Boston Marathon 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

This past Monday was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon. It was my fifth time participating, and was my 4th finish (DNF in 2012 due to heat). Like the Dipsea, this race is one that I will make every effort to attend every year I can. The energy in the city is incredible and seeing friends from near and far so fired up for the same event makes the trip all that much better. It’s not often that almost everyone’s goals align in such a manner as they do at Boston.

This year was a bit different for me. In 2013, I came in fit and ready to run fast. And I ran my PR. In both 2014 and 2015, I was 9 days removed from Lake Sonoma, started out hard, and took what my legs had. This year, I was coming off a planned DNF at Sonoma due to a hip issue that I’m still working out and the main goal was to have fun, not push too much, and most importantly, not do any further damage.

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Rumor had it USA jerseys garner big cheers. Rumor proved true.

The days leading up to the race were fun as always. I arrived Saturday night, grabbed dinner with a couple friends, and was in bed not too late. Sunday saw a big SFRC crew shakeout around the Charles and then I got my bib at the expo, napped, ate, and was in bed around 10pm, along with Rudy, Ezra, and Staples (we shared a hotel room and it was like being back in college – great for a weekend but thankfully not a situation I have to live in very often :-P). I slept terribly on Sunday night, but wasn’t too worried. I didn’t have any ambitious goals. We were up early on Monday, dressed in our suits, dropped our clothes at the finish, and took the BAA buses out to the start line. No one had to pee in a bottle on the way out, but if you start hydrating early, bring a bottle for that purpose as there are no bathrooms on the buses.

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Looking good (or at least feeling like you do) is scientifically proven to help you run fast. And yes, I know my fly is open.

The athletes’ village was full of excitement and we all noticed that the weather was warmer than the forecasts had predicted. There were also no clouds in the sky and by the time we lined up to start, it was probably 65-70 degrees. I made sure to drink early and often but it still wasn’t adequate.

The first miles rolled by very calmly. I ran most of them with Paddy (who ran a great race despite the warm conditions) and basked in the cheers of “USA USA” brought on by my singlet choice. There is no other feeling like the one you get when you raise your arms and ask for support from the crowds and they just roar for the runners. I get chills even when running and it was impossible to keep a smile off my race. Around the halfway mark, Paddy started pulling away from me and I was more than content to let him go. My legs were feeling a bit tired and I just wanted to run a bit slower. I kept him in sight for the next 5-6 miles but was constantly losing ground. Things held together fairly well until the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, where I went from grinning to walking in about 5 steps as my left hamstring threatened to cramp. I stopped to stretch it out and from there until the finish, cramps were constantly threatening. I had to stop a couple more times to stretch my legs out and walked through 3 or 4 of the final water stations in an effort to take down as much Gatorade as possible. I had a friend planted at mile 21 with a beer and it was delicious. The police officer who happened to be 3 feet away kindly turned a blind eye for about a minute but then shooed me on my way when it became clear I was milking the beer break.

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Having run and covered in salt (PC: Claire!)

The last 4-5 miles were a combination of fighting the cramping on the downhills and moving when I could on the flats. Jonas caught up to me around mile 23 but he too was fighting cramping and we were quickly separated when his legs seized up on a little downhill. I don’t think I stopped smiling the last 2 miles. The crowds are incredible and they responded whenever I asked for support. Rounding the corners onto Boylston, I really made an effort to soak it in. My previous 3 finishes found me in a pain cave at this point, so I wanted to take my time and enjoy the final half mile.

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Asking the crowd for support (PC: Ben Mayersohn)

I crossed the finish line, staggered around a bit, saw Nate cross and wandered with him to get our clothes and then to the bar our group had picked as its meeting place. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent reliving the cramps, awkwardly stretching out to avoid said cramps returning, and drinking and eating. I saw a lot of old friends, made some new ones, and had a great time before collapsing into bed around 2am to wake up 4 hours later for my flight home, where I slept probably 90% of the way back to SF. And before I knew it, I was back home and had memories of the weekend I had been looking forward to for 6 months. We’re already making plans for next year and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out what’s up with my hip (I think it’s a gait issue) and start training for the Dipsea in June. I’m seeking some redemption there.

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Way Too Cool 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Way Too Cool 50k was almost exactly what I needed it to be. Coming off the hip/quad issue that plagued me for several weeks, I was feeling very close to 100% physically heading into the race. I was able to get in some solid back-to-back longer runs the weekend before the race, and even though I had virtually no race fitness to speak of, I was excited to cover the distance and see what I had.

The race field was pretty loaded, with a bunch of fellow SFRC bros as well as Nike Trail Elite teammate David Roche, Chris Mocko, Brett Hornig, and a couple of Inside Trail guys. My goal was to go out fairly conservatively on the first 8 mile loop, get down to the river in one piece, and then make a move along the couple miles of rolling fire road before we started climbing in earnest again. As soon as the gun went off, David took off and was off the front by 15-20 seconds by the time we hit the trails. I was in a group with DBo, Jorge, Levi, Paddy, DeNucci, Mocko, Brett, and the ITR dudes. I executed pretty well, staying at near tail end of the lead group through the first 10-11 miles. Once we hit the river, though, I made a big push and within a mile or so had moved from 9th or 10th into 4th behind David, Jorge, and DBo. I could occasionally see DBo around a few corners but never got closer than 30 seconds or so, and Paddy remained about the same distance behind me, from what I could tell.

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Chase group around 1 mile in. (PC: Eric Schranz)

I felt pretty strong through 15-16 miles but could feel my lack of fitness on the initial climb out of the river and knew that it was just a matter of time before I’d simply run out of legs. That really became evident around mile 20 (2h12m), when I didn’t feel bad, I just felt tired. My legs had no more oomph and I knew I’d just be running it in as best I could. Paddy bridged up to me after a while and I trailed him up Goat Hill (mile 26) before losing sight of him for good.

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Just before making a move along the river (PC: ASGarbageCan)

I was pleased to find that my legs, while not moving terribly quickly, didn’t feel too bad. No major cramping or pains anywhere. I saw some familiar faces in the last couple miles (Luke, Chris, Eric are the ones I processed) and was quite happy when I crested the final climb and made my way into the finish. Thankfully there was no one bearing down on me, as the last turn was a total mud pit, which apparently claimed David Roche as a victim. I crossed the line in 3:29:09, about a minute faster than my kind-of-arbitrary 3:30:00 goal that I’d set a few weeks before.

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Nearing the finish, feeling the fatigue (PC: Eric Schranz)

Considering the conditions, I’m quite pleased with the time and even more so with my legs. My hip/quad felt solid the whole day and I didn’t feel as though I’d gone deep in the well at any point.

A few random notes from the day, in no particular order:

– Giff! First 50k! Way to go man!

– Levi – way to find your way out of the pain cave. Remember this race.

– David, Jorge, and DBo – congrats on strong races. And let’s not forget Paddy who reminds us each race that he’s just getting stronger.

– Schranz, Chris, and Luke – thanks for the cheering, smiles and pics!

– Yiou! huge race! You too, Megan and Anna Mae:-)

 

Gear:

Shoes: Wear testers

Shorts: Nike Tech Half Tight

Singlet: Nike Pro kit

Hydration: Water the whole time, courtesy of #buttbottleadventures aka Amphipod Handheld and surgical rubber

Fuel: 2 PickyBars for breakfast, 2 during the first 1.5 hours of the race, 4 GU’s til the finish

Storage: Victory Sport Design Bear II

Beer: Fort Point Manzanita and Villager

stream crossing

Fun in the stream crossings (PC: Mario Fraioli)

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Off to a rocky start…

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 did not start at all as I’d hoped or anticipated. My goal coming into the year was to stay healthy. I’ve been injured/recovering each of the past 2 years for many summer weeks following Western States and I was hoping to avoid a similar layoff at any point this year.

My right hip had different ideas. Admittedly, I probably jumped back in too quickly in terms of volume, but I was chomping at the bit to get running and the soreness that came on in the first couple days (most notably in my IT bands and achilles) basically subsided by days 5-6, with one exception: my right hip flexor/groin/general front part of that area. It got worse over the course of Saturday and Sunday and by Monday I was unable to run. So I got on the bike for the following week, got some PT, and felt good enough to start back the week of Jan 18. 3 days of running later, I was back on the bike. I took another 9 days off running and was able to get things under control about 3 weeks ago with the help of some massage therapy. Basically, what we think was happening was my right quad was really tight and was pulling on my hip area (thus the general pain the area as opposed to a specific hip issue like my flexor). Things have loosened with massage and rolling and stretching and since Jan 30, I’ve been building up fairly cautiously. It’s great to run without pain and I’m hoping to be able to contain my enthusiasm going forward to prevent another setback.

