Thursday, July 31, 2008

An AG award, a race shirt and a newspaper article

Man, I'm a slacker....guess I'm taking this recovery period a little too seriously and letting it affect my blogging too. Honestly, not much exciting is going on with my running right now, so not much to write about. Just plugging along. My legs feel good though, so that's good. And I did get in an awesome 12 miler (my longest run since Missoula) last Saturday when I was back in western Montana for my wife's high school reunion. I started from her dad's house and ran out to the Blodgett Canyon trailhead. Blodgett is a narrow canyon with extremely sheer walls that was carved back during the last Ice Age. I had to endure a lot of uphill on the way out, but it was worth it for the views I got of the Bitterroot Valley and the Sapphire Mountains on the far side of it.

Anyhow, on to my original intent of this post. I mentioned in my Missoula report that I won the 30-34 AG, but since I was chugging local microbrews at the Iron Horse, I missed out on the awards ceremony so had to have my award mailed. Well, it finally arrived this week, bringing to an end a couple of weeks of high anticipation. I got a Missoula Marathon bag (which I knew was coming). There was also a mystery manila envelope too, which turned out to contain a certificate saying I had won the AG. Not too exciting. I was secretly hoping for four plane tickets to Boston. Oh well.

I also got my new Missoula Marathon shirt in the mail this week. You see, I didn't actually try on the race shirt I got in my packet while I was in Missoula, but waited until getting back home only to find that the large, which is the size of every other shirt I own, fit more like a medium. So, I emailed the race director and she said she could exchange it for an XL, which fits much better (like a large should).

The third exciting item from this week was the phone call I got on Monday night from the sports editor of the local newspaper. Apparently, he's rrrrrreeeeaaaalllllyyyyy desperate for stories because he wants to write one about me qualifying for Boston (word gets around fast in a small town). He wanted to take some pictures of me running, but when I told him that I usually run at 4:30 AM, he decided that some pictures of me standing in my yard would work just fine. He asked me a bunch of questions about Boston and how I qualified, but while he was here I didn't actually see him write anything down, so this article should be interesting. I'm not sure when it will be printed, maybe in this Saturday's edition (the Belle Fourche Post and Bee is printed on Wednesdays and Saturdays).

So, that's my exciting news for the week! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is next week, so maybe I'll have some more interesting tales to tell in the near future....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heart of the Hills Race Report: My dumbest PR ever

Well, now that most of y’all have had a chance to make it through my Missoula epic (or have at least skipped ahead to the good part), here’s another race report for ya. I promise it won’t be as long.

Running yesterday’s Heart of the Hills 10.4 mile race probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my running life. But, in my post-Missoula, BQ-laced euphoria, it seemed like a good idea. Why, I don’t know, but it didn’t fully dawn on me until I actually started running yesterday that maybe it wasn’t.

The Heart of the Hills is one of the oldest and most popular races in the Black Hills. The race starts in Hill City and follows the old highway to Keystone (the nearest town to Mt. Rushmore). The distance between the two is 10.4 miles, hence the odd distance. The course itself is a bear, with a bunch of uphill in the first 3 miles including a lung-searing , leg-jellifying hill at the 1.5 mile mark, and then a general downhill with a few ups thrown in to keep ya honest in the remaining 7 miles.

My past experience with this race is a large part of why I wanted to run it again so badly. I’ve run Heart of the Hills once previously, two years ago. On that day, with a pretty much fully rested body, I suffered through one of the most humbling race experiences of my life. The big hill combined with temps near 100 absolutely destroyed me and I was walking, and seriously thinking of DNFing, by mile 3. I made it through and finished in 1:28:29 (8:30 avg. pace). I felt like I’d just run twice as far as I actually had. Last year, I missed (or was spared?) running Heart of the Hills because it fell on the same weekend as the inaugural Missoula Marathon. When I saw that this year’s race was a week later, I knew that I wanted to tackle that course again. When I was able to put the BQ demons to rest in Missoula, thereby clearing up my marathoning schedule for the fall, I knew I’d be back in Hill City.

