Monday, June 14, 2010

Fourteen days, four races, 87km

As the title may suggest, it has been a very busy two weeks, so my apologies (if only to myself) for not keeping up to speed. Four races; the Bluenose Full marathon, leg#9 of the Cabot Trail Relay (up North Mountain), the Enfield 10 miler and the Cyclesmith 24 duathlon. Whilst not up to Campbell standards, it's long enough for me. I know what you're thinking; "but surely you could have written during the week, these were all weekend races". Yes, that is true, but the deeper truth is that to do this, I had to spend the week asleep, only to wake up again at the weekend to race.

After the exertions of the previous fortnight, I was physically and physiologically ready for a rest. Nothing illustrates this better than my run last Thursday; after 9kms I was seeing bright orange and green splotches in front of my eyes. You don't need and expensive on-line coach to tell you that once this point has been reached, a break is a good idea. Still, ,last weekend wasn't entirely a rest, as I was TD for the Greenwood Tri/Du. As much as I enjoy the cut-'n-thrust of racing (the Enfield 10 miler was particularly satisfying) even if the race-director had comp'd me a free entry I would have demurred, saying my nut and bolt collection needed categorising. Actually it does, it's in a right state!

I think I left you (myself) at the half-way point of Bluenose; 21km in 1:29. Not a PB, in fact some 10 minutes off but as I was bunnying, this was not supposed to be a PB day. As in the previous year, I really shut it down after the first half, as you can see from the graph

I went from 4:15/km pace to 4:45/km pace to finish with a 4:30/km pace or a 3:09 for the full. A nice, solid run for me, sub-3:10. That's where I expect to be, none of this 3:14 Boston foolishness. You may remember that I said that during Boston I felt bored, " when will this be over"? I wonder of it wasn't actually ennui but panic? After all, if you've been running for two hours and it feels like you're still in Natick or Framingham, then you would start to feel a bit panickly too: where the hell is this finish? So I wonder if some part of the more typical ( for me) Bluenose result was the ability to chunk the course. After all, for Halifax-based runners, the BN course is a part of everyday life. So it was easy to think in terms of The North End. The MacDonald Bridge. Woodlawn. Mic Mac Mall. Shubie Park. Grahams Grove Superstore. Maple Street (sorry, Giv'er Hill). Home. If you look at lt like that, in three or four kilometer chumks, now doesn't it seem easy?

The Pocket Rocket also ran with me for most of the second half, getting a long and ultimately slow run in as she came back from injury. She certainly kept my spirits up, but not my pace. I had what I had, and she wasn't able to get any more speed out of me.

The week after this was the Cabot Trail Relay (CTR). I often think about the Cabot Trail in terms of legs of the relay, as this is how I have only ever seen, or not seen, the Trail. For example, I have yet to see MacKenzie Mountain in daylight. This year I realized, there was a new way to see it, and that is as a relay between bacon sandwiches.

Start in Baddeck at 06:00 with a bacon sandwich from the Highwheeler cafe; drive to the Gaelic College, the official start of the relay, and actually eat it. Two legs later, another bacon sandwich at the Clucking Hen. Three legs later, eat the Highwheeler packed lunch (no bacon but it was made in close proximity to bacon. Plus, it's still yummy). Four legs after that, ,bacon-cheeseburger at the Restaurant at the End Of The Universe at Pleasant Bay. Three legs after that, bagels at Timmies in Cheticamp (they don't served bacon breakfast sandwiches at midnight; why oh why?). Two legs after that, another bacon sandwich at The Lakes. Next leg, pancakes; no bacon but we can dream or hallucinate (after >24 hrs with no sleep, hallucination is not a problem). Then, merely four bacon sandwiches and 30 hrs after we started, we're back where we started, getting a bacon sandwich from the Highwheeler in Baddeck.

See, divided into easy chunks of bacony goodness! It's not rocket science. Thinking about it, it's not wise to mix bacon with rocket science. Don't take my word on it.....

(if you're not singing that song in your head all day now, we have failed. Epically).

Despite being on the Tech Crew for CTR again (my third) I broke a couple of my own rules at CTR. I slept at the end of leg 14 for at least 30 minutes and consequently missed most of the end of that leg. I was, however, in much better shape to cope with the final three. I also ran a leg. Cathy Carter, chief recruiting officer for the Eastern Z descendants gave me the choice of Leg#9 "be worshipped as a mountain-running God" or Leg#11 " practice for the first half of next years' Boston". I went for 9 as I don't intend to go back to Boston next year and, besides, the opportunity to be worshiped in my own lifetime? Who could say no! Then she sweetened the deal with a steak and kidney pie. Hell, for that, I'd run a mountain leg double. She she didn't hear me say that, and seeing the profile of just the one mountain leg that I ran, thank goodness for that.

Interesting pace graph; you can clearly see North Mountain, it's where the pace was nearly 6 minutes a kilometer!

