/support local races.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Buckeye 50K 2009 - Race Report

My time goal for this race was under 5 hours. I ran a strong race and consistently achieved or beat my time goals station after station. For example, my time at the half was 2:21:47 vs. 2:26 aim time. The cool weather and firm ground (it had rained enough to make the soil firm) was helping runners achieve fast times.

<--- 5 hours and 5 minutes later... Sprinting for the finish!

In the last aid station (Snowville Rd), with 6 miles left to go, I met my wife and she handed me a bottle of water. I felt fine so I did not stop to eat or drink anything. In retrospect, that was a big mistake. I should have eaten something. I arrived at this station 5 minutes ahead of time, so my projected finish time was 4:55.

The first miles in this last section went fine. I passed a young kid who was apparently falling apart. A bit later I passed 2nd Female runner Kelly Karen, and Plain Dealer columnist Zachary Lewis. Both of these guys were well ahead of me at the half, and they both appeared to be struggling a bit. I passed them easily.

But, with 3 miles to go, I started to feel tired. My pace slowed. I felt hungry and weak. Clearly, I was hitting the proverbial wall. I was out of water. I started walking. I NEEDED FOOD! I kept walking. I looked back and saw Kelly approaching. I asked if she had anything to give me to EAT. She did not. We are only 2.3 miles from the finish.

I arrived at the pavilion, 2 miles from the finish. I was happy to see Susan and Matt waiting there. I asked for food. They only had water. I gladly took water. Bur right there, two people are setting up a picnic. Their van is full with food: All kinds of snacks, chips, popcorn, and cases of pop. I explain that I am running a race and I desperately need food. They are reluctant. I asked for a single can of pop but they refused! "You are not part of our group" they said.

Disappointed, I continue to walk. Everyone that I passed in the last 10 miles, is now passing me, including the young kid. He is half-running, half-walking, but he appears to have a bit more stength than me. I continue to walk. Finally, I see a young lady, holding a basket. I ask for food. "Sorry, I do not have any food, but I have some Gatorade" she says. "YES, please give me Gatorade". She fills half of my bottle. I drink it at the spot. A rush of energy goes through my body and I am able to run again.

Only1.5 miles left to the end. I am happy to be running again. I pass the kid. But I soon need more water or Gatorade and I have nothing. Last 0.7 miles. I am running, but I also take walking breaks. I hear the Brecksville sirens (always at 12 noon - meaning it is now 5 hours into the race). Kiss 5 hours goodbye.

So, I make it to the final stretch. I see my wife and son ready to take pictures. I smile and try to run fast. As I approach the finish line, I see the clock reading 5:04:50, 51, 52, 53. I sprint. If I cannot beat 5 hours, at least I can beat 5:05!
I cross the finish at 5:04:59.

People are congratulating me (sprinting at the end of a 50K, that must be something) and Vince hands me the medal. I am starving so I go straight for the food. Within a minute I eat 5 slices of pizza, with dripping oil and all that. I then hit the cookies. I have never been able to eat right at the end of a race, so this is new to me.

As I lay in the couch, thinking about the race, I have mixed feelings. Even though I did not meet my time goal, my final time is a PR by 10 minutes. I am pleased that I ran 28 strong miles, beating my time predictions. I learned a good lesson about eating during the race. I should have eaten in the last aid station, carry some energy gels and ask my wife to meet me at the pavilion to make sure I was OK (to cover all bases). I will apply what I learned "next year".

Here are my race time splits for the race historians:

Oak Grove - Snowville: Goal: 55 min. Actual time: 53:06
Snowville - Boston: Goal: 49 minutes. Actual time: 49:30
Boston - Pine Lane: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:11
Pine Lane - Boston: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:38
Boston - Snowville: Goal 51 minutes. Actual time: 51:34
Snowville to Oak Grove: Goal 60 minutes. Actual time: 71:41

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Age Group!

Today it's my birthday!

This birthday is important because I am entering a new age bracket (50-54). I am now officially an old guy. Over 50 is also known as "Grandmaster" ("Master" is over 40) and some races have a "Grandmaster" award.

