Friday, October 26, 2012

Rock n Roll St. Louis

Brooks ID program sent a notice early in the year letting us members know that they had "x" number of comped entries to the various Rock n Roll Marathon races around the country.  It was a first come first get scenario, and I didn't jump quick enough to get my first couple of choices but on the third try got the go ahead for St. Louis.  The date worked well as it was a few weeks after the Bourbon Chase and it was a Sunday so was feasible during the height of XC season.  So, directly following a Saturday morning XC meet, it was off to the Gateway to the West.

The goal was pretty simple - PR.  My best of 2:44:59 (sounds better than 2:45) was an eight minute improvement achieved in April on a fairly challenging Derby Festival Marathon course in Louisville.  Looking at past results and hearing the horror stories of how hilly this St. Louis course was had me thinking it would be a tough day that might yield a top ten result if I was lucky.   

Coming off the line with the 1/2 marathoners is always tricky business in terms of keeping yourself in check, but I stayed well under my threshold and, despite a tight hip/hamstring combo, the miles ticked off pretty easily.  I was feeling strong fitness wise and made the turn at the 1/2 mark in the 1:21 range, and was curious to hear for the first time what position I was in now that we had left the halfers.  I saw my girlfriend right where she was supposed to be she said "you're fourth!"

Fourth?  I double-checked my watch to make sure I hadn't gone out stupid fast.  Nope.  Right where I should be, but I knew more hills were coming and just kept my focus up the road ahead and on running efficiency.  Probably over-compensating for the leg tightness, I was drinking at every aid station and eating lots.  It was working.  My energy levels were high, and I was getting used to the fact that I had a personal bike escort showing me the way.   Then, running through Forest Park, I saw a strong looking guy coming the other way on a two-way section of course.  A minute later, I was rounding a 180.  That meant the guy I just say was right in front of me.  Could this be happening?  A shot at third place?  Finally we exited Forest Park, my bike guy told me that it was a straight shot back.  I looked up the wide rolling highway and saw the third place guy and his bike escort.   Maybe needing some conversation, I told my bike guy "it's a hard place to be - just wanna make it all up at once."  To which he replied, "man, you look better than he does - just keep doing what you're doing."  I took his advice.

With about 5k to go I pulled even with my target then rolled away.  My bike guy went with me and his stayed with him.  It was a little surreal.  Was I really running 3rd in a huge city marathon being escorted by a medical bike?  The legs were really really tight, but my head felt good so I just concentrated on not blowing up.  A couple twists and turns downtown and I was looking at the shoot.  One more look over my shoulder and a glance at my watch.  2:43!

Shortly after crossing the line, a lady with the promotions company Competitor Group handed me an envelope and told me to make my way to the VIP tent.  Was this happening?  There were umpteen thousand people on the street and we were headed to the VIP tent?  Sure enough, catered food, private porta-potties, a clean up station and chairs - crazy!  A quick interview with the MC, then it was off to the main stage for the awards presentation.  On stage I was handed my award by Frank Shorter.  This was just too surreal.  I woke up that morning thinking a PR would be nice - then there I stood holding a boquet, in front of thousands of onlookers, and next to Frank Shorter.  Not as prepared as my fellow podium placers, I didn't even have a Brooks shirt with me.  While I was prepared to go out and battle, I wasn't ready to be wishing I had my Brooks podium shirt.   I'm not an elite runner by any stretch, but some days it's kind of nice to feel like one - if even an unprepared one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Bourbon Chase

The Speakeasies.  Four for four. 

