December 9, 2007 at 1:44 am #6886
Subtitled: slip-slip-sliding away
I have to start first by saying we've gotten about a foot of snow in the past week and it's always seemed like Madison just doesn't take care of the streets and trails this race is run on. Any time there is snow, you can guarantee at least parts of the course will be a mess. With a good bit of snow followed by ice last weekend, then about 6 inches of snow through the week including 2 inches Thursday night, I knew the course was going to be a mess. Before the race, I was joking around that I should have brought my cross-country spikes. After the race, it wasn't a joke. I seriously think I would have had a competitive advantage had I worn my cross-country spikes. Maybe something to keep in mind for future editions of this race. Just to add to the fun, the temperature was about 10 with a bit of a breeze. The combination of course conditions and weather conditions probably was the worst combination that I've ever run a race in. Oh well, that's part of the fun of winter races in Wisconsin.
I knew before even leaving home that the course was going to be a mess so I brought a pair of training shoes (officially lightweight speed trainers/heavyweight racers) that had a pretty good tread pattern for handling the snow. I also brought a pair of racing shoes but I ended up taking them out of my bag and leaving them in the car before I ever opened the car door. The reason? The road I took in that is usually relatively clear was all packed snow on top of ice. If that section of the road was like that, the whole course was going to be a mess. My warmup just confirmed the course conditions. The final 1/4-1/2 mile was going to be completely horrible and the rest was going to be bad at best. As I was running toward the finish on my warmup, I couldn't help but think I hope I'm not in a head to head battle with someone coming through here. If I am, it's not going to be a matter of who is the faster runner, it's going to be a matter of who can stay on his feet.
One thing Ted Shue and I noticed at the start, they moved the start line back quite a bit but only moved the finish line back a little. I wouldn't be surprised if the course was a little long this year. The start, being near the finish, was also very bad. I hope nobody takes off hard. Before the gun, I'm thinking it's almost a sure thing someone is going to go down and could cause a chain reaction mess. I'd like to get out pretty well to avoid the pile up but I also don't want to get out so hard that I become the person who goes down to start it.
Before the gun, I was feeling out the footing at my start position and I found a good spot so I took a pretty hard step and I was out in the first few steps side by side with a couple of guys and in front of everyone else. Most importantly, I was still on my feet. At that point, I settled in with a quick, short stride to try to keep my feet under me. Quite a few people passed me but I figured some of them were the 5k runners and most of the rest will still be in contact and will be guys I can work on once I get where we have better footing. Out of the park, around the corner, and on to a slightly better street. This street had a couple of short clear spots where I went to a near sprint and the rest was level packed snow that I could open my stride up a bit on. I made up some ground on quite a few guys and, moving on to another street with a pretty clear downhill, I got myself into good condition. We then approached the mile mark and the point where the 10k and 5k split. 6:13 at the mile mark. 6:13! I don't think I've ever had a split over 5:50 before in this race. Matt Sveum was right behind me and he expressed his excitement with either that split or the conditions of a corner that had me virtually down to a walk right after the mile mark.
