Monday, August 31, 2009

XC Fest: Interior Invite and Golden Heart Trail 5K

Start of girls high school race in the fog

Saturday was sort of an XC fest at Birch Hill, with seven separate races and some 300 participants. Events inlcluded college (3K) and high school races (5K), kids races (1K and 2.5K), and an open race (5K) which is part of the Flint Hills points series.

Mikko was sick and didn't run. He'll have other chances this week.

The early races were in a fog. I missed the college races, but reports are on the Sport Alaska website.

The girl's race started at 10, and you couldn't see more than 100 meters. West Valley was dominant. With Courtney Kisner, Marissa Rorabaugh, and Hannah Boyer taking charge early on, with Lathrop's Megan Edic and North Pole's Cristi Schmitz in tow. By half way, however it was all West Valley with the trio in the lead and Jill Phillips and Elizabeth Wisenhant taking 8th and 10th. Solid performance, but the Wolf Pack will need to "pack up" to remain competitive in the big Anchorage races and at state--there was a 2 min gap between 3rd and 4th runners. Eliza Rorabaugh sat out on Saturday and she'll help fill in.

I didn't get splits but the boys' race went out fast, with Kyle Hanson (soph) and Pat Nugent (junior) leading West Valley runners Andrew Bishop (senior, but 1st year xc) and Zach Keskine (junior) and Delta's Andrey Ionashku (soph). By the 2nd lap Keskine and Bishop had fallen far off the torrid pace, while Ionashku bided his time until the final kilometer. Like Bekele on the world scene, Ionashku seemingly can win at will in the Interior. West Valley freshman Kuba Grzeda, running just his second high school race, moved into 4th place and no man's land but hung to lead the young West Valley team to a victory over Lathrop, 30 to 37. Although Lathrop's top 3 outmatched West Valley's, depth proved to be the deciding factor.

4 Grzeda
5 Bishop
7 Keskine
9 Peter Noon (freshman)
10 James Leder (junior but another 1st year xc runner

2 Hanson
3 Nugent
7 Luke Castellini (soph)
12 Kipp Wilkinon (soph)
13 Dylan Nixon Helms (? yr)

The fog lifted late in the morning. Younger son Tristan raced the 2.5 K and won the 11-12 yr old division (10:02), narrowly edged out of 2nd overall after he put on a late charge. His teammate Erich Hoefler won the overall and 13-14 race with 9:52.

Tristan (in yellow) running with the chase pack

My race was kind of sluggish. I felt the lactate within the first half K and was subdued by the marathon mileage (71) and workouts from this week, as well as last Sunday's 8K. That's my excuse anyway.

I also felt like a fat old lard butt compared to the top 3. Now, why do I keep doing this?

Started out in about 8th through the first K, and then moved to 4th and ran alone for the rest of the way. The top three (Matt Dunlap 16:44, Stian Steinsland 16:48, and Dave Dyer 17:22) have all run low or sub 16 this year for road or track 5K, so I shouldn't be too disappointed, but the 18:32 effort felt yuck.

New UAF assistant coach Dunlap said in the paper it was the hardest 5k he'd ever done. I don't know about that, but we had 10 hills of about 50 sec to 1:20; so the effort was like lapping up oxygen debt while trying to complete a tough V02 max workout. Plus it was slick and squishy out there.

So now I sit in an improbable 2nd place for the Flint Hills series, with 315 points. I've done 5 of 7 so far, and will not be doing Equinox. Steinsland who has done only 3 races so far will need a 3rd or better at EQ to score higher. He should be good for that if he runs, but so far this summer I haven't seen him do anything over 10K. Kevin Brinegar will need a 2nd to score a tie. A top 5 is a lock, but it could end up up 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Mike Kramer bagged the overall win way back at Santa Claus Half.

Interestingly, I could place 2nd overall, but only 2nd in my age group. The intrepid Greg Finstad has done 6 races but only lags by 21 points. All he needs is a top 3 in the 50-54 age class for a tie. A win or top 2 and he wins.

The aging Fatboy Slim muddles up a hill

Friday, August 28, 2009

New American Record for 5000 Meters!

And it's not even Bernard Lagat.

