Race report: Shooting for 22 years

As many of you probably know, I take incredible pride in my streak of running at least one 5K every year in under 17 minutes. Before today, that streak stood at 21 years and counting. After today, it would either stand at 22 years and counting or end at 21 years.

Before today, I was already thinking of sharing why sub-17 means so much to me so let me start there. Then I’ll get into today’s report. Continue reading “Race report: Shooting for 22 years”

Race report: 2017 Al’s Run

Team HillRunner.com (minus Andrea – behind the camera) post-race

Al’s Run is always one of my favorite events of the year, largely because of the team aspect. As I’m sure almost everyone reading this is aware, Team HillRunner.com has been represented at Al’s Run for well over a decade by now. If I have the count right, this was the team’s 14th year under the HillRunner.com banner. It’s also my 17th year at Al’s Run and my 16th year as a member of a team (Team GTI first, which became the original core of Team HillRunner.com).

There are two things I absolutely love about this team. Continue reading “Race report: 2017 Al’s Run”

Race report: 2017 Walleye Run – righting a wrong

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Last year, I got a little bored with always showing up to the Walleye Run 5 miler and finishing in the top 10. So I decided to try adding a challenge: the 2 mile, which starts 75 minutes after the 5 mile starts.

It didn’t go so well. Between not great preparation and ridiculously warm weather, the wheels came off in the 2 mile.

Pretty much before I finished the 2 mile, I knew I would be back this year to do it right. I couldn’t let the experience end that way.

This year, in preparation for the double, I changed a couple things in my training. First, I really worked to toughen up the calves. Second, I actually did some quarter mile repeats. I did them at the back end of workouts, when already tired, because I wanted to simulate what I would be experiencing during the 2 mile, after already racing the 5 mile, but this is the first time in a long time I have done quarters in any format.

During the week of the race, I was a little concerned. I felt like maybe I had one week too much of hard training. I was really having trouble recovering in time for the race. I was worried that especially my left hamstring would not be ready and that could spell trouble, especially at the faster pace I was thinking of for the 2 mile. That said, by late week, things were getting quite a bit better by the day. The morning of the race, there was a little lingering tightness but not enough to be concerned about.

I was watching the weather report for the race and it looked like the forecast was getting warmer as the week went on. On the morning of the race, it was already in the 70s by the time I got there and the wind was getting a little noticeable. I picked up my bibs and found a good spot between the start lines and the finish line. I brought 2 singlets so I’d have a clean and dry one to start each race so I was able to put both bibs on a singlet and then I went out for my warmup.

The warmup didn’t feel great. I just didn’t feel all that sharp. That said, I was still confident that I can at least lock into 6 minute pace and ride it out. On my strides, I even started feeling halfway decent.

At the start, I got out well, initially in about 8th-10th place before letting others burn themselves out and settling in around 12th-13th. After a fair bit of relatively straight running, we go around a gradual turn to the left where there was a Chevy display this year with a handful of vehicles blocking the inside of the corner. Fortunately, traffic wasn’t too bad and I was able to get out and around this display. After negotiating the display, I worked my way up a bit. I figured I was in about 10th-11th place after passing a few people, then someone said we were all in the top 10, which meant I figured I was in 9th place. Just before the mile, I caught a fairly young looking runner and he surged as I pulled up next to him. He pulled ahead a bit, then settled in and when I came up by him again he surged. Right about at the mile mark, he finally didn’t have it to maintain and dropped back. With an earlier, uneventful pass, this got me into 7th place.

5th and 6th were spread out in front of me, seemingly within reach but at a distance that I felt would require some patience and gradual whittling away at the lead. As I was trying to first just maintain the distance 6th had on me, someone joined me from behind. I didn’t want to let him just pass me so I picked up the pace and ran with him. We went back and forth a bit but mostly were going side by side through the 2 mile and well into 3. At one point in mile 3, there was a family on the side of the street and he said that was his family. I took just a touch off the gas so he could be a half step ahead of me for the kids and the photo op, then I joined him again once the family was behind. After a turn, I felt like 6th place was falling back just a bit and I said we can catch him, let’s go. His response was I can’t, I’m just going to try to hang on to you. So I set out in trying to work on 6th and this guy I was running with fell a couple steps back.

Neither catching 6th or getting away from 8th was coming easily. It was getting very warm, the headwind at this point was somewhat cooling but mostly was just sapping my legs. I pushed on, kind of yo-yoing with 6th place, and never completely separating from 8th.

At one point shortly before the 4 mile mark, 6th nearly caught 5th and I was thinking he was going to be the guy to chase, possibly fading and not too far ahead of me, but he responded and pulled back solidly into 5th. Meanwhile, I was not gaining on 6th overall. The good news was that it seemed 8th was falling back some.

Typically, with a mile to go, I reassess and tell myself it’s a mile race now. This time, I reminded myself I have another race to go. It was becoming more and more clear that I wasn’t going to catch 6th so all I had to do is run hard enough to not get caught by 8th. I still took a shot or two at moving up on 6th but it just wasn’t happening so I ended up in the last 1/2 mile and last 1/4 mile not trying to pick it up like I usually do. Comfortably in 7th down the final straight, I picked up the pace a bit but I didn’t kick. I was focusing on saving something for the 2 mile.

I ended up crossing the line in 7th with a 30:20. 1st in the 40-49 age group.

