Sunday, June 9, 2013

Run to Exile 10k

I had another race this weekend.  It was a 10k in Des Moines that ended at the Exile Brewing Company.  I hesitate to refer to it now as a race.  Yes, I paid an entry fee, had a race bib and timing chip, even got a finisher's medal, but that's about where all the similarities ended.  It was a point to point race so we got bused out to the theoretical starting line.  There was one volunteer at the park and she told us the actual start was a few blocks west.  So we all started walking in that direction.  I was expecting the start to be marked in some fashion, but it wasn't.  Not even a chalk line on the ground.  A few people had their phones and pulled up the course map to verify that we we in the right general area.

So we stood around for awhile waiting.  I went out for a quick warm up and came back.  The official start time came and went.  The one volunteer that was there told us that someone was coming to officially start us so we held tight for a few minutes. People were starting to get antsy and a small group decided to just take off running.  A few minutes later they announced again that the starter was on his way out.  I think it got to be over 20 minutes past when we supposed to start that another group took off.  Then mob mentality took over and everyone just followed that group.  There was four of us just kind of standing there after that.  We looked at each other for a second, shrugged our shoulders, and took off after the pack.

I spent the first mile getting past the majority of the runners.  Ran a 6:00 first mile.  Then I started thinking to myself how the results were going to meaningless anyway, with everyone taking off at different times.  Decided to treat it as a tempo run and not turn myself inside out trying to set an unverifiable PR.  It started raining midway through, which was nice at the time.  Due to flooding they had to alter the course prior and the last five miles were virtually the same as the final miles of Dam to Dam.  In some way it was kind of nice to be on familiar terrain, because it wasn't terribly well marked.  Once we hit MLK I was pretty sure the course was going to be short.  That and we met up with the 5k course which was filled with walkers, some of them 4 abreast. So that was dicey.  Hit the finish line, which was approximately 5.7 miles from the "start line" in 39:00 even.
I picked up my complimentary beer and hot dog and fries and had a good laugh over the whole debacle with friends.  I don't think this race will be on the schedule next year.  Great concept.  Who doesn't want to run to a brewery?  Poor execution though.  It was an inaugural race so I expected some hiccups, not complete chaos. Maybe, if they prove they've worked out all the kinks next year, I'll consider it.  If not I can always go for a six mile tempo run on my own and save myself some money.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dam to Dam

3rd race of the season was upon me before I knew it.  Dam to Dam, America's largest (and possibly only) 20k was yesterday.  I hadn't had a particularly good couple of weeks of training leading up to it so I really didn't know what to expect.

The day always starts early for this race. Had to make the drive to Des Moines and then catch the shuttle up to the race start. Barely had time to use the restroom before the start. For the second year in a row I had to do a little warm up jog along the outside of the corral to make it to the front. Made it with a minute or two to spare and chatted with a couple of friends of mine about race strategy before the gun went off.

So all week leading up to the race I had debated on how I was going to approach pacing. I hadn't recovered real well from the relay race 3 weeks ago and my legs this week still weren't feeling particularly well. While out on a short run Thursday I had the idea that it would be beneficial to just go out at marathon pace (7:00 miles) and consider it more of a training run. All of that changed as I got to the Dam in the morning along with the other 7000 runners. The competitive spirit kind of takes over and decided to go out hard and see how the legs held up as the miles ticked by.

So when the gun went off I was hauling ass at a pace I felt would be sustainable if the legs decided to come around today. The first few miles are always nice as there are some decent downhill portions so I was able to keep the pace under 6:35 for the first four miles. By the end of the fifth mile I could already tell that I was slowing a bit. A PR was probably not in the cards so I dialed it back to a 7:00 pace and ran comfortably for the next few miles. Hit the halfway mark at 41:50something which was pretty close to my 10k time from last year.

