Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Mountain and a Mile

Joking the other day, I said "What do a 50K trail race, a mountain race, and a 1 mile track race have in common?  Nothing, don't try and train for them in parallel.

Mountain Washington Road Race

Location: Gorham, NH
Date: 6/20/2015
Distance: 7.6 miles (4700' of climbing)
Goal: Primary Survival, Secondary 1:20:00
Actual: 1:36:58 (12:46 / mile)
Place: 233 / 1052 OA, 37 / 68 AG

After talking about this race as a bucket list race for many years, I finally got the chance to run it last week.  Mount Washington stands as the highest peak (6288') in the northeast and is the location of the highest wind speed recorded by man (231 mph -- It was also the world record from 1934 to 1996). The weather is notoriously fickle as it is the convergence area of multiple weather fronts.  

Neil excited about
bunk beds
The race start was scheduled for 9am on a Saturday morning, so we opted to drive up mid-day Friday.  We stayed in a bare bones cabin at the Crawford Notch Campground on the edge of the Old Saco River.  

Wakeup time was early (5:45) as we had about 40 miles to drive to the race start, checkin, and then let our support car make its way up the mountain.  The logistics involved for this were giving me half iron distance triathlon flashbacks and I felt you needed a secret decoder ring to understand it all (See driving logistics to understand what I am talking about).  

We arrived at the base just after 7am, found our friends, and sent our car up the mountain. We had near two hours to sit around wait for the start (just like a triathlon).  Shortly after 8am, my lack of coffee and small breakfast was starting to make me feel a little sluggish.  Around 8:30 I ate a fruit bar (thank you Dana) and went for about a half mile jog to get the blood moving.  

We lined up at the start just before 9am and after the national anthem and a short blurb from Delta Dental (prime sponsor) representative reminding us to brush our teeth, we were off.  

The race started at an elevation of 1580' and went to 6288' for a whopping total of 4708' (619 / mile).  

Mile 1: 459', Elevation 2039'
The first mile went very smooth.  It starts with a short downhill (yes downhill, the only one of the course) before you leave the base area and begin the climb (around .2 in).  I tried to run "slow", something I have never been very good at. As my watch beeped, it read, 9:11.  I knew it was way too fast, but I was feeling good. 

Mile 2: 624', Total 1083', Elevation 2663'
Mile 2 got a whole lot tougher quick.  About a 1/3 of the way in, I started to have trouble regulating my HR.  At the half way point, I took my first walking break.  I was still in good spirits and kept plugging along.  As my watch beeped, it read 11:07, something a little closer to what I thought I might be able to hold.  

Mile 3: 693', Total 1776', Elevation 3356'
At the beginning of the third mile, I knew I was in trouble.  I had completely switched to a walk run routine and was having trouble even stitching together .1 mile segments of running.  I took 5 separate walking breaks in this mile and clocked a 13:12.  .8 miles to go until the half way point. 

Mile 4: 634', Total 2410', Elevation 3990'
The number of walking breaks continued to increase over the 4th mile and finally others from my running club began passing me.  Somewhere in this mile, I crossed the tree line and the wind picked up, but so did the amazing views.  Looking off into the distance, I felt like I could see 100 miles.  As I hit the half way point, the clock read 44 minutes.  I was off my goal pace and unlikely to even break 1:30, but I didn't really care.  I had 3.8 miles left until I could check this horror story off.  Shortly after this Jesse came by and I mumbled, "How are you doing" and he retorted "I am running up a mountain.  How do you think." I finished the mile in 13:48.  

Mile 5: 710', Total 3120', Elevation 4700'
The beginning of the 5th mile is where I hit my lowest of lows.  On the right side of the road was a sign that read 4000'.  All I could remember thinking is ~2300 to go, you got to be kidding me.  Last time I had climbed more then 3000' in a work out was Mount Mitchell last February and that was spread out of over about 16 miles, not 5.  I definitely did a lot more walking then running during this mile and I think the only reason I ran at all was I knew it would be over sooner if I did.  I could feel the veins pulsing in my neck and had not felt this ill since I was in Leadville, CO last July. Mile 5: 14:44 (Slowest of the day). 

Mile 6: 649', Total 3769', Elevation 5349'
Mile 6 was ever so slightly flatter then mile 5 and I think my pace changed linearly with it.  Somewhere along the way, I looked off the side of the road and could see runners about 1500' or so below us.  A guy next to me stopped and said "I am glad I am not one of them." Mile 6, 14:28, woohoo 16 seconds faster then the previous mile.  Hopefully the bleeding has stopped :).

Mile 7: 592', Total 4361', Elevation 5941'
I could start to feel the finish during mile 7.  With 1.6 mountain miles to go (probably equivalent to about 4 mile effort), I knew I still had a lot left, but anything to increase my spirit I was going to latch onto.  A lot more runners were starting to pass me also a this point.  When I ran I would pass them like they were standing still, but when I started walking they would all go by me again.  I finished the mile in 13:55, a 33 second speed up from mile 6. 

Mile 7.6: 347', Total 4708', Elevation 6288'
Almost over, almost over is what I was repeating to myself at the beginning of the mile.  I still was taking some walking breaks, but was running a little more between.  As I passed the 6000' sign, I remember thinking, both almost there and you still want me to climb another 288'.  The final two tenths of a mile include a double switch back at about 20% grade known as "the wall."  I took a short walking break before I entered the wall and then I went all in.  I passed about 12 runners in this section, but nearly keeled over as I hit the finish.  Last .6, 7:29 (11:24 / pace). 

