Monday, August 14, 2006

Stage 2 - 15k Time Trial

Abstract

Started 11th of 11 runners in a time trial format (1 minute intervals between starters), 1 minute behind the second place runner. Ran well; made up the stagger and added a few seconds to retain the Gold Jersey and increase the lead to 1:40.

The rain held off. Days like this, overcast and cool, are not very nice for a walk in a park, but make for a perfect running day. The mild temperatures help with hydration and staying cool while the lack of sun makes squinting just look weird.

I arrived at Riverside Park at 7:15am for an 8:00am start. I like arriving early for races so that I can socialize before I begin what seems to be an increasingly long warm up. I met the crew as Lloyd, the race director, had just come in from off his bike after having marked the entire course so that we wouldn’t make a wrong turn. I will likely say this more than a few more times, but the lengths that Lloyd goes to in order for the racers to feel comfortable in the run is unbelievable. We all notice it and are thankful that his main concern is our race.

I went for a little jog with Bob to the washroom where we joked about how tired we were and openly discussed the course. When last year’s winner, Mike Strano, pulled out of this year’s race, I was disappointed because I was looking forward to our friendly rivalry. We both pushed each other last year, but not for a moment did I feel that either of us wanted to do better at the expense of the other. This sense of wanting to compete with someone when both are performing at their best is great and I am thankful to have found that in Bob.

I finished my warm up on my own and came back to the start where Lloyd read out the roll-call. There were to be 11 racers today - the 5 ENDURrun boys (Chris was the name I forgot yesterday and he ran a marathon not 6 weeks ago!), Katrina (a lady who is running every stage except the marathon), the two relay teams, and 3 guest runners. We were starting in reverse order of yesterday’s finish, which put Bob starting one minute in front of me. For clarification, in a time trial format you start at different times, but your time starts when you do, thus one may finish 30 seconds behind the person in front of them, but their time would be 30 seconds faster. Does that make sense?

As the runners each began I continued my warm up. I made it back in time to see the last three people start in front of me. Lloyd looked quite worried as I warmed up in my Frontrunners shirt, and made sure that I did in fact bring the Gold Jersey. I assured him I did as Bob began his time trial. He looked quite good leaving the start area and I wondered what strategy he might employ today.


Bob (right) awaits his turn as Brent gets info from Lloyd.

I didn’t realize how distinct an advantage I had beginning last. The course did about a 1km loop around Riverside Park before heading out into the roads. The park was wide open and thus I was able to see Bob almost the whole way around the park. Add to that the long, straight roads that we ran on, and I was able to see Bob for about 85% of the race. This allowed me to check my progress as I would check my watch as he passed a marker of some sort. As I passed the same marker I could see how big the difference was between us and create my race strategy based on that. Ray, Bob’s coach, was out there on the course giving him feedback, but the frequency with which I could check my progress made this race much easier for me than for Bob.

My first km ended up being a 3:19. This was much faster than I thought it should have been, but the idea of chasing someone always makes me go faster. Heck, the idea of chasing a ball makes me go faster. I had taken a couple splits against Bob in the first kilometer and realized that I had not put any time into him. This was a little concerning as I had just run a fast first kilometer and I had only matched his pace. I started to wonder about the rest of the run as I approached what was to be the largest hill in the run.

I had a few mantras swirling in my head: cadence, patience, tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. I wanted to be consistent again today and keep myself relatively fresh for the next three big stages. I also had to make sure I realized that I didn’t need to catch Bob right away, but that I had 15k to do so. I also had to make sure that I didn’t sacrifice the 30k trail run tomorrow for a fast run today. With all this fighting against my ego, which wanted to lay the hammer down and run right up to everyone, I ran a 4:06 second kilometer (which had a large hill in it) and then settled into the next three kilometers, focusing on form and cadence (cadence is the number of times that your feet strike the ground per minute – ideally, a runner wants to be around 180 steps/minute). They came fast as I continued to take splits against Bob. 3:27, 3:28, 3:33. My 5k split was 17:55. This was faster than I had wanted to go, but the fact that I had put 15 seconds into Bob didn’t help the quiet voice that wanted me to slow down. And seeing a long line of runners extending down the road in front of me didn’t encourage the diminishing of pace either.

