Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dublin Weekend

Ah, Dublin.

Phew, what a weekend, batman!

While most who read this blog know I was back in the UK for the running of the 30th Dublin Marathon, the primary reason was to attend the wedding of one of my oldest buddies, Jim, to his long-time girlfriend Helen. The marathon was tacked on later as it conveniently occurred two days after the wedding, and as anyone as running obsessed as myself and my brother understands, one should never let a good trip go to waste without at least scoping out possible racing opportunities. It just so happened that the timing for this one worked out perfectly.

St. Stephens, an old (like British old) Norman church.

As a veteran of many a trans-Atlantic flight, I have the sleeping-on-the-plane thing down to a fine art. The key is to consume as much free booze as humanly possible in the time it takes for the dinner-service proceedings to take place and then tuck into a film while the booze works its magic before slumping into the least uncomfortable position possible and snoring your way to the UK. I probably slept for 60 percent of the trip, so actually arrived in the UK on Friday morning somewhat rested and not too jet-lagged, if a little hungover.

Next day was wedding day. The plan here was to have fun catching up with old friends while staying on top of hydration for what would be a marathon day of drinking opportunities. We were in the pub for an 11-o'clock stiffener and then on to St. Steven's church at noon for Jim and Helen's wedding, before hitting the reception for Pims and lunch.

I don't scrub up too bad, although my niece and nephews put me to shame.

The happy couple.

The plan on the hydration front was to drink a pint of water for every glass of booze consumed. Much like the marathon itself, I managed to stick to the plan until late in the game when I started to get sloppy and allow the carnage to unfold. Nonetheless, the hangover and dehydration on travel-day Sunday were only moderate and I was fully confident that by Monday there would be no ill effects.

My brother performs late at the wedding. Two days later in Dublin that would unfortunately not be the case.

Two of my oldest friends. Dom strikes a familiar pose.

So my brother and I arrived in Dublin mid-afternoon and headed straight to the expo to take care of bib numbers and such like before heading back and checking into our downtown hotel - or what we had reserved as our hotel. The guy on the front desk had other ideas telling us he had given our room to someone in a large group of people that could not be separated.

"Ahmm, excuse me, we booked this room months ago and secured it with a credit card."

"Not to worry, lads," explains front-desk man, "we have you in a hotel down the road at no extra charge."

How decent of him to be looking out for us like that! Turns out the new hotel was much nicer, but still...

We were up at six for the 9am start and as we were making our way over to the race start location, joining a growing stream of runners, I began to remember how much I actually enjoy these big marathon races and the old nervous tingle started growing in the pit of my stomach. It has been three years since the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. - my last big-city marathon - and I was really looking forward to getting in among the runners and soaking up the buzz. Don't get me wrong, I'm most assuredly a low-key trail guy these days, but big marathon weekends are still a ton of fun.

Matt posing by the Liffy pre-race.

So after taking care of pre-race business I get to the packed sub-3:30 starting corral and elbow my way to the front. I'm about three deep as the announcer gets the crowd of 10,000+ singing a chorus of Cockles and Mussels. I check out the elite runners and make the decision that I'm going to try and find some top women to pace with. I know the winning time for the women will be low 2:30s, but figure that most of the other elites will likely be running about my pace, and I'm sure they'll be much more adept at keeping pace than this mountain dirtbag. Chatting with my brother the night before, I realize that a 2:39 is probably a fool's errand, so I set my sights on 2:42/43.

The assembled runners get done with their drinking song and with zero warning the gun goes off. Boom.

Through the first few meters there's a bit of jostling, but it's thankfully short-lived. At least 200 people must already be ahead of me as I settle into my pace, which feels very comfortable. The sea-level air is oxygen-rich and I can feel it filling my lungs to capacity. The legs feel good and the crowd is roaring through the streets of downtown Dublin. Game on.

