Monday, May 26, 2008

Ski to Sea

The Ski to Sea race this year was quite different. With all the snow we had this winter and a recent heat wave, the river was flowing high and fast and as of late Saturday night the full race was planned to be run. After an early morning evaluation, the race director decided to cancel the canoe leg of the event. While there were lots of disappointed racers this was the best decision due to the high water there were no beaches to allow for self rescue. The exit beach (at the mountain bike leg start) was 6 feet under fast moving water, there was no place for them to exit the river.

So onto my leg the mountain bike... How to keep the race on schedule and allow for proper spacing and finishing in Fairhaven. They gave each canoe leg the same 2 hour time and tried to have the mountain bikers leave 2 hours after their road biker finished 18 miles away in Everson. it was quite hectic, but at least it wasn't raining. Actually it was hot and we heard at least 4 bike tires explode!

They did pretty good with the 2 hour window with the front runners, but then moved to about 5 riders at time about 3-4 minutes apart, then about 10 at a time, finally they gave up and just started calling numbers.

I rode my bike out to Hovander for the pre race meeting and then to wait... and wait... about 3-4 hours after arriving I finally got underway during the call out of numbers. I started out quick and kept passing riders that went out ahead of me, it was nice to have all these riders up ahead to give me targets to chase and catch.

This is a flat and fast course, only one small actual section of mud and more than half is on the road, so road with my slick tires pumped way up and tried to ride low and aerodynamic as possible. I caught more on the road and was only passed by one person, but I was able to catch his wheel and draft for a bit and then passed him back to have him pass me again, this time he got away but not too far and I finally caught back just as we got to the beach section, where you don't ride, but run with your bike and I just ran past him and never saw him again.

After the beach it is more road and into the park to Zuanich park at the finish to hand off to the kayaker. I needed to pass two more to get an even count and I had them in my sights and made the final pass after the final turn in the last 150 yards of the ride. Passed the line and passed the timing chip onto Jim.

I had a great ride, passed 40 riders and was 59th fastest overall (out of about 420 teams) and 11th fastest in the rec open category. Debbie and kids came to the finish and got some great pics. After a shower we went to Jims for a post race party and the whole team made it and exchanged food, drinks and stories of the day. All in all a great day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

THAT was a challenge

I did the North Face Endurance Challenge yesterday and was one of the toughest, hardest and slowest half marathons I think I'll ever do. The held the event at Camp Lutherwood on the north end of Lake Samish. They are planting trees for each competitor to offset the carbon gasses generated by the race, so I decided to help out and ride my bicycle.

I was up and out the door about 6:30 and very few cars on the road and nice easy ride over to the lake, about 11 mile warm-up arriving at about 7:30. I had hour and half to change, relax, and get my timing chip. Saw Damian video taping a friend of his doing the 50k. The 50k runners started at 7 am and we saw them coming through the first aid station and it was then I knew I was in for a long day. I missed some of the front runners, but by the time I figured out that this was their first time through the aid station meant that they were only at 5k at about 45-50 minutes.

We would be running on the same 5k loop (twice) to start our half marathon. I got fully changed and ready to run, we (I'd say 100-125 runners) were off right on time at 9:00 am and it is less than a quarter mile before we start climbing and the sight of a stream of runners going up in front on the switchbacks and once I was half way up the stream continued behind, quite a site.

The trail was mostly all single track on this 5k loop and we went back and forth and at times came back to spots where the course almost ran back onto the same single track only to turn again at the last chances. I like these looping single track trails, no real destination other than the beauty of the woods. The elevation chart for the 5k loop did not look that bad, but was kind of misleading in that we run two smaller loops to make the single 5k loop, one went up about 200 feet and the other about 300, so nothing too really bad, but there were plenty of ups and down inside the those changes as well. There were a couple sections where we ran along the edge of a hill and it really wasn't a trail, and not even a flat area to run (walk) as each step you kind slipped down the slope a bit, they had a rope so you would completely fall down the hill. Combined with nice muddy conditions made for slower run times. My split for the first 5K was 36:00, ug!

Back up the for the same loop again and with all the 50 milers, 50krs, half marathoners and the 10k runners (sent 15 minutes after us) the trail was really getting more and more slippery. I was very happy to make it back to the aid station marking the finish of my first 10k (second 5k was 41:00).

I thought we would be headed off in a new direction, but we basically just skipped the first half of the 5k loop to start up the second (muddier) loop only to eventually turn to the right at the apex of the 5k loop (we went left the first two times) and while the trail got a lot less muddy, it was a lot more straight up, and up, and up. I really felt like this was steeper than chinscraper (on Chuckanut). Since I had looked at the elevation chart before I knew we were to get up to about 1400 feet or so and my watch said about 600 at the turn so I knew what I was in for. I was simply walking and my HR was pegged. There were not really any switchbacks as we pretty much went straight up. I don't think there was much of a trail here before the race. We eventually made it to the top and based on my calculations this stretch from the lake to the top was 1142 feet of climbing, my GPS recorded 1.52 miles (8025.6 feet) which calculates out to about 14.38% grade = 100*(tan(arcsin(1142/8025.6))). UG! oh yeah, this 1.52 mile walk took just over 32 minutes.