3:31, 3:36, 3:21 (a long downhill), 3:32, 3:44. My 10k split was 35:40. I tried to be consistent, and I was, until I caught Bob as we ran along a beautiful riverside trail. I ran on his shoulder for a few hundred meters before taking the lead. He ran on my shoulder as I looked up at Steven and got the urge to chase again. I put in a little surge and separated from Bob and tracked down Steven. What is great about this time trial was that you get to encourage everyone as you meet up and in doing so, gain some of their energy. The trail was an out and back section of the run, so we got to see everyone again. This serves two purposes – one, you can cheer them on, and two, you can see clearly how far ahead or behind you are. Brent, a relay runner and Ironman athlete, was the only one left in front of me at this point, and as I came around the turnaround, I saw that Bob was not that far behind me, but I had in fact put a little time between us. At this point I worked to lower my heart rate, dropping my pace to a half marathon effort in order to conserve some energy for the days ahead. I still wanted to catch Brent and be the first to cross the line, but I was able to quell that ego-driven desire, and settled in, preparing for tomorrow. I hoped that Bob would just cruise the run in as well, but at 13k I felt him on my shoulder. I had gone from 3:30s to 3:48, 3:53, 3:45. My kilometer with Bob, from 13 to 14, was 3:45 again, so, once again, I thought that he might content to run it in together. I was fine with this as I would have made up the difference in our start time, adding another minute to the lead. However, Bob took the lead and started to push the pace as we crossed the 14k marker. I had been running comfortably for a little while, lowering my heart rate about 6 beats per minute, so I matched his surge. He began to run faster and I once again matched his speed. I began to think more about form and efficiency, at which point I picked up my cadence and put in a final surge in the last 400m. I gapped Bob a little and held that through the end, finishing in 54:18, with a 3:24 final kilometer (for the other nerds out there – 173 bpm avg, 183 max, 70m ascent). Bob finished just 5 seconds back of me, but finishing in a time of 55:23.


Bob and I 400m from the finish line.

This run felt good, but I wonder how its quickness will play out in the long run. I changed my very wet Gold Jersey for a Frontunners shirt and went for a cool down. I invited Bob, but he declined today, which leads to an interesting question – to warm up and cool down or not to warm up and cool down?

Being a 160km race, warm up and cool downs each day can add a considerable amount of distance to the week. While the race today was 15km, I probably ran 20 with warm up and cool down included. Yesterday I think ran 25k in total. Adding 5k of running before and after the race each day adds up to 35k over the 7 stages. So I pose this question to those that feel comfortable enough to answer – yes or no to warm up and cool down? I think I know what my answer is and why, but I am curious to hear what others think.

After the cool down, which consisted of 2kms of slow running with some walking, I got some recovery food/drink into me, had some therapy done, and chatted. It is a great event because you see everyone everyday and develop relationships. People are not so much racing against each other as they are against themselves. We just use the other runners as added motivation to work hard and be smart. As Lloyd and I discussed this morning, it would be an amazing race if there were 100 people at the start and you didn’t know who had done what and everyone was out there. The number of strategies being employed would result in an exciting race and people coming out of the blue to grab the Gold Jersey for a stage. While I am excited to be racing this year, the thought of having 100 others on the line brings a giddiness to me. I hope that others will soon take up the challenge.

From there I got a ride to a mall where I picked up The Office (BBC version) for Darren and Krista, and a couple of cds for me (K’naan and Metric) and my rental minivan (they didn’t have the accent I reserved, so they gave me the minivan for the same price. Uh, thanks, I think). I drove back to Darren and Krista’s house, narrowly missing the rain that is now falling on Bechtel Park for tomorrow’s 30k trail race. This is going to be intereresting as this was the first of the three stages that I did last year. I ended up losing about 5 minutes to Mike Strano in the last 7k last year, so I will try to be smarter with my race strategy this year. That also goes to show that 1:40 is not really very much time at all and can be easily lost in any of the next three stages. Bechtel Park, while being a trail run, has grass, road, and non-technical forest trail in it (think of running all over Beacon Hill Park). It is 6 loops of a 5k course which allows for lots of feedback while running, and lots of contact with people cheering you on. I am not sure which shoes I will wear yet – my trail shoes (New Balance 872) or my race shoes (New Balance 825). A check of the course in the morning will let me know - a wet course dictating trail shoes.

The last thing I want to leave you with is the amazing volunteers – these wonderful people stand out in the middle of nowhere for long periods of time and when you run by, they are excited, courteous, and amazing. I cannot say enough about how much they bring to this event. I always look forward to seeing a yellow T-shirts on the course. (And thank you to Spencer for taking the pictures with my camera today!)

Again, I only ran 15k today, but you read this whole post – guess who is more tired? Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question about the race or my preparation or (almost) anything – I am all about interaction.

Have a good run!
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