Golden League, Weltklasse Meet, Zurich

1 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 12:52.32 20
2 Edwin Cheruiyot Soi KEN 12:55.03 16
3 Dathan Ritzenhein USA 12:56.27 14
4 Vincent Kiprop Chepkok KEN 12:58.17 12
5 Moses Ndiema Kipsiro UGA 12:59.27 10
6 Joseph Ebuya KEN 13:00.22 8
7 Moses Ndiema Masai KEN 13:06.16 6
8 Silas Kipruto KEN 13:09.08 4
9 Leonard Patrick Komon KEN 13:17.43 3
10 Micah Kipkemboi Kogo KEN 13:18.57 3

Utterly unbelievable. Just 4 months ago Dathan Ritzenhein seemed to be down and out, with a 'disappointing' 2:10 at London Marathon. When the field runs 2:06 or faster, 2:10 is just average in this day and age. He fired his coach Brad Hudson and signed up with Alberto Salazar's group in Oregon. I figured he'd become a journeyman career runner. Making a good living, and maybe winning some US championships along the way, but running for another six or seven years without improving and not being much of a factor on the world level.

I was actually surprised to see him make the US team at 10000 m with a 27:59 in June. Then two weeks ago he up and ran the 4th fastest ever for a US runner, on his way to an impressive 6th place finish. Great.

Saw that he was signed up for Golden League 5000 today, and figured a 13:10 PR would be a fantastic day for him. 12:56, beats Bob Kennedy's long-standing (and outstanding) mark by nearly two seconds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Points Whore Nabs 2nd When Fat Lady Sings

Sunday, I an 8K road race - and a bit of a weird one - Run for the Valkyries, a fundraiser for a local opera club. They start the race when the fat lady hits a high note. I'm not kidding.
Unlike earlier versions of this August 8K (prior to about 2006 or 2007) this race is not all that well organized - course is dubiously marked with maybe 3-5 course marshals on hand, and it's way too expensive ($25) for a local race. Entries have fallen off the charts, from more than 300 just a few years ago to about 100 this time, even though it was a beautiful day, partly cloudy with no wind and about 60 degrees.

The only reason I entered was to get some points for the local Flint Hills Series, which for reasons I don't quite understand, has also dropped off in participation and competitiveness in recent years. Maybe because the same yahoos keep walking off with the vests...but that's another issue.

Just before lining up I looked around and none of the usual suspects were there---could it be, could this be my day to take a local Flint Hills race? Not so fast!

Standing right next to me was Devin McDowell, 2004 state 3200 m champion and Midnight Sun Run winner, back for a short visit before his last semester at college. I hadn't seen Devin in a few years so it was good to catch up.

Our initial pace was moderate and we actually were talking a bit, and it looked like a couple of ringers would be in the mix, including a tall lean guy wearing a Wazoo (Washington State U) shirt who took it out hard for a half mile, "Huh?" Devin asked, as I dropped back so not to go into early oxygen debt.

But Wazoo faded and I caught up to the lead group of three. By 2.5 miles it was just Devin and me. He has not been training much this summer due to injuries. We were not setting any speed records and it almost seemed like a tempo run. But by 4 miles I was feeling it and he pulled away effortlesly. I hung for 2nd, 14 seconds back with a 28:32. Third was about a minute back, a soldier who had just returned from a tour in Iraq.

Mile Splits, 5:48, 11:37, 17:27, 23:03

So actually a good outing, but seriously, the opera club and the running club? Oil and water.

In 2nd place now for the series - not planning on Equinox, but should get into the final top 5 with one more xc race, a 5K next week. This one I enjoy doing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Modified Multspeed Training for a 50+ Runner

A couple masters runners did take notice of some of my races this summer and have asked, what the heck are you doing? Honestly, not a whole lot different from previous four or five years, but maybe some more emphasis on the track and speed endurance this year. Since the end of April I’ve trained like a 5000 meter runner—with modifications to account for age (lots) and recovery (or lack thereof).

Here’s a summary
Mileage – consistent 50 to 60 miles a week, with 6 to 7 days a week of running

Effort – easy days easy with at least two or three recovery days a week; hard days hard but usually only 50 to 70% of the volume that a training guide might recommend.

