Eau Claire Half Marathon

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

If anyone wants to run a really well organized race, I would recommend this highly. I had the chance to run it on Sunday with my daughter. She had been trying to get me to run this throughout her tenure as an undergrad at EC, and we finally got it done. She wanted to run under 2 hours and I thought that was doable. Several things were against us though. It was unseasonably warm for NW Wisconsin, with a high of 83. Added to that was the fact I wasn’t the greatest pacer, and her lack of training did her in a bit. But we went after it, with her mom and brother and all her sorority sisters cheering us on at various points during the race. Our first 5 miles were about 8:40 pace, pretty much right on. It felt really slow to me, but Megan said she was ok. She began to struggle at that point, and she was not sure she was going to be able to finish. I told her whatever pace she could handle was fine, we would get through it together. We did a bit of walk 1-2 min run 10 min cycles. Then I had to make a pit stop and it took about 10 minutes to find her and catch up. When I did reach her I could tell she was laboring even more, and our overall pace dropped below 9 min. Then the 2:00 hour pacer passed us, and she was still struggling. This was very weird for me, because I felt good. But I began to understand that it wasn’t about me. My daughter, who rebelled against any running advice from her dad during her high school career, needed me to get to the finish line. We saw her mom and brother at the 11 mile mark, and then the gauntlet of sorority girls 5 minutes later gave her a momentary energy boost. But we were walking more frequently and for longer periods. I got a bit harder on her, challenging her to keep moving forward. Finally I knew we had just 1/2 mile, and we turned into Carson park to see finishers walking back towards us. She saw a women with a finisher’s medal around her neck – pointed at her and said " I want that!" So I said ‘then let’s go get it" We did run steadily to the end, and finally she kicked it in at the finish. 2 hours and 6 minutes after we started, we cross the line together. It was a great moment for me as a father. Megan was pretty spent the rest of the day, but you could tell she was really happy. She wouldn’t take the medal off. And I had run my longest run in perhaps 7 or 8 years. As I mentioned at the beginning, nothing but good things to say about this race. Well organized, wonderfully scenic course, and the best spectators I have experienced in 35 years of running races. Maybe next year I could come back and run again, but alas, our daughter is graduating and moving out of state to Minnesota to become a Nursing Home Administrator. I am very proud of her for many reasons, and yesterday was but one of those. Ryan you said you’d love to have that opportunity to run with your kids, and I truly hope you do. It was one of the best days of my life. Now my 24 year old son wants to run the Madison Mini (13.1) in August. Of course, I’d love to run at MY pace this time. We’ll see how that goes….

Crazylegs

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

This is the largest road race in Wisconsin, with 10,000 runners. There are some similarities and differences to Al’s Run. They’re both 8k races, with large fields and plenty of competition. The main difference is Crazylegs has a wave start, based on predicted time. Waves of 200 runners go off every 30-45 seconds. My estimated finish time of 38 minutes put me and my son in wave G. On the one hand running around a bunch of slower runners in waves that went off earlier was a bit frustrating, and it meant that the course was always full of runners. The benefit for me was it allowed me to focus on my effort and not get sucked out into too fast of a pace. Plus I always had people to focus on and pick off. The course winds from the Capitol down to campus, along lake Mendota, and then returns to finish inside Camp Randall stadium where the badgers play football.

Having no real idea where I might finish (35-38 minutes I was guessing), I focused on a hard steady effort. My splits were pretty indicative of that, with the possibility that I had more to give with the last split…

7:05

7:05

7:21

7:22

6:40 (.97)

Overall 35:33, 606 out of 10,000, 21 out of 444 in 50-54 AG

I was really happy with the result, since my last race (Al’s Run) was frustrating with the ankle turn. My training has focused on just getting out there 5-6 days a week, 5-6 miles a day. No special runs or speed workouts, and I am running a half marathon next Sunday so I didn’t want to hurt my recovery. I’m running the half with my daughter most likely, so my time will be slower. At 51 I do recover more slowly from workouts in general, and I’m careful about my balky right knee, so I plan continuing with the steady runs an will try to add a bit more mileage as the warmer weather comes.

Race report: 2015 Icebreaker Indoor Marathon relay

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

First, I should point out that I’m the last team member to write about the race. Nikki, Josh and Jerry have already written on their perspectives. To be honest, the weekend got hectic for me and I haven’t read through all of those yet so I hope they were positive reviews. I did see enough, though, to say Nikki’s has the most entertaining visuals if that’s what you’re looking for. :)

Back in I believe October, Josh emailed me asking if I would be interested in getting a team together to run the Icebreaker relay. I don’t think it took a lot of arm twisting for him to convince me to give it a shot. I sent out some feelers and seemed to have enough interest. After letting the dust settle, we had 3 people (Josh, Jerry and myself) definitely interested and enough interest to convince me it wouldn’t be hard to find a fourth so I registered Team HillRunner.com for the relay with 3 members at the time.

It was more work to get that fourth than I thought but, after a couple starts and stops, we added Nikki, a great add to the team, perfectly fitting in with the rest of us both in personality and competitiveness.

Once the team was set, we discussed relay strategies some. This relay is at the Pettit Center. For those of you not familiar with the Milwaukee area, the Pettit Center is an indoor ice skating facility with an Olympic size long track speedskating oval. They have a 3 lane, 443 meter running track around the perimiter of the ice.

There are a few things to note about this setup:

– For obvious reasons, it’s pretty chilly. It’s been stated that the temperature in there is about 50 degrees. To me, it feels more like the 40s.

– It’s much better for running a marathon than spinning circles around your standard 200 meter indoor track. Plus the turns are more gentle than even a 400 meter outdoor track.

– The only rule as far as exchanges go for the relay is that the chip has to be on your ankle and has to cross over the chip mat the prescribed number of times. In other words, you can exchange as frequently or infrequently as you want. The catch is that you have to change the chip. It was on a velcro strap you would put around your ankle and the suggestion was that it wouldn’t take long if a third person switched the chip between the incoming runner and the outgoing runner.