What this issue has really done is make me even more committed to staying healthy for the balance of 2016. I’d love to avoid another prolonged layoff over the summer (or at any other point). A lot of that revolves around me listening to my body as soon as something starts to bug me. I think I can do that. I’d better. Looking back on the past 3 injuries (including this one), I’ve acquired a cyclocross bike (summer ’14), a mountain bike (summer ’15), and a car (Jan. ’16) during those periods. If nothing else, I need to avoid getting injured to save my wallet😛

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Finally going the distance at the SFRC Saturday morning group run. (PC: Emily Kraus)

Looking at my race calendar, Way Too Cool is still on the table. I won’t be nearly as fit as I’d hoped, but it will at least be a nice long, hard effort, if I’m comfortable enough with my progression to toe the line. The big goal for the first part of the year is still Lake Sonoma. Again, I won’t have the quite the volume of training I had heading into last year, but I’ll do what I can with what I’ll have and that’s about all I can ask of myself.

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View from the East Peak of Mt. Tam this past Sunday.

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2015: A year in review

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 has come and gone. It’s hard to believe all of the promise that it held a year ago has already been realized (and potentially wasted at times as well). In my year-end review last year, (https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/2015-a-probably-disrespectful-retrospective/) I talked about highlights, lowlights and lessons learned. A lot of those remain the same, so I won’t re-hash them, and will instead do a little chronological review. But first, a couple of observations/resolutions/miscellaneous items. 1. I need to do more barefoot strides. 2. I’m getting worse at the beer mile. I need to shape up or retire. 3. Every run has a purpose. 4. I had kind of forgotten how much running for a team can make one push through some dark places.

 

March 22, 2015 – Oakland Marathon Relay with Jorge, Yiou, and Galen, We each won a trip to Hawaii and then I got to watch Shirtless Sean run a big PR in the marathon.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/272570315/overview

OAKLAND MARATHON

Hawaii bound!

April 11, 2015 – Lake Sonoma 50 Mile: 6:09:39. Ran what was easily my strongest race to date and came away with the win and a new CR. We’ll see how long that holds, as it’s gone down each year the race has been run. I learned a lot during this one, including finally realizing that I do have it in me to win a big race.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/lake-sonoma-50/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/283626139/overview

And easily my favorite interview to date: http://www.irunfar.com/2015/04/alex-varner-2015-lake-sonoma-50-mile-champion-interview.html (thanks Bryon and Meghan)

LS50 Finish

Just toasted post-LS50 (PC: Jenny Maier)

April 20, 2015 – Boston Marathon: 2:28:14. Still not quite sure how this happened 9 days after Sonoma, but I’ll take it. I had a ton of fun (as I always do) in Boston. Biggest lesson: eat something after race other than beer and Moscow mules (thanks, Pam).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/2015-boston-marathon/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/289204631/overview

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Hard not to have fun during the Boston Marathon. (PC for both: MarathonFoto)

May 9, 2015 – Got engaged to a wonderful human being named Rachelle. Spent 19 of the 22 hours leading up to the hike sleeping off something weird. Proposed on the 2nd flight of the Dipsea stairs and celebrated with a drink at Beerworks. And on a related noted, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Fort Point Beer Co. in 2016! http://www.fortpointbeer.com/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/301403800/overview

engagement party

I’m not sure what’s going on here… But we did finish all 3 magnums. (PC: unknown)

May 17, 2015 – Bay to Breakers: Always a blast running with the WVTC centipede. A bit harder this year, as it came the morning after my and Rachelle’s engagement party where we put down 3  magnums of wine (mine, Devon and Dakota’s), all of which were courtesy of Tropical John and the LS50 (thanks for hosting, Topher and Kim!).

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/306760543/overview

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Back on the chain gang (PC: unknown)

May 30, 2015 – IAU Ultra Trail World Championships: 9:21:00 (85k w/ 17,000ft+ vert). I finally achieved my dream of wearing a USA singlet in competition. The trip to Annecy, the atmosphere around the race, and the race itself were incredible. My teammates were awesome and we even brought home a silver medal. I found some really dark places fairly early on in this race but having the USA on my chest and running for a cause greater than myself got me to the finish.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/2015-iau-ultra-trail-world-championships/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/315262976/overview

IAU race

This face about sums up my race (PC: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks)

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Team USA takes Silver! (PC: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

