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 suggest 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.

Livermore

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team shotEver been to Livermore?  First time for Keith and me.  Livermore sits up against the foothills about 25 minutes northwest of Fort Collins.  They have a post office and a church.  And a trailhead.  This town leads to the Red Feather Lakes which I’m told are gorgeous.  We meet Beth and Ken Risdon here for the Fort Collins Trail Half Marathon this morning.

Keith and I are running this to prep for a mountain trail relay in Snowmass, two weeks after the Bolder Boulder.  I’m also interested in running this for the hill workout to condition myself for the Bolder Boulder.  Mountain trails require training.  It’s a bad idea to go directly from street running to a trail race.  You need to shorten your stride and develop good footfall coordination.  This is my favorite running and I have a blast this morning.

yellow shirtThe first mile is a cruel wake up though.  When I begin to feel pain in my arms, I know I’ve started out too fast.  The course begins at 5900 feet, quickly drops about 50 feet, and then rises up to over 6000 feet by the first mile.  At this point, we leave the dirt road for a single track trail.  I run the first mile in 9:04, which was my plan target pace before I knew how steep this would be.  I probably should have run a 10 minute pace.

The move to the trail causes runners to speed up in order to position themselves.  There’s a bit of passing as we find our pace on the rolling hills.  I find I can take the downhills fast but am slower than some of the other runners on the inclines.  This girl in the yellow shirt and I pass each other incessantly over the first 8 miles.  She passes me up hill, I pass her downhill.  Through two miles of this roller coaster, I run mile 2 in 8:03 and mile 3 in 8:09.  Which is too fast.

BethI run mile 4 in 9:51 and mile 5 in 9:45, a much more sensible pace for my abilities. Even once the trail flattens out, which it never truly does, I find I’m unable to catch my breath the entire first half of the race.  I’m fine with this, even though I’m a bit worried that I started too fast, because that’s why I’m here.  I would never push myself this hard running solo.  I’m not trying to race necessarily but am looking for a good workout.  Miles 4 to 7 contain significant elevation gain.  This acts as nature’s governor to slow me down.

On a flat course, my miles 4 and 5 pace would be good enough for me to recover.  It’s not flat though and I continue to breathe like a banshee.  The 5th mile contains numerous water crossings, which I happen to like but the yellow shirt girl I’m mostly following slows down for them.  I don’t know if she’s being cautious or simply doesn’t want to get her shoes wet.  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch her footfalls by this time and can tell she’s a strong trail runner with good foot placement.  The difference perhaps between guys and girls.  I take the water full speed without regard for the consequences.

KeithMile 6 is tough.  I slow down to 11:11.  Tougher yet is the part of mile 7 that contains the turn around point.  A hill just before the turn is stupidly steep.  A total momentum stopper.  To be fair, runners have been walking everywhere on this course, including the first mile, but this begins the massive slowdown for many of them.  My yellow shirt companion begins walking here and I pass her.  Only to be passed back by her on the subsequent downhill after the turn.  She’s a badass racer.

KenI stay on her heels and return to a 9:40 pace for mile 7.  We’re running much faster than that but this mile includes the steep up hill before the turn.  I run mile 8 in 7:19.  We’re in a strong race now, screaming down this mountain.  I lose yellow shirt though as we cross a stream and she slows down.  I don’t.  I continue to race down for as long as the trail drops.  I run mile 9 in 8:34 and mile 10 in 8:11.

Mile 11 begins an unrelenting climb back up the final hill.  I slow down to a 13:26 pace and for the first time walk a bit myself.  I encounter my buddy Torin on this hill.  I didn’t know he was here until I saw him ahead of me before the turn.  The middle four miles of this trail are actually double track which makes it easy to support runners in both directions.  I pass Torin for a moment but the competitive bastard takes me right back.  Neither of us are running fast just now but his slow is less slow than mine up hill.

2nd place winnersMile 12 is still mostly up hill but at less of a slope than previously and I run a 9:09 pace.  I also pass Torin here but not in a proud way.  His calves are cramping.  I know what this is like at the end of a race, extremely dispiriting.  I suspect Torin wanted to race me in.  I was looking forward to it myself.  The final mile is back down the dirt road and I unwind with a 7:30 pace, crossing the finish in 1:57:57.  Twenty minutes off my typical half marathon pace when running on flatter streets, but this beats my expectations.  I didn’t think I could break two hours on this course.  Beth and I both take second place in our respective age divisions.  Really tough course, but beautiful and highly recommended.

