Friday, April 27, 2012

We Don't Race for the T-Shirts

At least I don't. But when you get one, it sure is nice to have something reasonably aesthetic.

Mostly I'm there to compete to run hard with and against whomever happens to line up. Fitness and participating in a community event also are part of the deal, and I can accept that there are dozens of reasons why people go to local running events.

Since moving here I've generally liked doing the Chena River Run. It's a rite of spring and the most competitive local 5K for the entire year. Helps that the course is certified, although somewhat slow, it's mostly flat and you know that the distance is accurate (which is getting increasingly rare these days).

Among the downsides are parking at the finish, where they threaten to take your car and first born if you park on the road, goofy loud jazzercise for 30 minutes at the start area while you're warming up.

This year however, we have some new developments. The entry increased to $20. $20 for a 5K fun run? Getting a little steep there.

And my newest peeve: race shirts. You pay the above $20 and get a tech shirt, but who wants to be a billboard for some 40 sponsors? It's downright ugly.

How about making one or two mid-sized logos of the Primary sponsors on the sleeve or back and call it good?

I'd also like to see a little bit of recognition/incentive for those who run fast. Everybody finishes, noshes on Subway, Power Aid, and Granola bars for 20 or 30 minutes and then disperses. Two weeks later you get a ribbon in the mail for your age group award, and I think top 3 get a trophy or medal (my highest finish has been 4th).

How about a very brief awards: thank the organizers and volunteers and recognize the top 10 overall. Top 3 get the trophy or plaque and then 4-10 a medal. I haven't been close to top 10 in recent years but would still like to have faster/competitive runners recognized for a job well done.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Are we rolling yet?

Not really, but things are starting to pick up. Finally onto six days a week of running and some workouts are rolling in but I don't feel anything like "in shape" yet. As if that'll ever happen again. The last time I really felt in shape was August-September of 1992, and I'm not kidding. That was the last time I ran 32:30 for 10K. Everything since then has been going through the motions, and trying not to be out of shape.

Seemingly off to a good start, however, for a mid-50s geezer. Last week I did 3.5 miles threshold reps on the track averaging under 6 min per mile. The biggest challenge was finding the right pace. Laps of 1:28 and 1:29 didn't feel bad at all. So that's a good sign. The only slightly off thing is that my back has been a little sore, slight lumbar pain especially after sitting for a while, and I've had spring time issues with that in the past. I think my pelvis gets out of whack when I shift to running and lower back and hip flexors take the brunt of strain.

Anyway, Chena River Run is next week and relatively speaking (based on workouts and mileage) I'm at or maybe even ahead where I was ca. 2006 - 2009. First three weeks were just transition, now I'm into a three week foundation phase where I'm just running six days a week at about an hour with some tempo/threshold runs (tempos a little slower and longer than true definition of anaerobic threshold) and hills. I had wanted to do a 5K simulation workout (race pace mixed with tempo-type pace for about 3 miles) but have decided to stick to the original plan and do hill reps at race effort. That will be easier on my back.

After next week, I'll get into race specific training. I was thinking about half marathon at the end of May, but seeing how my main time goals this year are 1 mile and 5K, and of course the Midnight Sun Run, so it would be better to stick with something of a modified "Oregon Plan" for May and June. The fabled Oregon runners of the 60s, 70s, and 80s often had a wide range and could run anything from the mile to the 10K. So I use a similar training program, but modified to suit what's left of my limited ability.

Long reps at race pace, short reps at mile pace, all mixed in with some fartlek and tempo/threshold running. Unlike the runners I coach, I rarely plan out more than a few days ahead. I go by feel and by what I've done in the recent weeks while thinking ahead a little about what I need to work on.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Salazar's 14 Minutes: A Contrast

If you are into various aspects of running lore, history, biography, autobiography then Alberto Salazar's new book "14 Minutes" is a good one. Very good. I like the way that the structure is almost a stream of consciousness through the highs lows an near misses in Salazar's life. I'm only about half way through now and so far--like many good books--it is interesting to read draw parallels to your own life. I was especially drawn in by some similarities and contrasts with my own life.