I picked up Josh on my way in since his place is along the way. When we arrived at the Pettit, we found a parking space and headed inside. We found a place to put our bags, then I headed upstairs to pick up our team packet while Josh camped out watching for teammates. I saw Chris and Dana at packet pick-up and they had our team pegged as one of the favorites in the mixed division. I wasn’t so sure about that but, the competitive type I am, that got me a bit fired up. I went back down, found Josh, and after talking a bit we went to the other side of the track to see if we could find a better spot to camp out on. As we were trying to figure out where to go, Nikki appeared. We chatted for a while with Nikki and a friend of hers who was there to run on a different team. Her friend suggested we should find a spot on the rubber mat we were standing on so we wouldn’t end up on the cold concrete floor. Eventually, we decided to just drop our stuff where we were talking and claim that spot. Shortly after, Jerry arrived and our team was complete. Jerry brought a couple folding chairs, a very good idea, and set them up along the back wall where we had our things. Our team camp was now set and we relaxed some while watching the half marathon finish up.

After the half marathon completed, the track was open for relay runners to warm up. I did a bit of running with Nikki and it wasn’t hard to tell her competitiveness was every bit as strong as anyone else on the team. I had already figured out that, after the initial reservations and formalities present when meeting new people, she was a good fit personality wise with the rest of the team. Relaxed and fun loving, she’d be a good fit. After enough running to warm up, I stepped off and did some mobility drills to loosen up. Then it was time to get a bit of faster running on to stretch out the legs. Jerry was coming by so I jumped on the track with him and he was going a solid pace. Perfect to stretch out the legs. I ran with him a bit, then stepped off to make sure Nikki, or leadoff runner, had our chip. Then I went back to the track and did a lap at a pretty solid pace to really open up the legs and make sure I was ready to race. I did a couple strides well away from the starting area, then the race started.

Our virtually last minute plan was for everyone to run 12 legs of roughly 2 laps each. Nikki would lead off and take a little short of 2 laps, then Josh, Jerry, me. Then we’d repeat 2 laps for each runner until the last leg, when someone would be shorted a lap and I’d run 2 laps plus maybe 20 yards to the finish line. So Nikki took the opening leg and I could already see her competitiveness coming out. She was working it hard. As she came in, Jerry switched the chip from her to Josh seamlessly and Josh was off. He was also running aggressively and set up Jerry well. I was in charge of exchanging the chip between Josh and Jerry and, trying to rush too much, fumbled around for what seemed like forever before getting Jerry started. He was also running pretty aggressively so I knew what I had to do. No conservative start and building into it. I was going to be all in.

Nikki handled the exchange well and I was off. I went out aggressively for the first 100-200 meters, before reminding myself that this was the first of twelve 1/2+ mile repeats and settling in. There were a lot of people on the track I was passing but traffic didn’t seem to be too much of an issue. I cruised through my first pretty uneventful leg, then came into the exchange a little hot. I had to hit the brakes pretty hard in order to stop by Josh, who was handling the chip exchange.

For a while after that, things were pretty uneventful. We all settled into controlled but aggressive paces, exchanges went well. The only thing I noted was that my legs were tightening up between my runs. I settled into a routine of finish and head straight to our camp where I would roll out my legs with my Stick that I’m so glad now I brought. Then I’d come back and watch the exchange to Josh before stretching a bit, handling the exchange to Jerry before stretching a little more, then getting ready to run.

I wasn’t paying much attention to how fast I was running but I would occasionally check the finish line clock. Whenever I did, I was running about 1:31-1:32 per lap, a fair bit faster than I had planned but I felt like I was settling into a nice rhythm. I don’t know if I was always running those lap times or I was subconsciously pushing a little harder because I knew I was getting a split. Either way, I was moving well and so was the whole team. If I recall, at what I figured to be about the halfway point, I had a split that had us at about 2:45 pace. Very solid. I thought a 2:50 would be a very good day for us and we had some cushion on that.

Somewhere around the halfway point, we began paying more attention to our standings and the other teams. We were 12th overall and 2nd in the mixed division, with 1st on the same lap as us and 3rd a fair distance back. As I’m always thinking look ahead, not back, I said let’s stay as close as we can to that 1st place team. You never know what might happen in the second half. It was hard to pick out the team ahead of us, though, because it was a Marquette Running Club team and there were at least 3 different Marquette Running Club teams in the race. Jerry figured out it was team number 37 and we had our eye on them. They weren’t coming back to us but we were generally holding steady on them.

It wasn’t until late in the race that I got passed for the first time. I was running down the home straight with runners staggered through lanes 2 and 3 so I was in lane 1 (you were supposed to use lane 3 when not passing and only drop into the lower lanes to pass). Then someone blows by me on my right shoulder. I glanced at him and realized it was like my old college days. Matt Thull had just went by. For about 2 steps, I attempted to go with. Then I thought better of it and decided my goal was to just stay as close as I could. I thought I did a good job of that, only losing maybe 20-30 yards on him over the nearly 2 laps I was staring at his back.

Later in the race, I got passed by a member of the second place overall team. I immediately attached to him, thought about passing a couple times but didn’t, then finished my leg right on his shoulder. Those were the only two times I got passed all day so I’m going to call that a pretty successful day in that regard.

By my final 2 legs, I was telling myself throw all caution to the wind and just run my hardest. I don’t think that changed the pace I was running but it allowed me to maintain. In fact, in my last leg, I timed my first lap from finish line to finish line and it was again a 1:31. At that point, though, I knew we could go under 2:43. I crossed the finish line in the low 2:41:20s. Another 1:30 lap and we’re in under 2:43. What a great team run that would be. I got a little juiced when the announcer called out that HillRunner.com was on our last lap and tried to use that energy to run a little harder. I’m not sure I got going faster, though. I tried sprinting as hard as I could for the last 150, I know someone said nice kick, but again I don’t think I was actually going faster. I crossed the finish line in the 2:42:50s and Josh said he had my last two laps in 1:32, 1:31. So more of the same. No complaints, though. We all left it out on the track. I was amazed seeing my teammates coming in on their last legs how hard they were working.

