Category — Race Reports
Where to start? Where to start? What a day…
It’s 6:30am Sunday morning and I’m getting picked up by Julio and his wife. I’ve eaten a big breakfast, I have all my gear, and I’m ready to go! We hit the road and as usual I’m staring out the windows in fascination as this beautiful country. The ride was about 2 hours. I chat with Julio and his wife about my life in the USA, their life here in Costa Rica, and a lot about running.
The adventure starts when we arrive at what we thought to be the site of the race. This race was being held in conjunction with a cheese fair and Julio thought that it was being held at the same location as last year, we quickly found out that no, it was in fact being held at a completely different place, and the distance to the actual site was uncertain. With only 45 minutes until the race was to start, Julio put the pedal to the metal.
We are flying around corners, passing cars, and dodging stray dogs. About every couple of minutes Julio’s wife would roll down the window and ask a random person in the street, “Donde esta la feria de queso?”…where’s the cheese fair? The responses became hilarious. “Only 5 kilometers,” said one. “Just 3 kilometers!” Another said. “No more than 15 kilometers!” It seemed the closer we got the farther the distance away. Finally, someone said “when you pass the crosses, 500 meters.” This guy turned out to be right….finally! Distance is a very very fuzzy concept here in Costa Rica. All these people had great intentions and wanted to help us frantic people in running gear, but wow, they just had no idea how far away this place really was.
Due to Julio’s great driving skills we actually arrive with about 18 minutes to spare. We jump out of the car, grab our race numbers, throw on our racing gear, apply some sunscreen, and race over to hit up the bathrooms. Here lied our next obstacle, they had urinals, but no toilets. (Warning: this blog post is going to be somewhat graphic with regards to bowel movements…it’s part of the sport of distance running so I don’t feel bad. ) At the time I didn’t feel like I had to ‘go’ so I wasn’t all that freaked that they didn’t have toilets. BIG MISTAKE! I should have knocked on someone’s door and blew up their bathroom.
After a couple of minutes of warmup, we get into the starting line race corral and wait while the sound system is blasting Black Eyed Peas. The race director goes on to announce a variety of things, all in Spanish, but what I understood was that the race begins and ends with steep 3 kilometer climbs, there are cows on the course so watch out for them, and there are wire fences that we need to jump over…some of them electric. Whaaaaat!! He then went on to say that if you get electrocuted, it could give you an extra burst of speed. Ha. Ha. Kinda funny, but also kinda not. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
The gun goes off and I quickly learn that I had missed the memo that this was an ‘adventure race’ and not a speedy road race. A pack of freaking fast dudes jumped out into the lead, one of them, apparently won the Costa Rica Int’l Marathon, very legit. There were also money prizes for the top 5 finishers so this brought out the talent.
After about a half kilometer on a dirt road we turn onto an extremely steep grass farm with no apparent trail, just yellow flag markers tied to bushed that we were supposed to follow up this crazy slope. After a couple hundred feet it quickly became apparent that I would be forced to do something that I have never done in my life, walk during a race. Don’t get me wrong, I HAD to walk, everyone did, this crap was STEEP! I also quickly learned that I am not a very fast hiker and I began to get passed by these dudes with huge calves and quads, this was obviously their type of game. I later found out that the top guys all work full time in these mountains with the cows. So in addition to their training they hike these mountainsides for a living…not fair.
Ok, time to reevaluate my plan, change gears, try to maintain solid effort, but not blow up completely in the first 2 miles of a 12 mile race. This hill just kept going and going. Eventually, there was a runable section after we hit the first aid station. We hopped on a dirt/cobble stone/cement road and I was able to cruise and pass a few folks who owned me on the hill.
After another brutal section of climbing, we finally hit what seemed to be the peak. At this point my goal had morphed into just wanting to finish the race and try to enjoy doing it. In my mind the only thing worse than running UP something that steep is trying to run DOWN it. I was pounding the crap out of my quads, trying not to trip on the terrible roads, and constantly thinking about how I wasn’t going to be able to get out of bed in the morning.