After no more than a half mile, I notice that I'm on pace with a wee lass with a Scottish Athletics top, and make the decision to let her pace me through the early going. We pass mile marker one in no time and I get the split off my watch: 5:34. I do the double take and my 5k/10k pace is confirmed. Suicide, I think to myself. However, the running feels so supremely easy that I'm either running at an entirely different level on rested legs at sea level or that mile marker is short. I stay on my pacer's shoulder as we cross the River Liffy and wait for the second split: 6:38. What? I'm feeling a bit discombobulated at this point, as I know I've eased off the gas a bit, but I'm also certain that I haven't eased off it that much. I put it down to misplaced mile markers and get on with the task at hand.

As we make our way out of the downtown area towards Phoenix Park, I feel like I'm getting into a better rhythm and hope that I'm finding the 6:10 pace that I'm looking for. Mile three comes in at 6:17 and the pace continues to feel good and comfortable, as it should this early in the race. The mile four marker comes just after we enter the park, where we are greeted by hooping and hollering from the gibbons at the zoo, and I take a look at the mile-four split: 6:27. My erratic pacing through the early miles is really beginning to annoy me and I just don't seem to be able to hit consistent miles. I begin to worry that it will come back to bite me late in the game. In addition, as we roll from hill to hill, I'm beginning to realize that the organizers have used something of a poetic license in describing the course as "largely flat." Rolling would definitely be a more accurate description.

We continue through the park and my wee bonnie pacing partner sparks up a conversation, saying that she's gunning for a 2:40 and that we should work together through the half and reassess from there. At this point, we're running with a group of six or seven other guys, but it feels like we've slowed to stay with them so I make a conscious decision to break off the front and bridge to another group of six or seven guys who have been running a fairly consistent 20-30 meters ahead. Nobody comes with me. After the race I look for Scottish females in the results but find nothing sub-3:10, so figure she must have dropped.

Miles five, six, seven and eight through the park come in at 5:55, 6:20, 6:12, 6:12. I still don't feel like I've hit a proper rhythm, so break off the front of the pack I've caught up to and been running with to try and up the tempo a bit and slot into a sub-6:10 pace. One guy comes with me. He has a Limerick Athletic Club vest on and gets continual support from the crowd. We bridge up to another top runner in the women's race and soon learn from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd that she's a local favorite and currently running as top Irish female. We continue our pace, which finally feels right: hard, but not painfully so and I am really encouraged with how easy the pace feels for me aerobically. However, from his breathing, it sounds like my current pacing partner might be working a bit too hard for this early in the race. Contrary to my lungs, my legs are beginning to feel the pace although they still feel like they have plenty left.

Before the race, I made the decision to race in my new Brooks T6 running flats, despite having put less than 30 miles on them. In the few test runs I had in them I had gotten early signs of blisters in the heel. I figured I'd tape up and be okay. Unfortunately, the tape was beginning to clump and was itself rubbing. Pain was just now starting to ensue, but there was nothing to do but grin and bear it.

Out of the park, we work through some subtle mile-long ups and downs and knock off some steady splits to the half (6:02, 6:01, 6:04, 6:13, 6:16), which we go through in just over 1:21. All systems seem to be functioning well, despite the growing pain in my feet, and I feel good about the second half. We continue to pass a few runners while getting passed by none. Most let us go, but one guy sticks with us and we pace as a group of three, hitting splits of 6:04, 6:11, 6:04 & 6:06 through miles 14, 15, 16 & 17. Somewhere in here we pass a couple more elite females, but drop the guy from Limerick. I sense that my new pacing partner has plenty left in the tank, but we don't say a word to each other as we run stride for stride. I burp and bring up a bit of bile. Good, working hard.

Coming up to mile 18, the legs are starting to rebel a bit. I can sense that I'm on a short tether and begin the self-doubt process. This is classic marathon stuff. I summon my inner Brandon (check out his linked Denver Marathon report for the reference) and push on despite a few wobbles in the hammies. The next two splits come in steady despite the sense that I'm slowing (6:04, 6:08). Race carnage is becoming increasingly evident and there are a few guys off to the side with full-on cramps, a couple of guys who are now walk/running and as we come into the miles around University College Dublin, we pass our first casualty from the elite men's race. Looks like a Kenyan.

