Sunday, September 27, 2015

Another Double Header - Rum Runners and MEC 2015

Another weekend and another race, or two! Will this madness ever end.

I have done this very weekend  for 2 years now, Rum Runners Relay followed by MEC trail run. Last year was painful, mostly due to the heat of the day during Rum Runners. I hoped this year to be a little better.

I purposely picked an early leg on Rum Runner Relay (an approx 100km relay run along Nova Scotia's South Shore), Leg 3, as it would leave me with more recovery time. Being 11.2 km long, it also would be hard but not on par with the 17km Leg 4 I did last year. Also early in the day generally means cooler temps. Nice.

My goal was to give a good hard run at Rum Runners and then go for a PB 10k time on the flat out and back race the next day. Goals, ha ha.

The start of the race was cool, almost cold, but I knew that would be really nice come race time. Things happen fast in Rum Runners (like me almost forgetting to register and sign my waiver form ahhh!) and we lined up at the crack of 9:30.  A quick glance around showed me some fast runners I knew and a whole host of other unknown runners. Maybe I would be fast enough this year to break my curse of always finishing 7th. Then we were off!

Two women quickly jumped to the front and lead us out. I decided to try and pace out with Mike and Dave, whom I knew were fast but smart runners. With 500m we assumed spots 1-3 and took off. I had felt prior to the race that a nice 4 min /km pace might be a smart way to head out. At the end of kilometer 1 we had run a 3:30 pace. Hmmm. Well it was mostly downhill, so okay.  Then kilometer 2 went by at 3:34 pace. Hmmmm. Still I felt good and was keeping up with the top 2.

We then hit some hills and my pace dropped to 3:45 on each of the next 2 kilometers and started to just drift slowly from the top 2. Over the next few kilometers I slowly drifted back, not fast though and saw them for most of the run, just in the distance.

I couldn't hear anyone behind me, but I knew that someone named Sasha was there, as I ran by numerous cars on the side of the road cheering her on. No time for looking back though. My pace was high and I felt really good.

Soon I was approaching the 10km mark. Having done some calculations the day before to prep for the 10km race on Sunday, I knew that I was going to go sub 38 min at this point. I checked as my watched beeped through the 10th km mark and saw 37:04. A new PB by 1:49. Well that was something. But I still had a little more than 1 km to go.

At this point we had to take a quick little left right jog to get back to the main road and I coudl just see over my shoulder that Sasha was maybe 100m at most behind me. It was hard to want to give up 3rd place at this point so I pushed hard again down hill, then up to the finish and surged just enough to cross the line in 3rd with an official time of 40:43 and a pace of 3:38 min/km. Where did that come from?  Needless to say I was pretty happy.

After spending the rest of the day cheering on my team and enjoying yummy burritos at the finished line of Leg 10, I headed home tired and weary and ready for sleep. My sun burn and sore legs didn't help with the sleep though.

I arrived at the MEC 10K trail race bright and early on a super cold morning, perfect for racing.

My calves hurt, I was quite tired but I had accomplished my goal for the weekend already, so this was going to be fun (I always say that). I would be satisfied with a medal, maybe even a win if possible (you never know who shows up for these races). I also needed to have a 38ish min 10km. That would cement in my mind that I was a sub 39 min 10km runner for sure.

We took off, and I hung out with the 15km runners and top 2 5km runner at first. The 5km guys pulled a slight gap but soon turned around and headed back. I was with Adam and Chad until the 10km turn around and checked my average pace, 3:47 at that point. So still in the sub 38 min world, not by much but there. and as I tuend I saw no one behind us. So it was my race to lose I guess.

I headed back and passed many other runners heading out. The loose gravel was a little speed sapping, my legs were done running and I keep pushing as best as I could. My speed started to dip a bit but I knew I had a low 38 min 10km time at this point and as the kilometers passed by I knew I just had to hang on.

I crossed the bridge that was about 400m from the finish and picked up my pace as best as I could, then just before the line saw the clock was at 37:50, so I sprinted (ish) and crossed the line at 37:54. Done, spent and happy. Wow, what a come back from an early season of lower results. And finally a win for the year, that felt really nice, especially wearing my nice new Kinesic Sports lab top. Thanks Jeff Z.