Somehow, I just keep going. I think I jumped three wires, went under two, and got my jersey snagged on one barbed wire fence. About 15k into the race we hit pure jungle and are running on a barely visible trail. I’m completely alone at this point, no other runners in site, odd feeling. I’m hiking/running through some very dense stuff and I started to have images of Vietcong jumping out of the bushes with machetes. I give my best warrior cry, slide down some mud walls, cross a creek, climb up rocks on all fours…this was rad.
However! With the good often comes the bad. It was at this point that my stomach started to rebel. (Here comes the aforementioned warning bit) I had to drop a bomb and I knew that with all this pounding down these hills it was only going to get worse. Looking back I probably could have made it to the finish line without taking a dump but I would have had to sacrifice almost 100% of my race satisfaction. I didn’t want to be thinking about whether or not I was going to drop a deuce in my shorts or not for the remainder of the race. This race was too rad to be spent in this sort of mental state. So I concluded that I would take my next opportunity to contribute some fertilizer to the Costa Rican countryside.
Almost instinctually I began searching the ground for leaves or something that could serve as teepee. I have learned from past experience that if you take a dump on a run, you HAVE to have something to wipe with or you are totally screwed. So there I am, on the run, picking up giant leaves, sticking them in my shorts, saving them for when I find a good spot to hop off the trail. I obviously did not recognize any of the jungle plant life. I tried to stick with green colored leaves, I was wary of colored leaves for some reason, my goal was to not end up with a poisen ivy-esque plant that would violate and ruin my life.
Needless to say, I found what I needed, I jumped off the trail and into the jungle and did a very NATURAL deed…something that human beings have been doing for thousands and thousands of years….just like a cow….it was great fun….and the leaves worked swimmingly. Don’t think that I don’t know that this is a huge violation of the TMI clause…I don’t care, it was part of my experience and that is why I have a blog, to write about MY experiences.
After all was said and done, I’m telling you that if you are ever in a race and you are debating whether or not to drop the kids off … in the forest… just do it! I felt so much better afterwards and from that point on in the race I really started to move.
The final three kilometers were in deed uphill but it was more of a gradual grinder climb that the killer steep one the race started with. I passed maybe 3 or 4 more people on this climb, saw the finish, and pushed hard through the line.
…you can find a clip of me at 7:40.
This is easily one of my favorite racing experiences ever!
I crossed the line in 13th place with a time of 1:44 for 18.5 kilometers and 3000 feet elevation gain.
Julio said he had a tough day out there but we both agreed that we loved the course, the challenge, and everything about it…except the lack of toilets.
Julio called it “Mountain Fever” and I think that is exactly what I got. I’ve already registered for The Challenge Irazu which ascends a volcano called Irazu. And we’ve upped the ante this time, 40 kilometers, just shy of a marathon, but with crazy hills and all the fun of the Turrialba 21K.
July 13, 2011 2 Comments
Just wanted to give a quick racing update. I registered for the Deadman Peaks 50 mile trail run in October. This event takes place about 80 miles north of Albuquerque, NM and is run on a portion of the Continental Divide Trail. I have a few different reasons for why I chose this race.
1) My bro lives in Albuquerque so I’ll have a place to stay. Also, hopefully he can act as my crew and be there to massage my feet, pop my blisters, apply anti chafe cream to a variety of exciting locations, and wipe the vomit from my face. (Haven’t talked to him about this yet)
2) I feel like it will be a huge challenge but it’s not an extremely difficult course. It has roughly 6000 feet of climbing. I feel like this is doable. It is at elevation though-between 6-7000 feet.
3) I had the chance to run on La Luz trail outside Albuquerque earlier this year and really enjoyed this desolate deserty feel.
4) I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check to make sure this is a qualifying course for Western States 100.
5) This race falls roughly two months after my return to the USA in August. I feel like that will be sufficient to reaclimatize, get in some 4 hour runs w/vert, and experiment with nutrition, pacing, strategy, etc. once back in the States. I’m ramping up my mileage, my long runs, and climbing down here in Costa Rica but it’s still difficult to get everything in…consistantly.
6) This 50 miler falls about a month after The Flagline 50k in Bend, OR that I might use as a training run. We’ll see though…I hate running races when my fitness isn’t at it’s peak…
Those are some good reasons, eh?
I’m just stoked to have something I am excited about on the calendar! It’s made it that much easier to get out of bed each morning, enter the blazingly hot streets (even at 6:30am), dodge crazy drivers, avoid giant man holes, out run the stray dogs, and work hard.
I’m trying not to have any expectations for my first couple ultras. I am telling myself that I just want to get through them. This isn’t my nature but I’m trying to be realistic. I know that becoming a good ultra runner doesn’t happen overnight. I have heard of 2:20 marathoners getting smoked by 3:00 marathoner ultra marathoners.
My principal goal will be to finish this race.
My Secondary goal will be to finish under 11 hours and hence be able to try to get into Western via the lottery.
My final goal is to whoop up on some fools…
So that’s that….I signed up, I registered, I paid $75, so I’m running it no matter what.
If anyone out there living in the Pacific NW wants to run it too…let me know! I feel like it’s a guarenteed good time…
Jensen…yes, I’m calling you out…you are running it with me…so start running!!! Haha.
And if there is anyone out there who ran it last year; I’d love some intel.
June 30, 2011 No Comments
The entire week leading up to the Eugene Marathon was sort of surreal. I wasn’t super excited or really dreading the race either, just floating by in a daze knowing something big was coming. I had high expectations and I began to worry about whether or not I would be able to achieve my goals. I worried about the total flop and embarrassment that would surely follow. I didn’t want to let the people down that actually care about my running. Needless to say, all week I was in this sort of weird head space with so much uncertainty. I started to doubt myself, I dabbled with the idea of calling it all off, and I was very lackluster in my desire to run—until the Expo. When I arrived at the expo I realized that this was in fact the culmination of all my hard word. I saw the nervous and excited faces of all the other runners and this helped me remember why I love to be a part of these events. We were all going to toe the line the next day, enter battle together, and fight to the death. The switch was flipped, I was stoked to be fit and healthy, and surprisingly the following morning couldn’t come quick enough.
Being the runner geek I am, I arrived at the Expo just in time to listen to Lauren Fleshman (5 time collegiate national champion and 2 time USA national champ as a professional) and Stephanie Rothstein (2:29 marathoner) talk about their training and answer questions in a panel discussion format. They had awesome practical tips that the whole crowd seemed to be able to internalize and apply. Given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of their talk I did something out of character. A few ladies were asking Fleshman questions that were just way beneath her expertise, questions I felt that any runner could have probably answered for them. I was thinking, “This is Lauren Fleshman!” I had to ask her a question that only she could answer. I timidly raise my hand. “Do you have any mantras or specific things you say to yourself when you are at that breaking point in a race—where your mental toughness is so important?”
I wanted to hear what goes on in the mind of an elite athlete at that moment! Rothstein spoke about how she replays Rocky movie clips in her head. The crowd seemed to enjoy her simple genuine response. Then Fleshman went off for literally 10 minutes or so about her history with struggling with the mental game of running and the tools she equipped herself with to battle this tough issue. Basically she forces herself to say very positive things about herself while racing, never using negative terms like, “I don’t feel very good,” or “today’s not my day,” or “I can’t let her pass me.” Instead she focused on the positive and has seen incredible results since she made this switch. Another interesting note was that she has visual images or cues that depict different feelings she needs to draw on. The one example she gave was when she needs to feel powerful, she will imagine a giant lion with it’s sinewy muscles, giant mane and all.
Here’s a clip of video I shot (sorry for poor lighting, ect, I’m still learning how to use my camera) with Fleshman talking about the importance of recovery.
I went on to pick up my race packet, further show my geekdom by buying a book signed by Ryan Hall, and reconnect with some friends I hadn’t seen in years. I left the Expo feeling great. Time to gorge myself at Mazzi’s with my parents, a local Italian restaurant known for being very, very good. I went to bed that night relaxed. I still wasn’t sure how ready my body was but I was at least mentally checked in, excited to run and compete with the big boys.
My warm up was 2 miles easy, bathroom, stretches, bathroom, strides, bathroom, then wait at the starting line. TMI? I always feel a little sluggish during my warm up. I think this is my body’s way of rebelling against using any energy. It’s like it knows what I am about to put it through and it’s using the least amount of effort possible.
So! The gun goes off and all the nerves go out the window. I instantly try to find my pace, I look down at my garmin gps watch every quarter mile or so looking to hit that magic sustainable number. I know I am far too reliant on my garmin for pacing but that’s a story for another day. I settle into a pace just over 6 minutes, and hit cruise control.