So I hit mile 20 with 2:03 on the clock. I do the math and realize that I've got to go 39 minutes over the last 10k for a 2:42. I think it's a tall order as my legs are now burning. I re-summon my inner Brandon and push on with my partner who is still on board. Mile 21 comes in at 6:15 and I somehow manage to drop a 5:55 through mile 22. I am now sensing, however, that trouble-proper is brewing. I clutch for straws and gobble two gels. Mile 23 splits at 6:09. How I am keeping pace at this point I have no idea, but pretty much as soon as I pass the 23-mile point and begin to think about the last 5k, the bonk finally arrives and I am powerless.

We're back in town now and I lose my pacing partner. I watch him drift off into the distance. I berate myself for being so weak. I try to draw on the fact that I have been through this pain many, many times before. "It's just three miles; you ran 100 in one go earlier this year." My legs are not fooled and I breathlessly slip into survival mode. Miles 24 & 25 both hit at 6:45. I'm in a state of disbelief that they are even sub-7. The raucous crowd can do nothing for me now as runners begin to pass me through the last mile. Marker 26 takes an eternity to materialize. I hit the split at 7:02. I get a visual on the finish-line clock as it ticks onto 2:43. Oh well, still respectable. I finish, feeling beaten and savaged in 2:43:35.

After the race, I make my way to the baggage area and pick up my bag before quickly slipping back around to watch finishers come home in hopes of catching my brother go under three hours. The clock ticks onto 3:01 as I get there. I hope he's already done, but see him come in five minutes later looking pretty rough. I go to our pre-arranged meeting point and lie down on a park bench. I wouldn't be surprised if a few people mistook me for one of Dublin's many homeless.

My brother was looking to go sub-3, but hit the half in 1:27, paying the price in spades through the second half to finish in 3:06.

They taste so much better when you earn 'em

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week Ending Oct. 25

Mon - 6 miles easy on lower valley trails. Ran with the i-pod and found myself getting into a deep zone of thought again. Visualized all kinds of late-in-the-race scenarios for Dublin - mostly fantasy-land stuff, but also some good stuff on digging deep and getting the job done late. Legs much improved from Sunday, but still a bit sore.

Tues - 5 miles track. The lady who organizes the Tuesday night workouts at the CSU track, Jane Welzel (5 time OT qualifier (yes, 5 time) and 2:33:01 PR), was kind enough to put together a pre-marathon workout for tonight's session in preparation for Dublin. This was much appreciated and the workout turned out to be exactly the boost of confidence I needed. The workout as described in the group email:

This is a marathoners workout (this ones for you Nick!)
This has a mental preparation component as well as the physical training bit.
Think of the marathon in 3 parts
10 miles
10 miles
The first 10 miles the pace should feel really comfortable
The second 10 miles in order to keep the pace you need to put out a little more effort
The last 10K takes a bit more effort to keep the pace.
So this workout we will do 5X1000 with a 200 jog in between intervals
Do the first 2 at marathon pace
next 2 at 1/2 marathon pace
last one at 10K pace this will simulate increasing the effort and the mental focus.

Goal pace for Dublin is 6:07, but went a little harder as all systems seemed to be firing nicely. Ended up hitting the first two kms in 3:38 (5:50) & 3:35 (5:45), both of which felt super smooth. Legs were still not 100% but felt the lightest they have in weeks, maybe months. Hit the next two in 3:25 (5:28) & 3:20 (5:21), still feeling strong, then cranked the last one in 3:14 (5:12) feeling like I was ready for more. Gonna' take it and run with it.

Weds - 6 miles easy on lower valley trails. No watch.

Thurs - Travel

Fri - 4 miles easy up and around the university in Canterbury.

Sat - Wedding

Sun - Travel

Total: 21 miles.

Pre-marathon week, so not much but easy stuff to get the legs good and rested.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week Ending Oct 18

Mon - 8 miles (1,650') easy. Horsetooth Audra. No watch.

Tues - 5 miles track. No warm up. kilo, 200 easy, 5x600 w/200 easy, 400 easy, kilo. 3:30, 1:59, 2:00, 2:00, 2:01, 2:02, 3:26. Mile cool down. Had to work harder than I wanted for these reps, especially as I didn't get a chance to warm up.