I ran with Matt right on my back for quite a bit of mile 2, coming to a near walk for a couple more corners along the way, and gaining on another guy along the way. Whenever I had relatively clear spots, it was time to sprint. The rest of the time, I just went as fast as I felt like I could while still staying on my feet. Just before the 2 mile mark, after already feeling like Matt was gone but not completely sure, I caught up to the next guy and had a semi-good spot where I thought I could throw in a surge to go by hard and hopefully drop him quickly. Well, that didn't work. We went through the 2 mile mark (12:16/6:03, my fastest mile as far as I know) with him right behind me and he kept hanging with me. I was doing whatever I could to keep ahead of him and, whenever I felt like I had a chance, I threw in a surge. Every surge I threw in, he responded and hung with me. We hit the 3 mile mark in 18:30-something and the 5k mark just over 19 minutes I believe. I continued battling with this guy, as I watched the pack of 3 ahead of us break up and get away a bit, through the 4th mile. Again, surging every chance I felt like I had and him responding every time. We hit 4 miles in 24:30-something I believe, still battling the whole way. In mile 5, I started thinking about that finish. I don't want the race to come down to that, someone is going to get hurt. I threw in what I thought was my make or break move not long before the 5 mile mark. I threw everything I had at this guy and I think I gapped him for a bit. Then, he was back. Now, I'm in trouble. After going through the 5 mile mark, he pulls up next to me. Oh, shoot. Now, what do I do? I had a thought for a moment of letting him doing the work for a bit as we were running into the wind but then I thought better of it. I've controlled this battle from the front, I'm going to finish it, win or lose, from the front. I came back at him, got the lead again, then I suddenly didn't notice him. OK, this is not time to let off. If I have a lead, it's time to extend it. This is my chance to put the race away. I'm focusing on the guys ahead of me, though I only see one and I only see him occasionally as we snake our way through the UW Arboretum. Still, I'm hammering it every chance I get and just going as fast as I feel like I safely can the rest of the time. As I come up to a hard left turn coming out of the Arboretum, I'm heading into the spot at the end of the race where the course was at its worst, lose snow on top of uneven ice. As I go around the turn, I take a glance back to see what my status is. If I have to, I'll try to race it in and avoid a kick. If I don't have to, I'm going to play it safe and try to avoid ending up sprawled out on the ground. I have a pretty good lead but not a sure thing. As I come around the turn, I have a clear patch so I just begin hammering until I get to the snow and ice. Once I get to that, I just go as fast as I feel like I safely can…once again. Now, I have another thought. As of now, the 5k participants are doing pretty well staying to their side of the road but a few are working over to my side of the road. What happens if they block me out? I can't make a sudden move, I can't make a sudden stop. Last year was a mess through this stretch, I was constantly yelling at people to give me room to pass and dodging people. That just can't happen with the conditions this year. Fortunately, those problems never developed. I always had room to get through. I had something left the whole way but the conditions prevented me from using it. Fortunately, I didn't need it as the other guys never caught me.
Actually, the worst trouble I had with the conditions on the course came after crossing the finish line. They almost immediately sent the chutes to the left. Well, that was right on the snow covered ice. I knew I couldn't just turn to the left so I tried stopping before making that turn and I lost my right foot. Two people caught me and prevented disaster from happening. I'm lucky they were there to catch me. I then very carefully walked through the chute as I assessed the “damage”. Results weren't yet posted when I left and still aren't online but I believe I was 5th overall, a very solid result for me at this event, with a time just under 38 minutes, a slight negative split. The time obviously means nothing in these conditions so I'm left looking at my place, which is really what matters anyway, and I have to say I'm quite happy with this. I think this might only be my second or third top 5 finish there in my 7th time running there. In the end, I have to say that I'm happy right now with how I'm ending my 2007 racing season.
December 10, 2007 at 12:31 am #24391
RYAN , CONGRATULATIONS ABOUT YOUR RACE!!!, pretty good position, and sorry for the conditions, great run, ,, again, did you wear the watch in this race? or you just heard splits??
December 10, 2007 at 1:28 am #24392
Great job at the Jingle Bell. Having run that course only once, I can think of at least a half a dozen spots where those conditions would make a nightmare scenario during a foot race. Your prose regarding battles with individuals really shows your competitive nature. So many people just battle the course or the distance, so it is an interesting insight to hear about a step by step maneuver to make one pass. Thanks for the report and great race.
December 10, 2007 at 1:58 pm #24393
Nice race – I love reading peoples' thoughts during races – Although I have never been a “Surge” person – I have seen it work well and I have seen it be humorous.
Keep them coming –
December 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm #24394
Cesar, no watch. The splits were what I heard the people calling out, which is why I'm not quite sure of all of the splits. The first two mile splits were easy to hear. After that, between splits that couldn't be understood and being more focused on the competition, I can't remember what I heard when I did hear a split.
Rob, there were some rough spots. The whole course was a mess and some of those tight turns were bad to say the least. Ted Shue said two years ago was worse there but I must be blocking the worst of that year out because this is the worst I remember. I think we all were battling the course out there Saturday but we all face the same conditions, I had people out there to beat.
