28 September 2014

1000 Miles

While climbing up the hill last night in the early going of the half, I passed the 1000 mile mark for 2014.

That is all.

Twilight Red Rock Half Marathon

I ran the Twilight Red Rock Half Marathon last night.  It was put on by Calico Racing and was run on the roads at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

I ran a shorter version of this race last year, the Overlook Ascent  which was a 5.4 miler that covered the first 5.4 miles of the half marathon course.  When I ran that race last fall, it was my first race since 2000. I think that I have partially made up for it in terms of the sheer number of races I have run since that one.

Registration and packet pickup went smooth for this race.  The pickup was inside the Suncoast Hotel & Casino in Summerlin.  When I picked up my packet, I was a little surprised to see Joyce, the owner of Calico Racing, distributing packets with her small cadre of volunteers.  After she gave me my packet with the bib and timing chip in it, a volunteer gave me the choice between two shirt colors:  green or white.  I went with the green tech shirt since the white one looked like it would be slightly see through.  It was the same standard design (different graphics, of course) the previous races I have done with Calico and they hold up well through repeated workouts and washing.

On race night, Sarah and I went out for a light dinner and then drove over to Red Rock around 7 PM. Sarah was volunteering at an aid station otherwise I would have parked at Suncoast and caught one of the chartered buses from there.

Once we got there, it was immediately noticable that the temperature in Vegas has dropped over the last few days. Early in the week, we still had a 100 degree day.  When we arrived at Red Rock, it was 69 with a decent breeze.

a prerace selfie with my lifelong support team
After parking the car, I put on my race chip and got the rest of my gear out of my bag.  Since this was my final warmup before St George, I wore everything I plan on running with next Saturday to include my Hokas, socks, shorts, triathlon club tech shirt and visor (a Headsweats) and my Nathan belt with Powerade flasks and GU in it.  The only extras were the required reflective gear (wore my Amphipod Xinglet) and my vintage headlamp.

At 7:50 PM, all runners were walked to the start line and Joyce gave instructions on the course.  Ten minutes later, we were off.  

The first mile was a quick loop around the triangle parking/entry/exit area by the Red Rock visitor center. At approximately 3/4 of a mile in, the route began to climb uphill.  The elevation at this point was 3,719 ft and by the time the elevation hit the peak at the the 5.4 mile mark would increase 1,030 feet to max out at 4,749 feet.  There was a brief downhill shortly after the thee mile mark but within a half of a mile, the route turned back uphill.   I run this hill a fair amount in training and am convinced that the stretch from Mile 4 to Mile 5 is the hardest section.

At 5.4 miles, the road topped out at the overlook on the scenic drive.  At this point, there was a well stocked aid station with water, HEED, various gel packs, fruit and cookies.  Prior to this, there were three other aid stations which were stocked with water and HEED.  I did get a good shout out from Sarah as I passed the station she was working.

After leaving the peak, the road began rollers for the the remaining 7.7 miles that took us to the finish which was at 3,804 feet.  Early on, the rollers consisted of short steep uphills followed by longer steep downhills.  Between 8.8 miles and 9.8 miles, the course was fairly level as we went into the final short steep climb followed by a long gradual downhill.  At about 12.5 miles, the race began a final gradual climb to the finish.  Along the way, there were consistent aid stations with water and HEED at approximately every 1.5-2 miles.  I ended up crossing the finish line in an unremarkable 2:19 and collected my finishers medal and turned in my timing chip. After that, I went to find my wife who had moved from the first aid station on the course to the finish line aid station after the last runner passed her station.

Calico Half Slam Plaque
The Good: Calico Racing always puts on a good small race event and this was no exception.  As an added bonus, I finished off my Calico Half Slam by completing four half marathons through Calico Racing in a 12 month span and got the nice chunk of slate pictured to the right.  Also, running at night at Red Rock with nothing but my headlamp and starlight is gorgeous and the occasional glimpses of the Las Vegas Strip lights off in the distance were picturesque.

