Monday, March 28, 2011

Around The Bay 30KM Race Report

This weekend was the 118th running of Around The Bay in Hamilton and was my third time running this race in the last 4 years. I think that this might be my favourite road race even though it is held at a time of year that can be less then friendly when it comes to running and weather.

Just over a week ago I was running trails in shorts and actually thinking about what great weather there might be at ATB but man was I wrong. Mr. Weather showed back up on Wednesday for a last gasp (I hope) back alley beat down. We got your snow, wind and to top it off some nice super cold days. I am actually surprised we didn't see sleet, hail and frogs falling from the sky. I mean how much longer is this winter thing going to keep us in its death grip.

Saturday night came and a quick look at the weather the next morning claimed it would be a balmy -19 with the wind chill. Wonderful, Excellent, Outstanding, where some of the words that came out of my mouth. All other words that I uttered that evening are really not fit to print in this blog.

Got up at 5:30 AM, bright and early, downed a large amount of coffee, rechecked weather, cursed under my breath some more and then Kim and I headed over to High Park. Longboat had rented a bus to take everyone to the race and soon we where headed for Hamilton with about 30 other club members.

We arrived at Copps Coliseum with about 45 minutes until race time and got changed. What is usually an easy decision for me became like a guest appearance on Lets Make A Deal. Do I go with warmer clothes based on the current chilly conditions and my plan to run only semi hard or do I go for whats behind Door #2. That means less clothes so I will be colder but it might warm up or I might run harder then expected. I could also trade in either by pretending to pull a hamstring and sit in Tim Hortons with a coffee for the next 4 hours. Tempting but in the end it was error on the side of cold, no shell just a long sleeve shirt and singlet.

Then it was outside and over to the so called corrals. This is the one and only complaint I have about this race. There are no proper corrals. As fellow Longboater Rob Campbell had mentioned to me on our way home this race has just kept growing but still no corrals. I think allowing people to seed themselves when you have 8000 to 10,000 runners can make a lot of traffic problems for people early in the race. I lined up close to the 2:30 pace bunny figuring this would be where the 2:20 to 2:30 people where. I could have moved farther up but I would have had to have gotten really pushy. I don't want be pushy and I really don't want to be a runner too far up in the field slowing down faster people behind me. Nobody wants to be a pylon out there.

My race plan is simple, run close to marathon pace for 15km then slow down slightly. This is not my spring goal race and I really dont want to kill the legs and not be able to train hard next week. That said I will reevaluate how much race pace I do based on how I feel.

The Race
The horn goes and we are off, sort of. I have miscalculated. It takes 2 minutes to cross the start mat. I pick up the pace, sort of. I am in a log jam of people and most of them are moving at a much slower pace then I want to be at. It takes more then 1.5km of bobbing and weaving to get up to a suitable running speed although the pack is still a little slow. I just go with it. I dont want to waste energy to gain a few seconds a KM.

I check my splits. The slow start has cost me 45 second. I regret not being pushy. No big deal as I had not planned to race full out. I feel surprisingly good, find a nice groove and just go with it. The first 8k fly by as the course makes its way across the downtown hamilton area. I have been passing people non stop and running a very consistent pace right in my target heart range. I begin to think about running the entire race at marathon pace but will see how it goes. I am not cold at all. I am really glad I didn't wear that shell.

We pass the 10km relay exchange point and head out along the lake. I still feel really good, my legs seem fine. I decide to commit to running the whole thing at pace, so much for the training run idea. Shouldn't have given away that 45 seconds at the start. I vow to be pushy at future races from now on.

Soon I am passing the 15km relay exchange area. I see a number of Longboats there who are running the relay. Its always nice to see friendly faces on the course and this gives me a small boost of energy for the bridge crossing. I hate that bridge. Its not long but the surface is metal grating. Its hard to run on and I have heard that people have taken bad spills here in past races. I am a plodding spazz with giant clown feet so my chances of face planting are higher then average. I make it across without any major malfunctions and run the next couple of kms into the wind. Its not really windy but still noticeable so I catch up to the tall guy in front of me and tuck in behind him. This works great for about a km but then he begins to slow. Everyone else close by is short and will be no help. Oh well it was fun while it lasted so I push past him.