Weds - Managed to stay disciplined and take a day off.

Thurs - 9 miles easy'ish. No watch. Went out for 6 on lower valley trails (Soderburg to Arthurs), but it was such a beautiful day out that I tacked on another 3 via Overlook, one of my favorite trails in Lory. On the way back, I started running fartlek to the pace of tunes on my ipod shuffle. Ending up going longer and harder than planned, but had fun. Still not convinced on music while running, but I kind of like it on non-technical, frequently traveled trails like on today's run. I find I get into much deeper thought with tunes than if I'm getting my main sensory stimulation from the surroundings I'm running through. Kind of fun this time of year as I think about possible goals and plans for next season, among other things.

Fri - 6 miles easy. No watch. Soderburg to Arthurs and back. Took the Brooks T6 flats out for their first ride and came home with blisters in the achilles area. Shoes are going to need some breaking in and I'll probably have to tape in sensitive areas for Dublin, but other than that they felt great. I always pooh-pooh people who sweat an ounce here and an ounce there in their shoes, but the difference was actually very significant - like someone had taken a block of concrete off my feet. The shoes are essentially half the weight the shoes I normally run in, so a pretty significant lightening of leg-end load.

Sat - Off

Sun - 13 miles Blue Sky (1,000'). No watch. Mixed up the effort, but generally felt lackluster and sore in the hamstrings. Not quite sure why I am sore, but I think it's due to a lot of bending over with heavy weights on Saturday when I was re-tiling around our fireplace. Hoping it will be gone in a couple of days because it feels pretty tight right now.

Total: 41 miles (2,650')

This is my second real taper of the year and I can't say I'm feeling too good right now. I don't really feel like my training for Dublin ever got going with any degree of seriousness, so I've been thinking the whole three-week taper thing might be a bit overdone. However, with my legs feeling the way they have today, I'm pretty happy to have another week of rest.

I'm getting pretty curious to see how the race goes next Monday as I really have no confidence in any particular time. I mean, usually going into these things, you've run a half marathon tester three or four weeks out, you've been holding certain extended threshold and marathon paces in training and therefore have a good idea of where your body's at with reference to certain time goals and paces. I haven't run a road marathon in almost three years and have done nothing but middle-distance reps at the track in terms of speed work, with the exception of races which have all been trail and offered little feedback with regards to road form.

Another x -factor might be the schedule. I fly out Thursday, arrive Friday am, couple of beers Friday night, groom's breakfast Saturday am, wedding pm, fly to Dublin Sunday, race Monday. It's pretty much non-stop to race morning with jet-lag and wedding-reception over-zealousness being additional x-factors. Pacing is definitely going to be key both Saturday night and Monday morning.

As is it currently stands my PR is 2:54. Barring complete and utter disaster, I should at least be good for a new PR. I'm pretty confident I can run something in the 2:40 zone, and I think I'll be happy with a low 2:40. The 2:3x is probably something of a long shot with my current fitness, but definitely doable on the right day. Just not sure I'm going to have the necessary road fitness. Any which way it goes, it'll be fun finding out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Last Call

The entry period for the Western States Lottery closes tonight at midnight, so if you're on the fence it's time to make up your mind. As the lottery works, it doesn't actually cost anything to enter, so there's actually a bit of extra procrastination time as I assume you can decline the entry if you win in the lottery without losing any kind of deposit. Seems like a weird way to do it considering the number of people wanting to get in, as it's only going to increase the number of entrants and then cause additional headaches when people start to turn down their slots when it comes to time to chunk up the cash, but as they say ... whatever!

So in 2006, there were approximately 1,000 entrants and the chances of picking up one of the 400 spots was 37%, meaning there were just 30-40 spots taken by those who qualified outside the lottery (top ten from previous year, two-time lottery losers).