I really enjoyed the uphill run and even did quite well, being 3rd or 4th over the top I think, ,even beating the Maine Road Hag, a 2:30 marathoner called Sheri Peirs. Here's the first, and only, time, you,'ll see me in front of a runner of this calibre.

It was Sheri, of course, who later in the relay had the distinction of being this years awesome parking job at The Lakes (leg 16 start).

I was worried beforehand; how would I climb, how would I cope with a sustained uphill effort? The answer? I felt very much at ease climbing the mountain. Sure it hurt (it's supposed to) but it felt as though I was in control and I had more than one speed as we went up. I wasn't just knocking out the rhythm, but I could respond to attacks too, or at least stay on peoples heels as they changed their pace. I wonder if cycling has anything do do with it? Then, there was the amazing sight of dusk over North, which I caught just as we topped out. Insomuch as I was totally on the rivet and unable to talk, I was (would have been) speechless.

The downhill was something else however; how do you train for a 6 km downhill run? Be damned if I know. I know the theory to run downhill, just as well as the next man or woman, but to put it into practice for 6km? The descent was, in my view, harder than the ascent. It strikes me that people usually over-exaggerate about their training runs, but when it comes to the CTR, people tend to under-exaggerate. I'd been told the descent was a bit "sporting", but nothing I'd been told remotely prepared me for how it actually was.

The final 6k into the finish were a bit of a fight. A fight to get my legs back into running order after the long downhill and a fight to reel in the four guys who'd passed me on the downhill. I got three of them but lost the sprint for 5th in the finishing chute. I'd been telling Mark Stein all day for three relays that the finishing chutes as he wanted them, with two 90 degree bends in the final 50 m were not fair should there be a sprint. Guess what, they weren't! Unless you are really lucky (or really, really good) the winner will always be the first person into the chute. And and so it was. I knew the sprint was lost when buddy got to the cones ahead of me but I still tried, after all, he could have slipped. he didn't.

Beating Sheri to the top of North, was a bit of a pyrrhic victory as she floated away from me as we descended, showing me that form and class triumphs over brute strength and ignorance every time. Boy, can she run. She ended up putting about 2.5 minutes into me from the top of North to by the finish. Yup, 150 seconds in 12 km. Oh, and that was her second leg of the relay. I am not worthy!

The Tech crew thing was, as usual a long, hard slog although ultimately highly satisfying. The crew always has a mass, prophylactic apology before the race starts, as tempers inevitably become frayed as the relay goes on. Interestingly, the tempers flared in the early part of the day and the night-legs were surprisingly tranquil. Wasn't expecting that. Something else about the night legs this year. It seemed the runners and back-up crews were a lot more polite this time. There were many thank-yous and a lot less grumbling from everyone around the relay that midnight. Maybe it's the shared experience. Maybe it's a feeling of spiritual oneness once we're immersed in the night. Or maybe they thought that by being nice to me I would be more highly inclined to interpose myself between their runner and a ravenous coyote come dawn. Either way, the politeness plus the short sleep (does 30 minutes sleep sitting in the drivers seat of a Jeep Cheroke count as sleep?) and the tranquility of the night-legs after the somewhat fractious day-legs made for the best night on the relay I've had yet

The downside to getting to run an awesome leg (as in the leg is great to run, not that my running of it was awesome), and for winning best mixed team was that, for reasons still to be fully explained to me me, I had to run in a small pink tiara. AND my steak-and-kidney pie hasn't turned up yet!

The week after this, I did the Enfield-Cyclesmith double. Did we ever luck out with the weather. Saturday morning was hot and sunny for the 10 miler, it rained all afternoon. Sunday morning was foggy but dry for the du, at it rained all afternoon!

The ten miler was a blast. The race was won by Soloman Azrat in a course-record 57 minutes and change. Soloman is the new distance guy in town with East African genetics. I'd heard many stories of him already but neer seen him. He was starting to become part apocryphal story, part boogeyman in my head. Now he's just a boogeyman and the reason I'll only get an age-group gong at an RNS event ever again. Me and every other age-group male that is. To give you a measure of how good he is, he did the first 1.5 miles with Rami Bardeesy at 5 min/mile pace, settled down after the 5k turn and knocked out the 57 and by all accounts was not happy with his time!

I got locked into a battle with Derek Estabrooks (again) for 4th. I started a bit too quickly and dropped him, but he was back on my heels by 2 miles. By this time I'd been long dropped by Soloman (that's overegging the pudding actually, I was never actually anywhere near him) as well as the Dal guy who would be second and Dave Holder who would end up third.

Derek and i paced each other every step of the remaining 8 miles with neither giving any ground. We worked well together, communicated when we needed to, took turns on the front, gave each other room at the water stops. You know, you may be racing, but there's no reason to be an asshole. The unwritten rule is "let's work together until be get close to the finish, ensure we have 1st Master wrapped up and then fight amongst ourselves for the placing". It's nice to run against someone who understands the rules and etiquette.

