Monday, April 30, 2012

Chippewa revenge

Due to a combination of a babysitter and the Girl's mom (who drove all the way from Milwaukee, no less), we were able to sneak away from parenthood for a glorious 24 hours to run the Chippewa Morraine 50K.

We stayed at a little motel on the Chippewa River, where we met up with Alicia and Divesh for chatting and chocolates. Alicia and I were giddy and nervous; Divesh was cool as a cucumber, and the Girl was still trying to decide whether she was running or not. She isn't injured enough to completly stop running, but she she starts to hurt when she runs hard.

The Chippewa Morraine Visitor Center was buzzing with smiles and hugs. Chippewa serves as the season opener for many ultra runners from Wisconsin and Minnesota, so the mood tends to be very elated. The parking lot is full of Subarus with ultra-related stickers and the odd (ironic, most likely) "13.1" or even "5K" decal.

I am, invariably, known as the husband of "that crazy blogger", but it has gotten to the point where I feel lile I know a decent number of the runners.

I decided to lead out the first mile, just to stretch out the field and avoid the sometimes overly social bunching up of the front group. It is decidedly uncool to display any kind of competitive spirit at the start of an ultra, of course, so I was hoping that someone would soon pass me.

That someone was Chris Rubesch from Duluth, who led most of the way to the turnaround. A group of 6 formed at the front, and things stayed that way all the way to the turnaround. I weaseled my way to the back of that group. The back of a group is where I like to be. I love to walk the hills, while eating and drinking, and then catch back up on the flats. I am not, and will never be, a strong downhiller, though.

We were going at a good clip. Chris later told me that his coach had instructed him to start out fast (as part of his training plan). His pace (and our willingness to stick with it) would set us all up for big positive splits. The group contained John Storkamp, who must have the highest social IQ of anyone I have met. By making introductions across the group, and sharing tall tales from the ultra world, he was able to create a cool, friendly atmosphere. I remember him from my first Chippewa in 2008; when I was bonking hard, he passed me and actually stopped to share a few tips on how to rebound. A cool guy; he should go into politics or something.

The group also contained Jake Hegge from right here in La Crosse. He is 20 and a sophomore at UW-L. He ran for the team last year, clocking 25 minute 5 milers in cross country, so he is a guy with more speed than practically anyone in the ultra world. Of course, when a 20-year old guy is running his first 50K and, as Jake did, runs without any hydration, I imagine I was not the only one who thought he would implode later on in the race.

Aaron Svedlow looked like a guy who was biding his time. A few times when Chris slowed down, he looked like he might sling shot into the lead.

At the turnaround, the group splintered. I was last out, having taken the time to eat a GU and drink a Red Bull. I got the expected huge high that I tend to get at this point in races. I passed everyone to get into the lead. To say that I "felt good" would be an understatement. Aaron and I passed each other a few times, both obviously hoping to run our own race out front.

I had just passed Aaron for the third time, and was trying to surge, when the Grl was suddenly standing by the trail. She had dropped out, not wanting to chance having her muscle tear up again. She screamed some kind of encouragement, which helped me to run even faster for a while.

Thankfully, Aaron was slowing down. I have since googled him and found that he is a much faster runner than me; he is coming back from injury and doesn't have the miles in him yet. I kept floating up and down the hills until 5 miles to go, when I started cramping up. I walked most of the last hills and couldn't use my top gear for fear of the cramps acting up. With 2 miles to go, the Girl and some other spectators were waiting. The Girl screamed at me to go faster; she seemed genuinely excited, which made me a little emotional. The tears were kept to a very private minimum.

So I won Chippewa! At this point, with my particular amount of skill and talent, at my age and place in life, winning a race like Chippewa is probably the highest point I can realistically hope to reach. I am not going to crank up my training to "take it to the next level". Honestly, I am perfectly happy at this level.

The fact that I now hold the CR is solely due to this year's fast conditions. Last year, it was very muddy (and Brian Peterson got lost last year. He would have run in 3:30 or faster this year).

Eric Nordgren from Duluth took second. Maybe he had talked to Chris Rubesch beforehand about the apparent suicide pace Chris was setting, because Eric ran a smart race from behind. Had the race been 5 miles longer, Eric would have easily passed me.

Jake Hegge was third, beating John Storkamp in a sprint up the last hill. That kid could be big! With his amount of speed, and showing he can keep it together in his first 50K, he could become very fast over the long distances. Let's be honest, anyone who can make the UW-L team tends to look at trail ultras as way beneath them. I have since met him on the local trails, and he seems to have the fire.

What's next? Some race, I guess. The main thing is that the Girl needs to get healthy. We are running Afton and Voyageur and we will see what else.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chippewa 50K Preview

Chippewa 50K is coming up Saturday. It was our first ultra back in 2008; that year, the course was covered in snow, so the race was a little different. I did horribly and have always wanted to come back and do better. We ran it last year; I did all right, but had been sick with scarlet fever the week before. Race reports here:

2011 and 2008

I am definitely in good shape right now, but as always with ultra running, the times a hard to compare. Last year, I ran in 4:15 or so, which I should be able to beat easily, but then it was muddy last year and I got lost for a few minutes, so even from year to year, comparisons are hard.

