Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day Run - 2012 Edition

Consistent with my new thing that no one else cares about tradition, I went for a run on Christmas day. I'm glad I made it out considering the snow that fell here in Northern Colorado last night. I guess it takes a special kind of compulsion commitment to go out when it's only 25* and there are three inches of fresh powder on the ground.

With three layers on top, two on bottom, hat and gloves, I hit the Poudre Trail going east and managed to get a few shots of the scenery:

As you can see, mine are the only tracks on the path. No one else wanted to go running today? Huh. Why not?

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Catching Up on the Shortest Day of the Year

I haven’t posted in a while because there really has not been much happening with me. That said, a few other things are going on so I though I would comment.

Racing Underground sells the Stroke-n-Stride to Without Limits

My guess is that this will be fairly transparent to participants, but it does mean that the two major open-water swim events in metro Denver will both be run by the same company.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience with Without Limits and I think they’ll do a good job. The smaller Aquaman Series has always been fun and generally well organized and I think the Summer Open Sprint triathlon is a top-notch race. While I’ve never participated in the Harvest Moon half iron distance event, I also hear positive things about it as well.

HITS (finally) Announces the 2013 Colorado Event

Unfortunately, it does not work well with my schedule. The race will be in Grand Junction in May. I’m sure it will go over well and I’m also sure it will be well-received by the people Western Slope. Too bad it’s the same weekend as SOST. Driving to Longmont for a sprint is pushing it. Driving all the way to the Grand Valley? Uh, no! Dare I suggest that Colorado would support two events, especially if one of them were on the Front Range?

Ordinary Mortals moves to May

According to comments on their Facebook page, the Ordinary Mortals Tri will be May 11 instead of about a month earlier. Personally, I would prefer the earlier date but from an organizer’s standpoint, the move makes sense. That’s less than a week after I’m running the Colorado Marathon but I think I’ll still be able to do it.

IM 70.3 Boulder Announces a New Bike Course

No longer a two-loop event, this race now consists of a single loop way to the north, part way into Larimer County. I think this is an excellent choice and my Google street-view preview of the course looks encouraging. You spend most of a race on the bike so it’s nice not to have to repeat. The only place this course goes back over itself is on 51st Street in and out of the Reservoir. Since it’s the only paved road into the area, that’s understandable. I’m really glad I signed up not just for this event but for the three race series. No question that I’ll get to know the venue quite well!

It’s only December, but seeing these changes make me excited for the 2013 season! Much, much, much more training is still needed, but I can already sense it!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Rock Canyon Half Marathon

Only the short days are providing a clear indication that winter is nearly upon us in Colorado. The weather has been nothing short of beautiful. In truth, we could use moisture very badly, but it's also very nice when you're trying to train and race.

As you may recall, my race a year ago was something of a war story with snow, wind and bitter cold. This year: just beautiful In fact, in a long-sleeve technical shirt, I was perhaps overdressed. I might have been a little more comfortable in short sleeves. Did I mention that the race is in December?

Organization and execution are hallmarks of this race and they continued to demonstrate them as I picked up my bib and technical shirt with no issues. Better still, we had an on-time start and soon the field of 600 plus was on it's way. You'd expect things to run well when it's the 26th running of an event, but it's still nice to see it happen.

My brother is doing Maffetone training which you can read about here. I went with him at a slower pace than I had originally planned but it felt good and I really had no concerns about getting a PR at this one. That was never really in the cards and does not go with easing up during the off-season. Eventually, cardiac drift caught up with him and at mile 3, he stayed disciplined to his training and I went ahead.

I figured I'd feel tired after going at around 8:00 pace for a mile, but I still felt good. As the miles continued to peel away, it felt a little bit like I was running downhill. Things were just clicking, so I went with it.

There was a bit of a breeze, but it really did not factor much as I ran into it. If anything, it helped keep me cool on the unusually warm day. Water and Gatorade were plentiful the entire course and while I felt warm a few times, I never felt parched. You've got to love a well-supported race.

Since the first two miles of this race a run through Pueblo's City Park,the out and back along the trail that parallels the Arkansas River create a sort of false half-way point. What I mean is that when you make the turn below the dam that creates Pueblo Reservoir, it feels like a half-way point, but is actually around the eight mile point. That makes for a much more enjoyable return trip.

Unlike last year, the wind was at my back and I felt pretty good almost all the way back. Almost because just before mile 13 is a nasty hill. It's about a 6.5% grade and right before the finish. A higher heart-rate and slower pace are almost a guarantee. In my case, these were accompanied by pain in my left IT  band that was so profound that I actually hobbled and stopped to a walk a couple of times. I don't recall it hurting and it has been a very long time since it hurt that bad, but it really did. I didn't stop by choice, it was completely reactionary. Fortunately, shortening up my stride to almost baby steps got my up the hill and back on to level ground.

From there, I pushed it just a little bit to try and bring in a finish under two hours. As I ran into the chute, I sensed someone coming up on my left side. At first I figured, fine, let them have it. I don't care. Then I thought, I let too many people get me at the finish. I think I'll turn it up and sprint to the finish. That didn't work and whoever she was, she blew by me. I've never been a sprinter. Maybe I'll work on that. Nah.

Officially, I finished at 1:59 about which I'm pleased. Under two hours was beyond my wildest dreams a year ago. This year, it seems just about right. That's not hubris, just recognition that I've made some improvement.

Next Time
Course: This is a good race in so many regards, but I really think the course should be improved a little Far too much goes along a trail that is full of places to trip. Loose rocks, ruts and all manner of other injury creators exist throughout. This when the paved trail parallels most of the course. I love tradition and continuity too, but even the legendary BolderBoulder has changed its course over the years. I know they put "trail run" on the t-shirts, but having a half Mary in December is novel enough. Seriously, make the course safer.

Timing: This is not a race put on by a large company, rather just by the local running club. However, it makes sense to invest in a chip timing system. It's like any other big ticket item, save your pennies. With innovations like bib-bases timing becoming more prevalent, this is tech that is becoming more affordable all the time. It's not a deal breaker, but it will make for better-run races in the future.

The Good
Organization: Top notch. Registration, results, volunteers, course marking, all of it. Just very well executed and indicates just how practiced the organizers are at running this thing.

Results: Despite running the timing on the old-fashioned bib tear-tag system, results were up quickly (by the afternoon on race day). That's always nice to see. In this day and age, there is no excuse to wait.

Venue: I understand that a lot of the races make use of their City Park. I can see why. It's a great spot. It's also adjacent to the Arkansas River trail which is probably among the most scenic places in all of Colorado to run. I've probably run on it half a doze times and I still am impressed by how nice it looks. One of these times, I'll have to get out there when there are leaves on the trees.

Overall: There are lots of opportunities to race in Colorado all winter long. But a half marathon in December? That's really unique.

Now it's back to my own heart rate Z1 training. More of my focus will be on longer time at easier heart rates. The 26.2 in May is looming large despite still being five months away. There's much to do to be ready for that one.

I also look forward to being just a little less run-focused. I enjoy my cross training an my body really appreciates it.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead.