Race Report: The Deer Run 5K

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

As always, one of my goals for this year is to extend my streak (currently at 18 consecutive years) with a sub-17 5K. As this streak has grown, so has the importance in my mind of the streak.

As I’ve mentioned before, I decided for various reasons to go through a 5K season in the spring this year. This was attempt #2 and would be finish #1 after being directed off course in my last attempt.

I arrived plenty early, found a good parking space, then went over to pick up my packet. On my way out from packet pick-up, I saw Ed heading in so we chatted a bit then I went back toward the car as he got his packet. I was relaxing in the car and pinning my number on my singlet when I saw Ed walking over. I invited him to have a seat and we chatted a bit. I think Ed expends some nervous energy before a race so I wanted to get him to just sit down and relax a bit before warmup time.

We warmed up over roughly the last mile of the race course, which gave us a good look at the closing stages of the course and let us get an idea of where 1/2 mile to go, 1/4 mile to go, etc. were. After warmup, we both did our own personal race preparation routines then it was time to line up. I chatted some with the old InStep crew, who had me pegged as the pre-race 5K favorite, and we lined up to run.

At the gun, I immediately got out to the lead. From the first step, I was leading but I was far from alone. As we rounded the first corner, I was about a step in front of a pack that was forming. Around the second corner, I had to swing a little wide for a car that got on the course but no big deal. I started thinking about the guys behind me as we worked our way through the first mile. There were times we were running into a not terribly strong but not insignificant breeze and I didn’t want to be doing all the work while everyone else got a free ride. So I surged just a bit to get a gap. At least, if these guys are going to sit back there, they will have to take their own wind.

As the 5K and 10K split, all the lead pack seemed to be going with me. That’s fine. The more the merrier. I kept leading every step of the way but I eased up a few times just to make sure I’d have something left for the end. I didn’t want to do all the work for 2.5 or more miles, then have someone just blow me away as I had nothing to respond with at the end. I would build a bit of a gap, then let it fade but nobody at any point showed any interest in taking over the lead.

Somewhere in mile 2, I had a near deja vu experience. The lead bike went straight where I thought we were supposed to turn left. Just after it got past the intersection and as I was about to be past, he says "Turn left, sorry!" So I plant my right foot and turn on a dime before I’m past the street. Still in the lead but definitely gave up at least a few steps, if not a few seconds. I pushed the pace a little more as we went around this loop through a neighborhood. Then, on our way out, I saw the 10K 5 mile mark. About 1.25 to go, time to break the race open. I knew I still had at least one and I sensed two guys on my back and I didn’t want it to come down to a kick. I didn’t realize I was already quite this far in and I definitely had more than I wanted left in the tank with a mile or so to go so I stretched the legs out a bit. I quickly gapped the guys still with me and built up a lead. Around a left turn with a mile to go, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a decent but not comfortable lead. Keep pushing. Around a pair of corners with about 3/4 of a mile to go, the lead is getting comfortable. Around a right turn with just under 1/2 mile to go and the lead is pretty safe as long as I can muster up some kind of kick. Around another corner with 1/4 mile to go and I’m doing all I can to open up my stride. One more turn, then I’m going as fast as I can while trying to read the clock.

16-something. Good! 16:40-something. Ooh, this is going to be close. Quicker strides, stronger drive, do everything I can! The clock is clicking through the 16:50s as I’m doing all I can to save every fraction of a second. Then it happens. The clock hits 17 while I’m just a few steps short of the finish line.

Final result: 1st overall in 17:02. Second was only 9 seconds back and third was only 17 seconds back.

I’m happy with the win in a well battled race. I’m a little disappointed in the time, just because it was so close and I can look at many spots where a second or two could have been gained. From that nearly missed turn to the spots in mile 2 and probably even as far back as mile 1 where I eased off just a touch. I could probably have run a few of the tangents slightly better and shaved off a second or so. Still, this was my first race of the year and I was that close to going sub-17. I know it’s coming. I can’t be disappointed with this race, even if I was that close. Heck, I was that close in the first tune-up of the year. Next time out, I’m looking to crush sub-17.

Results can be found here. Note Team HillRunner.com with 2 in the top 10, with Ed coming through in 6th place.

“Not a race” report: Germantown Soccer Club “5K”

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

I was looking for a low key 5K to kick off the 2014 season after not racing for nearly 6 months. This weekend worked out to be the perfect time to race, which will set me up well for the Deer Run 5K 3 weeks from now, the Run the Bay 5K 6 weeks from now and Walleye Run 9 weeks from now. Perfect rhythm to settle into.

It appeared I had two choices for a 5K. Drive all the way into Milwaukee for a lakefront 5K or stay close to home for what appeared to be a low key 5K just an easy 15-20 minute drive from home. Seeing as I was looking for low key, the one close to home seemed to be a perfect fit.

I arrived on race day about an hour before the race was scheduled to start and the registration tables were just getting set up. I picked up my packet, went back to my car and decided what I would wear for the race. With the temperature about 30 and a bit of a breeze, I wasn’t sure. After some consideration, I decided to go with the shorts and singlet with a light hat and a light pair of gloves. So I pinned the number on my singlet, then hit the restrooms before my warmup.

On the warmup, I got my first bad omen. I couldn’t really tell where the course was going. No signs, no chalk arrows on the roads/sidewalks. No sign at all where the course was to go. I figured they would have people at the corners or a lead bike, though, so signs wouldn’t be necessary and maybe they couldn’t get signs in the ground with how cold this winter has been.

At the start, I got my second bad omen. The start was on the sidewalk. A standard size sidewalk with room for about 2 people shoulder to shoulder. I quickly grabbed a spot at the front, then 4 kids crowded around me. At the start, a girl immediately stepped to the side from off the sidewalk right in front of me and I stepped on her foot with my very first step. I then had to come to a complete stop to avoid running her over. I then jumped over to the grass to pass the kids and set off on my way. Not a big deal, pretty typical for a 5K with kids in it, but I’m always concerned I’m going to hurt one of the kids when something like this happens.

By the time I got going, I was feeling good. I was running relaxed but I could feel my stride was quick, long and powerful. I was going to have a good run today. I could just feel it. Maybe I could even flirt with sub-17 on my first race of the year. I quickly built up a big lead as I weaved my way through a neighborhood.