First thing, Salazar was also born in 1958 so we grew up at the same time. We also had a strong-willed, opinionated, foreign born parent. Salazar's father was from a prominent Cuban family that left the country after becoming disillusioned with Castro's communist regime. The elder Salazar was even involved with the planning of the Bay of Pigs. Okay, my Finnish born mom never was involved anything like that (although my dad a civil engineer helped design the blue-print for what became the Peace Corps), but she grew up in a single parent family--on the streets she likes to say--during the Depression in Finland. Their town was bombed mercilessly for five years by the Russians in World War II. Within five minutes of meeting my mom (and you will hardly get a word in for the next hour) you will learn all about this history and much much more.

So although the backgrounds are very different, I could totally relate to the younger Salazar's desire to get out of the house and away from that shadow.

The similarities that struck the closest were Salazar's formative years in Connecticut. The family lived near a lake, and life was this unfettered wildness in the woods and open space. We didn't trap an skin animals like the Salazars, but fishing, bow hunting for carp, catching crawdads and salamanders and war games with BB guns, firecrackers, dirt clods, rotten tomatoes, and bottle rockets. Whatever was available.

He had a close brushes with death, when his brother almost shot him (by accident) with a razor-tipped arrow and he watched a boy drown during his own birthday party. I came to within a minute of going underwater for good at age 6, when I fell into a lake--wearing a winter coat--diving after my older brother's fishing pole which had slipped in. I went under about three times before he and his friend heard the splashing and my gurggles and screams. They did pull me out, but the scars of that incident stuck with me for years and I couldn't swim in water over my head until I was 10 or 11.

By middle school Salazar was already gaining recognition for his running, winning school and local championships. I had an okay start in elementary school because even though I was always small and less developed I was one of the faster kids. However, I was held back by asthma and did not try much distance running and was more of a sprinter and jumper. Still his stories of using a stopwatch to set PRs in imaginary time trials were just like mine at the same age.

Salazar had an older brother to look up to, his brother Ricardo was a top high school runner in Massachusetts and ran a 4:07 mile at the US Naval Academy. Uhh, my brothers, roughly the same age differential as Salazar's with one five years older and the other two. Well my oldest brother started drinking heavily at 14 or 15 and threw these wild-crazy parties at our house while still in high school. And although he was always touted as the "smartest" in our family he barely graduated from high school. How and why my parents put up with his behavior I'll never know. And my other brother, while not such a party animal, was apathetic (or simply withdrawn) and unathletic. So usually I looked to my friends and their families for support--doses of normalcy. Not to say that there weren't some years (junior high school) of drifting off myself. Maybe I'll write a book about That someday.

Religion and faith has always been at the forefront with Salazar's persona, especially since his graduation from college. The similarity ends fairly quickly. My dad's WASP family can also be traced back 12 or 13 generations in North America, and from what I can tell they were all devout Christians. My grandfather was a prominent Episcopalian minister who presided over the marriage of President Wilson's daughter to my grandfather's brother, Francis Sayre. Even though my dad was religious, and we were required to go to church when we were young, after confirmation attendance was up to us. I went on and off to a Unitarian church with my friends in middle school but that was it. I think you can find spirituality without organized religion.

Back to running. Well Salazar obviously had knack for it and took off. I didn't hear much about him until his sophomore year in college. In the midwest, we had Craig Virgin and Rudy Chapa (who became Salazar's teammate at Oregon and who was actually better known for a few years). I was just getting into running, however casually, in the spring of 1975 when Bill Rodgers won Boston. That year the Big 10 championships were held in Iowa City and I hung around all weekend for the races: it was fun and I got to see many future stars compete. Virgin was injured but future Olympians Steve Lacy, Gary Bjorkland, and Mike Durkin were there, and future Boston winner Greg Meyer was a steeplechaser for Michigan. Even though I wasn't a big fan of distance running at the time, I was shocked-devestated when I read about Prefontaine's death in a short article in our local paper.

