Monday, April 27, 2009

My First Trail Run

Saturday I did my first trail run: The Los Trancos loop at Foothill Park. I was wearing my new trail shoes
that I got at Zombie Runner.

It seemed like a good idea to do such runs with a partner, since you are far from any help if you take a spill (or get jumped by a mountain lion ;). So I went with my running partner, Jeff, who happens to know his way around all the local trails.

It was a little tough...we started out climbing right off the lead in or warm up. In about a minute I was clocking 140+ bpm. Eventually it got better but I still had to power-walk the steepest bits...just could not keep up a climbing pace that wasn't a walk.

The trail we end up on as part of this loop is called the "21 bridges trail"....these days the bridges are numbered so you can keep track as you cross each one.

The trail is beautiful. It starts in very dense forest but eventually you hit the summit (1800') at a clear meadow. The backside valley you drop into takes you down to the river with a cute little falls.

Along the way you're treated to the smell of bay laurel and many kinds of flowers (lupine, iris) in bloom.

There are some really nice things about trail running:

1) Hills. No better way to build strength (and hence speed).

2) Less pounding, more varied foot/leg motions. Good for avoiding overuse injuries.

3) Views, nature, quiet, solitude.

4) The hills make it very difficult to track your pace vs heart it's a chance to ignore all that and just listen to your body.

It was great. I plan to make this a regular part of my training. At some point I'm going to find a race or two. Perhaps
even someday I'll try a 50k.

Here's my garmin track of the run.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not every run can be a PR....

Here's a news flash: not every race is going to result in a new PR (personal record).

If you've followed the previous postings, it looks like I'm on a path to the Olympic Trials 8). Well, of course not. I'm 53 and I have (hopefully) a couple of years of asymptotic improvement before we begin the long, slow, um, slowdown....

So here's the thing:

While you can do it, your a fool not to try. Someday, when i can't run at all, I'm going to look back at all my training and races and savor the memories. Hopefully, I'll still be motoring along at some kind of pace (and the best in my age group 8), but if not, I'll still remember the amazing training runs and races I've experienced.

It's not about extending your lifespan to that of a Galapagos Tortoise, it's about enjoying the Here and Now. Yes, you can eat good food and not gain weight and yes, you feel like a million bucks when you sprint up a flight of stairs. It's a wonderful feeling.

However, getting up at 5am for a 20+ mile run seems insane to a lot of people. Let me confess to you that as crazy as it sounds, I wake up at 4am chomping to start. The feeling I have is best described by the phrase "the horse has gotta run"....the horse being "shank's mare" as they used to say in colonial times, (i.e. one's legs). Maybe it's just endorphins and incredible moonrise views, but it's unforgettable what ever it is. You feel really alive in a way that you'll never forget.

So, be gentle with your body, but gradually push it, prod it, and see how fast and/or far you can go. You'll find it's an amazing journey into yourself and what makes you tick, and you'll feel great, even if your gradually slowing down.

The endpoint we all know..... So keep it moving! 8)


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Santa Cruz Half Marathon

On the spur of the moment this week, I decided to register for the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. Some shorter races are good speed practice for the marathon and this looked like a really nice one.

Come Sunday and what a beautiful day it was for this race. Sunny, no wind, ocean and bluffs, pelicans, etc. A bit warm for the forecast but I should be done racing by 10am, so not too bad.

If you've read my story about pacing for the Napa Valley Marathon, you know it's a big decision for your race: "how fast can I do it?".

No angst figuring out a pace for this race....given my recent training history (and the fact that it was "only" a half marathon) I set out to run an 8:30 pace.

How the heck did I pick this pace?

Well, I've done a number of training runs at faster paces lately (working on speed) and found that doing a 9:00 pace over a 10 miler required a heart rate (average) of 125 bpm. This is not a very fast heart rate for me since my max heart rate is ~168, (verified on a doctor's treadmill). In January I ran half marathon a time trial on the track at a 8:50 pace (127 hr)...I also felt I could go faster and hold the pace in a real race. My previous best 10k race (Sept) was at a 8:20 pace...I'm in better shape now than then, but I didn't think I could do the entire half marathon at that pace.

