Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Marin Ultra Challenge 25k

Last Saturday was the finale of yet another adventure created by the Ragnar Relay last October.   Basically, in training for Ragnar I was doing more running than cycling and some friends took advantage of this to call me out to join them in the Marin Ultra Challenge.  This is a tough trail race with 25k (15.5 miles), 50k, and 50 mile distances.

It started when Pat decided to run the 50k.  Jennifer, who also ran Ragnar, decided to run the 25k.  She’s the one who called me out, on Facebook no less, so the next thing I know I’m registered for the 25k.  Lastly, my brother-in-law Mike decided to join Pat in the 50k run.

Race profile!!!
This was definitely going to be a challenge.  Not only had I never tried a 25k before but this race also included 3,000 feet of climbing over three monster hills.  Fortunately, I like running hills so this wasn’t as intimidating for me as others but I would still need to train if I was going to have a good day.  And by good day, I mean simply finishing.

A week before the race Mother Nature provided a surprise.  After a beautiful February, March started with the formation of an atmospheric river.  Put simply, an atmospheric river means lots and lots of rain.  We received 6.5 inches of rain in the seven days leading up to the race and the weather for race day called for strong winds and heavy rain.

We started at the beach below.
On race day, Mike, Jennifer, and I got to the start around 7:30 a.m.  Mike wasn’t feeling it that week so he decided to “only” run the 25k.  Pat was already on the course since he started at 6:00.  At 8:00 it began to rain and the wind increased.  As we all donned rain gear I was thinking this was going to be interesting.

Then something strange happened.  Just before we started running, the rain stopped.  One mile into the run I was starting to get too hot so I took off the rain jacket and tied it around my waist.  That’s where it stayed until the end since it didn’t rain on us once the whole race.  The wind however was fierce averaging 20 mph with gust over 30 mph while we were on the course.

Ran up these steps, twice!!!
I had decided to stay with Jennifer so we settled in and continued the first climb.  While it started out gently enough it finished with some very steep sections including two sections of stairs.  Then, it was down the back side, over some rollers, and then a long descent back to the start.  We then got to go up the same hill again although we approached the bottom half from a different direction.

After getting over the hill for the second time we are both feeling ok as we make our way to the second aid station, which was at the 10 mile point.  As we were coming in, Pat was heading out so we stayed with him as we made our way up the third, and hardest climb of the day.  Once over the top, where the wind was at its worse, Pat took off while Jennifer and I continued our steady pace to the end.
Finishing with "wind" hair :)

We crossed the finish line at 3:11.  Although I was tired, I felt pretty good overall.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the climbs that got to me as much as the descents, which were just as steep.  Mike finished 1-hour ahead of us and was third in his age group, which was very cool.  After a bit of hanging around, Mike and I headed home with a stop for lunch at a brew pub along the way.  

Overall, it was a great event made even better by great friends.  And that’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Half Marathon PR Training Run

As promised, here’s the story about my recent half marathon.  To be honest, I was having trouble coming up with the angle for this story.  I wanted it to be more than just I felt good at mile 2, felt like shit at mile 11, and barely survived to the end.  Fortunately, as is usually the case, the answer came to me on this morning’s run.

Before the start.
This post is a continuation of Yes Will (& Lee) CanWill is on an around the world running adventure and I was joining him on the San Francisco leg of his journey.  We had the pleasure of hosting Will in our home the night before the run and we spent the evening eating, drinking wine (just a little), chatting, and relaxing as we learned more about Will’s adventures.  

At 5:30 the next morning, we were off to The City.  We had reservations at the Beach Chalet, which was near the finish, for a post-run brunch so that’s where we parked.  It was very cool getting ready with sound of Pacific Ocean waves crashing in the background.  After a quick pre-run selfie, Will and I ran over to catch our school bus to the start.

As the official start time approached I was getting a little anxious since I had set a goal of finishing within 2-hours, which would be my fastest time ever (a personal record or PR).  Will is a faster runner than me so my plan was to hang with him for a few fast miles then settle into a rhythm that would carry me to the end within my 2-hour goal.

Around mile 10.
Right at 8:00 we are off.  Will and started to weave our way though the people and within the first mile we are running our pace.  It felt fast but not deadly.  Then, I look at my watch and see that we are running an 8:16 mile pace.  This is much faster than my normal 9:20 and I begin to wonder how much longer I can hold on.

We continued the pace through miles 2 and 3.  Just as we approached mile 4 I looked again and now we were running a 7:47 pace.  At that point it was time to let Will go.  I immediately told myself to slow down however at mile 7 I was still pushing a sub 9:00 pace.

I turned out of Golden Gate Park and onto the Great Highway along the Pacific Ocean.  This is where I started to struggle.  It felt like I was never going to reach the turnaround to start heading back.  Once I reached the turning point I was hoping the motivation of heading home would kick in but it did not.  Miles 10 - 12 were a real struggle as I fought to hold on.

At the finish!!!
The good news was I was still on track.  As I ran, I was constantly doing math in my head to ensure I met my goal.  At 12 miles, the motivation did kick in and I was able to lift the pace to the  end.  And this included dealing with a small climb to the finish and the fact my watch said it was 13.35 and not 13.1 miles.  My time - 1:55:49.

While I met my goal I could hardly walk.  Monday was even worse as my legs were very fatigued.  My solution?  Go on a 40-mile recovery bike ride.  That’s because of the “training” part of the title of this post.  While many people were taking time off after finishing the half marathon, I needed to keep training since that was not the goal.

My running goal is a 25k (15.5 miles) run with over 3,000 feet of climbing on March 12th.  I wonder how the legs will feel after that run?