Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SweetH20 Creek 50K

Race day is right around the corner! This Saturday I will head up to Lithia Springs, just outside of Atlanta, to run the Sweetwater Creek 50k. I have been looking forward to this race since I decided(gave in to peer pressure) this past winter. I think having to cross the creek twice during the race was what really sealed the deal...Plus, the 50k distance is only 5 miles longer than a marathon, but you still get to check off "Ultra" on your running bucket list.

Now with marathons, a quick aside. It seems as more and more people enter the sport of distance running, the full mary is seeing an enormous boom. Races are selling out faster and faster and new marathons are popping up everywhere. Sure, the purist will say that us middle and back of the packers are watering down the sport, but that is not to take away anything from each individual runner who pays their dues and toes the line on race day. You can't half ass your way through a full mary, if you try, you will be found hobbled on the side of the road.

(If you look closely, you can see people on the trail to the right near the top of the ridge)

Speaking of half assing it...There will be no half assing this race. This course is the real deal, water, elevation, single track...what more could you want in a race? Luckily they moved the race up a month so we are running in early April versus early May like last year. I am ready. I have been logging 100+ mile months since November and have run three 20+ mile runs in the last six weeks. Unable to find too much elevation in Savannah, all of my long runs have included the big bridge by my house.

I have no expectations. I wouldn't know where to begin. I ran a 4:30 flat marathon last week. So, I could probably run 31 flat miles in 5:30. I ran the Equinox Marathon six months ago in 5:40, looking at the elevation chart, the courses are similar. So does that mean I would have been looking at a 6:40 50K last fall?

Here are my two goals:
Finish the race healthy and under 6:30.

Top secret goal that I won't tell anyone? Sub 6

I look forward to this race and being able to share my journey. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

Wrightsville Beach Marathon

So I have been holding off on writing this report as I "only" ran this race as a training run. I wasn't sure if I should have written a report because I didn't "race" it. After much thought, I did run the race, therefore, I should write a recap...A PR is a PR, training run or not.

Let's start a couple of days before the race. I got off of work Thursday night and headed to Atlanta to pick up my Sweet Boo. We were both excited to spend the weekend together, I think she was more excited to spend the weekend at the beach(she will never admit to that though!) We woke up early Friday morning and got on teh road for Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach. The drive is primarily spent on I-20 and man is it boring....almost as boring as the drive on I-16 from Savannah to Atlanta. Most of you will never understand that statement but for those who do, well, you know....

We arrived in WB around 5pm and quickly got checked into our room. The Shell Island Resort was the host hotel for the race, they contracted a discounted rate for runners! Every room had a balcony and ocean view, the water was a stones throw away. Fantastic!

This was the first running of this marathon and the "expo" proved so, no pomp and circumstance...just your regular run of the mill packet pick up. don't get me wrong, I thought the race was well organized and they did a fantastic job putting it together...I guess I just keep seeing photos of NYC and Chicago's race expo.

Early rise on Sunday morning, I slowly jogged the mile and a half to the start to warm up. There were shuttles running from the hotel to the start; I chose not to take one. I had a simple game plan for the day. This was only to be a training run for the upcoming Sweetwater 50k. I wanted to make sure I didn't kill myself and not be able to compete next week. 10 minute miles and shoot for a 4:20-4:30 finish.

Between the half and the full mary there was probably 1500 runners, interestingly I think the male/female ratio was 65/35 in favor of the fairer sex. (A good reason to come back next year)

6:30am came quickly and we were running! "Just stay comfortable and run easy!" The first few miles ticked off with relative ease. I was hitting low 10's and my HR was sitting right around 137. As I approached the 10 mile mark I was feeling good and had to resist the urge to go faster.

The 13 mile mark informed me that I was moving along nicely and it felt just like another Sunday run. The crowd support was nice, spaced out but not too many dead spots. The course set up was that of a double/triple loop. Let me see if I can explain. We started on Wrightville Beach, ran over the bridge and off the island towards Wilmington. Turned right onto Military Cutoff Road and ran through a business district. In this area we saw the most crowd support. We turned right into the Landfall Homes neighborhood. There were some lonely parts in this area as most people were probably asleep. We came out of the neighborhood and turned right, at this point we completed the first loop and merged back onto the race course at about mile 2. The full loop was about 10 miles, marathoners did this loop twice, 1/2er's only once. (obviously) I only had one bone to pick with this layout. After completing the second loop (or first for 1/2er's) There was one point we had to make a left turn across traffic. There were police on both sides of the road directing traffic but I just didn't feel comfortable running along the road having drivers glare at me as they were held up in traffic waiting for breaks in the runners to get through the intersection. That was my only issue with the race course.

