Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Saguaro National Monument 8 Mile Race

I ran faster, but everyone else seemed to run MUCH faster. 5th place, 47:27, and 44 seconds better than my PR for the course (set last year).

Here's that profile pic of the course I posted before, so your children can follow along at home:

My race plan was to run the first three miles conservatively, hopefully around 5:45-5:50 pace, then to turn it on and race the rest of the course hard. I've noticed through tracking my old splits that I tended to go out fast, then run the last half of the race at the same pace every year as I stomped along on legs worn out from the early hills. By keeping something in reserve, I felt I could make up some good time on the last three rolling miles.

The reserves just weren't there. A 5:28 and 5:32 for the first two miles found me in 4th place, with second and third dangling 50 and 20 meters ahead. These first miles I tried to just fall down the steep hills, turning over the legs quickly with shorter strides, which seemed to take less of a toll (and less time) than braking and holding myself back. Mile three found everyone slowing during the first uphill half, and when I came through in 5:47 I was a little concerned because I found the effort fairly taxing.

The huge hill I was saving up for loomed, and at 3.5 miles I started scrambling up it. My mental scenario of starting to pull runners back here started to evaporate as I found myself at the limit while they seemed to be gaining ground. So much for considering myself a hill warrrior and banking on all the inclines I'd covered in training. Mile 4 passed in 6:09, but from here it just keeps going up for another full mile. This was a hard portion to run alone, and looking beyond me to see second place well gone and third slowly getting further away dampened my spirits as I tried to find a way to breathe through my ears to get more air. The watch read 6:47 when the mile finally ended, which wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared here.

Finally the road started to tilt downward, but the fast feet I was wearing and turning over easily early in the race were now starting to stick to the road. I did my best to lean the whole body a little bit forward, but I was just too far gone to make the most of the downhills. A 5:51 for mile 6 shows this, and 6 flat for mile 7 actually had me thinking that things might really end badly. I usually don't go so far into the negative during shorter races, but footsteps behind dampened my already dull spirits.

As I tried in vain to separate myself from the runner coming up, I saw a tall shadow and heard the familiar late-race wheezing of my pal Lucas. Once I knew it was him I actually cheered up a bit, as we work well together. As we started up the hill though, a familiar voice shouted "Lucas, I'm coming to get you!". Then a funny thing happened: Lucas swore. It was so out of character that I was actually smiling, even as our friend Scott came up on us. He clearly had a bit more in the tank than either Lucas or myself, and after running even and exchanging a few words he put the screws to us as both of us faltered. Before the race Scott asked me to store a few things in my bag by the finish line, and as he showed us his heels I had just enough energy to say "I'm throwing your keys in the desert". Lucas and i finally made the last turn, with me taking 5th and him taking 6th.

I know all the guys who beat me fairly well, and I'm honestly very happy for their successes. Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm a bit distressed at what seemed to be a changing of the guard. Quite frankly, I had it handed to me today by places 2 and 3, and I can't help but feel I should have been able to run with them. These thoughts are unfortunately crowding out the fact that I ran a personal best for the course, but the camaraderie of summiting the last hill with two good friends (even while suffering badly) is a bright memory that will endure.

Results are posted.

It was great seeing and chatting with Phil, who made it down from Phoenix to run this race for the first time. Stop by his blog and read his excellent race report. As always, he has some nice photos to go with it.

Race: 8 miles, 47:27, 5th place, 12 miles total


Eric said...

Nice run, Mike. That's a big PR on a course you have run several times over the years. Looks like your PR has improved every year, and by over two minutes since the first time you raced it. Can't ask for much more than that.

I have to ask...what happened to the conservative start?

Mike said...

I was losing 100 feet of elevation for each of those miles, so I think the speeds were more due to improved turnover going down rather than any effort on my part. During the first mile I would zip down in front of the pack on the downhills, then run easily on the uphills as many runners passed me. I thought it was less stressful than forcefully braking with bigger strides down the hill, which seemed to be what many runners were doing. My hips and glutes are a bit happier today for it.

Still, point taken.

Thomas said...

I have to correct you here; last year a 47:27 would have given you 6th rather than the 5th you got today, so I don't think you can claim everyone else ran much faster.