Eventually, I made my way out to County Line Road, where a guy with a very quiet voice said something, I thought turn on Water Street. I remember from the course map that I turn off County Line at the second street. So, when I saw the street sign for the second street said Water, even though nobody was at the corner to tell me to turn, I turned. Then, someone wearing a yellow vest but still sitting in a car said I’m going the wrong way. She said I had to go back out to County Line and run up to the next road. So I took the orders of the individual who gave those instructions. What else do you do when a race official gives you instructions in middle of a race, even if you’re not sure they are right? Always follow the directions of race officials is rule number one.

So I ran out to the next road and took a right on Division. By this point, I was already over a mile into the race. I figured I had to be turning soon. Nobody was around, though, and something didn’t seem right. Eventually, I had run over a mile on Division. I knew I had to be around 2.5 miles in and I was at least 2 miles by the most direct route from the start/finish area. I stopped on the side of the road, said a few choice words and jogged back in thinking all kinds of nasty things.

When I got back to the start/finish area, I told the first race official I saw what happened. We confirmed that the person who told me to go the wrong was was in fact a course marshal and she was wrong to tell me to go back to County Line. He said he wanted me to talk to the race director and I shouldn’t leave until I did. So I waited. Finally, I saw the race director but I didn’t want to approach her and be that guy who complains about things. I mingled around a bit, making sure she could see me. Maybe she hadn’t heard yet what had happened, maybe she had too much going on at the time, maybe she didn’t know how to approach me about this. I don’t know. Finally, tables were being broken down and I just decided to get the heck out.

Race report: 18 years and counting

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

Always in our Hearts 5K

To make a long story short, I ran my first sub-17 5K in an indoor track race in La Crosse in January, 1996. Through 2012, I stopped the clock in under 17 minutes at least once every year since then.

This May, in my first race of the year, I ran a 5K in 17:04, then later found out from the guy who laid out and measured the course that it was long. He measured it at between 3.2 and 3.3 miles. Based on what he was telling me, it was at least 15 seconds long. That meant I passed through the 5K point comfortably under 17 minutes. Still, I didn’t want to keep the streak going with an asterisk. I wanted to officially stop the clock in under 17 minutes. This was my last good shot this year to do that.

Fast forward to late August and early September. I had been having some trouble with tight calves. I went to the Stout alumni meet and, on the uneven course, twisted my ankles several times. This especially did my right foot and ankle in. They were bothering me pretty badly. I managed to keep things together through a successful Al’s Run, then I shut things down as I tried to get healthy. It was a struggle to get the calves loose and the foot and ankle happy but, over the last week especially, I felt like I made great strides. Not perfect but about 99%, especially while running.

Going into race day, I didn’t know what to expect. I had basically done no real training in the past month but I was fit and running well before then. I’d gone into this race before off recovery periods and run well. My legs seem to be able to go sub-17 by memory when the course is fast and the weather is favorable. That gave me confidence in my ability to find a way under 17 minutes but how difficult would it be and how close would I cut it?

I started my warmup how I start my warmup on pretty much every race day. Feeling sore and sluggish. There is some road construction on the course so I scouted out that part especially carefully. There would be spots I’d need to step over two curbs and run through some uneven soil. I moved a construction barricade so there would be room on the other end of the construction to slip through on the paved road between the barricade and the curb, giving a better transition to the sidewalk than the alternative, stepping over another curb onto uneven soil before stepping up about 3 inches onto the sidewalk.

As the warmup continued, I began feeling better. I threw in a bit of faster running around 1.5 miles and my legs just found a rhythm. This was a good sign. If I can lock into a rhythm during a race, I’m usually set.

After a bit of a delay, the race was off. I instantly jumped into the lead and locked into a quick rhythm. Through the rough spot of the construction area and someone I believe giving me the directions for the walkers. These directions confused me for a moment before I just decided to go with the route I have known from prior years. Up to the construction barriers, shoot! Someone moved the barrier back and it’s blocking the whole road! Up over the curb and through the uneven soil to the sidewalk. Now, I settled back into the quick rhythm I had and just clicked off the distance, working hard but keeping relaxed. Through an intersection with traffic control with no problems. On to the mile mark. 5:12. What? No, that’s not right. I know I didn’t just run a 5:12. I did lock into a quick rhythm but I knew I wasn’t that fast. I could believe 5:20 because I could feel the quicker than anticipated rhythm I had settled into. I actually thought of dialing it back a bit with the fear I would pay for the fast pace later but I’ve always been a rhythm runner and breaking my rhythm is usually a mistake. I’m better fading some later than messing with my pace when I settle in and am at least in range of my target pace.

Into mile 2, the going is getting tough but I keep fighting. Now, I have a right turn coming up and I’m on the left side of the state highway. Usually, there is a police officer doing traffic control up there but I see no sign of any police presence. So I check over my shoulder, see a car approaching at a distance and take things into my own hands, crossing before that car gets too close. As I approach the turn, there is a police car on the side road, about 3 car lengths off the highway but the officer never even opens the door before I’m past. I keep pushing through the loop through a neighborhood, though I admit I could feel the effort sagging a bit. I told myself I’m at least halfway through the race now. I have to push. I have to keep it going or sub-17 is out the window. I can feel myself losing the fight but I keep close to 100% effort. Now, approaching the state highway again and I have to go straight across. Again, usually traffic control but no sign of police this time. Traffic is pretty steady with a 35 mph speed limit. I weave through a bit to shoot the gap between two northbound cars with the nearest southbound car at least 50 yards away. Not a major problem but definitely not ideal in a 5K.

