13 Weeks

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BB KickBeginning this past week, I have shifted gears from speed to distance.  Speed being a relative term, my focus on interval training paid off in the 2015 Bolder Boulder as I ran a personal best.  I even displayed a strong kick in Folsom Stadium, pictured here.  I feel this was my best success at improving speed since I got back into road races six years ago.  That said, I’ve dropped to 28th place on the Shoes & Brews 800 meter beer board.  So it’s time to give up on speed and turn my focus to miles.  This plan will prepare me for my next scheduled race – the Boulder Marathon in September.

I’ve established a 13 week mileage plan that begins with 60 miles per week and reaches 100 miles before tapering back down to 60.  I hit my first 60 mile target today with a 12 mile run on Betasso Trail.  This is a good plan considering that I am starting out already in really good shape.  And because running extensive distance like this is a proven method to prepare for a marathon.  Running 26.2 miles after training this arduously will be almost a non-event.  There will be no nervousness at the starting line after completing this training plan.

If there’s any weakness to this plan, it’s that I’ve never run more than 70 miles in a single week – in my life.  And I find that the wheels tend to start falling off if I run any further than 45 miles in a single week.  Honestly, 35 miles is my sweet spot.  The challenge then will be avoiding injury. I won’t hesitate to scale back the miles given sufficient pain. I’m no hero. And I’m not stupid. Can’t run if I can’t run. But I’m actually quite interested in my ability to manage these training challenges. I’ve learned tons in terms of stretching and exercises to mitigate muscle overuse injuries. Ironically, I learned much of this from my cancer physical therapy last year. My Physical Therapist, Jennifer Davia, taught me the importance of adductor and abductor exercises to keep the muscles in balance that connect the hip to the knee.  The focus of that physical therapy was to be on pelvic floor recovery, but I leveraged Jennifer’s knowledge of running injuries and have performed these routines since last summer with good results.

My next concern is with recovery.  Even if healthy, will I have the energy to run the next day?  This week, the answer has been no.  It’s possible I’m not acclimated to the heat.  Colorado went from a cold spring of 70° days to 90° days literally overnight.  I haven’t been timing myself but I’ve been dragging with these back-to-back, 8 mile runs.  I expect to have trouble recovering after my longer weekend runs but am a bit surprised I can’t recover better after 8 milers.  Hoping it’s the heat.  I should probably start to consider supplements.  I do take supplements that focus on electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) but have never experimented much with muscle-related supplements.  Not sure I want to but might have to keep an open mind.

My final concern regards having the time for this.  I don’t generally run every day because, between work and personal obligations, who has the time?  I have to commute to the Denver Tech Center twice next week, so I’ll need to adapt for that.  I’m disciplined enough to average 5 days per week, but there are even times I’m too busy to run on the weekend.  I’ve always made concerted efforts to dedicate myself when training for marathons.  Running 26 miles is just too painful unprepared.  I do have some hiking and backpacking planned for this summer.  I’ll count mountain hiking miles as running miles.  I think that’s fair since I typically find myself pushing my aerobic threshold as hard hiking as I do running.

My training plan consists of two week segments.  The first two weeks will target 60 miles per week.  Then 70, then 80, 90 and finally 100.  That will consume 10 full weeks.  Then I taper down to 80, then 60, and then whatever I decide to run the week of the marathon for a total of 13 weeks since signing up last weekend.  I’ll keep my daily runs at 8 miles for 4 weeks, and then only add 2 miles per week to 10, then 1 mile to 11 and another mile to 12.  I add the bulk of the distance increases to my weekend runs.  I won’t have time to run longer during the week.  And I strongly believe in the need to work myself up to 20 mile runs to condition my body for 26 miles.  This might also play into my ability to avoid injury by keeping my daily runs manageable.  I believe I have the experience to pull this off.  But “it’s not the years darling, it’s the miles.”

Sunrise Stampede

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leadville halfBeth (aka ShutUpAndRun) invited me to run the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon this weekend.  With over 3700 feet of elevation gain, who wouldn’t want to run that?  Here’s a photo of the organizers scooping the snow off the trail in preparation for the race.  They spent 6 hours per day for 6 days digging this four foot wide, two mile path to the summit.  They broke 6 shovels.  There seriously is a part of me that wanted to run this half marathon.  As much as I appreciate the invite, I instead chose to run local this weekend.  This will give me time to attend yet another graduation party.  I also planned to sneak in Jurassic World but my family couldn’t wait and we saw that Thursday night.  Epic Dinosaur movie – well done.

I don’t intend to race this 10K hard, but I am looking to get in a strong workout.  Occasionally I treat these races as premiere events, like the Bolder Boulder a few weeks ago.  Others I simply consider to be a good workout opportunity knowing that, by running with a group of people, I’ll run harder.  So I’m not looking to PR but hope to run about a 7:30 pace.  I run closer to an 8 minute pace in workouts alone.  Sometimes in these no-stress events, I find that I run quite strong after loosening up the first one or two miles.  I do hope to find some part of this run where I fall into race mode.  Running two or three miles at an uber elevated pace would be ideal.  Maybe the first two miles slow, the next three miles under 7, then cool down with an 8 minute mile.  That’s my plan as I warm up.

My concerns are that one, the Cottonwood pollen has been killing my breathing lately – literally choking me.  And two, I couldn’t find an elevation chart for this course.  Elevation charts are fairly critical for establishing pre-race plans in Colorado.  Altitude can make the smallest slopes feel like mountains.  But I can wing that by surging on down slopes when I notice them.  While I’m not familiar with running on these streets, I don’t expect any major hills.  This is very likely a faster course than the Bolder Boulder.  I run into Ashlee – of Shoes & Brews.  Colin and her are running the 10K.  She tells me this is about as hilly as the Bolder Boulder, mostly in the first half.  Although it will finish downhill so nothing like climbing up Folsom in the BB.  So maybe I’ll run the first half slow.  I guess I really don’t have a race plan.