Apart from your pal Lucas, that is. Wow, he improved by 2 minutes. Can you persuade him to write a blog of his own? Maybe I should try and mimic his training rather than yours....

Anonymous said...

I can't comment on "changing of the guard", but you might just have had an "off" race. Happens to the best of runners...

On a completely unrelated note, how is Sabino recovering from last year's floods? Did they manage to clean up the debris?

Mike said...

Joseph, the recovery is slow with all the silt deposited in the washes changing the erosion patterns. The park service originally planned to have all the trails reopened by September, but there's no way that's happening. Now they say by December. It's still beautiful up here.

Thomas, I know you live to correct me (and every other blogger). That's why we love you so much. Wenneborg, who won, ran about a minute faster than he did last year. 2nd and 3rd place have never run the race before, but I've beaten both runners all but one time during the past year. 4th place hasn't beaten me since 2005. All four runners are class acts. Wenneborg was the only runner in front of me this year from last year's top 5, so going by last year's results doesn't necessarily give you an accurate picture. Nice to see you digging them up though.

With this in mind, my statement that everyone else seemed to run much faster seems accurate to me. If it comes off sounding like an excuse, it isn't meant to.

Marc said...

Mike - great report and a great race. Congrats on the PR.

Did you ever figure out that breathing through the ears thing?

Greg said...

Sounds like a race to remember. Nice job!

Abadabajev said...

5th place, 47:27, and 44 seconds better than my PR

Congratulation. Good PR.

I'm slowly catching up to your blog database.

On Friday August 31, you did 19.6 miles in 2:10:03 [6:39 pace].

Let's add 3 more minutes for an even 20 miles which is now 2:13:03 and then another 14 minutes to buffer things up a bit for a grand total of 22 miles(2:27:03)

My point here is that you ran faster than Peter Snell's long Sunday runs prior to his Olympic achievements. That is fast. Good luck with your marathon in October.

Grellan said...

Great race Mike. Did you have a time expectation or was it position that you were going for. It just seems that you are more than a little dissappointed with a 44 second PB. Would you have been happier with a slower run for a better position. I'll take a PB any day as a top 10 finish for me doesn't even happen in the land of nod.

Love2Run said...

Nice report and great race Mike. It's great to race with friends, even if they end up beating you. Great memories for sure!

Andrew said...

Great race report! Friends do make a difference.

Blaxabbath said...

Swell job there, Mike. And don't feel too bad -- Greg is a freak. Dude eats hot dogs after 5:30am training runs.

But just remember:

Running downhill^(beard) = PRs

Phil said...

Great race Mike. Running up the last mile of that hill in 6:47 is simply amazing from the perspective of those of us in the middle to the pack and doing it alone with no one to share the pacing must have been tough. I think you've demonstrated that all your hill work did make a difference.

Congrats on your PR. Although you got beat by 4 guys (that was 4 out of 570 runners), you still demonstrated that you are continuing to improve and taking 44 seconds off your previous record is still 5 sec/mi faster, regardless of what Scott or Lucas or anyone else did on Monday. It was simply an impressive run.

Great talking with you again. I always appreciate your encouragement and guidance. I hope to make it down to Tucson for at least one more race this season.

Mike said...

Phil, you always have a good perspective on this kind of stuff. Thanks, it was great seeing you too. Our 10 miler is a good chance for a PR, hopefully you can make it down. The whole family goes to that one.

Blax, you're right about Greg. However, I'd be guilty of the same hot dog affliction if I lived closer to Pat's.

Grellan, I actually discussed my projected time with the winner before the race. When he asked, I said 47:29, which just seemed like a good number (around 5 seconds or so faster per mile than my best). I ended up running that less 2 seconds, which is strange.

As for your question about time versus place, look to the new post. You got me thinking with that one.

Dusty said...

Great job on the new course PR.

Don't let it mess with your head tho -- like you said, you ran faster, they just had a much faster day. Your mind is strong, don't let it tell yourself you have handed off the batton... or your thoughts will become true. Something I've been working on myself this week.

I laughed when I read "rolling hills" - they look like more than that to me on the graph! Don't beat yourself up - it looks like you ran a fantastic race.