Through another neighborhood and into the 2 mile mark. I know this split isn’t quite at the 2 mile mark but, when I hear 11:00, I get a bit worried. Initially, I respond by increasing the pace but I find myself within a couple hundred yards settling back into that pace I carried through much of mile 2. A good solid effort for a 5K but not on the edge. Enough for sub-17? With about a half mile to go, I tell myself screw this, I’m not letting sub-17 go without a fight and I give it everything I have. My legs don’t want to respond but I force them to respond with what they can. Through the construction area, a bit of a slowdown to handle the uneven soil but nothing too bad. Then, I just hammer my way through a few turns and into a loop around a park and into the finish. I bring it in as hard as I can and come to the final turn, just a short distance from the finish line. As I come around that final turn and into sight of the clock, I see it right around 16:50. To be honest, when I saw that, I had more a feeling of relief than anything. I was just relieved that my easing off the effort in mile 2 and early in mile 3 didn’t cost me the sub-17. I crossed the line feeling like I didn’t leave it all on the course but getting the sub-17 I was looking for.

Final result: 1st, 16:54. 18 consecutive years with a sub-17 5K. No asterisk needed. I can’t say I’m thrilled with my effort out there. I could have run faster. That said, I keep going back to one simple thing. I had one goal in this race. As long as I ran 16:59, I was going to be happy with the outcome. I made it with 5 seconds to spare. I can’t be unhappy with this result. I accomplished the goal and kept a streak I’m proud of alive.

This is likely it for me in 2013. Time to make sure the calves are well taken care of, the right foot and ankle are happy and the base for 2014 is strong enough for a 19th consecutive year under 17 minutes.

The Garden Half / 11.9

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

I admit that I have had a really hard time staying motivated since the Green Bay Marathon. I had no plans to race a half this fall until a friend of mine sent me a link to a poorly advertised inaugural half marathon in Madison that offered some really nice prize money 3 deep. I am pretty motivated by money and figured that it was possible that no one fast would show up.

My training cycle was unlike any I had ever done before. Normally I am the queen of consistency and get in every long run, tempo, and speed workout no matter what life puts up as an obstacle. But I just never seemed to get in a groove and the constant drastic temperature changes and humidity just seemed to wipe me out. I had a ton of trouble staying motivated and I admit that I skipped or shortened long runs and tempos. I had a lot of late night beer binges and ran a few long runs hung over. I only ran over 12 miles once. Al’s Run just happened to land on a bad day of the month for me and I ran 32:28 (6:32 pace) which seemed right about where I was fitness wise anyway. It hurt and was also my last hard day before my half two weeks away. Each tempo I struggled to hit under 7 minutes a mile and several I stopped at 2 miles.

The weekend of the race was also my daughter’s senior Homecoming weekend so all day Friday I was busy with parade prep and only ate cake but did drink lots of water/diet coke/gaterade. The morning of the race it was windy but sunny and somewhat cool. My Garmin died on the starting line but I decided to just race and see what happened.

I had no idea how fast I was going at all but thought it was most likely slow but at least I felt good. I passed quite a few runners after the first mile and just kept my eyes on the next runner ahead. I eventually settled in with a college girl and asked her our pace. 6:25. She thought it was fast for her too but we both decided to just go with it and if we had to walk that would just be how things were. I never asked her the pace or the mileage the rest of the time we ran together. She must have been my perfect running partner as we cruised together and were not far behind a few runners that I would normally think I had no business behind in a half. We kept the 2nd and 3rd place female runners within striking distance until my new friend had to stop to use the bathroom and I continued on alone. The 2nd half of the race I sipped on a Powerade gel and took a sip of water at the water stops. This seemed to work for me much better than taking the entire gel at once. I slowed somewhat as it was quite lonely out there but the pain that I expected never came. The last mile I struggled a little bit but mostly because I was alone.

I was out of the money but I knew I was in for a big PR as I was only a few minutes behind runners that normally run low 1:20s. The finish was downhill and I finished it stronger than I had ever finished any race. I was super excited and rushed over to the timers to find out my exact time.

This is when the story starts to suck as they told me it was 1:19 and my heart sank as I knew that the course was short by over a mile. According to other people’s Garmins it was about 11.9 miles so I did average approximately 6:38 pace which is 20 seconds a mile faster than i have ever ran for a half marathon. I would have loved to know my 10 mile split as I am sure that was a huge 10 mile PR. I wanted to cry about the loss of a new half PR as I have struggled for so long to run under 90 minutes and if the race had been the correct distance I am sure I could have ran mid to high 1:20s for sure. The girl I ran with came in about 4 minutes behind me as she had struggled once she no longer had me to run with. I am quite sure that if she had not had to stop we both would have carried each other even faster through the race as we were a great team.

It was nice though to run without a watch but I would have liked it if they would have provided mile markers so I would have had something to look forward to as the miles passed. I think that sometimes the watch defeats us. I also think that perhaps a 2 week taper is the way to go for me. Next spring I will return to being more consistent about training and will try the longer taper. This race despite my poor training I benefited greatly from being injury free and rested on the starting line. I was less sore than ever after the race and seem to be recovering fast. That might be from a lack of a last mile and change. I also seemed to run well over the hilly parts of the course except for the last bit as the change up in muscles seems to suit me well as I tempo a lot on hills during training.

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

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

Image

What a good looking team!

As most of the regulars here already know, Al’s Run in downtown Milwaukee is the big event for Team HillRunner.com every year. In fact, in recent years, it’s been the only event. I always get very excited about this event. Especially since I left Waukesha, it’s often my one chance a year to see many of the great members of the HillRunner.com community who live in the Milwaukee area and throughout south and east Wisconsin and even north Illinois.

This year was no different. In fact, if anything, I was even more excited than usual for this year’s event. As well as seeing familiar runners like Double, Cameron, Woody and Ed, there were three new team members (Laura, Steve and Tim) I was excited to welcome to the team and there were team veterans who couldn’t join the team last year but who were returning (Charlene and Rick) who I was happy to welcome back. Of course, I was also there to run. In addition to this, though, everyone on the team had requested a team uniform and I was very excited to see the new team uniform debut 10 strong near the front of the field at Al’s Run. I was also happy to see some discussion of pack running. We seemed to have two primary packs forming. One would be four strong looking to run in the mid-28s and the other would be three strong looking to run between 30 flat and 31 flat. Not only do I love team running, teammates feeding off each other’s energy, pulling each other along and battling it out together, but how cool would it be to see teammates wearing the blue to be packed up together along the course? That had me really excited to not just be running but to see teammates to run with during the race and to see pictures later with teammates working together.