That's one good thing about running. You look forward to getting old... A new group of older guys to beat in races, and even a new award to aim for. Great!

Unfortunately, in our area there are many fast runners in the 50-54 group. As a matter of fact, it is easier to win an award in the 45-49 age group than the 50-54 age group. More pressure for me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buckeye 50K – Under 5 Hours?

They are predicting a nice cool weather for the Buckeye 50K Trail Run this Saturday so fast times are possible.

This year I have trained very well and I have a goal: Under 5 hours.

Is this goal possible? At first I did not think so, but my training runs went so well, that now I think it is possible.

A bit of history: I have run this race for two years now. The first year (2007) on a cool dry course, my time was 5:14. This was a big surprise since it was my 1st Ultra and I had just started running trails. A friend of mine (we bonded during the training runs) who always finished ahead and less tired, finished the race in 6:30, so my 5:14 (without even carrying water!) was a great achievement. Last year (2008) I did not train well, but put a lot of miles in our vacation in California. The weather on race day was hot and I finished at 5:21. My time was slower, but my placement was better than last year. Plus, I passed 7 runners in the 2nd half.

This year I have trained well and I have also timed my splits, so I know what to expect. My time during the run of the half (Oak Grove to Pine Lane) was 2:26. It felt that the pace was too fast at the time, but I have improved a bit since then. So now my goal is to run the first half in 2:26 and the second half in 3:34. That's only 8 minute difference between the two halves. If you look at last year's results (first time the half times are recorded) very few runners had such a small difference. Actually, from those who run the race under 6 hours, only two have a better difference: Kam Lee (8 minutes) and Matt Pazderak (4 minutes). My difference was 15 minutes and it was the 6th best.

Here are the times I aim to run each section (first half, second half, difference in parenthesis)

Oak Grove - Snowville Rd (6 miles): 55, 60 (5)
Snowville Rd - Boston (5.3 miles): 49, 51 (2)
Boston - Pine Lane (4.2 miles): 42, 42 (0)
Total: 2:26 + 2:34 = 5:00 (8)

My specialty is the last leg (Snowville to Oak Grove) which I have now run many times (easy for me, since I live in Brecksville, 1 mile from the entrance to the BT on Snowville Rd and I run through it to go to our fitness class, twice a week). Most runners are too tired by then, and run this leg very slowly. If I arrive at Snowville by 4 hours, I think I can finish under 5 hours.

Last night I happened to read E-Speed's (Elizabeth H.) blog where she recorded her split times from last year's 50K. This is very informative (the only published split times I have seen). Here they are (rounded to the next minute):

Oak Grove - Snowville Rd (6 miles): 53, 65 (12)
Snowville Rd - Boston (5.3 miles): 49, 53 (4)
Boston - Pine Lane (4.2 miles): 41, 41 (0)
Total: 2:22 + 2:39 = 5:02 (17)

Looks like she slowed down quite a bit after Boston in the way back. As a friend said, the race really starts after Boston.... Bodies of exhausted runners are scattered all over the place from Boston to Oak Grove :) Hopefully this will not happen to me. The trick is to try and preserve strength during the first half. I always walk the uphills. Whatever time I lose walking, I make up running them down fast in the return.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Broadview Heights 5K – 19:19 !!!

I had signed up for the Broadview Hts 5K before Muddy Paws, because I want to support local races (my city, Brecksville, and Broadview Hts share schools). But after running Muddy Paws 10 miles yesterday, I was wondering if that was a good idea. Especially since I have my big race, the 50K Buckeye Trail next Saturday.

My dream has always been to break 20 minutes in the 5K. My 5K PR is 20:06 from 2005. But I have shifted to longer races and when there is a choice of 5K and a longer distance, I always run the longer distance. This year I decided to try and break the 20 minute 5K barrier. I selected two races. This was the first try and Independence 5K (in August) is the second.

My wife (Liz) also signed up, and, worried about her 5K time, drove the course and told me there was a huge uphill very close to the start, about 1/2 mile long. So this did not look like a PR course. Plus, we heard from other runners that there is a 2nd hill at the turn-around point. Oh well, it is a nice sunny & cool day (58F in the morning) so, let's go!