Our final result was 12th overall, 2nd in the mixed division, with a 2:42:50 chip time. In my opinion, a great run and our team with an average age of 39 was only 3:14 behind the collegiate runners who won our division which is a very solid result.

I can’t thank Nikki, Josh and Jerry enough for running with me on Saturday. I’m very honored and proud to have had them representing HillRunner.com and it was a very fun experience.

Race report: Going for 19 straight years

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

As those of you who have been reading my race reports for any time know, one of the things I’m very proud of is my streak of going under 17 minutes in a 5K every year since 1996. A little background. For me, going under 17 minutes was a big deal. My early years as a runner were pretty inauspicious. As I first started, a sub-17 5K would seem impossible. Doing it for 19 years in a row? Forget about it. What I did have was the ability physically and mentally to push hard in training and a body that responded to that training very well. Combined with the best coaching I could have asked for, I was able to go from not being able to break 4 minutes in a half mile to nearly breaking 5 minutes per mile for 2 miles before I graduated high school.

Still, as I graduated high school, I hadn’t run a sub-17 5K. My only 5K races to that date were on cross country courses. During my senior season in 1994, I got a best of 17:06 and that’s the PR I graduated high school with.

Then I moved on to college and the distance for cross country races moved up to 8K. Good for me competitively because I’ve always been better as the race distance went longer but that means I went the whole year of 1995 without ever racing a 5K.

Then came my freshman indoor track season in 1996. In my first indoor race, I believe I ran a 16:16 to smash my cross country best and run my first ever sub-17 5K. A week later, I ran 16:08, which would be my PR at the end of the season.

Fast forward to 2014 and I haven’t gone a single year since 1996 without running a timed 5K in under 17 minutes. For some runners, such as myself back in middle school or my freshman year of high school, that seems like a crazy good accomplishment. For others, that’s probably not a big deal. It means a lot to me, though. This year, though, the story has been close but not quite. In the spring, my planned 5K season essentially fell apart due to circumstances mostly out of my control but I did get one 5K in. However, I got caught in a tactical battle mid-race, then got led nearly off course which cost at least a few seconds and ended up finishing in 17:02. So close! Three weeks ago, I got caught in another tactical effort early and had to deal with a slightly challenging course. 17:05. So close again!

That leads to today. This was my last planned race of the year. I knew I was in shape to get a sub-17. Given the faster course, the fitness I’ve shown in earlier races this year and simply my confidence on this course to log fast times, I knew I was ready for sub-17. My training had gone very well and, on Friday, I was not stating anything publicly but I had in the back of my mind the idea that I could hit the 16:40s with a good race, maybe 16:40 or high 16:30s with a near perfect race.

Then Saturday morning happened. I got out of bed and hobbled. Something was up with my left foot. I checked the weather and the 0% chance of rain at race time that was being reported yesterday afternoon turned into an 80% chance of rain. I spent some time on the foam roller and with the stick before leaving home, then we loaded up the car and the whole family was off to the races.

On the drive over, the rain got downright hard at times. Man, it’s going to be fun running in this. A steady 43 degrees sounds great but with hard rain and enough breezy to be noticeable, that’s a different story.

I get to the race and I’m still very confident in my ability to break 17 but I’m less sure of the 16:40s. This might be a year where I slip in by the skin of my teeth.

As I warmed up, the rain let up some. Well, that’s good. It actually had pretty much stopped by start time and I decided to go minimal. No hat, no gloves. As for my foot, it only hurt when I was slowing down at times like at the end of a stride. As long as I was running fast and kept my pace going, it was fine. I figured good. I don’t want to slow down until the race is over. As long as I cross the finish line with the first two numbers being 1 and 6, I don’t care how I feel after the finish line.

At the start, I went straight into the lead as is usual at this race. I pushed up the one little incline on the course a couple hundred yards in as we run away from the river, then turned into the wind and up the long northbound stretch. I was thinking the wind was at least from the right direction. It would suck through here but I would then have it at my back when the going is getting really tough in the last mile. Through mile 1, I just focused on being quick but smooth. That took me through approximately mile 1 (I’m pretty sure it was a bit long) in 5:30. I panicked a bit because that seems way too close until I realized it was probably a bit long. I then cruised through some very good traffic control this year and into a figure 8 loop that covers the middle stretch of the course. Out of the headwind, I just kept telling myself work mile 2. Work it, work it, keep pushing and I’ll always be able to find a way to grind it out in the last mile.

Late in the figure 8 loop, I cruised through the again probably long 2 mile split in 11:00 even. Well, I’m skeptical of these splits but at least they are consistent. Two 5:30s. But, just in case they are accurate, it’s time to grind it out. I just sustain for the first 300-400 yards, then I turn onto the southbound stretch and backtrack toward the start/finish area. From here, I know it’s all about 100% effort. This is the stretch that I just give it everything I have and I know I’ll always have something for the end. I am just hammering here, grunting with effort, suffering but feeling in control. I’m sure I’m in the "ugly" stage now but I just keep it going. Late in this stretch, I start encountering walkers who are going on a different route but sharing part of the route with the runners. Apparently, the police decided the morning of the race to demand a change in course for the walkers that left them walking up the same sidewalk I was returning on. I left the sidewalk at one point to get around a few walkers and nearly twisted my right ankle. Then I jumped out on the road. I’m not going to keep fighting the packs of walkers. So I got past all the walkers out there, then got back on the sidewalk. Still hammering, still bringing all I had.

