Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 27th, 2011: Lost Lake Race Recap

Last race of the year for me in Alaska was this year's Lost Lake Race.  The field set to toe the line was stellar:
  • Brent Knight  :  National Class Nordic Skier and Runner Up in 2011 Mt Marathon and Bird Ridge 
  • Matias Saari : 2011 Mat Peak Champion, Yukon River Marathon Champion, Moose's Tooth Marathon Champion, 3rd Place in Crow Pass, perennial Equinox Champion 
  • Brandon Newbould : 2010 New England Marathon Champion, 2:25 marathoner
  • Eric Strabel: 2011 Mt Marathon Champion, Crow Pass Runnerup
The anticipation of a great race against the field got me really excited, the one glaring omission being Mark Iverson, last year's runner up.   In last year's race, like most years on this course, I took the lead early and set a hard pace, running from far out front with the idea it would be hard for my competitors to catch me if they couldn't feel or see me.

Conditions from a climate standpoint were excellent:  Temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s and light rain.  From a footing standpoint, they were sub-par.  I'll take good climate any day, as it's really a bear to run in hot temperatures, extreme low temperatures, high humidity, or nasty wind.

The Climb

     For the most part, the first 5 1/2 miles 'roll up'.  There are 3-4 tough climbs that reduce many to a walk, but there are also flat or rolling downs that allow a fast runner to rally.   This part of the course marks the greatest extremes in pace.
     From the gun, I took off fast and hard, but what I deemed to be comfortable.   I felt someone off my shoulder for the first 15 minutes, thinking it was Brent (although it turned out to be Brandon).  This year, I told myself to be patient on the uphills, allowing myself to 'recover up', despite the increase in difficulty.   I tried to find that sweet spot of lactate flood, avoiding crossing that red line, no matter how slow I had to run uphill.    Then, at the crest of each hill, I was very deliberate in accelerating back to race 'tempo'... in other words, finding that spot just off the red line.

The Plateau

     The key word for this section of the course is undulation.   Marked by little flat running, the downhills are brief as are the climbs.   It's very easier to find rhythm on this section of the course.
     I felt great.Cresting through the trees to beyond treeline, approximately 5.5 miles into the race, real running begins.  No longer did I have to meter my effort on the uphills.   I felt like I ran this section very well.   Downhills were very fast, yet controlled.  Uphills were speed bumps that did little to deviate me from my rhythm.   Crossing the bridge at the river (52:53), I was totally in control and felt like I was picking up speed. Making my way up the final climb to the high point, I knew I was running well, but at the same time also knew I had reserve left in the event I'd have to fend off a charge from any one of the other guys who undoubtedly had me in their line of sight.

The Descent

     The last five miles of Lost Lake are fun to run because there really are no more climbs.   It's 90% downhill and 10% flat that feels like downhill.  If anything, the hardest part of the descent is staying on course, whether it's navigating a ridiculous 150 degree turn or even worse passing walkers or hikers just past one of these speed killing curves.
     Dropping off the high point (just before 10 miles), the course footing took a turn for the serious worse.   At some point around 9 miles on the ascent is where I generally begin to pass walkers in mass.   Off the top as the course begins to descend, this continues, and what made it particularly nettlesome this year was the combination of passing walkers AND poor footing.  It was REALLY slippery up top!   It was actually easier to run on the grass than the trail in a few spots.  Half a mile into the decent, I was fed up and angry.   The course at this point really didn't lend itself to my shoe of choice:  the Adidas Supernova Light:  A marathon racing flat, this shoe has seen me through plenty of fast miles, and I've taken to racing Lost Lake in a road flat, namely because i appreciate the cushion/flexibility combo and also the fact that when it's all said and done, my feet do not hurt (unlike 2010 when I ran in the Adidas Swoop IIs).   Also, there were numerous walkers that did not yield to me barreling down the trail.    I checked myself out mentally, and told myself:   "Screw it.   If someone wants to be a maniac and faster than me on this stuff, they can have it this year:  I've got too much at stake with Chicago only 6 weeks around the corner.  It's still a good marathon workout."   At this point, from 11 miles to 13 miles, I really felt like I lost an edge that was previously there.   From 13 miles for the next 1.75 miles or so to the trail head I ran hard, and gradually increased my resolve to win the race.   I also felt like like I was running 1:38 effort (over a minute slower than my record time of 1:36:50 from the year before.  I was shocked to pop off the trail onto the road at the trail head and see a time of 1:33.    With somewhere close to half a mile to go, I knew I could better my record!!   Talk about kicking into high gear.   I ended up running the last .3 miles in sub 4:20 pace and crossed the line in a new record of 1:35:17.