When the climbs came on the second half I slowed the pace even more. A lot of people were passing me, which usually bugs the crap out of me, but I kept telling myself that the legs would appreciate it later next week. Despite the slower pace I was still feeling pretty tired by the end and ready to be done. With about a mile left I brought the pace back down to a sub-7 level to see if I could hold that till the end. I did and it was a nice mental victory to bring it in strong on tired legs. I wish I would have noticed the clock time when I crossed because apparently my timing chip didn't register. I'm not in the official results anywhere. Probably a good thing I didn't PR because not having an official record of it would drive me nuts.  Had to use the garmin as my "official" time and the placings below are based off that.

Time: 1:26:36
Pace: 6:58 min/mile
Overall place: 206/7087
Age Group Place: 44/673

So only a couple of minutes slower than last year's effort.  I really can't complain considering how I changed my strategy mid race.  It was a good workout on a beautiful morning and there was still free beer at the finish line so all was good.  Hopefully the legs bounce back this week.  I've got a 10k next Saturday and would like a legitimate shot at PRing that one.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Different Kind of Workout

Most of the time I like to write these posts about how training is going or the most recent races I have participated in.  Last weekend I didn't give much of that a thought as I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to visit my brother.  I was slowly recovering from the relay race the weekend before and was little worried as to how I was going to fit in marathon training while out there.  I decided to say screw it and not run and allow my legs some time to recover and just enjoy myself.  It's not like I was going to be sitting on my ass all weekend.  We had some golf planned and were then attending a three day rock festival known as Rock on the Range.  It was going to be a much different weekend of workouts for me.

Aside from running and triathlon one of my other longstanding passions is music.  I listen to it all the time.  Running, while in the car, sitting around at night. I probably buy at least a CD a week.  And I have my brother to thank for influencing my tastes.  We've listened to rock since we were kids and he even took me to my first Ozzfest shortly after I graduated high school.  We used to go to concerts all the time when he lived in Iowa so I was really looking forward getting to see over forty bands with him again, a bunch of which I had not had the privelage of seeing yet.

The first day of the concert began with an early morning round of golf, which was unfortunately shortened to 9 holes due to some lingering fog.  It was probably a good thing because I broke my 3 iron and was shooting like crap.  Once we got that out of the way it was on to the concert venue where we tailgated for a bit before starting a night of rock infused fun.
Ready to Rock!
The day opened with a couple of bands on the main stage that I had never seen before.  Love and Death and the Hollywood Undead both put on good shows.  We headed over to the side stage for most of the rest of the night.  I was looking forward to watching In Flames.  They were one of the first bands I listened to when I first started running to lose some weight so many years ago.  They've released a few more albums since then, all of which make it into a normal rotation on my running playlists.  We got right down in front for them and the show did not disappoint.  Afterward, we headed back to the main stage to watch Korn cap off the night.  I've seen them a few times, yet their show never fails to deliver.
In Flames!
After one exhausting first day, it was hard to think we had to do this another couple of days.  I woke up a little sore and tired, but after a few morning wakeup beers was ready to do it again.  The second day was probably my favorite of the three.  It was busy day, with a lot of back and forth between the main stage and the side stages.  Pop Evil started on the main, then over to Young Guns on the side, both bands I started listening to this winter/spring.  Back to the main for All that Remains, which is always in my running playlists. Then back to the side for Otherwise, who was a staple of marathon training last fall. Halestorm on the main, Red Line Chemistry on the side, Bullet for my Valentine on the main, Black Veil Brides on the side, and Papa Roach on the main. After a quick bite to eat it was back up front for Three Days Grace, who was employing an inordinate amount of pyrotechnics for such a hot day.

Up next was Stone Sour, who we made sure to get as close to the stage as we could.  They were one of the first bands I listened to when I started training to race.  I can vividly remember runs where I listened to their entire first album.  I've seen them before, and Corey Taylor always puts on a great show.  That night was no exception.  Smashing Pumpkins wrapped up the second night, but we were so tired that we actually left a bit early before they wrapped up their set.

