Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Grand Prix Race 2

So, last weekend was race number 2 of 6 in the winter grand prix series. The stage was set for another showdown with the high schoolers from Redmond. It was a 2 mile road race within the same park, fast and paved.

The morning started out a little hectic, getting caught in traffic, turning the wrong way and getting lost. Funny, because i had made it there no problems last time and thought how easy of a drive that was...jokes on me eh? So I arrived at the park 40 mins prior to the start, and immediately started my warm up.

I got in just shy of a 2 mile warm up and was feeling very strong. I had done a short track speed workout to get that turnover in my legs back because they are used to monotonous pounding from ironman training and racing. They were not used to this new style of running, high turnover, extended strides. After a few quarters at 70 and a couple 200s sub 30, I realized that wasnt the greatest of ideas. My hammies were tight just during the cooldown so i knew i was in for a treat in the morning.

After warming up i loosed up much more than i thought, and quickly became confident in my race plan. Today my goal was to get out strong, right around 5 mins, and then hold on for dear life. As I mentioned earlier, my body isnt used to that anaerobic shock, so i expected to hit a wall right after mile 1, and my goal was to just hang on and put the "Pedal to the metal" until i dropped or crossed the finish line. After a few run outs I was feeling ready to go.

There was no gun to start the race, rather the starter used a cowbell. As you can imagine that is a very anti climactic start with a cowbell, and the race was on. I got out strong and made sure i didnt get boxed in. after about 200 meters i looked to my left and there were 3 10-12 year old kids all talking and laughing saying "this is a way slower pace than nationals!" I Shook my head in disbelief and pressed on. Within another quarter they were nowhere to be found.

Through the half mile I was sitting in 5th place behind 2 of the high schoolers and 3 other racers who were looking good. I had lost contact to the lead 2 runners, but the other 2 were within range and I caught up to one of the high schoolers, Harry, who was hurting from going out like a banshee. Harry is an unbelievable kid, and is the one kid i have become the closest to on the team. He is a sophomore who is unlike any other typical varsity high school runner. Harry has Aspergers, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. The very first day i showed up at the high school harry and I met and, me showing interest and being friendly in him really sparked a smile and a relationship in his eyes. Harry has a heart of gold, and I am very greatful for the opportunity to run alongside him let alone be his friend :)

So Harry has a tendency to go out a little too hard in races and fade near the end so once I made the pass just after the half mile I knew he was in for a rough race. But being the tough kid that he is I couldnt write him off just yet.

Coming through the mile I hit 5:04, nearly right where I was hoping to be and feeling pretty good. I was sitting in 5th place still and was looking to make some moves. I passed a guy just after the mile and moved up into fourth, with my sights set on the next guy in front of me. Shortly after that pass I heard footsteps coming up on me. First thing I thought was muscle through this, keep putting in efforts till he drops back, cause it has to be max, the number 2 man on the xc team all season. I made 2 solid efforts to hold the runner off, but that wasnt enough, and he made the pass. I never enjoy getting passed in any circumstance, but finding out it wasnt one of the high schoolers was a nice relief. I cranked up the intensity a little bit to sit right on this guys heels, but he was too much for me and proceeded to gap me. Shortly after, right around the half mile mark, another guy came up and through me, this one didnt have as much steem, and I held on to him for a little bit, but the lactic acic and anaerobic wall was setting in. I had lasted longer than I projected, and I just kept telling myself, 2 and a half minutes left HANG ON!

Coming down the final 200 meter stretch I had lost a little bit of ground on the last guy that passed me and had fallen into 6th, ultimately where I finished up. I crossed the line with a time of 10:28, identical to that of the cross country race 2 weeks prior but that was only 3100 meters, so I was pleased. I was also pleased when I looked at my garmin and noticed that it was actually 2.03 miles. I hadnt died as much as I thought in that last mile! A solid 5:10 average.

After the race I regrouped with the high schoolers and we all had laughs and reminisced about the race. I had some words with Max, and he wasnt too happy that I had taken him again, and adding time to the gap that was set in the previous race. I am starting to figure him out...I got his number :) Unfortunately there is still one guy I am after, and hope to put together an out of this world race to give him a run for his money. Johnathan, the stellar Junior that ran 15:40 multiple times throughout the year had run another 10 flat and had just over 20 seconds on me, similar gap to the previous race. I have my work cut out for me...dont count me out just yet, i am known to exceed expectations as my close friends have found out time and time again ;)

Next race up is another XC style race on the same course...looking to drop that time, and close the gap on those in front of me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Back to the Basics

So I have been helping out with a local high school (Redmond) cross country team, and they told me about this winter running series they do every year. It is put on by Club Northwest, a local and very strong running club, and it is a series that consists of six 2 mile races every other weekend. 2 are cross country style, 2 are race style and one is a track race. The final race is sort of screwy but should be fun, they try to stagger it so that everyone finishes at the same time. It sounded pretty cool so I decided to look into it.

