Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

EPIC! . . . 2013 GTIS Half Marathon Race Report

 Last week I sat down to develop a race plan for the Georgetown Race.   Here's an excerpt from that plan where I discuss my overall pacing and time goal:
Developing a plan for how I would like to run this race has been a bit of a challenge.  Initially, I envisioned shooting for a PR, but after doing a little speed work during the last couple of weeks, I realize that is probably not realistic at this point.  A PR would be right around 1:39:59, which translates to 7:38/mile, too ambitious for me.  Instead, I'm going to shoot for a slightly slower pace around 8:00 to 8:20/ mile.  My goal will be something between 1:44:00 to 1:50:00 total time.  Given the course and my current level of conditioning, I think that this is realistic target.
 I think it's great to develop a strategy for racing as it helps to visualize a positive outcome and serves as a reminder for important elements like staying focused, taking in proper hydration, nutrition, etc.  An effective race plan should also consist of more than one possible outcome because there are so many variables that come into play on race day.  It's impossible to plan for everything.  Having varied goals makes it easier to find success in any event, even when the unexpected occurs.    Nevertheless, as I found myself way back in the field of 3000+ participants, at the start of yesterday's race, setting a personal record in the half marathon was the farthest thing from my mind. 
Pre-race: 
We spent the night at Aunt Janet's (she took 1st in her age group by the way!) and Uncle Ron's place in Genesee after a long, slow drive up Highway 83. We took this detour after learning that the Interstate had been closed due to an accident.  Unfortunately, everyone else traveling between Colorado Springs and Denver had the same idea so it took forever to get north.  When we reached Parker, we decided to stop and have dinner.  As a result, it was after 9:00 when we finally reached her house, and at least another 90 minutes before our heads hit the pillow for the night.  The upside was that the trip to Georgetown was only about 30 minutes in the morning.  We arrived in plenty of time, and sat in the car for several minutes to avoid the morning chill that pervades this small mountain town (about 45 degrees at start time) as the sun is rising.    
Georgetown: Photo Courtesy of www.hikinghumanitarian.com, Thanks!
 Shortly before the race, I made one final trip to the port-o-potties.  They were arranged in a narrow strip and as you moved towards the middle, there were very short lines for waiting of only 2-3 people.  At the end of each row, a long queue of runner's were waiting patiently for the 1/2 dozen toilets at the edge.  After taking care of business, and with only about 10 minutes or so until race time, I mentioned this to those folks waiting in line as I headed for a quick warm-up.  Several of them expressed thanks, a few glared at me, and quite a few just stayed in line!  I'm guessing that those who kept waiting did not make the start on time.  Weird.
The first hiccup of the morning came at the start line.  My plan was to locate myself near the 1:45 start group and hang with them through the race.  Sadly, the starting line was a congested mess.  Runners were jammed together at the starting line, and several more were waiting as close to their wave as they could, on the shoulder of the road.  The race organizers had several trucks parked along the sides of the starting line, so there were only a few gaps where you could get into the starting area.   To make matters worse, the "pacers" were separated by only about 25-30 feet, which made everyone pressed much closer.  I managed to squeeze onto the road, but instead of being next to the 1:45 group, I was all the way back at the 2:20 mark.  There was absolutely no way that I was going to get any farther forward than that.  I took a deep breath and let it go.
The Race:
 Fortunately, the GTIS is a "chip timed" event so I knew that even though I was way back, I wouldn't actually get a start time until I crossed the mat at the official starting line.  From there the trick would be to negotiate myself forward through the throngs of runners and walkers until I was able to settle in at an appropriate pace (there was in fact a gap of about 1:40 between the start and the time that I reached the starting mat).  The first half mile of the race runs straight down a small frontage road before the course bears to the left and you begin a mile of twisting and turning through the streets of Georgetown.  During this first half mile, I moved over to the edge of the road where several faster runners, who must have been in the same predicament as I was, were successfully moving up through the field.  This did involve running on the shoulder in spots, and through a few weeds here and there, but by the time we reached the first turn, the field had opened up a bit and there was more room to maneuver.   At the one mile point, I checked my watch and  my pace was around 8:30.  Perfect for where I thought I'd be through the first part of the course. 
Mile two continues in town, but by the end, you are back where you started and have actually run back past through the starting area.  Shortly after is the first aid station and the mile 2 marker.  By this point, there was plenty of room to run.  I moved to the left side of the field and powered forward.  When I checked my second mile split, it had dropped to a 7:38.  Whoa, I thought, maybe I need to dial it back a bit.  At any rate, I felt good as my combined average through the first two miles was close to my predicted pace of around 8:00/ mile.  The course moved slightly to the right and along a gradual descent, so I just went with it.  In my mind, I'd slowed down, but when I reached mile three, my total time was just slightly over 23 minutes (the mile three split was a 7:14).  And I felt fine.  It certainly wasn't an easy pace,  but I didn't like I was running beyond my limits.  I continued to run like this over the next two miles with a pace of 7:09 and 7:22 respectively.  
Mile splits as recorded on Training Center