The Bad:  First, the wind sucked.  Or better yet, it blew.  No matter which way the road turned, it seemed like I had a heavy head or side wind that didn't go away until the 11-12.5 mile mark.  Climbing 1000 feet up a mountain is a tough race.  A headwind going up it doesn't help things. However, none of us can control the weather.  That brings me to the second bad thing which is something I could have controlled better.  From the 5.4 mile mark to the Mile 9 marker, I had a small group who I was running with at a pretty good pace.  At Mile 9, I started having GI issues and slowed a lot. A half of a mile later, I came up to an aid station and had to take a restroom break; the first time ever for me in a race.  After that, it took the better part of a mile to get my legs turning over correctly and left me wondering "what if" with my finishing time.  Could a different prerace meal have avoided this?  A different lunch?  Different gel choices at the start line?  Avoiding HEED?  I am not certain which one but know that there is something I could have done differently prerace to not have this issue.  Oh well, lesson learned.

Next up - The St George Marathon on Oct 4th.

another unique finisher medal from Calico Racing

21 September 2014

LVTC Forest Challenge

This weekend, I ran the LVTC Forest Challenge which is an 11 miler/10K/5K put on by the Las Vegas Track Club.  I opted for the 11 mile race.

The race was inexpensive.  As a non-club member, I paid a whopping $30 as the entry fee with club members getting a $5 discount.

Packet pickup was held at Red Rock Running Company on Friday afternoon.  At the pickup, I got a simple bib and a race tech shirt.  That is a better shirt than I have received at a few much more expensive races.

On Saturday morning, I made the drive up Lee Canyon Road to the parking lot at the Lower Bristlecone Trail.  Paying attention to the pre-race notes, I got there early before the parking lot filled up.  The only pre-race headache was that the neighboring camping area was closed for renovations so the only rest room available was one porta potty next to the camping area.

A few minutes before 8 AM, we were called to the start line for a quick race overview.  The race started on the trail about 25 meters from the parking lot and was an out and back course.  All distances started together.  Once we got the quick directions, an air horn was sounded and we were off.

The first 3.1 miles of the trail were a climb up a rocky fireroad and had a starting elevation of 8,484 ft.  It was a tough slow climb.  Along the way, there were two aid stations with water and Gatorade. One was at the 5K turnaround and the other was at the 3-Mile mark.  After the fire road ended, the course turned into single track and climbed a short steep elevation that took us to our peak altitude of 9,454 ft.

After topping out at the max elevation, the single track began to quickly descend to the turnaround. Going down the single track section was a nice run that took us over some rocky outcroppings and had a steep slope on one side of the trail and a steep drop on the other.  It took us through bristlecone pines and included one small section that had been touched by the forest fire that hit the mountain last year.

The single track entered a section of aspens and continued its descent.  This section was gorgeous due to the fall foliage on the aspens but rocks and roots were a definite hazard and I remembered my wife's words to take it easy and avoid injury with St George two weeks away.  Eventually I came out of the trees and ran through a final open downhill section to the turnaround which was at 8,669 ft and had another aid station with drinks.

After the turn around, climbing back up the singe track was tough.  My legs felt great but I just felt like I couldn't get enough air into my lungs.  However, once I reached the top and started down the last little bit of single track to the fire road, it was game on as I let gravity take over and pushed the pace faster and faster as I barreled down the mountain to the finish.  I crossed the finish line in 2:04:57 which was good for 25 out of 45 finishers and second in the 35-39 age group.

At the finish line, there was a nice spread of snack food and coolers full of water and Gatorade.  I snacked on some food and downed some drinks as I waited on the awards.  Awards were simple but nice and gave me a good idea for our triathlon club races.

Overall, it was a well organized event put on by a local organization on a low budget.  I may need to keep an eye open for their future events.

Next up - Twilight Half Marathon on 9/27

14 September 2014

Kokopelli Duathlon

Yesterday, I raced BBSC's Kokopelli Duathlon at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah.  It was held concurrently with the Kokopelli Triathlon which had Sprint (my wife competed in this and once again crushed the competition) and Olympic distance events.  There was also an associated 5K and youth triathlon.

