Monday, September 23, 2013

A Chillin' Return to the Marathon

First I have to confess that Equinox wasn't my first choice for a marathon this year. A bit more on that in a moment.

After fracturing the end of my femur at the New York City Marathon in 2009, resulting in a DNF (did not finish) and arthritis and arthroscopic surgery in 2010, I wasn't sure if I'd ever even line up for another marathon attempt let alone be able to return to running races again. The recovery took almost a year and a half, and then in subsequent years I've battled some foot problems due to twisting my ankle on the rooty trails around Fairbanks. As a result I haven't completed a season (April to October) here since my last Equinox attempt in 2008.

Despite the injury woes (seemingly common for me) in the interim I'd been able to manage some good races from the mile to half marathon. However, I put the marathon on the back burner. At the beginning of the year I penciled in Moose's Tooth (formerly Humpy's) in Anchorage or Kenai as my top two choices, and Equinox as a third.
Well due to logistics and timing (not an easy thing to fit in a marathon in the midst of high school cross country when you are an assistant coach with the defending state champs), by mid June I realized I hadn't put in the miles needed for a decent shot at Moose's Tooth, and Kenai travel would conflict with the regional meet here that weekend, so the home course Equinox it was!

My training since early July had been solid, averaging about six days a week of running with a long run of 2 to 2.5 hours (one just under 3) every 10 days or so, and most importantly no set backs. I didn't do a lot of workouts other than a few tempo runs after July 4, and used races as my hard training days. Incorporated enough long runs to be confident that I could finish the grueling Equinox course.

To tell the truth, I think course is a bit a bit crazy, but I suppose therein lies the appeal.

I went into Saturday's race with three or three and half goals in mind: finish, break the 55 age group record of 3:27 and maybe eke out a top 10. Going in I felt 3:12 to 3:15 was a good goal pace, but you never know how it's going to go until get out there on race day. Especially with the Equinox and on a cold day, with several miles of snow cover out on the trails.

I walked up about a third of the way up the UAF ski hill and settled into a nice pack of seven or eight runners that soon whittled down to about five us, strung out over 30 seconds. Missed my water stop at 4 miles, but other than being a little thirsty for a couple miles, and an untied shoe for about a half mile, the first 9 miles went as well or better than planned. I was 10th place with 7,8,9 in sight as we navigated the switch backs by the cycling course. I'd jettisoned my extra longsleeve shirt at mile 4 and declined another at mile 9 (where my son was stationed as crossing guide) in 1:02. By the time we got to 10 miles, the snow cover was evident and it was getting colder by the minute. I passed a younger runner then my friend Mark who was having a rough day by mile 11. However, I knew a sub 3:15 would be tough. My legs just didn't want to move any better.

Over the top in 1:35, right on pace for a 3:15 but feeling it every step. I didn't feel recovered from the 32 minute climb until just before the turn around on the Out and Back: you just don't bounce back at 55! Great view of Denali just after mile 13. It looked larger than life, like a white harvest moon just above the horizon.

Got back to the top of the chute at 2:14 and hoped that I could let it roll after about mile 18. No mishaps on the chute, but on the trail after that I still couldn't get my legs moving the way I'd envisioned/planned; my splits were off about 15 seconds each mile, but I listened to what my body was telling me and just kept steady. That was the story for the rest of the way. I wasn't blowing up or slowing down, but I couldn't make any inroads on the time I'd lost going on on snow over the Dome and on the Out and Back. No flashing drive to the finish at 6:10 or 6:20 pace on this day. Just hanging on, aided by my friend Kelly who plied me with water and fruit about every half mile on Gold Hill road.

A young Norwegian runner who had seemed to be within striking distance at 20 or 22 pulled away by 24-25 and I just settled into a rather cold, somewhat muted (hardly anyone around for the last 9 miles) 7th place march to the finish in 3:17:20. A new age group record by exactly 10 minutes. Can't knock that!

I do think there was perhaps more in me, but not on this day. That was the best I could do, end of that story. I'm not disappointed but Saturday felt a lot harder than 2008, when I broke 3:10, or previous attempts when I had least had some moments of feeling really good. Maybe the first hour on Saturday wasn't bad, but after that it was just hard work every step of the way.

