Friday, November 25, 2011

Race Report - Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day Run

I have no idea when the first "Turkey Trot" was held or what the genesis for the idea was. But regardless of that, I think it's a tradition that is almost as great as Thanksgiving itself. What better way to start a day by pre-burning a few of the calories you'll be shoveling in later.

We were blessed with a great day here in Northern Colorado. While a chilly twenty-some degrees greeted me when I left my parents' house, the rising sun quickly warmed things to the low fifties by the time I arrived in downtown Fort Collins. Despite multiple street closures, parking was easy for me to find, as it always is.

Past readers to this blog know one of my biggest criticisms of race directors is lack of organization. So in that vein I have to give the directors of this one a lot of credit for having a very smooth running operation. Race headquarters was the Beach House Grill which was just a block or so from the starting line. Participants were routed through the back of the restaurant and then upstairs where you gave them your race number (previously e-mailed) and then you received your packet and a long-sleeve tech shirt. The latter is a nice touch for a race that takes place right before the start of winter.

One criticism I have was the porta-potty to racers ratio. Based on their own estimates of 2400 racers, I figured that ratio at about 1:600. While I wasn't late for the start, I expect some people in line behind me were.

This is not the kind of race where I'm looking for a PR or trying to leave a trail of fire behind me. It's supposed to be fun so I kept it in that min as I slowly worked my way around a lot of people who should not have started in the front of the pack. During this early phase, I saw what was perhaps one of the more entertaining sights in a race: a dog with a Go Pro HD camera mounted to his back. I may have to search You Tube later to see if that got posted.

The race course is mostly straight and very flat. Though you do gain some altitude on the outbound portion of the single loop, it's hardly noticeable. While not looking to set any records, I also hoped to run a sub 9:00 pace and noticed myself about 15 seconds behind that as I passed the two mile mark. This was no doubt to the slow pace I had to keep at the beginning of the run.

I managed to pick things up a bit more in the second half and actually was running in the low to middle 8:00 range as I headed east on Mountain Avenue back toward downtown and the finish line.

At the end, I turned in a 34:46 time (based on my Garmin) and that works out to about 8:41 with which I was pleased. While I would have appreciated a bottle of water rather than waiting in line to fill a cup from a Gatorade cooler, I understand that sponsors don't always come up with what you need. No harm done. To their credit, there were plenty of bagels and orange wedges.

So here's my take on the race overall:

The bad (or really just not so good):

Porta-potties: A lot of folks just gotta go before they run. I don't doubt that the sanitation companies get more than a few bucks per unit delivered, but there's a basic responsibility to provide this most basic of services when you are gathering hundreds of people into one area.  I may  have missed another grouping of them (though I did look around a bit) but didn't see any. There should have been something more like ten rather than the four I found.

Website: Count this as just not so good rather than bad. The race details were found on a link to a PDF document that you then had to rotate to read. I don't think you need a really elaborate website with lots of Flash technology or music and video, but the online flyer seemed a little cheap to me. Also, it would be nice to see a course map and not just a set of written directions.

The Good:

Pre-Race Information: A few days ahead of time, I got details with my race number and pick-up times. They made pick-up available both on race day as well as the afternoon before. This was a well organized process and it made my pick-up a task I was able to complete in about two minutes.

Course:  Flat, mostly straight and well supported. There's no need to make a fun run course a challenging cross-country meet. This one covers four miles in a single loop and start line congestion clears out rather quickly.

Shirt: As I mentioned, a long sleeve tech shirt is a nice touch during the colder months. Nice to get something I'll actually wear now rather than three months from now. I've also noticed a trend in most races away from cotton shirts toward tech shirts. I like it. I don't need another cotton shirt.

Results: I found my official time last evening with no problem. In the era of chip timing, there's no reason this shouldn't be the case. It was still a good thing to see however. We were using the older ChampionChip system and I have to wonder if this won't be one of the last times as it seems more races are using bib-based systems.

Overall Experience: It's been five years since I last did this race, but my positive recollections were confirmed. It's well organized, has a good course and the four mile distance is one I prefer over a 5K. I never know where I'll be from one Thanksgiving to the next, but I do know that when I'm in Northern Colorado, this one will be on my list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2012 Race Schedule

It's around this time of year that a lot of bloggers start talking about their 2012 race schedule. While those of us in colder climates still have about six months before any races start, the time to at least think about what you want to do in the coming year is now. Hence, here I am discussing what I want to do next year.