I warmup well enough so that I don’t go out too slowly.  This works as I go out a bit faster than expected with a 7:03 first mile.  At least it isn’t under 7 minutes.  The hills increase from here and I keep a steady pace, possibly slowing down a bit.  In fact, I do run slower as the second mile comes in at 7:12.  This feels comfortable and I hope to just keep this pace the rest of the course.  I’m running strong but well enough under my aerobic threshold.  I surge into a short downhill at 2.5 miles, near MacIntosh Lake, but start to cough hard from the Cottonwood.  This is exactly when I start to cough during my workouts.  It nearly stops me for a minute but I recover and take some water at an aid station.  I’m bummed because it slows me down as I am gaining momentum.  I complete the third mile in 7:28.  A good workout pace.

Into the fourth mile I start to race another runner.  I learn later that his name is PJ (40 year old Patrick Schrodt).  Although I might have him confused with 44 year old Bill Depaemelaere.  These young guys all look the same to me.  I catch him and we switch taking leads the rest of the race.  My fourth mile is almost identical to the third, at 7:32.  This is also a high point for the course and it’s mostly downhill from here. Just as I begin to unwind, I have to stop to retie my right shoe.  Dammit!   I lose a half minute for this.  I ordered some new shoes earlier this week online but they don’t arrive until Monday.  They will have speed laces, so I won’t run into this issue again.

I keep PJ in my sites and am close behind him.  Despite the shoe lace issue I run the fifth mile faster in 7:09.  I feel good, aided by the down slope.  I keep this pace for the final mile rather than cool down since it feels good.  I slow down marginally as we near the Longmont High School stadium because I don’t care to put on a kick.  Still, I pass PJ during this slow down.  He passes me back once we are on the track.  The course finishes with a quarter mile lap around the track.  PJ puts on a bit of a kick and finishes 30 meters ahead of me.  I’m content running behind another guy, but pass him with a kick of my own the last 100 meters.  I think I decided to kick past him because he looks my age with a gray crew cut.  And because I am barely breathing hard.  He had passed me the first half mile and it felt good to catch him.  I learn afterward his name is Paul Colvin and is 45 years old.

Sunrise StampedeI run my sixth mile in 6:58, the fastest pace of the entire run.  Surprising but then it is downhill vs uphill for the first mile.  I cross the finish line in 45:32 for 2nd place in my age group, which is about what I was hoping to run.  I run into Jill, one of my teammates from the Snowmass Trail Relay, at the finish.  She ran the two mile course with her daughter.  Her husband is still out running the 10K.  This photo captures PJ in the middle, and another guy, 43 yr old James Vardas, whom we passed back and forth throughout the run.  I think he’s the guy PJ kicked in with at the end.  The race results suggest I confused PJ with Bill.  This race was tougher than I anticipated.  Hot with no clouds, hilly, and strong competition.  Good way to start the morning.  Next is a graduation party for Ken Farmer’s son, Ben.  I expect good eats and beer.

Betasso

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Betasso LinkGadget Girl told me about the Betasso Link Trail off Canyon Drive a few weeks back.  Today was my first chance to get up here.  The trailhead sits just before and to the right of the tunnel, three miles from the edge of town on the drive toward Nederland.  You can drive another mile further to Sugarloaf Road to reach a trailhead at the top if you want to skip this rugged 1.3 mile climb.  I wanted the climb.  It rises over 600 feet, the steepest part in the first quarter mile.  That’s just about the limit of grade I can handle without walking.  When Gadget Girl’s husband rides with her, they start at the top but Dave rides this link trail down.  She picks him up on the drive home.

The trail is hard and slick, with intermittent boulders.  A biker started out before me and I figured I would pass him.  I find that I typically pass mountain bikers uphill but this guy was unreal.  I did finally catch him once after he dismounted for a particularly steep rise but he passed me back quickly.  Really, I was just right behind him the entire climb.  And we passed several others.  While slower, they were still extremely skilled.  This black diamond trail is technical for bikers in both directions.  For runners, it’s gorgeous.  I thought of Keith’s face after he completed the first loop last weekend in the Snowmass trail race.  For anyone who finds running burdensome, try running a mountain trail.  Trails like this turn workouts into a rapturous experience.

Betasso PreserveThe top of the climb empties into an open meadow and links to the Canyon Loop Trail – a 3.3 mile loop.  A sign instructs bikers to ride counterclockwise.  I read this direction alternates monthly.  There are no similar guidelines for runners but commonsense implies that running clockwise is optimal so you can see bikers coming.  There are also signs (you can see one if you click on the trailhead picture to enlarge it) that state no bikers on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Good to know, although I didn’t find this morning overly crowded.  The bikers were all courteous and skilled well enough that we could both usually pass by without surrendering momentum.  In fact, the first mile of the Canyon Loop was double track, and much of the remaining loop was still wide enough for passing.  On occasion, I even yield for bikers, when it seems fair.  Hate to see a biker topple over on these sharp hills.

Running was softer up top on the loop than on the link trail.  Dry and not nearly as supple as the soil in Snowmass.  Those trails were dreamy.  My trail flats gripped those paths near the Maroon Bells like leather gloves on the steering wheel of a muscle car, accelerating through turns.  The Canyon Loop contains several similar sections where the trees were thick enough that moisture clung to the dirt to turn its color black.  And there were a half dozen streams which were fun to hop across.  The loop was never flat, rather rolling and twisty.  I took the first mile to recover from the climb but then found my legs and enjoyed some speedier running where the trail allowed.

After a single loop, I returned back down the link trail to my car.  I found the descent more technical than the climb.  My year old trail shoes slid a few times.  Manufacturers tell you to buy new shoes every 500 miles.  I tend to log over 2000 before shodding a new pair.  Traction is certainly a critical criteria in trail shoes so perhaps it’s time.  To survive this descent, I focused on form.  The trick to avoiding slippage is to never let your feet touch the ground.  Since I can’t actually fly, I begin raising my feet before they fully touch down.  Very, very, quick, short steps.  Allowing your heel to fully flatten is courting disaster.  Running downhill like this is seriously exhausting and difficult to maintain for much more than a mile.  The other technique is to walk, but even then it’s wise to avoid putting too much weight into your landing.

