Friday, November 17, 2017

Roanokes Triple Crown

Roanoke's Triple Crown

I've stated repeatedly that the reason running is a sport of all winners is because waking up and going the distance is all the exercise that anyone really needs. You even get to pick your own distance. Hopefully most people will opt to stay in good enough shape to brisk walk a 5k, but if a 1/2 mile is what you do, then more power to you.

I personally choose to stay in good enough shape to run a half marathon on any given weekend with little or no notice. I have to work to build my mileage up to run a full marathon and I have to work to build my intensity up to run a competitive 5k. Its just the routine that suits the time and energy I have available to devote to my recreational life.

Naturally I'm going to run most of the half marathons in the Roanoke area, so I'm glad to see that someone had the great idea to incorporate the 3 biggest road half marathons into one award, the Roanoke Triple Crown.

At this point in time, you get the Triple Crown for showing up and going the distance for 3 separate half marathons. The Blue Ridge Half (or full), the Race Roanoke 13.1, and the Star City Half. I think that is a great incentive to stay relatively active year round and I hope the program continues. 

I, however, am also a bit of a numbers geek. My pursuit of numbers and statistics has a lot to do with why I've stuck with running as a recreational past time. As such I've often wanted to see the Roanoke Triple Crown adopt a more numerically driven format.

By adding the times of my 3 halves for each year I get  this chart: 
Year BR 1/2RR13.1SC 1/2Total of first 2Final Total
2017 1:50:551:45:49 1:39:003:36:445:15:44
Race ChangeBR 1/2Salem 1/2SC 1/2
2018 2:19:141:40:564:00:10




  So from this chart I am able to monitor my own statistics as they relate to the Roanoke Triple Crown. It leads me to wonder though how much trouble it would be for the Triple Crown organizers to monitor finish times and present a ranked format on their web page. It might help generate some enthusiasm for people to come in from out of the region 3 times during the year to participate in our races.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

2017 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Not a strong run by historical standards, but a solid display of fitness.



It's no secret that the Blue Ridge Half has a sentimental connection to my decision to run recreation-ally, year round, for as long as I am able. I wrote about it intensely in my 2012 race report. I enjoy the annual continuity of life's passage and documenting the notable changes. I didn't document the 2016 race with anything but the enthusiasm of a slug. I ended up walking 10 miles to finish that one and personally the experience struck me as something I'd just assume forget.

2017, in a semi-stark contrast, has invoked more of a cerebral consequence. Enough to prompt a paragraph or so to relay a moments consideration for future years. 

1) I decided to shake the 6th congressional representatives hand. Goodlatte has announced for the event every year since its inception. I have ran the event every year since its inception. It was not the time to discuss politics. Many people may have reasons to want to shake a politicians hand and I wasn't going to hold a line up. A simple "Just wanted to shake your hand. My Dad says he went to school with you." I proceeded away, but Bob asked me about which distance I was running. I told him "the half." and then carried myself along...

2) The pre race preparation was very familiar. It was like 2013 in a lot of ways. 2013 saw me doing most of the Mountain Junkie events as hikes with my daughter, Faith. Other than that, 2013 had me doing a March FULL MARATHON, training at less than full intensity for a half, and somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for running in general..., but going through the paces all the same...

A weekly 8 and 12 miler with the occasional 4.20 miler, running every 2nd or 3rd day until about 2 weeks out when I started running every other day. Then, a full 2 days of rest before the event. Did I time it out for a peak performance? It felt right...thats all I'm sayin'.

Race Morning

Nutrition consisted of oatmeal and coffee followed by an energy drink shortly prior to race start. The temperature was comfortable and the threat of rain was in the forefront of my mind. Not that rain ruins a race, but it can make the finish festival a bit less cozy.  Approaching the start line was a bit different this year, some familiar faces were absent. 

The mission was clear. Keep the railroad spike medals in the Roanoke region. Out of towners need to understand that this race is going to favor the hometown. Training on the actual course is the only way to be psychologically prepared for what is about to happen.

To the Star

The bulk of the first mile is just for fun. A slight uphill, an easy downhill and a turn to ascend the mountain. The leaders are out of sight by the time I make it to the top of the first hill at about 1/4 mile in. I'm fondly remembering being able to keep the top 10 in my sights until at least the end of the first mile. Its ok.
I can't explain my expression here. Startled that anyone would take my picture I guess

My uphill has been weak for years. I'm getting passed steadily all the way up the mountain. Most of the ones doing the passing seem solidly in the "Under 40" crowd, so I'm not stressing much. Every now and then I see a potential podium spot rival as evidenced by a splash of white hair, but many are in the red or blue race bibs, so no stress their either. A few super elites looking almost 60 blaze past me from time to time too  and its difficult to determine everyone's race distance. I'm just there to run my own race, so no stressing on that either.

No idea what place I'm in by the time I reach the Star. I would have guessed top 50 based on averages. The Half and 10k are still running the same route at this point whereas the Full had split off to continue up Roanoke Mountain, so any guess of my position would be largely for amusement purposes only. My legs were ready to change gears and start the decent to the valley floor.

The Great "U"

Down Mill Mountain, kiss the greenway, and plod along to the top of Peakwood.

I was happy with my decent. I steadily re-passed a good handful of people who had passed me on the way up. I never felt like I was at my top end, but I could tell my downhill effort was unsustainable and immature for a seasoned runner. I didn't care. Odds of me logging a single sub 6 mile are at their greatest point of the year for mile 5 of this race. Recent training stats did not suggest any significant probability of me achieving such a statistic, but I wasn't about to let probability dampen my intention. I gave it everything I could find and even though it felt strong, I could tell it was missing that little something extra necessary for a sub 6. I refrained from looking at Garmin until I felt the signature vibration indicating the end of a completed tears, I'll get another one eventually...