So, yesterday afternoon (the race starts at the odd hour of 6:30 PM), we were off to Hill City. The race starts at the 1880 Train Station there, which is, as the name implies, the station for an 1880-era train that hauls tourists back and forth between Hill City and Keystone. I signed up, got my very bright green shirt, and then stood around contemplating why in the name of all that is holy I thought this would be a good idea. My legs have felt surprisingly good since Missoula, but I had only run twice since then and those were very nice, easy recovery runs, not 10.4 mile races up and down hills. I knew my ultimate goal was to beat my CR/PR, but I also thought that if things went very well, I could match my pace from Missoula (7:14) and finish in the 1:15 range. Another goal was to place in my AG (I finished 4th 2 years ago), which would earn me a cool railroad spike award. The weather at least was better than last time, with starting temps in the low 80s and a slight breeze in our faces.

With some cursory directions from the race director (take a right at the STOP sign, follow that road until you hit Keystone), we were off. I could immediately tell that my legs were not going to be happy with me for this, especially my left hamstring, which has felt a little tweaked ever since Missoula. I figured things would loosen up eventually and I’d fall into as much of a rhythm as you can while running up and down hills. My big mistake running this race last time was charging up that big hill and suffering for it later. I didn’t totally waste myself on it this time, but I probably could have taken it easier. By mile 4, we were out of the big hills for the most part and I was jockeying for position with two other guys who I thought might be in my AG. That ended at mile 6 when I felt a sensation akin to hitting The Wall in a marathon. As soon as we passed the 6 mile marker, I knew without a doubt that I was not going to keep up with those two. My hamstring was talking to me pretty good and the pace just was not comfortable, so I eased up and let them go. I would pass one runner in the final 4 miles and got passed by two others (who had probably played the uphill more conservatively). Finally, the 10 mile marker came into sight and, as we were on a pretty good steady downhill, I picked up the pace to finish strong and look good for the cameras. Here’s how the splits shook out:

1 – 6:52
2 – 7:54 (Big Hill)
3 – 7:18
4 – 7:00
5 – 7:36 (Another decent hill)
6 – 7:23
7 – 7:28
8 – 7:22
9 – 7:43 (Tired)
10 – 7:27
10.4 – 3:08

Finish Time – 1:17:15 (7:26 pace)
Overall Place – 21st (out of 120 or so…interestingly, this is only one place higher than I finished two years ago, despite the big CR)
AG Place – 2nd
CR/PR – 11:14 (this one was ripe for the pickin)

So, no 1:15, but that was an arbitrary goal anyhow. I did achieve the goal of getting my CR/PR (the two are basically one and the same in this case… many 10.4 mile races have you run??). And, I got my cool railroad spike (apparently those two guys weren’t in my AG). My hamstring was NOT happy about the situation and was mighty tender last night, but feels much better this morning after some ibuprofen and ice.

I would love to run this race again on rested legs, but given that it will probably always be near the Missoula Marathon (which takes personal priority), I’m not sure that will ever happen again.

So, now what? Not a damn thing, that’s what. I think it’s time to rest….

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My recipe for BQ success

Over the last couple of days, I've been thinking alot about how my BQ in Missoula this past weekend came about, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that I basically just threw all conventional marathoning wisdom aside and still managed to pull through.

I religiously followed a Pfitz 18 week plan topping out at 100 miles in a week while preparing for the Colorado Marathon on May 4. The result: I crashed and burned hardcore, missing the BQ by a solid 8 minutes. After that debacle, I loosely followed Pfitz's recommendations for running multiple marathons and designed a 5 week long schedule to prepare for the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon. I always expected DMTM to be a training run, so was plenty happy when I ran it easy and came away with a 3:36:55 and an undamaged body. Then, the real strategery began. I decided the day after DMTM to ditch Pfitz in favor of Daniels and, having just bought his book, crafted a 15 week long plan that would use Missoula as a training run and culminate with a BQ attempt at Roughrider in September. Although I knew that I wanted to try and BQ in Missoula, I wasn't counting on Mother Nature to cooperate, so designed my schedule assuming the worst case weather in Missoula. As you know by now, the Missoula weather actually turned out perfect and so did the race.