Sarah has been planning for this triathlon since last fall but the duathlon was a pretty short notice race for me.  We had a friend who was scheduled to race it become unable to attend due to a car running into him while he was on a training ride a few weeks ago.  He will mend but will miss the fall season of triathlons. Last weekend, we transferred his registration to me, paid the additional fees and suddenly I was competing in my first duathlon.

Before we get to the race, there were some events this week that made the race a little hectic.  I-15 is the main route from Las Vegas to St George.  Early this week, we got a lot of rain and the resulting flooding was so bad that it completely took out a southbound section of the highway.  I-15 was closed for several days and the alternate route added hours to the drive.  As luck would have it, the highway opened up with one lane in each direction on Friday evening after we made it to the Utah border.

Once we got to St George, packet pickup went smooth.  BBSC held it at a fairground in Hurricane, UT.  We picked up our packets which had our race numbers (one for the bib and one for the bike) in it, got our anklets for electronic timing, got our shirts (like the design but wish they were tech shirts and not black) and got our body markings (race number on our upper arms and right hand and our race category and age group on our calf).  We also paid for our admission to the park and got our day pass. After that, we checked into the hotel, dropped our stuff off and went out for a quick dinner.  Once we got back to the hotel, we got our race gear ready and went to bed.

Race day started with a quick breakfast in the hotel at 0545.  After that, we loaded up our bikes and transition bags and drove a few miles up the road to the park.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we realized that we left our water bottles in the hotel fridge.  Luckily, my oldest son had one in his lunch bag from the previous day and we were able to borrow another one from a friend who was up there for the triathlon.  We unloaded our gear and headed into the transition area where I was able to snag the end spot on my assigned row.  I racked my bike and checked which gear it was in.  After that, I laid out my helmet, bike shoes, run shoes, visor and socks and dropped a pack of Cliff Shot Bloks into my jersey pocket.  After that, we cheered on some of the kids from the Las Vegas Triathlon club who were in the youth race and at 0800, I came back to the transition area, switched into my racing flats and headed down to the water to see Sarah start her Sprint. After she started her swim, I headed up to the duathlon start line to get ready for my race.

My race was scheduled to start at 0830 so about 10 minutes before the start, I popped in two Shot Blocks and washed them down with some water.  A few minutes before the start time, the race directors gave the duathletes and 5K runners some quick course and safety instructions.  After a short countdown, we were off.

The race stared with several hundred meters down a hill.  At the bottom was a sharp lefthand curve followed by a small roller.  After that, we began a gradual uphill that topped out just after the one mile mark.  Along the way, we passed the run aid station which was approximately at the one mile mark but I didn't pay much attention to it besides noting that there were a decent number of teenagers handing out cups of water and Gatorade. At the top of the hill, the course followed the road on a slight downhill to the turnaround and we were treated to a nice view of the Sand Hollow Reservoir. Once we reached the turnaround, the run course retraced its steps back to the transition area. My first 5K was a solid but not spectacular 27:41.

Transition #1 went smooth.  As I ran up the final hill and into the chute to the transition area, I was mentally rehearsing what to do.  Once I crossed the mat at the entrance, I continued to run to my bike which was at the first rack and pulled my Headsweats visor off on the way. Once I reached my bike, I dropped my visor, put my helmet on, pulled my shoes off (my new Lock Laces made this really easy), slipped my cycling shoes on and strapped down the velcro, grabbed my bike and shuffled out of the transition area and shuffled out to the mount line in under 1:30.  That's not too shabby for my first real transition.