WI MTP, I'm a “surge person” when in head to head competition because that's how I take the kick out of guys so I'm not a sitting duck at the end. However, I don't usually surge like I was Saturday. That was simply due to the course conditions. You couldn't run all-out the whole way or you'd be going down so it was basically run as hard as you can when you get the chance and just stay on your feet the rest of the way. The conditions probably played into my hand because we were all forced to vary pace and everyone knew there would be no big kick.
BTW: Results are up. A note for those looking through the results and wondering, that wasn't actually Rick winning.
December 10, 2007 at 3:39 pm #24395
Your race report confirms what my daughter said about the course, terrible conditions.
Good job staying upright & finishing strong. 🙂
December 10, 2007 at 4:03 pm #24396
Me I have no “Kick”, so I run until the last mile a steady as fast as I think I can – Then I start my mile “Kick” – If only for 5-6 minutes I find I have a very high tolerance for pain.
I've raced surge people and sometimes it works and they get a gap on me other times it is humorous as they just tire themselves out – I will just methodically reel the surge back in.
Clydesdales don't surge 🙂
Starting week #4 of comeback and I'm getting in the mood to race – now if my body would just do its part.
December 10, 2007 at 4:05 pm #24397
It had seemed that Rick STEFANOVIC – Struggled a little this year – It looks like he may be back 🙂 – Just in time to train hard for Boston.
December 10, 2007 at 5:32 pm #24398
Yes, Anne. I'd say the word terrible would pretty well summarize both the weather and the course. I hope your daughter had a good run.
Actually, that wasn't Rick. He's laid up right now with a calf injury. He was there but not running. As for surging, you have to know when and how to use the strategy. Even then, as with any strategy, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If I think I can just run away from someone, that's the strategy I'll go with. Sometimes, though, that's not going to work and you have to do something to break the other person. If you can build up a bit of a gap, sometimes you can break their will. Also, if they respond to your surge, you can run the kick out of a better kicker. In this race, though, it was simply a matter of running hard when the course allows you to and doing what you had to in order to remain upright the rest of the way.
December 10, 2007 at 6:54 pm #24399
nice work ryan. would you say your legs are recovered from the 50K?
December 10, 2007 at 10:10 pm #24400
Jerry, I felt like my legs recovered very quickly after the 50K. The only thing, really, that held me up at all was the fact that I tried to keep the training going when I should have gone into recovery mode. I was recovered, just flat after a long season. That's why I shifted into recovery mode a few weeks ago and should be ready to get back into base building pretty soon.
I was actually surprised with how quickly I recovered from that. The recovery was more like a 10K or half marathon, nothing like my marathon recoveries have been.
December 11, 2007 at 1:19 am #24401
the winner was rick stefanovic or not??
December 11, 2007 at 2:58 am #24402
No, it was not Rick. It was someone else running with Rick's number.
December 11, 2007 at 5:28 pm #24403
The only thing close to a surge I do – In 5k – 10k or last 1/2 of 1/2 M or last 6M of marathon: When I pass someone I like to do it strong enough to convince them they do not want to hook onto the MTP train.
But I am still out there generally running for time and not for place –
Even though I have won once and placed in the top 5 a few times – The “Stalk” and “Pounce” the last mile seems to work the best for me. I think it is because one of my favorite workouts is the 6×5 minutes a Vo2 pace – The pounce is the familiar intense pain of the last 5 minute rep – If it comes to a 100-400 sprint to the finish – I show poorly.
December 11, 2007 at 5:44 pm #24404
Yes, the two strategies you mention are ones I employ fairly frequently. The problem I have is when the surge to make the pass doesn't break the other person. Then, it's on to other strategies I can employ from the front to ensure the race doesn't come down to that final 100-400 meters, where I'm a sitting duck, and that's when surging plays a role.
December 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm #24405
Hmmmmm, not that I understand your strategies – I just need to get into good enough shape to use this information to defeat you 🙂
Just kidding – Although I hope to meet you at a race some day.
December 15, 2007 at 5:30 pm #24406
Ryan, congrats. on a GREAT job in conditions that sounded like something out of a Stephen King story. Ski
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