Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fools 50K turns into 25K

Well, the Fools 50K turned into 25K for me for no good reason.

The course is a double loop. Every loop is 25K or 15.6 miles. Most runners had signed up for the 25K. Those (like myself) who sign for the 50K have the option to stop after 25K, but they do not get any awards.

The double loop course is a problem for me. The Buckeye 50K is an out and back course, so you have to run back to get to your car. The Regis Winter 50K has two loops of 8 and 5 miles. It is easy to talk yourself into doing another loop and another loop, and another loop, until the distance is covered. But with the double loop course, after 25K you are back by your car and you have to decide whether to stop or do the entire loop again. It is tempting to stop after 25K, and that's what I did.

I feel guilty because I was not injured and was not excessively tired. I just did not feel like running another 25K loop. Plus, I must admit that I was not well trained for the distance.

Above:  Nick is taking a picture of Lloyd (the race director), who is giving the last instructions before the start.  Below:  Runners are lined up ready to go (fast runners in the first row!)

The temperature this morning was 40F with a high possibility of rain/drizzling. I was not sure what to wear, so I took a variety of clothes with me. At the start I saw that most people had shorts on, and I decided to wear shorts, long sleeve T-shirt, a light jacket, cap, and light gloves. As it turns out, I felt a bit warm at the top and cold at the bottom.

The trails were muddier than expected (just look at Mel's legs in the picture above). The course is not as challenging as the Buckeye trail, with fewer and less steep uphills and wider paths. I started conservatively (first mile 9:37) but then got faster (9:17, 8:32, 9:25) and then settled at a 9:30 pace. For a while I was running with Mel and Bob Clarke and another guy, until Mel decided to blow one aid station and move ahead. I cleared the aid stations quickly too, so I ended up following Mel.

Beautiful vistas along the trail path.

While I had 3 miles left to finish the first 25K loop, I called my wife to meet me with some supplies. So my intention was to run the full 50K. But in these last 3 miles I started thinking about stopping. My legs were a bit cold, it was starting to rain, and the thought of repeating the 25K felt hard to swallow. I was afraid that attempting the second loop I might get excessively tired, or even injured, derailing my training up this point.

So I made the decision to stop at 25K, while still feeling strong. I even picked up the pace towards the end. I reached the 25K mark at about 2:32 and told them that I was done. And I was not alone. I saw other 50K runners stopping after 25K. If the weather was better and the trails less muddy, maybe things would have been different.

I kissed my wife and sent her back home. Enjoyed the potato soup, took a few pictures, and headed home.

Overall, this is a nice race and very well organized. The trail is definitely scenic, the course was well-marked and the aid stations plentiful, well-stocked and stuffed with helpful volunteers.  But it comes at a difficult time of the year when most runners are not properly trained for long trail runs. In the two official training runs, the trails were full of snow. Now that the snow has melted, the trails are muddy.
Next year I might go for the full 50K, even though I am afraid that I have now given myself a reason to think it is OK to stop at 25K.

Damn double loop!  :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jog Into Spring - Independence 5K

Liz and I signed up for the "Jog Into Spring" 5K race in Independence, part of the Hermes Road Racing series. But Spring looked more like Winter this morning. When I got up, the temperature outside was 20F. What the h---??!! Not just winter, but face mask time?

Last time I ran this race was in 2007. I was 176 lbs and my time was 20:36, which is my best time for this course. This year I was 165 lbs and ready to get as close to 20 minutes as possible.

It was a rather small race (less than 300 runners). We warmed up for a mile or two, and I was freezing. In the last minute I decided to take off my long pants so I ran in shorts and two T-shirts (no jacket), and of course gloves and hat. I did not get overheated and I was not really cold, so it worked out OK.

The race started at the Independence Recreational center at 9am and went through local streets. I started fast with 6:13 for the first mile. Then, 6:47, 6:35 (pace in last 0.1 mile = 5:57).

My final time: 20:13. I finished 17th overall (out of about 300 runners). I got passed by two runners in the last 100 yards. One of them was in my age group, so I ended up with a 2nd place age group award.

Liz also finished 2nd in her age group, with 25:43 (new 5K PR!).  Here is a picture when she crosses the finish.  Click at the picture to enlarge and see her happy face:

We stayed for the awards and enjoyed the pizza and fruits. Here is a picture of both of us at the awards ceremony:

Later at home we looked at the results and it appears that both Liz and I are first in our age groups in the Hermes Road Racing series!