The Bourbon Chase (sponsored by Brooks) is an overnight relay event that sees teams of 12 runners (6 runners per two vans) leapfrogging one another from just outside of Bardstown KY all the way to Lexington following the backroads of Kentucky's historic Bourbon Trail.  Each person races three segments each for a total of 36.  Following a year of doing battle with the Speakeasies,  Haulin' Oats (my team from last year) joined forces with them for this year's edition of the Chase.  This is my fourth year running it, and it's the fourth year that the Speakeasies have won.  The Bourbon Chase is hands down the most fun and challenging race that I do all year.  These eleven guys and the two drivers are amazing.  It was tight for the first rotation of 12 runners with runner-up team Runnin' a Still, but late in the night, experience took over and the gaps grew at most every checkpoint (well, not following my legs - their guy that I had to race against as the #6 hammered me every time - he blew my doors off going to Maker's Mark and brought back at least two minutes every other leg - OUCH).   See leg maps and comments below.  While not quite as fast as I hoped to be, my contributions were strong times, consistency and a wealth of know-how from having raced this course three times prior (I've been a leg  2, 7, 1, and now 6).  For anyone that hasn't had the opportunity to run a relay event, it's a blast.  Don't judge by my frowny mutt chops in the picture - I was just too tired to smile.  

 Leg 6 started with me getting the baton (slap bracelet) about 30 seconds in front of the #6 man from Running a Still.  I went out way to hard trying to hold him off, and when he shouldered up to me, he calmly said hello and good job and then motored by.  I went with him for a couple of miles then completely imploded.  So much for consistency and know how, huh?  I knew enough to simply let his little blinky light vanish into the night and concentrate on getting myself back together.  I just tried to limit the damage and got myself to Maker's Mark without incident.
Leg 18 was much less exciting in terms of topography and competition.  It was a straight shot all the way into Danville and I had a few minute cushion on my new nemesis.  Running my own pace, it was back to what felt more familiar in the Bourbon Chase - picking off runners and in control.  5:50's felt better.  After a very short cool down, I found my guy jogging around.  He had been running 5:20's.
The final segment for me was the net vertical loss of 6.4 miles into Woodford Reserve Distillery.  At this point we had built a pretty sizable lead on the next closest team and I enjoyed picking off about 30 - 40 "road kills"  (the slowest seeded teams start first thing Friday morning and the fastest start about eleven hours later so the faster runners are catching people all the time, hence the name road kills).  I felt strong and enjoyed the rowdy crowds of Woodford.  By that point in the event, people are getting pretty loopy and it's a really gorgeous place to drop in to.

By early Saturday afternoon we were safely in Lexington and in less than 20 hours (with a mile wrong turn!).  The Speakeasies rocked it, and I was honored to be a part of it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1/4 Marathon?

Never heard of one?  Me either until I ran the Big Hit 1/2 last year, which was a few weeks after the Bourbon Chase (BC) and where I set my most competitive PR a 1:15:15 (5:45 for 13.1 miles).  But, this year the Big Hit was a week prior to the Chase. So, as the BC was my primary focus for the fall, I decided to only race the 1/4 and just make it a pace training day for the BC.  Since I wanted to be able to run well under 6 minute pace for the enitre relay a week later, I went out at about 5:45 in the 1/4 marathon (6.55 miles).  Within a few minutes I was pretty much alone at the front.  This is a really nice event that just hasn't gotten very big in its first two years.  In fact, last year 1:15 was third, and this year it would have won handily.  It's a terrific venue, big promotions company, and they give away sweet custom Louisville Slugger bats, but it just hasn't gotten really competitive.  Which was fine with me, since I was using my free entry to get a good training day in, not race shoulder to shoulder burrying myself a week before the BC.  In the course of the race, I ran past the police lead-out twice and got to the stadium before the organizers had even set up the cones to tell you to turn in to the center field gate (luckily my friend Tom Nielsen is the head grounds keeper at Slugger Field and I knew where I was going).  If you look at the start of the video, you'll see the guys scurrying across the bottom of the frame looking for the microphone to announce my arrival. 

It IS a really well done event.  And, the 1/2 is a blazing fast course (even faster this year than last) and how many of you have a 1/4 marathon PR? 

Check out the Brooks gear in the video:  Distance Singlet, Infiniti III Shorts, and T7 Racer shoes.