The race started at 8:30 am. A short flat distance, then turn left and up the hill for the first 1/2 mile. Surprisingly, I am passing people right and left, going up the hill. Then turn left at Parkway Drive. I kept passing people. My first mile time is 6:08! Wow! This is an amazing time, considering that 1/3 this mile was uphill!!! I have never run a mile that fast in a race.

At the turn around point I am counting the runners in front of me. I am 6th overall! I cross paths with Liz and she is yelling at me "number 6!!!" It seems unbelievable.... [we must have miscounted because the official results show that I am 5th overall]

But, I start to get tired. I know I cannot catch the guy in front... I am only trying to hang into 6th place. I am slowing down but keep pushing. If I make it to the last 1/2 mile, all downhill, I will be fine, I am thinking, because I am a fast downhill runner. It seems it's taking for ever to get to that point. I have my usual recurring nightmares and fears of quitting in the middle of the race (“at least, my time will be good, even if I walk the rest”, I am thinking)

Finally, I make it to the end of the road and turn right for the downhill... I try to run the downhill as fast as I can, but my legs are tired... I am now at the bottom of the hill. The guy behind me is getting closer. We turn right and we are at the final stretch. I can see/hear him, trying to catch up. But, surprisingly, I have enough strength for a sprint! So, I sprint to the finish, maintaining 6th place overall, and finishing at 19:26!!! (Official chip time: 19:19)

Needless to say, I am very happy! My goal of under 20 minutes 5K is fulfilled. Not only that, but, if you look at my Running Goal Times blog, even my “life time goal” of 19:30 is fulfilled! Great! I can now relax and stop running :) Or… maybe I can aim for 19 minutes? Hmmm….

I attribute this success to three factors:
1. My “3 pm diet” (159.5 lbs in the morning)
2. The Buckeye trail training. I have been running a lot of hard miles lately.
3. Speedwork sessions every Wednesday, thanks to Liz who makes me do them!

Back to the race… I stayed around the finish to take a picture of Liz... She finished at 26:17, a new PR for her too, and good for 3rd place Age award (50-54).

The Broadview Hts Mayor finished just a step in front of her. He must be in my age group because when he handed my award (1st age group 45-49) he said something like "I will never be as fast as you". I felt like saying "That's OK, I will never be a mayor either".

This concludes a good race weekend for me... Now rest and relaxation, in preparation for the Buckeye 50K. My goal is to run it under 5 hours. More about this in the blog to come.

Muddy Paws 10 Mile Trail Race

This turned out to be a very good race weekend for me... In preparation for the 50K Buckeye Trail next Saturday, I had the fine idea to run two "tune up" races this weekend, the Muddy Paws 10 miler on Saturday and the Broadview Heights 5K on Sunday (today)

This was the first time running the Muddy Paws 10 mile Trail race and I won first place in my age group with 1:22:28 (16/144 runners).

It was a good race, a bit warm and humid but it did not rain... This was a new course this year and apparently faster than the previous one (comparing the results). My Garmin says it was 10 1/4 mile long and I believe it because it always measures race courses shorter, never longer.

The course consists of two 5 mile loops. The first 3.5 miles are in open grass fields mainly, while the last 1.5 miles of the loop were my favorite because it reminded me of the Buckeye Trail (roots, etc). Vince called this part “Technical”. I wonder whey they call it “Technical” when it is really more “natural”?

Overall, I was pleased with my time and the fact that I finished ahead of the 15 year old "child prodigy", Rachel, winner (F) of last year's winter 50K. But I was way behind the first two female runners, Beth and Shanna. At some point I was entertaining thoughts of stopping after the first 5 miles but decided to go on. Thanks E-Speed for calling my name when I was completing the first loop… It was encouraging.

I stayed for the awards and liked the fact that Vince gave away nice merchandise for awards, even though the 5 milers got first choice. The size 13 sandals left were too large for me, so I got a pair of size 9 for my wife.

I have to train Vince to pronounce my last name correctly. He sounds it like Themelius, but there is no "u". He will have to practice because it looks like he will be saying more often :) (with wife and daughter running too).