30 January 2014

Chomping At The Bit

I ran a short, easy 3.1 miles this morning to finish off a 143 mile January.  Tomorrow is a rest day and Saturday is the Death Valley marathon - 576 miles run since Oct 1st going into it with weekly long runs in the 13-21 mile range since early November and three half marathons plus several other races along the way.

Tapering started on Jan 18th with, excluding the half marathon last weekend, only running six times in the 3.1 to 4.60 mile range.  Tapering has been a little tough, mainly mentally.  I want take off and either really push the pace on these short runs or extend them out to a much longer distance and have to remind myself to keep myself in check so the legs are fresh and injury free going into this first marathon.  I now have a new appreciation for the term "chomping at the bit".

25 January 2014

Running From An Angel - 25 Jan 14

Running From An Angel finisher's medal
I ran my final pre-marathon tune-up race this morning and it was a hilly half marathon at Lake Mead. It was Calico Racing's 7th and final Running From An Angel as they transition to a new race next year.  Calico always puts on good small events and this race was no exception.

Unlike my previous races at Lake Mead which involved running south of Boulder Beach using the old railway tunnel trails, this run left the Boulder Beach picnic area and headed north on Lakeshore Drive as an out-and-back course. After leaving the starting gate, we had a gradual climb for about 1/4 of a mile before turning onto Lakeshore.  The next 3.5 miles were a series of rollers and some short flatish sections.  After that we began a series of one mile long stretches of downhill, uphill, downhill to the turn around point where the elevation change reversed for the return route. Elevation-wise, the race start was at 1261 ft with the low point of 1194 at the two mile mark and the high point of 1451 ft at the 5.9 mile mark. Temperatures were 50 at the start and 60 at the finish.

We got our packets the night before (my wife ran the 10K) and showed up to the race about 20 minutes before my race began.  A quick restroom stop and I headed to the start-line to await the 7:30 start-time. About 5 minutes before the start, the race director gave us some final instructions and called out a couple of birthdays in the running crowd.  She also pointed out and congratulated the runners who were finishing their Calico Half Slam (four half marathons with Calico Racing in a one calendar year period) with this race.  Finally, we posed for a group photo and then she counted down the final seconds as they ticked off the clock.  Just like that, we were off.

I made it a point to not go out too fast at the start and hit the first mile in 9:20.  Mile 2 was the low point of the race and I hit it in 18:40.  Yep, pretty consistent for the first two miles. The next mile was pretty much all uphill and my pace slowed accordingly - 29:02 at the three mile mark.  After that, the next 3.5 miles were the same with me losing time on the uphill sections and gaining a little bit back on the downhills.  I reached the turn-around right at the 1:05 mark and began to wonder if I could make it back in a sub-2:11.  Shortly after the turn-around, a short blond lady who had been flip-flopping places with me from miles 4-6 passed me and I picked up my pace to go with her.  We kept up a steady pace and hit the 9 mile mark right at the 1:30 mark.  At some point over the next two miles, we began to pick the pace up and by the 11 mile mark, we had slipped to a 1:49 mark.  At that point, I began thinking to myself that I just needed to hold it together for two more miles and a 2:11 was in the bag.  With about 1/4 of a mile to go, we turned downhill and I took off.  As the finish line came into view, I was shocked to see 2:08 flashing on the time.  As I came around the final corner, I went into a full kick and crossed the finish line with a 2:08:40 chip time and 2:08:47 gun time which means I shaved over 4:30 off my previous best!  About 15 seconds later, the lady I was pacing off from crossed the finish line and I thanked her for the pacing as we had our timing chips removed.  Post-race, I enjoyed some chips, applesauce and chocolate milk before heading out with the wife to enjoy a greasy burger from Five Guys.

Next weekend is the Death Valley Marathon and with this huge PB in the half, I am feeling really good going into it.

20 January 2014

New Shoes

...my new Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2 shoes...
OK, I lied...sort of. I planned on getting a pair of Hoka shoes after Death Valley.  However, yesterday afternoon, my wife and I made a trip to the Red Rock Running Company to get her some new shoes and I tried these on.  A couple of laps around the parking lot and I was smitten.

I wore them for a short run this morning and they felt great.  My plan is to run with them on all my runs between now and Death Valley and then use them solely for my long runs after that.

Yes, my wife left the store with a new pair of shoes as well.

18 January 2014

...long slow distance and a look-back...

