Sunday, May 31, 2009

Two Way Torture Test

So I lied a little.

Temps were perfect for a half marathon, a brisk 47 degrees and humid, but threatening to rain. A name is required for this race and Mark and I agreed on the fitting team name Masters Trying to Avoid Disaster.

For whatever reason, the men’s field was sort of stacked this year, with 5 of the
top 7 runners from last year’s Equinox Marathon. Mike, Matias, and Kevin have owned the Equinox for a decade now, and here they were, doing the tougher counter counter-clockwise loop that I was running.

My first 1.5 miles was at 6:20 pace, about 30 sec per mile slower than theirs, but a little faster than I’d planned.

The long uphill was indeed a grinder (3rd mile in 7:30) and I worked it just under threshold as planned. Kevin and Matias dropped Mike half way up, and he became my focus. Rested for a half mile at the top with some easy running. Crossed half way in 44:07, about 1.5 min behind Mike, and a couple min behind Mark, who was way out in front on the clockwise loop.

It’s weird to see half of the field going the opposite direction.

I did hold the promise for leg preservation on the steep downhill section. Tamara and Tristan offered some water and cheers. Also caught some great views of the emerald lined Tanana River, a half mile wide-braided water flow, on its way to the mighty Yukon.

Tristan said I was 1:15 behind Mike, so when I got to the bottom I decided to put it down. Hit 10 miles in 1:05:22.

The last part was on a bike path mostly flat but with some strange twist, turns, ups and downs snaking over driveways and side streets. I gained but didn’t have enough, and finished about 30 sec back.

Covered the last 5K in 18:13, to finish with a 1:23:35 (5th overall). Mark (1:19:05) and I won the men’s division team race and overall. So we did avoid disaster.

Going all out, might eke out 1.5 to 2 min off my time, but the payback would be two weeks of sore quads. My legs are tired, but it seems a good tired. Besides, per usual here, there is no more reward for 1st or 30th. All the same: a piece of paper that says "I Survived the Torture Test." Maybe it's a gift certificate to the Pump House, maybe not. I wasn't clear on that.

Matias and Kevin (just turned 40) did 1:16:35, which is pretty fast for this course. And probably the last time that the course will be run (see article).

Here’s a summary from the paper:

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Road Ahead

Two 5Ks down, one to go (next week on the track).

Meanwhile, I've been drafted by my friend Mark to run the "Two Way Torture Test" this weekend. The Torture test is a team 1/2 marathon, where one runner does a course that wraps around Chena Ridge clockwise and the other goes counter-clockwise. This should be a fun and unique event, I always like team races.

About that ridge, the course climbs about 600 feet, roughly half way through. Mark has said that I get my choice of which direction. I've decided to take it the hard way, which I hope will be easier on my legs.

It will roughly be about 1.5 miles of flat, a 4 mile climb, 2 miles of rolling-fairly flat on the ridge top, 2 miles of descent (6-8%), and 3.5 of flat. As long as I don't hammer the down, my legs should hold up pretty well, so the plan is to do the flats-rolling at marathon pace (6:30), uphills at 1/2 marathon pace (who knows, but the effort will be low 6s), and then do the downhill gingerly 6:40 to 7:00.

As a result I'll be 4-5 minutes slower than 1/2 marathon race pace but will get a good aerobic workout, not unlike a Daniels marathon training run. Hoping that won't dim our chances in the standings too much.

If things are good, then I'll do 5000 (go for under 17) next Thursday, or the 3000 (sub 10) if no one shows up. After that, I'd like to do a 1500/800 the following Thursday.

Then on June 20, the Midnight Sun Run. The Sun Run has been my focus race in years past (2004-07), but this year it's just another run on the summer calandar. Sub 35:30 would be decent, but who knows it could be anywhere from mid 36s to low 35s.

After that things are really open ended for July, other than a cutback week over the 4th while we go on a river trip. I've done Gold Discovery 4 of the past 5 years, but that one is a little insane. Fun while you're doing it, but with an 1800 foot descent it beats your legs up for a minimum of two weeks.

Besides, I'm still in the quantitative mode this year (looking to set some age group PRs, maybe records) and USATF track state championship is at about the same time in Anchorage. I'd really like to run a track 10000 m, but don't think that's on the schedule.