June 14, 2015 – The Dipsea: 49:35 (7.4 miles w/ 2,200ft vert). The middle of the 4-week/3-race gauntlet I set up for myself (IAU, Dipsea, WSER), I suffered in this one from my training for the longer stuff. I didn’t have the pop necessary to run as fast as I needed and had my streak of fastest times broken by Rickey and Gus (both fully deserving, as you can’t perform at your best in this race if you don’t train specifically for it and they did). Still, Dipsea Sunday is always magical and I’m definitely sad to be missing it this year (most likely).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/the-105th-dipsea-race/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/325619202/overview

Dipsea 2015-110

Nearing the top of Cardiac (PC: Steve Disenhof)

June 27, 2015 – Western States Endurance Run: DNF. I told myself I’d drop if things weren’t going right and that’s exactly what happened. It took me a while to reconcile this one while still on the course (as it should – a DNF is never something to be taken lightly), but once I had the wristband cut off, I knew I’d made the right decision. My knees were unhappy and my head wasn’t in it at mile 30. There was almost no way I was going to make it another 70 miles.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/western-states-2015-squashed/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/334386445/overview

WSER

Nearing the end of my abbreviated WSER journey (PC: Chasqui Runner)

Summer 2015 – Malaise doesn’t even begin to describe it. A shin issue I’d been dealing with (and trying to run through) since late May kept me sidelined much longer than I’d hoped. I spent a good amount of time on the bike, bought an enormous, heavy mountain bike in the middle of a particularly well-attended pity-party, and got reaffirmed how much biking uphill sucks compared to running. The downhills, however, are particularly delightful, as you just point the bike where you want it to go and you don’t even have to move your legs. How easy is that!? Finally was able to start running at the end of the summer, just in time to catch our Indian summer. I also thoroughly enjoyed the 1st Annual Widowmaker Invitation.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/not-as-anticipated/

Bike race PC Ornot

My first bike race! It went up Mt. Tam, naturally. (PC: Ornot)

Fall 2015 – various cross country races and tune-up for Quad Dipsea, and my first bike race! Unlike bike racing, cross country is so much fun. I’m glad the SFRC crew got to see the beauty of red-lining for 20-30 minutes and then being done rather than slogging it out for 6+ hours. I’ve found that as I’ve moved into the longer distances, the shorter stuff serves to remind me what it’s like to run fast, and makes the longer stuff feel easier (mostly).

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/something-old-something-new-something-forgotten-nothing-blue/

https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/quick-catch-up/

Having fun in XC PC Bruce Davie

Cross country isn’t supposed to be this fun (PC: Bruce Davie)

November 28, 2015 – Quad Dipsea: 3:41:01 (28 miles w/ 9,000ft vert). This was my goal since August. Every run, workout, and race was geared towards getting me to the start line healthy and ready to go. This was one of those days when everything clicked and things went exactly as planned and I nailed it. I will look back on this race for years to come.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/quad-dipsea-2015/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Quad last climb PC Jenny Maier

Last climb (PC: Jenny Maier)

Quad Finish PC Trop John

Finish (PC: John Medinger)

December 5, 2015 – TNF 50 Mile: DNF. Gave myself a free pass to DNF the week after Quad and while things felt surprisingly good in the early miles, it was clear by mile 20 that my goose was cooked and I cut my losses. Relatively easy decision.

Blog: see next item

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/445013083/overview

December 12, 2015 – Club XC Nationals: 32:17 (10k). Pain cave.

Blog: https://andmilestogobeforeieat.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/tnf50-and-club-xc-nationals/

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/449656020/overview

Club Nats PC Matt Trappe

Jorge hunting me (PC: Matt Trappe)

Club Nats PC Fernando

Pain cave. Thank goodness there were only 10meters left at this point (PC: Fernando)

Finally, I can’t forget my sponsors, who have supported me through good times and bad. They aren’t the reason I run, but they do make it a lot more fun (and delicious).

Gear: Nike: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/

Fuel: PickyBars: http://pickybars.com/ (they’re freakin’ awesome)

Organization: Victory Sportdesign: http://victorysportdesign.com/

Representation: Presidio Sports Management: http://www.presidiosportsmgmt.com/#intro

Coaching: Carmichael Training Systems / Jason Koop

http://trainright.com/

 

And to finish it all off, stats from 2015:

Miles Raced: 299.8 miles (109.6 miles less than last year, which if you want to go down the rabbit hole, can be almost entirely attributed to the 70 miles I didn’t run at WSER 2015 and the 30 miles I didn’t run at TNF50 2015). I also only finished 3 ultra races (Sonoma, IAU, Quad) while in 2014 I finished 6 ultras.