2 great races with great volunteers and race directors. And it was also great cheering my wife into the finish as she did the 15km run with a great pace and time result on her way to what will be a great Valley Half marathon in a few weeks. And it was nice seeing more of my running group the Timberlea Tundra Pounders come out to this style of racing. Slightly lower key, but all kinds of fun.

10 and 5 km winners

So now a little rest during the week before, yes, the next race. Oh my. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Duathlon of Champions in Wolfville 2015

This past weekend saw a new Duathlon in the Province, the Duathlon of Champions. This was a fundraiser event for cancer, specifically to raise funding for research into cancer in adolescents and young adults (AYA) and the role of exercise in treatment.

The night before I had attended and taken part in a barre class (look it up, it was great) to help raise funds for prostate cancer research. That was 45 minutes of crazy intense workingout and I was left a little weak in the hips afterwards. So basically I wasn't sure how I was going to do at the duathlon, but it would be fun.

I arrived at the race site and got setup fairly early. That allowed me a little warming up as well as casual chat time. There were some great cyclists present, and on a course like this I knew that my cycling wouldn't be nearly on par, but I hoped that I still had a little speed on the run left in me. A success would be having the fastest first run in my mind.

We soon lined up after our prerace briefing.

And then we were off. I let Zach take the lead right off the bat and tucked in behind him. He is a spectacular cyclist and a pretty darn fast runner as well. We quickly started to set a fairly fast tempo doing the first kilometer in 3:38 and pulling a slight gap over the other runners.

As we started to get close to the 2 km mark, I was feeling strong so I decided to take the lead. Right after doing so I was presented with the option of going left or right and went left. Turns out that was wrong. So from first to 5th just like that.

I picked a pace and continued on, slowly closing the gap. All told I probably lost about 200-300 meters on the group by starting the wrong turn. But I wasn't trying to kill myself to catch the pack. Still, I knew I wanted that first run to be mine.

Within a kilometer I caught the 2-4th place runners and pulled passed them. Then over the next 500 meters I managed to catch back onto Zach (by the way he had taken that wrong turn as well). Coming to the finish of the first run we were side by side, so I pushed forth and claimed the first run. Whew, that was some work.

I finished officially in 18:41 for 5k, though it was more like 5.2km. Not bad. A quick T1 (28 seconds for the 2nd fastest T1) and onto the bike I went.

This route had 2 spots where police were supposed to wave us through stop signs. Sadly the police didn't show up. So I had to stop at the first sign and wait my turn (4 way stop). Then off I went.

Heading out was fine and I felt good, though was soon passed by the top three riders. I put my head down and kept riding.

I looked for the turn off that was supposed to be coming up and again the police didn't show up. But there was no traffic so I made the turn without incident. Though this may or may not have been the right turn, as it became obvious that without enough volunteers (and the police not showing up) we all got a little confused as to the proper course turns. We all seemed to make it to the turn around and all managed to get about the same distance, so I guess we are all good. Except Zach. He went for a long distance ride into the far off distance.

My dead legs and confusion at points of the course lead to  only the 9th fastest time on the bike with just shy of a 32km/hr 20km ride. Knowing my spot in the race near the end of the ride, I also let up a bit to get ready for the final run.

The fastest T2 of the day followed, as I dismounted and switched to my running shoes. Then off to the trail I went.

I wanted a fast run and I got it. fastest second run of the day, 2.5k in 8:38 for an average of 3:28. That run may have been a bit short, so that speed may be a bit on the fast side, but I know it hurt.

I crossed the line in fourth place overall and second in my age group (behind Kevin). Not my most stellar outing, but I was really happy with the runs.  Now onto another weekend double header of running only event. Whew, this is a busy month.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Maritime Race Weekend Double Header 2015

So this passed weekend was the Maritime race Weekend. 2 races in 2 days. This year I opted for the 5km Friday night race (well this is the only choice for the Friday night race) and the Half marathon on Saturday morning.