Of the races I considered, one, the 70.3, took precedence in the schedule It's the race for which my training plan has been written. It is my "A" race for the year. There are some others that I've wanted to repeat for different reasons and some that just fit well. Also, there are some that are not listed, most specifically something around July 4 and of course, a Thanksgiving day event. Those are more "for fun" races that don't really mark milestones.

The Summer Open Sprint – May 19
This was scheduled to be my very first triathlon last year until e coli levels in Union Reservoir spiked to four times the safe limit and they converted it to a duathlon. Nostalgia about my first ever multi-sport event combined with a desire to do all three events is the driving factor. Here’s hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice and the swim is on as scheduled.

The BolderBoulder – May 28
Can’t pass this one up. It’s a tradition and it’s also my most-run race. Truth be told, there’s almost no where I’d rather be than in Boulder on Memorial Day. Plus, how do you beat a finish into the football stadium of your Alma Matter?

Greeley Triathlon – June 10
Hands down, it was the best organized race I ran last year. What’s more, it has a super fast, 500 meter swim course. I underestimated how hard the bike would be last year so I’m looking to make some improvements. This is also the only race I ran with wetsuit strippers, a major plus in my mind.

Boulder Peak Olympic – July 8
This is part of WTC’s 5150 series of Olympic Triathlons. WTC has suffered a well-deserved bad-rap because of their handling of 5150 events--most notably, preemptively cancelling them because of low registration. For more details on that check out this DC Rainmaker post:
Given Boulder’s place as one of the pre-eminent triathlon locations in the world, I’m not concerned about this event being canceled. I’m still not a big fan about some of WTC’s business practices, but this fits well in my schedule and the Boulder Reservoir and surrounding back roads venue are enticing.

HITS 70.3 – July 29
This is the big one. It’s the race around which my training is being built. I wondered about attempting such a challenging race, especially after struggling with the run leg of the Creek Streak last year. However, more positive experiences at the TriRock and Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon have persuaded me that it’s worth the effort. This one has a pretty steep climb on the bike ride through the mountains west of Fort Collins and also a couple of nasty hills on the out-and-back run course, but I think it’s going to be good. It was between this one and the Boulder Half-Ironman which is a week later…obviously not wise to try both. I’ll talk more about my decision to choose HITS over WTC in a future post.

Rattlesnake Olympic - August 19

I’m putting this on the list, but I’m going to think about it a little more. I may find I want nothing to do with it after HITS, but for now I’m going to leave it there. Being that this event is held at the Aurora Reservoir, it’s the closest one to home I’ve ever run. Not right next door, but less than a 30 minute drive away which would be a first.

Buffalo Bicycle Classic – September 9
My Alma Matter hosts a Century Ride each September and I’ve wanted to try one for a while. Unlike more competitive events, this looks like a good time to just ride around. Not to dismiss the challenge of riding 100 miles, but no clock on this one.

Rock 'n' Roll Denver Half Marathon - September 22
My love/hate relationship with Competitor Group continues. They get a lot of change to enter this one, but the course through downtown and around various central Denver parks is hard to beat. It’s also well-organized and is the site of my half marathon PR. It ought to be a nice way to close out the season

So that's the list which makes for five triathlons, two running races and a Century ride. As they say in military circles, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. With that in mind, I haven't gone and chiseled any of this in stone. Any number of things could happen between now and then so I'll be ready for changes. But for now, this is the course I'm charting and I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Still Got It

With the Rock Canyon half marathon three weeks out I've switched from a focus on heart-rate back to my more traditional pace-based training. That means a series of long runs, specifically 9, 10 and 11 miles with the 13.1 of the half being the last one. That worked for the Rock & Roll so I'm hoping to repeat my success.

Today was the first of those with nine miles. And I have to say I was pleased. I made good time and logged 9.26 miles over 90 minutes. I also averaged over 145 bpm which is well into Z3, but since I felt no shortness of breath or heavy legs (a sure sign of lactic acid build up) I'm not concerned.

No doubt I'll be returning to HR training including a lot more Z1 work, but only after the race is behind me.

In other news, I think I just about have my 2012 race schedule ready. It took some digging, but I think I've got some good races picked. Some repeats and and some new ones. Yes, 70.3 is still on the agenda.

More on that in a new post.