This course is not dead flat, but the hills are not very big: just some rolling 30-60 foot dips and rises here and there.

Anyway, 8:30 pace it is.

The scene at the 8am start is relaxed. The sun is up and it's about 55 degrees and getting warmer. The surfers are out and the air smells of the ocean.

At T-10 minutes the PA fires up and they let us know we'll be going out before the 10k runners. Yay! There are fewer of us so that will make the first few miles less congested. They also tell us that this year is a record number of women entries: 65% of the racers!

At T-6 minutes I chug down and discard the small bottle of water I've be keeping for this moment.

5..4..3..2..1 Bang! We're off with a loud canon shot.

The course immediately heads up onto the aptly named Cliff Dr. Popping up 50 feet it takes us through a fancy neighborhood on top of the bluffs. It's quite congested for the first half mile so I can't get up to my target pace. A particularly chatty-cathy group of girls insists on running 4-abreast which is very impolite and annoying..must get away from all that yakking! They don't seem to be working hard at all, sigh. What do they think this is, a fun run? Gradually it thins out a bit and I can get around the gossipers and pull ahead. Oops, clocked a few sub 8:00 quarters....slow down a bit, silly!

First water stop comes up at about 2 miles and I chug a cup. They have lots of great volunteers for this race, which is really far I'm liking this race setup.

By the time I get to the 10k mark, I've been doing an 8:20 pace and I'm doing ok, but definitely going fast for me. I'm glad to be a little under my goal pace because it's going to get hotter (probably 65 already) and I conjecture some time reserve might be a good idea. Along the way we've passed a few people clearly going out too can tell at a glance from the breathing and the stride deterioration when somebody is eventually doomed to slow down.

We hit a section of the race that is on dirt trails and they are lumpy and stony in places which takes a bit more energy for the same pace. Around me I'm getting to know the same set of people by sight...we pass each other as each of us speeds up or slows down depending on how we are feeling and how hard we like running up-hills vs down-hills. Almost all of these people are younger than I am. Some of them have clothes that make me hot (thermally) just looking at them...tight fitting spandex pants to the knee, long sleeve tech shirts, etc. probably seemed like a good idea at the start...

The trails are narrow enough that you can't run abreast with each other so we are all spaced out nicely (although there is good room to pass). At one point, I raise my head and I look down the bluffs and I'm treated to a surreal view of a sinuous line of people running down the coast..legs all pumping madly...

At around 8 miles we are off the dirt and heading back the way we came. At the water stops now I take two cups and dump one of them down my this point it's "Half-In, Half-On" . It feels good, if a bit shockingly cold...I can tell I'm running hotter that my usual morning training runs. Every few minutes we pass somebody walking...

This course is an out-and-back for most of it and we are now sharing the course with the slower runners still coming our way. Many are walking. As I get to the 10 mile mark my legs are really starting to feel it. It's very hard to hold my 2:07 quarter miles now and I can see my average pace gradually losing ground toward 8:30. The game now is to hang on.....some of the group I've been with has pulled away from me, some has fallen behind. We are passing more walkers now and sometimes fast and fresh people blow past us ..(hmm must have really going slow for the first 2/3). There are no more chatty-cathys out here. Everybody is doing hard breathing now.

At this point, I'm counting down the quarters to 13.1.....we're past all the hills and just trying to hold our pace as best we can. It feels hot...somebody has a hose with water spray and I take a pass through it. It's cold! (Or I'm hot).

The volunteers have been offering free power gels at several stops...I have no desire...I just want water...

My average pace continues to slip a bit but we've come so far its got a lot of weight behind it now...thank god for that. I'm really feeling dead in the legs, but I still crank out sub 2:07 some of the quarter splits so it's not total 'fall apart time'. However, I'm very glad to be almost done...for the final downhill off the bluffs and onto the beach we kick it up a bit. Then we have to walk in the sand to clear the finish...ewww...that's not fun!

Somebody hands me a medal, and another a bottle of water. Both are nice to have!

Our time: 1:51:26, which is almost exactly an 8:30 pace. Yay!

Finished 450/2604 overall
Finished 19/114 in my age group
Age Graded time: 1:36:02 time (7:20 pace)

Here's my garmin track.