Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 First Coast Parkinsons 5k Run

First Coast Parkinsons 5k Run

Time: 20:51 (chip) 20:52 (gun), Pace 6:43/M, Place 8/428 overall, 1/17 in my age group, 7/180 among men
Garmin Data: HERE 
What are the perfect elements for a weekend get away? Family, a race, a little R and R with some live music, travel and explore new areas? It just doesn't get any better than that does it?

As a runner, I'm still an oddball...I like treadmills. Frequently refereed to as "dreadmills" by some, I always connected to the idea of cybernetic man/machine merger. I plug in whatever pace I want to go and then make my body hold on until my mind can no longer ignore the consequences of the physical punishment. 
The process would be futile if not for the gift of music.  
Treadmill + the right tunes =Exuberance, Treadmill with no tunes = forget it.
For me, no band has been able to produce the steady hard hitting tempos that I need to push myself beyond my limits quite like Ministry.
The complete separation of mind and body. Violent tempo's, defiant lyrics, merciless paces...it goes together in my mind at just the right frequency, energy, and vibration to push me to some of my fastest 4 - 8 mile runs ever. Most prominently in the tunes "So What", "Burning Inside" and "Just One Fix".

  When Ministry announced their N. American tour I wasn't going to miss it. They had some closer dates, but they were middle of the week, so I looked around and discovered the Saturday show in Jacksonville. Still, 1200 miles round trip just for a show? No, this was a two day festival with Ministry and many other bands! Still a rather long drive. A little more digging uncovered a race in the area and I was starting to feel compelled. I just couldn't justify the expense.

I asked my son, Chris, if he would be interested in going and with an enthusiastic "Yes!" all the elements were in place for a fun father/son road trip!

The Race
Riverside Park was a very clean community park just outside of the tourist area where I was staying and it made for a great location to host a race. Plenty of shade, adequate walking paths, a large fountain and a common community area. A real gem for the locals, I'm sure.

Prior to race start, I walked around and talked to a few of the vendors who had set up to distribute information about various health related and Parkinsons Disease specific topics. Notably absent was any information concerning the promising research being done regarding Parkinsons Disease and Cannabis, so I have included a link HERE. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few vendors, one being Dunkin Donuts, handing out free snacks and coffee which was exactly what I needed since I had skipped breakfast.

The race course itself was a very flat, roughly l mile lap of Riverside Park followed by a 1 mile out and 1 mile back route along a neighboring road.  I hadn't ran since the Blue Ridge Half the previous Saturday and I haven't been training at 5k paces in months, so I wasn't expecting anything exceptional. As the race started I quickly fell in to 8th place, somehow I managed an unexpectedly strong low 6 for the first mile, then fell into a sustainable high 6 for the remaining 2 miles. After the initial spacing out, I passed 2 people and 2 other people came from the back and passed me, so I was basically in 8th the whole race.

After finishing I had access to plenty of water and bananas for free or two food vendors were selling more substantial food if I had wanted to go the pay-to-eat route. This was a $20 pre register, $25 for the week of, and $30 for day of registration fees, so the favorable price was reflective in light of the post race food options and perfectly acceptable to keep expenses down.

The awards ceremony was done promptly at the advertised time of 10:15am and that gave me plenty of time to get back to the hotel, shower and get to Metropolitan Park for the music festival. The First Coast Parkinsons 5k Run is a well run event and I would definitely recommend it and do it again if fate should put me back in the area for such an opportunity. 


Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Blue Ridge Half Marathon

History: Legacy Runner (Participant every year since race inception)
Former courses: First 6 miles were the same, last 7.1 had minor variances each year.
2010- time 1:49:27 (chip) 1:49:37 (gun), Pace 8:22/M, Place 58/450 overall, 10/30 in my age group, 51/216 among men
2011-time 1:37:19 (chip) 1:37:22 (gun), Pace 7:26/M, Place 10/368 overall, 1/36 in my age group, 9/176 among men
2012- time 1:35:29 (chip) 1:35:29 (gun), Pace 7:17/M, Place 8/515 overall, 2nd place Master, 7/231 among men (PR)
2013-time 1:41:53 (chip) 1:41:55 (gun), Pace 7:47/M, Place 48/798 overall, 3/42 in my age group, 41/357 among men
 Finalized course: Added significant elevation change with the addition of Peakwood.