After a short time congratulating other runners, I grabbed a couple cups of water, then headed back to my gear. I changed back into my warmups, pushed a lot of fluids, stretched, then did a little running to keep warm and loose. On that bit of running, I realized how difficult the 2 mile was going to be. The 5 mile, combined with the heat and battling the wind, sapped my legs of their speed. I did a couple strides toward the end of that running and just didn’t feel sharp at all. There was just no snap in my legs. That said, I knew I was fit enough to at least gut this one out and I had toughened up my legs so I was confident they wouldn’t fail me this year.

After some more stretching and switching singlets and back to my racing shoes, I went over to the start line. I saw Josh, we chatted a bit, then did what we had to in order to complete our preparations. I did a little mobility work and a few strides and form drills, then lined up.

At the start, I again felt like I got out well, then settled in to let the fast starters burn themselves out. This time, even after warning Josh to be careful of the Chevy display, I found myself getting into a place where I nearly got myself in trouble. I extricated myself just in time and moved out to actually pass a couple people while going past the display.

Pretty quickly, I found myself in about 8th place with potential targets to pass still in front of me. The legs are holding out and things are looking reasonably good, especially compared to last year. Eventually, I work myself up to 5th place, less than a half step up on 6th who happened to be someone I was talking with at the start who was targeting a similar time to me and was in my age group. That didn’t matter, though. I was now seeing the potential for a top 3 finish and the opportunity to make age groups irrelevant (top 3 overall are a separate category). Through the mile in 5th with 6th right on my heels, I was now closing on 4th. Around a turn and I turned on the gas a bit. I passed both runners ahead and moved into 3rd before going around another turn.

Now, second is pretty far ahead but I have a lot to run for here. I have at least 2, if not 3, guys right on my back. I’m in for the overall top 3 finish if I can hold them off. I know what that means, don’t let it come down to a kick. Every step, I’m telling myself to push a little harder. The legs don’t like it but they are doing all they can. I can still feel one guy on my left shoulder. Then he moves to my right for a few moments before moving back to my left. He’s drafting on me as we run into what is a pretty stiff headwind. But what can I do? If I let up, will he even take the lead and let me draft? Anyway, if I do that, I’m just setting him up to outkick me. I know my only hope of holding him off is to run his kick out so this is my only option. So I go on pushing, hoping I can take the sting out of his legs. We come around a turn and are approaching what I know is about 1/4 mile to go. I want to be moving before we get that close to the finish so, about 100 yards before my 1/4 mile to go mark, I pick up the pace. I knew I wasn’t picking up the pace much but it was all I could do. In response to that, the guy on my shoulder picks up the pace more. I want to respond but my legs have nothing. Right behind him is the guy in my age group. With about 1/4 mile to go, it looks like he might get the pass to move into the top 3 but this younger guy ends up pulling away.

Meanwhile, I want to run faster but I just don’t have it. I do my best and just hope nobody is going to catch me from behind. Fortunately, nobody did.

So I end up crossing the finish line in 5th with an 11:36. 2nd in the 40-49 age group.

Overall, I’m happy with this. The times weren’t quite what I was hoping for but I think everyone’s times were off a bit with the heat and the wind both taking their toll. More importantly, I finished in the top 10 overall and the top 3 in my age group in both races. That was essentially my goal going in and I did it comfortably.

Plus they had some nice hardware. This year, coasters for age group awards:

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Will I do the double again next year? I don’t know. Running 2 races with roughly 45 minutes between the finish of the first and the start of the next is brutal. My legs are going to hurt for days after this. That said, it is a fun challenge and I hardly think I’ve mastered it.

Just scanning the results, it looks like I was the only finisher in the top 10 of either race to also finish in the top 20 of the other. Maybe aiming for that kind of accomplishment, if not top 10 in both races like I pulled off this year, is a new challenge to keep going for over the next few years. Until I get bored with that and decide to move on to something else. ;)

Race report: 2017 West Bend Autism Awareness 5K

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I first ran this event two years ago. It happened to be its first year but I was just looking for an early year (it was in April at that time) 5K to shake the rust out. The following year, it moved to a location just a few miles from my home and I couldn’t pass up a race so close to home.

This year, again, I wanted a race ideally this weekend and this one so close to home was too hard to pass up. My goal for this was mostly just to test my fitness. I feel like I’m rounding into sub-17:30 shape but am I really in that area? If so, how far sub-17:30?

The week was pretty uneventful this time, thankfully. I didn’t back off the training in the early week quite as much as I would for a goal race but I did do what has become my standard race week workout on Tuesday, then cut the bottom out of my training for the rest of the week. I went in thinking that, in ideal conditions and running the perfect race, I could probably run in the low 17s. I was sure I was at least in mid-17 shape.

Knowing this race, my biggest challenge was likely to be walkers. This is a 3 lap race around the county fairgrounds, which has its pros and cons. #1 pro: you get crowd support twice mid-race. #1 con: without good crowd control, it can be a challenge to get around walkers. I talked with the race director last year about the idea of giving the runners a dedicated lane that would funnel into the finish line on the last lap. That year, she attempted to tell the runners to stay to the left and the walkers to stay to the right. The walkers didn’t listen, though, and the finish line was on the right so the runners had to cross the walkers to finish. I thought the plan this year would be runners stay to the right, walkers stay to the left.

As I arrived, I noticed the crowd was good. I registered, pinned my number on my singlet, then got ready to warm up. As I was warming up, I noticed how tough the back side of the course would be. It holds the only incline, hardly worth calling a hill, but this year it was accompanied by a stiff direct headwind. This spot was out in the wide open and was getting all of the wind. The other side, with the tailwind, was unfortunately around buildings and not going to get the same wind. Oh well, you just make the most of the day. Other than the wind, the conditions were perfect. I can deal with the wind better than early season heat so I’m not complaining.