St. Malachi 5 Mile race

I did something crazy: I went into 2 1/2 days of total fast to stop my weight gain and start a nice healthy diet. I stopped eating on Tuesday 3pm, and starting eating again on Friday. I have done one day fasts before, but this is the first time I went over. It felt pretty good actually. At no point did I feel hungry. The only reason I stopped the fast was that I wanted to eat something before the St. Malachi race :) Anyway, this morning I was 163.5 lbs, vs 171.5 on Sunday.

We got dressed (with my wife) and headed downtown. The weather was not great, with drizzling rain and 47F. St. Malachi is a large local race in downtown Cleveland, with over 2000 runners. For many runners it is the first race of the year. This was the first time for both of us doing this race. The main reason we did it is that it is part of the Hermes Road Racing series.

This picture, of Liz waiting in line at the porta potties, with a plastic garbage bag over her, I think clearly shows the kind of weather we were dealing with:

This was also the first time that I got overdressed for a race. I decided to leave my long pants on and two shirts, and ended up regretting it when I got really hot during the race.

Here is a picture of the crowds a short time before the start of the race:

The race started downhill. In the first mile mark my Garmin showed 6:20 pace but the race clock said 7:09. Well, lets call this a long mile. There is no way it took me 7:09 to complete the first mile.

The rest of the race I was trying to catch Mike George, fighting for the 175th place. I ended up finishing 2 seconds behind Mike, with a time of 35:42 (7:08 pace), 12/106 in my age group and 177/2150 overall.

My goal was 35 minutes (7 minute miles) so I went a bit slower than expected. My miles splits (from the Garmin): 6:20, 7:04, 7:22, 7:21, 7:27. I think I was a bit weak from the fast. I should normally have no problem running 7 minute miles during the entire race.

The East side running group had a very strong presence in this race, with Mark and Steve Godale, Kam Lee, Tracy Mader and Connie Gardner, all winning age group awards. Elizabeth was serving as a cheerleader on the sidelines.

I waited for Liz, who finished at 45:53 (9:09 pace) 8/40 in her age group. Here is a picture of her just before the finish line.  She is smiling just for this picture, but she was cursing the uphill finish (she confessed that she had to stop and walk):

Knowing that there was no chance for an award (2153 runners in this race), we grabbed something to eat and went home.

Overall, it was a good race, but I am not sure if we will do it again. My wife complained (among other things :)) about the condition of the roads, the slippery bridges, and the hills. I did not mind, but the wife is the boss :)

This was a 3rd race in 3 weeks. Time for some rest now.

Shamrock 15K

Good race in good weather

I have been running the Shamrock 15K race continuously since 2004, 7 years in a row. It used to be that this race was the first race of the year, but this year it was the 4th race for me. One thing different about Shamrock is that it starts at 12 noon, instead of the morning.

Two years ago we had emerged from a snowstorm, and last year it was raining hard during the entire race. But there was nothing to complain about (weather-wise) this year. It was sunny and the temperature 40F. I put on shorts and a long sleeve shirt and felt fine (not too warm or too cold).  But still, there was a lot of snow on the ground, as you can see from this picture of Lea & Liz before the race:

So, I carried my 171.5 pounds (new record, up from 160 in November) to the start line, knowing very well that I would not be able to match last year's time of 1:06:35. This is a *very* hard course with few flat parts. My wife (Liz) and daughter (Lea) were running the 5K, also a hard course.

I started fast. I have the theory that in this race it does not matter how fast your start. You will slow down in the hills starting at mile 5. Might as well bank time early on while you can. And so I did.

At mile 5 I got passed by two friends, Michele and Matt, but other than that very little happened in terms of passing and getting passed.

I kept a good pace and I am happy with my performance. The time flew quickly. I do not recall any bad moments. Looking at my pace (from the Garmin), I am pleased that the last miles were strong, around 7:10 min/mile at a slight uphill.

The pictures below were taken by others during the race. I am on the left, in front of Sean, who was struggling with an injury. Liz is with the pink on the right.

Rose was coming from behind, closing up in the last mile. I could hear the spectators yell "Go Rose!". Hey, I am not letting Rose pass me! :) So I pushed on, and finished, not too tired, about a minute slower from last year, at 1:07:36 (7:13 pace).