After that it's 50-50 on Equinox full marathon. The relay is calling! And the New York City Marathon will be waiting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dunbar Earned the 1600 and 3200 m Records

Dunbar and Aaron Fletcher pulling away from the pack in the 3200

Friday May 22, 2009, Lathrop High School
The weather was good for the Alaska state meet 3200 meters, about 70 and overcast with a slight breeze from the east (down the homestretch). Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak who has gained widespread fame for some fast running, 2nd at the Footlocker XC championships last fall and for the instantly notorious [i]youtube[/i] video which shows him running a 9:01 3200 meters in a snowstorm. Dunbar improved on that with a blistering 8:51.5 this May, which is currently 2nd in the nation.

Alaska has a weird rule for records, however. State records can only be set at the state meet. Perhaps the state’s track founders some decades ago were concerned about fast times set on a one way (wind aided) ice track in some remote village. Nor does the record book recognize Don Clary’s (later a US Olympian) 9:04.4 2 mile time—even though everyone else in track and field (even at the US high school association levels) uses the 3.2 second conversion. Anyway, the “official” standing all-time records for Alaska are Doug Herron’s 4:13 mile, set in 1986, and Jake Pariesien’s 9:11 3200 from last year.

On Friday Dunbar gave it a shot, in spite of having strep throat (below) but came up well short of the official state meet record of and his own PR. He took it out hard and unofficially ran unofficial half mile splits: 2:13, 4:28, 6:57, and faded to a 9:19.9. Tough day. Aaron Fletcher of Anchorage South hung on for a 9:26.

There will be bigger fish to take on next month with the championship-level invitationals.

On Saturday, which was in the high 70s, the blue haired (a Kodiak tradition for the state meet) Dunbar looked pasty and pensive a half hour before the race, and no one knew for sure if he would even attempt the run. But he lined up with field. Some were expecting a conservative effort, just to win. But Dunbar allayed any doubt by taking charge with a 62 second first lap, followed closely by Aaron Fletcher. Fletcher hung on for a lap and a half and then faded markedly. Would Dunbar hold on?

Dunbar crossed the 800 at 2:05, with a smooth and efficient stride that showed no wasted motion and no signs of letting up. He pulled away and ran solo as the pack began to close in on Fletcher. After crossing 1200 m in 3:10, Dunbar gave it everything he had, and he sprinted down the homestretch under the raucous cheers of maybe 1,500 athletes and spectators. 4:13.3. Just shy of the state meet "record" of 4:13.0.

Wake up Alaska High School Athletic Association—Dunbar holds the state records for the 1600 (4:10.78) and 3200 (8:51.5), but not the state meet records.

[b]Kodiak's Dunbar diagnosed with strep throat[/b]
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, May 22 2009

Two weeks ago, Kodiak's Trevor Dunbar ran 20 seconds faster than the existing state 3,200-meter run record. But he's not sure what to expect today at the state track and field championships in Fairbanks after being sidelined much of this week with strep throat.

"I think I can still win pretty easily, but I don't know how (many) records I'll be able to get. We'll see," Dunbar said.

In his final race in Kodiak on May 8, the senior blitzed eight laps around the track in 8 minutes, 51.5 seconds, a mark that is two-tenths of a second shy of the nation's best among high schoolers this season.

While it doesn't count as a state record, which can only be set at the state meet, the performance seemed to indicate he would shatter Jake Parisien's record of 9:11.27 set last year in a stirring win over Dunbar. Like many, Dunbar considers Don Clary's 1975 two-mile time of 9:04.4 -- which converts to 9:01 for 3,200 meters -- to be the true state record.

Dunbar said he felt "just awful" when he woke up on Saturday with a sore throat and headache. Then he proceeded to race the 1,600, 800 and a leg of the 3,200 relay at the Region III championships.

"Running three races that hard probably hurt my health even worse," Dunbar said. "I could barely sleep that night."

Dunbar graduated from Kodiak High the next day, then was diagnosed with strep throat and began taking antibiotics. The only training he managed was some jogging Wednesday and Thursday.

"I'm not feeling too good but each day I've gotten a little bit better," Dunbar said in a soft voice.