Highest Week: 99 (included Bay to Breakers)

Days off: 94 (compared to 50 in 2014 and 12 in 2013)

Weekly Average: 58.3 miles

Daily Average: 11.2 miles (vs 12.7 last year)

Feet Climbed: 353,098ft (1,302ft/day)

Tam Summits: 9 (21 last year)

Lifetime Total (that I know of): 30,033 miles

A few charts for those so inclined.

miles raced chart

annual mileage bar chartdays off and weekly total bar chartmiles by month bar chart

running log

I think this one says a lot – it’s a high level view of my detailed training log. The blue bars are days off and the red bars are days off due to injury. That middle section there needs to be avoided in the future.

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TNF50 and Club XC Nationals

Thursday, December 17, 2015

While I’d have liked to put up a year-in-review post today, I just haven’t had time to put one together so that will have to wait until 2015 is actually over. So for now, I’ll stick to TNF50 and the Club National Cross Country Championships.

TNF50 was the week after the Quad Dipsea. I took 2 days off immediately following the Quad and ran Tuesday through Friday, feeling better each day. I had the pleasure of running with Bryon Powell (of iRunFar) one day and with Chris Neilson (who was down with a couple other Nike designers) another. Friday felt pretty normal and I went to bed optimistic that I’d be able to give it a solid attempt on Saturday. Nike teammate Amanda Basham was staying with me for the weekend and we were up bright and early (3am) for a 3:30 departure to the start line.

The atmosphere at the start of this race is absolutely electric. Everyone is pumped for the final big event of the year and there are lots of guys and girls gunning for the win. This was my 2nd year running the race and just like last, it went out hot. I found myself a fair ways back from the leaders heading up the first climb up Bobcat. Getting towards the top, I made sure to look back down the trail and take in the sight of the hundreds of headlamps snaking their way up the valley. It’s a fun little bonus within a great event. I found myself chatting happily alongside Levi and Paddy. I use that as a gauge for effort early on in long races – if I can’t talk comfortably, I’m running too fast. There’s plenty of time for silence and suffering later on. The 2 cups of coffee I had probably didn’t help either, as I limit myself to 2-3 cups per week in an effort to keep its effects pronounced (and it works).

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TNF50 Start (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Before I knew it, we were heading back down Rodeo Valley Road and up Miwok. I pushed a little bit up Miwok, as I could see headlamps far ahead of me up the trail and didn’t want to lose too much time. Coming down Old Springs into Tennessee Valley was relatively uneventful and the climbs up Coastal and through Pirates Cove were much of the same, although I was continually noting how far ahead of me some of the headlamps seemed to be. Coming into Muir Beach, I felt some tightness in my knees. It was symmetrical so I wasn’t worried that it was an injury, but I knew it was most likely a result of my quads being still pretty wrecked from the Quad Dipsea (such a fitting name). It got uncomfortable enough to where I made the decision that if things didn’t get better in the next couple miles, I’d drop. I decided to push hard along Redwood Creek and up Heather Cutoff continuing up Coastal View to Cardiac and see if the change in pace might help my knees. I hoped it would and also figured that if I was going to make up some ground on the leaders, I had to start now. Running along Redwood Creek, I could see headlamps already several switchbacks up Heather Cutoff and knew that Zach Miller and Ryan Bak were taking it out hard, bringing several other guys with them. I passed several guys on the climb up Heather and Coastal View and my knees seemed to have calmed a bit. Coming through Cardiac, I left my headlamp at the aid station with Claire and continued on up Old Mine Trail. All of a sudden, I felt great. My knees weren’t hurting and I was moving well. I saw my coach, Jason Koop, as well as several friends (Devon, Topher, Kim, Sean, Yiou) which also helped my spirits.