I made it down safely.  And really, I didn’t rush down overly fast.  I played it safe.  I can’t believe this was my first time up on this hill.  Next time I intend to run two or three loops up top.  I’ll be back to Betasso.

Snowmass

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The Running DeadSometimes, when I don’t like the forecast from my Weather Channel mobile app, I check their site on my laptop.  They rarely agree.  Still, there’s little difference between an 80% chance of rain, and 70%.  In a semi-desert state like Colorado, anything over 20% means rain.  Lots of it.  So my Running Dead trail relay team drove up to Snowmass for our trail relay on Friday with soggy expectations.  We were surprised at how so much rain could go unnoticed.  We had a total blast.  From left to right in the back row is Chris, Allison, the Dead Runner, Jill, Jen, and me.  Up front is Keith, Rychie and Steve.

SteveWe arrived with just enough time to pitch our tents and watch the team safety video before Steve kicked off our relay by running the 3.9 mile green loop.  Our race instructions listed the green loop as 3.3 miles, but a conversation with the Here Kitty Kitty team captain Brian suggested it is more like 3.8 miles.  My Garmin recorded 3.9 miles.  Running the extra distance wasn’t an issue for any of us.  We came here to run.  But no one likes surprises when their legs are drowning in lactic acid.  The pre-race intel was critical at setting our expectations.  This was Steve’s first race after heel surgery.  Some suspect his first real run.  He performed like a champ.

RychieSteve handed off to Rychie who ran the 4.1 mile yellow loop in our first rain shower.  She reported the wet trail conditions as apparently difficult for bigger, heavier guys as they struggled to negotiate the muddy slopes, but that she was able to nimbly maintain sure footing.  Rychie’s training with Jill on the rocky Picture Rock Trail in Lyons proved itself invaluable for these conditions.  Jill followed Rychie on the 6.9 mile red loop, which was advertised as 6.2 miles.  This began on paved trail and road for two miles, mitigating the danger of slipping in mud.  Jill and Rychie’s strong runs kept us on our pre-race schedule, despite being over one mile longer than plan.

the girlsRychie and Jill are new friends for me.  I discovered on the ride up that like me, they both are mid-westerners.  Rychie is a farm girl from Fremont, Nebraska and Jill is a farm girl from outside Chicago.  I’m from Davenport, Iowa, which one could argue is a distant Chicago suburb.    I was a Bears fan back in the day.  Rychie manages the professional development of school teachers now while Jill owns a landscape enterprise in Longmont.  Both sounded disappointed, and just plain pissed with themselves that they had to walk a few steep slopes of the trail on their first runs.  I explained to them that it’s not really walking on mountain trails; when you’re primarily running, it’s a shuffle.  They didn’t really accept my shuffle concept.  These girls might look like innocent working professionals, wives and moms, but they’re the reason Lance Armstrong doesn’t own a second home in Boulder County to train.  The women on Mesa Trail aren’t intimidated by the Aspen elites.

fire pitKeith was our 4th runner and started out on the green loop to repeat our 14 mile cycle of green-yellow-red.  He returned elated over the beauty of these trails.  And no doubt happy that he ran quite well, passing many other runners.  Jen, always strong, ran 5th on the yellow trail, followed by Chris for a repeat of the red trail.  This completed two rounds of the three loop sequence and brought night fall over Snowmass.  I waited by the bonfire for Chris to finish as the temperature dropped with the sun.

Chris didn’t report any issues navigating the trails via his headlamp.  I was apprehensive as trail running at night was a first for me.  While I believed I could pass runners immediately, I held back to gain comfort with reading the trail.  My caution paid dividends as the grade of the green loop rose dramatically the first half mile and the runners in front of me fell back from oxygen debt.  I had to walk a few steep steps the first mile and again the second mile, but mostly maintained a steady cadence up to the top of the mountain, just under two miles into the loop.  I held my pace under 10 minutes the first mile, and under 12 minutes for mile two.

top of the red loopReturning downhill in darkness was surreal.  Running under an 8.5 minute pace via headlamp felt like playing a first person shooter video game as I weaved my path around the curvy, tree-lined course.  I passed more runners on the downhill than up, no doubt they were being cautious.  The only reason I couldn’t soar down this trail faster wasn’t the turns.  I could see those fine with my 550 lumens Olympia EX550 headlamp.  Rather, my difficulty was in reading the shadowy dips in the undulating trail.  I alternated from hyper extending my stride on deeper troughs than I expected and jarring my hips on the steps that came up short.  I slammed into a wooden foot bridge hard when I didn’t see that the initial on ramp was twice as steep as the middle of the bridge.  I nearly buckled.  I took the foot bridges slower after that.

EdOur team ran through the night rain free.  Rychie shared my initial nervousness but everyone agreed afterward that nighttime running was a total trip.  Anything leading you to run slower was a good thing in terms of pacing you for the total half marathon over three loops.  A good two hundred runners on the trails kept you in close company at all times.  I woke up at 3am for my second run amazed to see streams of light from runners’ headlamps snaking along the sides of three mountainsides.  Very cool.  My second run was on the 6.9 mile red loop and coincided with sunrise near the top of the course.  This trail photo above is of the path leading to the top at around 3.5 miles.  I was able to turn off my headlamp for the downhill, which was a total scream.  I didn’t kick too hard though because I was expecting to have to run another loop.  The plan was to either run with Allison on the next leg, or for Steve on the leg after.  Both had injuries.

red loop in the rainAllison blazed her leg on her own but 50 minutes later I ran Steve’s yellow loop for him.  This was much tougher than I expected.  My heart rate was still elevated from the red loop and my legs took a good half mile to loosen up.  Fortunately the yellow loop begins with a graceful slope and I was able to unwind.  Once I got going, I felt great and ran my fastest pace of my three runs, an 8:49 pace.  Steve nominated me for team MVP for my unselfish act.  I lost to Jen who later ran the 6.9 mile red loop on her third run in a torrential downpour.  Understand that nearly every runner mostly walked their third loops.  As Jen reached the summit of the red loop, all the runners were turning around, too afraid to descend the river of mud.  Undaunted, and frankly disgusted by all the sissy runners retreating, Jen screamed down that mudslide full throttle.  Here’s a photo of her shoes afterwards.