With I’d guess a little over 1/4 mile to go, I turn off this stretch, do a slight downhill, a couple more turns, then I’m looping around a park and into the finish. I bring all I have into that downhill, have to slow down for one turn, then just bring it with all I can. As I’m coming around the park, I’m thinking what am I going to see on the clock as I come around the last turn? 16:50-something? Hopefully high 16:40s?

As I make that final turn, I quickly scan for the clock. 16-what? 16:20-something? No freaking way! I see the clock ticking toward 16:30. Whoa, I crossed with it at 16:30? Sure enough, I’m given an official time of 16:30. Well, I honestly didn’t rule out the possibility of 16:30 but I thought it would take absolute perfection to get it. This race was extremely close but not quite absolute perfection.

After crossing the finish, I first did one of those hands on the knees things. Then I had to take a knee. I tried getting up twice but got lightheaded and had to go back down both times. Yes, I definitely gave it everything I had and it worked out.

So there it is. Some may be impressed by it, some may think it’s no big deal. To me, though, 19 straight years and counting with a sub-17 5K means a lot. I can’t wait to go for number 20 next year.

On a side note, 16:30 is the fastest I’ve gone in a while. I’m not quite sure how long but I’m going to guess at least 5 years. This year has been very good for me. I’m very proud and happy with how it went. It’s been a good year. Now, it’s time to rest up and get ready for year number 20.

Race report: 1st annual Hootie Hustle 5K

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

I’m always nervous about inaugural events but this is a fundraiser for the scholarship program at my daughter’s school district. She will possibly benefit from this program in the future so I kind of felt obliged to make a showing.

Of course, any time I toe the line at a 5K, I’m thinking about breaking 17 minutes. Given that this was an inaugural event and that this is in a town where "flat" is a relative term, though, I was a bit skeptical. As it turned out, the course was about as flat as you can make it here but that’s not necessarily saying much.

The course started at the high school, at the gated entry to the track and football field. It then hit town roads, went up a long, gradual incline to the middle school, then looped back around to the high school, finishing with about 3/4 of a lap on the track and a U-turn into a 50 yard line finish on the football field.

I warmed up over the last 3/4 mile of the road portion of the course. I was feeling good but not great. Still, I expected to at least be in contention for the win and I expected myself to at least be in the low 17s.

At the start, I ran what I was told was the route and a few others seemed to be cutting some turns a bit short. Not a big deal but one of those guys was pretty persistent. Right on my shoulder the whole time. This was not going to be one of those inaugural events where you show up and win by 3 minutes. I had some formidable competition on my hands. That’s fine. There’s a time and place for time trial-style races but I’m always a fan of good, head to head competition.

We made a few turns then, probably before the half mile, started the long climb that would take up more than the next half mile. By this point, the guy who had been running behind me had already challenged me once or twice. At this point, between the coming long climb and a head to head battle, I knew this race wasn’t going to be a gun to tape time trial. I know I’m fit enough right now to run a real nice time but I’m not in the kind of race where I can just throw caution to the wind and go for it. The course is going to suck some life out of my legs and I don’t want to hammer the second mile and risk blowing up and getting passed in the last mile. So I hang tight up the hill, let this guy pass me a couple times but come back on him each time. Finally, as we reach near the top, he pulls away from me just a bit. I tell myself let him go and there’s a gradual decline where I can bring him back in as he’s sucking air from the effort on the incline.

I think it was on that decline where I saw the 2K mark. About 200 yards earlier, I was telling myself we had to be past the mile even though I saw no sign of it. It was a relief to know I was right. At the same time, I was back in the lead and I told myself the next 2K is make or break time for me. So I pushed but did so with just a touch of caution. Again, I wanted to make sure I had something left for the finish just in case. I knew I was pulling away a little but not much. Around a turn, not too far from what I estimated to be about a mile to go, and I see the 3K mark. OK, still on track and I’ve built up a bit of a lead. I round another turn and start the downhill stretch. By this time, my legs are worn down enough that I couldn’t really attack the downhill the way I wanted but I do think I opened up more of a gap there. Down at the bottom, I tried opening it up a little. I had some energy yet but my top speed just didn’t seem to be there.

I came into sight of the track with the clock on the scoreboard just over 15 minutes. I figured I had about 2 minutes to go but I figured I’d miss sub-17. I didn’t want to hammer until I was on the track so I picked it up a bit and got myself to the track. We do a near U-turn to enter the athletic fields and I see my lead is comfortable but not huge. I push a little harder but just don’t have that last gear. On to the track, I keep pushing and I watch the clock. Ticking toward 16:20. I figure I have about 200 meters or a little more to go as the clock hits 16:20. Can I run a 35 second 200? I doubt it but I try. Again, no last gear. I think the hill just took that speed out of my legs. I make the couple sharp turns to enter the football field and head toward the finish line. As I take the last turn, I see the clock ticking toward 17 flat. It isn’t happening. I have the win comfortably but I’m not going to kill myself for another second or so here.

I end up finishing in 17:05. Second was an assistant coach for the high school cross country team. A very good runner himself and obviously someone who knows a thing or two about running. Third was a young guy, probably not in high school, a few minutes back. He has a lot of potential.

All said, this was a very good race. Just not one you go to looking for a fast time. They have a few kinks they could work out but very solid for an inaugural effort. They also had very nice and unique awards for the top 3 overall finishers. I give them credit for standing out with their awards and for holding a quality event in their first attempt. I definitely think this can grow into a very nice race.

As for me, I feel good with this. Yes, I just missed sub-17 for the second time this year but I know, given a few sharp turns on the course and the long climb that drained my legs, I’m ready for it on the much faster course I’ll be at in 3 weeks.

Personal and Team HillRunner.com race report: 2014 Al’s Run

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

As always, this is one of my highlights of the year. The great people who are willing to sign up to run as members of Team HillRunner.com always amaze me. While our numbers and depth were down a bit this year, the greatness of the people I was surrounded by on Saturday never disappointed.

