Friday, March 25, 2011

The Wind Blew, and I Sucked !

I've not been a good blogger.

Several months and nada.  Essentially I've been plugging away with my winter training - all counting down to Boston on 4/18.  Good training, but not very exciting to write about.

I post regularly on Runners World.  Many of the people I know from there were at this race.  Online - and often in person - we refer to each other with our screen names, so in this report I'm going to be using those names - I realize it may sound like code if you're not a regular poster there, but just rest assured - they're all real people. 

Last weekend I was in Moab for a half marathon.

The Wind Blew and I sucked !

At least that's how I felt during the race.

I wasn't going to write a race report.  I wasn't happy with how things turned out after all the hopes of a fast race on a 'PR course' and the great training build up.

But a few days removed I've realized that race reports - just like life and running - don't always have to recount the perfect experience.  Often things don't go as planned.   Someone said on the RW boards last weekend that you learn more about yourself from the tougher experiences than the good ones.  That's very true.  This is one of those experiences.

I wanted to do a half marathon in the build up to Boston. I'd heard about the Canyonlands Half last fall.  Rated as one of the top 10 in the country.  A lottery to get into, but it's in Moab - a place I'd always wanted to visit, and it was a 'PR course'.  Hell - I have terrible luck in lotteries - I haven't even won the powerball yet despite numerous attempts.  I threw my name in, and expected to get the rejection.

Nope.  I got in.  As did a number of my real and imaginary buddies   TeamCam, PBR, RunCo, Ilanarama, KazzII, Blue Earth, Arete Quest.  In fact almost everyone I knew who'd applied - got in.

Training this Boston cycle has gone very well.  I haven't missed a run yet through injury.  Have hit all my VO2, LT and MP paces - including a recent 18 with 14 @ 6.40 pace with the local Denver boys.

I ran my half PR of 1.26.21 last August - with just 6 weeks of running under my belt after 3 months off from achilles tendonitis.  I was in much better shape now so was confident I could crush my PR.  1.25 easily.  1.24 hopefully.  1.23 - if things went well.

So off we went to Moab.

At the pre-race FE I finally met Blue Earth after several near misses.  I met Arete Quest too for the first time, and caught up again with TeamCam, Ilanarama and Kazz.

We had dinner at Miguel's, then as my family went to bed - I stayed up a little later watching hot tub time machine.  Went to bed around 10:45pm and woke up at 12:15am.  And despite sleeping pills - I didn't go back to sleep.  That was a long night.

Oh well.  Got up at 6am.  Chugged down my ultra fuel, hit the bathroom and then headed out for the buses reluctantly turning down PBR's text invitation to join him at Denny's for a grand slam breakfast...  he was doing the 5 miler and was clearly taking it very seriously.   I wasn't too concerned about the lack of sleep.  I figured I could run hard for 90 minutes still. 

Canyonlands is like Boston.  The buses pick you up early, drive you to the start - and leave you there for several hours before race time.  I was at the starting area by 7.30am.  Gun time was 10am.  I perched on a rock and looked for people I knew. 

I sat there for an hour before I saw the Ronald McDonald shoes of TeamCam and his Boston jacket.  We hung out until 9am talking crap and then they allowed us to walk up to the start area.  The wind was howling but it didn't really register with me.  It was coming from the south - essentially straight up the Canyon towards us, but the scenery was stunning.  Thinking back to our last big race experience in Chicago I remember telling Cam that at least it was just windy - and not hot.  Right.

Warming up behind the field we ran into most of the other forumites.  Ilana couldn't keep her tiara on her head in the wind.  Then it was back to our starting positions.  It's a big field - 3,500 people - but well organized.  They had a 6:00/min mile pace area up front, and a 7:00 just behind it.  Not a lot of people there - so we just walked right in.  5 feet behind the starting line.  10am and we were off.

This is the starting line:

The course has a net elevation loss of 77 feet (424 feet loss, 347 feet gain).

The majority of that loss seems to happen in the first quarter mile.  It's straight down.

I didn't want to go out too fast, but also didn't want to waste this opportunity.  Cam was off like Gaddafi in an air raid.  While I'd love to have raced with him - after his 2.57 in Chicago in tough conditions, I knew that wouldn't be smart so I let him go.  The guy has shown - and showed again this weekend - that the elements hold no fear for him.

Mile 1.  6.20.  It was windy, but with the downhill, first mile excitement and ultra fuel rush - it felt easy.  My HR was a little higher than I'd have wanted.  Low 170s - but I put that down to lack of sleep.  My HR had been high all morning.

Mile 2.  Watching Cam's yellow shirt continue off into the distance, I tried to match up with other runners who were going a similar pace.  I was running with the lead women and Blue Earth appeared.  I tried to sneak in behind people to avoid the wind but nothing really helped.  6.26.  Ok.  Keep it going.

Mile 3.  Kept running with my small group.  Watching the 2 lead women play mind games and keep overtaking each other.  Still felt good.  6.28.   Hmm - noticing a pattern.  A little slower each mile.  Time to do something about that.  Still feeling good - I pick up the pace.  This next one is me pulling away with the lead women and Blue Earth over my left shoulder.