Easy days/warm ups cool downs (4 to 8 miles) – often very slow, 8 to 9:30/mile

Threshold (tempo training) – I’m almost religious about these and they are key. In the past I’ve often relied on the 20 to 25 min continuous effort at 5K + 20 to 30 sec/mile. This year I have done more "cruise intervals" (a la Jack Daniels) of 4 to 8min with a short (1 to 1.5 min) recovery. Getting old I guess, but I don’t think you lose much by breaking it down. I also did a few (four over 3 months) long tempos of 40 to 55 min at roughly ½ marathon pace—good aerobic training and great specific training for the half.

Race pace (V02 max) – usually most training guides would tell you to do 15 to 20 min of V02 max effort training (e.g., 4 X 5 min at 5K pace). After hitting 40 I found that these workouts became a grind, if not counter-productive, because recovery might take 10 days or more. I might do 4 X 3 min and call it a day, or do 10 to 12 1 min surges at pace with a 1 min recovery. In May I did one workout of 6 X 3 min, and was pretty maxed out.

Speed work – This is one area where young runners (say under 25) might do too much and older runners (mid-30s and older) not enough. I do speed workouts consistently (once a week), but they are minimalist. My standards are 4 X 400 meters at mile pace with a 400 jog, or 5 X 300 meter cutdowns starting at 5K or 3K pace and dropping down to 800 m pace on the last one. Sometimes I'll do an 800 and a couple 400s. The most I did in one session this year was 1.8 or 2K at mile pace.

Racing and time trials – Although I go light on the training load, I did a lot of races this year, almost totally under the radar.

> Four 5Ks (three road and one track)
> Three 3000 meters (one time trial, 2 track efforts), all solo and gutbusters all
> Two 1 mile/1500 efforts and one 800 m time trial
>One 10K race
(the Two Way Torture Test ½ Marathon in May was more of a fartlek, and I was a few minutes off race effort)

So a typical week might go
Two or three ridiculously easy recovery days
A shortened V02 max day or a tempo run
A short speed day
Long run 1:30 to 2:00
(race about every other week, but I did 3 races in one week for the Senior Games)

One late edit: DRILLS Baby DRILLS!
I don't do these every year, but find that striding seems more efficient when I do.

This year, I started in April while working with middle school track runners, and continued about once a week through the summer. It makes a difference.

2X or 3X 50 to 80 m of
high knees (walking or running or both)
butt kicks

Those are all of my secrets.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Santa Claus Half

The effort was worth at least at least a blip on the radar, 1:18:52 for 4th at the Santa Claus half marthon, but only after lamenting the slow times of the day ( and just for getting outkicked by a younger runner (News-Miner).

Actually it should be noted that among men, three of the top six times (at least since 1997) for the 40+ runners were recorded, and Kramer's 1:17:25 and Brinegar's 1:17:30 are the two best. The 50+ record was also shattered, but we won't go there.

Face it, a 50+ Cheechako/Carpetbagger just doesn’t rate much around here. And like I said earlier in the summer, it’ll take a top 3 overall at Equinox or a win at Midnight Sun Run, and we know that isn’t going to happen.

2:40 at Boston anyone? Well, I am running NYC Marathon this fall, but a 2:40? See above.

To heck with doing anything worthy of note on the local scene, I’ll just keep putting my head down and aim to compete at a top 10 level in the USA for my age group while going for local/state records every time out.

Nevertheless, the result at Santa Claus was a surprise. After a stellar May/June I was feeling off through July and the week leading up to the half. I was hoping for 6:08 pace (1:20:30) and to squeak into the top 5. Despite the fog and humidity, the footing was mostly good and 50s temps perfect, so we just clicked off 6:00 min miles, and then really hammered it home over the last 5K, averaging 5:50.

Werner is a good runner and ran 4:27 for 1600 last spring and I knew I’d have to shake him in the middle miles, but that didn’t work out. With each passing mile my chances for ending the race well (i.e., in 3rd) diminished exponentially.

And so I’m relegated the old guy who got outkicked for a podium finish.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Glowing with No Ebb in Sight

This taken at 12 noon today (8/5/09)

Last night the sky glowed evil.

I headed out for an evening run at 7:45PM, after dropping Tristan off for soccer practice. Air quality was in the unhealhty for sensitive groups range, a pass. But at 82 degrees with no wind, breathing felt stunted and for the first half hour I felt like I was choking on the palpable air.