This is a mystery to me, since my training between Colorado and Missoula wasn't exactly what I would expect the training regime leading up to a BQ effort to look like. In that 10 week period, I ran only 4 long runs, one of them being DMTM. The other three were 16, 17, and 18 miles, so DMTM was my only run of 20 miles or more. I did only 3 speedwork sessions in addition to 3 shorter races (a 5K, a 4 miler and a 10K). I didn't do any tempo work (unless you count the 10K) and the only marathon pace run I did was the Tuesday before Missoula and I ran only 3 miles at MP during that workout. My weekly mileage topped out at 74, two weeks before Missoula. In the second to last week before Missoula, I did both a speedwork session and ran a pretty hard effort 10K (where I posted my 2nd fastest 10K time on a hard course). I really only truly tapered for one week before Missoula, as opposed to the usual three weeks. A vast majority of my miles between Colorado and Missoula were done at an easy pace, about 1.5 to 2 minutes per mile slower than my Missoula marathon pace.

So, I toed the start line in Frenchtown last Sunday with a body that had very little feel for the pace I was about to expect it to run, not much recent endurance work, and not as much rest as I usually give it before a marathon. And look what happened. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, it all came together at my third marathon in as many months. I probably couldn't replicate my training "strategy" for Missoula if I tried, but that's alright because I don't need to. Whatever the hell I did, it worked, and I guess that's all that really matters.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Missoula Marathon - A BQ Runs Through It!!!

Okay, so by now the proverbial cat is out of the proverbial bag and most of you know the results of today's Missoula Marathon. First off, I'll apologize right now for leading y'all on....I've been claiming for weeks that this was just a "training run" while, really, I've been thinking of going for the BQ ever since my failed first attempt at Colorado in May. I made a big deal out of trying to qualify in Ft. Collins, and as you well know things didn't go as planned. So, this time I decided to keep things on the down low, and didn't tell anyone what my real plans were (I wasn't totally sure what they were myself). I knew that if the weather forecast looked decent for Missoula, I wanted to take a shot there. If not, I'd run it as a training run and push for a BQ effort in Bismarck in September. Well, as race day drew closer it became more and more apparent that conditions would be pretty darn good. Even though the highs in Missoula were hovering near 90, the overnight temps were dropping into the 40s. Given that the race started at 6:00 and a BQ effort would put me at the finish just past 9:00, it was obvious that weather wouldn't be a factor. But still, I kept my dirty little secret and honestly wasn't totally sure what the heck I was gonna do until I started running. I sensed that longboat'n was on to me, but I tried as hard as I could to keep a poker face and insisted whenever anyone asked that it was just a training run. So, on to the race report. As you might expect, there's a lot of extraneous information here...feel free to skip forward to the meat of the story if you wish.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Missoula is my favorite place in the world. I will live there someday, even if it takes until retirement to do so. What makes Missoula so darn special? Well, of course there’s the scenery, with the city nestled in the mountains at the confluence of five valleys, including those that carry the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers. Missoula is also much different culturally from your average, conservative Montana town (i.e. Missoula is a dot of blue in an otherwise bright red state). This is due largely in part to the presence of The University of Montana (my alma mater). In a nutshell, it’s a logging town turned free-thinking college town where lumberjacks and hunters live next door to tree huggers and animal rights activists. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for sure. In my own college days I, an avid carnivore, shared a house with three vegetarians. Needless to say, we didn’t have to worry about eating each others’ food (okay, I did try some soy corn dogs one night after a significant amount of drinking and they still tasted horrible).

So, what does that have to do with running? Well, not a damn thing really. Except maybe that Missoula is also a very outdoorsy kind of town with a good running population and some of those runners formed a club at some point and last year that club decided to put on a marathon and it went well so they decided to do it every year, which is what brought me back to Missoula this year (as if I needed an excuse).