I could go on and on about the great setup and great volunteers and atmosphere but why bother. It's all great. This race is well put together and is about as smooth an operation as you can get in a race this large (about 3000 runners in various races).  So lets go straight to the race.

The 5km race on Friday is a good one. Really quite flat for a coastal race, with a few minor rises and falls. It is an out and back on a closed (pretty much) road. So as a faster runner you get a lot of cheering from the crowd as you make the turn around.

This year I thought I would see if I could possibly beat my PB 5km time from last year, a 18:04. Still I didn't want to kill myself before the next days race! We lined up and were soon off.

A couple of runners took off quickly. I held back, just like last year. A few runners passed me and I figured I was feeling good, so I jumped on with them. We soon caught all of the early leaders and headed off. At this point I was in third spot.

As the leader took off ahead a little more I attempted to gain on second place and soon pulled up. We made the turn around and headed back. The air was really humid, but cool, and so far it wasn't killing me. I didn't bother to look at my Garmin. Heart rate and pace weren't a concern as my goal was to hang with second place. First was either going to burn himself out or else keep pulling away. I could in no way match his pace.

Soon the finish was coming up. I again pulled up to second place, said hello, then dropped in behind him. I held that spot for a bit but he kicked it with about 400 meters to go and I was already at max. I ran down the finish line straight and crossed the line with a new PB of 17:39. Wowza, where did that come from (training I guess).

Well the next morning I was back at it, same starting point (we line up by pace) and ready to go. Sorry for the lack of photos, but they aren't ready yet. Soon we were off. My plan was to head out at a moderate 4 min/km pace and see how that felt after awhile, hopefully dragging myself up to a 3:58 avg pace and another PB. Well that didn't quite happen.

That humidity from the night before was still in the air, but now with a nice bit of warmth. I felt okay heading into the 10km mark, but that was when the series of hills started. I had worked myself up to 4th place overall and was hanging with the group but started to drift back.

The legs kept turning over but something wasn't quite right. I just had no steam. Maybe it was the humidity, maybe the the fast 5km the night before, likely a combo of both, but I was not feeling it.

I hung on to the 3rd place runner for quite awhile but with 5 km to go he was far enough ahead that there was no way those tired limbs of mine could do anything about it. And I started to glance backwards, which is never a good sign. My pace average had drifted to 4:02 with 4 km to go and even though I knew it was downhill, I wasn't feeling good at all about going sub 1:25 (let alone the sub 1:24 I had hoped for).

As the final few kilometers approached, I started to run amoung the slower 10 km runners. Mentally I felt like slowing down to a walk and hanging out with them. But I let momentum carry me along. Finally the finish line came up. I crossed the line in 1:25:46 and in 4th place overall, first age group. ouch. It felt worse than the marathon I had run here 1 year ago to the day.

Still I am happy overall. Not every race turns out to awesome, and while the time wasn't what I wanted, my overall placing was good and I still finished in the 1:25 bracket. So back to training for something better next time!

Thanks again to the organizers. And now onto a month+ of racing. Bring on November and rest!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

MEC Night Trail Race 2015 - And the Winner Is....

Well not me. I actually came in second, though that is usually par for the course at MEC races locally. It is a a bit of a joke with the great crew that puts on the races. Realistically, though, I am surprised I ended up there.

This race was a late addition to my race calendar, a good 5k distance run. It was new this year and I decided to do it because it would be a fun challenge. And really I just wanted to have a little fun and not kill myself in the process.

The weather was great, cool end of summer night in a local park. The trails here are designed more for cross country skiing and mountain biking and therefore are not groomed for casual walking. There are tons of rocks and ruts enroute, which made it a fun adventure for sure.

After some pre race chatting, it was time to line up.

For some reason everyone lined up behind me. I have no idea why. But then we were off. Quickly a few runners went ahead. As my goal was to survive and not hurt myself, I decided to hang back a bit.

Also on the route was a series of small red blinking lights. If you found one and took it, MEC would give you a $10 gift card at the finish. Initially I thought, I'd rather have a medal than the gift card, but as we approached the first one I saw (it was the second) I found myself in 6th place. So I quickly ran over, hoped a small fence, grabbed the light and resumed my race.