I fully expected to get an award. I was second last year in the 45-49 age group. But this year in the 50-54 age group, I got NOTHING! What a shock! :) Oh well, at least Liz got first place in her age group in the 5K so we got the little flashing red light that they gave for awards. Daughter Lea finished good at 30+ minutes.  I love this picture.  Liz is proudly showing her award and Lea is making a face, like "Stop bragging Mom!"

Thus finishes another Shamrock 15K family race. We’ll do it again next year.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Orleans 1/2M – Great Time!

New Orleans – Great Time!

Our story begins on Thursday night when it started snowing in Cleveland. I shoveled the snow before going to bed around 1 am. At 5 am the phone rang. It was the school, letting us know that school was cancelled. I got up and shoveled the snow again and then got dressed and left for the airport.

The flight was on time (unbelievable!)  See a picture of our plane among the snow above.  Of course, we were happy inside the plane, knowing that we were going to a warmer place.  We arrived in New Orleans around noon to a sunny day, and 60F. Quite a difference!   Here is a picture of us in New Orleans:

Friday afternoon/evening we went out for drinks and dinner on Friday (French Quarter, Bourbon street, quite interesting!) On Saturday we went for a long walk, ate the obligatory Beignets, then signed up for a Bus tour of the New Orleans neighborhoods.  The picture below shows Liz sipping a "Hurricane" at Pat O'Briens famous bar in New Orlean's French Quarter.  She is in double not because of the effects of the cocktail, but because the picture is in 3d!

Sunday (race day) we got up at 5:30 got dressed and walked to the start line. The weather was warmer than I had expected, around 50s, warming to 60-70 by noon (the sun felt good - we needed the vitamin D). I was going to wear this silly hat I had bought but the last minute I decided to skip it because it was too hot.  I did wear it before and after the race:

Both Liz and I had signed up for the 1/2 Marathon. I was in coral 1!! (Liz put down 1:32 for my expected time), she was in coral 9 (out of 24).  Here are pictures of both of us by the start line of the race:

This race was my Liz's idea to keep us motivated through the winter. But, as she said, the running was hard to train for in the winter, but there was no problem with the eating and drinking!! So here I am in coral 1, all 170+ lbs (vs. 160 in November).

I started running 7 min miles but gradually my pace slowed to 7:30. Got passed by a lot of runners, struggled a bit, but enjoyed the run. My time was 1:36:29, which is 5 minutes slower than my PR (the 10 extra lbs are showing), but I managed to finish 9/282 in my age group and 260/9300 overall.

Liz had a nice race. She started at 9:06 and slowed down to 10 min/mile but she did not suffer as in her first 1/2M (this was only her 2nd). She finished at 2:06:54, a PR by less than a minute. 54/407 in her age group. Interestingly, there were 3 times as many female as male runners in the 1/2.

After the race, we stayed around, ate the food, drank the two free beers per runner and enjoyed the festivities.  The beer was Miller 64, served in bottles slightly smaller than this one:

Just look at the race photos and think that in Cleveland there was a snowstorm on Saturday with temperatures around 25F.  Ha!

Then back to the hotel, took a quick shower and went out to enjoy the very nice (sunny and warm) day. We ended up at the Casino, drinking free Hurricanes and winning $50 (to pay for tomorrow's cab ride to the airport).

Overall, we enjoyed the trip and the race. New Orleans gave us a good impression and the race was very well organized and fun. We might do it again in the future, or aim for another R&R race next year.

In addition, I took 985 stereo pictures with my Fuji 3d digital camera (pictured above, and also seen in all official race photos). These turned out very well. Last Tuesday we had a stereo club meeting. I entered 3 pictures and got three awards. So the trip was productive in more than one ways for me.

Let the Race Season Begin!

First race of the season!

Chili Bowl 5K Classic was held in downtown Cleveland (starting by the Terminal Tower) on Saturday February 13. Liz, and I signed up. This is part of the Hermes Road Race series and we are both signed up. So there is going to be a lot of racing going on for both of us!

Race started at 9:30 am. Temperature = 26F & light snow. Roads were slippery.

Chilly at the Chili Bowl - how appropriate!

*** Results ***

I finished first in my age group (1/28, 44/685 overall) with 21:06.
Liz finished 5/19 with 27:06

Mile splits: 6:26, 6:54, 7:26 (slight uphill in the way back)

My award was a nice (chili) bowl. I am happy with the results, considering the slippery roads and the fact that I have gained 10 lbs since November! Time to get into shape!

We both enjoyed the race and are happy to see our placement in the Road Racing Series:

I am first in my age group and Liz is second in her age group!