Monday, June 25, 2012

Midnight Sun Run 2012: That was a strange one

This, my eighth at this Fairbanks Solstice event, was definitely the strangest in a lot of ways. Usually, I spend the day pacing around the house all day like a caged wild cat, but thankfully I was more ho-hum about it. In fact during the final hours leading up to the race I almost didn't even feel like going. Blame it on the low pressure as the clouds built up and the rain started falling. Thankfully (again) that cooled things down a bit from the afternoon high of 84.

But the humidity, bleh.

Pacing wise, I almost always hit the mile in 5:40-5:50 and two mile in 11:20 to 11:30 (been five or six years since I've gone at the faster end of those ranges), and then I find out whether I have it or not.

This time I felt off from the start, and ran a conservative 5:56, about 5-6 slower than planned and a good 15 behind a pack of 10-12, most of whom I was hoping to finish ahead of by the time we crossed th line at Pioneer Park. In the second mile I worked up to the back of that group and we were 11:39. That mile was a little faster than I'd planned, so I decided to just sit tight in the group which had whittled down to of six or seven. That was an easy choice because it was windy running down University. Mile 3 was 17:35, another 5:56. On the good side I felt fresh--better than I've ever felt at this point in the Midnight Sun Run--and at times it seemed easier than a tempo run.

I planned to move things along when we made the turn east onto Geraghty, but the somewhat pesky headwind turned into a stiff breeze of 10, maybe 15, mph. So here I'm in a group of teens and twenty-somethings, and we're slowing down, but I wasn't about to take charge and pull them along to a faster 4 mile split only to get left in their wake with unrecoverable oxygen debt. So I chose to bide my time, wait.

As soon as we hit the Riverside/Riverview neighborhood Ted and I picked it up. Still that 4 mile split was very slow (6:06, probably my slowest mile split ever for a MSR) and 23:41. Not a day for fast times I figured, but we had a race going on. The5th mile is usually my worst--and I'm often at or a little over 6:00 for that one. But Ted was keeping a good pace and I just tried to hang on. The youngsters behind drifted close and then fell back a couple times. I had to let up by the end of the 5th mile, which was 5:39, easily my fastest of the day and fastest ever for that split, and 29:20. Ted was about 7-8 sec ahead and the kids were on my heels.

I kept thinking they'd blow by, but I had enough zip to fend them off just enough until we got under Peger on the bike path, and by then I'd surged to a 6 or 8 second gap, and was closing on Ted. Hit 6 mile and the final stretch in 35:08 and cruised it in with a 36:16, for 13th place. Best time in three years. Most years that's enough to place in the top ten, but they had five guys well under 34 and four more under 35. So I'm pretty happy with both.

Kids did well too, with 14 yr old Tristan running 37:26 (5 or 6 min PR) and Mikko doing it as a controlled tempo in 38:20 (1 hour 24 min PR!). 

Monday, June 18, 2012

June means a track 5000 in Fairbanks

I never expected to be racing, especially on the track, at this point in my life. To line up for a distance race with my two sons also running? Unthinkable.

But that's the way it was at last Thursday's all-comer's meet at the West Valley track. Going back to the 1970s, I got my start in track at all comers meets and since then have made it a point to find one, two, or many meets a season--even if just three or four people show up. Of course many years no such events were available or I was injured. However, since moving to Fairbanks in 2004 on several occassions I've also tried to drum up some excitement and participation for a fast June 5000 meters.

There are tough muddy races, hill killers, long races, long and tough races, but running a hard 5000 meters on the track is right up there in the gut check category. This year we mixed it up with the high schoolers who used it as training outing. Most were doing it as a tempo or pace run, but my son Mikko and his teammate Erich decided that they wanted to run a fast 5000 on the track rather than race the Midnight Sun Run 10K (which they will do as a tempo this weekend).

Also on the line were former Lathrop High school runners Devin McDowell and Ben Nelson. So the plan was for Mikko and Erich to run 5:20s and I'd run with their teammate Peter at low-mid 5:30s. Peter a 4:22 miler with yet a year of high school to go was doing this as his tempo run and his instruction was not to pass me unless I said so.

Off we went, just as a light rain broke out. Or was it sunny? It was a bit of both the entire meet.

The four faster guys took off at their pace, and I set the effort for a group of three, including local runner Ted Alder who had just run a 4:51 mile. The first lap was 86, too slow at 18 minute pace, so I eased it back up and we hit 800 in 2:49. After that it was like clockwork. Ted led a couple laps and then I took over again, hitting 82s and 83s. With 3 to go I was getting tired so had Peter take me through the 11th lap. I wanted to kick with 600 meters to go, but decided to wait unitl 400. Nope, not there. 300? No. 200. Not yet. 150, okay I picked it up enough to cover the last 200 in 37 seconds.

17:17., my best in three years, and it matches well with other season's best 17:20 (2008), 17:17 (2006), and 17:28 (2007). I ran faster in 2009 and 2005, but slower in 2004, 2010, and 2011.

Meanwhile, Devin and Ben had a great race up front--I lost track of them by half way--in 16:12 and 16:08 resepctively, while Mikko and Erich held onto their pace for 8 or 9 laps but still managed 16:53 and 16:49.

I'd like to train for six weeks or so and get into an age group championsip-level race (preferably under good weather conditions like we had last week) with a dozen or so like minded hammer heads. But for now that's going to have to wait for another year.

All the kids seemed to have a good time as did my fellow geezers out there. We all get to line up with three or four thousand other people at the Midnight Sun Run on Saturday night.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Rust Buster Mile

I feel pretty tarnished at this stage of my running career, still functional but not sleek and shiny and no matter how much polish and elbow grease you apply that luster of youth and speed will not return. Still it's fun to enjoy these twilight racing years.