I finished my warmup and the director announced that runners should stay to the right, walkers to the left, as you finish. I almost jumped in to ask if that instruction should be throughout the course, not just as finishing, but for some reason didn’t. This was the first sign that things would not go as smoothly as hoped for. This was a race where I went in hoping for the best, a clear path and some people to cheer me in along the way, but expecting some traffic issues.

For the first lap, obviously, the coast was clear. I went straight into the lead and found a nice rhythm. I felt like I was moving very well, probably low 17 pace if not flirting with sub-17 pace. Then I hit the back side with the headwind. I felt like I slowed to a jog but I just pushed through. Around a corner into the park and I was out of the wind and rolling again. I went around a few turns and to the start/finish area, where some late starting walkers were still just getting going.

Pretty quickly in the second lap, I started hitting packs of walkers. At first, small enough to weave around without losing too much momentum or adding too much distance. Then the bigger packs started hitting. I began trying to take the inside line (the right, as I hoped walkers would be instructed to avoid throughout) but quickly found it far too congested. After a few close calls with dogs, including one I had to dodge and another I actually had to hurdle, and other close calls with people, I made my way to try the outside. I actually ended up off the pavement of the road and on the gravel shoulder. This went pretty well for a while, until crowds started appearing out there. Then I cut across to the inside and ran along the gravel shoulder on the inside. People were everywhere and it was hard to find a path. I added quite a bit of distance and spent quite a bit of energy weaving in and out but, not more than about a minute before hitting the start finish area, someone said I was just over 10 minutes. To me, this was a good sign. Somehow I was holding probably low 17 pace or I had gone out actually at sub-17 pace and didn’t lose too much.

By the end of lap 2, I was getting to the point where the walkers were spread out more, some jogging, and there was a little more space to maneuver. Lap 3 definitely began that way and I was largely able to use the inside shoulder to get a mostly clear path. Then I started getting back into the back of the walkers. This time, with joggers mixed in. The walkers were spread out a little more but there were others trying to pass them, complicating the situation. Fortunately, there weren’t any incidents but I did have to run on the grass a few times to avoid incidents.

As we entered the park again, the crowd was again thinning. I managed to weave through and use the grass at a few points to get through, then in the final straight I shot a gap to get to the right side and to the finish line.

As I crossed the line, I heard 17:50. To be honest, I’m happy with this. I figure the crowds cost me at least 20 seconds and the weather probably another 10 or so seconds so it was probably a 17:20 or better kind of effort and I didn’t finish completely wasted.

I came into this knowing the potential traffic issues so I hold no grievances over that. It was a little worse than expected but I knew there would be potential problems going in. Actually, to be honest, I offered to work with the race director on ideas to resolve the traffic issues for next year. I’m even considering volunteering instead of running to help resolve these issues. This event has potential and I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, for this race director.

Race report: 2017 Gary’s Gallop

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

This winter, I hit another age group as I turned 40. Seeing as I have little to no interest in racing during the winter these days, I wasn’t sure what race would become my first in this new age group. At first, I was thinking of the Legal Run Around in Fond du Lac but things just didn’t work out for various reasons.

As I was looking over my schedule and what I had in mind for late spring/early summer races (one too close to home to pass up and another that’s a favorite of mine and I have to correct a wrong from last year at) I realized Gary’s Gallop fits into the schedule perfectly. So that’s where I found myself this morning.

As it turns out, though, I completely wasted the opportunity of my first race in this new age group.

I arrived at the Wisconsin Lutheran College athletics grounds a little unsure of what today would bring me. I had a decent but not great winter of training. I feel I’m fit. By the end of this week, I’m feeling as healthy as I’ve felt in at least a couple months. However, I’m not yet race sharp. High level of general fitness, low level of race specific fitness. Of course, that’s what you expect at the first race of the year, right?

On top of that, I had some things going on this week that had me a little off my game. My refrigerator stopped working and we can’t get a new one delivered until next week. So, along with the stress and hassle of dealing with that, my diet has been thrown for a loop as we’re trying to avoid any food that would need to be cooled. I also have several things going on that just had me more busy than I usually like on a race week. So I wasn’t quite sure how great my energy levels would be.

That said, I was there to race. I’d do the best I could, whatever that meant. So I checked in and got ready to warm up.

I was originally planning to warm up on the course but, when I got past the start line, I quickly realized a gate about 100 yards in was still closed. So I detoured onto the track and did my warmup there. I have to admit I didn’t feel too springy on the warmup but I was getting things worked out and feeling at least a little better.

At the start, I was eyeing the competition. It looked like a few good runners but nobody I could pin as someone who would surely run away from me without a problem. Whatever the case, this was going to be a day of pure racing, not time trialing. This course doesn’t have ridiculous hills but it is undulating with a general downhill trend early and uphill late. Combined with a fairly stiff second half headwind, this was a day for real racing.

At one point, I overheard a conversation where someone asked a friend if another of their friends would be winning. “Yeah, of course” was the answer. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I sure didn’t see anyone who looked to warrant that sure of a statement. Oh well. If pre-race prognostications were always right, we wouldn’t need to run these things.

I lined up next to the two guys I pegged as the most likely lead competition. I was wrong. At the gun, I found myself right behind one of them as he acted surprised to be in the lead. Down a slight decline, I took the lead and picked up my police escort. It’s been a long time since I had a police escort so I thought for a moment how fun that was. Then I focused on getting a read for who was behind me. I could tell someone was there, I didn’t think it was the guy who started out in the lead but I couldn’t be sure until he pulled up next to me and I could see he wasn’t.