I ran the inaugural Missoula Marathon last year with the general goal of just running a strong race. I had just PRed at the Fargo marathon about a month and a half earlier and really didn’t have much interest in pushing it hard again but thought that if things went well I would finish close to my PR time. Well, things went fine for the first half but then the only hill on the course (which is a good two miles long) and the rising heat took their toll, cramps set in, and I hobbled in with a 3:32. That inaugural race was held smack dab in the middle of the hottest July in Missoula’s recorded history. It was a month that included the highest temperature ever recorded in Missoula (107), the highest overnight low ever recorded, the most days of 100+ temperatures and the longest ever streak of 100+ degree days. The average high temperature last July was 96 degrees and Missoula hit triple digits an unheard of 11 days that month. Race day started out in the low 60s and climbed to the triple digits by that afternoon. A popular saying in Montana is “well, at least it’s dry heat”. Bullpucky. Heat is heat and if it’s much above 50 degrees, I ain’t happy. By the time I finished last year’s race at just past 10:00 AM, it was already in the low 80s and the mercury would eventually hit 102 that afternoon. Mother Nature and I aren't exactly bosom buddies (you try training through a South Dakota winter), but I was hoping beyond hope that she would be kind to me this time. My marathoning year hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

The original grand master plan had been to qualify for Boston at the Colorado Marathon on May 4th, run the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon and Missoula Marathon as training runs, and then run my first 50 miler, the Lean Horse Half Hundred, in August. Well, as many of you know, that plan went awry in Fort Collins, forcing me to readjust, drop the ultra plans, and pinpoint a different marathon for a second BQ attempt. My primary plan (kept secret from everyone, as I previously mentioned) was to give it a shot at Missoula, weather permitting. The secondary plan was to run Missoula as a training run and focus on a BQ attempt at the Roughrider Marathon in Bismarck, ND, in September. I'm happy to report that the secondary plan is no longer necessary.... Bismarck isn't exactly on the top of my list of places to go (no offense to any Bismarckians out there).

I’ve been Pfitzing it for 8 marathons now (my first one in Seattle being the only exception) with generally good results (PR went from 3:46:14 to 3:18:06 in that time). After Colorado, I started toying with the idea of shaking things up, more as a change of pace than anything else. I’d heard a lot about Daniels’ training on the forum and seen the results of some of that training, so took the plunge, bought the book and spent hours meticulously crafting a 15 week schedule, starting the day after Deadwood-Mickelson, culminating with Roughrider and wedging Missoula in as a Q1 workout (assuming the worst). I arbitrarily chose 90 mpw as my peak. Don’t ask why. If I had to answer I’d say because it’s less than 100 and more than 80, which means nothing, so just go with it. So, I ran Deadwood-Mickelson on June 8th, 5 weeks after Colorado, and got in a good training run, finishing in 3:36:55. That left me with another 5 week turnaround between Deadwood and Missoula. After one rest day following Deadwood I jumped back into training, and into the Daniels plan, and was able to get back into some quality running fairly quickly, so mission accomplished on not killing myself at Deadwood. Minus that one rest day, I ran every day between Deadwood and Missoula and, for the fun of it, threw in a tune-up race on July 4th in the form of the Roundup 10K, where I didn’t PR on a tough course, but did smash my CR by 3:40 and ran my second fastest 10K. The biggest result of that race was that I entered my last week before Missoula confident that I actually had the potential to run a strong race. I finally felt like I had my legs fully back under me for the first time since Colorado. My top secret plan was starting to take shape.