Stone Sour
Day three rolled around, and despite being exhausted and sore, I was still ready for a good day of music. Sick Puppies opened the day, followed by Sevendust.  I took my first shot ever at crowd surfing during their set, and it was more fun than I would have imagined. 

1st time crowd surfing
Red was next on the side stage and then Thousand Foot Krutch, whom I did some more surfing for.  Back to the main for Skillet. 
Skillet raising up their strings
Then I got up nice and close for Volbeat, who has been one of my favorites since hearing Still Counting several years ago and at the top of my list for "Need to see" bands during this concert.  Needless to say they played a fantastic set and I had a ton of fun just a few rows back.  After that I scrambled over to the side stage to watch David Draiman's Device.

It was time for some old school rock after that.  Bush played, followed by Alice in Chains.  I was surprised at how old Jerry Cantrell looked and how great of a show they still managed to put on.  I went crowd surfing again during Rooster and Man in the Box, during which I got dropped hard on my head.  Had bruises all along my shoulders the next day, but it was worth it.  Soundgarden wrapped up the evening of nostalgic rock and capped off a great three days of music.

So the weekend was a ton of fun.  I was sore in places I usually don't get sore when running.  A good core and upper body workout.  My brother and I are already looking forward to next year's version of the concert.  It took me a little while to detox and get back into running this week.  My legs were experiencing all sorts of odd pains, but I managed to get in a decent long run yesterday and feel like I should be able to be back on track this week.  Just in time for Dam to Dam on Saturday.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Market to Market Relay: Race Recap

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to partake in my second race of the season, and it was a unique event at that.  The inaugural Iowa version of the Market to Market Relay was held on Saturday.  It is a seventeen stage, 73 mile race starting in Jefferson and ending in downtown Des Moines.  I have always wanted to participate in a race like this so when my old friend Jack contacted me a few months back about joining one of their teams I immediately said yes.

We are Runners and We are Runners Too
We fielded two six person teams, "We are Runners" and "We are Runners Too" and met up in the early morning hours to head up to Jefferson.  At 6:30 am the wind was already blowing hard and we knew we were in for a blustery day. The good news I guess was that it wasn't snowing like the weekend before.  The van ride up was fun as I got acquainted with my running mates for the day.  We had some time to kill at the start line before our wave went off so we watched the wave before ours go off and tried to stay warm.  We were in the last wave of the day, dubbed the "championship wave" since we had a legitimate shot of doing very well in our division based on our estimated finish time.  That info surprised me a bit and I figured I may just have to run a little harder if we were going to be competitive.

We are Runners - Pre Race

Soon enough we were ready to go and Brian led us off.  It was indeed a stacked wave as he later related that he ran the first mile at a sub 6:00 pace and was near the back of the pack.  He held his own just fine though and reeled in some of those who went out too fast.  The rest of us loaded into the van to meet him at the second check point.  There wasn't a whole lot of down time after arrival at the exchange point and before long our second runner and team captain, Jaime, was taking over.  Then we all piled in the van again to do it all over again.

My first leg was leg 4 and I took over from Jack who ran a smoking first effort.  The leg was a straight shot south down the Raccoon River Valley Trail for 4.8 miles. The best part of that was that there was a sweet 20 mph tailwind shoving me along.  It wouldn't be so sweet in later stages, but I was able to relax, let the wind do half the work, and save the legs a little.  As I started the leg I could see one guy far up ahead in a black shirt and I made it my first goal to catch him.

Taking part in my first relay race I was quickly introduced to some new lingo.  Overtaking another runner in the race was referred to as a "kill" and the goal was to rack up as many of those as you could.  Starting in the final wave of the day and fielding a fast team we were set up to score quite a few kills.  We marked each one the team accumulated in chalk on the window of the van until we ran out of window space. Or maybe we just lost count.  Either way there was a lot

So I kept black shirt in my sights and slowly reeled him.  And I do mean slowly.  After the first couple miles ticked by it seemed I hadn't even closed half of the original gap.  Either he gassed the next two miles or I picked up the pace, but I eventually caught him shortly after the 4 mile mark.  The remainder of the leg I managed to pick off a few more people.