Off Days

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UT Alumni CenterCan’t be on every day.  Not every race runs to plan and not every workout is spectacular.  The trick is to not let the bad performances get you down.  This is one of the lessons of sports.  You have to lose to learn how to win.  I felt heavy all weekend, both on my 15 miler yesterday and my 8 miler today.  I can’t point to anything.  My legs were heavy and my attitude sort of blah.  About like I felt here in front of the UT Alumni Center at 25 miles into the Austin Marathon, running one of my slowest miles of the race.  But not all miles were like this and it was a good race overall.  Looking forward to next week.

I need strong motivation to work speed drills into my workouts.  It’s not easy running fast solo.  I should maybe consider running with a team.  I won’t because I don’t want to work with other people’s schedules, but I’m aware of the benefits.  I’ve been adding some fartleks into my daily runs and I like running fast.  Unless I’m feeling strong and quick though, I skip the speed workout.  Sluggish and speed don’t go well together.

I’m working on speed to prepare for the Bolder Boulder.  For some reason my race plan is to beat myself – my time 26 years ago.  That race is too competitive to think I can medal in my age division so I’ve contrived my own personal two man race – me against me.  My muscles need to re-learn how to run fast though.  And I need to work on my cardio for those hills.  The snow and rain made my hilly trails too muddy this weekend so I ran the Lobo Trail, which is almost perfectly flat.

A young girl passed me after five miles yesterday and made me realize I’d slowed down for no good reason.  I chased after her for the next mile because she wasn’t running a pace beyond my limits.  Once she noticed me though she sped up and I lost her.  That was arguably a bit early to start racing in a 15 mile run, but it suggests my sluggishness was mental.  Today, despite starting out super slow I did in fact loosen up a bit and got in a few faster miles.  But then, for whatever slacker reason I quit a quarter mile short and walked in.  This weekend was a waste but there are five more weeks.  Training starts for reals tomorrow.

Moments of Perfection

Ed Mahoney:

This almost makes me want to be a swimmer…

Originally posted on My Name is SCHOOLS:

cap“One minute was enough.  A person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.”  Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I just swam the fastest 50 of my life, and the beautiful thing about it was realizing the instant I’d finished it that this particular, perfect 50 was gone forever.  I loved it because it was ephemeral.

The clock said 32 seconds; ok, the clock said something less than 30 seconds, but that is not possible.  I did my usual warm-up, started my 50 splits, and as I headed down the pool thought “what’s going on here?”  Every breath is an opportunity to learn, and I was illuminated by the understanding that “training” is not just building endurance, or strength, or speed.  Training is building the ability to maintain technique.  Fifty-six years old…

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Keystone

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top of Dercum MountainSpring Break’s not over until the snow melts.  And that day is near.  Keystone closes their slopes tomorrow.  The Nordic Center closed at the end of March.  We drove up Thursday afternoon in zero traffic. I first learned how to ski here my senior year of college, 32 years ago. No lessons. I rode to the top of the mountain with my brother Steve. He told me I’d learn on the way down. Same brother who taught me how to play baseball right handed. I’m left handed.

JengaWe could not have asked for nicer weather. Ellie and I started with a large game of Jenga, waiting for the lifts to open.  Then we took the River Run gondola up with plans to snowboard nothing but greens back down. This was our routine all day. We boarded down the aptly named Schoolmarm trail.  We stored our jackets in a locker after our first run, it was that warm. Saw one guy skiing in shorts on Friday and many more on Saturday.

Schoolmarm is 3.5 miles long. We got in three runs for 10.5 miles. I swear to you, running 10 miles is easier. I’m certain if we weren’t such novices, we could have boarded much more. We both improved dramatically by the second run, but boarding with the breaks on is one helluva workout. My legs were too fatigued for a 4th run. By the end, I could barely manage to stand back up after falling. And I fell often. I fell into the yellow plastic snow fence at one point. Saved me from dropping off a small cliff.

IMG_5878I was a little surprised Ellie is better than me at boarding.  She has better form.  I think I began to shift from heel to toe quicker than her, but she could go so much farther before resting than me.  I tried to catch her at rest stops but my thighs would be on fire to the point I was nearly in tears.  Snowboarding probably isn’t so tough once you learn good form, but I’m still fairly novice at it.  I intended to snowshoe later with Karen but was way too fatigued to even think about it.  She had to work most of Friday, and then she also needed to practice new Jazzercise routines for a third class she picked up recently.