The weather was absolutely perfect; 40 degrees at the start and I’m pretty sure it didn’t get over 50 degrees that entire time I was running. I felt a few rushes of wind out there but nothing major.
I go through 10k at 37:48 feeling very relaxed. I feel like I’m nowhere near labored breathing, still in cruise control, checking my garmin, holding back, trying to find that perfect redline pace.
We tour around my hometown of Eugene. It seems like I have a story from my past at almost every landmark we pass. I remember doing intervals here with my high school team, or this is the park where me and my ex broke up, or this is where we ran from the cops that one time. You know, typical high school and college memories.
I hit the half marathon mark in 1:19:13 feeling pretty strong. I do so many out and back runs during my training that whenever I hit the half way point in a race I imagine myself doing a U turn and heading back to where I started, every step from now on is one step closer to home. My cardio capacity still felt great, I wasn’t laboring, but I did start to feel some heaviness in my legs. At this point in the race I was still very cautious, knowing that at any moment things could make a turn for the worse.
I keep on cruising, I’m taking a powerbar gel every 4-5 miles, taking in fluids at every aid station, and still feeling pretty good.
It was at about mile 15 when my race took a turn for the better. I started hitting carnage. When I pass someone in a race I always get a charge, like I am stealing some of their fleeting energy. Since I was running an even paced race, guys who went out too ambitiously, started to fade. One by one, runners in the distance started to come back to me. Where I come from, when you pass someone in a race, it is called a “kill.” From the halfway point on the name of the game is Kill or Be Killed. As it turns out, I would be doing all the killing. I didn’t get passed by one person during the second half of the race.
My parents were waiting at mile 17 to hand me a couple gels and to cheer me on. At this point I knew I was on track to do something pretty good. My mom was there jumping and cheering and smiling which was great to see at this point of the race. I was feeling awesome. I kept on telling myself that it was going to get ALOT harder, really soon. People say the marathon doesn’t even start until you hit the last 10k but with the way I was feeling I knew I was going to end with a good result no matter what.
From mile 17-25 I really tried to use the fans to push me along. People could read my name on my bib and cheer my name. I would smile and say thanks and used their support to hold me up. This was something new for me: appreciative running. I only ran by a few people who didn’t give me some sort of encouragement, the supporters were great! I need to be sure to pass this along in the future.
The hurt came on around mile 22. The race had been so easy up to that point that I was rearing to go. I was ready for the pain, ready to embrace the race and dig into a zone that was deserving of a marathon. I kept pushing and my pace just didn’t slow down. My effort level definitely increased dramatically but I didn’t fade at all. I kept on passing people, really good runners, who were dying. I couldn’t believe that I was feeling strong and that I wasn’t fading like the rest of them. I don’t know if it was my pacing or my training or what, but I’ve developed something in my running that gives me the ability to finish strong. My slowest mile of the entire race was 6:09. This is the stat that I may be most proud of.
I hit Hayward field with just 200 meters left to run. The fans were going crazy as I made the turn down the homestretch. I’m pretty sure my eyes were closed for the last 50 meters, it hurt so good.
I look up at the clock and read 2:38:44. I get an overwhelming rush of feel good, 16th out of about 2500 marathon finishers. I bend over and rest my hands on my knees sucking in air. I felt like I did this mostly out of habit though, I felt great. The feeling of crossing the finish line pleased with your effort and finish is something very hard to be matched. I told my parents after the race that even if I never run faster than that time, I will always be proud of it. It is immortalized, never to be erased, 2:38 marathoner. I worked hard, got myself ready for the race, and everything paid off. And honestly, I know I have a lot more in the tank. Being the competitor that I am, I instantly started thinking about what it would take to go sub 2:30. There are many areas of my training that I could improve on…..but that stuff can wait.
We headed over to Valley River Inn to eat their buffet style breakfast. I stuff my face in an effort to do the impossible; satiate my post race hunger. Out on the patio we could actually watch marathoners still running by. Runners became joggers and joggers became walkers and walkers became limpers. It didn’t matter what speed they were cruising at; you could see the pride on their faces as we became their support like others had been mine hours earlier.