Ran 21 miles this morning at Lake Mead...legs feel great.  This was my final long run on this training cycle.  I am two Saturdays out from the Death Valley Marathon and have the Running From An Angel half marathon next weekend at Lake Mead.

My plan for the next two weeks is pretty simple.  I am backing off quite a bit on mid-week mileage with the intent of keeping the legs fresh.  I am not necessarily taking extra days off, just cutting the runs down to the 3-5 mile range.

One issue I am having is my feet are getting sore on my long runs. It happens in the 15-18 mile range.  I have decided that I am getting myself a pair of Hokas post-marathon for future long runs.  I plan on taking two weeks of low mileage post-Death Valley before starting my spin up for the next round of races.

Weekly Mileage 1 Sep 13 - 18 Jan 14
Since I am at the tail end of a big training cycle, I decided to graph out my weekly mileage since September when I first started to get serious about the Oct-Feb races.  The second week is an outlier during which I had some major transitions going on in duties at work and unfortunately, did not make time to run.  The next lowest week (Oct 20-26) was my fitness eval which I wasn't going to mess around with due to its importance on my career.

In October, I ran my first 10 miler and had three runs over 10 with a long run of 11.39 miles.  In November, I had three runs over 10 with a long run of 14.83 miles (my first time running the Red Rock National Recreation Area Loop). December had three runs over 10 with a long of 17.15 miles.  So far in January, I have done three runs over 10 miles with a long of 21.  The toughest runs were the first of two Red Rock loops, the 18.33 mile trail run earlier this month and the hilly 10.31 mile trail run last week.  Overall, virtually all the runs have been hill runs with the majority of the running in the 2300-3000 ft elevation range.  Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic marathoner and gold medalist) said "Hills are speedwork in disguise".  Hopefully running all these hills bodes well for running a flat marathon at 200 feet below sea level.

11 January 2014


a pair of burros at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area
I ran a trail loop at Red Rock National Conservation Area this morning.  Four and a half miles in, the trail disappeared and I turned downhill to follow a dry creek bed.

After a few minutes run down the rocky creek bed, I finally saw wild burros.  These are the descendants of burros brought over to the New World by explorers and burros that were used by gold and silver miners in the 1800s.

According to information found on the BLM site, burros come from Africa and there are two primary populations of burros that the feral burros found in the Southwest descended from.  These are the Nubian and the Somalian. The Nubian are distinguished by a black stripe across the shoulders and another down the middle of the back.  This gives the appearance of a cross when viewed from above. The Somalian is distinguished by leg stripes on both front and hind legs that resemble a zebra's markings.

Back to the run, the uphill trail was tough and slow.  However, the pace picked up after I stopped to grab some photos of the burros as I picked my way through the rocks on the gradual downhill back to the parking area.  The run ended up being 10.3 miles and is not a route I will choose to do again due to the ankle twisting potential on the creek bed and the lack of markings on the trail.

04 January 2014

trail running

This morning I ran 18.33 miles with the first 17 miles on a dirt trail that was full of gravel.  As the evidence on the left and right of this post shows, road shoes and trails don't mix.

I closed out a 44 mile week and am four weeks out from the Death Valley Marathon.

02 January 2014

New Year's Day - 2014

On the water at Lake Mead - New Year's Day, 2014
The morning of Jan 1st found me doing something that I had no idea I was doing 24 hours earlier.  When I got home from work on New Year's Eve, there was a post on Facebook about the 1st Annual Polar Bear swim at Lake Mead's Boulder Beach.  Sure enough, we were out there with me as a rescue kayaker and my wife swimming.  There were about 20 swimmers who completed the 400 meter open water swim.   Temperatures were 58 degrees for the water and 48 degrees for the air.

I parked the kayak near the turnaround buoy.  Two ladies, including my wife, took the lead and quickly swam to the buoy, posed for a picture and pushed back to the shore.  In between their turnaround and the next arrivals, the photographer snapped the quick picture of me.  After that, I continued to stay at the buoy until the last swimmer reached it and turned back to shore.  Once everybody was back on the beach, I hopped out of my kayak and enjoyed some hot chocolate.

Oh yeah, afterwards, I went for a fast 10.28 mile run that took me from the Boulder Beach picnic area on an out-and-back through five tunnels (yes, the same tunnels from a couple recent races) by the Hoover Dam.

Overall, it was a great way to spend the first morning of 2014.