As of this morning there were 1,624 names in the lottery. If we call that 1,700 by the end of the day and assume that 60 spots are taken up before the lottery happens on December 5, that leaves 1,640 names in the hat for 340 spots. I make that a close to one in five shot of getting in: a roll of the (five-sided) dice.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week Ending Oct. 11

Mon - Off

Tues -

am: 6 miles recovery. Soderburg to Arthurs and back. No watch.
pm: 5 miles track. 2 x (kilo, 8, 6, 4) w/ 200 rest, 400 between sets. half mile w/u, c/d. Paced with Alex A at just under marathon goal pace. Although I was sore and tired, pace felt good. It's probably not a great idea to be hitting the track two days after a hard marathon, but I like to do it anyway as I always feel better on active recovery.

Despite training all wrong for Dublin, with little to no specificity, I still think I have a shot at going under 2:40. Just praying the old sea level thing is worth a couple of minutes.

Weds - 6 miles recovery. Soderburg to Arthurs and back. Managed to keep the pace for the entire run at a very slow recovery pace. Normally when I get out for recovery runs, I get so bored with the pace that I end up slipping into my normal training pace. Today, for some reason, I found myself totally absorbed and focused in thought about goals for next season, and actually resolved to go about chasing a pretty lofty goal. Training begins Jan. 1. Until then, it's a question of working through my two remaining 'big' races and then getting some serious rest in Nov/Dec before what I expect to be the biggest block of training I will ever do. Putting this out there primarily for myself, but also as a means of keeping myself accountable, even if the message is somewhat cryptic at this stage (and buried in commentary about a six-mile Wednesday recovery run).

Thurs - 4 miles easy at Pineridge. No watch.

Fri - 8 miles easy (1,650'). Horsetooth/Audra. No watch.

Sat - 10.5 miles (2,000') with Pete at Horsetooth. Heavy, but light (weight) snow. Horsetooth - Westridge - Mill Creek - Loggers - Sawmill - Stout - Spring Creek - Falls. Cold, very cold.

Sun - 10.5 miles. Out with Pete, Eric and Laura from FCTR. Soderburg to Lory Visitors Center & back. East Valley out, West Valley back. Dirt was pretty icy. Beautiful morning for it.

Total: 50 miles (4,000')

Nothing more than a maintenance taper week. Probably a good thing I didn't race on Saturday as it is supposed to be about rest and recovery for Dublin right now. I'm really at sea with regards to Dublin goals. I have absolutely no quantitative evidence showing that I can run 2:40 on flat roads (or showing that I can't). My training has been about as non-specific as it could possibly be, and yet I still think I have the tools to get it done. I guess it'll be an experiment of one on how to train, or not train, for a road marathon.

After trying, and hating, the Nike Lunar Racing Flats at a local store, I decided to follow some advice from Justin Mock and got myself a pair of Brooks T6 racing flats for Dublin. These things weigh in at a featherlight 6.1 oz, so should be good for a few seconds per mile. Hopefully the attrition of wearing minimalist shoes won't take that all back through the last few miles. I've never run in a pair of racing flats, so I have no idea really.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Laramie - We Tried

First beardcicles of the season. I'm beginning to look a bit Taliban; might have to get the scissors out soon.

So I picked up Pete, as planned, at 6:30 this morning for a quick jaunt up to Laramie to run the Silent Trails 10 miler, a race put on in memory of eight members of the Wyoming U. Cross Country Team who were killed by a drunk driver on Highway 287 in 2001.

It would also serve as the third installment of the Laramie Triple Crown, the first two installments of which Michael Huntington and I had a split. This therefore would be the decider.

Conditions out were not good. In Fort Collins there was a good four to five inches of snow on the ground, meaning there would probably be double that up at the race location at 8,000 feet. We would never find out.

On I-25, we were turned around at Wellington - road closed. Cutting across to 287, the county roads were almost impassable. By the time we got to 287, we had 85 minutes to get to the race start - doable in good conditions, tempting fate in crap conditions. Considering the roads were dire, we had no option but to abort mission and turn around. Bummer.

Moving quickly on to plan B, we headed up to Horsetooth and got a good 10 miler in as the first snow run of the season. Man, this was a big dump for early October.

Pete headed up Horsetooth Trail

Visibility was low, but you could just about make out Horsetooth behind the trees from Westridge

I never bump into anyone on Mill Creek. Today Eric was out making tracks. He knew we were planning to run in Laramie, so he was pretty surprised to see us. Last time I bumped into Eric on the trail was at the Keyhole on Longs.