After a team warmup, I got to my usual starting place on the line (on the left side of the median) and saw Woody. Everyone else seemed to be on the right side of the median. I prefer the left side because it’s less crowded and a slightly shorter route if you run your tangents right. Woody took off to the right side, saying he was going to let people know that the left side would be better but, just after he went, the one minute warning was given. It was time to line up. I felt there was nothing I could do at that point but take care of myself. With about 10 seconds to go, we got called up to the line, I toed the chip mat that was serving as a start line and listened for the countdown. I was feeling good, some foot and lower leg problems I had been experiencing weren’t even a thought, and I was ready to go.

As the race started, I got out well and was leading or in the top 2-3 on the left side of the median. There was a pack out ahead of me on the right side. Pretty much the usual situation. I took extra care to make sure I just eased into mile 1. This mile is mostly made up of a long, gentle downward grade toward the Milwaukee River. After the river, you go up a little before hitting the mile mark. It’s also right through the middle of downtown Milwaukee so you’re pretty sheltered from both the wind and the sun, making it a pleasant feeling mile. The one catch I’ve found to this mile is that it’s easy to go too fast. You’re amped up for this large race, there is a good number of runners ahead of you and that gradual decline lulls you into running faster than you realize you are going. So I was focused on being quick but very relaxed.

Late in mile 1, I had Rick on my right and Tim on my left. I couldn’t help but think how cool is this. Three teammates in uniform running shoulder to shoulder or in a slight V formation near the front of a large race through downtown Milwaukee. That is just awesome! I also found myself thinking about Steve. I didn’t see him around but I was hoping he was right with us. I would find out later he unfortunately wasn’t but it was still great to have three of us cruising together. We did cruise together right through the mile mark. I don’t have an exact split but I heard a split of 5:35 called just after we passed. Probably 5:33-5:34.

Into mile 2, we start the gradual climb away from the river. In the past, I’ve tried hard to maintain pace in mile 2 and that usually came back to bite me in miles 3 and 4. This time, I decided I’m just going to settle into a good rhythm and take what mile 2 gives me. I’d save the big efforts for the last 3 miles. Shortly after turning toward the north at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue, it felt like Rick wasn’t there anymore. Not too long later, up an incline that I just had no interest in pushing, Tim gapped me. I just let him go and figured I’d try to catch up with him in miles 3 and 4.

Image

Mile 2: Nice teamwork! (courtesy RunningInTheUSA.com)

The rest of mile 2 just played itself out. I found a nice rhythm and watched the runners ahead of me, Tim included, planning to pick the effort back up in mile 3 and bring them back. I hit the 2 mile mark in 11:35 for a split of about 6:01-6:02. Wow, that was a bit slower than I expected. As soon as the math registered in my head, I told myself heck no and picked up the effort. Ever so gradually, I began making up ground on Tim and some other runners. To be honest, other runners more than Tim. We both were moving through the field a bit in that mile.

Mile 3 ends by going down Lafayette Hill. For those who don’t know Milwaukee, this is a hill that leads you down the bluffs from the residential neighborhoods overlooking the lake down to lake level. It’s a fairly steep and not extremely short downhill. I’ve always been a good downhill runner so I set my sights on all 3 runners who were ahead of me at this point, the last of whom was Tim. I made quick work of the first two, who started down the hill just steps ahead of me. Then I set out for Tim, who was a little further ahead. Near the bottom of the hill, I caught him and tried to say something encouraging, "Let’s go, hammer time" or something along that line, as I know mile 4 is one that can be really good if you’re aggressive or really bad if you let it wear on you. I wanted both him and myself thinking aggressive.

I rounded the corner and hit mile 3 in 17:12. Back to 5:37 for mile 3. That’s some good work in a somewhat challenging mile. Now, time to do some more good work. This mile for me is the time to lay it all out on the line. I always will find a way to get through the final mile but, if I’m not attacking and really pushing to my limit in this mile, it can get the best of me. The field is pretty spread out by this point but I just go to work, one runner at a time. My memory is a little fuzzy on this but I probably passed 2-3 guys in this mile and found myself gaining on a guy with a black and white singlet as we approached mile 4. I was getting really close to him but he seemed to be responding to some extent. He was not going to be an easy pass.

Image

Late in mile 4: Did I mention I laid it all on the line in mile 4? (courtesy RunningInTheUSA.com)

Image

One more from late in mile 4: This is fun, right? (courtesy RunningInTheUSA.com)

I completely missed the mile 4 split as this guy, apparently a UW-Milwaukee student, was passing some walkers with UWM shirts and they were cheering him on. He riled up the crowd on the pedestrian bridge that goes to the art museum and I stole a little of that energy to feed off of as I pushed ever so slightly closer. Around a right turn, then I caught him and gave it everything I had to put him away immediately so he couldn’t come back in the kick. He gave me an encouraging word, I was already breathing so hard I was grunting for at least a half mile at that point so I couldn’t respond. I just poured it on. There was another guy ahead but he wasn’t that close so I kept pushing to get as close to him as I could even though I knew I wouldn’t catch him. Around a left, a right, then another left, I kept reminding myself to not look back. I wanted to look back so badly to see if I had built up a suitable lead but I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness so I kept my eyes forward and kept driving, harder and harder, not wanting this guy to pass me back in the kick. One more left turn and I can see the finish line. I’m trying to read the clock but more focused on just driving as hard as I can. As I approach about 100 yards to go, I try to sprint. Drive the arms, push off as hard as I can, get the turnover as high as I can. My pace changed ever so slightly but it probably looked less like a kick than like the flailing final effort of a guy who was incapable of sprinting. Pure coincidence I’m sure. I got myself to the finish line without letting anyone pass me, then after stopping turned back to see Tim already across the line. It turned out he put up a good battle with that UWM runner but came up just short. Still, he ran tough and finished very well. It was great to have a teammate right there with me essentially the whole way.

Then I scanned for Rick and Steve. We were expecting them to also be in the 28 minute range but there was no sign of them. Tim and I started walking back up the course some to cheer our teammates in. Rick came along just as the clock was ticking toward 30 minutes. I had him right about 30 minutes flat. Then came Jerry shortly after him with Steve right behind. Our top 5 were all in by about 30:30. Next in was Woody, just over 31 flat, with Double close behind. Ed came in just under 32 minutes for another nearly 30 second PR, then Charlene came in about 30 seconds behind Ed. Laura rounded out our finishers with a very solid effort 6 days after running a draining half marathon in the heat and humidity and we began grouping up just past the finish line.