And then it got interesting.  During the next 5 miles, I averaged between 6:57 to 7:07 per mile.  I generally don't hold that kind of pace in a 5k let alone in the middle portion of a half marathon.  GTIS is a "downhill" race, so I definitely got a boost from some of the descents, but there are also plenty of short, rolling, risers (I just can't bring myself to call them hills) along the way.  By this point I had blown past the 1:45 pace group with whom I had planned to run, and I was zeroing in on the 1:40 pacers.  At mile 10, I checked my watch and I was at a total time of around 1hr 13 minutes.  This meant that as long as I could finish running at about 9 minute per mile, I would finish in sub 1:40.  The question was, could I run around 9 minute miles?
Downhill with a few rollers thrown in for fun!
It isn't uncommon to "hit the wall" or "blow up" after pushing the pace too hard in the early part of the race.  I felt fairly confident that I could hold on for the last few miles, but I also remembered my experience at the ADT marathon, when after about 15 miles I was putting in the same effort,   but found my pace continued to drop to the point where I was lucky to maintain a 10:00/ 11:00 pace.  Now,  I literally lowered my head and willed myself forward with every bit of effort that I could summon.  I did slow down, but not by much.  In my last three miles, I clocked a 7:28, 7:29, and finished with a 7:55 (plus another minute or so for the .1 at the end).  When I crossed the line, the time on the clock said something around 1:38.  Given the amount of time I'd been delayed by the congestion at the starting line, I knew I was well under 1:40, and it felt great.  Checking the results this morning, my official time was a 1:36:51.  Good enough for 199th overall and 12th out of 162 in my age group.
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Post race:
The post race activities in Idaho Springs are held on the local football field.  Although this means that there is no beer garden, they invite a lot of sponsors in and so there is plenty of swag available for runners to collect.  In addition to the usual t-shirt, this year the offerings included a set of "stuffits" (which is like a running shoe freshener), Muscle Milk, Naked juice, FRS, O'Douls Beer (hey, a port in any storm right?), and of course, the GTIS pint glass (No doubt, I will be making a special trip to the liquor store to find a nice IPA to fill it with tonight).  I didn't linger too long at the expo however, as I wanted to catch the bus back up to Georgetown to pick up the car.  We made it back to Genesee by 12:30 or so, and Melisa and I stopped at a place called LoDo's near Quebec and C-470 where we enjoyed some lovely burgers and a beer before trekking back down to Pueblo.
Planning on filling this one with an IPA!