This year, we definitely had some turnover on the roster. I counted 5 team mebers from last year who were not on the roster when I picked up packets a week before race day. Woody and Laura made it to the race and Woody attempted to get himself on the team but we’re not sure if he succeeded. Regardless, it was great to see them and thanks Woody for the attempt. Other holdovers from last year were Tim, Jerry, Ed, Charlene and of course myself. New to the team this year were Peter, who is a team veteran who had not run with us for a few years, and newcomer Josh. Josh is an interesting story. He actually came across HillRunner.com when he found my Al’s Run report from last year while searching for another runner.

I felt we would log a team time that was slower than last year’s team time but likely not enough to affect our place in the standings. Unfortunately, I got a little concerned when Tim informed me that he strained his hamstring. My first concern was of course his health but I knew that had the potential of affecting our team time even further as I was expecting him to be running neck and neck with me as first or second runner on the team, much like we did last year. Any time you replace a #1 or #2 runner with a #6, your team time is going to take a hit. That said, I still had confidence in the team and of course Tim’s health came first.

On race day, I carpooled in with Charlene, Josh, Jerry and Peter. We had a good talk on the way in and everyone seemed relaxed and ready to go. As we got to the team meeting place, Ed was there ready to go and Tim arrived shortly later. The word from Tim was that he’d warm up and see how things went. Everyone else seemed ready to go. Personally, I was feeling good. The weather was favorable. Probably about 50 degrees with a northwest wind. On this course, a northwest wind is pretty favorable as the finish is southeast of the start. Still, I figured I was in shape to run about the same as I did last year. That meant hit 5:40 pace, give up some time in mile 2 and see if 28:20 is in the cards.

During the warmup, I was feeling pretty good. As with last year, I found myself at one point being 3 team members seeing those HillRunner.com uniforms in their full glory and I got a chill. How cool is that? I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling that way when I see a group of people willing to represent this site.

The whole team this year lined up on the north side of the starting area so I was able to give everyone one last greeting before finding my position for the start. I also saw Woody and Laura and that’s when Woody informed me that the Al’s Run people seemed receptive to adding him to the team. I also heard from Tim that he was going to give it a shot but ease into it. I said one last time to him to be careful out there and then it was time to go.

At the start, I quickly realized that the sides were more even this year. Typically, the top runners line up on the south side and the north side offers more of a clear path. I would say the sides were about balanced this year. No big deal, just an interesting observation. I settled into pace, reminding myself that the first mile was a long, gradual downhill with the addition of a tailwind this year. That means keep it nice and relaxed. Let the downhill and wind take care of the first mile and save my legs for later. As it turned out, as soon as we hit the big buildings in downtown, I realized the wind was going to be a little more tricky. Every block, the wind was swirling around the buildings and creating a headwind. That didn’t change my strategy, though. I just eased through mile 1. I was honestly surprised to find out I hit the mile mark in about 5:28.

Into mile 2, a climb away from the river and toward the bluffs overlooking the lake and turning north more into the wind. This mile is always slow and I realized my best strategy is to accept that I’ll give up some time and not fight it. Surprisingly, I was still passing a few people even with this strategy and I don’t recall anyone passing me. Not too much happened along here. Reeling in a few guys but not getting crazy. I cruised through the 2 mile mark in 11:24 for a 5:56 mile. A little slower than I expected after opening up with 5:28. However, I’m starting to think I could try to break 28 minutes. Get back on 5:30 pace and I’ll slip under. I start pushing harder in mile 3, working my way past guys and through the field. I kept doing that until the downhill into the 3 mile mark. I’m usually good on downhills and I made a solid move here last year. This year, though, I felt like I ran it well but the 2 guys who were around me actually gained on me. I must have in the "good downhill runner" pack this year. No worries, though. I’m heading into mile 4, the make or break mile for me, now. Through 3 miles in 17:05, a 5:41 mile. Not bad for a mile that had some headwind and is probably the second most challenging mile of the course regardless of weather. Also, 5:30 pace over the last 2 miles would still give me a shot at sub-28.

Mile 4 for me is hammer time. This is a stretch along the lakefront where you’re running back toward downtown. Not much is going on around you there, there aren’t many spectators through most of this mile and it can really wear on a runner. A lot of runners fade in this mile and it’s a great chance to make an early move. I always try to hammer this mile and this year was no exception. I had two guys in my sights ahead of me. One, wearing a UW-Milwaukee shirt, who pulled away from me on the downhill and another, wearing a hoodie. No way I’m just letting a guy racing in a hoodie beat me. First up is UWM guy, though. I close on him and, just before I catch him, he surges. I had nothing to surge so I just held pace until his surge faded out. Then, as I pass him, he surges again. Again, I had nothing to respond to the surge so I just held position until the surge was over. Then it was on to hoodie guy. This guy was tougher to break than you’d think a guy wearing a hoodie in a race would be. It was tough enough to bring him in but I managed that just before the 4 mile mark. Once I did bring him in, I couldn’t break him. He just clung to me and even attempted to repass me. Man, this guy just wasn’t giving up. We passed through the 4 mile mark together somewhere in the 22:30s I believe. I kept pushing to challenge him, knowing I didn’t want to let it come down to a kick. I got ahead of him but I could never drop him. He just kept hanging right there on my left shoulder.

As we made a right turn, he made his move. He was ahead of me and I had nothing to respond with. Shortly after, we took a left turn. Showing how hard I had run and how dead my legs were, my right knee actually buckled going around the turn. I didn’t hit a bump in the road or anything like that, I just had a momentary loss of strength. I was able to correct, though, and get back on track. I couldn’t gain on hoodie guy no matter how hard I tried but I sure could try as hard as possible. Around a couple more turns, then a longer stretch into the final turn. Coming off that final turn, there was James Daul, who always seems to be around me in results, flying past. No response. I tried but my legs were spent. I then watched the clock tick through the 27:40s, then the 27:50s. Then it hit 28 flat. There goes that but I did get across in 28:02 to overperform my expectations.