For the first mile, we were back and forth. At times, I’d get maybe a half step lead. At times, especially up one of those inclines, he got a one step lead. We were always right there, though.

We were being given splits everywhere. I heard a 4:05 and jokingly said I sure hope that’s not the mile split. As it turns out, I believe I heard 5:45 just before I hit the mile.

Around this time, I noticed that the guy I was running with was breathing pretty hard. Not to the point I thought he was about to crash but hard enough that I could tell he was working harder than me. Shortly after, we went up a slight incline and I let him get a slight lead, maybe 1 step. As we were going up this incline, I told myself the top of this incline is my moment. He’s working harder than me, he’s pushing the incline a bit so he’ll be a little more fatigued by the top, and I want to get away so he can’t draft off me into the headwind when I make my long move to the finish.

So we crest the hill and I go. I gave him enough of a lead by the top so I could accelerate before pulling up by his side, which would make my move feel more decisive. I accelerated and went by him with no fight. He just let me go. I kept pushing for a bit, then settled back into pace.

Around the turnaround and into the headwind, I could see I had about a 2-3 second lead on him and a third guy who was pretty much right with him at this point. I decided for the moment to just maintain and get to mile 2 before trying to open up a bigger lead. At least nobody was drafting off me. That was the only purpose of the lead at this point. So I settled in behind my 2 motorcycle escort and just focused on keeping as much of a rhythm as I could over this undulating course.

I cruised through the 2 mile mark, which I believe I recall being on one of these inclines. Once I crested the top, I put a little extra in, trying to stretch what I could sense based on splits being called was about a 3 second lead. At this point, I either wanted a bigger lead or the guys behind to have to work so hard they would have nothing left if they did catch me. I continued this into a second turnaround behind the stadium, then into the parking lot.

Around a turn and entering the track and football field, I picked it up a little more but knew I had the win tied up and my time was going to be off due to the course and the wind so I didn’t really try to light it up. I cruised into the finish in 18:06 and got to break the tape.

It’s been a long time since I’ve either had a police escort or got to break the tape at a race. It was fun to get to do both.

As for my first race in the 40-44 age group, though, I kind of wasted that opportunity. Who needs age groups when you get the overall win?

This is a fun race. Definitely not where you go for a fast time with the deceptively challenging course, two 180 degree turns, and today with the wind. However, it’s a good chance to get the competitive juices flowing and get an early season tune up.

Plus they have some nice hardware:

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Race report: Shooting for 21 years

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

As most of you probably know, one thing I take great pride in is my consistency. I may not have the great peaks that some runners around me have had but I keep plugging away all the time. The best representation of that is my streak of consecutive years having run at least one sub-17 5K.

I never broke 17 minutes in high school. My first ever sub-17 didn’t come until I was about a month shy of my 19th birthday. However, once I went sub-17, I haven’t looked back. No, not every 5K I’ve run since has been a sub-17. However, for every calendar year since my first time under 17 minutes in 1996, I’ve managed to go under 17 minutes at least once. This year, as has been the case a handful of times recently, it all came down to my last planned race of the year.

Coming off subpar performances in both of my prior races this fall, my confidence was a little shaken. I’ve done this every year for 20 years, I know how to do it. However, do I physically have what it takes this year? Going into the fall, I felt my training was slightly better than last year but both races I ran were well off what I expected of myself and I just didn’t feel that quickness on race day.

After Al’s Run (I still owe a report on that, it’s mostly written up, I’ll post it soon) I was very concerned about the streak but I also quickly formed a plan. My endurance isn’t my limiting factor, my ability to get up to a quick speed isn’t my limiting factor. It’s my ability/confidence to hold that speed that’s lacking. So I set out a training plan with lots of half mile repeats at or close to 5K pace.

I started this plan 3 days after Al’s Run and ran enough half mile repeats over the next month that I think I burned myself out a bit. That said, I now had the confidence that I could hold pace and I could feel that pace in my sleep. With a taper, my legs came back to me and I was feeling ready. Mostly confident but not quite as sure of myself as I usually am.

On race day, I was still telling myself I know I can do this and my legs just know how to run sub-17 in October. The weather was nearly perfect. I convinced myself it was going to happen. It would be close but it was going to happen.

After a longer than planned warmup, it was race time. There were a couple high schoolers there. The grandson of the race director has been gunning for me for a while and he’s been getting closer every year. Another high schooler I talked with for a while before the race is a sprinter who does cross country for stamina training in preparation for the 400. He wasn’t expecting to be much competition for me. As always, though, this is where I go to run fast. I don’t care what the competition is. I’m going to run hard gun to tape and see what happens.

At the start, the director’s grandson went with me. I expected him to gradually drop back pretty early but he held on. And he kept holding on. I was a little worried that I might not be going as fast as I expected but I just focused on keeping a quick rhythm. I was trying to get out hard but, obviously, I don’t want to take off sprinting in the first half mile of a 5K.

Shortly before the half mile, we take a turn and leave the park where the race starts and head out to a bike trail. About this time, I noticed I was getting separation. OK, if things go to plan, I’m running the rest of this by myself. Just keep pushing. Up an incline to cross a highway, then back down the other side. I see the people who will be giving mile splits ahead and just keep pushing toward them.

As I approach them, the guy calls out 5:25. Given the fact that I thought I heard a 5:34 split last year and ended up with a 16:45, this means I’m either in good position or going to pay for the faster start later. Either way, the only thing that I can do right now is keep being aggressive. I keep pushing with the empty trail ahead of me to the turnaround and get around there while losing as little momentum as possible.