I apparently lost little time as I was back with the lead group, minus the leader who was pulling away. The pace though seemed easy as we hit the 1 km mark, so I decided to move forward. A few more passes and I had moved into second, with first likely 100m up the trail or so (I could see his light).

The trail started to get rougher and the big hills were coming by. It was slow going up those. As I ran passed the marshals they would cheer and then I would listen to hear them cheer again as the third place runner went by. Seems I had pulled a bit of a lead over him by half way through the race.

I was still quite close to the overall leader, but at 3km in I almost rolled my ankle (on a flat piece of ground no less), and decided to take it a bit easier. I slowed down a bit and kept going.

Pretty quickly I could here the sounds of cheering at the finish line so I knew I was close. The ground turned to crusher dust so I could run a little faster and boom, out of no where the finish line. Whew. I crossed in second place with a time of 20:24 for 5km. The winner had cross about 50 seconds ahead of me. But I was $10 richer!

We also had a beer vendor at the finish line which was lovely while waiting for friends to finish. And it was great to see Tom come out for this crazy adventure!

Every so often, pick a fun race, especially when they are inexpensive!  Now to rest up for next weekend's half marathon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shoe Review - The New Balance 1400v3

Ah, a new shoe for me. Like many other runners and triathletes, I am always looking for that perfect shoe for the right situation. Earlier this year I found a great shoe for training and distance running. But it just didn't seem zippy enough for the shorter races where cushioning isn't the be all.

For the past 2 years I had found such a shoe, sort of. It was the New Balance 1400v2, described by New Balance as a racing flat. It was a great shoe for me at mid distances, from 5K to Half marathon I set some fast times in that shoe. But it lacked a certain fit and finish. The interior of the shoe was quite rough and I couldn't wear it sockless, which was a big reason I bought it in the first place, to be able to use it in triathlons and duathlons. My first and last attempt to do so lead to many abrasions and cuts on my feet.

Then NB came out with the 1400v3. Even though the local running shop, Aerobics First, didn't have them in stock, I knew I had to try them out. The store was great and brought in a pair for me to try out (and I'll be up front, I paid for these shoes).

The first thing I did was stick my hand in the shoe and feel around. Wow, it was smooth inside, not rough at all. And the new laces were great as well, slightly elasticy (of course I never ran in those laces as I swapped them out for Xtenex speed laces for triathlons).

A quick tempo run in super humid conditions and sockless was my first test (go big or go home). 11km of heaven and speed. No blisters, so scratching, no cuts.

I then took them to the big test, a duathlon. The warm up run went great. The first run went superb and when I slipped them back on (in the rain no less) for the final run of the day, they went on smooth and easily and gave no issues in the wet.

I assumed that the added comfort would likely come from a slight increase in the weight of the shoe, though they were still quite light.  But wow, I weighed them both (without any laces) and the brand new 1400v3 weighed 1 gram less than the 2 year old worn, v2. Great stuff.

So I found my new go to shoe. Here's a quick break down:

10 mm ramp: That seems like quite the drop, but the shoe has a very thin amount of cushion and as a forefoot runner it gives me no issues at all.

Firm - Good Ground Feel: As I mentioned this shoe lacks a thick cushioning on the base. What is there seems perfectly fine for my running style - forefoot, high cadence. I wouldn't use this shoe with a slow turn over, though with the higher ramp, a heel striker would be fine.  This shoe gives great feed back.

Smooth Inner Liner: Wow, it was probably the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn sockless. So far I have not run in it over 11km, but had no problems up to that distance. I will probably wear a thin sock for stand alone running races anyway, as I like that.  

Weight: Super lightweight, listed as 185grams. Which for a shoe that will last you many races, is great. Lighter shoes exists for sure, but this one will survive.

Toe Box: As with many racing flats, the toe box isn't large. For some reason this doesn't bother me as much as in other shoes. As the shape is the same as the v2, I do know that a little bodyglide or similar lube on my toes will prevent any issues for longer races.

I can't say much for wear, but my v2's are still going strong after quite a few races and a few training runs. I don't see enough differences in this shoe to think it won't give that same level of longevity.

All in all, way to go New Balance. Home Run.