Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Racin' Season

The past two weekends I have actually participated in sanctioned races.  This is typically a rare occurrence for me as I usually only race "official" races at most 3 times a year.  It seems that I have already filled that quota in 5 months and have at least 2 more official races on the calendar for the year!  What is happening to me (probably a paycheck).  Below I will give brief reports (yea, right) on two vastly different races.  Hope you enjoy!

The Drool Deer aka Stone Mountain Run

the crew... I look thrilled
Over many a day of perusing the interwebs, I discovered what looked to be a small little race with my type of vibe at Stone Mountain State Park.  The race's webpage and race director were quite eccentric and hilarious and I had to contact him to join.  One thing I found intriguing on the website was that bandits were welcomed.  How cool is that!  I let the "Rabid Squirrel" (race director's nickname) know my intentions and he was all for it.  I couldn't wait to race up and over Stone Mountain.

Race day arrived, and I began to fill guilty for not paying the extremely cheap entry fee, so I showed up with it to show my appreciation for Mr. Squirrel and his dedication to making this race as fun and goofy as possible.  The course would be the 5 mile Stone Mountain Loop trail.  It began by falling of the face of the earth down a ton of wooden steps beside a cascading waterfall, then leveled out for a bit, but soon enough climbed 700 ft up plenty of stone steps to the top of the appropriately named Stone Mountain.  After reaching the summit, you descended down a loose gravel trail, with plenty of switchbacks back to the start.

at the summit in 1st
After sizing up my competition, I thought that I had a really good shot of making the podium or even winning this thing, although that really wasn't the whole idea behind the "race".  It didn't matter too much as I was planning on putting out a race effort to be my last tune up before the next weekend's half marathon.  Soon we started and I found myself in a group of 4 runners headed to the stairs.  Upon arriving at the the stairs I was quickly dropped by 2 of these folks.  Apparently, I need to start doing downhill stair repeats because I was ridiculously slow.  By the time I reached the flat section, I was about 200 yards behind the duo that dropped me.  I began to kick it and hoped to gain ground slowly, which I did.  I was within 100 yards by the time we reached the climb and I had a feeling that I should catch the guys since they were both flatlanders.  I finally caught up with them mid way up the climb, but once I was back with them I decided to take a break and hike with them to the summit, which in hindsight was a mistake.  I was moving very well up the climb and running past them while they were hiking could have played some mental games with them and may have given me a better edge.  Once we neared the final summit push, I finally made my move and took over 1st place.  They weren't too far behind though as we hit the descent about 100 ft apart.  I tried to hammer it down the loose gravel trail, but the switchbacks were slowing me down considerably and they were making up time on each one.  The course finally started to even out and I began to pick up the pace even more.  I created separation between one of the runners, but I wasn't quite sure which runner was still close behind.  Once we finally hit the last .4 mile return section, I saw who it was and was surprised.  Surprised and concerned.  He soon caught up with me and we were running neck and neck until the final 100 yards of the course.  It ended on a slight uphill and he cranked it and I had nothing left to match him.  I crossed the finish line 2nd, losing the race in the last 100 yards.

getting out kicked on camera....great
Obviously, I was a little disappointed, but it wasn't a big deal.  We both ran a great race and I underestimated the guys downhill speed.  In the end I had a great time, got to hang and chat with some really good folks, and even one a door prize (which made me glad that I decided to pay the entry fee).  The Rabid Squirrel put on a great event and I hope to make it out to some of his more ridiculous races in the future.

Pisgah Nation represent!

New River Half Marathon

starting line
I haven't raced a half since the Mistletoe in 2011, and with Hannah's brother Tom wanting to attempt his first one, I suggested the New River Half and said that I would join him.  If I was going to run a road half, I wanted to make sure it was a beautiful course and you cannot go wrong with the High Country of NC.  I began "training" for a sub 1:30 time once the plan was set in stone, but after the first week of too much speed work, I tweaked my achilles and I was in recovery mode.  Before I could even begin to ramp the speed sessions back up I hit the 3 marathons in 2 weeks part of the training plan (isn't that how you are supposed to train for shorter races?)  Therefore, I cut the speedwork out and concentrated on recovering from those 3 runs.  Obviously, training didn't go as planned, but I did have a great time and some great runs during this phase.  Plus, I would rather have fun while running than strictly sticking to a regimented plan for 12 weeks.  Anyway, I still was feeling pretty much in shape and had recovered well from the 3 marathon efforts.  Sub 1:30 seemed very much unlikely, but a PR seemed possible so that became the goal.

post race
The night before the run, Beth Frye kindly opened up her home to Hannah, Tommy, Martha,  Michael, and I so we could avoid a long morning drive to the start of the race near Todd, NC.  It was nice to be back in Boone and even got a chance to slackline in Durham Park a bit (slacklining is kinda my new thing, even though I had seen the hippies in Boone do it for my entire tenure there).  Race morning came and we all hoped that the forecasted rain would hold off.  It was quite chilly at the start and we all decided to shed our warm layers right before the gun and hand them to Michael.  I found Scott and chatted a bit with him and then the horn sounded and we began to pound the pavement.

scott and i walkin' to the start

and we're off
The first mile I tried to take it easy knowing that a huge hill awaited during the next mile.  Apparently, I had taken it a bit too easy and was already off my planned pace. I picked it up and climbed solidly over our first 300ft climb of the day.  I was moving well, but my pace over the next few miles would vary quite dramatically.  The rollingish terrain of the middle part of the race I had underestimated.  I was clicking of miles everywhere from 7:30's to 6:20's.  Not really what I was expecting.  

Around mile 6 I began to fill the dreaded stomach issues.  This was probably some of the reason for the variance in pace as I was trying to keep everything in.  I kept debating on using the jon or not the entire last half of the race.  When we hit the next big climb of the day, I decided to relax a bit and hoped to crank down the last 4 miles which were all downhill/flat to make up time.  During these last 4 miles the stomach issues really began to bother me and I was beginning to wonder if I would just have to find a spot in the woods.  I kept pushing the pace though and hoped that I could hold out as  I was still near pace to PR.  During the last 3 miles though, a stiff headwind greeted us runners and it never relinquished its hold.  As we neared the final mile and the finish line, it actually got stronger.  When I hit the 12 mile sign, I really began to pick up the effort, although I think it had little affect on my pace as the wind had picked up as well.

final stretch
With about a quarter mile to go, my friend John Sugg had finally caught up with me and said "keep pushing".  I really kicked it then and began running as hard as I could.  I made the turn onto the grass finish chute and hurled myself over the finish line.  I crossed the line in 1:34:49, a mear 19 seconds off my PR time.  I was disappointed and collapsed into the grass to regain my breath.

Although I am still slightly disappointed, I do feel that I ran a PR effort especially while battling stomach issues, a stiff headwind, and a tougher course than my previous half.  If it would have been a flatter course without all those issues I could seriously see that effort turning into something closer to a  1:31.  I do not believe though that I can get under 1:30 just yet for the half so that goal is still on the mind and maybe something to shoot for at this year's Mistletoe.  I ended up finishing 16th overall in the half, so I am pretty proud of that and I can tell that I am getting faster and stronger and that is always a good thing.  

hannah at the finish

tommy at the finish
I would also like to proudly mention that Hannah and Tommy both ran an excellent race.  Hannah finished this course in 1:56 and Tommy finished his first half ever in 1:41!  Great efforts by both of them on a tough course and on a tough day.

it hurt so good

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