May 3, 2011 6 Comments
I’ve been feeling so good on my runs lately that when asked by my buddy Andrew (Mandrew) Jensen to join him in another race on the track with the college boys, I accepted without thinking twice. The venue was the same as my 10k a few weeks back (race report here), Linfield College, but this time the race would be a 5k in the afternoon with a little less competitive field.
We make the 3 hour drive and we both start to get seriously nervous as we approach Mcminnville, OR where the race was to be held. I started to yawn like every 30 seconds and Mandrew couldn’t sit still for the life of him. This is the moment when you think, “Did we really just drive 3 hours to run in severe pain for 15 minutes, then drive three more hours home?” We joke about turning around and bagging the race, dropping out after a mile and discuss excuses for how terrible we are going to do. This is all part the fun; we all have our own way with dealing with pre-race jitters.
We arrive, register, talk to some acquaintances, warm-up way too early (my fault), but get to the start line ready to go, accompanied by 18 other racers. There was a more competitive college race the night before so I knew that the competition was going to be mild. Andrew made some jokes about how maybe I could win the race but I was sure there was going to be somebody fast who came out just to get a win.
It’s 4pm, the wind is strong, and I’m still wondering why the heck I sign up for things like this. I could be back in Bend doing a nice solo tempo run or something without all the pressure. I’m mostly nervous because I didn’t taper at all for this race. The race was Saturday, I did an 18 mile long run on Thursday, a speed track workout on Wednesday, and was still recovering from the half marathon race I did last Saturday. I logged a decent size mileage week and just had no idea how the body was going to hold up.
The gun goes off and there was no turning back. I wanted to go sub 16 minutes so in order to do that I had to average 5:07 miles. Immediately some stud shot out to the lead and put a gap on everyone. But what I noticed was that the chase pack was not running all that fast. I wanted to be close to 5 minutes for the first mile so after three laps I said, “screw it!” and took the lead of the chase pack in an attempt to keep the pace honest and maybe close the gap on the stud out front. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
I came through the first mile in 5:03, perfect. But what happens next really changed the dynamic of the race for me. I’m about 5-10 meters ahead of the chase pack with my eyes on the guy in the lead when all the sudden he just drops out! He pulled off to the side and kicked the fence and yelled in a pissed off tone. Later I found out he does that a lot but that he also was dealing with a foot injury, so who knows what happened.
I’m now in the lead! I didn’t like this feeling. I am much more comfortable hanging on to someone else, letting someone else set the pace and break the wind, that’s how I’ve always raced. I’m more of a sit and kick guy on the track than a push the pace and hold on. When that guy dropped, the wind was taken out of my sails for some reason. I wasn’t feeling all that great and it’s like in my mind I knew that I wasn’t going to “fight to the death” in this race.
I come through 2 miles in 10:15, my second mile being 5:12, slower but I wasn’t quite crashing. It was around this point that I heard someone coming up on my shoulder. I love it when coaches yell to their athletes, “This kids done! Go around him! You got this!” Me being that kid, I was fading, the coaches words didn’t even piss me off or motivate me, I just kind of let this race go down the drain. I wasn’t all there mentally to fight like I should have.
The next mile consisted of me slowing down a little more and two other guys picking me off. My third mile was 5:17, a little slower again, not a bonk, just a slow fade. I finish the race in 4th place with a time of 16:10. The one upside of this is that 16:10 is actually a 5k PR for me. I ran 16:29 in cross country my junior year of high school but have never put together another decent 5k since. Another plus is that I ran this off of only 1 real speed workout. 5:03 was the fastest mile I’ve run all year and it came in the first mile of a race. If I was focusing on the 5k distance I would have done a lot more speed stuff and am sure I would have dipped under that 16 minute barrier. But hey, I can’t do it all! I’m in marathon training mode. It’s all about the Eugene Marathon but I’m happy to run these shorter races, put my fitness to good use, and grab some PR’s.
