Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Last Long Run, Once Again

I've been here at least 20 times before. This weekend was the last long run, a 20 miler this time around, before heading for the Missoula Marathon.

Last Sunday, I'd run a moderately hilly trail race and then followed that up on Tuesday with hill repeats with the local running group, the Glendora Ridge Runners. I'd run speed work at the Azusa Pacific University track earlier in the season. The track work aggravated my already tenuous left arch, so I had to beg off the track work weeks before tackling Illinois and hadn't gone back. I felt bad having disappeared after only running 4 weeks with the group. As with most running groups, they were great folks to be around.

Two weeks ago the group found out that the APU track was closed for the summer to the Ridge Runners switched their Tuesday workouts to hill repeats. This seemed like the opportunity to rejoin the group. Last week we started with 4 repeats of a hill that is just a hair shy of 2 tenths of a mile. I made the rookie mistake of heading out too fast on the first one. The next four (we snuck in a 5th repeat) came in 1:36, 1:38, 1:38 and 1:37.

This week it was back to the hill repeats. This time the plan was 6. My quads were a bit tired from the trail race but I made it through the 6 repeats. My times were a bit slower this week from 1:38 to 1:41. Still pretty consistent I think.

My legs were still feeling a bit heavy on my Thursday afternoon run. The CA Cruisers had planned on running Powder Canyon. I really enjoy the trails there. The loop is about 8 miles. With the 20 miler staring in me the face, if I chose to run Powder Canyon I’d have to do two loops plus some more. I wasn’t too keen on that and there are a couple of leg burning hills. So as much as I wasn’t entirely happy about it I decided to run my long run on the safer Santa Ana River Trail.

My good friend Terry joined me for the first 1o miles and I was on my own for the second 10. The June Gloom this morning was much less severe than the last couple of days. On Thursday and Friday I had to use my windshield wipers to keep the June Gloom at bay. The first 10 miles were under cloudy skies. With Terry pacing we made decent time and pace at 9:50ish. After Terry departed the sun broke through the clouds much earlier that it had been. General fatigue set in and without my pacer, the inevitable slow down came into play. The entire 20 miles took 3:22:42 for a 10:08 pace.

This long run was plagued with the same issues I’ve battled in most of my long runs and marathons of late. About 4 miles into the run I really needed to visit the john. This has been a common occurrence lately. The panic situations are no doubt linked to my diet. I can no longer get away with eating as I please. I’ve got about 10 pounds to get rid of to get back to racing weight. Another unfortunate by product of my crappy diet is chafing like no other “down there.” That is never a fun experience.

Today’s run was also coupled with a very unwelcome light headed and queasy feeling once I’d finished up. This same thing happened to me at Champaign-Urbana. Leaving the stadium that day I had to sit down several times to keep from loosing my balance and collapsing. This never used to happen to me and it is not as though I’m just burning up the trail these days so I’m not sure what is causing this little issue, but it is a concern. Sitting for a few minutes, rehydrating and a few calories and all seems to be well.

Taper time, once again! Let’s see if I can eat a bit better for the next 21 days. Missoula here I come Anybody want to volunteer to bring me some fluid and a burger at the finish line just in case I decide to nearly pass out again?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Valley Crest Half Marathon

Today I finally ran a race that I’ve considered at several times but from some inexplicable reason had never run. It is the perfect distance on trails within an hour of my house. In June we are almost always guaranteed perfect weather conditions for a run so why it has eluded me for so long I’m not sure.

Anyway the planned run on the buildup to Missoula was a 15 miler. Once I saw this race on the calendar I decided the 13.1 miles with hills would make the perfect alternative to 15 miles on one of several bike path options, so on Thursday I signed up.

This was the 10th running of the Valley Crest Half Marathon. It is held entirely on the Mulholland fire road. 13.1 miles that are either going up or down. It isn’t a crazy mountain run but the total elevation gain is about 800 feet. I’ve definitely tackled worse but I knew that I was working. Even on this cool misty morning I was sweating.

I arrived at the race start about an hour early to secure a parking spot. The website had repeatedly noted that parking was limited. The morning was very heavy “June Gloom” conditions. I needed my windshield wipers at times on the drive there due to the low lying thick cloud cover. It wasn’t raining but there was a lot of moisture in the air. Bib pickup was a breeze. They were expecting about 400 runners. Shirts and goodie bags were handed out after the race.

