Saturday, June 21, 2014

San Lorenzo River Half Marathon Race Report 2014

I knew I was only aiming to run about 28 miles this week (recovery week), but I wanted to get a couple of high intensity efforts in as well, so one of the runs was the monthly 5k at work (I got beat by the old man again - Bruce Storms (great runner name) has never lost a race on the grounds of Moffett Field in the 20+ years that he has worked there and he is turning 50 any day now).  My legs just didn't have much zip in them - could be the product of a 110 mile week the week before?  Oh well, I pushed it hard and ended up with a 18:12, pretty much par for the new course for me.  I used to run in the low 17s on the old course (known as the red course) before Google moved in and took a chunk of our space.  I am not sure if I was in better shape, if it was a shorter course, or just a faster course (less turns, etc), but I am mainly comparing times these days to the new era, mostly so I don't get discouraged about how fast I "used" to be.

Anyways.  I spotted a weekend trail race that covered some terrain that I hadn't seen before and it looked like I could combine it with a quality family beach trip.  I signed up for the San Lorenzo River Half marathon put on by Coastal Rail Runs (CTR).  The race starts at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz and travels up to Henry Cowell and back.  I really like Coastal's events and really like what they do.

They started us off with running around a field on a side-walk.  Interesting idea, so all the spectators (family) can check out the runners and get plenty of photo opp.  I got a feeling the runners really didn't know what to do with themselves though. Actually, maybe that was just me.  We just sort of galloped around the field, strutting our stuff in front of everyone, but no one knew how fast we should run, and nobody wanted to be in the lead.  So I got a little antsy by the end of the loop and decided I could at least get ahead of everyone before we hit the single track.

Scoping the field that they wanted us to run around.  Obviously a little confused.  Or maybe I was trying to figure out what "No Dumb Ports" means...
(credit: Joanne Johnson)
 There is a pretty stiff climb off the start and I had a couple of guys breathing down my neck, but they never made a move to go for a pass, so we just lumbered up the hill at my "big guy" climbing pace.  Once the trail leveled out a little bit though, I picked up the pace and my pursuers dropped off a bit.  Great!  I thought I had lost them.  I ran alone for a good stretch, already wondering whether this was going to be a "lone" training run when I happened upon my buddy Sean from GoDogz out for a jog with a couple dozen dogs, or maybe just two.  I gave him my greetings and he discovered I was winning so far, so he left assurances with me that he would stick his dogs my chasers to give me time.  I think he failed in that endeavor though as a couple of guys chased me down on the second big climb after the river crossing.  It was clear that they were stronger climbers for the day, but I kept doing my thing, thinking maybe my downhill would be the equalizer.  Sure enough, we crested the climb, hit a steep downhill, and I let er rip!  I caught up to them by the bottom of the hill where we start a flat stretch of running along the river to the turnaround point.  I decided to keep them in sight and go for the kill later in the race if I still had legs.  After the turn-around I was able to scope out who else was chasing and felt that we had things pretty well in control.  The issue was that once we hit the climb again, they put enough distance on me that I lost sight of them and then lost a little bit of confidence.  I kept hammering though.  Crossed the river, then started the last significant climb.  Unfortunately Marco (third place guy that would eventually beat me) splashed into the river just as I was getting out of the other side (I decided to do a full body dive - it felt soooo good), when I started hiking up the climb on the other side, water squish, squishing out of my shoes, he caught up to me in no time.  We shared some running along the flatter parts, but then he was just too strong on the climbs and I lost sight of him.  I hammered as much as I could in the final miles, not really trying to catch anyone, since I couldn't see anyone else, but just hammering.  I finished 4th in 1:44 and change.  The winner was at 1:40, so the four of us were actually pretty bunched, and I have a feeling I was making up for my slow climbing with my suicidal down hills after all, but it matters little when you loose contact with the other runners.  Overall, I had a blast.  There was a fun mix of trails.  Open dirt roads, rooty single-track, flat and steep.  Perhaps one issue if I did have a slow race was because these pitches are considerably different than what I have been training on at Rancho.  At Rancho you have a lot of nice gradual gradients to grind out on the climbs or fly on the descents.  There was enough steep stuff to induce me to a hike and the downhills required a good amount of breaking, not allowing me to convert all of the accumulated potential energy into pure speed.  And too much flat.  But I can't complain, that is the fun part about these trail races - they are all so different.

Well, I'm glad that is over.
(credit: Joanne Johnson)
And we got an awesome beach trip!  I had maybe the best chai latte I have ever had at "The Buttery". Sat outside while a couple did some strummin on their instruments.  Then took a nap on the beach while the kids played in the seaweed, while listening to a band playing some mellow tunes by the pier.  Chowder in a bread bowl.  The works.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Running History Part 1: Austria years 0-12

Long time no blog.  One issue is my running camera has been dysfunctional, and really, no wants to read a blog that just has a bunch of words, but that is exactly what I am going to do today.