As was the case last year, my wife and kids stayed in South Dakota while I made my marathon pilgrimage to Missoula. But, I didn’t go it alone because my sister in law, who had been living with us for the past 9 months or so, was moving back to the Missoula area the weekend of the race and also running the half marathon, so we made the 9.5 hour drive west together. This would require me to fly back to South Dakota, but was a much more attractive option than driving my not so dependable (see last year’s report for details on that), gas guzzling truck out there and back. We took off early Friday morning and made the drive in pretty decent time. I will say, though, that I don’t think you can fully appreciate just how big Montana is until you drive nearly all the way across it from east to west. Out of the 9.5 hours we were on the road, we were in South Dakota for about 15 minutes, Wyoming for about 20 and then it was all Montana. What’s the relevance of that? There is none (if you’ve read my reports before, you should be used to that by now). I’m just saying it’s a big damn state, that’s all.

My base of operations during my stay in Missoula was my cousin Sam’s house. Sam was actually out of town for the weekend, but graciously offered his place up to me. Also in town for the race were my mom, who made the 80 mile drive from her new house in Lincoln (briefly famous a while back as the hideout of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski…Lincoln, that is, not their new house), my cousin John (Sam's twin brother who ran a nice PR in the half-marathon), and my in-laws (including the sister in law I rode out with, who also ran a PR in the half-marathon). Saturday was expo day and also included the obligatory trips to the Big Sky Brewing Company to pick up some post-race beer and Worden’s Market for the best sandwich in the world (trust me). Saturday was also the day for the biggest FE I’ve yet experienced (which isn't saying much) as I was able to meet up with longboat’n (Neil), Rabat (Mike), Mrs. Rabat, the Rabat daughters (two of em), n3103f (David), Mrs. n3103f, and one of Neil's high school runners (who was running the relay at Missoula) for dinner at Carino’s. I’ve had good luck with Carino’s, having eaten there before three previous marathons where I didn’t suffer any GI distress during the race. I was very much hoping that trend would continue after my not-so-pleasant porta-john experiences at both Colorado and Deadwood. We had a good dinner and good conversation before parting ways fairly early to prepare for the even earlier morning to come. I was in bed by 9 that night in preparation for the 3 AM alarm.

In an effort to reduce the impact of the heat, the organizers pushed the start up half an hour this year, from 6:30 to 6:00. That was perfectly fine by me; I’d rather get up and get it done with. Heck, they can start the thing at 4:00 if it means I’ll be done before the mercury climbs out of the 60s. The course is point to point, starting west of Missoula in Frenchtown and following the backroads east back toward Missoula, eventually finishing downtown. The last several miles of the course were changed for this year. Last year, after reaching Missoula, the course took us across the Southgate Mall parking lot (hot, not very scenic) and then onto a bike path along the railroad tracks (also hot, even less scenic) before finishing on the Orange St. Bridge. This year, the course was rerouted to avoid the mall and railroad tracks and to take advantage of the more shaded residential areas just to the west of The University of Montana campus (brilliant move, as it turns out). The finish line was consequently moved to the Higgins Ave. Bridge, which was totally closed to traffic for the race, quite a feat considering Higgins is one of the main arteries through downtown. They also managed to convince the city to close off about 3 blocks of downtown to serve as the finish/recovery area, so kudos to the organizers for that. So, I was up at 3:00 (which is, I think, officially the buttcrack of dawn) to give myself time to eat some oatmeal and a bagel (another common factor in my non-GI issue marathons), get dressed and make the ½ mile walk from Sam’s to the bus loading area to catch a ride to Frenchtown.

I met up with David and Mike at the start line and we chatted until it was time to go. It was pleasantly cold in Frenchtown, with temps in the mid 40s. I was actually shivering after I shed my long sleeve shirt and track pants, which was a welcome change from last year. With a blast from the ROTC cannon (which probably woke half the residents of Frenchtown bright and early on a Sunday morning), we were off.I'll warn you now that some of these splits are kind of crazy. I forgot to turn the auto lap off on my Garmin, so it was alternately recording miles itself or I was recording them manually, depending on if the mile marker was short or long. Also, some of the mile markers were obviously short and long, as my Garmin had them 0.1 mile off.