On the way back, I can see I have a respectable lead on second, the race director’s grandson, and he has a solid lead on third, the sprinter. I give both a thumbs up as I run by them, then try to draw on some inspiration from seeing the other runners go by. I keep pushing, reminding myself that every step counts, but feel like I’m fading just a bit. I remember that I have some cushion so that fade isn’t the end of the world but I can’t keep fading. That gets me going again.

Into the third mile, I keep fighting this. I feel like I’m fading but I keep pushing harder. If I am actually fading, it’s not much. I believe I can do this.

After crossing the highway, I’m back on the course with the 1 mile walkers heading out. They are using the whole trail but most see me with plenty of time and give room to pass. I’m a little worried at a few points about kids who seem to be all over the trail getting very close to me but, fortunately, there aren’t any incidents. At the turn into the park, I had to find my way through a bit of traffic but did so fairly easily and without incident. Then I have the park to myself. With about a half mile to go, it’s me against the clock. I push harder, harder, feel like I’m speeding up a bit. I see the mark I picked out as 1/4 mile to go during my warmup and push more. I get off the trail and know I’m at the 3 mile mark. I try kicking but I have nothing left. All I can do is hope that, when I see the clock, I like what I see.

Then I see the clock. Low 16:40s and I know I have less than 10 seconds to go. I did it! Even after the tough fall season I had, I came through again with another sub-17. I keep pushing to see how far under I can go but my legs are shot. I pretty much just maintain pace and end up crossing the line in 16:51.

That’s 6 seconds slower than last year after I believe being 9 seconds faster at the mile. I’ll take it, though. It’s a sub-17 and I really think I needed a fast start this year given how my past two races went. I needed to get the legs fired up, then just do what I can to hold on.

If the mile split was accurate, I did something else interesting. It looks like I averaged 5:25 per mile, matching my first mile split. I knew I didn’t fade much, if at all, when I felt like I was fading. I knew I managed to get the pace back up. I didn’t realize it all worked out to be overall such an even race.

So the streak lives on. 21 consecutive years with a sub-17 5K. Now, it’s time to start planning my path toward my 22nd consecutive year. Maybe I’ll come up with a strategy that won’t have me waiting until October.

Hootie Hustle – 5K

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

The weather for race day seemed like it wouldn’t be very promising to set a PR. Ryan and I had discussed this and I decided that, like Ryan said, we don’t need to worry about time just place. I figured I would do my best to get and stay ahead of as many people as possible and then pass as many as I could while gutting it out to the end.

My wife Debby came out to support me and that was nice to have her drive (and be there for me) so I could refocus my race day nerves and anxiety. She has an amazing calming effect on me that I really appreciate. We pulled in right next to Coach Hill. It was raining lightly as I went to get my packet. I was thinking, last year it was rainy and cool and I PR’d then, so maybe . . .

I asked for my packet and got one of the biggest compliments ever. The lady running the event said she was waiting and waiting to see me register and was excited when she saw that I registered. REALY – me?! That was a little boost of confidence.

Got back to the car and the rain was picking up a bit. I pinned the bib on, relaxed a little bit more and asked Ryan if he was ready to warm-up. We headed out for a very easy paced warm-up of 1.32 miles at an 8:37 pace. We stretched a little and changed into Race Gear. Then like in Ryan’s race report we headed over to the bleachers under the press box for some final stretching and warm-up. We did some strides on the track and I was unusually calm.

We lined up at the starting line and when they counted down – we took off. I immediately found myself in very odd territory. I was just behind Ryan with no one else ahead of us – I was in second place. I checked my Garmin to be sure that I wasn’t blowing myself up to die in the end and I was out a bit quick with the 1st quarter mile in 1:24 or 5:36 per mile. I didn’t have to worry about slowing it down because Ryan did as did the two guys behind me. I got through mile one in 5:57 – I was hoping to be a bit quicker but this is good because I was conserving energy with the two guys not dropping off from us.

I contemplated trying to catch Ryan who wasn’t but a couple of seconds ahead of me to let him know that we needed pick it up or the two guys behind us might make a move and catch us but I decided against it. That was good because we had indeed picked it up a little bit finishing mile two in about a 5:53 pace. I was hurting a bit but knew that 1.128 miles should be easy and that was all I had left to go. I pushed on trying to slowly gap the guys behind me. I started looking behind me at turns to try and gauge how the two threats were doing. I saw that one of the guys had dropped off and now I had to fight to keep second as one guy was about three to four seconds behind me.

I knew that there was a good downhill portion coming up on which I could open up and hopefully put a bit more space on him. At this point I quit checking on him because I didn’t feel like I was going to fade. As I reflect a little, I wasn’t even thinking of getting second place just staying ahead of the guy behind me. I was in such a tunnel vision that I don’t recall even seeing Ryan just ahead of me. I was trying to listen to race volunteers that cheered for us as we passed to hear how close the guy behind was. But I couldn’t tell.

As I made the tight turn and headed onto the track I knew I had about a quarter mile to go – that is short no matter how much I am hurting at this point. The third mile (I didn’t know it at the time) was run in 5:36; my fastest mile ever. I pushed as hard as I could around that track unaware of anything other than the finish line and my inability to breathe anymore. I turned to go straight up the football field toward the 50 yard line ready to collapse. I saw the clock in the very low 18s and thought “this is a new PR!” I ran through the finish line and fell to the ground dizzy, light headed and gasping for air.

Ryan, being a good coach, wouldn’t let me lay on the ground. He helped me up and got me walking. We figured I came in somewhere just under 18:10 another PR and my highest ever finish – 2nd place!

