Friday, August 8, 2008

Berlin Pond 5-Miler - Race Report

I looked at the historical results from this race and found out that I ran it in 2005. I had run 93 miles at Western States that year in late June, and I then paced 30 or so miles at the Vermont 100 in late July. I ran 39:09 in this race in 2005.

This year, I am in much better shape than 3 years ago and I also didn't trash my legs with a summertime (almost) 100 miler. But, like many ultra runners, I have no speed. I had estimated that on a good day, on a flat, fast course, I could run 36 minutes for 5 miles. But, this is a hilly course on dirt roads, I had lifted hard (legs) the day before, blah, blah, blah. My 5-mile PR is 30:02, run in CA in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The truth is, I'm in better shape than I thought or I'm a sandbagger. I'm not sure which.

On the way to the race, I was in a minor panic because I got caught in a traffic jam. We never have traffic jams in VT, but I got to the race site only 20 minutes before the start. I registered quickly, changed clothes, and then ran the seven-tenths of a mile to the start as my warm-up. I was surprised to see a number of local ultra runners at the race, although four of them, including the RD, were volunteering rather than running.

The race starts with about 1/3 of a mile that is flat, and from there, it's hilly and mostly uphill to the 2-mile mark. I started quickly and after a few hundred yards, looked at my Forerunner and saw I was running 6:45 pace. I immediately backed off a bit. My first mile time was 7:15 for a net uphill mile. I didn't feel like I'd overextended myself, so I was happy with that mile.

The second mile is tougher than the first and I worked, but I remained somewhat cautious. I was playing leapfrog with some other runners who were running a fairly steady pace. I was trying to focus on a steady effort rather than pace. My second mile was 7:37.

Right after the 2-mile mark, the course heads steeply downhill and I started to make up some time here. I wasn't passing any runners, because everyone else took advantage of the descent as well. After the 2.5 mile mark, we started a very gradual but sustained uphill grade for a bit. It really isn't steep, but it does go up a bit. My third mile time was 7:05.

Just past the 3-mile mark, a runner caught up to me. I didn't want to let her pass me, and then I saw who it was. Donna Smyers is a local legend - one of the best Ironman-distance triathletes in Vermont. She has finished in the top 10 at Kona and still does well in her age group year after year. She was just too strong and gradually pulled away from me. My fourth mile was 7:19.

Not far into the 5th mile, the runner in front of me glanced back. I love when other runners do that; it tells me that they're scared. So, I started to focus on reeling in the blue shirt in front of me. At the same time, I could hear two runners closing on me from behind. At about the 4.5 mile mark, a woman pulled even with me and I could tell the other runner behind me was close. It was decision time. I knew by now that I was going to run sub-37, which was my goal for the race. But, I could coast to a sub-37, or I could see if I had any kick left, and try to pass the blue shirt and hold off the other two runners.

About a quarter mile from the finish, there is a sharp left-hand turn. I decided that if I could catch blue shirt and pass him on the left, I'd gain a couple steps on the left-hand turn. So, I went. I caught him just before the turn and had just enough room to squeeze by him on the left. At the turn, I pushed hard to pull away from him and opened a gap. For a bit, I couldn't hear any footfalls behind me. But, about 150 yards from the finish, I could tell someone was gaining on me. Another decision point - get out-kicked and be happy with my time, or refuse to give in. I chose the latter and hammered as much as I could to the finish line. My last mile was 7:13 for a total time of 36:29.

As soon as I got out of the finishing chute, I was bent over, hands on my knees, dry heaving. An old running friend from California, Ken Noel, would have been proud of me. He always says that if you don't throw up, you didn't run hard enough.

I waited at the finish for a while, drinking some water. Just before the 50 minute mark, I decided to run backwards on the course for a cool down, and to find my wife and son, who were also running. I'd expected my son to run about 47-48 minutes and I thought my wife would run about 55. But, just before I started to run again, I saw my wife approaching the finish, and my son wasn't with her. She ran 49:35 - a great time considering that she does way more lifting than running these days. She runs at most 2x per week and those runs rarely exceed 3 miles.

She told me that she'd dropped my son at the half mile mark when he complained of a side stitch. So, I headed out to look for my son. I found him at the 4.5 mile mark, and he'd really struggled with the stitch. He had thought about turning around at the 1-mile mark, but he stuck it out. He's worked hard this summer and that should serve him well when high school soccer practice starts next week.

When I got home, I pulled out my copy of Daniels' Running Formula. As I get ready for my November marathon, I'll pay attention to my race times and use Daniels' VDOT numbers to track my progress. My race last night was done at a VDOT level between 44 and 45 - closer to 44. That projects to a marathon time in the low 3:30s.

I need a 3:30 to qualify for Boston, but I want to be in 3:20 shape or better when I start my marathon. To do that, I need to improve my VDOT score to slightly better than 47 in the next three months. That's a non-trivial amount of improvement in such a short period of time, so I've got some work to do.

This morning, I went to the gym and did an upper body lifting workout. I did 6 different lifts - three pulling and three pushing, doing 4x10 of each. Tomorrow, I'm planning an easy 20 miler and the weather looks promising for a change.


David Ray said...

Good race! Sounds like a challenge to get the numbers down for the 3:20 marathon.

Speed Racer said...

Your RR had me on the edge of my seat! You may not think so, but I think you're inhumanly fast. I could only dream of cranking out splits like that on a flat course, let alone hills. You're a rock star!

I thought you didn't do road marathons? It looks like we are on a very similar path this fall, I'll probably get to see you around. What marathon are you trying to qualify at? I'm trying to blend the ultrarunning thing and getting faster for a January marathon this season and I'd love your advice, especially after you had such insightful things to say about nutrition. Thanks for that, by the way. I think my problem last week was the heat, not the food selection, but a little sound advice is always useful.

Congratulations again on a great race and kicking some serious butt! Congratulations to the rest of the clan too!

Damon said...

David, it will be a challenge, but that's what makes this stuff interesting.

Claire, you beat me easily at a 50K this spring, you just set a course record at a 12-hour bike ride, and then you had a great IM debut. You're the rock star! I haven't raced a marathon on the roads for years, but I really do love Boston and I haven't run there since the 100th running in1996. And, I DNF'd that year. So, I decided I wanted to go back next year. I also think that building the speed this fall will help me when I start my build-up for Western States in January. I'm running the Harrisburg (PA) marathon in early November. I grew up close to there, and while I've run an ultra in PA, I've never run a marathon there. It's supposed to be a pretty fast course as well.

For me, doing ultras and getting fast have never gone hand in hand. I'm sure it can be done, but I have often found that when I train for very long distances that my weight drifts up and my speed just disappears. I think that many ultrarunners just let speedwork slide and they lose it bit by bit. It gets easy to focus on just one thing - speed or distance, but not both. I'll be interested to see how things go for you as you focus more on running for Stonecat and a road marathon. I think the best advice I could give you is to emphasize speed - you already have an amazing endurance base and your cycling speed is pretty amazing. But, you have to train fast to race fast.