Monday, August 29, 2011

Golden Heart Trail Race and Flint Hills Series Musings

We'll start with the finish, "Roger, you're getting too old for this," quipped a bystander as I staggered through the chute after being outkicked by a college freshman/cross country skier over the last 30 meters of the 5K race at Birch Hill on Saturday.

I've had two top 4 finishes at this race (2008 and 2009), but not this time. From the start I had no zip at all. A lead group of six split off after the first (of 10) hills on the two lap circuit and I quickly fell to the back of the second pack, maybe 15th place through the first 800 meters.

Managed to pick off a few of the guys and moved into the top 10 by the mile which seemed appallingly slow at 6:00. Just me and three recent high school grads. I had been warned by a spy that one of them was determined to outkick me. So I put the push on in the middle of the race. I shook two of the three with my surge but by 3K (11:20) I was the one hanging on. Feeling it.

Got dropped just after 2 miles and shortly thereafter the one who had planned to take me down was right there. This did not bode well. He was determined and I was tired. We did a bit of cat and mouse for a km or so, and with 600 to go on the flats in the stadium I ran as hard as I could manage and pulled ahead by 5 seconds or so out on Warm Up Loop. But the Birch Hill course is cruel--especially to a lame age grouper who has no kick--with the final 300 meters uphill. I had nothing left and could hear him coming along with about 80 meters to go. I tried to find a reserve gear but could not hold him off.

So 9th place in 18:44 (compared to 18:32 on a muddy day in 2009; course was much shorter in 2008). So with that my 2011 Flint Hills campaign is over.

Then I put on my coaching hat and helped out with the West Valley team, which performed very well (taking 2nd) in spite of missing most of their top runners. Look for some exciting races at Palmer (Sept 10), Regionals Sept 24), and State (Oct 1).
Despite going six for six in the series races I ran (skipped the Gold Discovery Run to do the bike trip) I'll barely eke out an age group win this time. There are no time bonuses so it doesn't matter if you are 1 second ahead of someone or 6 minutes. 1st is 30 pts, 2nd 25, 3rd 21 and that's that. So I needed help, and got it as someone else slipped into 2nd place on Saturday, leaving me with a small cushion.

With a point system like this (no byes or lowest scores thrown out) you take a risk if you miss a race or two. In past years this hasn't made much difference for my age group, although one year I did one or two fewer races than Wayde Leder and so we finished just a few points apart at the end of the season.

That said, my overall series ranking--4th with 305 pts--is probably tanking and I could finish as low as 7th overall. Chris Eversman (285 pts) plans to do Equinox and he'll certainly pass me, even though he'll have done only four races (those 1st and 2nds add up quick!).

Kyle Emery (275 pts) has done all seven races so far and has raced consistently. He'll pass me if he does Equinox and gets top 15. Likewise Charlie Mahlen (283 pts) has missed just one race and he's been only a couple places back of my tired old legs through this season. With a sub 3 hr marathon at Boston this year, he'll likely place top 10 at Equinox.

Signs of the times: on years that I've aimed for the series/not had an injury ('04, '05, '06, '08, '09) I've done five or six races (I might have done 7 in 2008) and have placed on the podium in the top 5. This year the series was a primary goal, but it the field seemed deeper/more competitive at the top 10 to 15 level, which is great. It's wonderful having these guys like Eversman, Steve Chu, and Devin McDowell--with up and comers like Emery and Sam Viavant in there to make things interesting--in their 20s hammering at each other. A new generation!

But to conclude while I may have done okay as an age grouper I simply didn't get the job done this weekend or several races this season. Too old is about right. Nevertheless, I'm happy to have made it though six races without an injury. That was my primary goal this season.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Tool is as a Tool Does!

Here are my age graded times for the "quantifiable" (measured courses at standard distances) for the 2011 running season. Except for the half marathon, the times are fairly close to my all time bests at the various distances.

Distance----------Age Grade------Personal Best (year/age)

1 mile-------------4:26----------4:26 (1986/28)
5 KM--------------15:07---------15:13 (1985/27)
8 KM--------------25:12---------25:33 (1990/32)
10 KM-------------31:24---------31:48 (1983/25)
Half Marathon---1:08:58-------1:10:55 (1982/24)

I still think age grading gets easier as you get older, as long as you can keep in decent shape and are relatively consistent with training. There's the rub, I guess. For most of us past 40, 45, 50 it's not so easy to do the training we used to be able to do in our 20s and 30s.

Nevertheless, with a little more focus with speed training this summer I believe that I could have run 8 to 10 sec faster in the mile. And if I'd had a decent chance at a flat and fast 5K mid or late summer, I think I could run sub 17:20. So those age grade times would be sub 4:20 and 14:40s, times that I never approached (although those were the types of times that I strived for back in the day).

So I'm a tool for a day by posting this! Been a good year and I look forward to the smattering of xc and trail races remaining on the calendar.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Let's put it this way

Most of the state's heavy cross country hitters were in Anchorage for the Bartlett Invite, and cross-town Lathrop won the whole thing! Service High School has dominated the past several years. This year it's wide open, and the championship may very well be decided by someone's fifth man.