While Salazar was setting the world youth record for 5000 meters in Lincoln Nebraska that June I traveled to the East Coast with my parents to visit my ailing grandparents and to visit a few college. I was thrilled one day to run 5 miles non-stop, probably at about 7:30 to 8:30 a mile--not even warm up pace to Salazar. But I had the bug.

Our college careers couldn't have been more divergent. Salazar was recruited by every school in the US and went to the fabled University of Oregon program for the running where he was coached by the legendary Bill Dellinger, himself an Olympic Bronze medalist. And although there were a few downs, Salazar thrived there highlighted by winning NCAA team (1977) and individual championships in cross country (1978). It was on a snowy day in Madison the first time I saw him in person, the day he upset Henry Rono who the previous spring had set four world records.

As one who did not run in high school, I was recruited by no one. Well, not quite. I started running regularly only during the last half of my senior year. I trained a little for track, went out for one day but quit the team. I simply didn't think I could contribute much. Yes, I do have regrets about that. Had I started as a freshman or sophomore I easily could have set the school record for 2 miles. Just had no clue at 15 or 16 that such an endeavor was possible.

I felt guilty about quitting, and took up running three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes to contract out of my last term of gym class. Turns out I liked it, and by the end of the school year I was doing weekly track workouts at the university track. One day I was doing repeat 200s--having now idea what I was doing--probably in the 29-32 second range with a 1 or 2 min recovery. A guy came up to me and asked how old I was and what I was up to and he was surprised to hear that I was graduated and going off to college already (looked more like a 15 yr old at the time). He was coach at Luther College, a top Division III program, and said that I'd do better there as runner than at Grinnell where I was headed. I went to the college for the academics, where I was decent (barely).

Anyway, the three and a half years that I ran there were very very frustrataing. What I did get out of it was a PR of 9:43 for 2 miles, high 32s for 10K on the roads (during summer) and the knowledge that I could withstand high volume training, often 70-90 miles a week and it was also heavy--usually too heavy--on fast interval training. Back then I found I could get into good shape quickly on my own, and then once school started it was a process of attrition and being torn down. Often it was my own fault, not knowing when to push and when to ease up, but we also got little or no guidance on things like pacing or recovery.

Similar to the dramatic events at the 1978 Falmouth Road Race where Salazar fell off the lead pace with Bill Rogers and nearly succumbed to heat stroke, about two weeks later I ran a 4 mile cross country race--our season opener--at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was about 90 degrees and we started at 11 AM. Our coach tried to get the start moved back to at least 10 or so, but they'd hear none of that. I'd just had a breakthrough 10K road race a few weeks before and had great expections for the season. A Norwegian transfer from Coe took the early lead, and our hotshot freshman took off after him after about a mile. They were still in close sight at 2 miles but at 3 I started to fade. I hung with one of my teammates through 3.5 and after that it was fuzzy tunnel vision. I finished thinking it was a 4th place and wandered around the field for several minutes. I walked over to the host team--thinking they were my own teammates--plopped down and asked someone to take my shoes off; my feet were burning up. They just stared and it took a minute for me to realize that these were the wrong guys!

I didn't even remember being passed over the last quarter mile by another runner, so I was 5th. A far cry from a core temp of 107, being thrown into an ice bath, and read last rites--but nonetheless it was eerie weird. Only one other time in my career have I been so close to the edge: that was Equinox 2006.

Salazar's two greatest marathon victories (New York City 1980 and 1981) came at the low point of my running. I was beaten up and just going through the motions in my last semester of college running in 1980. Not eating well and perpetually overtrained. However I did have my best xc race as a collegian at a meaningless invitational that very weekend (last week of October in 1980)--after going out drinking the night before and barely making it to the start! Was our 2nd runner and was top 10 in an 8 or 10 team invitational. However, I faded at our conference and regional meets, and I wrapped up collge running hoping to continue, maybe even up to masters running (which back then was something of an oddity).