AllisonHad Allison not been out barhopping with some  runner boys during the MVP selection committee’s discussions, she might have won MVP for her final performance.  My final run was spectacular – my fastest yet.  An 8:20 pace.  But I ran it on the very unspectacular yellow loop.  Like Jen before her, Allison ran the red loop.  The trail of heroes.  We were chasing Here Kitty Kitty for the last 20 hours.  Our Longmont competition, four hours from home on a mountainside in Snowmass.  On the longest loop, with the greatest elevation gain, Allison outran their team captain to bring the glory of victory to our team.  But as I said, she was out drinking during the awards ceremony so Jen won MVP.

championNaturally, the sun came out once the relay was over.  We spent the night in a couple of Snowmass Village condos where we washed off twenty-two hours of mud, sweat and grime.  I never once expected this relay to be so grueling.  So totally exhausting.  And what’s wrong with my friends and neighbors to make them not only want to do this sort of thing, but to so thoroughly enjoy it?  Is this what it means to live in Colorado?  I think it does.  The mountains exist for running.  I came with zero plans for speed or achievement of any kind.  Just the social aspect of running on mountain trails with good friends.  And yet, every loop was an amazing race.  I ran strong every mile and was never passed.  This was the most extraordinary running boot camp I’ve ever participated in.

it cuts like a knifeWe were presented with participant medals that carried the seal of non TSA approval.  Seriously, they came with a warning to not try sneaking them past airport security.  Not sure how to describe them really.  Some sort of survival utility toolkit.  Think of a one pound razor blade that could take out your enemies with a flick of the wrist.  Half our team cut themselves within an hour of the relay’s completion.

The sun rose the morning after in a cloudless sky.  We brunched at Aspen Over Easy and stopped by the Maroon Bells before heading home.  We took the slow drive over Independence Pass.  Hard to imagine things getting better after the most thrilling trail run ever, but I swear to you, it just kept getting better.

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Mags

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Jennifer ParisThis is Jen’s first run on 8000 foot high Magnolia Road.  Being my second run, I’ve taken to calling her Mags.  The road, not Jen.  You have to run or bike Mags.  Fresh and cool mountain air.  Long, rolling hills.  Stunning views.  First time I can think of that a road motivated me to read a book – Running with the Buffaloes.  The book tells the story of Mark Wetmore coaching the CU Buffs to the NCAA National Championship in Cross Country.  Magnolia Road was their regular Sunday run.  Wetmore said the only thing better would have been if they lived up on Mags and trained down in Boulder.

I’m up here a second time training for Snowmass.  This time with half my relay team, Steve, Keith and Jen.  Next weekend, Steve will launch our relay at 4pm Friday afternoon.  Eight of us will run through the night and Steve’s daughter Allison will cross the finish line around noon Saturday.  When we aren’t running, the team will be camped at 7,900 feet in Snowmass Village among close to 200 other relay teams.  Eating.  Drinking.  Celebrating the Colorado outdoor lifestyle.

Course Map SnowmassEach of us will run three legs.  The green loop is 3.5 miles with a 500 foot rise in elevation.  The yellow loop is 4 miles with only a 300 foot gain in elevation.  The red loop is the biggie at 6.7 miles with an 1100 foot climb over the first 3.5 miles.  This is why we’re training on Mags.  The rest of the team has been running regularly on the trails outside of Lyons.  We’ll be ready.  The most difficult aspect to this run might be the sleep deprivation.  My runs are scheduled for 9pm, 3am and 10am.  I’ll be sporting a head lamp to ensure I don’t run off a cliff.  None of us are expecting to set any records.  It should be a fun time.  Great way to kick off the summer.

race photoI got my photos from the Bolder Boulder.  They are free this year.  Of course, they come stamped with a Right Guard logo, which I cropped out.  I’m okay with the sponsorship though.  Saves me a good $50.  I’m less happy with my form after viewing the photos.  I know my running form has improved dramatically over the last two years.  Race photos offer an excellent opportunity to view foot falls and form.  I’ve placed emphasis on shortening my stride and landing more on the front of my feet.  These photos illustrate good form at the start but that my left foot in particular falls apart once I’m sufficiently fatigued.  Makes sense that is the foot that generally suffers from planters fasciitis.  Not sure where this pic is on the course but probably the first half as my feet look positioned properly still.  Not showing you the bad photos near the end of the race.

Bolder Boulder 2015

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kidsI’m so excited for today’s Bolder Boulder that I beat my 5am alarm out of bed.  I think I’m anxious because I missed this race last year.  And because I’m confident my conditioning has me set to PR at this distance.  I’m ready to race a 10K.  All my workouts since February have been leading up to this.

I set some aggressive goals for myself.  The first is to beat my 2013 BB time, which will result in a PR.  Second is to run under a 7 minute pace.  That’ll just look better on my Garmin stats site.  Third is that I’m projecting to run a 6:50 pace.  I think it’s attainable based on my 5K races and fast workouts.  Finally, I set a stretch goal that’s a bit inane.  I want to run close to my first Bolder Boulder time twenty-five years ago – 41:11.  A boy can dream.

Despite knowing I plan to push myself hard this morning, I’m not nervous at the starting line.  My stomach isn’t full of butterflies because it knows that my idea of hard, if run correctly, will keep me just under my anaerobic threshold.  My idea of racing is what track athletes would consider a hard workout where they push their AT or lactate threshold.  Because I hope to run my first mile in 6:50, I warm up before with some light jogging.  I get in a mile or two jogging from my car to the race start, and another mile off the starting line.