As several of us were cooling down together, chatting about the race, I couldn’t help but think about how great this team was. While a couple of us went home disappointed, from top to bottom, we all were top level competitors and I was proud to see these 10 people wearing that cool HillRunner.com singlet and representing this site so well. I still get chills thinking about this. These 9 people were willing to wear the blue and represent this place that I started so many years ago and has evolved into such a great online community. I’m truly blessed to have these people around me who are so willing to represent this site with so little given back to them in return.

The team as a whole got 3rd in the community division, only 1:43 behind the first place team. Seeing as we got moved to the more competitive community division, I think this is a great result. I also think it gives us a goal for next year.

The final results for the team are as follows:


3. HillRunner.com
1 28:23 Ryan Hill
2 28:24 Tim King
3 30:01 Rick Smith
4 30:24 Gerald Cameron
5 30:33 Steve Tietz
================================== 2:27:45 ( 29:33)
6 31:08 Marc Woodcock
7 31:21 David Dehart
8 31:54 Edward Pankow
9 32:28 Charlene Larson
10 38:41 Laura Walsh

I can’t thank the team enough. This was a very special year for me, to see such a great group of people out there, all wearing the blue, having fun and running hard meant a lot to me. I still get chills thinking about some of the moments from Saturday.

Afterward, some team members were able to make it out to my place for a cookout. That was the least I could offer for all they did for me that morning and it was great to sit down, not wearing our running gear, and just have a casual chat with such a great group of people.

I think most team members went home happy with their performances at the end of the day. A couple were disappointed but I believe still put up great efforts in the face of adversity. I hope all can make it back again next year and maybe we can even expand the roster. Once again, thanks to these 9 wonderful people who were willing to represent HillRunner.com and did such a great job of doing so! I hope everyone here is as proud of them as I am.

If anyone else wants to share their own stories or pictures, feel free to either add them to the comments here or create a separate blog post.

Race Report – Run/Walk to Irish Fest

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

Race day – looking for a personal record (PR) – likely ready for that PR. Running the Run/Walk to Irish Fest 5K. Had trouble getting to the starting area but I had built in a good deal of extra time – always do. Then I had parking issues – the QPS parking lot machine wouldn’t accept any cards, only cash and did not give any change. So, I left and found a free street parking location – two hour parking – plenty of time to leave before two hours.

I checked in for the race and pinned the race bib (with timing chip) on to my Hillrunner shirt. I got myself in a relaxed mood, hit the port-a-potty and then started on a two-mile warm-up run. It was very warm out there and 100% sunny. I kept it easy at about an 8:30 per mile pace. At the end of the warm-up I was drenched with sweat – it was dripping from me! I was thinking that this may be a tough race to PR after all. I did some light stretching staying loose and relaxed (in the shade.)

Started to line-up for the start – there was some sort of system to get people to line-up appropriately but it was not announced or made obvious. I saw Andy Ruffalo and made sure to wish him luck and to race well – kinda silly since he is a great runner and racer but I did so anyway. I also noticed a race bandit right next to me a lady with black and grey hair in a pony tail and a purple shirt. That peeved me a bit as nearly everyone else paid for the race and she was going to benefit off us.

Then we all heard a whispery "ready, set, go" most of us could not tell that was the start of the race but by two seconds – we all knew to get going. I started out strong keeping an eye on the Garmin – I did not want to get out too fast. I held a good pace through the first half mile while working my way around some folks going a hair slower than I was. Hit mile one in 6:08 and was feeling good, on pace for a strong PR. During that first mile as we ran along the lakefront right next to the Art Museum a lady was kinda trapped against the rail at the lake and she kept "oh my God, this is so cool" over and over again as a fast, thick crowed of runners was blasting past her. The next half mile I worked my way through a couple of runners and was still on pace although a bit slowed running that half mile in 3:09. I picked up the pace a hair to get back on track for that PR.

Then it ended. Less than a quarter mile later a muscle in my lower back just seized up quite painfully. I immediately pulled off to the left out of traffic before slowing down and made my way to a picnic table. I shut off my Garmin and I sat there for a minute or two trying to stretch and massage that area. I was not going to end up a DNF (did not finish) so I started walking and then jogging the course. I was embarrassed and disgusted about how I was running and took off my Hillrunner shirt – I did not want anyone seeing that name with how I was running.

Coming into the last quarter mile were a couple of boys not older than 10! I gave them encouraging words and one of the boys took off with a great kick towards the finish line. I kept telling the other one to "go get him" but I think he was done and just eyeing the finish line. I started to accelerate a tiny bit being mindful of how my back felt. I didn’t even look at the time clock as I crossed the line – just did some more light stretching and massaging of my back and drank some water.

I did not look at results until today. 78 out of 800 and 7th out of 75 in my age group. Both put me in the top 10% of each category but I had a terrible day. I was on pace to make 17th overall and 2nd in my age group. I know what I am capable of now if race day is "my day."

Race report: Hank Aaron State Trail 5K

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

There’s something about this race that keeps me coming back. I always think I can conquer the course but I never seem to be able to. I always seem to run slower than I feel I’m capable of. This year, I planned a strategy that I thought would help me finally conquer the course and I decided to give it a shot.

Going into this race, I was a little unsure of my fitness. The racing year started off positive with a couple solid races in May and early June. Then I got sick in July and spent most of the month sick enough that my training was really thrown off. I was still getting in some training but I was, at best, treading water for at least 3 weeks. Finally, about 3 weeks before this race, I began feeling good enough to plunge back into full training. I put up a couple solid but not steallar weeks of training and my confidence was returning. With a solid race strategy for this course, was I back where I was in May and June, when I was already in sub-17 5K shape?

