Friday, November 25, 2005

Did I win a turkey??

I still don't know exactly how I did in yesterday's race, as the results aren't posted yet. What I do know and what I can say is pretty positive, especially coming from a usually self-deprecating runner like myself. Here's the story, and how Arthur Lydiard helped me-

My good friend Scott and I arrived almost an hour before our race, which was good because we had plenty of time to survey, preview, and run the entire course while warming up. The course was two loops, and featured lots of grass and dirt, plenty of tight turns, several small and two large hills, and also assorted hay bales and water jumps. It was fun to run as a twosome trotting along, but I was afraid of what would happen when 260 men ran it at the same time (the women raced separately).

My first thought was "don't get hurt". I've been corresponding with Mark Coughlin, who in addition to being a great composer/songwriter/musician, is a very speedy runner who has won the Atlanta marathon. He was racing this year's Atlanta marathon on the same day, only weeks after cracking two ribs after falling on a cross-country course like this one while coaching his runners. After 18 weeks of solid training, I wanted to be very careful not to fall or turn my ankle on the off-camber portions of the course.

Lydiard is famous for saying "Everything is important". Part of what he means is considering the course in relation to your strengths and weaknesses, exploiting the former while minimizing the latter. Now I have very limited experience in wide "box starts", and this starting line was 50 yards wide and funneled into a 10 foot wide section just 300 meters or so out. I also figured that if I had a pretty clear view of the course I could stay out of prairie dog holes, muddy spots, and other trouble that could derail my training and leave me with an injury. Lastly, I knew that of all the 265 runners out there, I was probably the only one who had spent 4 weeks focusing on hill work to the tune of 3 workouts a week. I was on the line, it was time to go.

With the crack of the gun I sprinted out as fast as I could to get a good spot, and found myself in the first 15 or so by the first turn, which was where I was hoping to be. All those striders, as well as starting some track repeats helped me move my legs enough to get there. We dashed along a shallow drainage ditch, running single-file with a few passes, and I pretty much tried to hold my place and keep my breathing from getting too hypoxic. First mile 5:14, crap that's fast for such a winding, curvy course. A few in front of me seemed to find great despair with this split, knowing they were in over their heads and perhaps letting the watch run their race. I made up some ground here without really trying as I passed two dying runners and slipped ahead of another who was still moving strong. Now the two big hills, and I'm licking my lips. Raise the knee, straighten the back leg and push off, just like I did for a month straight, and I'm making up ground the whole way up. Down is tougher, with a small rocky water jump interrupting the freefall on one hill, then two hay bales and two water jumps breaking up the second.

One loop down, one to go and the legs are feeling a little rubbery from all the hard cornering. I'm used to running straight, and I'm more of a large touring model with a long wheelbase, not one of these young, high-revving sportscars lining up behind. Mile 2, 5:25 and I'm not so sure three is the magic number anymore as I start to hear a few set of cross-country spikes dancing behind me as we cross a short concrete section. They're closer now than at the second mile-marker, and and a quick peek after a turn reveals there are four of them, most in multi-colored singlets so they're high-school team guys and no-doubt have a kick. But I turn to face the road again and smile, the two big hills and a few turns are all that's left. I can't leave it for a sprint after what happened at the last time, so at the base of the first of the two hills I give it whatever gas I have left and just bound away. By the time I'm at the top I don't hear them anymore, and as I round the turn to start the last hill I know they are gone and there's one guy ahead I can reach. I go to the well once more, get even with him at the top, and pass him at the bottom of the downhill, just as we are maneuvering the last two hay-bales and water jumps. From there it's just holding on to the finish, a straight shot of about 150 meters. I cross the line in about 16:50, which is a P.R. on a measured course, and I'm pretty happy considering all the twists, turns and hills.

So thanks Arthur and Nobby, you helped me run a good race. I actually took the time to make a race plan after seeing the course, and I was able to use the tools I've developed through following Lydiard's first three phases to execute the plan to pretty good effect. I also have developed the confidence to know I will not fail spectacularly in a race after running the prescribed time-trials on my own. After running two solo 5K's and one 10K, I was chomping at the bit to try my form in an actual race. This feeling might be part of the point of those efforts.

I'm still waiting for them to post the results, although I figure I was probably somewhere between 8th and 12th overall. I was part of the Workout Group's team, so hopefully I scored some points for them. As far as the turkey and my placing goes, I wasn't able to wait around to find out. Kiera and the kids had gone up to Phoenix for Thanksgiving with my folks a day prior, and I had to catch a ride with my brother and his wife and three kids from the race. They pulled up just as Scott and I were walking from the finish line, so after a quick clothes-change into the mini-van I went. Nothing like a nice sweaty two-hour car ride in leiu of a cool-down, eh?

Thanksgiving was fun in Phoenix, and we drove back to arrive at about 8:15pm last night. After putting the kids down I was hoping for a 4 mile shake-out run before bed, but I was just too tired from the race, the drives, and the holiday activity. Today's 16 miler was a run down to Scott's house to pick up my car before heading to work. I'm looking forward to my weekend, which starts Sunday.

UPDATE: My friend Matt commented below that I was 15th of 389, which is a much larger field than I figured. Guess I missed out on a pie too, and I love pumpkin pie!

UPDATE PART 2: The results are up, I guess I was 10th of 384 men, and second in my age group.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1:52:57, 7:03 pace, a little tired at the end
Yesterday, 7 miles, including a 5K race run in 16:50 or so


Zeke said...

Awesome job PRing on a tough course, Mike. You're running awesome!!!

Hopefully the lack of a cooldown didn't affect you too much. You didn't mention it when you talked about your 16 miler, so I assume you're fine.

Thomas Sørensen said...

Wow. Great run and great report.

river trail matt said...


Well run yesterday! There were can you believe 389 in the men's race??? I believe you came 15th/389, I could only muster a 44/389, and an 8th in our age group. You were second, which meant you would have had a pumpkin pie if you could have remained. Glad to hear you had a great Thanksgiving and a good trip back. See you on the trail one of these days soon, and if not then out at the start of the half next weekend.

All the best.

Mike said...

Damn Matt, I was hoping for a pie. I saw you on the line but you were too far away for me to get your attention. Thanks Zeke, I'm feeling good, knock on wood. I really wanted a cool-down, but my bro and his family were really nice to wait for me as long as they did. Thomas, always good to hear from you and I hope you're getting all your runs in. Guess I'll go edit the post to reflect the results, though I liked 10th-12th better than 15th!

river trail matt said...

Well, 10th it was as you suspected. I knew your time, apologies for taking away places from you. Congratulations on a race well run! Too bad about the pie, maybe next year you'll have to settle for Turkey!