2014-time: 1:44:51 (chip) 1:44:52 (gun), Pace 8:00/M, Place 25/752 overall, 3/51 in my age group, 
22/330 among men

  2015-time: 1:45:29 (chip) 1:45:29 (gun), Pace 8:03/M, Place 23/840 overall, 1/54 in my age group, 19/355 among men

Once again, I entered the winter months hesitant to engage in a full 4 running days per week training schedule. Instead I opted to give my body extra rest and recovery between runs and trained almost identically to what I did last year with 2 runs per week. An 8 miler on Tuesday and a 12 miler or a race on Friday or Saturday.
Beginning 5 weeks out from race week, I used the same route for my 8 miler each week. HERE is a link to the Garmin data from one of the runs, but it is essentially a run along the Roanoke River Greenway with a trip to the Star thrown in. I was pushing to break 1h2m for this route, but couldn't quite pull it off.
8 miler times
 My Saturday 12 milers, when I wasn't doing a race, going back to January, were focused on the same route I created last year training for the Blue Ridge Half. The Parkway 12 Miler: Special Edition runs along the Blue Ridge Parkway from mile post 105 to mile post 101, back to mile post 103, back to mile post 101, then back to finish at mile post 105. (Technically I start and finish at the overpass just north of 105).  HERE is a link to the Garmin Data from one such run of the course. This route will not prepare a runner for the grueling climb up Peakwood, but it will come close.
12 miler times
 The Event

As is always the case, I only compete with myself. This was the first year that the Blue Ridge Half was using the same course as it had used the prior year, so I had last years Garmin data to scrutinize over. As I looked at last years Garmin data it jumper out at me that my first mile was in the 7's. I hadn't been training much in the 6's except during steep descents, but I had no reason to doubt I could go sub 7 for at least one rolling mile at the start. As I finished the first mile with a 6:46 I was grinning cause I knew it was time in the bank right from the start.
About 3/4 mile in.
Garmin stats: This year-vs-Last year
The ascent to the Roanoke Star was similarly confidence inducing with a low 8 and a low 9. I didn't specifically recall what my times were from those miles last year, but I knew they within seconds and that I wasn't in to my time bank.

Reaching the Roanoke Star about 1/3rd into the 4th mile with a pace in the 10's meant it was time for the strong transition. Chasing the pace down to the 7's was crucial for keeping time in the bank and for setting me up for the most important mile coming up. Seeing the 7:33, I didn't recall how it compared to last year, but I wasn't sweating it.

Mile 5. I love this mile. It brings out the best in me and captures the essence of my love for running. Last year this was my only stand alone sub 6 mile I had for the entire year. I needed it to be equally strong for this year, but when my training never suggested any potential for a sub 6 I figured I'd have to call up some banked time to stay on pace. I don't like withdrawing from the bank. I summoned everything I had looking for a sub 6, too much at stake to check Garmin for affirmation, I simply poured my being into the art of propulsion. Moved beyond pain, I could feel flight barely out of grasp...an element of rage as I rebelled against the limitations of the human body. My wrist was finally vibrating with notification from Garmin that the 5th mile was complete. I looked down...5:56...

Snap out of it. Let it sink in later. 
Feeling strong after descending Mill Mtn and heading over to wards Peakwood!

Continuing a strong descent and then some leveling off for mile 6, I was confident that hitting a sub 7 was keeping me on my pace target. Miles 7 and 8, slightly ascending at the approach of Peakwood felt good and competitive in the mid to high 8's. A killer was coming up and I knew I'd be tested.

Peakwood kicked my ass again this year. Worse than last year actually. Last year I was just all "Peakwood, Shmeakwood. Its just another hill." This year I had some respect, but I didn't pay homage by actually training on the course itself. I arrogantly thought  I could take it for granted that I was in better shape and that a faster time would result. I was wrong. I lost all my banked time with a slower climb than what I thought I had trained for.

I wasn't fully aware of the math, but I emerged from Peakwood with about 3 miles to go and a quick glance at Garmin made it obvious I was barely breaking even. I could still feel enough competitiveness to fight to break even and I stayed relatively strong for about 1 more mile, then I started getting some calf cramps. I pushed through it for a minute or so and got my legs back under me, but I was now running more guardedly than competitively.