Miles 1-5

The first 5 miles follow Mullan Rd. east from Frenchtown. This area of the valley is pretty wide open, not much in the way of shade (which doesn’t really matter so early in the morning). It’s basically just a long, straight stretch of road and a good opportunity to get a feel for the pace. I was able to get into my pace right off the bat and it felt GREAT. My plan was to run around 7:10 miles for the first half, knowing that I would lose some time on the hill at mile 14 and probably fade a little in the final miles. I was able to stick to that plan fairly well early on, which greatly increased my confidence.
1 – 7:08
2 – 7:07
3 – 7:07
4 – 7:06
5 – 6:22 (yeah...the Garmin showed 0.9 mile on that one)

Miles 6-10

Most of this stretch is Mullan Rd. too until finally turning off onto Kona Ranch road just before the 10 mile mark. I had been drafting off of a high school relay runner, but after about mile six I noticed that he was pulling me along a little too fast (closer to 7:00 than 7:10), so I backed off and tried to keep the pace reasonable.
6 – 7:11
7 – 7:01
8 – 7:05
9 – 6:51 (another short one)
10 – 7:14

Miles 11-15

I knew from my experience last year that this stretch could very well be the make or break point if I was going for a BQ. Just after mile 11, the course turns onto Big Flat Rd. which might possibly be the most inappropriately named road in all of Montana. “Long Hill Rd.” would be much more appropriate. The only signficant uphill on the course starts around the halfway point and finally tops out about a mile and a half later. It was on this hill that my race started to go to hell in a handbasket last year. Honestly, it didn't seem nearly as bad this year and when we first started going uphill it actually felt great as some different leg muscles got involved. I was very happy with my pacing through this section and hit halfway with about a 1.5 minute cushion on 3:10:59.

11 – 7:09
12 – 7:14
13 – 7:19
13.1 – 0:57
14 – 7:09
15 – 7:03

Miles 16-20

Down the hill, across the Bitterroot River and we’re in the residential sprawl on the western edge of Missoula. We also merged with the half-marathon course at this point, so some walkers and slower runners are available to chase down. At around mile 18, I started feeling the effects of the pace and it stopped coming as easily. I was pushing harder to maintain and found that, even pushing harder, my pace was drifting a bit. This was somewhat of a cause for concern, as I wasn't sure how long I would be able to hold on and protect that cushion I had built.

16 – 6:58 (downhill)
17 – 7:18
18 – 7:15
19 – 7:25
20 – 7:21

Miles 21-26.2

After running under Reserve St., we start to get into the central residential area of town. This is the portion of the course that has been altered from last year to take better advantage of the tree-lined, better-shaded streets in the neighborhoods to the west of campus. The course starts to turn more frequently here as we tack on the necessary mileage. Eventually, we make a turn onto Hilda Ave. and head north, running near two houses I lived in during my college days (ah, memories…). A few more turns and we’re deposited, finally, onto Higgins Ave. just across the Clark Fork River from downtown and the finish line.Miles 21 and 22 were probably my worst psychologically. I was starting to hurt, it was hard to maintain anything faster than 7:30 pace and I felt like I was bleeding time like an arterial wound. During those miles, I was convinced that I was not going to BQ and instead would finish with a heartbreaking 3:11:xx. I will say that now, looking back at my splits, I obviously wasn't bleeding time as fast as I thought at the moment, but it's hard to think very coherently at mile 22 of a marathon. I managed to press on and realized with 3 miles to go that my cushion was still pretty well intact and that if I could just maintain the pace I was going to make it. By that point, my calves were starting to tighten up something fierce, making me wonder if I was going to cramp up or finish first. I was pretty sure the BQ was in the bag when I hit mile 25, but I pushed the pace back up to 7:17 just to be sure. When we hit the Higgins Ave. bridge I knew I had it and as I approaced the finish line I took in the cheers of the crowd, pumped my right fist in the air and was finally, blissfully, done.