At 19km we are into the start of the "rolling" hills. For those of you who have not run ATB the way the course is laid out is what makes it tough and also makes it fun. First there is the quirky 30k distance which can be hard to figure out when it comes to pacing. The bigger challenge is the hills. The first 19k of the race is nearly completely flat and can easily lead you to run way to fast early. Then come the hills from 19k to 26k which are rolling but substantial with a nice big hill right at 26k. From there its flat and then slightly down hill to the finish inside Copps.

I actually really like this part of the race but I train and run ALOT of hills. I keep a solid pace through this section running the uphills moderately hard and hammering the downhills which is one of my strong suits. I was tiring but still felt okay as I crested the last big hill and headed back towards the downtown. All that hill work in training really paid off (a tip of the hat to Roger and the super hilly Boston Special Sunday long runs he makes us do).

Into the last 3k of the race and I was having to work really hard but was still holding pace .... sweet. The Grim Reaper in front of the cemetery doesn't even bother to try and taunt me.

Then it was into Copps and across the finish line although not as smoothly as I would have liked. As I came through the underground area and turned to go out onto the arena floor my foot caught something, not sure if it was a seam or what but I stumbled, somehow didn't fall, and then sprinted across the finish line.

Chip time 2:26:50 (12 second PB)

Post Race
After the race I huge out with other club members and waited for everyone to come in. Kim also ran a PB even though she had to stop for a few minutes to deal with a pressing bathroom issue. Way to go Kim.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Training Update, First 100 mile week, Pikes Peak

Just a bit of a training update.

November, December and January were really good months as far as training went. My legs finally recovered from going overboard during Ultra season last year. Some would argue that ANY Ultra racing is going overboard while others will claim you cant go overboard at all. All I know is my legs were slow and tired by mid october. Well they seem to be back and I got a solid 1400 kms in during those 3 months of mainly base training (read easy running). That was capped off with 2 marathons in late January.

February was a much lighter volume month which can be best described as happening sort of accidentally on purpose. There was a week off during a planned vacation and then another week and a half of shorter runs due to a never ending head cold. Instead of getting my running shorts all in a knot over it I did something oddly unChris like. I just went with it. No fretting about missed runs, my growing belly or loss of cardio. Nope I just did what I could do. Still not sure how that happened tho but I have now convinced myself that the rest will actually be a good thing as my training for the Mohican 100 ramps up.

The start of March marked 16 weeks until the Mohican so it was time to start some real training which means getting that mileage up and making sure to get 3 quality runs in a week. I have a solid base but have lost a little speed with my VO2 max not being where it was at this time last year. That means lots of Tempo and Hills over the next few months and who doesnt like that.

Crap I am rambling again.

Mileage buildup
Okay so 3 weeks into my training things are looking good. My speed is coming back a little due to Coach Rogers somewhat brutally helpful Tempo workouts sometimes in really crappy weather and some awesome hill sprint repeats. I have also built my mileage up to the level that I hope to keep it at for this training cycle. Last week I ran my first 100 mile week (160km for all you fellow Canucks). I felt good but tired, no injuries but holy crap is that a lot of running. So many 2 a days. This week is recovery week which I am really going to enjoy.

Pikes Peak
I registered and my qualifications were confirmed for the Pikes Peak Marathon. I cant remember the last time I was so excited about a race. I know for some of you out west mountain running is not such a big deal but here in Toronto where the only mountains I see are on postcards its huge. With no mountain running experience I was a little leery of signing up for a 100 like Leadville so I figure a nice short marathon would be a great place to feel things out.... HA.

I also convinced (well maybe more like forced but in a nice way) Kim to sign up for the Ascent. She is nervous about it but I told her that its only 13 miles of climbing up the side of a mountain and 8000 feet of elevation change .... I mean seriously how hard could it be. Damn that actually does sound hard. Oppps

Friday, March 18, 2011

Melbourne Florida Marathon - race #2 of the Marathon Vacation

Okay so this race report is going to be pretty freaking dated but I promised to write it so here it is. Sorry for the delay but I am really busy (read really lazy) right now. Lucky for you because it is so late its going to be shorter then usual. Next week I should be getting back to posting regularly because I have got lots that I want to talk and complain about.