As I dug in to mile 11, I had another minor cramp and then the sun started to beat itself in to the atmosphere. I was just miserable all of a sudden and then the course slammed me up another short, but sweet 1/4 mile climb. I didn't even know who I was at this point, but I seemed to be chasing after some people as if it were important, so I kept at it.

Towards the end of mile 12 I was body slammed with a ferocious cramp/spasm in my calf that immediately broke my stride and had me debating a walk break. I had no idea what my overall place was, but looking at Garmin I knew I was still holding on to go neck in neck with last year. The biggest difference being that last year I was weak at this point in the race and this year I was weak, miserable, and pushing through random spasms and cramps. It wasn't pretty, but I lumbered through the last mile to the finish as if I had a shot. I didn't look at Garmin at all because I knew the confirmation of the suspicion would be de-motivational.

I had nothing for a sprint to the finish this year. Instead I saw the timer at the finish line, confirmed that I was slower than the year before and just held a steady effort. It was a memorable race and run with good and bad elements mixed in, but I finished feeling deprived.

Not one to dwell on the negative, I was equally excited that even though I had missed my time goal, I had still finished relatively well. The race with myself was lost, but the race with others is what awards are based on. Feebly making my way with the help of my lovely wife, Denise, to the rather good selection of post race food, then over to the results monitor to get an idea of where I had placed, I quickly noticed I had finished in the top 25! 

Too weak to stand there and monitor the screen to factor out the 3 overall winners and the masters, I opted to take my food over to the excellent post race venue of the Elmwood Amphitheater. The seating sections still had lots of shade at this point and some good local musicians were performing on stage while I ate. After I took a few minutes to eat and collect myself I finally had the energy to pour over the results screen and do the math. 

I was astonished! Somehow I managed to win my age group for 40-44 yr olds! I guess last year the race was just packed with speedsters and they had decided on other races this year. Finish times are all about the individual, but finish place are all about who shows up. I showed up and went the distance...I happened to get the award for 1st in my age group...I'll take it! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

2015 Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k

Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k

2010-time 53:45.62, pace: 8:32/M (est), Place 46/131 overall,6/7 in my age group,44/81 among men

2011-time 47:51.81, pace: 7:32/M, Place 8/133 overall, 1/11 in my age group, 8/80 among men
2012-time 49:25.72, pace: 7:47/M , Place 18/185 overall,3/11 in my age group,18/116 among men
2013-time 53:38.03, pace: 8:27/M , Place 34/186 overall,3/13 in my age group,29/109 among men 
2015 Results:
Time 52:18.46, pace: 8:13/M , Place 26/176 overall,3/15 in my age group,23/113 among men

With pleasant temperatures and a blue sky extending to the depths of the horizon, I was compelled to use the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k as an unofficial duathlon for the 3rd year in a row. Cutting back on run mileage is a critical component of tapering for the Blue Ridge Half next weekend, but I like to fill in the gaps with plenty of cross training. Since I usually run a 12 miler on Saturday, cutting back to 6.2 meant doing some hard time on the elliptical after I got home from the race or cycling to and from the race. I will always take the cycling as the preferred option as long as the threat of rain is minimal.

The Ride In
Garmin Data: HERE
Although I was handicapping myself for the race by cycling to it, I still wanted to be as competitive as possible. The shortest route to the event is just under 14.5 miles with an overall downhill elevation profile. Not that its all downhill. This is the Blue Ridge Parkway we are talking about after all. Plenty of rolling hills to tackle, but nothing too extreme between mile posts 105 and 116...where I had planned to cut across a small piece of land and jump over to Rutrough Rd.

Somehow I missed my landmark for the jump over to Rutrough Rd. and rather than circle back to look for it I decided to just go ahead and climb Roanoke Mtn and ride down the parkway spur to the race start. It meant adding 6 miles and 30 minutes to the route, cashing in my legs a bit more than I wanted with an extended climb and losing out on some recovery time between the cycling and the start of the race, but I had plenty of time to work with and I wasn't racing for a peak performance anyway.

The Race
Garmin Data: HERE
I was about 4 miles in when I started to feel what seemed like excessive fatigue. About 5 people passed me in the final 2+ miles. Fortunately none were from my age group.

The Ride Back
Garmin Data: HERE
I was exhausted. I had every intention of trying to keep a faster pace cycling back home than I did cycling to the race, but after a short few miles in the saddle, I knew I'd be happy just to keep moving and eventually make it back home.