21 – 7:19
22 – 7:20
23 – 7:34
24 – 7:22
25 – 7:30
26 – 7:14
26.2 – 0:48 (it should be noted that my Garmin marked the course at 26.06, but it was certified as 26.2)

Final Time – 3:09:41
Overall Place – 15/388
AG Place – 1/23
First Half Split - 1:34:00
Second Half Split - 1:35:41

After seeing the official splits, I see that I had a bigger cushion at halfway than I thought, since I ran a 1:41 positive split and still finished with 1:18 to spare.

After crossing the finish line, I was somewhat in shock of what had just occurred. I started looking around for my family and quickly located my in-laws and borrowed a phone to tell my wife (who broke the news here soon afterwards). Then, I set about locating my mom, which took quite some time in the mass of runners and spectators. As I walked around looking for her, I alternated between beign stoic and being on the verge of tears as what had happened began to dawn on me. I finally located Ma and soon after found David and Neil. David was surprised, Neil maybe not so much so, but both were very happy for me. I went to check the marathon results but none were posted yet, so I headed back to Sam's house to shower and change before meeting everyone at the Iron Horse Pub for lunch, where I was finally able to down a much- desired Moose Drool. As we were eating, Mike arrived and said "You won your age group, right?" I said, "Huh?" He said, "Yeah, I was at the awards ceremony and they announced your name as 1st." I was shocked, everyone else was elated. After lunch, I walked back down to the finish area to see if anyone was still around and found them in the process of tearing everything down. I located the registration coordinator and asked him about it and he said that I would have to arrange to have my award mailed. A later check of the online results revealed that I was indeed 1st in the 30-34 AG, a full 15 minutes ahead of the 2nd place guy.

So, as of now, I am sitting at my mom's house in beautiful Lincoln, MT (about 80 miles east of Missoula) and, honestly, I'm three sheets to the wind (hey, you only qualify for Boston the first time once, right?). Plus, the Moose Drool and Summer Honey has been going down VERY smooth this afternoon. In my inebriated state, I'll surely forget to mention something that I meant to, but what the hell. This report is long enough as it is. I do have to be sure to give thanks to all of you on this forum who have been there through the good times and bad. I also have to thank my X-Squad teammates for their unfailing support. Also, a big thanks to my father in law Ken, who "sponsored" me (i.e., paid for my plane ticket home and my registration fee) and, as rumor has it, predicted the morning of the race that I would BQ, even though I hadn't told a soul that I planned on trying. And, of course, I must thank my beautiful wife for putting up with my bitching and moaning and obsessing over Boston, and for letting you all know about my ultimate success. Thanks for reading, everyone! Now, I'm off to down a few more beers...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Counting down the days

It's now 5 days until the Missoula Marathon and I'm starting to get antsy. Typically, this feeling starts about three weeks from a marathon, but when you run 3 marathons in 3 months, the 2nd and 3rd ones sneak up on you a little more. It wasn't until after I did speedwork and a 10K race last week that I thought "Hey, maybe I better start tapering for this thing." Oh well, I've heard stories of great success off a short taper. And, Missoula is designed to be a training run anyhow.

It's looking to be an action-packed weekend. I'm driving to Missoula on Friday with my sister in law, who is running the half-marathon. Once there, I'm crashing at my cousin's house. I'm hoping to catch an Osprey (minor leauge affiliate of the Diamondbacks) baseball game that night. On Saturday, some friends from the Running Times forum are rolling into town and we've got dinner plans. I'll also be going to the expo, gathering some last minute supplies and, hopefully, making a trip out to the Big Sky Brewing Company to pick up some post-race beverages (I won't have a vehicle while I'm there, so that one's dependent on me finding a willing ride). Sunday is race day and we get started nice and early, at 6:00. If all goes as planned, I'll be done around 9:30, which I think is a fine time to start drinking. It'll be noon somewhere and, really, I don't give a damn because after a marathon I'll pretty much do whatever I damn well please. In this case, that will involve Moose Drool and Summer Honey and maybe a skinny dip in the Clark Fork River (okay, maybe not.....unless I drink a lot of Moose Drool and Summer Honey). My mom is driving into Missoula that morning to watch me finish. After lunch and brews with the RT gang, I'll be heading off to my mom's new house about 80 miles east of Missoula. Chances are, I won't be driving. Monday, it's back to Missoula in the afternoon to catch a plane back to Rapid City (via Denver).