After the Miami Marathon we drove up to Orlando and hit the theme parks like the world was coming to an end. We managed to squeeze all the Disney parks in as well as both Universal Parks. What a blast!. Both Kim and I are thrill ride junkies (I know hard to believe) so the fun never stopped. No running AT ALL but we did about 13 hours of walking a day so the legs didnt exactly get a lot of rest.

On Saturday we drove 2 hours to Melbourne and picked up our race kits. Its a small race and it was really weird going from a huge expo at Miami to a tiny one at Melbourne but people were nice and we got everything picked up. No tech shirts but great running hats so that was cool because I badly needed a new hat. Then we drove back to Orlando to get in an afternoon of roller coasters.

Okay so this might be completely of topic but has to be mentioned. What the heck is up with serving sizes in Florida. I am not sure if its just Florida or other places in the US (didnt see it in NYC or LA) but it was kind of crazy. Servings were HUGE, it was INSANE. We ordered Nachos from the appetizer menu as a snack and this is the monstrosity that we were given. When I asked for Nachos I didnt mean all of them.

Sunday morning we got up at 4 am and drove back to Melbourne for the race. I planned to take it easy and run my normal long run pace. Kim wasn't sure how hard she was going to run. I think both of us were tired from all the running around during the week. I was feeling like I might have to take a vacation to recover from my vacation.

We found a place to park near the start line and changed into our racing stuff. It was just starting to get light out and it was overcast. I keep hearing a strange click, click, click of metal from behind me. I turned around to see what it was and saw the biggest Vulture I have ever seen walking along the steel roof of the building next to us and eyeing me up. It was big, ugly and looked hungry. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to see before running a marathon. Maybe the bird knew something that I didn't. Tried to get a picture but it was still to dark out.
We then made it to the start line and before you could say roadkill we were off.

The Race
The course was really flat and enjoyable but early on it was really congested with the HM and Marathon starting together. There were a couple thousand in the HM and only 300 in the Full. It was slow going for the first 3k until things got spread out and then it was fine. The course is decent with the HM running one loop that includes two long bridge crossings and the full doing the same course twice.

Things went well early but I realized very early on that this was going to be a tough run flat or not. It was overcast so no direct sun and in the mid 60s but man was it humid, I am guessing around 90-100 percent humidity. I was sweating buckets by the 6k marker.

The first loop sailed by quickly and as advertised it was flat except for the bridges. The first one had about a 300 meter uphill that was not to bad a grade but the second on was much longer and steeper and came around the 19k mark. I can remember cresting the hill the first time and thinking this is really going to hurt the next time I cross it.

Somewhere just after 22k I started running and talking with a guy from Jacksonville. He told me it was always humid like this. I was getting tired but having someone to run along with was cool. We only ended up running together for a few miles though as he actually ended up having to stop and walk because of leg craps. It was fun while it lasted but then I was on my own again and headed into the last and always painful 10k.

The heat was really getting to me by this time and since I was only suppose to be running this race for training I slowed down some more and then headed up over the bridge. As I had suspected it was much harder the second time and the few runners I could see where mostly walking it. Once I got to the top it was a quick 3k to the finish line where Kim was waiting for me.

Post race
I got some food into me and then wanted to get my post race beer but no luck. It seems all the beer was consumed by the HM people. GRRRR.

I finished in 3:57:51 which was okay. I ended up working harder then at Miami for a slower time but that was mainly because the conditions.

I think this was a pretty decent race for a smaller event but had one or two minor complains. The early aid stations were badly understaffed the first time around ( I ended up running right through one and had to come to a stop at another). I realize that is how it goes sometimes at smaller races so no big deal. The bigger thing is that they gave out water in harder plastic cups which you could not squeeze. This meant you either stopped running to drink or you ended up snorting Gatorade. I ended up with a lot of Gatorade up my nose during this race.

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