Mile 4.   Is Cam struggling up front ?  I'm getting closer to him.  There's no one between us, although he's still a good 50 yards ahead. Think about catching him and smacking his butt as I pass.  Seriously - I did.  "Hi cowboy".  How cool would that be ?  6.17.  Nice.  Almost a third of the way there.  It's tough - but running a 1.23 or 1.24 was never going to feel easy.

Mile 5.  Now I'm on my own - I've got no protection from the wind.  Ugh.  Keep trying to find a position that will help.  Hug the Canyon wall.  Nope - go to the other side of the road.  Nope.  It's really blowing.  6.32.

Mile 6.  Hmm.  Average is now around 6.25.  In the back of my mind I knew a friend in Denver's PR was around 6.23 pace for a 1.23.50.  Seeing the average slip was telling me that a 1.23 wasn't happening today.  Still plugging away though.  Very lonely on the road.  6.41

Mile 7.  Whoh.   That mile was slower than the 6.35 average when I ran my PR.  Not to worry.  I've still got 45 seconds in hand over that but I need to pick it up.  I want a 1.24.  I realize I'm coming to the 10K point and check my watch.  39.59.  Woot !  I've only run one 10K - several years ago.  I've just run my first sub 40.  Nice.  Unfortunately there's no finish chute.  Just wind and no protection.  6.39.  That was picking it up ?  Hell.

Mile 8 - really starting to feel it now.  I'm trying to get back to the 6.20 pace - but it's not happening.  I'm working way too hard to maintain this and I'm starting to slip back.  I should take a gel but I don't feel like it.  The Blue Earth and lead women group catches me at the end of mile 8.  6.41. 

Mile 9.  This mile had the one real hill.  And it still had the wind.  That was fierce.  I started to lose it there.  At this point I knew even a PR was in doubt.  What was the point ?  As I struggled up the incline with the wind I started to think 'f**k it' - just stop and walk it in.  You're not getting the PR.  Why bother.   I reminded myself this race wasn't the goal.  This was a test of adversity and I needed to pass.   On I plugged. 6.42

Miles 10 and 11.   I lost touch with Blue Earth's group.  Back to running alone in the wind.  6.54 then 7.10.  Just wanted to be done.  And then I got hit by a tumbleweed.  Seriously ?  Thanks for that.

Mile 12.  This was when the wind stuck a finger in it's nose and waved at us and cranked up the pain one more time.  We turned out of the Canyon onto the main road to Moab.  They'd given us a lane, but cars were still flying by in both directions kicking up dust and fumes.  But the wind was horrendous.  Every 2 steps forward felt like one back.  I'd have loved a 7.10 mile now.  7.33.  Ha.  That's MP + 10%.  I'm running 20 milers in training at that.  No one was passing me though.  Isolated runners ahead and behind, all in their own personal hell.

Mile 13.  Finally - turned out of the wind and through some residential streets.  "You're nearly there" - yeah right.  Thanks.  Easy for you to say with your latte and lawn chair.  Just over a mile to go.  Time to suck it up.  Saw PBR who yelled something.  I tried to look good in case he posted on FB.   I saw the guy ahead was coming back to me.  Someone sucking more than me ?  That gave me a little boost.  I tracked him down and overtook.  7.10

Last bit - this is one long finish chute.  Saw our families, put on a brave face.  That whole last tenth must have been in the chute.  The barriers were closer - maybe 10 yards apart with a crowd on both sides.  I'm on my own - the crowd claps - I clap them back - they cheer and clap louder.  This nightmare is about to be over and so I pick it up again.  6.42 pace.

And I'm done.  1.28.38.  I see Blue Earth just ahead and talk with him.  He'd run 1.23 last year and 1.27 this.  Then I saw Cam.  1.25.  In those conditions - that's amazing.  Ilanarama, Kazz both had similar stories.  All 3 - 4 minutes behind last year.  AQ too had been buffeted by the wind, although he also had the 4,000 foot elevation to contend with.  Ok - now I'm seeing a pattern and feeling a little better.  That wind really did have that much of an impact.  It wasn't just me. 

Overall - 52nd out of 3,500.  That sounds reasonable, but no shiny PR, so I didn't have that warm glow of satisfaction I'd been anticipating.  Still - it was a great workout.  With proper rest I'm sure it will do me good for the ultimate Boston goal.  I got to meet up with a bunch of forumites, and hang out in a wonderful part of the country.   Maybe I didn't suck as much as I'd thought - but hell -

that wind did blow !

After a finish photo with AQ, BlueEarth and was off to the Moab Brewery with the whole gang.

And the lessons ?  I got a lot out of it.  In Chicago I adjusted my goal based on the conditions and got the PR.  In Moab I didn't and didn't.  

Despite the downhill first mile - I should have been more conservative.  I've always run my best races where I've gone out slow and then come on strong.  Boston has a downhill start too.  Need to remember that.

No matter how bleak things look during the race.  When your plans have gone to crap.  Keep plugging away.  Don't give up.  Afterwards you may find yourself learning something from the experience. Something that's not apparent at the time.

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