Finally, thanks to those who put on the event, and all the volunteers for their support. The Equinox is a great community happening and this is the 10th year I've been part of as a runner (4th), relay participant (3 of those) or volunteer/crossing guard (3 times).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

XC Series 2: Delta Junction 5K

Well the race went off smoothly. That is after a 2 hr drive to Delta, and then coaching/timing the high school racers (6 races in all), including a series of half mile to 1 KM intervals and a 3 mile walk over the course.

We had nine racers this time, showing a growth trend of about 30% per year. Next year I'll actually advertise in Delta, and should do more here. A little road trip here and there is a lot of fun, and I think the Delta course is the most fun of the entire series. Certainly the fastest. Through aspens on a 4 wheel drive trail, mostly flat with one substantial down and up (about 30-40 sec each) other than that flat/rolling. Next year's goal is to get 20 runners to line up.

Although there were no flag mishaps, someone stole our cookies and snack bars while the races were being run! Not kidding. After starting the racers we set out the food on a table, but not 10 minutes later the table had been picked clean. Not just eating all the goodies, but taking the boxes too. Weird.

Thanks to the Mike Pelto and the Delta crew for setting up the course and putting on the high school races. A community 5K is a good fit following that.

Here are the results. This year the race was closer than it has been, with four runners in the 20 min range. Former Delta Junction Runner Garrett St. Peter threw in a mid race surge to finish 13 seconds ahead of Cameron Bryant. Sara Gordee won the women's race by almost 3 minutes.

1. Garrett St. Peter 20:04
2. Cameron Bryant 20:17
3. Brian Aillaud 20:43
4. Mike Pelto 20:56
5. Sarah Gordee 23:32
6. Whit Aillaud 24:18
7. Ellen Clark 27:28
8. Jay St. Peter 28:45
9. Liz Cogen 30:10

Friday, September 13, 2013

XC Series 1: Golden Leaf 8K; that was messed up!

You can read about it here in the Fairbanks Daily NewsMiner.

As the one who started this little cross country running series here a couple years ago, I like to have a well marked course so there is no confusion. In fact I take pride in it. Practically nothing is worse in a race (as long as you're not sick or injured) than not knowing which direction you are going. We spent two and a half hours setting up the course on the UAF West Ridge trails on Thursday afternoon. First I went through and marked the course with white marking paint, and then Tamara and I went through again and delineated turns/direction with red pin flags. All was good by 4 PM, which gave me enough time to reconoiter and get ready for registration, which started at 5, and the 6 PM start.

Being a mid-week race relatively close to the Equinox Marathon it's not easy to attract a lot of racers, but we had 11 adventurous runners sign up for the 8K. I explained the course to each of the entrants and then went over it again right before the start.

For those familiar with the UAF trails the planned route was:

Start at the Timing Hut (octagon) and head west
Turn right on gravel road (south) and then take the right into the "Stadium" (heading east),
Follow the Skaarland Loop for another mile, then a hard left onto Baseline Trail (west)
Baseline to the Gravel Road and turn left (south) to Potato Field
Loop counter clockwise to Potato Field until Midnight Express and run that counter clockiwise
Back onto Potato Field and then to the "Lighted Trail" and up the hill to Big Whizzy
Down Big Whizzy to the connector about half way down, and then across until the connector meets with the commutuer/Equinox trails
Split off those at Calypso and take that up the hill to the old satellite dish and back to the timing hut.

I had every intersection and cross path marked with arrows and flags. No problem, right?


After the start I zipped down on my bike to the Potato Field and saw the lead seven or eight runners go by (led by Max Kaufman who was holding about a 6:15 per mile pace), all looked good. So I rode to the top of big Whizzy and waited a few mnutes. Suddenly the second place runner, Adam Albright, appeared. He'd been doing about 7 minute miles when I saw him, and with less than a half mile to go he was heading to finish, well under 30 minutes. I scrambled back and two more runners came through quickly. They'd only run 4.07 miles, had missed the Midnight Express, and I was baffled.

We waited another 7 or 8 minutes before Max came in, well off the 6:20 pace (or so) I was expecting, even with the big hills on the second half of the circuit. Tales of woe and confusion ensued. (although everyone was in good humor).