I fall into conversation with some forty year olds in my wave before we launch.  The age diversity in my AB wave is more varied than I expected.  I would have guessed younger, and there are several high school cross country teams in uniform.  Only about 10% women.  Bummer because I like to have something to look at.  Instead I make a game of looking for other men with larger guts than me.  I don’t find any.  Hmm.

walkingThe wheelchair division launches first, followed by two more waves, then mine.  I feel like I’m running on target and have aligned myself a full lane right of the curb.  This is to avoid slowing down behind the crush of runners at the first turn, which will be left.  Slowing down for crowds isn’t as critical in the early miles but I take the turn a bit wide anyway to maintain momentum.  I do the same with the next left hand turn which has us turned fully around now on 28th St.  My Garmin reads 6:44 for my first mile, although my official time is 6:51.  Either way, right on target.

I am pushing my AT with this pace though and don’t take the hill up Folsom as strong as I’d like.  My Garmin time for mile two is 6:53, which again is on target, but my official race pace scores 6:57.  The entire race has mile Garmin splits a good 5 seconds or more faster than my official times.  This is the problem with running big races, the crowd forces you to run more distance due to the necessary passing.

I surge aggressively into mile three before the grade steepens.  My race plan is to optimize fast sections by running them fast.  I pass a wall of 5 or 6 girls here wearing tutus.  Two of them pass me back a half mile later as we climb a hill.  Their tutus act as markers and are useful in crowded events.  I pass them again as we head downhill and complete mile three in 6:59.  Garmin time.  I don’t know the official times of course until after the race.  I expected mile three to be slower.  I studied my previous race splits, as well as others in my age division and the elites from earlier Bolder Boulders.  Every disciplined runner runs mile three the slowest of all six.  Mile five is typically their fastest.  Very few exceptions to this.  I feel sort of good knowing I run a similar pattern.  I based my race strategy on it.  Big data for runners.

With half the race behind me, I know a couple of things.  Key is that I know I’m comfortable at this pace.  I’m hovering just under my AT threshold and believe I’ll be able to keep my miles under 7 minutes.  The confidence from this counters the disappointment I feel from not being able to push harder up these hills.  They’re not huge hills, but man, they are just enough to keep me from unwinding a bit and passing more runners.  So the second thing I know is that I can’t speed up.  Not yet.  I hope I can for mile five.

I push myself a bit harder on mile four and run this in 6:55.  This is the high point of the course at 5391 foot Casey Hill, topping out at the intersection of 13th and High Streets about 50 meters into mile five.  This mile is all down hill and begins with the biggest drop of the course.  I’d like to leverage this down slope to gain momentum but use it instead to allow my heart rate to recover from the uphill.  I know the remaining mile is a slight downward slope and that I’ll be able to accelerate once my cardio drops back down.  Ideally, before I reach the left-hand turn onto Spruce.  Running fast down a steep grade isn’t as smart as on more shallow slopes unless you can maintain proper form.  It’s difficult to avoid landing on your heels down extreme slopes, and that jars your body with negative motion.  This hill isn’t exactly massive and a better runner could take it fast.  One runner does pass me here.  I could chase him if I weren’t so fatigued right now.  I use it for a micro recovery.

In addition to planning to surge a faster pace on mile five, I also hope to run smart through the two S-curves as we hop from Spruce to Pearl, and again from Pearl to Walnut.  Running a straight line seems simple enough but is made complex when trapped behind a wall of slower runners.  In the second half of any race, surrendering momentum around a turn is a bigger sin than adding distance by taking it wide.  Maintaining momentum not only takes less energy than restarting the engines, it’s more of a sure thing.  Having to speed back up requires the mental toughness that for me, expired climbing Casey Hill.  Brains over brawn at this point, also known as experience.  With all that said though, most runners around me are running the same pace so I don’t find myself trapped behind any bottlenecks and complete mile five in 6:38.  A much faster pace but actually per plan.

The bulk of the crowd running with me down Walnut steers toward the right-hand curb.  They are optimizing their line for the eventual 90° turn right onto Folsom.  I remain oriented toward the left.  My thought is to maximize my momentum by starting wide left.  Traditionally, a barrier is erected where Walnut intersects Folsom, less than a full lane from the curb, that prompts braking for a surprisingly tight turn.  Losing momentum here is critical because it’s where anyone seriously competitive would be starting an early kick.  I know that once I slow down, I’m unlikely to speed back up again.  My path will consist of two 45° angles – I’ll hit the corner already halfway turned.  Only issue might be if I run a cross route into the right-hand runners streaming wide left onto Folsom.  If I run into traffic, I plan to assume the right of way.  I’m not entirely clear on the etiquette, but I feel momentum trumps runners hitting the brakes.  This might sound reckless but at least it’s a plan.  Those rattled runners on the right are accidents waiting to happen.  The only problem with this plan is that I’ve slowed down dramatically after that fast mile five and probably won’t impress anyone with my momentum into that upcoming turn.

I negotiate the turn fine and maintain a fairly decent pace along Folsom, not slowing down as much as I expected.  I must have recovered on my lazy stretch along Walnut before the turn.  This is the only part of the race so far that I haven’t run to plan.  I wanted to maintain the fifth mile pace all the way to Folsom.  Very few runners are passing me though.  This is when any one racing should turn on their early kick.  Likely everyone is saving their legs for after Boulder Creek, when the grade notably increases.

Climbing up Folsom after crossing Boulder Creek, I feel my heart rate begin to thump inside my chest, strong enough to launch an avalanche.  This gives me thoughts of my familial obligations, my life insurance policy, and my spotty church attendance.  I was recently talking to my buddy Dave about the issue (fear) I have running through this warning signal.  Running those 5Ks in Austin last February aided me to finally develop some speed in my legs.  Learning speed is half the battle.  Gaining comfort with a heart that’s ready to explode is another.  More interval training would have helped me adapt to running with a raging heart rate.  Along with hill repeats.  Too late for training now.  I slow down.