I ended up running 18:06 which is 24 seconds faster than last year at this same event and a new PR by eight seconds! Very happy with these results –

http://media.wix.com/ugd/d60b0e_add9b592616f4573a3defc34c18f8ce7.pdf

Event page – http://www.honoursinc.com/#!results-and-photos-2015/ybyri

Race report: 2016 Hootie Hustle 5K

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I’m cheating a little bit and this week’s blog post will be my race report. At this point, I don’t intend to make this a regular thing but I simply have too much going on right now. Hopefully, things will settle in over the next week or two and I’ll be back on a regular routine.

My lead up to this race wasn’t ideal. It’s been a very busy summer in general, then it turns out the Hootie Hustle happened to be exactly 3 months before the Seattle Marathon, which meant I spent the 2 weeks before the race writing training plans. I love helping these runners so it’s a great joy doing so but I’ll be honest. It’s not exactly the ideal way to prepare for a race. Plus, I had a lot going on at work and at home.

That said, this is my hometown race. It’s a race to support the scholarship program at the school district my daughter goes to. Not only do I want to run it but I want to do all I can to support it. On that note, HillRunner.com for the first time ever sponsored a race.

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Proud to be among the sponsors!

I’m very proud to support this event and look forward to doing so again in the future.

As for the race, my preparation wasn’t ideal but I am the two time defending champion heading into the third running of the event. I believe in myself and trust myself to do all I can to defend the title. The past two years, I ran faster than I would have expected on this course and I kept thinking I had more and maybe could even flirt with a sub-17 if things went right.

Given that, I showed up at the race to see a light rain falling as I checked in and went back to the car to stay dry. Ed showed up as I was pinning my bib to my singlet and parked right next to me. I relaxed a bit more, then got prepared for warmup time.

Ed and I went out for our warmup just as the rain was letting up and was down to virtually nothing. Maybe this would be like last year, drying out just in time for warmup and race time.

We arrived back just as the kids run was finishing up, went to our cars, then made our way toward the starting area at the track. I was making my way to the high jump apron to set up camp when the rain started coming hard so I decided instead to go under the bleachers and ended up finding a much more dry spot under the press box, where I stretched and got ready to do some strides.

Just as Ed and I were about to head out for strides, the rain let up but didn’t completely stop so I grabbed my things and took them out to the high jump apron. Then we set off on a 1 lap acceleration and got in a couple strides before the start of the race.

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Hey Ed, whatcha doin’?

At the start of the race, I went straight to the lead. After slowing down to navigate a hard turn, I accelerated back to what I felt I could hold and found myself "alone" in front. By "alone" I mean nobody right next to me but I could hear at least a couple people right behind me, maybe a step or two back.

Around a few turns, then we head back into a residential area and start the long, gradual climb to roughly the halfway point. By this point, I can already feel that things aren’t quite right. My legs are just flat. I can feel that the pace isn’t really challenging me but I just can’t go faster. My legs just won’t go. At this point, I figure I’ll ride out the climb and hope the downhill in the second half gets me going.

Through the mile, I can still hear someone right behind me and just have a sense it’s Ed. I actually have a thought at about the mile mark that my time isn’t going to be something I’m thrilled with so I could just drop back with Ed and help him through the race. Then I think better of it. I tell myself Ed would rather do this by himself. Besides, I’m still close enough that I’m giving him a target, which might work better than running with him to pull him through. Plus, a little selfishly, this is my home town race, not his. I want to make sure I do all I can to win. I know Ed is a speedster and I’m not so I don’t want to leave it to a kick.

I work my way up to the middle school at the high point of the course and, while probably a little before the halfway point, given the early climb and late descent, what I think of as the halfway point effort wise. Starting a very gradual downhill, I try to find a good rhythm and stretch out the legs but now it’s clear this race is going to be a battle. Just not my day for a fast time.

I keep pushing, steal a couple looks back to see Ed not far behind and another guy I recognize but can’t quite place just behind Ed. I keep hoping Ed can gap this guy, while selfishly hoping I can get a little more distance on Ed.

Finally, we get past the mile 2 mark and hit a nice downhill. Again, I try to open up the stride but there’s only so fast my legs are going to go. Even with the assistance of gravity, the legs just won’t move faster. I do what I can and keep telling myself the finish line is near. Around a left turn, then a right, then a hard left and toward the track.

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Almost to the track

Finishing with a lap around the track, then running into the 50 yard line of the football field, I know this means I have about 400 meters to go. I’m feeling fairly comfortable with my lead but I’m still not taking anything for granted. Again, I know Ed is a speedster and I’m not. I give it all I have as soon as I hit the track and try to separate a bit more. I’m not sure if it’s working but I don’t feel anyone coming up on me so I cruise in as well as I can.

As I’m approaching the finish line, I see the clock ticking toward 18 minutes. I think I can get in under 18 but it’s going to be close. I’m pretty sure I cross the finish line with the clock showing 17:59 but I’m officially given 18:00. Oh well, it’s not like this is a time I’m going to get excited about whether it’s 17:59 or 18:00.

I then turn around and I have to say the highlight of the race for me was seeing Ed coming in right behind me. He finishes in 18:06 and third place, who I realized after getting home is actually the dad of one of my daughter’s friends, is not too far behind Ed.

In reviewing the race, I got thinking about my races at the Hank Aaron 5K. I always struggle to run fast there, then have no problem running fast after that. I always chalked it up to the course and the early August heat and humidity. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if, after a summer of slower running due to the heat, I need one good race in my legs before I’m really ready to run fast. This year, I didn’t do Hank Aaron so this became that race.

Regardless, I’m happy to get the home town win. I’m thrilled to see how well Ed ran. And I’m very motivated to come back at Al’s Run and prove that I’m capable of more.