Last two photos: Eric Lee

Monday, October 5, 2009

Week Ending Oct 4

Mon - No run. Felt some pain in my right groin, an area that has given me major grief in recent years, so took that as a sign to take it very easy this week.

Tues - 6.5 miles track. Split miles. 2.5 miles easy, then 800 warm-up, followed by 3 split miles (3x(300, 100 easy), 400 hard), (600, 200 easy, 300, 100 easy, 400), (1,000, 200 easy, 400). Fun workout, which I wish I could have pushed harder, but opted to run at LT to avoid any undue stress. Mile and half warm down.

Weds - 7 miles easy (1,500') with Jeremy on first loop of Blue Sky course. No watch.

Thurs - 6 easy. Soderburg to Arthurs and back. No watch.

Fri - No run. Rehabing a rental all day, then solo with Alistair in the evening. Wanted to get out for a run all day, but got into a painting and trimming zone, so pushed through until it was time to pick up Alistair. Didn't sweat the goose egg, as I pledged early to go easy this week.

Sat - 4 miles easy at Pineridge setting up the T&H course with Paul.

Sun - 27 miles. Blue Sky Marathon (3,500'). 3:22.

Total - 50 miles (5,000')

Pretty much a blah week. Felt good racing on Sunday, despite seriously wobbly hamstrings late in the game. Not much else to get excited about really. Three weeks out from Dublin now, which according to most off-the-shelf training plans means it is a taper time. I think I was there mentally about two weeks ago. First half of this week will be about recovery, then will try to get a decent workout in on Thursday before getting ready for the third installment of the Laramie Triple Crown (Silent Trails), which is shaping up to be a fun, competitive race.

Just checked the lottery stats for Western States. According to the website, there are currently more than 1,100 runners registered for the draw with ten days left to register. Considering many of the available 300 spots will be taken by two-time lottery losers and those who finished top ten last year, I am guessing there won't be many more than 200 places up for grabs in the lottery. By my math, the current probability of getting a spot is 1 in 5.5. That will likely be closer to 1 in 10 by the time it is all said and done. Good thing really, as I would much rather run Hardrock.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blue Sky Marathon

I came into this race feeling pretty good about my chances of winning, despite a fairly strong field. Unfortunately, last year's winner, Johannes Rudolph, was a no show so I would have to settle for chasing his course record of 3:23. Other runners in the field included Steve Folkerts, a local Fort Collins road marathoner who posted a 2:32 earlier in the year; and Luke Crespin who has run some pretty fast half marathons and trail races in recent years.

Race morning was pretty cold and there was lots of hemming and haring among the assembled runners about what to wear. I finally opted to go shorts, T-shirt, stocking hat and gloves. No more than two miles in I was comfortable and thankful that I hadn't opted for a long-sleeve shirt. Maybe one of these days I'll invest in a pair of those ridiculous arm warmers, but probably not. More likely, I'll wait for a freebie pair to materialize from somewhere and live without until then.

The marathon runners and 50k racers started as a group, and in the opening few miles we settled into a lead pack of myself, Luke, Steve, Ryan Burch (in the 50) and Sam Malmberg (also in the 50). Up Towers I set the pace with the others not far back. By the turn onto Herrington, Sam, in the 50k, was up to his usual trick of gunning the early stuff. I told him to save his legs as the marathon and 50k courses split, but he shrugged it off saying he felt that the pace was comfortable.

As we hit the Stout singletrack, 4 miles in, it was evident that the marathon was between myself, Steve and Luke. I was still setting the pace and held a ten to 15 second gap on the other two through most of this section and the drop down Towers back to the start/finish at seven miles.

The next two miles of the course are on relatively flat crushed gravel, which allows for a much faster pace. Luke got up on my shoulder and we introduced ourselves and chatted briefly before settling in for the Blue Sky singletrack ahead. Steve stayed a few meters back as we hit the dusty, red trail that I know so well. I was starting to get a bit tired of being the pace setter, but also realized that the others probably weren't too interested in leading so I put in a couple of surges to get a read on how Steve and Luke felt with the pace. Just fine, it turned out. I never put much more than 15-20 seconds on them here.

