21 May 2014

500 miles

I hit the 500 mile mark for 2014 towards the end of my run this morning.  Only one song seemed appropriate...

18 May 2014

WildLand Fire Awareness Trail Half Marathon

The Bureau of Land Management hosted a free half marathon and 5K-race event on the trails in Red Rock Canyon in the Red Rock National Conservation Area this morning. Desert Sky Adventures did the race management and the volunteers were members of the local firefighting community who were raising money for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.  The event was limited to 300 runners and the spots filled up in less than 48 hours.  I got a spot for the half marathon and my wife ran the 5K.  Red Rock is gorgeous and I spent a decent amount of time training on the roads out there in the Nov-Mar time-frame.
Packet pickup went smoothly yesterday and was held behind the toll booths at the entrance to Red Rock.  We received nice tech shirts and a few firefighters were there with one of the probies doing one push-up for every dollar donated.  I have a hunch he did a lot of push-ups during the three hours that the pick-up was open.
This morning, we got up at 5 AM and left the house about 30 minutes later.  We got to the entrance of Red Rock a few minutes before 6 AM and found a parking spot near the visitor center.  While we waited for the time to tick down, we snapped some photos and talked to a friend from the Las Vegas Triathlon Club.
A few minutes before 7AM, Molly from Desert Sky Adventures gave the half runners some quick directions and then a firefighter led us in the National Anthem.  After that, it was race time.  Molly directed us to the start line, gave us a quick countdown and we were off.
The race started in the overflow parking area below the visitor center. We had a very short bit of pavement, maybe 50 meters, and then we started up the Grand Circle Loop. "Up" described the beginning of the run.  As soon as we hit the trail, we began to climb.  The trail ascended up mix of dry creek bed and singletrack. The surface was a lot of fine pebbles and sand on the climb and the creek bed had a lot of loose rocks.  At the 1.7 mile mark, I had to stop and dig some rocks out of my shoe that had been digging into my ankle since the .4 mile mark and I gained a new appreciation for the gaiters that I see some trail runners wearing.  After that brief pause, I continued up the hill.  
The first aid station was at the 3.6 mile mark where the trail crossed Scenic Loop Drive.  It was manned by two firefighters and was well stocked with Gatorade.  After a quick drink, I continued up the hill.  
At the four mile mark, the trail did a hard turn to the right as the White Rock Loop Trail joined the Grand Circle Loop and the climb decreased in steepness for the next .6 of a mile before starting a half mile of downhill.  After that brief reprieve, the trail began uphill for the next .8 miles and I continued up the hill.
Just before Mile 6, the trail crested and there was another aid station.  As before, it was manned by two firefighters and as an added plus, had ice in the Gatorade.  The sun was getting high in the sky and the temp were creeping into the 80s so the ice was welcome.
After getting a quick drink, I started down the trail for the easiest half mile of the trail.  It was a downhill section on the White Rock Mountain Road.  At the bottom of it, I crossed back over the Scenic Loop Drive on the Grand Circle Loop and began a series of rollers that took me to the next aid station at the 8.5 mile mark with another crossing of the Scenic Loop Dr at approximately 7.5 miles.  This stretch of rollers was primarily on rocky single track until I reach the sandstone slick rock at Mile 8 and dropped down into some more pebbly dry creek bed that took me to the aid station which was located int the Calico Tanks parking area.  After a quick drink, I crossed the parking lot and rejoined the trail.
The next two miles were a mix of single track and limestone slick rock with a lot of small up/down elevation change as the course worked its way through limestone boulders.  After slipping early on this section on the slick rock, I realized that this primarily downhill section was not going to be the quick part of the trail that I thought it was going to be.  At 10.5 miles, I climbed out of the slick rock canyon and grabbed my final cup of Gatorade at the aid station located at the Calico I parking area.  I pressed on down the hill.
At this point, the rest of the trail became single track with a lot of loose rocks.  Just before Mile 11, I crossed over the Scenic Loop Drive for the final time and soon after that, joined the Moenkopi Loop and stayed on that until I rejoined the Grand Circle Loop.  About a half mile back down the creek bed and I was at the finish at 2:36 which put me at 26th out of 107 finishers.  Given that early on I realized that this race was about finishing and staying injury free, I have zero complaints with this time and was shocked to see that I was that far up in the pack.  My knees, especially my left one, were aching from the twists of going over the rocks and my quads and calves were screaming from all of the elevation change.  
The takeaways from this race were that I learned a good challenging route that I can use for training once it starts cooling back down and if I ever get serious about trail running/racing,  I will need to invest in trail shoes because my road Hokas just did not get enough traction on the sandy/pebbly or slick rock sections.

04 May 2014

Labor of Love half marathon

I ran the Labor of Love half marathon yesterday morning.  It was at Lovell Canyon Canyon just west of Las Vegas. It was another quality event put on by Calico Racing and had distances of 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, 50K and 50 miles available for a wide variety of runners.  This was an add-on race for me at the end of season and was run for two reason: a) it was free due to volunteer credit with Calico Racing and b) it was half marathon number three of four in my Calico Half Slam.

The race started at 7:30 and I arrived at 6:45 for packet pick-up.  I parked at the designated parking area and caught to the shuttle to the start line.  Packet pick went smoothly and I stashed my new race shirt in my bag.  After that, I slipped on my Hokas and reached into my bag for my bib belt.  Small problem - no bib belt.  This was a simple fix and I went old school by pinning my bib on. Once I geared up, I dropped my bag off at the drop spot and wandered over to the start line.  A few minutes before 7:30, Joyce, the race director, called the half marathoners over to the start line for some quick instructions and a group photo and then we were off.

Labor of Love 2014 finisher's medal
The course was a paved out and back course.  The first 75-100 meters were downhill and then we began a climb with a few rollers that topped out at 4.7 miles.  The elevation changed wasn't huge but it was steady as we went from 4,681 feet to 5,393 feet over that distance.  Shortly after reaching the top, we began a rapid drop and went down in elevation approximately 350 feet over the next 1.1 miles (most of that drop was in the first third) before having another short climb to the turn around spot. On the way back, the climb from 7.4 to 8.5 miles was really tough and I found myself walking for the first time in a half marathon.  When I got to the top, I grabbed a drink from the aid station and trudged on.  At this point , the sun was in the sky and the temperature was creeping into the 80s.  As I began the long descent to the finish line, a strong headwind began blowing hot dry air into my face.  At this point, this race began to feel like the race that would never end and despite it being downhill, I just wasn't able to generate any decent pace.  I finally crossed the finish line and after getting my chip clipped off and collecting my medal, I headed straight to the refreshment table and grabbed a big slice of watermelon. After eating it, I changed my shoes back to a pair of sandals and caught the shuttle back to my car.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 2:35 which was 20 minutes slower than my previous slowest half and 37 minutes behind my PR set just last month.  I can't 100% pinpoint my weak performance to any one thing but know that I need to re-emphasize hills in my workouts and get back to a weekly long run on a regular basis.  I also need to pay more attention to pre-race nutrition.