Long, Rambling Race Analysis:
This morning my legs have been replaced by two "pain sticks" which isn't surprising, but definitely worth it!  It's nice to set a personal record for a race and to do it at the age of 41.  My last PR at this distance would have been sometime back in the late 90's at the Steamboat Half Marathon (another downhiller) when I was in my 20's.  For that race I clocked about a 1:40.  Melisa also had a great race, and while she didn't PR, she ran a comfortable 2:12, which is only about 3-5 minutes from her PR a year ago.  This year she very little training (recording only one or two 6 mile runs in the last couple of months), and yet she finished the race feeling much more energetic and less exhausted than a year ago.  As I reflect on my training, I've also noted that my longest run in the last few weeks was around 10.5 miles.
So what gives?  Why was I able to PR after more than a dozen years?  How can Melisa run comfortably and finish close to her PR logging less than 10 miles/ week in the two months leading up to the event? Where did I get the capacity to run multiple sub 7:00 minute miles in the middle of the half marathon?  My guess is that it's a combination of the following:
Aerobic threshold training:  Beginning last winter, I embarked on an experiment using the Maffetone method for training.  For the better part of the last 6 months, I've done the overwhelming majority of my training at a steady pace, keeping my heart rate just below aerobic threshold (in my case about 138-140 bpm).  At the same time, I continued to build volume in terms of distance, culminating with a 50 mile run in May.   I kicked off this summer with a much bigger engine than I've had in years past, and as a result, I can hold a faster pace for a longer amount of time.
Easy on the running, heavy on the cross training:  I still love to run, and of the three disciplines in triathlon, it's still my favorite.  I love running for it's simplicity;  just you, the road, and your own effort to move forward.  But running is hard on the body, and the potential for injury is high.  This summer, I've done much more swimming, and even more cycling, and I believe I'm a faster runner for it.  I think the same holds true for Melisa.  Throughout the summer, she's spent more time at spin class, than she has putting in the miles running. Both of us are benefiting from a lot of cross-training that keeps us primed for running, without the wear and tear.
Rest:  Like most endurance athletes, I love the anal retentive experience of making and following a precise training schedule, and as I plan out each week, I'm always very ambitious.  In an average week,  I will plan for something like 7-9 training activities that I plan to accomplish.  I may include a rest day, but as I modify the schedule here and there, these wind up being few and far between.  Rest just doesn't figure into the equation the way it should.  In his book "Breakthrough Triathlon Training," Brad Kearns sums it up this way:
If you maintain a moderate amount of training, you will not lose any of the fitness you gained from your most challenging workouts or training periods.  In fact, you actually make the fitness gains while you are resting (p.122).
Leading up to this event, I just happened to have a busy week at work, coupled with some inclement weather that kept me off of the bike, and out of the pool.  Instead of the six workouts I'd planned for Sunday through Wednesday, I did my last run on Monday afternoon, and then shut it down for the rest of the week.  No running, no swimming, no biking, no lifting, no nothing!   I went into the race with four full days of recovery.  I was ready to run, and I had the energy to do it.
Nothing is impossible:  Okay, well some things are probably, definitely impossible, but I've tried to adopt a different perspective when it comes to racing and endurance activities in general.  For this race, I clearly set the bar too low in terms of what I thought I could accomplish.  I'd considered shooting for a PR, but dismissed it as out of my reach.  Then, during the race yesterday, there were one or two instances where I thought about slowing down a bit , but instead, I decided to push harder.  I still felt good, so why would I hold back?  Sometimes the obstacles that get in the way of our performance, are barriers of our own creation.  If we have a little more faith in ourselves, and our abilities, then we are capable of accomplishing much more.  We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.  And isn't this why we participate in the first place.  As athletes, we thrive on pushing ourselves, and testing our limits. 
Race Review:
 This year was the 35th running of the GTIS.  It is one of the longest running half-marathons in Colorado, and certainly one of the most popular.   The race is well organized and there are a multitude of positive aspects of this race.  This year, there was a special discounted entry for the event of $15.  Finding a race for this amount of money is unheard of (Hell, most 5k races cost more to run).  You just can't argue with a bargain of this magnitude.  It is also a beautiful mountain race.  Years ago when I ran, I didn't feel the same.  Back then the race crossed over the interstate, and I remember feeling like we were just running along a busy highway.  This year,  I didn't spend enjoying the scenery this year, but there are stretches where you run next to the river, and the mountains on either side of you make for a unique experience. The two mountain towns that bookend the race are also unique and charming.  If I do the race next year, I plan on finding a way to include a lunch at the Tommyknocker Brewery located on the main strip.  The post race area is also a highlight.  GTIS has some great sponsors, and they turn out to provide a lot of giveaways and freebies for racers. The post race area is enormous, and it's awesome to sit out on the grassy field with family and friends and enjoy the surrounding mountains and the fresh air.  In fact, the only suggestion I would make for the future is to consider moving to a wave start.  Normally, a race with 3000 or more racers wouldn't really need this, but given the size of the starting area, a wave start would be worth considering.  I would divide it into three to four waves based on a predicted finishing time, but even two waves (less than 2 hours, more than two hours) would make the starting area a little less congested.  And unless they can get a waiver to serve real beer on the football field, that's really about it!  The GTIS was a great race and certainly a highlight of my 2013 season so far!  
More results information

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