We all went through Indian Summer aid station at the half without stopping and I continued to sit in the lead. The story pretty much stayed this way through the Indian Summer loop and the climb up the hogback to the Loveland loops. Right at the top of the climb on the ridge, I stopped to take a pee. Steve was soon past me, but I managed to get my work done before Luke could get by. It looked like he was slowing considerably, and it turned out that he was beginning to cramp pretty badly. He would ultimately drop from the race, which was too bad as we had a good one going. Steve on the other hand had clearly taken this as his chance to put a gap on the two of us, and had thirty seconds on me midway through the first Loveland loop. By the time we had hit the southern point of the course he probably had a minute on me. I still felt decent, but knew that I wouldn't catch Steve unless he came back to me. I was pretty much stuck at my pace. I knew I could hold my pace and finish comfortably, but was just as confident that chasing the lead would end in serious suffering through the last few miles.

On the switchbacks up Indian Summer, I got a good visual on Steve, who looked to be two to three minutes up on me, and went about trying to up the pace a bit. By the time I peaked out on this loop and opened my stride for the drop, my hamstrings got seriously wobbly on me. A full-on cramp was now a serious threat. Nothing to do but take my foot off the gas and go easy. About half way down the drop, things felt a little better and I was able to push a little harder, but certainly not as hard as I would have liked.

Coming into the aid five miles out, I could see Steve making his way up to the Coyote Ridge intersection, and I knew that the only way I would catch him would be if he blew up - a distinct possibility, so I kept pushing as hard as my crampy legs would allow. By this stage a slew of half marathoners and 50k'ers were coming the other way, many telling me that Steve was just a few minutes ahead, although I doubted the accuracy of their two- to three-minute estimates. I thought his lead was probably closer to five minutes.

I never gave up on the race, but also never got back in contact. I ended up finishing comfortably in 3:22 flat, after having Andy Ames blow by me in the last half mile, well on his way to an impressive half marathon course record.

Steve absolutely killed the course today, finishing in 3:13 and change, setting a massive nine-minute course record. Not only is this a tough, tough marathon, but it is technically an ultra as the distance is a full 27 miles, not 26.2. I beat my time from last year by 25 minutes and was also able to squeeze under Johannnes' course record from last year by a bit more than a minute. Not quite the same as beating him across the line, but I'll take what I can get.

Ryan Burch had a super-strong run in the 50k, finishing in 4:05, followed by Bryan Goding and Sam Malmberg. Nick Pedatella won the hardcore award, finishing fourth or fifth the weekend after running second at the Bear 100. Andy Ames won easily in the half, in 1:24 (CR), and Susan Nuzum defended her title. Victoria Funk won the 50k in the women's division.

The race organizers did another great job, despite some fairly inclement weather, and I do believe a good time was had by all. The volunteers for this race are absolutely incredible and as about as vocal and supportive as they get in trail racing. This whole event is indicative of the wonderful trail-running community that we have here in Fort Collins, and the genuine desire among organizers - all FCTRs - and volunteers to create a great race experience was bountifully obvious today. No surprise the event sold out months ahead of time in only its second year.

So Steve is making plans to run up in Wyoming next weekend, insisting that he's just going to jog it, and there is even a rumor circulating that Justin Mock might be there (?). Dan Goding says he intends to run it, so the field looks like it could be strong. I'm hoping my legs will be recovered so I can be competitive. Either way, two more races left and then I'm going into hibernation for the winter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Western States

Put my name in for the 2010 Western States lottery at 7:00 this morning. There is a two week window to get your name into the hat, and in the seven hours the lottery has so far been open, a total of 188 people have already entered the draw. With a total of 300 places on offer, the chances of getting drawn in November appear slim.

Should I fail to get into States, then the name goes into the hat for Hardrock, and I again hope to get lucky. If that fails, then I try to beat the odds again by winning a spot at States by finishing top three at Miwok in May. If I strike out three times, then it is on to plan D: Leadville.

Jumping through hoops in a bid to put myself through hours of drudgery and pain. Got to love this sport!