A year later, when Salazar set the world record at New York City, my dad had just died and I was in the deepest funk of my life. Working a thousand miles away from home, just trying to get by. I barely paid attention to the race and was only jogging a few times a week more or less to keep my head on.

However, the following spring after completing my year-long work detail with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Minnesota, I took off to the West to look at graduate schools and to decompress practically for the first time since high school (okay okay, 4 months ski bumming at Steamboat Springs in winter of 1979 was definitley a decompression phase!). I traveled to Moscow ID/Pullman WA, where the great Henry Rono and the first wave of great Kenyans had trained, and spent a weekend there visiting friends and the universities. On Monday, Patriots Day, I drove to Eugene, and heard about the epic "Duel in the Sun" at Boston on the radio. On the very next day, at Hayward field, a triumphant Salazar drove up in a nice red car. Everybody stopped and stared.

Little did anyone realize but that was kind of the beginning of the end already for Salazar who was just 23 old. For me, it was kind of the beginning. My training had been unfocused that first year out of college. I had some good months, which would be offset by off months. But finally I got into a rhythm by late winter of 1982 and was able to train consistently.

I also had a short marathoning career and it was just a flicker--if that--compared to Salazar's bright flame. But for a n'er do well former Division III walk-on, who didn't even run in high school, the two altitude marathons that I did do in 1983 were pretty stellar. And after that, I enjoyed another eight or nine years of competitive running, not a world beater but, good enough to have been near the top of our college conference, which is all I had wanted during those four long frustrating years there.

Salazar retired in his mid 30s and never tried masters running. I think it would be hard to compete at a lower level (and yes, even if you are setting age group world or national records, it IS at a lower level compared to winning NCAAs, a major marathon, or going to the Olympics). Through all sorts of injuries, grad school, and jobs I've kept at it and if anything have been relatively better as a masters athlete (but see above caveat: it's still at a lower level, i.e., I'd rather run a 32+/- min 10K at 27 than 36+/- at 54). Nevertheless, if I do have one "gift" as an aging runner it is that I've managed to age well so far in spite of the setbacks.

And now Salazar is a world renowned coach, working with some of the best in the world. He might even have a couple guys on the Olympic medal podium this time around with Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp mixing it up with the Kenyans and Ethiopians. I coach too. But without the support of a world conglomerate and the latest technology. More on the margins with a handful of adult competitive recreational runners and about as many youngsters. Salazar is known for being on the cutting edge. Me, definitely out in the margins. But it's still rewarding, incredibly so, to see these people young and middle aged to strive to set PRs and do things that they wouldn't have thought possible. They're all full of surprises too.

So, a small way, and even though we don't have much in common other than running, and he was a great runner and I am not, I too can relate a little my born in 1958 colleague Alberto Salazar. I have enjoyed his book.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Runner/Skier Glenn Randall Makes Waves at Boston

Former cross country skier--2008 NCAA champion at 10K--and Dartmouth grad Glenn created a minor firestorm when he took the lead for nearly 6 miles at Monday's Boston Marathon. With temperatures in the 80s at the start, the lead pack including 2:03 marathoner Moses Mosrop and many of the world's, best ran a conservative pace at about 5:00 per mile, or 2:11 pace. Still fast but compared to last year's 2:03, that's very controlled.

Apparently Randall, who ran a debut of 2:20 last fall in Chicago didn't get the memo and he went out at 2:06 pace and forged a big lead in the early miles. He faded badly, running more than 8:00/mile at the end to finish 61st in 2:37.

A flurry of personal attacks on internet message boards has ensued. And runners, most much-much slower, have lambasted Randall for his bold start, one piece tri-suit, and possibility of just doing it for the publicity maybe sponsorship from Powerbar because he was wearing a logo.