I then looped back to catch the other team members coming in. Tim looked healthy (most important thing) and crossed the line in the mid-29s. Jerry was shortly behind, just over 30 minutes. Woody came through in just under 31 minutes and Ed was just under 32 minutes. Charlene was in the mid 33s, Josh came through in the 34:40s to slip under the 7:00/mile target he had. Peter, who twisted his ankle on the course, managed to finish on his banged up ankle in the mid-36 range.

As a team, we finished second to the always strong PRO team in our division, third overall including community teams (Marquette Running Club was a few minutes ahead of us, Marquette University was 4 seconds behind us). We also scored 3 age group medals. It was a disappointing day for a few runners, most notably Peter who came out injured. However, I think it was a good day in general for the team.

After the race, once we got everyone rounded up and back to their cars, the entire team except Woody and Laura were able to make it out to my place where Lisa was gracious enough to treat us to some excellent homemade Asian food. As always, it was great to sit back, relax and talk running as well as whatever else came up (anyone up for a stair climb?). Again, I’m always amazed by how great the people on the team are, both as runners and as people.

I’m very proud of everyone. Thank you all for representing HillRunner.com and for making Saturday such a fun day. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Individual results

Team results

Race report: 2014 UW-Stout Jamie Block Alumni Meet

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

First, I realize the blog has been a little silent recently. I just got overwhelmed with things going on. From end of summer vacations to commitments to runners I’m coaching and various other things, I just didn’t have the time. The blog should return to its normal schedule next week.

It’s always fun to go back to my old hangout and see how well I can hang with the guys who are running the same routes and, in at least some cases, the same meets I once ran now over 15 years ago. This year, I had a little extra bonus of talking with the team at my old high school the day before.

As for the race, though, it was a little different than in prior years. The high school where we usually run is undergoing some construction so the meet got moved this year to the Red Cedar Trail and Riverside Park, along the shores of the Red Cedar River. Initially, I thought this would make the course much faster. In retrospect, though, I think it only made the course slightly faster. The trail was wet from recent rain and anyone who has run on wet crushed limestone trails knows how slippery they can get. We were also running upstream so, while it wasn’t too noticeable, there was generally an incline throughout the first 3 miles. In addition, the last mile through the park was much like the high school course. A grassy, uneven surface that saps your energy while slowing you down. All of this isn’t an excuse for a bad time or anything like that, just an explanation of why you might see a faster overall pace at a longer race in two weeks. That’s normal for the high school course and I’m not going to be surprised if that’s how it works out for this course also.

Given the point to point nature of this course, we had to get to the start somehow. I joined a few fellow alumni in walking part of the way while reminiscing about our times in Menomonie, before a couple of us started running with about 2 miles to go. We noted the slippery spots but I was thinking some of them, especially the wooden bridges, were things we would just have to deal with. No getting around them, we’d just have to do our best to keep our feet under us.

After the usual pre-race ritual, we were off. Given the narrow trail we were starting on, I lined up near the back. This is an unusual starting position for me but it makes sense given the strength and depth of the team. I knew going in I didn’t have a chance of competing against anyone on the current team except maybe a few freshmen. Last year, I had a good race and beat a single freshman. So I lined up between the freshmen and my fellow alumni.

At the start, it didn’t take long to get moving. I settled into a rhythm in front of the alumni pack with a few freshmen around. Once the initial pace settled, I found myself moving up a bit and closing in on a pack that I assumed was most or all freshmen. I worked my way through that group while offering a few words of encouragement, then set my eye on the next pack. I slowly gained on them through the first mile and, when I heard a coach recording 5:37 for them, figured I ran about 5:40. Shortly after, I caught one guy falling off the back of the pack and encouraged him to try to hang with the pack. Then I caught the 3 remaining guys and made some comment amounting to who wants to go after the next pack. One of the guys had an entertaining comment that I can’t recall exactly but could be summarized as "no" and I just wanted to say I’m twice your age, if I can go after those guys you can suck it up and go with. Instead, I just took the lead and kept the pace honest. I was hoping for some shared work but, for about the next mile, I was in the lead. We cruised through the 2 mile and I heard one of the guys say 11:20 so that was another 5:40 mile for me.

Somewhere in mile 3, I don’t know if I began fading or the guys started moving more but two took over the lead and I sat with the third, right behind the two leaders. I hung there for a while, occasionally feeling good enough to pull even with the leaders but often just sitting behind. That was the start. Then it became occasionally falling behind a step before battling back. As long as they were not accelerating, I was going to do all I could to stay with them as long as I could. I never know when I might catch a second wind and be able to push them through the finish.

Then the coach who was out recording splits cruised through on his bike at about 2.5 miles. He told the guys, if you’re feeling good, it’s time to move. The guy who had a comment for me earlier said something summing up to he’s not feeling good but all three of those guys pulled away from me right after the coach went by and that was it for me. I battled to stay with them but could only watch them pull away. Through the 3 mile mark, there were a couple members of the women’s team saying 16-something. That means, even as those guys dropped me, I must have picked up the pace to go sub-5:40.

Just after the 3 mile mark, we turned off the trail and into the park. Wow. The moment I took my first step off the trail, I knew it was going to be a battle. The grass was long and wet, the footing uneven. It just sapped any energy I had left from my legs. In addition, it wasn’t level at all. There were these little rises and drops throughout the park that just messed with you. With the wet grass, I couldn’t really let myself go on the drops and the rises just sapped more energy. That mile, I was still looking at the guys ahead of me but really just trying to survive.