Kenosha YMCA Firecracker Run 5K

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Was not planning on this race at all it came up as a last minute opportunity so Coach Hill and I fit it into the schedule. Had a little something to eat about 2.5 hours prior to race start time as that worked very well for the Hootie Hustle last year and the Deer Run this year. The family and I left early as it was a long drive from Port Washington to Kenosha. I tried some meditating to ease my pre-race anxiety and nerves.

We got there in plenty of time, I registered and eventually warmed-up for two miles at an easy pace. I felt like I was almost walking yet it was at a 7:34 per mile pace – that gave me some confidence going into the race. I ran over the end 1.2 mile of the course so I knew what I was in for at the end. I stretched a bit then did some strides. I should have held the strides down to the goal pace of between 10.2 and 10.3 MPH but I ran them fairly hard.

Lining up for the race which tried hard to have a corral system it was apparent that folks were not listening. At the start lots of people took off hard and fast and I had to weave through those that didn’t listen about the corral system. I didn’t let that fast start group pull me out too much but I did realize I was still a bit too much over the pace I knew I could maintain.

I went through mile one in 5:47 – very close to where I wanted to be – maybe a bit fast. I was with the lead group of folks some of whom were running the 10K and they formed an echelon so I tucked in behind center and let them break the air for me. During the second mile I was wondering how I was going to hold the pace. The sun was very warm and I was sweating pretty hard. I was considering trying to grab a water but decided against it since I have never tried to drink at this pace. Hit mile two at 11:39 so the second mile had slowed too much to a 5:52 pace. I then knew that mile three would be a mental battle.

Going into mile three the pack was broken up and I was hanging with some really young guy who was doing the 10K. We chatted a tiny bit (it was pretty tough to chat at all.) The sun at this point felt very hot and I was afraid of the wheels falling off and my crashing. I kept thinking that my wife and children were at the finish line waiting for me and I wanted them to be proud so I fought hard.

Right around 2.75 miles I was again in no-man’s land. Too far behind the guy in front of me to catch him and enough of a lead on the guy behind me that I just had to maintain and not blow up to beat him. If I had a greater lead on the guy behind me I may have pushed harder sooner but I didn’t. At mile three (17:34) I had slowed even more to a 5:55 pace – not happy with that at all and knew that a sub 18 was out but I was determined to make a hard final kick.

I made the final turn and people were cheering nice and loud. I could hear my wife cheering for me and I surged as best I could – it wasn’t much but it was what I had. I hit the final .128 miles in a slow 40 seconds.

Not a bad race at all. Took fifth overall once again and again won my age group. I won my age group by an impressive time of 4:43 which is huge for a 5K!

The announcer even stammered a bit when he read my time – that made me proud!

Thank you Coach Hill for all your guidance you are helping me achieve some great results!

http://www.itsyourrace.com/results.aspx?id=5959

Race report: 2016 Walleye Run double

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Over recent years, I’ve fallen into a routine at the Walleye Run. Show up, run 28 something, finish in the top 10, sometimes top 5 depending on who shows up. Feeling a little bored with the routine, I started wondering how often the double is done. With the 5 mile starting at 8:10 and the 2 mile at 9:25, the double seems very possible.

Interestingly, as I scanned the results of the past few years, I couldn’t find anyone in the top 10 of either race who also was in the results of the other race. After long consideration, I decided I was just the guy to break that trend. So I registered for both races.

Little did I know at the time I registered that the weather alone would offer all the additional challenge I would need this year. Not only was it hot out there but the heat came suddenly with no time to get used to it. Tuesday, I was wearing a t-shirt for my final pre-race workout and still feeling a bit chilled. Wednesday and Thursday, I was running shirtless again but was a little chilled when starting my runs. By Friday, the heat had started. I had the telltale sign of not yet being acclimated to the heat, a salty crust along the sweat line in my shorts after the short Friday run.

Given the heat, I knew times were going to be off. Interestingly, it didn’t seem "hot" when I arrived in Fond du Lac. It was definitely very warm but not hot. Then I warmed up. About 12 minutes of easy running with just one relatively short acceleration and I was sweating uncontrollably. OK, yes, it’s hot.

I did the remainder of my warmup and lined up for the 5 mile. At the start, I didn’t see anyone I personally knew but I did recognize some of the top runners from prior years.

5 mile

As the air horn sounded, I got out well but under control. Then I settled in. I counted out myself to be in 12th place about 1/4 mile in, then moved to the lead of the pack I was in, placing myself in the top 10. There were two runners who clearly separated themselves out front, then a group of I believe 3 runners and another group of I believe 4. I quickly got ahead of some high school runners probably a little past the 1/2 mile mark, then set out for the next runners.

Approaching the mile mark, a runner behind me was running so close that he didn’t clip my heel but actually the sole of my shoe during my back kick. He apologized but didn’t really move. Shortly after the mile mark, he did the same thing but this time moved to the side a bit. Around a corner, he passed me. He was wearing a Marquette jersey. He might have been a Marquette runner but, if so, I would have expected him to already be ahead of me. At this point, the field already thinned a bit and I was in 6th. There was an orange shirt up ahead in 3rd, then a guy in white in 4th. Marquette guy was running away from me in 5th. I actually picked out the orange shirt guy as my most likely ticket to the top 5 because he seemed to be struggling already, only about 1.5 miles in. When Marquette guy caught the guy in white, the guy in white went with him. Around the 2 mile mark, they passed orange shirt guy and my chase was on.