A large dark cloud of smoke was creeping from the west. It looked like a thunderstorm but at 15% humidity, no such luck. Smoke from the massive 480,000 Railbelt/Minto fire some 60 miles away. To the east things looked white, but an ashen hue.

Dark would win on this night.

As my run progressed the darkness began to envelop the town. Somehow I managed to finish the workout--9 miles with surges of 3, 4, 5, 4, 3 min and a short recovery jog. At least the sensation of impending suffocation went away. By the time I returned to the car just before 9:00 PM the sky was a glowing orange haze. The smoke was closing in. It was also unseasonably dark, the sun normally out at this time but we had an orange-brown dusk.

We headed home just as clouds of smoke itself came wafting and billowing over the hills and through the spruce.

Today's run at noon was no better, but much cooler at 60 degrees.

No rain in sight. We're in for it now and this will persist at least for a month. Everybody hates it.

2.58 million acres burned statewide so far, but that's an underestimate because the smoke is so thick they can't measure the size of the fires.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dodging fires and micron bullets

With a month of fire season to go, 2009 is shaping up to be one of biggest fire years on record in Alaska. That would make three of the past six years at or near record territory.

Year - Acres burned (millions)
2004 - 6.7 mi
1956 - 5.0
2005 - 4.5
1969 - 4.2
1990 - 3.2
2009 - 2.4 (as of 8/4 and growing!)
1977 - 2.4

2.4 million acres, so how big is that? It's bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined--or about 2/3 the size of Connecticut. It's bigger than the entire Yellowstone National Park.

Fire is a natural ecological process in this part of the world and they are to be expected. In Alaska the land is vast and mostly uninhabited, so the interagency fire management policy is to have a prioritized system where fires in remote areas are allowed to burn indefinitely, while those close to communities or cabins are attacked with the best available resources.

This is very unlike most places in the lower 48, where almost any fire is dispatched.
As a result Alaska gets huge fires that burn for months. Right now, within 60 or 70 air miles of Fairbanks, we have the massive Railbelt/Minto flats Complex (440,000 acres) to the west, the Wood River fire (110,000) acres just to our south, as well as a 330,000 acre complex in the northeast. The Railbelt fire started in June, and for weeks it received minimal protection--just not much to burn out there but spruce bog.

Things are not as threatening as 2004, when a million acre fire complex torched the lands, to within 15 miles of town while taking out dozens of structures. Nevertheless this is a bad year.

And it's hell on running.

You have to be creative, flexible, and maybe a little bit stupid to keep your running going under these conditions. It's not toxins per se, e.g., there's nothing like nicotine out there, but particulate matter can cause health problems.

Scientists have developed a 6 level chart that depicts particulate matter and associated health risk. The bad stuff is PM 2.5, or particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less. You can't even see particles that small but it gets into your lungs and can cause asthma and possibly other long term health effects.

Category - (parts per sq meter)
Good - (1-50)
Moderate - (51-100)
Unhealthy - for Sensitive Groups (101-150)
Unhealthy - (151-200)
Very Unhealthy - (201-300)
Hazardous - (301-500)

While the rest of the country has enjoyed good to moderate PM 2.5 this week, interior Alaska has hovered in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to Very Unhealthy range. Currently it is Very Unhealthy. You can see about a mile.

Running has been dicey. The trick is to get out the door (quickly) when the wind shifts and blows the smoke away, or at times when the smoke is less pressed to the ground (often afternoon or early evening), or by finding refuge at a high point above the particulate fray.

On Sunday, while Fairbanks and most of the surrounding area was shrouded in Unhealthy condititions, I went for a wonderful 15 mile run on Murphy Dome with a runner whom I had coached for a couple of years. At approximately 2500 feet we were about 20 miles north of town and breathing relatively clean air, above the smoke. Only at the end did the haze begin to close in.

Alas that didn't last: a dangerous and fast moving fire broke out Monday on Murphy Dome. It was only discoverd in the early afternoon but by the end of the day it grew to almost 1,000 acres. This is close to cabins and sub-divisions, so this will be a high priority fire.

The tree falls analogy certainly pertains to so many aspects of interior Alaska. With only 90,000 to 100,000 people living in an area twice the size of Montana, nobody hears about it when the forest burns.

Wish us luck and I'll try to keep dodging the smoke and getting in some good mileage.