Sunday, March 12, 2006

1:15:50-something, 8th place

Day has begun, and I stumble to the front
There's no real control of a random event

And I will take my chances
'Cos anything can happen
I don't believe it's over
'Cos anything can happen

I could never give it up, I could never relent
And I can't wait to see what will happen to me next

-Finn Brothers, "Anything Can Happen"

A crazy winter storm left snow on all the mountain peaks around Tucson, but luckily for us the rain and to some extent the wind relented for the Arizona Desert Classic half marathon, a John (the Penguin) Bingham joint. Yes, a race for every pace.

This race came a week after my longest run ever, and at the end of my half-way mark of Lydiard conditioning. I've been sick, the kids have been horribly sick, and Kiera really caught the worst of it last night. Not the best of circumstances, but it was a free entry and a chance to run as part of a team, and also a chance at a free trip to Chicago if our Running Shop team could finish ahead of any other Arizona shoe store team.

Given my well-documented "difficulties" in running tempo pace last week, as well as my dead legs, mucous-filled lungs and mystery-groin-adductor-inguinal-hernia pain, I wasn't expecting too much beyond trying to run fast alongside my friend and teammate Lucas. Our other teammate was Jess, who is a good female local runner.

To add to the drama of the start, with about 5 minutes 'til gun time I couldn't find my car to stow our warm-up gear. I was separated from Lucas, who somehow found the car easily, and by the time I found him (and thus the car), we only had a few minutes to get to the line. With 30 seconds to go we were at the back of the pack. I worked my way through quickly, with (mostly) polite nudges given to (mostly) understanding runners. Lucas got caught about half-way.

The gun went off and Lucas and I quickly found each other. An elite group with a few Kenyans and some others quickly flew away from us, and we found ourself at the front of a second chase group of about 6 athletes. The race is on hilly course, and the first three miles had a net uphill. We went out conservatively, as was our plan, and hit the first mile in 5:48. As we continued, a few fast starters came back to us. We passed all but one, a fellow named Andre who is a good triathlete and also a 2:42 marathoner. He knew us, we knew him, we all knew we had a good thing going so we started to work. This quickly meant the end of our other compatriots, as we were able to run them off by the end of mile 2. Not much too exciting took place for most of the race, we all took turns, had our good and bad moments, and probably ran fairly even splits, although most (if not all) of the mile-markers were off. For example, I had 5:48, 11:53 (for 2 and 3 combined), 6:09, 5:18, 6:20, 11:05 (7 and 8), 5:54, 5:51, 5:55, 5:56, and 4:59.

The plan Lucas and I came up with was to run and work together through mile 10, then go if either or both of us were feeling good. We knew from running the course a few weeks back that there was a fairly long downhill from about mile 11 all the way to 12.5 miles or so, and it was obvious that while I was the pace-setter on all the uphills, Andre could drop the hammer on the downhills. It would be tricky, especially since the last 1/4 mile was also net downhill, though there was about 800 meters of mean uphill separating the downhill slope of the finish from the downhill section we were coming to. With this in mind, I did some gesturing on Andre's blind side to Lucas to indicate I was going to give it a go while we were still on the uphill. Apparently Lucas and I need to work on our secret signals, because he later told me he thought I was shaking out a cramp. Go figure. I surged on the last section of the uphill, trying to break Andre before we pounded downhill. I anticiapated dropping him, then running scared the rest of the way. He stuck like glue, I just about blew up, and all I ended up doing was separating myself from Lucas. Now we were on the downhill and Andre, with his fluid stride, started to put the hurt on. It was the Tucson half-marathon all over, getting passed and dropped with less than two miles to go.

But anything can happen. Just when I was at the limit, and still losing ground, Andre hit the uphill section and I started gaining. He was slipping back and I was giving it just about the maximum to keep it that way. I drew even and passed, and ran like hell. At the last turn I looked and he was gone. I broke 1:16, but not by much. Lucas came in just after Andre, but because of his late start he actually beat him on chip time, which embarassed Lucas to no end.

We ran a very slow cool-down, with me having to stop everytime I had to cough for fear of the "tearing my leg off" feeling I get from the mystery pain (it's only this bad when I'm utterly spent). All in all, cool-down included, it was probably about two hours of running for about 19 miles. We won the team competition, which supposedly means a free trip to Chicago for another race. No baby-sitting though.