Men 5000 Meter Run
Name Year School Finals
1 Miller, Ray Treasure Val 15:50.30
2 Shaver, Daniel Lewis & Clar 16:04.13
3 Meeker, Christopher Warner Pacif 16:04.41
4 Parnell, Chase Unattached 16:10.37
5 Shipley, Adrian Pacific (Ore 16:23.40
6 Hight, Jason Linfield 16:31.12
7 Celestino, Reynaldo Treasure Va 16:34.75
8 Melles, Ben Unat-Clackam 16:36.50
9 Larson, Jonathan Pacific (Ore 16:40.00
10 Williams, Kolton Treasure Val 16:41.60
11 Flora, Daniel Pacific (Ore 17:08.14
12 Jensen, Andrew Central Oreg 17:08.43
13 Wright, Colton Linfield 17:29.96
14 Davis, Gerald Oregon Tech 18:04.06
15 Jahn, Corbyn Oregon Tech 18:34.28
— Hernandez, Freddy Treasure Val DNF
— Molstad, Aaron George Fox DNF
— LeDonne, Richie Lewis & Clar DNF
— Porter, Wesley Pacific (Ore DNF
The downside of this race was that I finished feeling like I didn’t give it my all. I hate this feeling. I felt like I ran an uninspiring race. Even if just a few people in the stands were watching me, they saw me fade, guys pass me, and me not put up a fight. Don’t get me wrong, I was working hard! But I didn’t take it to that last gear that I know I have. After the race, me and Jensen were cooling down and I told him how I felt, “that level of effort is just not going to cut it. If I want to be a competitive distance runner and if I want to break 2:40 at Eugene Marathon, I’m going to have to go WAY deeper, hurt a lot more, and just race tougher.” I was weak in that department during this race.
So to not end this post with a total downer attitude, I’ll end with this final note. This race was a great ‘LEARNING EXPERIENCE.’ This kind of sounds cliché, but it’s true. I don’t think I was mentally prepared to race after such a hard week of workouts and I HATE ending a race feeling like I didn’t give it my all. If I’m not ready and willing to lay it all down on the line or if the incentive just isn’t great enough for me to push myself to the limit, then I shouldn’t be racing.
My next race report will be following the Eugene Marathon held on May 1st. That’s the big day…the day where, hopefully, I WILL lay it all out there, no regrets, no excuses, I’ll run tough all the way through the finish line and my tank will be empty — bone dry and satisfied.
April 4, 2011 No Comments
Warning! This race report is sort of long. So if all you care about are the stats, cut to the bottom.
Two weeks ago I started to look for a good tune up race for the Eugene Marathon on May 1st. I really wanted something the weekend of the 26th of March as it fell perfectly into my training plan structure. I scoured the internet for races, I visited at least a dozen sites with race calendars and I checked all the locations within driving distance. It came down to the Oakland, CA Half Marathon or this other race called the Wheatfield Half in The Dalles,OR. My options were drive eight hours and spend $100 on the entry for a fast, flat, well-directed, competitive race or take a risk, drive 2.5 hours, and spend $10 (that is the race day rate, it you pre-register it’s only $5!) for the entry and race in The Dalles. So mostly due to the affliction I share with many others, shrinking wallet syndrome, I chose the latter. I also like the fact that the proceeds go to support The Dalles Watonka Cross Country program!
I’ll start by throwing out a blanket statement: this race is OLD SCHOOL. They do not have a website (I downloaded a PDF file online to view their brochure), no elevation gain/loss chart, no course map, there are no timing chips, no sports drinks or gels at the aid stations (water only at mile 2.5, 6.5, 10.5), and they don’t even use bib numbers!
So! I leave around 6am from Bend, OR and the drive to The Dalles was great. The only interesting moment was while winding through a creepy town called Maupin. Somebody needs to film a freaking horror flick there! Odd odd place. Anyways, so I arrive at my destination, Petersburg School, at 8:55am. The half marathon walkers start at 9am and the gun for the race goes off at 10am. Good job Chase, plenty of time.
I registered and got my ‘sticky note’ with my racer info scribbled in pen. “Chase Parnell, Age 26, Half Marathon.” That’s all it said. They gave me one safety pin to attach to my shirt. I overheard people talking about how the course was an out and back and mentions of an uphill climb on the way out. I like the idea of an out-and-back; you get to look your competition in the face and know where you are at relative to everyone else. I only really had one question for the race director.
“So how much do we climb on the way out?” I asked, not sure if I even really wanted to know the response.
“You’ll hardly notice it. Flat and fast!”