At the 2 mile mark, I poured some water on my head at an aid station and set out for orange guy. Around a right turn and I was closing in on him. Not too much later, around a long, gradual bend to the left, I passed him. He left room to the inside and I took the short line to pass.

Not long after the pass, I could tell someone was behind me. I wanted to push harder to try to keep a gap but the heat was hurting me pretty badly. I tried pushing but felt like I was maxing out. I thought for a moment about letting up, trying to regain my energy, and being ready to respond when this guy caught me. Then I thought better of it.

Shortly before the 3 mile mark, he caught me. A guy in a Badgers jersey (I’m sure this guy wasn’t on the team). He wasn’t alone, either. A guy in an Oshkosh jersey was with him. Through the 3 mile mark, then heading toward a left turn. I didn’t want trouble at the turn so I put in a bit of a surge so I had a step on everyone and got through that turn clean. After a bit of leading after that, I decided to let up just a bit so someone else could take the lead and share the pacing effort. Badger guy went by and I sat right on his heels for a bit before I couldn’t maintain the pace. As he left me, Oshkosh guy went with him. Badger guy got a step or two on Oshkosh guy, Oshkosh guy got 2-3 steps on me, then we all just held. Through another aid station with another cup of water on my head, and we continued to hold.

Suddenly, late in mile 4, Oshkosh guy stepped off the road and stopped running. I couldn’t see any obvious problems, figured maybe the heat got the best of him, then kept on going. Badger guy was gapping me but I felt like I had a nice lead on the next runner. Here I am, solidly in 6th place as I enter the final mile.

Through the final mile, I tried to keep close. As I had just seen, anything can happen in the heat. If I stay as close as possible, I will be ready to take advantage and slip into the top 5 if anything does happen.

Interestingly, I noticed that, on long stretches, I could still see all the way up to second place. If anyone other than the leader falters, it doesn’t seem like my chances of catching him are zero. That said, I know at this point that I’m not catching anyone unless they falter. The heat is getting the best of me and I just want to get to the finish line in one piece.

Around a near 180 degree turn near the finish, I glance back to the other side and see I have a solid lead over a pack of about 4 runners behind me. This gives me comfort and lets me not kick all out, saving something for the next race. Coming into the finish line, the clock is ticking through the 30:50s. I’m pretty sure I finish in under 31 minutes.

In the end, it was under 31 minutes – just barely. The final result shows me 6th in 30:59. Not a great time but the place leaves me thinking the effort was in line with prior years.

Now, I grab a few cups of water and head back to my warmup gear. I talk with some people who have a family member on the course a bit, stretch some, then head out to run a mile. That mile, including a couple accelerations, went better than I expected. I stretch some more, then head to the start where I see Josh. We chat some while I’m trying to keep loose. I get in a few strides that feel good but not great, just what I would expect, and we line up.

2 mile

At the start of the 2 mile, again, I get out well. In fact, very early, I count myself in 6th place before settling in. Then some fast starters go by me.

By 1/4 mile, I get ahead of the pretenders and find myself somewhere around 10th place. I count out the runners and figure I have a chance at a double 6th place finish. A pack ahead seems very catchable and 6th is in there. I feel a little too under control, so I accelerate.

That’s when the first sign of trouble hit. My right calf rebels with a mild cramp and I stutter stepp a bit. I settle back in before again trying to accelerate and the right calf cramps again. I try a few more times with the same result. Then I try once more and the right calf, immediately followed by the left calf, cramp. I almost stumble but manage to keep my feet. So I am now forced to just maintain the pace my calves will allow.

Shortly after this, someone behind me asks if I’m the guy who ran the 5 mile. I give a thumbs up and he makes a comment suggesting he also did.

I continue pushing as fast as I can with the calves rebelling. Trying to push harder only to have the calves tell me no. Pretty soon, the Oshkosh guy from the 5 mile goes by. He’s the last guy I’m expecting to be the one who also is doing the double, given the fact that I watched him walk off the course. He catches up to a couple other runners up ahead as I continue to try to find a way to pick up the pace.

At this point, I’m getting frustrated. I want to run harder. Aerobically, I feel very much within myself. I feel like I have so much more in me but the calves are preventing me from using it. I’m trying to run flat footed but you can only go so fast while trying to not push off with your forefoot. I’m trying to push harder but my calves keep saying no. This is the story of most of the rest of the race.

With about 1/4 mile to go, the women’s leader pulls up alongside me. I wish her well, say finish strong or something like that, and expect her to pull away from me. She gets about a step but then I come back on her. We run side by side for a bit, then she pulls ahead again and I pull even again. This continues until near the finish, at which point she kicks and I feel a combination of "I can’t" and "I don’t want to be that idiot who tries to steal the spotlight from the women’s winner". So I just cruise in. As far as I am aware in 10th overall, right around 12:10.

After the race, I talk with Oshkosh guy (Matt) for a bit, then catch up with Josh, who was talking with a runner who finished near him. Then we go check out the results. It turns out I was 11th in 12:12. Darn, missed a top 10 finish in both races.

As it turns out, Matt and I weren’t the only doublers. Laura, the runner who finished right in front of me in the 2 mile, not only doubled but got the double victory, first lady and 10th overall in both races. What a performance on a tough day!

Results:

5 mile: 6th overall, 30:59

2 mile: 11th overall, 12:12

It might seem strange to say this given my 2 mile experience but I’m glad I did the double. I also am looking forward to giving it another chance. I have been slacking a bit on my strength training, especially for the lower legs. I have no doubt doing a better job with that would go a long way toward setting myself up for a better experience. Some nicer weather would also help. I look forward to going back next year and finishing in the top 10 in both races.