BUT I was at the top, or so I thought, we ran a bit on the top and then it went up a bit more before we started in earnest back down a logging road, this road curved around and as luck would have it, even have some small up hill sections to get down the hill. We finally made it back to some single track and I recognized a couple signs from the Lake Samish county park, so I knew I was getting close to the aid station at mile 10.7. I didn't realize how high these trails went as it took longer than I thought to get back down the lake and the aid station. Great volunteers everywhere and the energy from their excitement helped me along.

We ran along Roy Road to get back towards Camp Lutherwood only to make another detour UP a logging access road to hook back onto the highest point of the first half loop of the 5k. Since I had run this section twice earlier I knew I was close but wasn't able to really ever get a fast run in as it was real muddy by now and I was very tired too. Finally get back to the flatter area near the camp and past the aid station to the grassy finish. Very, Very happy to finish in 3:16:55 by my watch, pretty slow, but I guess the winning half marathon time of 2:20 indicates how hard this course was (so I didn't feel as bad about my slow time)

Sat down for a bit with Damian, thinking about how in the heck am I going to ride my bike home (I hadn't thought of that or that the course would be this hard). Damian was leaving so I asked (ok begged) for a ride up the hill out of the lake basin. He got me up the first part of the hill and I made it slowly up the rest to try and spin easy all the way home.

Great race, great challenge, very tough... not certain I'd do it again... maybe... see if I can improve... only time will tell.

Monday, May 05, 2008

WWU Triathlon VI

I love doing this event. It has been a great early season test for me and I have improved my time each year. I missed 1 hour by 1 second last year and was hoping to break the elusive 1 hour mark. Another reason I really enjoy this race is all the friends I get to see before and after, a lot of Bellingham triathletes come out for this race.

I've been joining the Bellingham Masters Swim Club in the evenings and it has improved my swimming in just the 4 weeks I've been. I was really hoping to improve on my swim time.

As usual, I arrived pretty early and got a great transition spot on the end pretty close to the bike exit. Now that that was done I had the next 90 minutes to walk around, wait around, and visit. I could of gotten another 30 minutes of sleep as I was early enough that no one else showed for the next 30 minutes or so. People started arriving and I did a quick bike ride to set my bike in the correct gear and leave my shoes attached to the bike. Got my transition area all set and made my way into the pool to get a short warm up. I got about 75 yards before they had us get out for the start.

Debbie and Alex arrived about 5 minutes before my start time, so they hit it perfect and got some great shots. I waited in line for my start time and finally moved into the starting slot.

Started right on time this year, I was off and swimming. I knew Debbie and Alex were at the far end so I tried to give a good photo opportunity and I think they got a good one.

After hamming it up for the camera I tried to settle in at an easy pace and keep an even pace the whole 300 yards. I had been working on this at the masters swims and I think I hit my marks each 100 yards. I got close to the guy in front of me to finish about 10 yards and 5 seconds behind him. I ended up taking 10 seconds off my time from last year. My fastest timed 300 yet at 5:20

Up and out of the water and started the run to the bikes. I'd left some crocs and my jacket near the pool so I could run on the gravel and have my jacket on before I got on the bike. This worked great as I had my jacket on before I got to the bike, biking this early in the season with a wet tank top on doesn't work to well for me.

This is a short 9 mile loop, but they send you up and over quite a few hills just for fun. They adjusted the course slightly to actually take one hill out at the end, so it was a bit shorter than previous years, but my time was the same. 29:32 although I forgot to hit the split until my running shoes were on, so I'd say about 29:00 and put the 32 seconds on my T time.

They send you straight up the hill to the top of the ridge which is the worst of the run. I ran a bit, tried jogging slower, but eventually started to a walk. Just till the next light pole and then started back up and made it to the top and then downhill way past campus just to turn and another hill and then the long slope back up into campus. I thought I was moving along at a pretty good clip but a couple of track team members went past much faster. I was catching other runners though and just tried to keep on moving forward. Up through campus and on a trail out the other side just to turn around again and back towards transition. Last year we finished right next to transition. This year they added about 400 yards as we ran past transition and onto the track for 3/4 around to the finish. My 26:32 was about 3:43 slower than last year, but adding the 400 yards should not of taken that long, so I was a bit slower, oh well, I had fun! but happy to be done too.

1:03:01 total time (last year 1:00:01)