Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pass Mountain 12K

Pass Mountain Trail Runs
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Mesa, Arizona
Mileage 7.5
Time - 45:41
AEG - 320ft
Place - 1st Overall

The second event in the Desert Trail Runner Series was held today at Usery Park on a mild, cloudy morning in Northeast Mesa, Arizona.  Conditions were ideal for a fast race.  I chose the 12K for a couple reasons.  First, it coincides with my Saturday speed training. Second, the course had a healthy portion of smooth, flat surfaces to run with some pretty neat scenery too.  Last, yet most importantly, Aravaipa Running always puts on a great race without any hangups.  You can count on a well organized event with an accurately marked course and top notch aid stations.  The post-race food hits the spot and finisher prizes and awards are truly unique. 

At 8:30am it was go time.  After a few hundred yards of road we hit the trail blazing.  Seriously, the front pack was running 5:30-5:45 pace and I sat somewhere between 4th and 6th place during the first two miles.  I wasn't concerned about the pace though, being mostly downhill on such an easy surface made it tolerable.  Blevens and Moon Rock trails were gone before I knew it and I noticed the front-runner slowing down around mile 2.  I made my move to the front. I didn't want to take the lead so early, which would mean pushing the pace and tackling a headwind for the next two miles on the Levee trail.  That seemed to be the only way I was going to reach my goal pace of 6:00/miles, so I let it rip!

I could hear footsteps behind me until we collided with the 26K runners on the Cat Peaks Loop. Then it was unclear who sat on my heels.  Cat Peaks Pass really slowed us down, although, after the climb my heart rate dropped and I caught a second wind.  I felt good and continued to hammer the trail when it became less technical.  I began to realize I could take the win if I just ran hard to the finish.  After blowing past the final aid station I put down a sub 6-minute mile all the way to the end.  Turns out, I beat the previous course record by over two and a half minutes!   

Thanks again to Aravaipa Running for another great trail race, and to all the volunteers out there!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Black Canyon Trail Run

Black Canyon Trail - Trail Run #1
Spring Valley to Crown King Rd
Mileage - 19.2
Time - 2:39
AEG - 753ft

Aravaipa Running Company is holding a point to point 100K endurance race on the Black Canyon Trail next February, and today they organized the first of three training runs to preview the course.  Jamil arranged a large group shuttle from the trailhead off of Crown King Road to the high school parking lot in Spring Valley where we would begin.  An eager pack of 30 ultra runners took off through the small town just after 8:00am to reach the start of the trail.  Many familiar faces in the crowd, including a few good friends of mine including Honey, Liz, Karen, Bret, and both Debs. 

The first section is relatively flat, smooth and easy to run.  At 4,000ft, the landscape resembles mostly high desert with incredible views of the Bradshaw Mountains to the West.  Daniel, Jamil, Stephen, Andrew and I hung together and chatted for the majority of those 19 miles. Being on the BCT reminded me once again why I love running in the mountains so much.  Then came the descent down Antelope Canyon, undoubtedly the most exciting part of the course to run!  The steady downhill had us moving fast while the hairpin turns and sheer drop offs kept us on our toes.  What a blast!  Before we knew it, the aid station at mile 12 was right in front of us.  It was the perfect time to rest the legs, especially those quads.  Bret caught up (as he always does) and joined in until the finish. 

The next, and final seven miles were all singletrack with only a few minor hills to climb.  It was pretty easy going on the aerobic system, but muscular fatigue is bound to tax the legs due to all the turns and undulation.  The race will be oddly challenging given that the easiest part of the course is in the beginning allowing for a faster pace that may become costly in the later miles when the real climbing begins.  My best advice to those racing in February, go out easy and save your strength for the later half. 

A big thanks to Jamil, Michelle, Becky and Sabrina for helping out with the shuttles and aid station!  Everyone had a great time out there on Sunday.

Stephen, Jamil, Daniel and Andrew around mile 5.

Daniel, Stephen and I tearing up a nice downhill section.

One of many twists and turns on the rollercoaster ride down Antelope Canyon

Photos by Jamil Coury

Monday, November 4, 2013

Phoenix 10K - 2013

38th Annual 3TV Phoenix 10K
Downtown Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage - 6.26
Time - 34:43
AEG - 10ft
Pace - 5:36
Place - 14th Overall

Exactly one year ago I ran this race coming off of injury and today I was looking to better my previous performance with a specific time in mind.  Following the Santa Rosa Marathon in August, I shifted gears and began an 8-week 10K training program hoping to land a personal best of thirty-three minutes.  As you can see, that didn't happen.  Here's how things played out.

The gun went off abruptly, and the stacked field launched forward in a sprint.  I was caught off guard a little and followed suit around the first turn.  A quick glance at my watch and we were running sub 5-minute pace.  I backed off and tried to settle in, though that first mile was fast and I felt it.  The next two went well as I inched my way forward to pass a couple guys and then a pack of four.  It seemed as though we were never going to reach the turnaround point and I became concerned about the second half.  After the break, those four guys got the better of me by mile 4 and I fell back.  My breathing was labored, chest felt tight, and began to experience a side stitch.  I fought to maintain pace and managed to finish strong without losing position. 

I can make up a bunch of excuses (late start, too hot, allergies, etc.), the real issue began in the first mile.  Too fast, too soon.  Once you get anaerobic and enter oxygen debt early in the race, the result is almost always the same: slower mile splits.  Besides, I dealt with most of those same issues last year, and I was out of shape!  It was somewhat of a relief to get this one over with and move onto marathon training.