Whatever. After days of speculation he has been interviewed on LetsRun and written in his own blog. He actually felt that he was holding back!

I've never run Boston but for decades have heard that it's easy to go too fast over the first 6 or 8 miles. So if he was really going for time on a hot day, a 5:15 or 5:20 pace would have been much more rational. But Randall is a guy, not unlike a lot of Kenyans and some American legends (Gerry Lindgren comes to mind) who doesn't seem to think about pacing and limits, just go out hard and seeing what's there.

I say to each their own. And I'll look forward to seeing how this young (25) runner develops. He may not become a world beater, but certainly 2:14+/- marathon seems to be within his reach.

That said, Randall has been mentioned in this blog, March 30, 2009!

And it looked like Glenn Randall of Dartmouth would be out of the picture early as he broke a pole in the first lap and fell way behind. By the 2nd or 3rd lap Randall caught up and even led the group for a while. But things seemed as expected, with Babikov biding his time while teammate Stephan Kuhn did much of the early work, leading the tight pack of skiers through the hilly course....

Meanwhile the college kid Glenn Randall had worked his way up to the Bronze medal position for 3rd, picking off Team USA members one by one over the final laps.

So he actually took the lead against Olympians after breaking his pole. Fell back and then came on strong at the end. And now you have 4 hr marathoners and other assorted hobby joggers and experts (armchair and otherwise) calling him stupid.

So I'll close with a parody of one of the most famous Winston Churchill exchanges,

Hobby Jogger: Glenn Randall ran stupid!
Randall: I may not have run my best but there will be a day that I will run faster, maybe much faster, while you will still be slow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One Step Aside

I thought I'd avoid the spring funk this year--mostly by just thinking about running more--plus being fairly dilligent about getting in at least two or three runs a week through the winter (other than the marathon taper weeks, which were just singles), but that's not the case. As a result, I decided not to do the increasingly popular Beat Beethoven 5K this weekend. It's too early and as of yesterday and last weekend I simply don't feel ready to take on a good effort for 5K. In fact, I'm not even ready for a 20 min sustained tempo run.

I got in about 26 miles the week following the Sonot and 33 last week, so off to a good start but I don't "feel like a runner" yet. Just your average middle aged plodder-jogger here. So plan B is do that tempo this weekend, keep consistent with adding miles, and plan on making the Chena River Run as the season's official debut. I may try a 3K or 2 mile time trial in the next week or two as a sharpener. When I line up an compete I want to be ready.

This is repetitive but I do find it weird here that all the decent road races locally, with the exception of Santa Claus Half Marathon in August, are scheduled very very early in the season. April, May, June, and the 4th of July race. Then it's trail-Equinox fever, and then the running year is over.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Wednesday Night Series Finale A Thriller and Killer

No doubt, 4 X 1.2K in a relay is harder than an individual 5K. At least this time, however, I didn't end up on my hands and knees fighting off an asthma attack. And with full light no chance to ski off the course!

For my runner friends it's about like doing 4X or 5X 1K at 3000 m pace.

I'm a total slacker on getting it together for a relay partner for the final race, but fortunately masters skier Gary Holton was available so we had a good team. No matter that some of the best skiers in Alaska, if not the U.S. were there--Erik Bjornsen, Logan Hanneman, Lex Treinen--not to mention Sonot winner Heather Edic and men's runner up Cody Priest. My main goal was to beat the dastardly duo of Bad Bob and Dave.

Last year on a slushy evening I teamed up with Jim Button and we took 3rd overall out of 11 teams. With this year's larger(23 teams) and a deeper field--free pizza and door prizes bring them out of the woodwork--the competition would be more tough, although glide would be better.

The start line was crowded, and the start was fast.
Race Director Ken Leary egging us on at the start line.