I set out on race day to go after that elusive (on this course) sub-17 5K. The first mile of the course is essentially flat, looping around the Miller Park parking lots. I got out fairly well and found myself settling into a large second pack while watching a lead pack of about 12 pull away. By about 3/4 of a mile, I worked my way to the lead of the chase pack and set out on closing the gap to the back of the lead pack, which was already breaking up a little. Some of that chase pack was going with me and I found myself in about 13th place with a couple of runners coming back. Through the mile in 5:28, I felt like I was on target. Now starts the challenging first half of the second mile, though. I wanted to push a bit but not bury myself. I was gaining on 12th place but, just before passing, got passed myself. So I was still in 13th. Then a few more guys passed me and I tried to hook on to their backs. I’ve never been a terribly strong uphill runner but I didn’t want to give up too much on this climb. Still, I just couldn’t hang with them as they slipped away from me.

Nearing the turnaround, I found myself leading a pack and somewhere around 15th place. The leaders began coming back and I was beginning to eye up how to make the turn. I moved out a little so I could take the turn wide and keep my pace up some. Someone was on my outside and another worked in to my inside. As I went around the turn, I had to go a little wide for the guy on my inside and the guy on my outside fell behind me. I did manage to keep my speed up fairly well but now it was time to hammer. The course levels out near the turnaround but I was soon to be going down the hill. Even though it was quite gradual, I had to take full advantage of this if I wanted a good time. First, though, I spotted a UW-Stout singlet worn by one of the lead women and had to give a quick Stout howl. Once it’s in your blood, you can’t get it out I guess. Down the hill, I just couldn’t get my legs going. A few more people passed me down that stretch and I found myself near 20th place. Then, with cones separating the "out" from the "back" of the out and back course, some lady heading out crossed the cones right into my path. Maybe it wasn’t as close as it seemed to me but I felt like I was barrelling down toward her at a pretty high speed and there she was right in front of me, seemingly with no concern about me rapidly approaching her. She did get back on her side of the road before I got there but not before I felt a little panic. I think that threw my breathing out of rhythm and I found myself gasping and making quite audible grunting sounds for at least the next half mile. Not what you want at around 2 miles of a 5K.

I went through 2 miles knowing that mile took a lot out of me and I was off my goal pace. I just knew I didn’t have it in my legs to take enough advantage of the downhill to make up for the uphill. I heard the time, somewhere around 11:20, and felt pretty deflated. Then I reminded myself one of my reasons to be out there, to get a good solid effort in before the important races come up. You can do a lot of good things in workouts but there is no workout that simulates pushing to your absolute limit in the last half mile of a race on dead tired legs. You only get that on race day. So I kept pushing, kept digging, kept fighting. One or two guys passed me early in mile 3, then I held my position. I kept digging to get back up to them but couldn’t. I could tell there were at least a couple of guys right behind me but I couldn’t separate from them. One of them got me toward the end but I held off the other. Looking at the results, I actually held off the others. It looks like I led a pack into the finish line.

Final result: 21st in 17:50. Not the time or place I was hoping for but the best possible effort I could give on that day. In retrospect, I don’t think I was fading when I gave up the net of 8 places between the 1 mile mark and the finish. I think, when I took the lead of that large chase pack and set out to run down the stragglers of the lead pack, a good portion of that chase pack went with me. As the pack broke up, some guys ran off the front and those were the guys who passed me.

Whatever the case, it was what it was. This course got the best of me again. It seems like nobody gets the time they expect there, though. Everyone seemed to be short of their target times or what I would expect of them. As an example, Andy Ruffalo always runs sub-16. Usually in the 15:40s it seems. Even on courses that, on paper, look more difficult than this one. He ran 16:21. There was some speculation from some that the course was long. I can’t say one way or the other. I know that long, grinding incline in mile 2 takes its toll on me all the time. Whatever the case, maybe I need to adjust my expectations on this course if I go back to this race in the future. It seems like it is just a slow course for whatever reason.

In the end, I got a good workout in and I got some good practice pushing hard on tired legs, even while dealing with some demotivating events. I’ll build myself up from this experience and move on. Next up: Stout Alumni. Looking forward to pulling out the spikes!

KCCC Track

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

Last week was the KC Corporate Challenge Track meet. The meet runs in the evenings Monday – Thursday. On Tuesday, I ran the mile run and on Thursday, I ran the 1200m leg of the distance medley relay and the 800m run.

After the half marathon a few weeks ago, I knew going in that there was just one guy to beat. Joe had beaten me soundly in the half marathon, I thought that I might have a better chance in the short races, but I knew that he still had a fitness advantage.

The weather last week was perfect and the track had been resurfaced since I had last been there. It was very nice. In KCCC, they accept two people from each company in 10 year age groups and then allow then on race day, you compete in 5-year age groups. This helps to keep the numbers down a bit, but in the middle age groups there are still lots of competitors. In the 100m and 400m on other nights, they run heats of eight until they get everyone in, but in the mile and 800m runs they put everyone together except for the biggest age groups (30-34 & 35-39) which they break into two heats. Still, we had just one heat for my age group with 41 runners in both the 800m and mile.

For the mile, I knew that Joe would be tough, so I planned just to stay close and hope that I could kick. Before I’d run the half marathon, I had thought ahead to the mile run and had hoped to break 5:00, but now, I just wanted to compete well. The track meet was running well behind schedule. I was glad that I had chosen to start my warm up after the relays completed instead of according to the time printed on the schedule. Joe mentioned that he had started his warm up too early, but I doubted that it would affect him too negatively. I was right. When the gun went off, I found myself unprepared for what happened. Joe took off at a much faster pace than I’d anticipated and I just tried to hang on. He went through the first 409 meters in around 66 and I was a second or two behind. I let him get away a bit and similar to in the half marathon, I hoped that he would come back to me later. His lead expanded a over the middle two laps, but then I began an attempt to reel him in. I did not make much progress and finished the race about 6 seconds back (4:57 to his 4:51). Third place finished in 5:34. I found out later that Joe was making some effort to pursue the record for our age group which remains at 4:40 (currently held by Mark Curp). Talking to him after the race, I learned that he would not be running in the distance medley relay on Thursday because he felt that he had a better shot at the 800m record of 2:09. His company has a lot more depth in distance runners and would only give up a second or two by running a younger runner who Joe had beaten at tryouts. That evening, I was understandably down about my chances on Thursday. The way Joe had taken off from the gun had hit me like a physical blow — affecting me both physically and mentally. The other thought that I pursued that night was that I want that weapon (hammering from the gun) in my repertoire. I’ve generally been the type of runner to run as easy as possible. Back in the day, I had the fitness and a nice kick to pull it off. That does not seem to be the case any more. Despite some disappointment, I felt that I had put forth a good effort. It just was not enough for the win that day.