Dunbar has the fastest time in the state in the 800 this season at a sizzling 1:54.94. He also ran the 1,600 in 4:10.78, which is faster than Doug Herron's state record of 4:13.0 set in 1985.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ups and Downs at Curtis Menard Memorial 5K

The Menard run was probably the most disorganized state championship I've seen, but we still had a good time down in Palinville (Wasilla).

Saturday featured perfect conditions, high 40s, just the slightest of a breeze from the east, and a nice rolling point to point course.

I warmed up and did striders only to wait an extra 20 minutes for all the buses to unload. At 10:20 we finally lined up but I was crowded out by a bunch of 10 year olds. There were fewer hot shot looking runners than I had expected, compared to previous results when you'd see 10 to 15 runners under 17 minutes.


My goal was low 17, or better yet sub 17. I promptly slipped into about 10th place, including one guy who also appeared to be in is 50s, and I wondered if it was the same runner who had run a 17:07 on the same course a couple years ago (it was). He looked like he meant business and I chilled for a half mile before pulling away.

Was in about 9th place at the mile (5:25); a good 25-30 sec behind the leaders, but 5th through 8th were strung out just ahead, within 10 or 15 seconds. Kept an even tempo and by 2K they were coming back one by one. That's very typical in a 5K.

Crossed 2 mile at 10:53 in 5th, right on for a sub 17. Heading south now, we had the only substantive climb of the course, a gradual incline that had to be more than half mile long.

Crested the hill and saw the chute about 500-600 meters ahead, put in a strong finish, thinking sub 17 was in the bag. But I checked my watch just after crossing and saw 17:0?.

Officially 17:01.3, my fastest since 2000!

The kids did well too. Mikko ran 22:25 (PR) and Tristan 22:27, while Mikko's friend Peter who traveled down with us ran 20:47(PR).

Give the course an A (much better than any 5Ks in Fairbanks) and we couldn't have had better weather.

Compared to our races, they were not set up that well. They usually do a much better organizational job here (sign up, logistics, food). And per capita the competition is better north of the Range. Still, I'd go back, because you know you're getting an accurate time on a certified course.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I am (Not) legend

Come in here dear boy and have a cigar, you're going to go far. the way, which one is Pink?

(Pink Floyd)

After five years here I get it. This is a fairly interesting neck of the woods, and among its riches is a very active aerobic community, with high levels of participation and interest in skiing, running, and cycling. In addition, there are several rather extreme and multi sport events, some of which take days and hundreds of miles of transport through wilderness.

But back to running, I've been reading Pete Magill's excellent blog, Younger Legs for Older Runners ( for the past few months. Like a fleet Captain Kirk, Pete the current American 45-49 age group record holder for 3K (8:36), 5K (14:34), and 10K (31:27) has boldly traveled where no one his age has--including the likes of Olympians Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, John Tuttle, Steve Plasencia...etc. But he's never run a marathon.

In a recent post, 10 Things I Hate About Running,, Pete's #2 hits it right on:

2. "Have you ever run a marathon?"
No, I haven't. So stop asking. I've run 20 mile training runs in well under 2 hours. I regularly run 90 miles a week and up to 100. I race cross country, track, and the roads. I've won big races in all of them and won masters national championships and set age group records to boot. So understand that just because I haven't ...

You tell 'em Pete!

Here in our town, in spite of all the interest and enthusiasm for running, it still is all about marathon. To be considered a real stud, or better yet a local legend, you have to do the marathon. Here are the official local criteria according to the pundits and scribes:

1) Win the Equinox Marathon once or place in the top 3 twice.
2) Run a marathon (preferably Boston) in 2:40 (probably 3:05 for women) or faster with the caveat that the performance must be post-2000 (I've seen this reference a half dozen times in the paper, as if the courses weren't accurate in past decades).

That's pretty much it.

Some exceptional runners might get a bye but it appears to take repeated performance at the local scene to be afforded such status.

For example two or more wins, preferably consecutive, at the Midnight Sun Run 10K could probably get you in. But one hit wonders like high school runner Devin McDowell (2004) and college All American Tony Tomsisch (2007) aren't quite there yet. Either one would need another win at MSR to make the status of local legend, regardless of whether they run sub 15 for 5000 or under 3:48 for the piddling 1500 meters.

I suppose Kenyan Moses Waweru might be a local legend. He set the all time course in every race he ran (from the mile to 16.5 miles) but was here for only a few months in 2004, didn't run Equinox, and hasn't returned. Worthy of an asterisk for sure (Waweru went on to be a dominant force in the lower 48 road racing scene for a few years after that). We'll have to consult with the anointing committee to decide on legend status.