I took it fairly easy on the first lap on the rolling circuit--a perfect loop for a sprint course--overall better terrain than in the main stadium at Birch, but not as spectator friendly.

It starts with 30 m of flat, then a sharp downhill turn followed by a couple rollers, and then 1.5 minutes or more of steady climb, with a couple soft corners to lose a pole. It concludes with a rolling downhill, that still requires some work after the dips.

The teams made up for some interesting back and forth and battles. So we were fighting it out most of the way with son-father teams of Logan-Karl Hanneman and Mike-Stephan Hajdukovich plus the sister team of Heather and Megan Edic. And for three or four laps Bob and Dave gave us a good scare. Bob left me in the dust through the first lap, until the very end, and he may have nipped me by a boot. Dave got a good start while Gary got caught in traffic at the exchange. So he was 30 m back when I started our 3rd lap, but we pulled into a comfortable lead after that and didn't look back.

With Dave's daughters it wasn't so easy. It was pretty even until my 3rd lap, when I pulled away from Heather, but on my 4th lap (9th of the race) she started with a little gap of a few seconds which I closed by the top of the hill only to lose it and then some on the "easier" downhill and transitions which she just hammered. So they had 7 or 8 seconds at the exchange and we were not able to close that.

For some reason, I thought we'd won the masters crown, but that wasn't to be as "masters" for the relay (and the series) is 50+. So we got them on the head to head but Bob and Dave take the 50+ crown again. DOH! Gary was a good relay partner, but next year I've got to be on a team with a 50+ skier!

Up front the team of Will Coleman and Alex Morris held off Max Kaufman and Dash Feierabend by 10 seconds, with Bjornsen and Ally McPhetres taking 3rd.

All in good fun. End of season races can be quite competitive--and this relay is downright hard. I also really felt it, this being only my third time on skis since the Sonot.

Thanks to Ken Leary for putting on the series as well as sponsors Beaver Sports, Raven Sports, and Goldstream Sports, Everts Air, and Challenge Life.

Relay Results – (each team skied 8 times around a 1.2k loop)

Pizzaman Will Coleman and Big Alex Moris............................23:03 (1st team)
Max Kaufman and Dash Feierabend.........................................23:13
3. Eric Bjornsen and Ally McPhetres…………………….………23:35 (1st Coed team)

4. Karl Hanneman and Logan Hanneman………………..………23:56 (1st Family team)

5. Cody Priest and David Apperson……………………..…….…24:03

6. Heather Edic and Megan Edic…………………………………24:18 (1st all Lady team beating Dad >1:08 seconds)

7. Mike Hajdukovich and Stefan Hajdukovich……………………24:19 (1st Father & Son team)

8. Roger Sayre and Gary Holton…………………………………..24:29

9. Liam Ortega and Theresia Schnurr………………………………24:37

10. Dave Edic and Bob Baker……………………………………….25:26 (1st Master team)

11. Jim Button and Maddie Button………………………………….26:20 (1st Father & Daughter team)

12. Jim Lokken and Patrick Lovey………………………….………..26:21

13. Mark Ross and Nathan Graff…………………………….………28:06

14. Lex Treinen and Ross MacDougall………………………………28:07

15. Kristan Kelly and Logan Mowry………………………….……..29:08 ( 1st Mother & Son team)

16. Karin Gillis and Hanna Gillis……………………………….……29:52 (1st Mother & Daughter team)

17. Byron Broda and Chris Broda……………………………………29:58 (1st Wife & Husband team)

18. Jade Hajdukovich and Kiana Hamlin………………………..……30:32 (1st Youth team)

19. Matt Stoller and Brandon Hoover………………………….….….31:20

20. Tom Dale and Barb Creighton………………………………..…..31:34

21. Jamie Johnson, Michelle Hajdukovich, and Ginger Hamlin….......31:44

22. Pete Wilde and Tim Mowry……………………………………...34:07

23. Gary Moore and Jim Brown……………………………………...34:59