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After a long push up to Cardiac (Credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

However, that was short-lived as basically as soon as I crossed Panoramic Highway and got onto Matt Davis (around mile 18), the trail got more technical and my knees decided they didn’t like all of the added movement that comes with picking every footstrike. I was bummed, but had prepared myself for the possibility that something like this might happen. As I made my way out Matt Davis, I became increasingly unhappy with the state of my knees. My pace slowed and I decided I was going to drop at Stinson Beach (mile 28 on the course). 8-9 more miles of running felt like a looooong time, though. I saw Rudy and Pam with before starting on the out-and-back section of the course and within a couple minutes, I realized I didn’t have to run the out-and-back if I was going to drop. I could just run straight down to Stinson. So I returned to them and continued on down to Stinson. On the way down, I thought about my DNF and found that I had no issues with it. My A race for the fall was the Quad Dipsea and I nailed it. Asking for more would just be getting greedy. I wasn’t about to do damage to my knees and quads by running another 30 miles on them in pain. Easy decision. I found the Nike crew at Stinson, as well as many friends, watched the top men and women come through, and eventually found my way back to the finish line to watch Zach, DBo, Ryan, and Jorge take first, second, third, and fourth. Nike won the team competition with Zach, Ryan, and Dan Kraft (7th) and Ryan Ghelfi (10th) rounded out our squad. Strava data here: TNF50

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the finish line rehashing our experiences and then we went back to Mill Valley, cleaned up, and hit the Deuce. Hard.

The following Saturday (after a week of easy runs where I actually felt some hop in my step), we were back in Golden Gate Park for the 2015 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships. This was my 5th weekend of racing in a row and I was ready for a break, but this race is one of the most fun events of the year. (On a related note, Ezra ran the Berkeley Half, Quad Dipsea, TNF50, and Club Nationals 4 weeks in a row, becoming the only guy to finish the Dirty Quad). Having it in our backyard just added to the excitement, and an added bonus was several good friends on San Francsico Running Company racing team (in its 1st year) would be running alongside West Valley Track Club (my team). A little friendly competition (followed by a lot of beer) is just what everyone needs to close out the year.

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Start of the open men’s race (411 finishers) (Credit: unknown)

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Jorge stalking me in the 2nd mile (Credit: Brett Rivers)

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Pain cave in the last 100m (Credit: Fernando! Fernando! Fernando!)

The race went pretty badly. I went out hard (planned) and felt pretty strong for the first 2 miles, but soon thereafter got a big side stitch which prevented me from getting full breaths and really opening up. I was bummed, but it’s a small price to pay for such a good fall of training and racing. Thankfully I wasn’t peaking for this race, so I just relegated myself to gritting my teeth and getting to the finish. I tried to keep Jorge in sight, but he gapped me (a great race, especially just a week after TNF50) and went on ahead. I suffered pretty badly in the final miles but managed to run roughly the same pace I had 3 weeks prior before the big races, so I couldn’t be too disappointed (even if it was on ugly positive splits). Strava data here: Club XC Nationals

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WVTC and SFRC hanging out post-race. Thanks to Headlands Brewing for providing the keg! (Credit: Bruce Davie)

Like the week before, the rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out in the park, rehashing our race, and then cleaning up before heading to the Strava after party. I can’t forget to mention our West Valley masters men’s team, which finished 2nd in the country! Huge congrats to them. It was another great year of cross country with West Valley and having the SFRC guys out there with us was most excellent. We’re already looking forward to next year.

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Quad Dipsea 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Quad Dipsea went just about perfectly. I hit the splits I wanted (for the most part) and was fortunate enough to be able to take the course record down by several minutes. Ever since I signed up for the race on August 3, my entire fall training block was dedicated to this singular cause. Every run had a purpose: to get my legs ready to carry me over the Dipsea Trail 4 times faster than anyone else before me. That’s a scary proposition, knowing that all of your training is leading up to one race on one day and hopefully everything comes together at the right time. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to have faith that it will since I’ve been working with Koop, as things came together at the right times last December at TNF and last April at Lake Sonoma. However, I’d be lying if I said my confidence wasn’t severely shaken during the summer. After a disappointing personal performance at the IAU World Championships in Annecy in May, I ran a sub-par Dipsea (although that was somewhat expected being only 2 weeks after Annecy) followed by a DNF at Western States at mile 30. I finally had to deal head-on with the shin issue that had been bugging me for several weeks and it took longer than I’d hoped to heal, taking me well into August before I was running normally and comfortably again.

The first couple workouts back were rough, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you just have to stay the course (a thousand points of light, for those who get the reference :-P). Sure enough, the fitness came around. I raced several XC races which were just plain fun and before I knew it, I was heading into the 5 straight weeks of racing that I’d found myself more and more excited to run. I think that was when I really knew I was back and fit and ready – heading into the ITR Mt. Tam 30k on Nov. 14, I couldn’t wait to race, and several weeks in a row on top of that. I love racing. I race often. It’s fun and it’s a better workout than workouts, so what’s the downside (assuming you can keep yourself under control enough to not overdo it completely). The ITR 30k was a confidence boost, as were the PA XC Championships the following weekend where I ran a completely controlled 10k tempo and finished feeling strong.