Exactly when it is you stop working and start fighting is not precise, it depends on how the race is developing. So, when we passed 8 miles, there was less chat (not that the pace was conducive to being highly voluable) and more sideways glances, ,assessing how the other was looking, ever watchful for the other taking off on the long flyer. This intensified at 9 miles as we started to give little digs, to test the other's legs and willingness (or not) to chase.

I knew there was a small uphill at about 750m and I planned to make my move then. Derek has long legs and is an ex-track runner so he has track-smarts and knows how to sprint. If I want to loose a race to him, and I haven't yet, I reckon all I have to do is enter the finish straight with him and he will surely out-kick me. So the plan was to take a bit of a flyer, not a hugely long one, but long enough to gap him. On the descent to final hill I opened my stride and hoped he would just think this was downhill running and not my final shot. This was it. I hit the up hill and didn't let up going up it. When I got to the top i had the gap; only a few seconds and there was still 500 m to go. I grimaced and grunted my way across the highway bridge and managed to keep the lead, and maybe even extend it a little. It was not pretty and if I'm unlucky Ray Moorehead will put those pictures on Facebook for the world to see. Needless to say, I decked out as soon as I crossed the mats and it took several minutes before I could sit or even stand. All of that for 4th overall and first master!

After the heat of Enfield, the du was cold and chilly. I decided to go on 72" fixed again; my experiences at Riverport and DIFS showing I could be reasonably competitive with it. Of course, I wouldn't win on fixed, but I wouldn't win if I had 30 gears and a personalised tailwind either. So I might as well have a little fun with it, and also a bit of a personal challenge, to race on fixed.

I totally caned it over the 5K R1, with a 17 minutes (but it might have been short). I led out from the gun and every time the road went uphill I piled on a bit more pressure and whittled the front group down to three, eventual winner Jamie Hynes and runner-up Tom Soehl. I don't know if Tom and Jamie meant to, but hey let me cross the mats first so I could post the fastest official time. Thanks guys.

I knew my overall competitive day was done as soon as we hit TZ, and predictably it all went downhill from there. I heard the beep of the mat as Jamie headed out of TZ whilst I still had my head down trying to sort the buckles of my cycling shoes. I only hit the road ahead of Tom because he forgot to take his running shoes off before heading out and passed me going out going in with his sneakers in hand! I was passed by a lot of guys, but them I always was, fixed or no. The fixed, as usual, behaved well and had her moments when she was just as good as bikes with significantly more TT about their pedigree.

I was, perhaps, under geared for the flats, but I managed to keep it over 20 mph for most of it. She climbed well and held her own on the rolling sections, especially on the way home when guys were getting tired. I think I had been overexaggerating how big, long and steep the " big hill" actually was as it didn't seem to be that big, long or steep. I fairly romped up it.

The flip side to climbing strongly on fixed is going down the other side. I hit 50.2 kph coming down one hill, which gives gives a cadence of 145.6 rpm. Someone asked me "can you control your bike when you're pedaling that fast". The trite answer is "well I didn't crash so yes", but a greater explanation is owed. Yes, you are bouncing around a lot at a cadence of anything over 130, and when I get that high I'll often wonder what will cause me to crash; bouncing myself off the bike or running out of revs? Good technique really helps you to minimize that. Pedalling circles, still shoulders and an ability to "decouple" your legs so they are kinda spinning in neutral really helps. I read somewhere the reason you can't linearly increase your speed on fixed with cadence is that as cadence increases, you use more and more energy in just accelerating your legs, and less and less to putting power down on the pedals. Finally, at events like C'smith with a lot of rolling hills, ,you are not doing >140 rpm for very long, which also helps.

R2 was not one of my best. I may have had a great R1 but something clearly went "ping" in my legs between leaving and returning to the beach. Maybe it was the length of the TT, but I had crampy legs for the first K of the run That didn't happen at R'port of DIFS, but then the TTs were shorter. I found my legs again just before the first water stop and normal service was resumed as i started ti reel guys in. The time was reasonable, but perhaps (surely) I was finally feeling the preceding 85kms in my legs from the previous two weeks.

The weekend "off" hasn't entirely revived me, but I'm feeling better than last week and less likely to bonk spectacularly during a 10k run! It looks like I will be back on the start-line at Johnny Miles, an event I have never done before, where I will do my first half-marathon in anger since before I was sick. I did, honestly, think "hmmmm full? Why not......?" before my vestige of common sense kicked in. Plus, four loops? I mean, seriously, four?


Photos from Leah Jabour, Randall Hipson and Cyclesmith.

1 comment:

  1. Oh magnificent Lord of the Mountain we are not worthy of your forgiveness but as your true and humble servant I extend my most heartfelt apologies.

    Your pie, oh Great One, has been ordered!

    Will be in contact to arrange delivery.