The final mile was a half mile loop around the park, run twice. Near the end of my first lap, someone was coming on me hard. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me I was being lapped. I just figured, if he passes me that hard, I have no response. I got passed just before the split between going out for the second lap and going into the finish line. I saw the guy who passed me split to the finish line as I was heading out to my second lap. Then it occurred to me. People were cheering for Patrick. That’s Patrick Jenkins, top man on the team and reigning WIAC champion. Hey, I was hurting at that point. My mind wasn’t the sharpest. Anyway, that made me feel less bad about being almost a half mile behind him.

Nothing much happened in the last half mile. I kept watching the guys ahead, hoping someone would fade, but more realistically thinking I need to keep pushing to keep from getting passed or at least make anyone who is going to try to pass earn it. I succeeded in preventing any passes and, as I look at the results, realize I didn’t have much to worry about. As I rounded that final turn toward the finish line, I saw the clock just past 23 minutes. The last number I saw was 23:07.

Final results had me 30th overall, 6th on the alumni team and first alumni runner to have graduated before 2013, in 23:08. Yes, my last mile was 6+ minutes. It was just a tough mile. Again, I won’t be one bit surprised if I have a faster average pace at Al’s Run but this race has always been about competing and not worrying about time. I felt like I competed well. Last year, I was only able to beat one freshman and, after he ran with me for much of the race, I was able to pull away from him late. This year, I was able to get in front of 7 freshmen. I feel like I’m at least as fit as last year, possibly slightly more fit, and I ran the best race possible out there. It will probably be my only race this year outside of the top 25 and surely the only race I’m not in the top half of the overall field but that’s the nature of the competition, not a reflection on how I ran.

This leaves me feeling confident in my position as I head into Al’s Run.

Race report: 2014 Hank Aaron State Trail 5K

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

Every year, I tell myself I’m not going back to this race. Every year, it draws me back in. This year, I was going back and forth when Ed offered me a free entry if I run on the Potawatomi team. So I was back.

This course always frustrates me. I know by now it’s just a slow course and I’m running for place, not time. The field is also deep. Over the past several years, at my best I would struggle to get in the top 10. In recent years, top 20 or 25 would be the best I could hope for. So my goal was set. Top 25 finish and see if I could win my age group. I finished a close second in the age group last year.

As Ed and I warmed up, we realized how warm and humid it was. It hasn’t been a warm and humid summer but, on this day, a simple 1.5 miles of easy running left me soaked in sweat. Still, we all face the same conditions. I just had to get out there and battle on. We also noticed that it looked like there would be a course change. There were cones suggesting we’d be coming off a bridge that the course never before ran across. I wasn’t quite sure how this meant but I figured this change couldn’t make the course more challenging so I was welcoming the change.

The start line was pretty narrow so I lined up right behind the PRO team. I knew they would get out well so I wouldn’t get held up. This worked out well as they all got out as well as my legs were going to allow me to get out.

Around the first turn and down the long stretch toward the east, I just settled into a solid but somewhat relaxed first mile pace. I felt like I should be going faster but my legs just didn’t want to and I didn’t want to start struggling so early so I didn’t try to fight it.

Shortly after turning on to the southbound stretch, I found myself pacing the second pack. I kept the effort up but not quite redlining it. Next thing I know, someone is pulling up on my left shoulder and I hear a familiar voice greeting me. I look over and it’s Tim. I figured he’d be there so I wasn’t surprised to see him. This is good for me. I have someone to run with. Kind of like Al’s Run last year, my plan became to let him go a bit in the first half, then try to bring him back in during the second half. Maybe we could work together through that second half to pick off runners who were fading.

My legs still didn’t feel responsive so I let Tim go and just tried to remain within reach. Tim worked his way up through a few people falling off the lead pack and I just hung back a bit, picking off those same people a little later. Things stayed pretty much the same through the mile mark and into mile 2.

After we turned around on Canal Street, we went down a gradual slope and I tried to use that to get my legs moving a little more. I had some success with that but not a ton. I did bring Tim back a little but he still had a nice gap on me. Around a turn we went back into an industrial area and into the shade of a factory after another turn. That shade sure felt nice but it didn’t last long before we hit the trail and crossed the river. Again, I was gaining some on Tim but my legs weren’t totally happy about the pace and I think I let myself back off a bit, which allowed Tim to build the gap back up.

A little after the 2 mile mark, we had a hard right, crossed a bridge, then a hard left and we were running back toward Miller Park and the finish line in its parking lots. I told myself this is it, about 3/4 of a mile to go. I passed a couple of guys and tried with all I had to close on Tim but I think he was also picking it up and, if anything, pulling away from me a bit over the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile.

At the 3 mile mark, one of the guys I just passed came back on me. I think he was the first person to pass me since Tim passed me in the first mile. He said something like "I know you can go faster" and I wanted to just puke on him. He obviously doesn’t know who I am, I’m already going as fast as I can. I tried with everything I had to go faster but I just couldn’t. As I approached the finish line, I saw the clock ticking through the 17:50s. I thought I got to the finish line at 17:58 or 17:59 and about in 24th or 25th place.

It turns out my final time was actually 18:01. But time means nothing at this race. I finished 25th overall and 1st in the 35-39 age group. That’s what counts. Ed and I also helped Potawatomi move up from a 10th place team finish last year to 3rd place this year.

Team HillRunner.com had a solid showing out there also. Three members who are currently signed up for Team HillRunner.com (sign up!) were there and finished 23rd, 25th, 50th.

All in all, it was a good rust buster for me. I need a couple recent races behind me before I’m really ready to race a good 5K. This was my first race in 2 months so I wasn’t expecting greatness. I could feel that I wasn’t quite able to redline the way you need to for a good 5K. That will come back with another race or two. In the meantime, this was a good tune-up race for the fall season.

July 4 Race Report

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

Ok, so I don’t race as much as I used to. But at age 50, with injuries and very inconsistent training the last 6 years,I’m glad for the last 6 months of pain free running where I’ve run 3 out of every 4 days during this time. Most of these runs have been on the dreaded treadmill, which has been much more forgiving on my knees. I had planned to run the Milton Independence Run on 7/4, but had no idea what to expect. All my treadmill runs were btw 7:45 and 8:15 pace, and my longest run was just 7 miles. My feeling was I could probably hold 7:00 pace, but would likely fall off in the last few miles due to my lack of overall mileage. I was right about that.