First all comers meet of the year was at West Valley HS last night and we actually had a decent turnout for one of these very low key events. Maybe a dozen participants and eight or nine running the mile, which was my focus this week. After some encouraging workouts in recent weeks I felt confident and ready to run low 5s, say 5:02 to 5:05, but that was not to be. I did a 4 mile shake out run with the kids on the trails earlier in the day and that felt fine, and then did about 3 miles of warm up in the evening. Maybe that was too much, I don't know, but I could feel that my legs felt a bit of lactic acid and metabolic junk just doing the pre-race stride outs.

As we lined up I was encouraged to see some younger guys in the mix, who would hopefully help set the pace, or at least set a good pace to chase. I think the rest of us were age 50 and over.

However, after the gun it was strange to be running slower than my planned 2:32 for 800 but to be leading the darn thing for a lap and a half. Came through in 78 for 400--too slow--and Devin (former state 3200 meter champion) took over on the backstretch. I tried to tread that fine line between hanging with him while not blasting too fast in the middle part of the race. 800 was about 2:35 (77 sec) with Devin about two or three seconds up, and Ted on my heels. Third lap is usually everyone's weakest, but for the past several years it's tended to be my fastest. I take the mind over matter approach and it's where my head gets into the race. Devin stretched his lead to a good 10 seconds and Ted went past on the far curve and pulled away on the homestretch as we lapped a couple runners.

Ted took off in pursuit of Devin, leaving me in no man's land and a 1200 split of about 3:49-50 (74/75) and I figured 5:05 was still in grasp. I tried to kick on the back stretch but didn't pick up anything, and then made some rookie errors: looked at my watch with 200 to go (4:30-31) and took maybe 40-50 meters thinking about the implications. Tried again to kick with about 150 to go, but also was not able to shift gears, Finally, over the final two steps I let up a little. NO, you run through the finish line! So it was 79-80 for the final 409 meters to finish in 5:09.6 (best since 2009, but still nine seconds slower than then).

I didn't get anyone else's time but the youngsters both went well under 5, and three or four of us geezers (Dave and Geoff for sure) were a ways under 6 minutes.

Age grading it came out pretty good for me, 84.9, which according to the calculator equates to 4:22.1. That's faster than my personal best, and that's why I'm semi-skeptical of the time conversion aspect of it all. I do have eight or 10 seconds in me and was never anything near a 4:12-4:15 miler back in the day.

I do think the sub 5 is there, but with my upcoming race plan (and local race schedule) this is going to be tough--5000 next week, 10K, followed by Flint Hill Mile with only a short recovery. I could use one more week to about July 5 with rabbits and perfect pacing. Nevertheless I'm going to give it a go on the 28th and resolve not to run any slower than 2:31/3:46 for 880/1320 yard splits and hopefully the skies will open and something good will happen on that last lap.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Mile Practice Will Make for a Perfect Day

In a community that is all about gnarly trail runs in the summer months, track doesn't get much interest or much respect. However, June is my month for running fast and if we had another month with track races I'd do those too.

I'm doing one track workout a week, usually alternating between 5K pace work and mile training. Weather's been pretty good, if not a little on the cool side for this time of year, and due to a busy work week I had to postpone my training until late Friday afternoon. Talk about timing issues. Dark clouds built up and by the time I got to Lathrop's track the wind had kicked up to 10 - 20 mph. I shortened my warm up to 15 or 20 min including some strides that I didn't time. Just a few minutes before starting the rain came. I wanted to just call it a day, but knowing that I had a team run with the kids on Saturday morning knew this was it for this week. Also thought of Roger Bannister's stupendous 3:59.4 nearly six decades ago at Iffley Road Track. That was also on a blustery-rainy afternoon.

Felt ready to go, although I had no Chris Chataway to lead the workout. No one there but a lone jogger in lane 2.

No sub 4, or even sub 5, attempted here. I wanted to do something between 800-1000 m, followed by some shorter reps (400s and 300s) to total about 2000 m, all at race pace.

Slipped off my warm ups in the blustery now wet and 50 degree chill, jogged into the start area and just ran. 75, 76 for 2:31.6 at 800. I was tying up over the last 50, and decided to call it at the 800 rather than run tight and sloppy for another 100 or 200 m. Jogged 400 in 2:15 and hit 400 in 76. Not bad, but that also wasn't comfortable. The rain kept coming down but I noticed the wind was not as strong, no more than 5-10 mph, and only felt it on the far curve between the 220 m to about 300 m (for one lap). Another 2:15 and ran fast lap, alternating heel running and getting up on my toes--getting a longer stride, while keeping the cadence the same. 75.

Jogged 300 and ran 300 in 54.8, using the less windy section of the track. Jogged 300 and again, focused on keeping knees high and a good turnover. 54:3.

Did a quick cool down and done for the day.

The 5 minute mile used to be easy, and while I haven't done it every year through my 40s (I think I blogged this some years back) I haven't run under 5 as a 50 year old; in fact the last time was Flint Hills Mile at 48. I had a good day and ran 4:54.

So while a fast 5000 on June 14 and Midnight Sun Run are high on my priority list this month, a sub 5 minute mile may just be the biggest goal of the year, although sub 1:20 half later in the summer is definitely the equivalent. In fact those time would make some nice bookends.

Will have two chances, next week at the all comer's track meet and then again at Flint Hills. Sure would be nice to have little pacing help--I always end up in no man's land.