The price paid for even attempting a sub 6 quickly materialized upon reaching the Roanoke River. My body was ready for a good mile or so at a 9-ish recovery pace. I fought like hell not to accommodate my lack of training and push past it, but the further along I ran the more I realized I was missing my goal of beating last years 3rd place finishers time of 1:49+. By the time the ascent up Peakwood  was upon me I was disheartened and contemplating a walk/run strategy.

I just wasn't getting passed much though and what few people had been passing me I found myself frequently passing back. I decided I wasn't so weak as to warrant a walk/run, so I fell into a short stride pattern and continued to chug away at the mountain before me. Sometimes ahead and sometimes behind, but solidly in a pack of about 5 or so.

Final 5k to the Finish

Coming down off Peakwood I started gauging up for the final 5k. I was seeing a 1:55 or 2 in my head and feeling like I was going to have to fight even to see that. I wasn't seeing the podium at all, I just didn't want to embarrass myself with a slower time than the 2:03 I picked up at the 2013 Lynchburg Half Marathon.

Finishing mile 11 with 1:35 already on the clock and keeping the math simple at a 10 min mile (disregarding the final 1/10th) estimated me across the finish line with a 1:55. With last years 3rd place 45-49 finisher logging a 1:49 and change,  I wasn't even prepared to find a spike.

Apparently I was selling myself short. I locked in a mid 7 pace for the final 2 miles and had my spirits buoyed by familiar faces during the last half mile compelling me to find a solid sprint for the dash to the finish. Not really having looked at Garmin since mile 12, I was only vaguely aware that I was going to wrap up in under 1:55 with maybe a 1:53. When the finish clock came into view with a fresh 1:50 I was elated. I looked at Garmin for some confirmation and found it. It was going to be close, but I poured everything I had into the final straight a way and came away with 1:50:59 on the clock and 1:50:55 chipped!

Still, finishing about a minute or so slower than last years 3rd place AG finisher had me not quite ready to expect a spike getting thrown my way. Unknown circumstances must have conspired to contribute to slower times across the board for the AG this year. Somehow a 1:51 was enough to bring home a 2nd place award with 1st having been several minutes ahead and 3rd several minutes behind. A 1:51 would not have placed in the 50-54 AG, so I'm not entitled to bragging rights, but I am glad to have earned another spike.
Thrilled to have earned another spike for my efforts. Sheer luck or devotion to purpose, either way. Long way to go to get another Masters spot.

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 Newport News One City Marathon



Newport News One City Marathon

 Garmin Stats: HERE

View from our hotel window

Denise, Faith and I at packet pickup

Marathons are not my favorite. I explained it to my wife like this..."A half marathon will push you to the edge and then pull you back, a full marathon just chews you up and spits you out". Never the less my favorite weekend getaways consist of a road race followed by an evening of live musical entertainment. Sometimes (usually) preferences have to be compromised. If I really want to see an artist, then I will race a less desirable distance or if I really want to do a race, then any live music scene will do.

For the Newport News One City Marathon, I was in town for a Green Day concert. The marathon was on the same day, so I went ahead and signed up for that too. I had only committed to the events at the end of January so that gave me 6 weeks to up my training from 12 mile long runs to 20 mile long runs.I usually train for 4 months to run a sub 4 hour marathon, so I figured I'd increase my mileage, slow down my paces and plan on a 5 hour event.

I ended up surprising myself. I fell into a very comfortable groove in the mid 8's and decided to just hold it as long as I could. For 18 miles I just kept a steady and smooth effort of easy 8's going. I knew a crash was on the horizon though, so I wasn't entertaining any crazy thoughts of a PR or even of coming in under 4 hours. 

The real story of any marathon is the last 6-8 miles. That's when it starts to chew at you mentally and physically. When I started slipping into the 9's at mile 19 I remembered thinking "Maybe I can just cruise to the finish at this slower pace." and I did keep it up for one more mile, but my heart really wasn't in it, so when I hit the 20 mile mark I took my first walk break.

Walking felt really good!

I was just about convinced I needed to follow a 50/50 walk/jog strategy at 1/2 mile intervals to the finish, but the more I looked at Garmin and crunched the numbers the more I realized I actually had a shot at a sub 4 hour event. I took off in a jog after my first walk break of about 1/3 mile and even though I was sore, it didn't feel too bad.

I ended up taking 3 walk breaks, the second and third ones being closer to 1/4 mile, all while evaluating my chances at a sub 4. It wasn't until mile point 25 that I adjusted my strategy for the difference between the Garmin distance measurement and the course distance measurement. Garmin was about 2/10ths of a mile ahead, so I did the math and realized I had to stay under a 10 min mile for the last mile and a half. 

Me about 30 or 40 strides from the finish. I looked over and was so happy to see Denise! I had told her not to expect me at the finish till much later, so I figured she wouldn't be there.
It was hard work, but I found the energy for it. When the clock first came into view I could see the 3 clearly and the 5, but was that an 8 or a 9? A few steps closer and it was confirmed as an 8, but it was changing to a 9 in just a few more seconds. Picking up the pace ever so slightly I got close enough to realize that I was going to achieve another sub 4 hour marathon! I had cut it close, almost too close, but had what I needed!

"Warming" station.