Race time arrived on Thursday a bit earlier than on Tuesday since I had to run a relay before the individual 800m. I did not know who in my company would be running the other legs, but I was unaware of any particularly fast people being available and assumed that I would get the baton with a disadvantage. I did not give myself much time to warm up and did some of my warm up in the homestretch while waiting my turn with the baton. My goal was to pass at least two other teams. Anything less and I would feel that I would have been better off skipping the relay to give a better effort in the 800m. In the relay, our 800m runner performed fairly well finishing somewhere in the middle, but our two 400m runners gave up some ground. I do not know if I got the baton in last or second to last. There were 3 teams who had lapped us and some other teams who handed off just before us. I caught all of the latter in the first lap. Then I ran the next lap chasing the next person ahead of me. It turns out that they had lapped us and on my third and final lap there was no one in front of me. I maintained a good effort until about 150m to go. At that point, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that there was no one especially close, so I cruised into the finish in an attempt to save a bit for the 800m. One race down and I had achieved my goal.

Does anyone else remember a day when two races in the same evening were no big deal? As I waited for the 800m, my legs felt fatigued. I was still committed to get after it in the 800m and not to give Joe anything, but I was a bit concerned. After they got through all of the divisions of relays, I did a light warm up while they ran the older age groups in the men’s 800m. Then I headed to the starting line. Talking to Joe before the race, he mentioned overhearing a guy talking about Tuesday, "I thought I might have a chance in the mile, but two guys just took off …" I knew that unless there was a 400m/800m runner who was stepping up to give us some competition, that this race would be the same. The only such runner that I knew of I had spoken to on Tuesday and he said that he’s "semi-retired" and just running the relays this year provided that his knees hold out. Since he was there on Thursday, I knew that his knees must have held up. They started the race in a double water fall start. I decided to start on the inside of the outer waterfall. I am not always good about getting out quickly and have been cut off before, so I like to start a bit more outside. I almost wished that I had stared on the outside of the second waterfall. One guy got out very quick and could have cut me off, but he left me some room on the inside and I charged through. Joe had started in the inside waterfall and when I cut in, I settled right behind him. I was surprisingly comfortable with the pace, but after the first lap, I knew that I would not hold it and again Joe got away from me. In the end, Joe finished just off the record in 2:10 and I was again 6 seconds back in 2:16. Third place crossed the line in 2:20. Again, I felt that I had put forth a very good effort. As I came out of the last turn, I heard some cheering that I did not think was for me and I pushed hard to the line to hold off anyone who might be coming.

Though I had hoped to win my KCCC races, I enjoyed competing with Joe — probably more than I would have enjoyed winning a relatively easy race. These races have also served to provide motivation. I do not have any racing planned, but I do have a renewed desired to train. I don’t always need races to look forward to in order to enjoy training. Though it is still distant, it may be that next year’s KCCC is enough to look forward to.

Race report: Walleye Run 5 mile

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

The story of this race again starts well before race day. I again pushed harder than I should have in training and, about a week before the race, crashed. I had a 13 mile run that was a significant struggle exactly a week before the race, then I completely crashed. It took me almost 45 minutes to run 5 miles 6 days before the race. Another slow 5 miles on Monday and I took Tuesday off. Other than relaxed strides Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I didn’t do anything hard this week until race day. I simply needed to get my legs back under me.

This is the race that has become a family event. By taking a pass on the shirts, for $20, I was able to register myself for the 5 mile, Lisa for the 2 mile and Shayla for the 1/3 mile kids fun run. What a family bargain. Also, they stagger the races sufficiently to allow me to finish my cooldown with enough time to let Lisa get ready for her run.

As a family event, we all piled into the car early this morning to head up to Fond du Lac. We arrived at the park a little later than I normally would. I headed off to pick up our packets while Lisa and Shayla stopped off at a picnic table to eat breakfast. The instructions in our packets clearly stated make sure your age and gender are correct on the bibs. Ours weren’t even filled in so I went off to find a pen and fill in Lisa’s and mine. Shayla’s was filled in but it didn’t matter because she was running a non-competitive event anyway.

I took a little time to relax, then it was time to get ready to warm up. No sign of Lisa and Shayla yet so I did what I had to do, then started walking out to run. I saw them coming so I let them know where I had our stuff and took off to run. The warmup started a few minutes later than I would have liked due to waiting for them but no big deal. I warmed up, with the legs feeling pretty grumpy at first but loosening up fairly well as I went on. I did my range of motion exercises, put my racing flats on, stripped down to my racing uniform and was off. A few strides at the start line, dropping my sunglasses with Lisa because they were fogging up and I was ready to go.

Lined up just to my right was bib number 1, last year’s winner. Oh, great. I’ll get blown away right off the line. Oh well, it is what it is.

As the race started, I did get blown away by bib number 1, as well as a few others around me. I must have picked a good position on the line to start because it seemed like all the fast guys were all around me. I quickly found myself in about 15th place but, like the last race, part of the reason for that was because my legs just didn’t want to go right off the line. It again took them about 1/4 mile to really start firing.

Image

Once my legs did get going, I quickly worked my way up through the chase pack, separated, then was staring down the lead pack of 7. In front of that pack was bib number 1, wearing a white singlet. I saw 3 blue Fond du Lac Running Club (FDLRC) jerseys and a few other guys. Pretty quickly, 3 guys fell off the lead pack and formed a chase pack. Now, the race was 4/3/me. I figured my only hope of moving up was picking off guys who fall off through attrition. I did try bringing in that pack but it just wasn’t happening so my new goal became to keep as close to that pack as possible so, if anyone fell off, I’d be there to pick them off. Before I knew it, the chase pack grew to 5 as the battle for first became a 2 man race. That didn’t change what I was doing, though. My focus was on the now larger pack and watching for weakness up there.