This is expected though, part of my 5th mile, early kick plan to leverage the fast course and sacrifice the slow course.  I might climb into the stadium at a snail’s pace, but no one is running fast on this hill.  Only one guy passes me running up into the stadium.  And a second sprints past me on his kick as we reach the top.  I discover a kick of my own and finish stronger than usual.  I ran mile six in 6:49 and cross the finish line in 43:09.

My initial reaction is of disappointment that I didn’t break 43 minutes.  Further reflection though has left me totally satisfied.  I’m not happy with those slower official mile splits, so I’m referencing my Garmin splits.  The difference is from running a tenth of a mile longer than a 10K due to crowds.  And missing my target by 9 seconds is nothing considering it’s a 40 plus minute 10K.  That is on target.  And my Garmin average pace is 6:51 – one second off my projection.  I’m even more impressed with my 6:38 fifth mile when I projected 6:40.  I ran this race as close to plan as possible.  I surged on downhills and placed 6th in my age division.  First time to break into the top ten for this event.  I’m good.

parachute dropThe kids had a good time as well.  Amy and Wendy walked with a half dozen girls and boys through the surprisingly sunny Boulder streets.  Although it’s raining now, the weather was ideal for running or walking this morning.  The atmosphere in Folsom Stadium is unbelievable.  Boulder is such a running community, we’re probably the only campus in NCAA sports to fill the seats with more fans for a running event than for football games.  Happy Memorial Day!

Magnolia Road

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Magnp;ia RoadKeith picked me up at 8:30am this morning to run Magnolia Road.  Our goal was to find suitable terrain to prep for our upcoming mountain trail relay race in Snowmass.  By suitable, I mean not flooded or overly muddy.  It has rained nearly every day this May and many trails are impassable.

I’ve never run Magnolia Road.  I don’t generally run roads.  This is packed dirt and not pavement, so like a really wide trail.  I would not call it pedestrian though.  At over 8000 feet and popularized in the local running book, Running with the Buffaloes, I was a bit intimidated.

Driving west out of Boulder on Canyon Road, headed up to Nederland, the turn onto Magnolia lies to the left just past the tunnel.  We drove four miles down until the pavement turned to dirt and parked on the side of the road.  This saved us probably 2000 feet of steep climbs.  The road began downhill for over a half mile, which meant we would finish uphill.  The trees thinned out and presented us with gorgeous views of mountaintop valleys.  There are quite a few homes up here but the traffic was light.  We were able to average a 9 minute pace, faster than I expected.  The terrain consists of rolling hills, each a good half mile or more long.  At this elevation, it’s a tough slog.  My Garmin captured 800 feet of elevation gain over the 8 mile out-and-back run.  We escaped the rain but heavy clouds rolled in from the east on our return, dropping the temperature and making it impossible to tell the time of day.

This was my last big workout before Memorial Day’s Bolder Boulder 10K.  We didn’t push our pace but the hills gave us a good aerobic workout regardless, and I still feel them in my glutes.  I’ll maybe run an easy 3 tomorrow, in the morning to prep for running early.  I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that I intend to run hard Monday.  Not sure why I commit like that and put myself out there.  But honestly, my pace predictions are generally fairly accurate.  My fastest 10K, since I started running again 6 years ago, is a 7:08 pace at the 2013 Bolder Boulder.  Which is also the last time I ran it.  I know I can run under a 7 minute pace this year and really expect to hit 6:50 per mile.  My stretch goal is 6:40 per mile.

I rarely hit my stretch goals, but they’re good to have when I discover early in a race that I’ve underestimated myself.  I’ve demonstrated this year I can run a 6:40 pace 5K.  The trick to running nearly that fast for a 10K will be in how I manage the first mile.  First half mile really.  If I can avoid oxygen debt early on, and I’m mentally prepared to race, I feel like the 6:50 pace is doable.  My plan is to shoot for that pace consistently each mile.  Then hopefully run the 5th mile in 6:40, saving little to nothing for the final mile up Folsom.

The Bolder Boulder is an uphill course with three notable downhills.  There is a 4th, albeit slight, downhill leading into the end of the first mile, down 28th Street and across Pine.  After Pine Street, mile two is entirely uphill on Folsom.  The 3rd mile ends on a decent down slope that bleeds into the 4th mile.  Mile four contains a second downhill, but finishes up at the highest point of the course on Casey Hill.  And the 5th mile is totally downhill.  It might look flat after Casey Hill but it’s not, and it provides motivational crowds as it zig-zags through downtown.  Conversely, mile six is entirely uphill after turning back onto Folsom.

My strategy is to pick up my pace on each of the four downhills I just described – including the slight slope at the end of mile one.  Still, I’m looking to run an even mile pace for the first four miles.  I’ll recover a bit running down Casey Hill, and then run the 5th mile as if it’s my last.  My experience suggests there is little reason to save a kick for the end.  The hill is too long and too steep leading into the stadium.  I think this plan of action will give me the best possible time.  I’m not racing against other runners, just time.  Not that tactics won’t matter on some of the turns, but I believe maximizing the downhills will provide the optimal overall time.  I’ll let you know Monday.

The Graduate

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grandparentsReally big weekend. In-laws in town. Brit graduated from CU Denver yesterday. Party today. And, because this blog is all about me, I won my age division in a 5K this morning.

This weekend is certainly all about Brittany.  Karen and I are so proud of her.  Kids grow up in college and Brit was no exception.  She demonstrated strong intelligence, tenacity and work ethic.  She worked her way through five years of college and graduated with high grades and zero debt.

proud papaHer Papa started a college fund for her that paid her tuition for nine semesters, including her dorm expenses the first year.  Brittany took over payments for her living expenses her second year with restaurant jobs and paid her final semester tuition herself from her salary teaching voice lessons at Wildflower.

The really cool thing is that Brittany already has been working in a professional capacity for over a year at Wildflower, teaching voice lessons.  With her classes complete, she can increase her hours.  She’s pictured here with her Papa after gifting him with a stole of gratitude for all his support.