After checking out the website i realized that to sign up for the whole series (all 6 races) it was only going to be $40! I was over the moon about this. I had been so sheltered to $500 and $600 ironman races that I forgot little running races were so cheap! Bottom line is i decided to show up and race the little kids.

Redmond had a very strong team in the fall, qualifying for the state meet and ultimately placing 11th. In one meet this season they had all 5 of their scorers under 17:00, and for a high school team to do that is pretty unreal. So their top 2 guys were running in this series, and with the first race approaching I decided why not start to stir the pot up a bit. I knew that their number 1 man, Jonathan,(15:45) was a little out of reach and their number 2 (16:05) man, Max, would take quite the race to beat, but a little bit of friendly competition and some trash talking would get those competitive juices flowing rather quickly.

The first race was cross country style, and as we headed to the start line, the scene quickly reminded me of my high school days many moons ago. Everyone doing run outs, the starter yelling at everyone trying to keep things organized. I felt right at home.

As the starter lined us all up for the race, Max turned to me and asked "Hey matt you gonna beat me today??" I turned and gave him a nice grin, such as the grin on the grinchs face when he gets the idea to go into whoville and ruin christmas. I got the feeling that he was a little nervous, and didnt want to give any signs of my nerves away on the start line. The starter, who typically has a gun, had a cowbell to start the race, rung his little bell and the race was off.

As we headed down the opening 400 i got out strong and couldnt see anyone in my peripheral view, so i decided that i have blown myself to shreds too many times in my racing career by going out too hard, so i dialed it back a bit into the trail which trimmed the pack down to a 2x2 formation. about 600 meters into the race is a nice big climb that really punches you right in the kidneys and wakes you up. After reaching the top of the hill Jonathan had passed me and was looking very comfortable, along with 2 other runners that looked like they knew what they were doing. As we made a big u turn and headed back down the hill i saw Max about 5-10 seconds behind. At this point i was in 4th and he was in 6th. As Jonathan started to make his move on the race and run away with it comfortably, I decided to focus on the guys in 2nd and 3rd and tried to limit the gap.

At the mile I was 4th still and came through in 5:19. I was hurting, but the legs still felt springy, so I kept my head on my shoulders tight and focused on trying to reel in 3rd, who was alone at this point. There was another u turn on the course about a tenth of a mile before the mile and I got to see where Max was at that point. Still about 5 seconds I was holding him off well.

The course was a 2 lap course so as we approached the big hill on the second lap i could hear footsteps and heavy breathing coming up on my shoulder. I quickly told myself the only way he is getting around you is if you have absolutely nothing left and you have to drop to the turf. This was a mentality i learned from experience and try to implement as often as possible. It is never easy pushing yourself to the absolute break point, but it is necessary if you want to be considered great instead of good.

So back to the race, Max tried to make a pass on the hill, but i didnt allow it, I made a calculated surge halfway up the hill to not give him any light at passing, and held him off. 1/3 of a mile later i heard him coming, and I made another near sprinting surge to break his spirits of trying to get around me. At that point we were at 1.5 miles and were withing 2.5 minutes of the end of the race. As we head around the last u turn and down the final 200 meter stretch i still had a 2 second or so gap on him. I didnt wait around to see if he made a move on me here, I gritted my teeth and reached down deep for ever ounce of power i had left to get to that finish line. I could hear him coming but paid no attention to that. I stayed focused on that finish line.

Next thing i knew i was reeling in 3rd place rather quickly! I had been so focused on holding off Max that I lost track of 3rd. It ended up being a little too late to catch 3rd, but I held max off for 4th place by a second or 2 cementing my status back in the running speed. I came across the line with a time of 10:28!

I had no expectations for that race other than to get out there and give it all i had, and I was totally pleased with the result. Turns out it was not a true 2 miles, clocked at 3100 meters, but still a very solid performance, gutted out a real tough one.

Up next, 2 mile road race!