When Tamara and I finally got out there after the racers had finished we found that a row of pin flags in the Potato Field had been moved. At the lower end of the the Potato Field I had blockd off the access to Smith Lake and the "Diagonoal" section that leads back to the top of the Potato Field instead of following the outside of the loop, which would lead to Midnight Express, some 50 or 60 meters later.

Someone had moved the flags! Now why would anyone do that!??? I don't think it was malicious, nor do I believe someone was innocently trying to help out. More at the level of a childish prank.

Lesson learned, I need more help putting on these races and we need a forerunner on a bicycle. Someone who is familiar with the course and can fix things. That said, I've never ever seen this happen in a race.

The best I can say is sorry runners.

So,here are the results:

4.07 miles
Adam Albright 27:21
Charlie Parr 28:03
Austin Johnson 28:27
Elizabeth Cogan 48:04

5.1 to 5.4 miles

Max Kaufman 35:42
Anna Worden 40:43
Nick Konefal 41:49
Jane Lanford 42:36
Dan Bishop 42:44
Dan Callahan 42:51
Lee Kenaston 47:59

Based on where people were when they went through at 2.4 miles and at the finish
1. Max Kaufman (6:30s pace)
2. Adam Albright (6:43 pace)
3. Charlie Parr (6:55 pace)
4. Austin Johnson (6:59 pace)
5. Nick Konefal (8:00s pace)
6. Dan Bishop (8:10s pace)
7. Dan Callahan (8:10s pace)
8. Lee Kenaston (8:50s pace)

1. Anna Worden (7:40s pace)
2. Jane Lanford (7:50s pace)
3. Elizabeth Cogan (12 min pace)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A wet but fast Musk Ox Run

Decided to jump into the final race of the local trail series as a tune up for upcoming races. Ha, my plan was to run at a moderate effort, about 1:20, and I'd only push the middle 10-12 minutes. Heading over it seemed slightly grim, with low-slung clouds and a light to steady rain which had been going on all day.

But a funny thing happened at this normally low-key event, a bunch of fast runners came out of the woodwork they set a quick pace right away. A quarter mile into the 11 mile trail race I was going much faster than planned and I was in about 10th and fading.

I had reviewed earlier placings (before and after the 5-6 year hiatus from the local schedule) and usually a sub 1:20 would net a top 5, but not this year. So my strategy changed from a lope at marathon pace to something faster than that. Still I didn't want to go hard the entire way, so I hung back in 10th-12th and let the other guys fight it out for the first 4 miles or so, some 15-30 seconds ahead. I even power walked up about half of the steep climb off of Red Fox/Skaarland trail, leading to Skyline Ridge. I fell back even a bit more, but over the top I started catching up. I caught the pack (about 7 guys) just before the little loop by Ski Boot Hill Road leading to the KUAC tower. I figured most (being 10 to 30+ years younger) would have better leg speed on the downhill, so I passed them all and surged for the final 1:00 or 1:30 over the top. Only 2 (both early-mid 20s) went with me. I kept the surge on the downhill until Moose Trail before settling in again. After that I just wanted a steady effort--but not too hard because I'd planned a 20 miler on the weekend and I wanted something left. One of the guys took off on the steep decline and he was gone. But the other one stayed close so I just keyed in and tried to run efficiently.

We didn't plan to tie, but Andy took a wrong turn at the parking lot (heading toward Equinox Trail), so I kind of slowed up for him to catch up and we ended up crossing at the same time. 45 seconds faster than my only other effort here, in 2011, a race in which I twisted my foot and popped/stretched a ligament and injury that bothered me for more than a year.

So the effort was harder than expected, but not extending all out (pushed harder in the half marathon the other week). It was another good day on the trail, and the casual post-race barbeque was fun (although at 50F and drizzly, a bit cool and damp).

1 Chris Eversman 1:13:28
1 Devin McDowell 1:13:28
3 R. Bryant Wright 1:15:16
4 Roger Sayre 1:16:02
4 Andy Johnson 1:16:02
6 Alex Morris 1:17:18
7 Simon McLoughlin 1:17:34
8 Brian Atkinson 1:17:39
9 Max Kaufman 1:19:39
10 David Fee 1:19:59