Oh ok, so not too bad. This relieved some nerves as I headed out to get in a couple mile warmup, did some stretches and strides, and made it to the start line ready to run. Being a smaller race, I thought I had a decent chance at being up with the leaders. I talked to an old timer who said that a couple years back some guys from Portland who were going for the Olympic Trials qualifier at the Eugene Marathon used this race as a tune-up too. I was on the fence. I wanted some competition, I didn’t want to be the only guy out there going all out, but I also didn’t want to get smoked; I wanted to be in the hunt.
I got all that I asked for.
The race director said a few words then revealed a starting gun. They actually had a starting gun! This was exciting. I was expecting some wimpy whistle or maybe even a GO shout. So there I am toeing the line, my finger resting on my Garmin GPS watch start button, and BANG, off we go! Immediately I’m in 6th place. Four middle school superheroes sprint out to get their taste of glory. This made me smile, they had some fight in them, but it only lasted about 200 meters before they started to fade.
My goal was to be around 5:40-5:50 per mile. It became apparent that there were three main contenders in the race. It was amazing how all three of us kind of settled into a pace together. Our fitness was seemingly pretty equal. We went through mile one at 5:40, perfect. This race is set up with three options; a 3k turnaround point, an 8k turnaround, and the half marathon turnaround. So the three of us leaders are cruising along, we pass the 3k turn, all still there, we approach the 8k turnaround and one guy turns! I thought for sure by his effort level that he was going the half marathon distance but now we were down to two.
At this point (2.5 miles in) I was actually feeling more uncomfortable than I wanted two. The half marathon is a long one and I really didn’t want to crash late in the race. It was about this time that the grade began to steepen. The first two miles were a false flat, definitely slightly inclined, but the next 4 miles to the turnaround were obviously uphill. I kept on waiting for a flat section, a slight reprieve, but there was nothing. This was uphill, a long grinder, all the way out.
I was worried about the weather but it turned out to not be ALL that bad! The Dalles is known for its crazy wind being right on the banks of the Columbia River, windsurfing Mecca. There was a consistent light rain, 5-10 mph tailwind on the climb, 5-10 mph headwind coming down. It would have been hell if it were the opposite.
I’m cruising up the hill and I actually put a little separation between me and my lone competitor. I hear his feet slapping the ground for a few miles so I know he’s not fading hard but I can feel I’m gaining ground. I don’t like turning around and looking at where I’m at relative to the competition so I figured I’d not look at all on the way up and wait for the turnaround. I hit the turnaround cone just as my hamstrings are starting to tighten. Thank God that hill was done! As I made the turn, my hamstrings loosened. Now I can fly.
I make the turn and instantly I see the guy, crap, only about 30 seconds back. We make eye contact, he says an encouraging word, and I respond with something similar. I really don’t want to lose. I try to get into a rhythm going down the hill, I’m checking my Garmin incessantly, and I was surprised I wasn’t clicking off faster mile splits considering the down grade. I think the hill really stole my leg turnover. 5:50 miles felt like 5:30’s, but I wasn’t fading away, I felt pretty good, I just didn’t want that guy to creep up on me and steal my win. I was banking on him not being a good downhill runner as I have always considered this a weakness of mine.
I resist looking back. I’m thinking, ‘I’m on track for a decent time, it he catches me, he catches me, either way, this will still be a great workout for Eugene Marathon.’ I’m feeling drained around mile 10, 5k to go, so I pop an Espresso Gu. I see the 10.5 mile aid station, grab a dixie cup, choke down the water, and spontaneously decide I need to see where this guy’s at. I turn around and look— I gained ground on him! It was slight, the gap was now maybe a minute, he was holding strong, just a slight fade. Oh man! I might pull off this win! I’m not going to lie; this put a little wind in my sails. Unless I totally bonk, I had this race. This is where I started my optimistic mantras, “You’ve put in the miles, you’ve done the work to finish strong, you got this.”
I see the little school, the flagged finish line, the time clock, and about 5 people watching. There was definitely no glory to this finish. The race director gave a “Whoooop!” and I kicked it in for him, 1:16:26 (5:49 per mile). At first I wasn’t super stoked on my time. I wanted to run 1:15 as I’ve heard that is roughly equal to a 2:40 marathon. But considering the hill, the rain, the wind, the lack of somebody to chase, I’m now very happy with the effort. “Flat and Fast” he said, I will never forget that line. He wins the award for most encouraging yet teller of the biggest lie!