Through mile 2, there weren’t any signs of weakness. Generally, that pack was running shoulder to shoulder. One guy dropped behind but didn’t fall back. The rest were still running 4 wide. Just after the 2 mile mark, we went around the turn and the pack fell into a single file line. Still, though, no signs of weakness. Then, it started happening. At about 2.5 miles, one of the blue FDLRC jerseys lost a couple steps. Then 5 yards. I was like a shark smelling blood in the water. He still had a good lead on me but he was hurting. He couldn’t hold the pace. I pushed a little harder, knowing this was my chance. By the 3 mile mark, I had cut the gap fairly significantly and he was maybe 20 yards ahead. Just after the 3 mile mark, we had a 90 degree turn and I saw him look back. I thought "Yeah, that’s right, you’re mine" and found a surge of energy. About 1/4 mile later, I went by him and he had no response at all. I kept pouring it on. He wasn’t responding now but, if he could hang close, he’s a young guy who probably has a kick and I didn’t have a kick even when I was his age. I didn’t want him anywhere near me with a half mile to go.

Nearing the 4 mile mark, I saw another guy falling off the pack. He wasn’t fading quickly, though, and I didn’t have much time left. Was it enough time? I pushed but I didn’t have enough in me to really move. I kept pushing, thinking chasing him would help me build a gap on the FDLRC guy I had passed not all that long ago. With just less than a mile to go, we went around a turn. I thought about looking back, then thought about that turn a mile earlier. I didn’t want anyone behind me thinking I was his to pass. I kept pushing, assuming someone was there even though I was pretty sure nobody was. With 3/4 of a mile to go, another turn. I didn’t even think of looking back. I just kept pushing. I knew I wasn’t going to catch the guy ahead of me but I wasn’t going to let someone come up behind me. With 1/2 mile to go, another turn. I stole a quick glance but couldn’t see much. All I knew is there was nobody within the first 10 yards behind me. What if someone further back saw me? He’s thinking I’m not going to have a finish. I push as hard as I possibly can to make it clear I’m not fading, just in case. With 1/4 mile to go, I try to pick up the pace again. I’m not sure I did. Around the last big turn and I’m going with everything I have, which isn’t much. One more gentle curve and I see the clock just over 28 minutes. I try to sprint but my legs have nothing left. I go as hard as I can, which is basically the same pace I had been running, and cross in just over 28:20.

Image

Final result was 7th place overall, 1st in the 30-39 age group. 6th place was 42 seconds ahead of me. 8th place was 36 seconds behind me. I’m very happy with this result. Even before this past week’s struggles, I was thinking 5:40 pace or right around 28:20 would be a very strong run. With how the past week went, I was very worried that things could turn out far worse. My legs bounced back, though, and I ran about as perfectly on the original target as possible.

Official results

Lisa ran her 2 mile. She’s not exactly thrilled with her run but she says she now has something to improve upon. Shayla ran her run and was excited to finish ahead of mom (who ran with her) and at a faster pace than mom ran in her race. Then it was off to the festival for a few hours of run. A good day all around.

The Silver Lining Race Report

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

On June 2nd I raced in the Silver Lining 5K for the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County. My wife and children came to this race with me. I love having them at the races in which I participate. As always, I get a bit anxious before a race but the pre race warm-up always settles that issue. I was anxious because I had spent seven of the last eleven days with an injury and not running. Coach Hill told me that any lost physicality should be made up for in the rest that my legs had gotten. I was trying to keep that in mind.

Check-in was a breeze, I got my race bib pinned on and headed over to the van to drop of the race packet. I was sizing up some of the competition as I walked through the area. I saw a few I knew would beat me (including and especially Ruffalo) but I was feeling good. I headed off for the pre-race warm-up and was feeling loose and relaxed. I warmed up about two miles at an eight minute per mile pace. Then I did some light stretching, especially in my calves down to the Achilles’ tendons, which is where I had my recent issues. I then did three strides trying to hit 9.6 MPH (around the pace I wanted to run the first mile) and I did ok – got a feel for the pace.

We lined up for the race and in a couple of minutes – we were off and running. The course starts uphill (into the wind which was quite noticeable) and curves slowly to the north. Ruffalo and about 30 others were ahead of me at the 1/4-mile mark I checked my Garmin and I was going out too fast, I was at 10.6 MPH – oops. I backed off a bit and was suddenly hit with the worst dry-mouth I had ever experienced. I could hardly open my mouth it was so dry and sticky. I thought I was done at that point – just on my way to the half-mile point. I tried to get saliva into my mouth and keep it there without swallowing – breathing through my nose alone. This slowed me down a bit but by the 3/4 mile point cured the dry mouth issue.

I hit the one-mile mark in 6:15. Somehow, I managed to hit the pace I wanted for the first mile. This is a hilly course and can be punishing so I worked my way up through people who were either not ready for the course or went out to fast. I tried to work the course to my advantage slowly picking people off one by one. I was struggling through the 2nd mile, with the thought of throwing in the towel, but worked through a number of people. I hit the second mile in 12:36 and I knew I had to somehow pick it back up and keep passing people. I noticed at about the 2.3-mile point I was clearly separated from the chase pack and was the trailing member of the lead pack. This was a bad mental thought to have.

I tried to reel in the guy in front of me and I slowly caught him and passed him then someone else caught me and I recognized him as the guy that beat me in my age group last year. I made the comment "there goes my age group win" and he stated he would be willing to tie. I told him; if you can beat me, beat me. I wanted to earn whatever award I could earn. Little did we realize someone else in our age group was way ahead of us. He then moved on ahead and I worked hard to keep the ground I had on anyone behind me. I was thinking that since this is chip timed the guy behind me might actually be on a shorter chip time than me so I worked that last .125 miles hard, it was uphill and into the wind but hey, everyone would have that same finish so I told myself "gut it out." I ran that .125 miles as best I could.

I did not PR and I did not win my age group. I dropped to third in my age group but I did move up to 14th overall. Only one person older than me beat me and I beat plenty of younger people. As I reflect on that race; given the conditions, my recent injury with off time, I am content with the outcome.

However, I am not done yet . . .