Ellie and I lunched Friday on top of Dercom Mountain before our last run.  She said the pizza was the best she’s ever eaten.  I tried to explain to her the phenomenon of how good food tastes when your body is extremely starved of calories.  She didn’t go for it though.  Apparently the food is pretty good on that mountaintop.

the fallWhile Ellie is clearly ahead of me in snowboarding skills, she took her share of spills.  I captured one in this pic.  Ellie fell so hard and often whenever she attempted to board on her toe edge, her knees are swollen with bruises.  We gladly soaked in the hot tub upon our return to the lodge for a good hour.  I took in the steam room as well.  The Keystone Lodge and Spa is a nice family-oriented property.  Not everything was available, some restaurants were closed, being the end of the season.  This was true for the slopes too but it’s arguably worth it given the smaller crowds and light traffic.  There was certainly enough snow for Ellie and me.

SaturdayWe expected dramatic improvement in our form Saturday but discovered snowboarding is even harder when your legs have been left shredded from the day before.  We strategically first boarded down a short slope to warm up but it didn’t help.  It took us twice as long to board down the 3.5 mile Schoolmarm trail the second day.  Our legs were too weak to work on our toe edge much.  The requisite confidence just isn’t there when your legs are like jello.  We still had a good second day.  Shorter, but just as exhausting as our first day.  An older skier ran into me near the bottom, in a slow zone.  He couldn’t find it in himself to apologize, instead he focused on trying to blame a slow moving skier downhill from me.  That girl at least asked me immediately if I was okay.  I was but highly irritated at this guy’s poor behavior, and I let him know it.  Because I was paying attention, I saw him coming and positioned myself for the collision.  Otherwise it might be a different story.

EllieEllie and I made our plans for next year.  We intend to kick off the season in November or December with a private lesson.  Ellie also wants her own snowboard for her birthday – which is in a couple of weeks.  She used Brit’s board this year.  I think I’m good on gear but like the idea of starting out with a private lesson.  I know proper form will pay dividends in terms of further enjoyment of the sport.  Even if I always suck, it’s so incredibly fun to join my daughter in such a thrilling activity.  I absolutely love Colorado.  Life is good.

Breckenridge 

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Breckendridge Nordic CenterI’m on spring break. Well, Ellie is on spring break. Same difference. I always take the week off from work to play and do my taxes. I used to do the same with Brit. We would ski. Ellie snowboards.  We didn’t get a chance to board here in Breckenridge. Ellie did enjoy sledding on a hill outside our cabin with her friends in the morning and later snow tubed Saturday afternoon.

This is a late spring break.  It would have been fine last year as the slopes were operating into June. Colorado is only at 65% snow pack this season. There’s enough snow still but it becomes slushy by noon. On a good note, the weather is awesome.  Both Karen and I eschewed jackets on our snowshoe jaunt while Amy and Dave skied cross country at the Breckenridge Nordic Center.  We did this in the morning.

Amy & DaveIt took Karen and me an hour even to traverse 1.75 miles.  We completed the Willow Trail counterclockwise, and added a short spurn with the Engleman Trail.  I completed a second loop while Karen waited for me in the lodge.  Sometimes I don’t know when to quit.  You’d have trouble knowing when enough is enough out here too, it’s just so gorgeous.  In fact, Dave and I both returned in the afternoon for another round.  Springtime in the mountains, with both snow and full sun, is not to be taken for granted.

IMG_5737On this second round, I trekked the Engleman Trail much higher, ascending into the upper trail section.  Here I discovered the Peaks Trail which follows the eastern side of the Ten Mile Range all the way to Frisco.  I wasn’t prepared for that long of an outing but got in another 90 minutes snowshoeing, running about a quarter of it.  Dave and I rejoined in the lodge for a couple of Hop Hunter IPAs.

Engleman TraailI’m not sure I can describe in words just how satisfying this second hike was.  The trail entwined thick forest with snow-laden single track, and I was all alone for most of it.  I truly felt religion snowshoeing through God’s high country in Hallmark card perfection.  I was high the rest of the day – which mainly consisted of snacking, watching the Final Four, and having an early Easter, ham dinner.  Karen and I returned home Sunday so she could teach an aerobics class.  I’ve since called my mom to wish her a happy Easter.  Ellie remained in Breck with her friends for another day of snow and fun.  Still full sunshine out there on the Front Range.  I think I might go for a run.

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