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Having some fun in XC (I’m definitely doing it wrong). Credit: Bruce Davie

Then it was time for the nerves to really set in. With just 5 days until the Quad, I slept fitfully, had weird dreams, and was just generally at a higher level of stress than normal. Not ideal, but I also think these things are a part of the deal you’ve got one goal and one race to execute. It’s a lot of pressure and so I’m sure I subconsciously put 2 races on either side of it to give myself some excuses should the day not go as planned. But I knew what I wanted – the CR at the Quad Dipsea and if I came away with anything less than that, I’d have been bitterly disappointed.

Two days before the race was Thanksgiving. Rachelle found the time to come down for a couple of days which was great and we had our first big (new) family Thanksgiving my parents and some of her relatives and mother. Friday was spent wandering around SF, doing some shopping and sightseeing and before I knew it we were going to bed on Friday night. Race morning was cold but not quite as bad as I’d anticipated. I was planning on wearing a shirt and arm sleeves over my singlet, but opted to just go with the singlet at the last minute. In the days before the race, I’d hatched a rough plan of how I wanted the race to go. I wanted to be at Stinson the 2nd time (with 1 leg left) no slower than 2h48m, which would give me a full 60 minutes to get back to Mill Valley under the record (3:48:45). Doing that meant running 3 56-minute Dipseas. However, I had a more ambitious goal of getting to the halfway point by 1h48m, giving myself a full 2 hours to run the final 2 legs. That would involve running 2 54-minute Dipseas to start the race. That’s what I went for. The splits I’d come up with were: 17 minutes from the start to Muir Woods Creek, 20 minutes from Creek to Cardiac and then 17 minutes from Cardiac to Stinson. The way back was split into the same 3 sections, just with different time goals: 25 minutes from Stinson to Cardiac, 12 minutes from Cardiac down to Muir Woods Creek, 17 minutes from Creek to the turnaround in Old Mill Park. Here’s how it played out: 16:15 start to Creek, 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar and waved at the awesome volunteers and cheerers), 18:51 Cardiac to Stinson for a 1st leg split of around 53:45. Awesome. But that last segment took considerably longer than planned. I always forget about the Moors. No time to worry. Time to head back. 24+ minutes from Stinson to Cardiac (ate half a PickyBar, said hi again, but with a bit more tunnel vision), 12 minutes Cardiac to Creek, 16:30ish Creek to turnaround (ate a Gu) for a 2nd leg split of 52:25 (brief aid station stop included) and a turnaround time of 1:45:30.

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10 minute quick clock at the turnaround. Credit: Jorge Maravilla

The clock was 10 minutes fast at the turnaround for some reason (it read 1:35), but I knew where I was and that I was certainly not running that was, so it wasn’t an issue. Others, however, thought it might be, so they made sure a volunteer at Cardiac told me it was fast the next time I went through. It was great to have Rachelle and her family and my family at the turnaround. It provided a big boost and I was back up the stairs before I knew it. 3rd leg splits were: 16:10 turnaround to Creek (ate a Gu), 19 minutes Creek to Cardiac (hi again, more tunnel vision), 18 minutes Cardiac to Stinson (ate a Gu) for a 3rd leg split of around 53:45 (woooooo!!!). Hit the Stinson timing mats in just under 2:40, which gave me 68 minutes to get back. I was quite optimistic that I’d be able to run the final leg in 56-57 minutes, since I’d felt so good the first 3 laps, but immediately upon starting back up, I realized it would be slower than that. My legs were tired and started to threaten cramps, particularly in my VMOs, which felt it most on the stairs and steep descents. Thankfully, they held together, but it was quite painful at times. Home again home again. Stinson to Cardiac: 28:30ish (woof, not much of a hello, just straight pain face this time through). Cardiac to Creek: 14+ minutes (yay downhill!). Creek to finish: 18 minutes. The last climb, from Creek to Panoramic was really rough. I stumbled and fell right below the mailboxes and was just barely able to run between Muir Woods road and Panoramic. Thankfully DeNooch was there cheering which spurred me to up as best I could. Once I was dropping down Walsh Drive, I looked at my watch and knew I had it barring any catastrophic cramping. I told myself to savor this. It was the culmination of a long, hard training block and it had paid off. I had executed on the right day and I was ecstatic. Coming down the stairs for the final time was a little dicey, but Paddy and Lucci kindly let me pass and I was met at the finish line by a huge group of friends and family 3 hours, 41 minutes and 1 second after I’d started.