How about weighing performance level based on the respective distances for their own sake, and not just for the marathon? The marathon is good, it's just not the ultimate.

I just like running and racing (from the mile to the marathon) and love to follow the sport from the local to the international level. I have a lot of respect for the sprinters and mid-distance runners who would never even consider running a marathon. They really get the short end of it. Once they're out of high school or college the opportunities (not to mention support or interest from the community) are almost nil.

Ultras? I'll probably never do anything longer than 50K, if that, but you have to respect what they do. Those who win those 100 milers and such are indeed good runners, but remember for legend status they have to win Equinox first!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

On the race circuit again

The Water Run was my consolation race, after missing the Chena River Run due to last week's flu bug. This week it's been allergies and hay fever. I wore a breathe strip this time. Who knows if it helped at all.

Anyway, I do like this out and back course, although the back part is crazy because you're going upstream, opposite hundreds of the walkers who are not paying attention, as well as people with dogs and baby joggers. I never had to stop but did have to stutter and dodge more than a few times, and just about got tripped up by a dog on a leash.

I've heard horror stories of runners colliding with children and then getting harrangued by angry moms. Luckily I avoided that.

The course was 50-60 meters longer than in years past. Did a 17:39, which was 9 sec faster than 2007, which was on the shorter course. So a decent start and about where I expected.

A little postscript addition (May 11, 2009)
In comparison to previous years since my comeback, this 5K debut was in the same range. Now that's consistency (just a little insider joke that I might just write about some day). The better news is that in each of those years, and before, I've been able to improve on those early season times by 20 to 45 seconds.

2004 - 17:37
2005 - 17:50
2006 - 17:38
2007 - 17:48
2008 - 17:27

Monday, May 04, 2009

Odd Year Blues?

So much for my promise to post up something at least once a week. A lot has been happening since mid-April. That's my excuse. Maybe I'll have a chance to back fill on some happenings and issues, but let's get to the present by talking about the past.

It's early but I might be off to a rough start with the running season. My shoulder-neck (trapezius) seized up the other week, leaving me in abject pain for a couple of days. I went to an acupuncturist, for the first time ever, and lo! it did work. I felt immediately better and went from barely being able to move or get up and down to for an amazing glacier ski (probably 20K of skiing) the very next day. And then I did fun ski relay (2 X 1K) on the day after the glacier ski. A follow-up acupuncture treatment a few days later cleared up most of the remaining pain and stiffness.

Then last week, after a week or of some very promising workouts in preparation for the Chena River Run and other events, I came down with some sort of stomach flu--dizziness, nausea, and puking--and was out of it for two and a half days. Skipped the racing part, but did run it with my wife Tamara, so that was a good thing anyway.

Now allergies have kicked in. And at this point, I'm wondering if a cold hasn't taken over. I hadn't been sick in more than two years and have had only minimal problems with allergies.

While trying to get back to sleep the other night, in a Zyrtec induced stupor, I kind of realized that bad things have often happened running-wise in odd years going back all the way to 1993. So I created a little table, actually quite long, to see if there was a pattern (click on the table for too much information).

In the odd years from 1993 through 2007 I've been knocked out of running (either completely or limited to 20 miles a week or less) for approximately 101 weeks. Even years, it's been 70 weeks; but if you consider that 52 of those weeks were during the dark year of 2002 when I was injured for the entire year due to patellar tendonitis that started in 2001, the reality is more like 18.

Note to self: Be afraid, be very afraid. That's a 5:1 ratio (or 1.5:1 if you go by the real numbers).

The other thing I did is chart my best races at 5 and 10K for each year after college, going back all the way to 1981. Age 35 was when things really started to slow down. At the time I was into my second year of field work for my dissertation, and I purposely decided to cut back on running that spring and focus on my work. I promptly gained about 8-10 lbs, which I've never been able to shake and by August that year got injured with shin splints and compartment syndrome.

Fought back like hell for years and things were going great from age 40 to 42, when, again, I decided to curtail the running to focus more on work and family. I got injured within 6 months, and then spent years trying to recover.

Lesson learned: like Tom Petty says, Don't Back Down