After a short briefing from the RD, the race started promptly at 8:00 with a simple Ready, Set, Go! Right away we headed up a short spur trail to get on the Mulholland Fire Road proper. Due to starting line crowding the best tactic was to just walk up the hill. Once on the fire road things began to move along a little more smoothly. It was probably about 15 minutes in before there was adequate room to just run the pace of your choosing.

There were no mile markers on this course and since I was just running it as a training run anyway it didn’t really matter to me. I did take mile splits at the turn around points. The course was a simple double out and back. We first headed west for about 3.5 miles, turned around and retraced our steps and then continued east to the 10 mile mark, made another U-turn and then headed down the little spur trail back to the start/finish line.

I hit the 3.5 mile turn in 33:16 for an approximate 9:30 pace. The course had been predominately downhill to that point. Then began the work of climbing back up what we just descended. I just chugged along keeping pace with a bunch of folks and picking them off slowly one by one. I should have tracked my kills on the way to the 10 mile turn around point.

I hit the second turn around point in 1:06, about 10:16 pace. This direction on the fire road was mostly uphill with only a downhill respite between mile 6.5 and 7.5. After the turn around we were headed mostly downhill and I was still able to catch a couple of folks which surprised me because I usually not much of a downhiller. I had to take a quick duck into the bushes and lost some time but even then I re-caught a couple of the folks again.

The cloud cover and mist heavy at times was both a blessing and a curse (of sorts). The June Gloom kept the temperature in the low 60’s, very nice for running. The heavy mist caused my glassed to get water spotted and even fogged up, so vision was a bit of an issue. I chose my foot placement carefully, the fire road was rocky in places and partially eroded from the winter rains. The mist had dissipated for the final push down the hill to the finish which was nice.

I finished the race in 2:13:37 (10:10 pace overall). This isn’t exactly a stellar time for me at the half marathon distance, but it served the purpose of the day of getting in the miles before Missoula. Overall there is nothing not to like about this race. Unlike some other races of its size, the top three male and females all received prize money. The rest of us got the obligatory t-shirt and a medal.

I was back home and showered by noon. I spent the remainder of the day with my wife. We enjoyed a late breakfast at a local eatery and then headed down to Temecula to pick up our June wine club shipments. Quite an enjoyable day.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Old Men and Ladies

That’s all I encountered on my run this morning. Circumstances led to me running a 20 miler by myself on the multi-use path along the beach in Huntington Beach. It was a perfect morning for a long run; overcast with temperatures in the 60’s. Heading north the wind was at my back. Once I turned around to head back the wind was in my face and made it a bit cool but it helped keep the sweat out of my eyes. The sun came out around mile 16 as did a couple of younger people out running.

I used a 6 minute run:1 minute walk routine throughout the run. I got fatigued after mile 16 or so but not to the point of crippling. I ran the first 10 miles at 10:00 pace (near perfect to expectations) and the second 10 miles in a not totally unexpected 11:00 pace. Although I slowed down, I never felt like I couldn’t keep going.

During the run I ran into Tom Prendergast out for his daily run. He is 72 years old runs about 6 miles nearly every day on the multi-use path. I’d first met time on the trail in March 2005. As often as I run the trail I’d think I would see him more often. I ran with him from my mile 13 to 15 without walk breaks. I was great to have some company for a little while.

I often see another older guy on the trail always in a grey Purdue t-shirt. He always makes me think of Joe. I’m sure he was out there somewhere but in my 20 miles our paths just didn’t cross.

Friday night I’d gotten a call from fellow CA Cruiser and 50 State hopeful, Margaret. She was in Casper, Wyoming to check of that state on her list. She’d run into some folks from Canada that were extolling the virtues of the Humpy’s Anchorage Marathon. It is run in August. Part of the route is on the bike trail that I ran last year when I was in Anchorage on the cruise with my parents. Although it is enticing to get Alaska checked off, I don’t think I can swing it this year.

Only 6 weeks until my 22nd state, Montana and the Missoula Marathon.