Overall, this race is honestly a gem. The lack of technology and fluff are made up in spades by the genuine characters that put on the race and the charm that comes from a small community event. I left The Dalles feeling encouraged by my performance, but even more than that, happy that I had the chance to meet a lot of good genuine folks who all share one common bond; we all love to run.
Thanks to Scott Mcmullen for photos.
March 27, 2011 No Comments
It’s not very often that you get to relive your glory years. Last Friday I had the chance to run a 10k race on the track with some college boys. A handful of small colleges in Oregon were competing in what they call the Ice Breaker 10k. It’s one of the first outdoor track meets of the year and generally considered to be a “rust buster” for those looking to get ramped up for the racing season.
I have a few buddies in college that wanted me to go race it with them, promising the moon. At the last minute I decided to go. I kind of felt like the creepy college kid who trolls high school parties, but I wanted to RACE and I knew it would be fun, so I went along. After arriving at the track, I scanned the racers for receding hairlines and wrinkles foreign to college kids (I know I’m ONLY 26 but I notice these things, ok?). I was relieved to see some other “old guys” and didn’t feel so out of place.
The yougins were warming up in their official team gear rearing to go. I’m in my old University of Oregon Running Club jersey trying to fit in. I noticed a few guys mistake my club jersey for an actually U of Oregon team jersey. I saw them tense up when I took off my warm ups. One kid made a comment, “U of O? We are gonna get spanked!” My jersey lost its luster as the gun goes off and I scream to a third to last start. Watch out boys!
The race started at 8pm. Racing on the track at night is one of the best feelings in the world. There is something about running in the dark that makes you feel like you are flying. One of my buddies, Andrew Jensen, sent me a text earlier in the day talking about the race, “Under the lights! … Where legends are made.” Even though it was partially a joke, this comment sent chills up my spine.
Here’s a picture of me and Jensen about to start the race. Notice how we linger in the back, I wasn’t quite ready to go shoulder to shoulder with these stallions. (I’m the guy in the green and white singlet in the back talking to Jensen in the blue).
At this point I was maintaining an underdog-esque, no vested interest, I don’t care attitude. But really I was just plain scared about the pain I was going to have to put myself through. It’s a weird sensation prepping for pain. I would liken this feeling to walking out back to grab a “switch” off a tree for my 1950’s father to whip me with, except I didn’t do anything wrong. So if the walk on the way to the tree is the starting line, the race itself is like getting whipped repeatedly, it hurts. Where this analogy fails is post-race, where if you are happy with your race you are on cloud nine. Very few events in this life match this elated feeling of accomplishment. However, if the race goes badly, the whipping analogy remains, in both cases the victims are just happy it is over.
So like I said, the gun goes off and I start near the back. I’m old and wise and not willing to go out too hard and then die late in the race. As the race goes on I start picking people off one by one. Surprisingly, I felt great. I go through 5k at 17:05. Perfect, exactly to plan, now it was time to move. The second half of the race was a blur, I’m passing people, lapping people, getting lapped by the front runners, and watching the lap counter go from 25 down to one. There was a kid assigned to me to count my laps.
“Five to go! Three to go!! One to go!!! Let’s go! Go get em’!” This guy was great, a huge help.
I end up negative splitting, which means I run the second half faster than the first, I close in a 16:40 5k for a 33:45 total time. This is an average of 5:25 miles and I’m stoked. Being in the middle of marathon training, running mostly longer slower runs, I was pleased to pull off this time.
I want to tell you all that I was super close to not running this race. I had to sneak out early from work, drive 3 hours to get to Linfield College, and deal with my insecurity of running with the college boys. But honestly, I couldn’t be more happy that I went and ran this race. I can’t explain it in any other way than to say that it was just….so much fun.
Next time you are teetering on whether or not to go and do something crazy or scary or exciting, whatever it is, don’t stay home, JUST GO!
btw: shout out to Pops for this incredible display of photography….with his camera phone…..and putting up with me saying, “Dad! No more pictures! This is embarassing.” Those parents always know best, I tell ya.
March 13, 2011 2 Comments