If you can't tell, I've been thinking a lot about this the last couple of days. If I could only get this damn work week out of the way so I could get going already....

Black Hills Roundup 10K

On the 4th (sorry I'm so late with this!), I ran the 30th annual Black Hills Roundup 10K, which is held here in Belle Fourche every 4th of July as part of the Roundup festivities which are highlighted by a 3 day long PRCA rodeo, a carnival and really long parade. The 4th of July is a big deal around here. This would be my third year running this race and considering it starts right outside my house and the registration is a dirt cheap $10, I don't really ever see myself passing it up as long as we live here.

The course itself isn't PR friendly. This race marked my first ever 10K two years ago and I ran a 44:32, which I was pretty happy with at the time. Last year, I shaved all of 11 seconds off that time and posted a 44:21. This past April I set my 10K PR of 39:17 (I had other races in between...I didn't knock 5 minutes off in a single swoop). That was on a much faster course and I really didn't have any aspirations of bettering that today. The course is a big loop around town, with about 320 feet of ascent in the first half and then back down in the second half. The past two years, I had hammered the first half too hard and was consequently spent when I reached the highest point on the course, rendering the downhill second half pretty much useless. My goal this year was to pace myself better and set a signifcant CR.

There were probably 70-80 people for the race (haven't seen the full results yet), which is actually pretty big for around here (I've run in races in Belle with 7 people). We took off promptly at 7 and I quickly settled into a pretty good rhythm and settled into 12th pace. We were blessed with a nice fog, which kept ELSO out of the picture and made the conditions much cooler that they would have been otherwise. I clicked off a 6:32 and 6:34 for the first two miles, which was actually a little faster than I had planned, but I felt very comfortable with it so I just took what came. The most uphill part of the course came in miles 3 and 4 and I consequently posted a 6:48 and 6:47 for those two miles. The key, though, was that I maintained a very sustainable yet strong pace on the steepest uphills and was abled to hammer the pace on the downhills. During the first mile, I had gotten passed by a local high school freshman who finished 6th at state high school cross country last year as an eigth grader. I finally caught back up to him and ran alongside him for awhile around 4.5 miles and then pulled ahead. I was hoping to build a good cushion on him because I knew for a fact that I could not outkick him if it came down to that. Mile 5 was mostly downhill and my pace dropped to 6:24. As we neared the final mile, I could hear footsteps behind me and knew the kid was right on my heels. As we made the turn onto the main street through downtown, about a mile from the finish, he passed me and was off like a rocket. I attempted to keep him in range in the faint hope that he might fade and I might pass him, but after about 3/4 of a mile I wasn't getting any faster no matter how much I pushed and he was getting farther away. So, I accepted my defeat at the hands of a 14 year old and cruised in, posting a 6:16 6th mile and 6:17 pace for the final 0.2. I finished in 40:42 (a 3:40 CR), which was good enough for 7th overall and 2nd in my AG (30-39).

I was actually surprised by how much time I took off this course. Apparently, all of those hills I've been running in training the last couple of months have paid off, because I was able to hammer the uphills on this course much better and still have some juice left for the downhills. I didn't start feeling the strain of the pace until the final mile when I started trying to catch back up to the kid. And, as an added bonus, I got to meet Rupert from Survivor for the third straight year! He actually recognized me when he shook my hand during the AG results presentation and said "Hey, you've run this race for awhile, haven't you?" I got recognized by a celebrity!! ....well, if you consider a former non-winner of a once-popular "reality" TV show a celebrity.

All in all, a good tune-up for the Missoula Marathon on the 13th and, eventually, for the Roughrider Marathon on Sept. 20th. Thanks for reading!