Monday, July 27, 2009

Wasatch Anticipation

I'm fully recovered from Crow Pass and tomorrow the weather is turning to sun for what is supposed to be another 7+ day stretch of dry, calm weather, perfect for getting up on the mountain ridges. When the weather is nice the trails here are perfect for training for the Wasatch 100. The only flaw is that I start all my runs at sea level and top out at about 5,000 feet. Because of this I will be heading to Utah about 2 weeks before Wasatch to adjust to the heat and elevation. I expect to show up on race morning in the best shape of my life. It's possible that won't even be enough to win this one but I'm excited to find out. If the weather is decent in Utah on September 11th I suspect it might take a course record to come out victorious. I know I can go 20 minutes faster than I did last year, and I suspect at least a couple others in the race might be able to as well. For now though I'm just excited for all the fun training runs I get to do in the next several weeks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Crow Pass Race Report

I approached this race very different from any race I have ever run. The idea crept slowly into my mind over the past month or so to run a race in which I didn't race so much against other runners, but instead to test my mind to see how hard I could get it to push my body. As I explained this approach to a few close friends leading up to the race one of them asked me if I thought maybe I was getting bored with racing. This caught me a bit off guard cause I hadn't thought about that, but almost right away I wondered if she was on to something. By the time I lined up for my race at 7am Saturday morning I had a bit of fear/excitement that this might be the last race I would run trying to compete at such a high level. If you discover that you can push yourself where you want to go, as fast as you want to go, without feeding off of others in the race then at some point it becomes kind of silly to race as compared to just doing fun routes against a clock or against previous runs and how they made your mind and body feel. This didn't turn out to be the case though. At least not yet.

Eric Strabel and I had loosely discussed the possibility of pushing each other to what would seem to most people to be an impossibly fast time. He had the fastest time ever in the 25 years of this race (3:05 and change) and I had the 3rd fastest time ever in this race (3:07 something I think), but we both knew we could go faster. We had even talked specifically about the likelihood that one or both of us could go under 3 hours. As the race started I pretty much knew that if it became a race against another runner, as compared to a test to see how hard I could push myself, that Eric would almost certainly be that other runner.

Up to the pass I ran alone. I didn't feel very good but I was 10 or more seconds ahead of anyone all the way up. I found myself looking back at the pack a few times... not entirely able to forget about the rest of the field like I hoped to do.

Over the pass I was able to bring my thoughts mostly into my mind only. I really tried to hammer down the back side but my quads were burning pretty badly and I was only 5 miles into the 25 mile race. I knew it was going to be a painful day but I kind of relished that thought. The last thing I wanted was to finish this race without some serious physical suffering. It was only going to be a success if I hammered from start to finish as hard as I could, and certainly that was going to involve some serious physical pain. I had accepted that as a certainty several weeks earlier.

A few miles later Eric caught up to me for the first time. I tried to keep my mind off from whatever race he was running and just kept pushing harder. I pulled back ahead of him and cruised on down to the river crossing at mile 12 with about a 10-20 second lead. I knew he would be strong after the river, as he always is, but I kept trying to push myself against myself and not against him.

Eventually though he reeled me in again and when I took a slight wrong turn that cost me a few seconds he took the lead. I settled in behind him and almost instantly the race was on. As the interest in racing against another runner came back into my mind it became almost all consuming. Eric is a great competitor and I knew we were in for a battle to the finish that would be more satisfying than anything I was going to be able provide myself, without his help. We took turns leading each other further down toward the finish. He dropped a bit behind with 7 or 8 miles to go, but he caught me again a mile or so later. Finally with a bit less than 5 miles to go I made a strong move and never saw him again.

Now I was back to racing the clock. I never really forgot about him behind me but more and more I became zoned in on trying to break 3 hours. Finally with about 2 miles to go I knew I had it as long as nothing went drastically wrong. I wasn't moving very fast anymore but I pushed myself as hard as I could, almost screaming out in exhaustion at times. I finished in 2:57:11, more than a minute ahead of Eric.

Instead of ending the race feeling that I had no need to race against other runners anymore, I ended the race as hungry as ever to compete. Wasatch is going to be on in a big way come September 11th. Hal and Karl are both supposed to be there. It should be epic.

Sub 3

Anchorage Daily News story about yesterday's race HERE.

Also a video clip HERE from an Anchorage local news station (look for it under the featured videos section).

I'll post more about it sometime soon. Need to gather my thoughts a bit more on this one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hoping To Survive, Maybe Even Thrive...

Running Crow Pass race tomorrow. It'll be my first race in 10 weeks. I'm not sure if I'm totally ready, but I never feel totally ready.

I'm not sure if it is possible to just decide ahead of time to do but my plan for this race is to push myself harder than I've ever pushed myself. I don't intend to pay much attention to what other runners are doing (even though the competition will be stellar), but instead to try to get my mind to make my body work harder than might typically seem possible. It'll likely go really bad, but if not it could go really well. It's kind of a scary and intense way to approach a race, but strangely kind of comforting too. Should be an interesting morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Open For Business

I'm currently in Gustavus, Alaska (pop. ~400) where my friend Dan and I have opened a short term bike shop (Just open for a couple weeks, and then maybe again later in the summer). You wouldn't think a bike shop in a town of 400 would really have very much business but Gustavus is anything but a typical small town. Unlike the rest of Southeast Alaska it is very flat here. It's really easy to get around on bikes and the people here take a certain amount of pride in being self sufficient and I think some of that spreads over into an interest in being self propelled. It's a really neat place.

Mostly we're just cleaning bikes that haven't been cared for in years and changing out whatever parts we need to make them rideable. Not as smooth as working on newer, higher end bikes, but there's more of a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you're putting a bike back on the road that would otherwise be sitting in someone's yard for the rest of it's life. I like it.

I've been sick most of this week so my training leading up to Crow Pass hasn't been perfect but I think I'll be ready to roll next Saturday. I've got so much strength right now from all the long climbs up into the mountains. I just need to hope that I find some way to convert this strength into speed for something as short as a 3 hour race. We'll see.