Someone could show up and beat me by a half hour, but it will be fun if I am able to stick with the front group. I tend to start ultras very slowly, for fear of blowing up late in the race. But this year, I feel like I am in such good shape that I plan on sticking with the front, unless it's a ridiculously fast pace.

The Girl is recovering from injury, but will run the race for fun. I know she was looking forward to running with Alicia Hudelson, but she does not want to risk it. I think she needs to gain weight, as she is about as thin as I have ever seen her. She is nothing but ribs and spine and it worries us both. First step is me cooking up tuna in a fatty coconut sauce this evening. She is under a lot of sress from her eye study, unfortunately, and that will continue into the fall. If she is able to run the whole thing (slowly) on Saturday, I think she can resume her regular running, which will help a lot with her stress level. For a lot of us, being injured is almost like being depressed

Sunday, April 22, 2012

10 in a row!

Today was a hill-climb type 5K. It went up into and dead-end coulee (small valley between bluffs) and back down. Two young guns hung on until mile 1, but the legs were strong and I ended up winning in 16:57.

At 37, it feels like I could get injured at any moment. I could twist an ankle in 15 minutes while playing soccer witht the kids. That could lead to a knee injury and a break from running. I am very aware of how this is a crazy time in my life, working less until I start a "real job" in the fall. The legs feel so good; the bluffs and trails are minutes from my front door. It will never be this good again; I will never be this fast. I need to savor every moment and be thankful for this blessed life.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Great example of terrible execution

I felt good this morning. I jogged the course and was planning on doing some strides. I had been vaguely aware of being a little behind schedule and then I spent too long trying to find a bathroom. Suddenly there was only time for two strides before they started singing the national anthem. I topped off my poor preparation by drinking a whole can of Red Bull less than 5 minutes before the gun.

The race was not as competitive as I had expected and I got a big lead almost right away. The Red Bull was not really agreeing with me and I briefly slowed down to give my lower esophageal sphincter time to release a loud belch. The whole thing seemed pretty pathetic, but the worst was yet to come. A cop was directing traffic in one of the intersections and pointed to the left. I assumed that meant I was to turn left and I did. Something did not feel right and, as already described, I had jogged the route beforehand. Apparently, he had yelled at me thqt I was going the wrong way, but I was running with music and did not hear him.

I had gone less than a 100 yards off course, by the time I realized my mistake and turned around, which does not seem like much in ultra-terms, but even in this slow 5K it was enough to set me back to fourth place.

So apart from a bad warm-up, gastric distension and getting off course, my PR attempt was faring pretty well. I did claw my way back to 1st place and finished in 16:57. I even got a ridiculously nice award. There is one more 5K next week, before the ultra season begins with Chippewa on the 28th. The winning streak is now at 9 races, which has got to be a personal record (and world record for extreme sandbagging). It may get to 10 next week but that's probably as far at it will go.

Friday, April 13, 2012

5K preview

It looks like the weather will be good tomorrow. I'm in a 5K that should be more competitive than the last many races I have done. At least there are so many signs around town to advertise this race that it seems likely that some fast people will show up.

My training has been going really well. I have started doing long trail runs to get in shape for the ultra season, so my speed may not be perfectly tuned, but that's my priorities now. Still, a PR is not completely out of the question tomorrow, I think. I ran the course yesterday and unfortunately there are some hills, but if someone fast is there to pull me along, a PR is not unrealistic.

If there is one thing I am world-class at, it's choosing small races to run. Counting back, I am undefeated in the last 8 races! But, to be honest, I really want a fast time, so I am hoping for some competition. La Crosse is a very fit and outdoorsy town but there is a lack of really fast runners. The college has a strong D3 team that has won nationals in both cross country and track. In fact, when I ran my one D3 year almost 20 years ago, the La Crosse team was looked at as these very serious uber-elites that we could not even dream of beating.

But after college, there is not much in town. There is no specialty running store, either. My friend Justin, who I met as a pharmacist at the hospital, is by far the fastest non-collegiate runner in town with a 2:27 marathon and the next-fastest is probably me. And since Justin is just coming back from injury (and generally looks at small 5Ks as way beneath him), I have to pin my hopes on someone coming in from outside La Crosse or on a slow college runner or fast high schooler. In fact, a fast high schooler may be my best bet. I don't know if there is any high school kid who can run a sub-16 5K right now in town, but there is probably someone who can run a 5-minute first mile into the headwind before faltering. In fact, that would be a perfect scenario!

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 9, 2012

March 2012 Running Log

Not Sure
5: 5K on treadmill in 16:14. Standing start. 1% grade. Last 800 in 0.5% and 0%.
7: Not sure
9: 50K 3 days of Syllamo. 4:12. First place.
11: 14 miles at 3 days of Syllamo. 1:50. First place.
13: 3K with Laksen in baby jogger
14: 10 miles on trails
Not Sure
18: Speed work on track with J. 1600, 1200, 800, 400.
21: 15 miles hard on trails
23: 5K in 15:55. PR!. Total of 12 miles
25: Hill speed with J. 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1
Not Sure
29: 20 miles of hills (Hixon, TNT, HPT, Conservancy)
31: 10K in the morning before Mad City 50K (The Girl won!)