Miles: 4.84
Time: 31:12
Pace: 6:27 min/mi
Kills: 6

After that it was back in the van to recover a bit while the other runners on the team continued to kick butt. Ryan and Liz had stellar first legs and soon enough we were preparing to start the second cycle of stages.  Everyone was running hard and having so much fun it was just a great group to be a part of.  By the time stage 10 rolled around I felt like I could at least run again, having fueled and recovered a bit, and was ready to do my part for the team.

The route was now heading east so that super sweet tailwind was no more.  Now it was a pain in the butt crosswind that tried to blow you off the trail if you weren't paying attention.  There was a decent tree line along the trail, but every now and again there would be a break in it and you'd feel the wind full bore.  So the second leg was much more of a struggle than the first, but we had caught back up to the meat of the teams running so the kills were plentiful.

After the first couple miles I was feeling pretty spent.  I decided to just put my head down and run and not look at my garmin to see where my pace had fallen off to.  Apparently this strategy worked somewhat.  I just kept trying to catch the next person ahead of me and didn't glance at the watch until there was about a half mile left to go.  That made it seem like only a half mile and bringing it in didn't seem quite so bad, and looking at my total pace for the leg it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was.

Miles: 5.11
Time: 33:14
Pace: 6:30 min/mi
Kills: 17

More recovery time in the van while my teammates had a go at it.  Again, they were all running great in that nasty crosswind, and the team was slowly ticking off their final legs of the day.  As the late stages of the race unfolded we were certain we were locked in a close battle for 3rd place in our division.  By the time my final leg came up we were still behind by a bit.

Luckily for me my last leg was also my shortest, a mere 2.8 miles.  I kept telling myself that it would be a piece of cake.  That wasn't even a 5k!  I took the exchange from Jack, who came running in dueling with top hat guy, and I promptly took out top hat guy's teammate on a downhill section that made it feel like I was flying.  Less than a 5k, no reason to hold back now.

Apparently the legs didn't get the memo that I wanted to run fast because they were complaining big time.  I did the best I could to keep the turnover going.  The stage wound through water works park and it was easily the my most scenic leg of the day.  It took my mind off my unresponsive legs a bit at least.  With a half mile to go I started to ratchet up the pace until I was doing my best attempt at a sprint to finish things off.

Miles: 2.81
Time: 17:59
Pace: 6:24
Kills: 16
The Final Handoff
When I passed the "baton" off to our anchor leg, Ryan, we were still behind the third place team.  As our team had waited at the exchange point they had identified who our anchor needed to catch so when we arrived near the finish line the anticipation to see who would show up first was growing.  The finish area was in a unique spot in that you could see a good half to three quarters of a mile across the river to where the runners were running along.  Both our team and the one we were competing with for third was squinting and trying to see which runner was coming along first.  After a false alarm or two, Ryan finally came into view hauling ass along the river, with the other dude nowhere in sight.

We happily joined him for the final short group run through the finish line.  It turned into more of a haphazard free for all as no one could match each other's pace, but we eventually all crossed the line for a hard earned finish.

Final Stats: 10/205 OA, 3/66 Open Div.

The second team finished not too long after ours in a very respectable 25th place, and we all met up for a post race celebration after such a productive day.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and feel truly grateful to have met and run with such a great group of people.  Running for the the most part is a very individual sport.  You can go to races with friends, but you're the one racing the clock (or the field).  For this race you have to rely on your teammates and it is the sum of their superb efforts that produce the final result.  The best part about this team was that while we were competitive, there was a constant positive vibe and sense of fun from all of the members. That's what made the day.  The time and placing on the final scorecard was just an added bonus.

We are Runners - Post Race