The other high schools had their first 5K of the season out at the Chena River flood control project outside of North Pole. It's a nice flat course which is a good confidence booster and opportunity to break last year's PRs.

West Valley had a very solid day, with the boys and girls taking easy victories. The paper did produce an article, but the quotations from winner Kuba Grzeda were somewhat lost in translation.

What Kuba was saying is that he usually goes out fast and hangs on (sometimes dying at the end of the race), and that's how he's run his best times so far. But this time he tried going out a little easier (the top three were actually having a bit of a conversation through the first mile), which they covered in 5:24. Then they got to business, and ran 5:20 for mile two. The boys got real serious for the final mile with Grzeda going about 4:40 (school record 15:52), Andre Ionashku of Delta running about 4:48 (15:59), and West Valley's third place finisher Peter Noon doing 4:53 to finish in 16:04, a personal best by 48 seconds.

Karl Kowalski photo

Both my boys PR'd with Mikko running 17:17 and Tristan was 18:56 in his freshman 5K debut. Meanwhile, FAST's Erich Hoefler knocked off 30 sec from his PR and was 17:07 in the open race.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Santa Claus Half Marathon Master Rankings and Age Graded Results

Here are all time 10 year age class rankings for the Santa Claus Half Marathon. Women's
and Men's

And here are results (70 percent and up) from last weekend's Santa Claus Half. Even though the overall field and top times were deep and fast, we were a little short on the masters scoring, with only four men and women exceeding the 70 percent age grade.

Finally, it's nice to be back above 85 percent! Been a long, at times tough, two years.

3 Melissa Lewis (40)...........1:32:10.0.....75.44
4 Jennifer Mahlen (40)........ 1:33:06.5..... 73.06
9 Erika Van Flein (51)......... 1:40:11.6......75.36
32 Deena Doublex (61)......... 1:57:29.0...... 73.45


6 Chad Carroll (40)........... 1:18:43.9...... 78.36
8 Roger Sayre(53)............ 1:20:01.0...... 85.87
18 Robert Weeden (49)...... 1:33:17.1..... 71.17
27 Greg Finstad (57).......... 1:38:25.7...... 72.35

Sunday, August 07, 2011

An Anonymous but Happy Half Marathon Finish

Eighth overall at the relatively small and low-key Santa Claus Half Marathon in North Pole is nothing to write home about (blogging is a different story), nor is another age group medal. Nevertheless, I could hardly be any happier with the outcome of Saturday's Race.

This is probably tied for my favorite local running race--and the half marathon is probably my favorite distance. One of the few regrets I have is not doing more of these in my peak years.

The course starts and finishes at the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, AK about 15 miles from Fairbanks. It's flat with one 30 sec hill and a couple short risers. 4 miles of pavement, and 9.1 on dirt road/gravel through the Chena River Flood Control Project.

A cool front moved through yesterday, dropping temps to low-mid 40s overnight.

I came in hoping--but not 100% confident--to break 1:22, or 1:22:30, but with moderate mileage (30 to 50 miles per week), and this being my longest race in two years it was anybody's guess. My best case goal was to break 1:21.

Went out faster than planned--behind Davya Flaharty who was out to break the course record of 1:23. Hands were cold and we had a bit of a headwind from mile 1 through 6. So I just chilled with the temps and let it flow. Lead pack of 7 or 8 was clipping along good, at 5:30 to 5:40 pace. I pulled away from a small pack at 2 mles (6:09/12:34), and set to work on Sam Viavant, the guy who beat me at the 8K a few weeks ago, who was 20 sec up. Caught him at 4 (25:02), and we worked together to catch ex UAF skier Cody Priest who was up another 45 or 50 sec. Slowly we gained.

I caught him at about 8.5, and Sam had fallen behind. In 7th at this point, pushing beyond myself, and hoping to have the energy to hang over the last 2 miles.

10 in 61:06.

The last 3.1 were tough, and even though I pushed hard, Sam caught up just before 12. I made an inner promise to stick with him through 12.5. Lasted to 12.57. I should have hung on a wee bit longer.

Hit 13 at 1:19:26 on my watch, and a quick calculation said I'd have to kick hard to break 1:20. Kick I did, but alas not quite enough 1:20:01.

A mild argggh, it was there if I'd really bit down with 300 to go. But 6:06 pace was beyond expectation.

Splits 6:09, 6:24, 6:15, 6:11, 6:10, 6:00, 6:06, 5:51 (30 sec downhill), 6:00, 5:57, 6:11, 6:12, 5:55 (drafting off Sam!).

In the local vernacular 8th place is nothing, might as well be 48th. I've done six Santa Claus's and hadn't finished lower than 5th. Ironically my best finish was a 3rd in 2004, when Moses Waweru set the course record, which was also my slowest at just under 1:22. This was the deepest field yet, a 1:20 over the past 10 or 12 years has always netted a top 5.

The coolest thing is that 7 of the top 9 were in their early or mid-20s. Great to see these guys running fast, like in the old days.

However, I happy with time and most importantly other than a little bit of tired legs, no knee pain today!