Total 7.6 miles, 4708' / climbing, 1:36:58, 12:48 / mile. 

As you finished, you were immediately wrapped in a Polartec fleece blanket, which was wonderful with the howling winds at the top.  It was about 50 degrees, but felt less then 40 in the wind.  My team regrouped and we got our token picture with the summit sign and them moved out the wind to the parking lot where we celebrated with some champagne.  About an hour and a half later we began our descent.  Special thank you to Dana and her family for carting us around and taking us down the mountain.

The Look Back

Was I overly happy with my performance, not really.  Have I ever run anything like this before, definitely not.  Am I coming back to run the Mount Washington Road Race again, unlikely.  Am I done with this mountain, no.  

Amy and I after hiking
Tuckermans, 8/11/10
I was really hoping to be at least 10 minutes faster in this race, but it just wasn't meant to be.  Similar to Leadville last year, I was a little frustrated after the race, because I knew I could have done better.  But also similar to Leadville, after some time has passed, I am still proud of my performance.  These aren't easy events.

At some point I will come back to bike this hill and when I am ready for a real challenge,  Tuckerman's inferno. I am not done yet. 

26 X 1 Relay

Location: Medford, MA
Date: 6/27/2015
Distance: 1 Mile (0' of climbing)
Goal: 4:53
Actual: 4:53
Place: 3 / 23 Team, 14 / 115 AG

Yesterday I ran 1 mile at the 26 X 1 relay club challenge to complete the trifecta of unrelated races.  After a rough race last week, I needed a win this week. I put in my time from last year, 4:53 as my seed, but decided I would except anything under 5 minutes as a win.

Over the past couple of years, almost all of my good races came off reasonably high volume weeks.  So I decided to do what worked last year, run to over to Tufts for a warm up.

The weather was cool, but it was a little humid, so the 3.5 mile run was a little bit of a slog.  After arriving I checked in and got my number.  I would be running leg 8 again this year and was taking the handoff from my sister.

The race started just after 8:30 with what is called the speed leg, 600 meters that would make up the distance to a marathon after the other 26 runners each ran 4 laps.

I started to warmup around the time our 5th runner took the baton.  I got a few laps in with a couple of pickups on the back side of the track.  Following that, I got into position and Neil, Amy, and I cheered Carrie-Anne on.
The sibling handoff, orchestrated by Brian
Cullinan. Pic compliments of Tom Cole 

As I took the baton, I rocked around the first corner and then tried to find a groove on the back stretch.  I clocked 35 seconds for the first 200 which is right were I wanted to be (last year I ran a 33 for that same stretch which is a little outside my comfort zone).  I held solid over the next 200 and finished the first lap in 71 seconds.  
Breathing a little hard already, I backed off some over the next lap and tried to run consistent, but hard pace.  As I hit the half way point, my watch read 2:28, right on target and right where I was last year at that point.  

The third lap is what always makes or breaks a mile run on a track.  It is too early to really push but if you back off too much you will never be able to make it up.  As I hit the 700 to go mark, I just repeated to myself "Focus, focus, focus." With 600 to go, I looked to still be right on target and when I finished the lap my watch read 3:43. I was 2 full second ahead of where I was the year and I still felt good.  

I moved into 5th gear at the beginning of the 4th lap and pushed hard through the first 200.  Knowing I was on or nearly on PR pace, I held strong with with just over 100 to go.  

With about 80 or 90 meters, I tried to shift into 6th, and hit 100% of my top speed and my left hamstring immediately said absolutely not.  Two and a half weeks ago, I ran a hard lunch 5K and then a hill workout the next days, breaking the cardinal rule of going hard back to back days. I spent the next 4 days nursing a tight hamstring but managed to find a way out of it.  Since then, I have done a mountain race and a track workout with no issues.  I was hoping I was out of the woods, but not so fast.  

Pic compliments of Tom Cole
After 6th gear was rejected I started to slow way down.  I then looked up and saw Aharon waiting for me.  I shifted back into 5th and pushed through and handed off the baton clocking a 70 for the final lap and finishing in 4:53, matching my PR from one year earlier.  

Glad to have put in a good time with a good effort, I found Amy and Neil and celebrated.  Soon after my hamstring tightened up and I opted to leave with them and ice it.  

All and all happy with my time and glad I still have my speed.  Something that has not failed me yet. 

Run Streak Day 544 - "There ain't no rest for the weary"

In order to maintain my run streak, I need to get in at least mile each day no matter what. I currently stand at 522 in the list which ranges from streaks of over 46 years to 391 days.  

Over the course of the past 544 days I have had lots of good days, but a few tough ones also.  I have had a couple of close calls with injury which required backing off for a few days, but nothing so serious I couldn't run through it.  Last March, I even had to run a mile at the airport in Curacao as my flight got delayed by 9 hours and was scheduled to get me in after midnight.  

Today I ran what we call a recovery mile; just over 1 mile at an easy pace to keep the streak alive.  My left hamstring is sore to the touch, but felt ok during my light jog.  Going to be taking it easy for the next few days with the hope of shaking this thing.  If it feels good by next weekend, I will be heading up to Loon for the next ATR race, if not then I will take it easy for a while.  

T-22 until the baby is expected to arrive. 

- Scot

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