Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 19): First event, a good time

Chocolate Factory OB: 6.0 mi (+484 ft); 9:16 pace (PR 9:06)
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+455 ft); 8:59 pace (PR 8:31)
Ophir Grade OB: 6.4 mi (+1,141 ft); 9:57 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+619 ft); 9:19 pace (PR 8:31)
Burton Creek Half Marathon: 14.7 mi (+1,437 ft); 9:11 pace
Post-race Extra: 1.7 mi (+200 ft); 12:21 pace

Weekly Totals: 39.8 mi (+3,726 ft); 6:19:56 on trail

This week (RFP #3) was highlighted by my first sanctioned trail event; actually, first running race of any kind, track, road, or trail. Kept to my schedule and felt really good on my usual trails, a little slower pace than last week but I was wondering how I might recover from the Lost in the Woods adventures of the previous weekend. No worse for wear, so I'm very happy. All training runs this week occurred under the best of conditions, prime running weather here in northern Nevada. Tephra got a little hot on Tuesday's trail at Chocolate Factory so she might be limited to early mornings or short evenings.

Because the Father's Day race at Burton Creek is on a Sunday, I moved my weekly long run to the event day and put in a short pre-event run on Saturday.  Early Saturday morning I repeated the Quarry Out-and-Back for the usual "recovery" distance and Darren came up from Reno to join me. It was nice running with someone on my local trails, and I was happy to show Darren some of our nicer single-track sections around Virginia City. We took it easy, chatting about the Burton Creek event of the coming day.

Sunday morning dawned cool and breezy, probably the coolest morning of the week. We left VC about 6:30 to meet Darren and Dan Dixson at the Mount Rose Raley's so we could cram everyone plus Tephra into the Yota for the drive to Burton Creek, near Tahoe City, California, on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe. Clouds hung low over Mount Rose as we drove over the summit.  They had a snowy greyness to them, but there were too few to amount to anything other than sunlit decorations at the mountain tops. Sun returned as we dropped into the Tahoe Basin.

The Burton Creek Trail Run (5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathons) is presented by Solomon and is part of the Adventure Sport Week Tahoe and the TrailRunner Magazine's Trophy Series. The hard-working Race Director and crew had a challenge on their hands dealing with the slow snowmelt this Spring. The course had to be re-configured slightly and trench-like paths were carved through a few snowbanks. Nice single-tracks and a maze of two-track roads carve their way through Burton Creek State Park. The course was nicely marked and a few marshals kept everyone moving in the right direction. As part of the reconfiguration, the Half Marathon course did an 11-mile loop and then closed with a second lap on something close to the 5K course. The marathoners did something similar, completing the 11-mile loop twice, and then working their way around the 10K course. It made the distances more like 14.7 and 28 miles for the respective races, but it was a good compromise for not being able to get to the trails up in Anton Meadows.  A few of the half-marathoners missed the message about the second short lap, and had a short break before realizing their error. An unfortunate event, but the memo was very clear during the pre-race briefings.

I simply had a great time running the Half Marathon. We started as a group with the marathoners so I watched the speedsters from both groups pull away. I quickly settled into a nice pace following in the footsteps of a small line of runners climbing out of the start point. As we swung down to Dollar Creek I realized I was going at a really fast pace (for me), caught up in the energy of the group. I was just behind Dan's bright orange shirt but decided I needed to settle in for my own race given that I had no experience at this distance except for a couple training runs at much slower pace. It was beautiful running through the trees, dodging the growing puddles of melted snow. Soon I was basically running alone only occasionally passing someone or being passed. Each pass was a brief new conversation, "Hey, how ya doing?", "Isn't this beautiful!", "I don't think I've ever actually met someone from Virginia City", "Do we have to climb back out of this canyon?". I hadn't really imagined talking with people. Only the ear-plugged, i-podded people were quiet, smiling nicely or struggling on their own on a climb or mud-crossing. 

I soon felt the joy of good effort in a beautiful place that defines trail running. I was making good time and counting off the miles while seeing the same one or two people a little ways ahead of me. Should I try harder? No, this is a training run after all, just a piece of the bigger picture. I carried one large Gel-Bot bottle and a few Clif Bloks and kept feeding the water and an occasional blok at regular intervals. Aid stations were nicely spaced and kindly attended but I only slowed to fill my bottle at about Mile 9, after the long slow climb from Burton Creek. Then it was downhill into the start area where a few nice people cheered and I oriented my way through the easy maze of tapes and flags to start my second, short lap. As I entered the start area, a La Sportiva jersey swept past me and into the finish shoot - I assumed he was a winner of my event and I still had about three and a half miles to go. Not my league but fun to see the possibilities. I laughed and continued on. Seeing Desna and Tephra waiting at the start of the lap, I handed off my shirt and said I'd be back soon.

Hitting Dollar Creek again I considered the possibility of getting a sub-two-hour half marathon. I was on pace to do it but the topography rallied and I had to begin my second climb on the north side of the creek. Hit the 13.1 mile mark at 2:02, my goal had been 2:10. But I still had a ways to go, didn't really know how long it would be at this point. I caught sight of Dan again, at about the same place I let him go on the first lap. He was in the longer event and had slowed on the climb, I had slowed a little on this hill but knowing I was almost to my finish I could push a bit more.

Back into the sun of the Nordic Center ski runs where the race tents were, I felt great heading to the finish. Hit the line at 2:15 after a course total of 14.7 miles. Never any aches or pains, just a couple of slow hills and general fun. My average pace turned out to be about 9:11 per mile, which is on par with my average pace for my shorter-distance training runs. The event pushes a little, but I think you get used to the new pace and simply keep going at the new level.  I was the oldest guy to finish at that point though I ended up 5th in the 40-49 age-group. I was 20th in the men's group and something like 27th overall out of about 90 entrants. But no matter. The results of the race are nice and I'm happy with my level of contribution to the competition. The best part, however, is having done and enjoyed it. I'm already looking forward to my next one.

Darren had similar success; OK, that's understating it a bit. He was first in the men's division of the marathon, finishing 3rd overall as two ladies strode to first and second place with gazelle-like efforts. It was great to see him descend the final hill by himself to stroll across the finish line. He had a couple tough spots late in the race, mostly because the last 10K-like lap was mentally challenging especially when you know your are going beyond the 26.2 miles that you planned to race. Bonus miles that can break you. Indeed, Dan hadn't been feeling well at the start of the his "bonus" lap and eventually gave in at Mile 25. So close. He had asked me for a coke or something similar at the beginning of the lap, but I had failed to notice the cooler of freebies at one of the nearby tents and thought there was only water and electrolyte drink. I wish I had known, maybe it would have helped him get through the tough last miles. But he won a Suunto watch in a raffle, so it wasn't all bad. It was good to see him and I look forward to sharing the trails with him and everyone else again soon.

My training log had 16 miles on the schedule for my "long" day this week, so Tephra and I did a short lap down Dollar Creek to get the miles in. Another good week. My up-coming week tapers a bit for some rest; I'm curious how that will feel.

Dennis and Mary (Happy Father's Day!) did a 10-mile trail run on Easter Hill near Grand Junction. I'm glad to hear that the trails are being kind to them. It sounds like they like the softness of the trail surface and enjoy the new challenge of footing and route-finding. Here's to more adventures - they head for some 14,000-foot summits next weekend. 'Tis the season.  Keep going. 

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