Thursday, April 24, 2008

Striders Duathlon

The Striders Duathlon this past Sunday marked the official end of my unofficial pre-season. I was debating doing a 5k at the Meadowlands this coming weekend, but between narrowly avoiding killing myself at the North Face race and then running my fastest 5k ever at the du, I figure I've got a good sense of my current fitness. Now it's time to plow ahead with the build to my super secret summer race (to be revealed soon for anyone that actually cares).

Anyway, Striders was the first duathlon I've ever done and it turned out to go even better than I had expected, especially in light of my knee still not 100% going into the weekend. Hannah and I raced the short course -- 5k run/30k bike/5k run. I finished 18th overall and first in my age group (of three starters, but whatever, a win is a win). What I'm most pleased about is I ran my second 5k faster than the first, and, as I mentioned, it was my fastest 5k to date.

More interesting (from a race perspective), is that I had the 9th fastest second run (compared to a 28th fastest first run). That tells me that a lot of people went out way too hard. Since most of the same people will probably be racing my super secret race (not so secret now -- you can figure out it's in San Angelo), that bodes well for my overall chances.

On a much more interesting note, I was passed before I finished the first 5k by a guy doing his first 8k leg of the long course race (8k/74k/8k). He ran a 26-something 8k. That's amazingly fast. It turns out it was Michael Lovato -- pro-extraordinaire -- stopping by on his way from Austin to Boulder or New Mexico or something. This is a guy that's twice placed in the top 10 at Kona (in '07 and '03), amongst dozens of other top results.

Between Dean Karnazes two weeks ago and Lovato this weekend, I've had a pretty good run of randomly seeing fast people on the same course as me. I didn't check Lovato into a bush though -- he was moving too fast.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Road trip!

Due to a slow-moving storm that stretched from Mexico to Kansas last Thursday night, I was potentially stranded in Houston (on my way to San Angelo). Generally, that wouldn't have been so big a problem, except Continental didn't cancel the flight until midnight (it was supposed to take off at 9:25 p.m.) and I had such a debacle with American two weeks before that I didn't want to deal with another extended delay/layover.

I wound up in an SUV with five strangers -- one of whom, the car's owner, needed to be in San Angelo at 7 a.m. We left on our 400 mile trip a little before 12:30.

It was definately surreal. Initially, everyone who wasn't sleeping was hesitant to talk much, but as the trip rolled on, and we realized that we likely would never see each other gain, conversation started flowing more freely. I learned to never get involved in a land war (in Asia or elsewhere), the Japanese love Blue Bell ice cream, we're training Iraqis who can't read (English or Iraqi) how to maintain airplanes, many pawnshops are actually managed as chains by a larger company, and lots of other strange facts I'd probably never have known.

We got to San Angelo around 6:30. I got home around 6:45. I said good morning/have a nice day at work to Hannah around 6:50. And I was sitting at our desk working on my laptop by 7:00. I then slept 10 hours that night and went to bed at 8:30 on Saturday.

The trip back wasn't nearly as dramatic. Although I did watch Walk the Line, so there was drama involved.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The North Face Endurance Challenge

Saturday was surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly wet and gross at the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY. Thank God I only signed up for the half marathon. It was possibly the hardest and unquestionably the stupidest race I've ever done.

The elevation changes were tough enough, but wet leaves on top of wet rocks on top of mud makes for a dangerous day. It took me over three hours -- I was expecting two, maybe 2:30. I didn't anticipate how rugged it was either: big rocks, little rocks, sharp rocks, fraggle rocks -- it was an ankle turning mess.

The uphills weren't even the hardest part -- it was the screaming descents.

All day long, you'd hear competitor yells of, "Are you kidding me?!?" and "This is retarded!" I suppose I could have gone faster, but my completely rational fear of death took hold. As it was, I fell anyway. Luckily, it was on an uphill and only resulted in a bashed knee.

I saw Dean Karnazes twice. The first time, he said, "Right on" to me. Of course, he said, "right on" to everyone he passed by, but it was still cool. The second time, I checked him into a bush. The group I was running with by the end had gotten into a groove, so we (or I anyway) didn't expect anyone to come cruising through. In the last mile, I cut to the left of the trail to dodge a huge mud puddle. Dean was blasting past at that exact second, so I knocked right into him. I apologized, he said no worries, and then he proceeded to race ahead. I gotta say, that dude has the most impressive calves I've ever seen. It was also cool that he was out there mixing it up with us non-ultra folk.

Overall, it was a fun -- and terrifying -- way to spend the morning. I think this also put the final nail in the coffin of my ambition to run an ultra marathon in the north east.

Update: It turns out I did better than expected. I finished 54th (out of 208 finishers; ~219 started) and 18th (out of 36) in my age group. Finish time was 3:05:31. The overall winner finished in 2:15:40 -- that's darn fast (but actually, not that fast at all).

Only 19 (of 65 starters) finished the 50 mile -- most missed the cutoff and got pulled off the course.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Legs of lead, patience of a llama

No, those aren't my superpowers.

I had a longish run in Texas on Sunday afternoon. It wasn't anything more than I've done over the last few weeks, and in fact, I ran it deliberately slower than usual because of the heat -- 86 degrees. Since that run, my legs have felt like garbage. I don't think I've ever thought about how significant the heat can affect your (my) body. I've run in high temps before, but it's always been after a summer of getting used to the weather. My last run before Sunday was 40 degrees in NJ. There's a lesson in here somewhere, although I suspect it's not: "Don't run in Texas."

I'm sure the flight back to NJ that I took almost immediately after didn't help.

As for the patience of a llama (I don't actually know if llamas are patient, but work with me here) -- I arrived in San Angelo 36 hours after I was originally supposed to. And Hannah had to drive to Austin to pick me up. All this was before the recent wave of American cancellations. Basically, AA blew it, but I'm optimistic they can reaffirm my faith in their airline. I have another four flights booked with them; we'll see if I have a fifth.

I've got The North Face Endurance Challenge this weekend. Looks to be rainy and hard. Here's the elevation profile. At least my lead legs will help me get downhill faster.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thawing out

On Saturday I went for a trail run at Ringwood State Park (where I went for a hike earlier this year). It's amazing how different things look given some time to thaw out.

Or how similar they look, regardless of the season.

This time, since I was running, I covered a lot of the same ground in a lot less time. Feeling bold, I decided to run down to 287. For what it's worth, standing under the highway is a lot more impressive than this picture shows.

Naturally, I didn't really think about how quickly I came down the hill on my way to the highway. It wasn't until I headed back that I realized my planned run was going to be a bit longer.

Ah well. It was fun anyway.