Okay, back to the actual running part of this recap. I left you off at the halfway point. Garmy says hit it at 2:14:07. HR was at 139. Wow, I was really running within myself. At this point my HR was climbing an extra beat or two per mile. I continued to plug away, hitting the miles at about 10:15 per mile. As I approached the 18 mile mark I began to wonder where this "wall" would be. I thought since I wasn't pushing the pace I may avoid it. My last training run was 22 miles and the last two miles were a mental battle. I quickly approached the 20 mile mark and all systems were a go! HR was now in the high 140's. 21, 22 & 23 easy, peasy...

Mile 24
The early warning systems were starting to sound. I could hear the gavel pounding in my head. "I would like to call this committee to order please. Gentlemen, it has been several months since the Running is Stupid committee has met, we have a lot of work to do, let's not waste any more time." The committee quickly formed and they began peppering me with questions. "This is only a training run Thomas, you should start walking." "Why are you even here, it is not like you are racing? Why don't you quit and save yourself for the ultra?" "You are never going to be able to run a 50k if you can't handle this distance!"...I suppose this is the "wall" people speak of...
It was a mental struggle to continue. "Just keep moving forward" I was able to push through this mile and was very happy to see the mile 25 marker...It's all down hill from here. I managed to fight my way through the remaining mile and was happy to see the finish line.

26.2 miles
Avg HR145
Max HR152

After making it back to the hotel It was time for my ice bath. However, I was going to try something different. The ocean. Let's see, the Atlantic Ocean in March, very cold. I would have preferred to run into the ocean to just get it over with but my legs would not cooperate. I had to SLOWLY wade into the bone chilling water. Instantly, my feet began to scream. It was as if someone was stabbing them with a hundred needles. I began to wade deeper and my knees soon joined in on the pain. As I made it into waist deep ocean water, the pain was becoming unbearable. I was not going to make it 15 minutes. The worst part was the waves breaking toward the shore and splashing my chest and face with water shaped daggers. I think I lasted 7-8 minutes, there were onlookers from the shore that could not figure out why on earth would I subject myself to such torture. I got out of the water and headed to the hotel, planning on trying out the outdoor pool(It was not heated) to see if that was any easier. The pool water was a little warmer, I managed to stay in the pool for 10 minutes. I am happy to report that as of right now, two days later, I am at 95% and plan on running today. It was totally worth it. I was a mess for a week after my first marathon.

Final thoughts....
I enjoyed it. I ran a very conservative training run and am completely confident in my ability to complete the ultra in 10 days. I am happy to know that I do not have any more 20 mile training runs on the books for the near future. I will post a pre race report for the ultra in the coming days.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

GW,MA!* 6.66 MR RR(Part Deux)

Yes, Yes, Ya'll...We are still racing!

We last found our hero gliding through the finisher's chute as he just notched another PR in his belt.(These are the only addional notches being made in said belt these days...)

Only allowing myself 36 hours to bask in the glow of a 20th AG placement, I refocused my attention to the task at hand. "Where is the registration table for the second half of the GW,MA! 6.66MR?" "Where is the course map? Does this race have Johnny-on-the-spots?"

After a quick review of the fine print in the online race registration, I decided to include a portion of my "Pi Day LSR" as the remaining 3.56 mile race course. Had I properly planned ahead I would have raced 0.42 miles yesterday, leaving me with a nice 3.14 mile run scheduled for today. Let's be honest, who here really wants to read a race report for a 0.42 mile race? Looking at the bigger picture, is there anyone even reading this race report besides Razz, who has to read it as it is his job as RD.... I kid...I know my mom reads this. Hi Mom!

I had nineish miles planned(9.8696044)today so I was going to run three warm up miles, virtually race 3.54 miles and then cool down with 3.14 miles...give or take.

The warm up was great, it was a cool and breezy 55 degrees in Savannah and the St. Patrick's day festivities are gearing up. I took a wrong turn somewhere near the park and ran head on in to a gaggle of Shriners!

Close call...As my warm up was drawing to an end I reached into my pocket and pulled out my race bib. It was quite the dickens pinning that thing on mid run. In hind sight, I guess I could have stopped and pinned it on, but you saw those Shriners....

After finishing a heart stopping rendition of the National Anthem, Part Deux of the VR was underway. I quickly moved to the front of the field of runners, I could hear the Kenyan's muttering under their breath that I would crash and burn at this pace. Maybe they were right, only time would tell.

