Friday, June 25, 2004

Pacific Crest 1/2 Ironman, June, 2004

I returned to Bend, OR, to join my father in racing Pacific Crest, a great “endurance weekend” in central Oregon. This three day extravaganza has something for everyone, including runs, duathlons, all the way up to a ½ Ironman triathlon. My father favors the Olympic duathlon where he is the defending 60-64 age group champion, whereas I’m going for the ½ Ironman triathlon. My niece isn’t quite old enough to join the twelve and under events, but they sure look like fun. If you have a lot of friends or family that like to cheer you on and have been tempted to try something short of a triathlon, this is a great place for them to try out an event or two.

Bend, OR is a great location for a triathlon – the swim is a mellow reservoir loop, and the bike course rolls by the Cascade Lakes and climbs up and around Mt. Bachelor, ending in a 16 mile descent that leaves your legs rested for the run around Sunriver Resort. Bend, OR, is still ridiculously cheap too – we got a 3-bedroom house to rent for $109/night, complete with hot tub, just a few blocks from the starting line. Most of the booking agents will give you a decent price, but if they tell you there’s a “three night minimum”, it’s BS. Just keep calling around. Sunriver is self-sufficient, and also has horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, and a full mall. All-in-all a great place to stay.

I hadn’t done much on my bike since the last triathlon, thanks to all the trail running. That meant I got a bit lazy about bike maintenance and didn’t go through my usual checks, assuming the bike was still in racing condition. I realized how dumb this was when I exited the water to find my front tire flat (oops). The volunteers were nice enough to take 10 minutes to put on my back-up tubeless tire and get it pumped up to 110 psi, which was about 60% of what it needed, but enough to get me going. What I didn’t realize was that the spare wasn’t glued on…until I turned into the first corner and wiped out as the tire peeled off. Luckily I recovered nicely since I had gotten a 10 minute rest waiting on the tire, and only had a few minor scrapes after visiting the ditch on the side of the road. As I pulled my tire back on, I faced the ultimate dilemma – should I keep going on a half-inflated tire that I can’t corner on, knowing it’s going to slow me down significantly and leave me exhausted by the run? Or should I just call it a good swim and pack up and meet Christi for some pancakes?

I figured, what the hell. No sense in racking up the first DNF. About 20 miles into the bike, a really nice guy in his 50’s passed me and said “you know, you would go a lot faster if your tire was inflated all the way”. I explained my fiasco, and lack of a portable pump that could handle 200 psi. He replied with a solution – “my son has a bike shop, and he will be at mile 25 in a big red Hummer with all his gear…I’ll ride ahead and tell him to be ready for you”. How nice! Sure enough, as promised a big red Hummer flagged me down and they “Nascar pit-stopped me” and got me back on the road in less than two minutes. At 200 psi, I was rolling much faster, and soon passed my guardian angel who cheered me on. My bike split was atrocious, but I ran a 1:35 half marathon to make up for it and finished in about 5:38. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

My dad had a similar mishap. Unfamiliar with the course, he started pacing his bike off a group of riders in front of him with numbers painted on their calves. About an hour later, a cop on a motorcycle pulled him over and told him the people he was following had raced the previous day (thus the calf markings), and today were out on a joy ride….well off the duathlon course! He took it in stride, and still finished well (although he had to give up his title…alas). We had a good time telling our stories over pizza and beer. Mistakes are far more enjoyable after you’re done.

With this race done, I put the bike away for the rest of the season to focus on the trail running.

Friday, June 18, 2004

26.2 In The Thin Air – Park City Marathon, June, 2004

So here I am, looking at marathon #2. I had never been to Park City and always wanted to come check it out in the summer time. All ski resort areas have a great vibe in the summer, and a heckofa lot less people. I just had one dilemma – how does a sea level guy like me get ready for a race that starts around 7,000’? I don’t have three weeks to acclimate, as much as I would like to hang out in Park City for a month. I’ve heard there are two ways to approach acclimation. First, do it the right way and show up at least two weeks before (altitude and heat share the same rule, I hear). Second, if you can’t, then fly there right before the race and “shock” your system. I figured I would try the latter, and flew in the night before the race.

The air is definitely thin up here, no doubt about that. I was slightly out of breath before the 6am gun went off. The Park City Marathon isn’t “really” a trail marathon – a good 17 miles of it was on pavement, and the rest was access roads. But it does have 3,000’ of climbing, and cuts right through downtown Park City when everyone is starting to get their coffee. We had a little bit of rain, and a 6-10 mph that was just enough to make you groan. One cool thing about the Park City Marathon starting line – it had every type of person you could imagine, from teenagers up from Provo who slept in the car, to grandmas and grandpas pulling on their shoes to show the kids a thing or two. Everyone was out to tame the mountain this morning.

By the time we hit the high point in the race (around mile 16), David Schroeder pulled way out ahead of us. David, clearly a gifted runner, had hung back with us early in the race to “make sure we were having a good time”. Utah people are so friendly! I was holding second up until mile 20, where I was passed by Michael Robbert, a strong runner from Littleton, CO, and Tom Neuman, who had just had two stents put in four months previous (clearly, he’s recovering well). I ended up with fourth place (, in 3:10:17…just enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Now, I hadn’t planned on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, largely because trail runs don’t really lend themselves to the kind of neck-breaking speed one needs to do so. But if you qualify, you must go, as I’m told.

After the race, I congratulated the other Boston qualifiers and learned that Michael Robbert (also a qualifier) and his wife were traveling the mid-west to race every Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series race they could. Part of me was glad – at least I wasn’t the only one with this crazy race schedule. But part of me was worried – Michael is clearly a strong runner, and if he wife is cool enough to drive their VW bus through the night for a 10k, I had my work cut out for me. But as competitive as I wanted to be, I couldn’t help but think that the Robberts were just the kind of people that the TRM series was about – outdoor lovers, using the race series to see as much as they could.

Soon after the race, my legs seized like they never have before. Maybe it’s the pavement, maybe the altitude, or likely from trying to hang with a bunch of runners that are much faster, but this recovery is going to take a while. And Michael is going running in two days? I guess the "recovery" race is on!

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Beach/Trail Running – Point Reyes ½ Marathon, June, 2004

I got a natural break in the schedule for most of May, allowing me to rest up for Pt. Reyes, another Redwood Trails ½ marathon. This one is a bit of a trek to get to from SF, driving past Olema to the Pt. Reyes Nature Preserve.

The course starts with a mile of beach running, then cuts up slightly into the hills on an access road. The access road circles some amazing marsh land, and the Pacific breeze is never too far away. With a two loop configuration, I would recommend this race if you’re with friends that run at a different pace – you’ll see them time and time again!

My rest did me good, as I finished first overall in 1:28:56 ( Christopher Farady, in his first trail run ever and part of a training plan to get him to the Boston Marathon, finished about four minutes behind in a stellar debut. I’m feeling good for the Park City Marathon next week.

I also switched shoes on this race, going away from my trusted Salomon X-Pro’s to the Vasque Velocity earlier in the week. The Salomon shoes are still great, but the Vasque seems to have a bit more heel comfort.

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