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Top of Cardiac for the first time (~35mins). Credit: Yoko Senga

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Top of Cardiac the second time (~1h18m). Credit: Brett Rivers (I think)

The nice thing about this course is that you’re continually seeing people on different legs and the camaraderie and cheering that goes on between runners is awesome. I was able to see where the 2-3-4-5 guys were in relation to each other on each crossing and knew that Ezra, Yassine, and Dane were running strong. It turns out that Ezra had dropped back a bit in the middle legs but made a big charge in the final leg to take 2nd, with Yassine and Dane rounding out 3rd and 4th respectively. Great runs by all of them. Their words to me as they were heading down to Stinson for the last time definitely helped me up Steep Ravine.

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Paddy and Lucci let me pass on the final descent. Credit: unknown

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The stoke is high, bro. Credit: John Medinger.

This week has been completely focused on recovery. I didn’t run Sunday or Monday and have run very slow and easy the past 2 days. I’m planning to toe the line at TNF on Saturday, but if I feel crappy as a result of the Quad, I won’t hesitate to drop. I’m hoping that I can be smart enough to listen to my body. That and I’ve got Club XC Nationals next weekend.

On a final note, thanks to all out there who organized (John Catts et al), volunteered, and cheered. Everyone was incredibly supportive and gracious in sharing the trail and I apologize if I didn’t return the favors adequately. It was one of those races where I was in the zone and my external focus is generally less-than-present when that’s the case. If I slighted you in some way, find me at The Deuce on Saturday night, tell me about it, and I’ll buy you a beer.

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Family makes a huge difference.

Strava data: https://www.strava.com/activities/441111088/overview

Results: http://www.quad-dipsea.com/2015.html

 

Gear:

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger 3

Shorts: Nike Tech Half Tights

Singlet: Nike Pro Kit

Buff: Nike

Handheld: Amphipod 20oz with surgical rubber strap

Sustenance: 1 PickyBar during (2 before), 6 Gus (ate roughly every half hour)

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Quad Nerves

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The past couple days, I’ve felt the urge to post another entry on here heading into the Quad. It was precipitated by the fact that I had forgotten how nervous races with the name Dipsea in the name can make me. For several years heading into The (single) Dipsea, I would sleep fitfully and have anxious race-related dreams for a couple of weeks leading up to race day. The Double was that way for a year or two, but the atmosphere is so much more laid back, that these nerves disappeared fairly quickly after I had run the race a couple of times. This past year (2015) was the first time I had been relatively calm heading into the single, as I was coming off the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships in France 2 weeks before and did not expect much of my legs. I had won the fastest time award 6 times in a row and with Rickey, Galen, and Gus fit and ready, I figured this would be the year one of them would break my streak. Sure enough, Rickey and Gus both ran faster than I did and I couldn’t have been happier for them. It took a monkey off my back while simultaneously motivating me for next year to run the fastest time again. My goal of 10 is still very much alive and on my mind. But with this year being a mentally “down” year in the single and sitting out the Double due to Western States, I had forgotten how nervous I can get for a race on the Dipsea trail.

I think the biggest culprit is simply that I know the route so well. In the single and double, you’re more concerned with passing people (due to the handicapping) than with where you are on the course at a given time (although that is somewhat the case in the Double). You simply don’t have a lot of time to look at your watch when you’re constantly trying to get around people. However, with my training runs on the course heading into the Quad, I have become acutely aware of how much time I will inevitably spend looking at my watch and calculating just where I am and how far ahead or behind I am of where I want to be. I’m not exactly looking forward to that. Passing people will not be an issue to the same extent that it is in the single and double because there is no handicapping, and I’m hoping to take advantage of this by getting out strong and avoiding the bulk of the traffic. There will be more passing involved on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps as people will be spread out all over the course at that point, but I doubt it will be anywhere near as crowded as the single and double can be. So until race morning (and honestly, for a good part of the race), I’ll try to manage my nerves as best I can. I’ve learned that they’re a good sign – I’m nervous because I care about the race. After a big training block capped off with the ITR Mt. Tam 30k and a strong workout last night, I know I’m fit (thanks, Koop!). Now I just have to execute.

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