I came home to the house full of sickies, and finally relieved a very weary Kiera, who desperately needed a nap. So it's back to kind-of-sick dad now, feeding kids and getting them down for naps. All in all a solid days work, and a minute faster than the same race last year. The legs felt good, it was the lungs (and probably the sickness) that made it tough. I feel good about where I am for half-way through conditioning, and I'm looking forward to the future. Hope everyone had as nice a weekend (except for the whole super-family-virus thing).


D said...

NICE JOB MIKE! CONGRATS! I hope you and your entire family feel better soon!

Andrew said...

Wonderful job and great report. I felt like I was right there with you trying to figure out your signals!

Mike said...

Yeah, the hand signal was kind of like Michael Jackson when he started snapping his fingers in the "Beat It" video. Wow, that dates me.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Damn! Way to go!! Especially considering being sick and have mystery pain. Yay team Running Shop! Yay trip to Chicago! (if it ever comes about)

Paul said...

Nice job!

For your hand signal, I suggest the quick 'both arms crossed over head' model used by the fascists in Pink Floyd's "The Wall". You know, putting the hammer down.

Or just say "Can't touch this".

Now who's dated?

Evan said...

Good race. And even better to see the Finn brothers quoted. New Zealand music ...

Anonymous said...


great job! I've been following your blog since last fall and I'm always impressed. I'm becoming a student of Lydiard myself as I build up for my first marathon. You're a great example to learn from.



Dawn - Pink Chick said...

8th Place - wow and congrats! I can't even do 10k in that time.

Dirt Runner said...

Nice race Mike!

Thomas said...

We went out conservatively, as was our plan, and hit the first mile in 5:48. is a sentence I will never ever be able to say myself. Congratulations on a good race, and admit it, the hand signals were a secret attempt to confuse the opposition.

Duncan Larkin said...

One more "I improved" response to add to the Socratic question, "How can I prove that I need to stay with Lydiard's program?" Well done Mike. You throw all the sickness (family and personal), the stress, and the toil of all the single Herculean workouts you have done recently and you improve by over a minute year-to-year; brilliant. You should be smiling.

robtherunner said...

Well done Mike!The Running Room is lucky to have you.

robtherunner said...

I meant Running Shop. I think the Running Room is located in Canada eh.

Scooter said...

Nice race! And, if it works, what's the matter with "blindly following..."? Of course, the consultations with Nobby, etc. seem to indicate to the that none of this is blind. You're committed.

Meantime, a minor question - "we found ourself at the front of a second chase group of about 6 athletes." Did this mean you were part of a second chase group (third group overall) or a second group chasing (second group overall).

Zeke said...

Sweet!!! Nice job, Mike.

Sasha Pachev said...


Good job on the effort under tough circumstances. That kind of a non-PR get beat by the Kenyans race is what brings PR pass a few Kenyans at the end type of race later. Sounds like you are a tough racer.

I also took a closer look at your training log. Looks like you have increased your mileage from steady 45-55 miles a week with occasional dips and sporadic increases to 60-70 in the "pre-Lydiard era" to consistent 80-100. This kind of mileage increase tends to improve ones marathon and half-marathon performance almost under any circumstances.

However, I believe the key to your further improvement in the marathon is cutting your 5 K down to 16:00 on a flat course. Right now, if you raced a marathon at your 5 K PR you'd be barely under 2:22. You already can run a marathon in 2:39. Given a bit of a downhill, you run a half-marathon at the speed of your flat 5 K. Your marathon might be able to go up a bit without a substantial improvement in your 5 K, but not very much. You need to find something that improves your 5 K significantly.

Overall, I hope you do not see my comments as negative. All I am trying to do when it looks like it is share with you what I have learned in my training experience and warn you against the pitfalls that have hurt me in the past when I see that you might perhaps be headed in the same direction. Keep up the good work.

Mike said...

Thanks all, and especially Sasha. That "blindly following" thing just bent my nose out of shape a bit. Your comments that I need faster 5K speed actually echoes what Nobby and other Lydiard types have told me, and I am in total agreement. I haven't run a "real" flat 5K since May of last year, so I'm looking forward to one in May this year. My PR was actually on a very hilly grass and dirt cross-country course, complete with water jumps and hay-bales. I think I'm probably low 16's on the track at this point, and hopefully on the roads as well. We'll see. I always welcome a dialogue Sasha, so your comments are always welcome, thanks for sharing your insights, and thanks everyone for the kind words. Scooter, we were the second group, so I guess we were just the "chase pack".

edinburghrunner said...

Nice job Mike. I had to laugh at the 'conservative' 5:48 too...