As I approached the 1st mile marker, I felt as if someone was running in my wake. Never one to look back in a race, I paid no mind to the runner drafting off of me. "Let's see what this freeloader has in the tank, you want to draft off of The Snail, you gotta pay the price!" I dropped it into the next gear for a 10 step acceleration..."Whatchu gaut boy?" Damn, still there...He was hanging on through mile two, never wanting to come up and take his turn pulling...

Mile 3 was a blur, the lactic acid was building and my legs were burning, "Please stop Snail, you are a monster!" Surely, that is what the guy behind me was thinking as he was holding on for dear life at this break-neck pace.

We were now rounding the corner to the (virtual) finish line, I could see the clock ticking...

It was at this point I glanced over my shoulder to see if my challanger was still hanging on...What the hell!?!1! Ryan Hall????

Man was he trucking....but not today Mr. Hall, today victory will be mine. As he attempted to pass me, I gave him a little elbow and banged him into the course barrier...(What? Did you think I was gonna beat him one on one with my legs?)

Victory is mine!!!

Garmin time for 3.56 miles - 29:40

Overall Combined Time - 53:41

Overall Pace - 8:03

Apologies owed - Ryan Hall, ING NYC Marathon, Savannah Shriner Outfit

Many thanks are in order...

First, I would like to thank "The Snail" for without him, none of this would be possible...

Secondly, I would like to thank the Snail's parental units and the Great NYC Blackout of 1973...for without them, well...let's not go there...

Lastly, let's give Razz, et al, a round of applause for organizing this fantastic event. The course was friendly, the volunteers beautiful and the water was cold...

I plan on returning next year, who is with me?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Global Warming, My Ass! 6.66 Mile Run Race Report (Part One)

The March of Dimes Shamrock 5k Race Report

It's all about timing...Razz's virtual race worked perfectly with my plan to run the annual Shamrock 5k...

"But Snail, even someone with a middle school education knows that a 5k does not equal 6.66 miles!" Very true, lucky for me Razz left a nice loop hole in which we can break up the distance into as many increments we choose.

I have chosen to run two separate races.

On to the recap...

The March of Dimes Shamrock 5k marks the beginning of the spring race seasom here in Savannah. The best of the best local runners show up...and they also have a costume contest. After many hours pondering what to wear to the race this year, I settled on something simple and sleek.

Since I live downtown, The Crackhead and Cubbie meet me at the house and we walked to the starting area of the race. Stressing the importance of following a pre-race routine, The Crackhead suggested we do the same warm up we do before track practice. We did an easy 10 minute jog to warm up, followed by a few drills and finished up with strides. I had a good sweat going and got my HR up, with a few minutes left before the start we moseyed over to the starting line and wedged ourselves in with 1600 green clad runners.

My goal for this race was simple, lower my 5k PR of 25:52. I knew this would be a given as I ran a 8:02 pace for a race two weeks ago that ended up being 3.54 miles. That would have computed out to a 25 minute 5k. So my real goal was to run in the 24's, pie in the sky was to dip into the 23's.

We were off and I spent the first 1/4 mile trying to work my way around the slower runners and walkers. I had a hard time getting clear and into a stride. Just before I got frustrated, the course opened up and I was able to run freely. I knew the pace was quicker than normal but I had already decided before the race that I was going to "red-line" it and see if I could push myself to the point of blowing up.

I hit the first mile at 7:40, "WhoaPat!" Bring the pain!

As I labored through the second mile, I knew I had gone out too fast and was trying to hold on. Halfway through this mile I noticed I was being passed more than normal. glancing at Garmy I knew why, 8 minute pace..."Come on, Thomas, get the lead out, this will be over before you know it."

Second mile marker 15:41 (8:01 mile split)

A majority of this race course makes up a portion of my favorite 5 mile loop. The last mile of the race course is mile 4 of that loop. I feel at home on this course and knew just when to step it up. I found an entire other gear and began reeling in runners. A quick glance at the watch showed I was back at a 7:45 pace. "1/2 mile to go, last 800 of the day." As I rounded the final square, I knew the finish was 1/4 of a mile away.

The Garmin beeped three miles and I could see the finishing clock come into focus.

"Does that say 23:xx?"

Push through the finish, don't leave any room for regret.

24:09 Gun Time

Final Stats:
24:01 Chip Time - New PR
7:44 Avg Pace
223/1600+ Overall

23/71 AG

Where did I find that effort? The weekly track workouts are starting to payoff. a quick shout out to the Crackhead who finished 15th overall with a time of 18:15. I also managed to grab this photo of him off of the local paper's website.

Wait, What!?!1!...I still need to run 3.56 miles? I am only halfway through the Global Warming, My Ass! 6.66 Mile Virtual Race...Does anybody have a GU?