   The best part is not only did I run 93 seconds faster than the year before, on a lousy day for footing, but that I felt so good and had so much left at the end.

   I'm really excited for Chicago.

Mile Splits for 2011 Lost Lake Race 
(wheeled the day before by Matias!)
Mile 1 - 6:19
Mile 2 - 6:48
Mile 3 - 6:37
Mile 4 - 7:39
Mile 5 - 8:55
Mile 6 - 7:02
Mile 7 - 5:54
Mile 8 - 6:21
Mile 9 - 6:10
Mile 10 - 5:34
Mile 11 - 5:23
Mile 12 - 5:34
Mile 13 - 5:11
Mile 14 - 5:11
Mile 15 - 5:13
Last .3 - 1:18

Overcoming Adversity

I'm 36 years old, and I'm fitter than I've ever been.   It feels great to be fit and injury free.  Running is funny:  sometimes it feels like all it does is beat you up.   Plantar Fasciitis(luckily only a three week malady for me), Achilles Tendinitis(chronic through my last year at UAA and the three years thereafter, Runner's Knee (aKa Patellar Tendinitis... pops up every 10 months or so), Peroneal Muscle Pain.... been there, done that, each and every one.     Torn soleus muscle:  that really sucked.  Remind me not to race in a Speedo and spikes (after not having worn spikes for years.... thanks Matt).

That being said, if it were easy, everyone would do it.  Overcoming adversity is what makes the juice you get out of the lemon all the more sweeter.  On a macro-scale, reading about Meb Keflezigi's return from injury to win the 2009 New York Marathon is extremely heartlifting:  Before winning New York, his last quality marathon was the 2006 Boston Marathon(a span of 3 1/2 years).

On a micro-scale watching Heather Dorniden's 600M incredible victory in the 2008 Big 10 Indoor Championships so neatly encapsulates Winston Churchill's quotation:

"Never, never, never give up."

Running itself, going from stillness to motion, is a minor act of overcoming the tendency or inclination of stopping or resting when tired.   It's how far you go in overcoming the urge to give in, how hard you work in spite of all the obstacles that makes the destination and journey that much more enriching.  How far do you want to go?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sources of Inspiration

Why do you run?  For some, it is for a sense of achievement.   For others, it is to lose weight or simply to be healthy.  There are countless sources of inspiration, be it a good song (list upcoming!), a hero of the sport, a friend or loved one, a touching movie or moment.    One thing, I do not take for granted, is inspiration.

I love the YouTube video, "Why Do You Run" (fancyboy productions) .   It is an excellent montage of poignant competitive running moments set to the music of Moby's "My Weakness".

Taking the time to be inspired can be a tipping point to creating inspiration.   Have you watched the video yet?   If not, do it.  The video is three minutes and forty five seconds, and it is mesmerizing.   It is hard to fathom all the hard work each of these runners put in to get to the 'moment' where they are featured in this video clip.   Being willing and able to do that hard work is at the core of what allows an athlete to be great.  Are you inspired?  What inspires you?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

89 days until Chicago

Just less than 13 weeks and time is really flying.   The last 7 weeks have been really great:   no injuries, no major sickness, and perhaps the best seven week stretch of training in my life....

Sunday, August 22, 2011

..... time to finish this entry, which was started 6 weeks ago....

49 Days until Chicago:

"Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. 

But the will must be stronger than the skill.

-Muhammad Ali

Now there are 7 weeks until Chicago.   Now I can say that the last 13 weeks have been really great:   no injuries, no major sickness, and without a doubt the best thirteen week stretch of training in my life.   I have 786 miles in the last 8 weeks(98 miles/week), 1044 in the last 11(95 miles/week), and 1196 in the last 13(92 miles/week).   After numerous positive workouts, perhaps the best indication of fitness is 44 sec PR in the Alaska 10K Classic.   One year ago, on the exact same course, I ran 32:13.   This year, in a great race with Micah Chelimo and David Kiplagat, I ran 30:34.   Through 5 miles we were at 24:10.   All this is great.   The mantra, though, has to be: "no injuries, no major sicknesses".

Examining the past 3 months, my volume is significantly higher than it has ever been.   Before this cycle, I had logged two 100+ mile weeks.  Ever.   I had logged maybe six or seven 90+ mile weeks.   Ever.  I really believe that one of the largest obstacles a serious runner has to deal with is the "increase" in volume.   The bumps along the road are so much bigger when you're running up hill.  Once you are there.... let the good times roll!