Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Slowest Fast Half Marathon

The Slowest Fast Half Marathon

Finally, after a week of waiting after the postponement of the original race due to a big winter snow storm that dumped several inches of snow, the Spring Fever Half went off without a hitch yesterday. This was my first race of the season, run mostly to get more experience at racing and to see how things were going fitness wise early in the spring. The race started off with blue skies and warm temps - I was in a t-shirt and shorts for the first time since last fall! I didn't have any specific plans in terms of splits, simply to go out near the front, try and keep a solid pace, and see what type of fitness I'm in after a winter spent skiing, doing hills, and what not. At the start line there looked to be some really fast guys (the race was sanctioned by the USATF) so I tucked myself into the back of the lead pack and tried not to go out too fast (or slow).

I felt good, and after the first mile, no one passed me for the entire race. The first half of the race was mostly downhill or flat, which allowed for a really fast pace to be set. However, after the turn around, runners encountered a brutal headwind for the final 700' climb and last 5 miles back to the finish. As happens on spring days along the frontrange, the day started out warm and calm, but as the sun rose, the winds started up and by the time we turned around there was a steady 20 to 30 mile headwind. This wreaked havoc on everyone's times, as evidenced by the winner, Mark Currell posting a 1:16:23 time. I say this because Mark was in the 2008 NCAA championships in the 5,000 meters (14:11) and has run under 2:20 for the marathon. That should give you an idea of just how strong those headwinds were for the last 5 miles, as this was a relatively fast course.

I came in at 1:42:43 for 12th overall. Not bad. I was pleased with the result (not the time - I really wanted to get a better time, but with the headwind that was just not happening) because this race had a lot of fast roadies and this course is their bread and butter. For me, I have not done a single speed session since last October, I prefer courses with more hills, and am still relatively new to racing in general. Despite this, I'm happy with the result and believe that this bodes well for this summer.

The race was well marked, had easy parking, and was very well run. If you are looking for an early, fast half marathon, this may fit the bill.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Progress And Why You Don't Skip During Long Runs

Progress and Why You Don't Skip During Long Runs

Science is amazing - not only for what we have learned, but also for what we investigate. Ever wonder why you don't skip much during your runs? Me neither. But apparently, some scientists had that question, and for good reason. It turns out that most animals skip or gallop when they move at higher speeds, as it affords a more energy efficient form of locomotion for them. Humans, on the other hand, maintain a running gait at all times, and only rarely skip or gallop when moving at speed. So why is that? Well, as we now know thanks to science, because of the human hip and bipedal form of locomotion, skipping or galloping is actually metabolically more expensive and involves high muscular stress at the hips. So we don't do it. This makes sense, but it is something that I never thought about. You can read more here.

Starting to work in longer runs now that spring is approaching and things are warming up. Did a nice 17 miles today with 2,400 gain (between 9,000-10,200) in 2:24 (two laps of 1:12 each). Nothing special, but it's nice to put in a few more miles then the usual run, and I was pleased with my time and fitness. Things seem to be going in the right direction, and as I continue to stay heavy on the vert. (13,650' in the past 7 days with one rest day) I believe I am starting to see some of the payoff. The trick will to be to continue this through spring, but to add in some longer runs and one speed session per week (I got invited to do a track workout, but it was starting at 6:00am - hopefully I can make next weeks Sunrise Speed Session). Regardless, the motivation is high and I am really excited about this summer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Challenge

The Challenge

Last month I set myself the challenge of getting 50,000' of gain in 30 days. The challenge seemed to be a good one, and although initially it didn't seem very "challenging" over the course of the next 30 days I found out just how hard it can be to get that much vert this time of year. In the summer, it is easy to bang out peak summits every other day or so and rack up that much gain, but in the winter, when the peaks and high trails are covered in a couple feet of snow, the challenge is quite hard. Despite this, I gave it a solid effort and am pleased with my results: 41,650' of gain in 30 days. All of this was done between 9,000' and 12,000' in elevation.

Now, the real question though, is will this focus on vert help? So far, I've had a few positive indications that it will. Obviously, it will help with climbing and keeping a good pace up hills, but I think it will also help with staying fast on flats and moderate grades. I've done two 14 mile runs (one last week, one yesterday) on relatively flat courses (only ~900 of gain) and have been able to keep my knees high throughout the run. On both runs I've pushed to a degree or two below race pace (both runs were around 7:20-7:30 pace), and have been happy with how I have been able to maintain that pace over the entire run. Yesterday, for example, I was able to keep my pace on the last 500' climb at mile 12 and my legs never developed that heavy feel. All of the vert I believe has really helped with my lifting muscles, which has translated over to being able to keep a better stride and pace during runs.

I've got a half marathon coming up on March 23 which will be an interesting indicator of my fitness. Given that last year my first day of running occurred on April 1 after a 6 month break from any running or cardiovascular activity, I know I am already in better shape then I was last spring. However, although I've maintained some fitness this winter, I have not worked on any speed, and am not really expecting anything remarkable out of this first race. Rather, I signed up to just race again, as racing still is a major psychological challenge for me.

My plans now are to continue with getting in as much vert as possible, but also incorporating one speed day per week (as well as to bump up the mileage on the long runs). This will hopefully allow me to continue to get in good shape for this summer's races and planned mountain runs, but also allow me to get a bit faster. Time will tell, but so far I think the challenge has payed off and positioned my fitness at a good place for continuing to develop and grow, without getting burnt out or peaking too early.
Looking at Grays and Torrey's from this mornings run