A little update on how the running has been going lately:  After Miwok I had a really tough time with deciding where to go with my running.  It seemed that ultra-marathoning was just not working with me and that maybe I should switch it up a little bit, maybe get to some shorter stuff so that I can feel fast and strong again.  This didn't last long though as I started healing mentally from the failure at Miwok.  Pretty soon I was back to dreaming about my next ultra adventure.  I don't know how to really explain why I gravitate towards these races, so let's just assumed that I am hooked.  The running has been exceptional lately.  I am trying a new training plan and am really enjoying the process and feel that it is working so far.  I am exited to see where it brings me.

Since I am just training, I have not felt compelled to share about my running, since it is all about getting it done.  I put the photography to the side for now (thanks to bad camera).  But I still want to contribute to this blog so I am taking a page from another ultra-runners blog that I like and am going to share about my running history and how I got to this point with being "hooked" on ultras.

Austria (0-12)

I was born in Vienna, Austria.  My parents are from Kansas and Missouri and were missionaries in Austria for the first twelve years of my life.  I was a largish baby with an even larger appetite, and quickly grew into a rather fat toddler with pigeon feet and crossed eyes - basically flying under the radar of children with athletic potential.  Corrective shoes and coke bottle thick glasses seemed to fix things a little bit, and it seemed after I hit two years old, my weight shifted from fatness to tallness.  Who knows how these things work?  But then I was a pretty normal, skinny four year old.

I don't have a ton of memories of adventures from these early years in my life, but I do remember playing free, roaming where I wanted and getting into as much trouble as I could handle.  I don't know if it was just the way that kids were raised in Austria at the time or because of a laissez-fair approach that my parents took, but boundaries were almost non-existent from my memories.  I remember exploring the neighborhood, hills, various playgrounds, basically as far as I could go and still feel confident that I could find my way home.  Some of my fondest adventures were escaping into the hills with my best buddy Lauri where we would build forts, set traps (play traps), and do imaginary battles.  Running was playing.

Most of my time in Austria my family lived in a house sort of on the boundary between city and country side in a small town called Pfaffstatten.  I did ride my bike a lot in those days.  That was my principal means of transportation.  I remember spending a lot of time on the bike path that ran along the canal near our house, and venturing up into hills so I could get the thrill of a fast downhill.  In terms of early aerobic development I am sure all of that time on the bike contributed to an early trend in my life towards endurance rather than speed and power.

My lack of speed and power became apparent as soon as I hit school years and we had regular recess and PE classes where the various games or tests were being conducted.  I was always one of the biggest kids in class and fairly athletic, but I would consistently loose in sprints, or in contest of throwing a ball a long ways, or wherever fast twitch muscle fibers might have given me an advantage.  But as soon as we hit the long runs, I was usually unbeatable.  Being fiercely competitive probably contributed to this outcome as when you are young, it is generally a question of will in terms of winning those long races, because few children are trained towards such an event, it is basically who is willing to put up with the most pain to win.  I was competitive to a fault, but that is another story.

A vivid memory I have from my running during those days was when my parents left me in charge of my two younger sisters when they went on a date or something.  I might have been nine or ten (it was different back then, I guess).  They told me that if I had an emergency to get ahold of our friends who lived nearby.  Well, at some point that evening, the three of us were rough-housing, and my youngest sister cracks her head on the corner of a piece of furniture and starts bleeding.  I didn't know what to do, so I tried to get ahold of the friends.  I don't know if I tried to call them, or what the process was, but at some point I decided I needed to go to their house to get help for my sister.

I think they lived maybe half a mile away, but when I took off from our house, I was flying.  I remember basically running as fast as I could and thinking in my head when I might slow down because I was pretty sure I couldn't keep it up.  It must have been the adrenaline or something but to my surprise, it just seemed effortless, I was running at maximum speed and there was no pain.  Long story short, the friend drove me back to our house, did something with my sister (it wasn't such a big deal after all) and everything was fine.

I also remember gym class at the Vienna Christian School when I was in fifth grade.  There was about a 1.5 mile jog (that is as best as I can guess the distance to be) from the school to the track where we did our classes.  Of course it was just supposed to be a warmup or whatever, but the most competitive among us made it our goal to be the first ones to the track.  I remember having some epic battles with this german kid name Mattheus.  The "jog" ends with a quarter mile uphill and I remember trailing just behind Mattheus and then he "trips" and hits the pavement.  I was 100% confident that he faked the whole thing because he knew he couldn't keep it up and would rather fain injury than let me have the satisfaction of passing him.  But I ran right past him, basking in my glory as soon as I hit the track.  He made a big deal out of the fact that I didn't stop to help him... it didn't faze me.

In 1993, when I was twelve years old, our family moved to the US.  I was a skinny, tall kid with decent athletic ability, and a definite competitive streak.  What that would mean for my athletic involvement in Salina, Kansas (population about 45000), was going to be an interesting adventure.