We had great weather in Wisconsin for the 4th, with temps in the low 60s at 8:00am. I could tell at the start that running easy for the first mile would still be too fast. 6:20 was too fast, but it was time to start working. After the 2nd mile in 6:36, I thought I was in a better pace. The mostly uphill 3rd mile was 7:00, and the return 4th mile only 4 seconds faster in 6:56. So my sub 7 cushion was gone, and I just had to hold on to the finish. It didn’t help that from 1.5 to 5.5 miles there was no one within 50 yards of me ahead or behind to key on. When I finally started getting caught by other runners, I did two things; sized them up for age group competition, and tried like heck to stay with them. I was passed by 5 runners in the final mile, but managed to stay within 5-10 seconds of all of them as the final mile was 7:18. My finishing time of 43:03 shouldn’t disappoint me, as my last race 11 months before was a 5k at the exact same pace (21:31).

So what to take away? More mileage, and probably start to do some faster tempo pace, as I’ve done nothing but steady state runs for the past 6 months. Only race on my current radar is Al’s Run, and I want to do well for Team Hillrunner. Oh and btw, I got 2nd in my age group, 25th overall out of 250 or so runners. My 23 year old son ran his 2nd ever 10k, and had a 10 min PR, running 46:52 to win the 20-24 age group. He says it must be in the DNA. Sniff, I think I need a tissue…

Race Report: Walleye Run 5 mile

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

Ever since my last race, things haven’t gone quite to plan. In that race, I had to make a last second maneuver to make a left turn as the lead bike nearly led me off the course. To make that turn, I had to plant my right foot hard. Two days later, I got chased by a kamikaze goose that actually took flight and was aiming right at my head. Once again, I planted my right foot hard to turn around. The next day, my upper ankle/lower shin were hurting. Based on everything I heard of high ankle sprains, this fit the description. This was very frustrating because it was something essentially out of my control, not due to some training mistake I made or anything like that. I wouldn’t even call it a running injury really but it messed with my training for weeks. I only took one day off but my training wasn’t quite normal for about 2-3 weeks.

Upon returning to my training, I never really got back into the flow I had going on before. Things weren’t going badly but they also just felt a little off compared to how I was feeling through March and most of April. Still, I plowed through, got myself back into the best rhythm I could and took the trip to Fond du Lac for the Walleye Run.

On the warmup, I felt much like I did during training. Not bad but not quite right. I continued through the warmup, though, and felt better as it went on. I felt pretty ready to go by the race start.

As the air horn sounded, a good group of runners took off pretty hard. I took some quick steps, then settled into pace. After a couple hundred yards, we make the first turn and I counted runners to get an idea of my position at the turn. 14th place. Pretty quickly after that turn, I passed 5 guys and found myself in the top 10. Over the next 1/4 mile or so, I passed another 5 guys and was now in 4th, with the lead group of 3 already well ahead. I told myself I should stay as close as possible to that group, not because I was going to reel them all back in but because I figured if anyone fell off the back, maybe I could clean up the roadkill. I continued pushing with that idea in mind through the mile mark and most of the way through mile 2. Early in mile 2, I did notice one guy was falling off, which gave me hope that he would fall back toward me. Pretty quickly, though, I realized he was still pulling away from me.

At that point, I realized my race wasn’t with the guys in front of me. It was with the guy who was still just a couple steps behind me. I had a decision to make. Do I push the pace and try to break this open early or do I save something for near the end? I was feeling very warm at this point and I knew I had a return trip with the wind. This was going to create dead air and make for a very warm return trip. I decided to ease off just a bit and save something for near the end. I didn’t want to turn myself into roadkill in that heat. I’d rather make sure I had something left to respond to any moves he might make later on. So I kept pushing but not quite redlining it. Through the middle of the race, I kept an eye on third place just in case he would fade but my real focus was on showing no signs of weakness to the guy right behind me. It was getting very warm out there during mile 3 and I didn’t want this guy to know I was feeling the heat.

As we cruised into mile 4, it was clear that I wasn’t going to finish in the top 3. The battle was to remain in 4th. This guy was hanging tough and, while he was a few steps back, would not let me drop him. I grabbed a cup of water and dumped it on my head but the water wasn’t that cold. It helped some but not a ton. I kept the pace honest but not all out. As we rolled through the 4 mile mark, nothing really changed.

Around a right turn with a little less than a mile to go, I decided it was time to go. At that point, I knew I could make it the rest of the way in and I didn’t want to leave it up to a kick. I started pushing really hard but couldn’t tell for sure if I was building up the gap. Then I noticed that people cheering were starting to leave a bit of a gap of silence after I passed before cheering for the next guy. First, maybe a second. Then 2 or 3 seconds. The gap was growing but I still didn’t feel safe. What if he has a kick? So I kept pushing. Around a hairpin turn with about 200-300 yards left, I knew I had a clear path the rest of the way in so I gave it all I had. I actually ran the next 100 yards so hard it may have been faster than my last 100 yards, just because I ran out of gas a bit down the final straight. But it didn’t matter. I managed to blow the race for 4th open in that last mile just like the race for the top 3 was blown open in the first half mile.

In the end, I finished 4th in 29:05. Hardly the time I was hoping for but the heat and race strategy played a big role in that. I was 43 seconds slower than I was at this race last year but I moved up from 7th place last year. The guy who finished behind me commented on the heat and, in the local newspaper race story, I saw that all the race winners were commenting on the heat. I’m far from the only one it affected out there. I’m not going to complain about my time in this race. I thought top 5 would be a stretch and I did that.

Next up: I don’t know. Taking some down time to recoup and refocus for the fall season.