Shoes & Brews RunnersMy race this morning went about as well as I hoped.  Karen admonished me for racing on such a busy weekend, but I would have run anyway.  I wanted to get in a 5K that would set my expectations for my pace in next weekend’s Bolder Boulder 10K.  The Erie 5K did just that.  Most interesting to me are both my first mile and my overall pace.

podiumMy overall pace is meaningful because I shouldn’t expect to run any faster for a 10K.  I ran a 6:42 pace today, I think my second fastest 5K ever in 20:49.  And I ran the first mile in 6:29, which is way too fast for me.  I was breathing hard and slowed down to 6:58 for my second mile.  This tells me that if I maintain about a 6:50 pace the first mile in the BB10K, I might be able to hold that as an average pace all six miles.  I was able to recover this morning and return to a 6:40 pace for my third mile.  Recovery in the Bolder Boulder, after a too fast first mile, is harder because of the hills.  Experience suggests I won’t be able to make up lost time until maybe the 4th or 5th mile.

Dad & BritThis weekend is far from over yet though.  We still have a party for Brit at 2020 later this evening.  And we have two more high school celebrations to attend next weekend before the race on Monday.  And Brittany has to host a big performance with her students at the Boulder Creekfest next weekend too.  I hope the summer slows down at some point.  I have a relay in Snowmass in June.  Ellie flies to Washington DC for a leadership event in July.  And I hope to climb Long’s Peak with my neighbors in August.  At some point, I need to finish planting my garden.

400 Meter Intervals

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SWT TrackI can’t remember the last time I ran on a track.  Maybe a time around this photo in the early ’80s.  I ran on the Niwot High School track today.  In between rain showers.  I ran 4×400 meter intervals.  I would tell you I’m working on my speed for the Bolder Boulder, but I suspect I’ve lost focus and am now working on my speed to stay competitive on the Shoes & Brews 800 meter beer board.

Intervals are great for increasing your anaerobic threshold.  I want that too but am more interested in the benefits of form and breathing technique.  The conditioning ironically comes from the rest interval, not waiting for your heart to fully rest before starting the next repetition.  But I want the practice of the 400 meter run itself.  Running fast while tired.

I thought, hoped really, I could run between 4 and 8 of these, and run them each in 90 seconds.  I’m running this fast in my Shoes & Brews 800 meter runs, so I knew this was within my limits.  Turns out, I ran my first two 400s in 91 seconds.  Spot on.  I didn’t time my rest but walked just short of 200 meters, which is what I generally did when I was younger.  It became evident after these two that I wasn’t going to run eight.  Ran my 3rd though in 90 seconds and 4th in 87 seconds.

I’m pleased with that consistency.  All the memories of running these in high school and college came flooding back.  Chasing Joe Cepeda around the oval.  Not feeling anything for the first 20 or 30 meters because my heart is still beating so fast from the previous interval.  And how important arm form is.  Attention to a good arm swing totally helps to carry you around the track through the fatigue.  I initially thought those 800 meter speed trials would be good for me, but they don’t provide enough repetition to learn good form.  Once a week isn’t the same as 4 times in one workout.  It’s like anything else, repetition is the key to learning.

Politics

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snake oilWe went out for dinner last night with some neighbors and the discussion turned to politics.  My initial response was that I do follow politics and get into it a bit as an election nears, but now isn’t quite near enough for me yet.  I wouldn’t be able to maintain my disgust meter for two full years well enough to compete with some of the more seasoned internet trolls.

Even though everyone agreed they felt similarly on the early campaign, Pam went for broke and lobbed the grenade I couldn’t avoid.  She asked me what I think of Ted Cruz.  She somehow knew the right words to cut through my reluctance and evoke the most visceral response.

His pasty-white, fat face and greasy, slicked back hair make my skin crawl.  He’s Nixon reincarnate.  He’s a neon billboard flashing into the darkness that he’s a snake-oil selling, revival-tent preaching, dirt-bag liar.  At least that’s the image I take away from the media feeds.  Hope I haven’t offended anyone. Feel free to unfriend, or unfollow, or block me.

Speed Trials

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248Shoes & Brews knew I’d be back.  Their 800 meter speed trials are addictive.  And competitive.  The board no longer contains any men’s times over 3 minutes.  I returned tonight to find my name slip down a couple of notches.  It’s clear now I’ll have to not only run fast, but run often.  At least bi-weekly.  This works for me as I’ve adapted this for my Bolder Boulder speed training.

A young guy named Brad ran with me tonight which helped pace me to 2:48.  Brad ran a 2:45.  I feel good dropping 3 seconds off my previous time.  It advances me ahead of two others on the board and places me in the 2:40s.  I believe I’ll set my goal for this summer at 2:30 flat.  Should be doable.  It’s less about getting in shape and more about learning to breathe and improving form.

248dot99Shoes & Brews was full again tonight.  They get a nice crowd for their Thursday night social runs.  I commented to Keith how surprised I am on what a running community Longmont is.  He responded the runners probably move to Boulder and soon realize they can’t afford it, so they move here.  We ran 4 miles along the river trail, which I used as a warmup for my speed trial.  There was a light rain which made for quite nice running weather.

Ashlee just sent me this new photo of the board, after my initial post.  My position dropped from 13 to 14, even after shaving 3 seconds.  This is such a competitive town.  Or cheap and these bar flies will do anything to avoid paying $5 for a pint.  I hope Rob (no last name) is irritated with me beating him by 1/100th of a second.

Sign Up

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bibEllie and I signed up for the 2015 Bolder Boulder today.  Ellie will run with Wendy, Chase and the boys.  I start in the 3rd wave!

I’m pretty happy about this.  I’ve steadily improved my starting waves since I began racing these events again back in 2011.  My best was wave B (the 4th wave) in 2013.  Last year I jogged with Ellie.  This is important to me because each subsequent wave adds further distance to the run, due to passing other runners.  I figure each wave adds 10 to 15 seconds to an overall time.  The closer to the front, the less impact.  I’m hoping to run a 6:50 or so mile pace, but that won’t help me to run 42 minutes unless I’m in one of the first waves.