As I hopped on my bike, I initially had an issue clicking my shoes into my pedal and wasted some precious time getting that accomplished.  Once it was in, I quickly headed down the hill to the first turn.  The bike course was on a different road than the run and took us outside of the park for a 12.4  mile out and back ride that was the same as the course for the Sprint triathlon. After reaching the bottom of the hill and going past the park entrance, the course took a sharp left hand turn and began a small climb for the next mile which topped out at the 1.5 mile mark. After that, the next 1.5 miles had some very small ups and down which were great for powering through in an aero position. At the 3.1 mile mark, the course became tough as we climbed 352 feet and topped out at the 4.5 mile mark. I pedaled past a lot of people who were off their bikes and pushing on the steepest section (a 6% grade that covered a little under one mile of the climb).  Once we crested the top, we had a short fast down hill followed by a roller as we went to the turnaround. Shortly after the turnaround, there was an aid station handing out water and Gatorade bottles. Once I got back to the top of the hill, I picked up enough speed in my tucked aero position that I was getting a little nervous about the speed (I wish I had my phone with the app turned on so I knew my speed on the hill) and made certain to brake a bit to cross the boards covering the cattle grate (definitely not an issue on the way up). As I pulled back to the mount /dismount line, I unclipped my feet, hopped off the bike, and began to run my bike into the transition area.  My first few steps were pretty rough as my legs, especially my hamstrings, made the transition from cycling to running. My time was 50:35 but no complaints given that hill.

Transition #2 was a little rougher than the first one.  I racked my bike, set down my helmet, slipped on my visor, quickly stripped my cycling shoes off and attempted to put on my racing flats while standing.  It didn't work.  I needed two hands to do this and couldn't keep standing with one hand on the rack to support me.  After hopping for a few seconds, I sat down and put them on. Once that was done, I shuffled out of the transition area pulling two more Shot Bloks out of my pocket and grabbing a water from the aid station as I went.  My time for this one was 1:44 but I learned a valuable lesson concerning my shoes.

on the podium
To start the second run, I walked the first 15-20 meters of the transition chute so I could get water into me.  After that, I was off to complete the second run which was a repeat of the first course. My second 5K came in at a tired 30:25.

After running across the finish line, I was handed my finishers medal and a volunteer removed my timing chip from my ankle.  Once that was done, I grabbed a banana and a couple of water bottles from the volunteers and exited the tent to look for my wife.  We quickly met up and she caught me up on how her race went while we waited for the awards ceremony.  She had a ridiculously fast swim and when we looked at the final results, realized that she had the fifth fastest swim out of 126 female finishers.  She combined that with a great bike and a solid run and finished 22nd overall and first out of four in her division. I finished in 1:51:49 and finished eight of 21 overall and two of four in my age division, 32 seconds behind the number one guy in it.

After we got our plaques, we loaded up the car with our gear, the kids and the dog and headed back to the hotel for some quick showers and a final load of the car.  After that, it was off to Chik-fil-A for a treat that we can't get in Vegas and then it was time for the drive home.

The duathlon was fun and I am sure I will do a few next year.  I need to work more on the bike as opposed to it currently being a crosstraining workout and pick up a little speed in the shorter runs as opposed to training specifically for the longer races I am focusing on this year.

Next up is the LVTC Forest challenge which is next Saturday and is an 11+ mile trail run with elevations in the 8600-9400 feet range.

06 September 2014

more races

So much for thinking that I signed up for my final 2014 races.

This morning, I signed up for the Kokopelli duathlon which is next weekend.  It is at Sand Hollow State Park in SW Utah and we were already making the trip so Sarah could get in another sprint triathlon. My running is definitely good to go and I am comfortable on the bike but the bike to run transition will be a little shaky.

I will also soon be signing up for the National Veterans Day 11K.  I can't pass up an $11 entry fee for a well managed race and the organizers are holding the Las Vegas race in a different part of the city than last year.

I also picked up a pair of ASICS GT-1000 2 shoes to try out.  I needed a new pair of traditional trainers and have never had issues with this brand in the past.

01 September 2014

Labor Day running

Today was about seeing how steady I could hold a pace for 11 miles.  With the exception of Mile 10, the pace looked pretty solid.

1.0 mi 09:28 min/mi 
2.0 mi 09:07 min/mi 
3.0 mi 09:11 min/mi
4.0 mi 09:10 min/mi
5.0 mi 09:13 min/mi
6.0 mi 09:09 min/mi
7.0 mi 08:57 min/mi
8.0 mi 08:57 min/mi
9.0 mi 08:54 min/mi
10.0 mi 09:41 min/mi
11.0 mi 09:05 min/mi

Also, this run put me over the 900 mile mark for 2014.