The funny thing, for me, is that the race time that qualified me for this wave was from one of my 5Ks earlier this year down in Austin.  Maybe submitting a time run at sea level is cheating.  I don’t care.  All’s fair in road racing.  I have to give credit to Ken Hausman for helping me to run a 20 minute 5K by passing me after two miles.  That pushed me.  My Bolder Boulder goal this year is under 43 minutes.  I think I have a shot at it.  I ran 13 miles today on the East Boulder Trail and felt strong on the hills.  I might run a couple of more 800 meter time trials at Shoes & Brews to work on my speed.  BB race day is May 25th.

On the Board

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Shoes & Brews BoardI made the board tonight at Shoes & Brews.  Ashlee timed me running 800 meters (a half mile) in 2:51:72.  This means all I pay for a pint of beer is $2.51.  That is, until I drop off the bottom of the board.  Last Thursday this board was only three quarters full.  And I can see several of the runners have already improved upon their original times.  This is shaping up to be a speedy summer.

Click on the pic for full resolution.  Women runners are on the right, and as you can see – there’s still room.  You can stop by any day for a time trial, but the Thursday night social run might give you some spectators.

4x800 relay teamI haven’t raced a half mile since high school.  We had a deep pool of talent, with about six of us who could run two minutes or under.  We won every 4×800 relay race my senior year except the Texas Relays.  This is part of my team in this photo.

My run today brought back memories of just how painful it is to race 800 meters.  The Shoes & Brews course runs west down Boston Avenue.  There’s a bend in the road at roughly 200 meters.  I was in complete oxygen debt by this point.  I lengthened my stride to recover somewhat until the 400 meter turn-around.  I couldn’t speed up there either, but was able to put on a bit of a kick for the final 200 meters.  I only ran 4 seconds slower on the return which isn’t too uneven a pace.  I suspect I’ll need to race this every one or two weeks to stay on the board.  Looking for some buddies to pace me.  And race me.

Who Moved my Data Center?

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data center bookIn case you don’t know, the cloud is a data center.  Blaine Berger misses the opportunity to answer that key question for the billions of mobile users with this book, but he does speak to much more than arcane data centers.  This is a primer for any budding project manager.  In only 160 pages.  Everyone I work with, and the other 400,000 IBMers I’ve yet to virtually meet on a conference call, should read this book.

If we can substitute the term cloud for data center, and we can, Blaine references his experiences sailing through perfect storms.  Because I grew up in data centers, and should have been fired for numerous large scale outages, each story made me anxious.  I found myself wanting a bigger boat before Blaine would get too far into the details of each data center move.

Fortunately, Blaine applied effective humor to calm my nerves.  I wouldn’t say he used repetition per se, but his lessons built on themselves to where I definitely felt more wise by the end.  Everyone who works in I/T knows computers don’t work and that Murphy’s Law is simply a warmup for dealing with the complexities of installing networks.  This book advises you on how to be prepared.  It’s boy scout meets geek.

I attended Blaine’s book publishing party last night at the Lola Mexican Fish House.  It allowed me to network a little, which I rarely do.  Although I eventually ended up ensconced at a table with four retired IBMers.  Go figure.  As Blaine spoke to the crowd to thank everyone, he began by stating, “We are all authors now.”  The self-centered person I am, I took this as a personal dig toward my blogging.  But then I learned he’s been saying this for awhile and has written several other tech books.  And with scores of others in the room, it is possible he wasn’t merely talking to me.

I left the fish house for another restaurant, because I wanted to explore the Union Station area of Denver before going home.  I ate a small plate of lamb tartare at Colt & Gray with a glass of Coté du Rhone, while swarms of runners buzzed past.  Apparently no one runs alone in LoDo, they all belong to huge teams.  I did miss my evening run for this book affair, but it was worth it.  I took an Uber home after a 3 minute wait.  Enjoyable evening.

Telephone Pole Intervals

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telephone polesIt’s time I publish my workout.  This will make me rich.  To prep for the Bolder Boulder, in order to best my 41:11 from 1990 in a race against time, I’ve been running intervals.  Telephone pole intervals.  No one else does this.

An interval workout consists of running repetitions, such as 8 x 400 meters, at perhaps 75% full speed for the distance; but the emphasis is on the rest interval.  You don’t allow your heart rate to fully recover before starting the next repetition.

Coaches would have you run a defined distance, 400 or 800 meters.  My favorite in college were mile intervals.  I could run four or five of them averaging 4:40 per mile.  I could maybe run mile intervals now at a 6:40 pace.  Maybe.  But not by myself and that’s the point.  There’s no way I could run such an intense interval workout by myself.  I’d need the support of a team to run alongside of me and push me.

My telephone pole intervals are a much shorter distance.  Actually, I’m not sure of the length.  I run for two poles, then jog super slow for one pole, and repeat.  I’m guessing these poles are spaced about 100 meters apart.  Probably a little less.  And I don’t time myself.  I start out at about a 60% pace of what I could sprint the distance to the first pole, then increase my pace to 80% all out to the second pole.  This provides for somewhat of a warmup so that I don’t hurt myself.

The primary objective of intervals is to increase anaerobic threshold levels and your body’s ability to run depleted of oxygen.  Supposedly your body adapts to running in oxygen debt.  I’m probably not getting much of this anaerobic benefit since I am running such a short distance, but my focus is really more on teaching my legs to run fast and form.  Muscles have to be trained.  I don’t want to simply run sprints, because I would probably hurt myself.  Plus, I’m running this as part of my 8 mile runs.  After my 4 mile turn-around, between 83rd St. and Ogallala Road.  The overall distance is about a half mile.  Then I continue my normal pace for the remaining 3 miles of my distance run.

This is how a 53 year old runner, sans training partners or team, or watch, runs intervals.  The first test of the success of my telephone pole intervals will be this Thursday at Shoes & Brews.  I plan to run a half mile time trial to get myself on their beer board.  If I qualify, my half mile time, ideally under 3 minutes, will be the price I’ll pay ongoing for beers.

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