Saturday, March 1, 2014

Racing Again!

You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, the dude races all the time!  What does the dude mean 'Racing Again?'"  Yes....I am calling myself "the dude" like Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski
I love that movie and I love to go bowling every Sunday with my kids. 

Anyway, I race often as some would say.  Not as often as Kelly Agnew...he is a machine, but often enough.  However, my idea of racing over the past few years have been 50K-100 mile racing.  These races or runs don't really get the heart beating over 120bpm.  Of course, I wouldn't know exactly since I've never worn a heart rate monitor.  I've been doing pretty decent at these longer events, having grabbed 2 USATF National Championships in my last 2 attempts.  Granted, they weren't the overall National Championship, and I did get chicked in both events, but I will chalk that up to being being  The 2 events I am talking about are the 2013 Tussey Mountainback 50 Miler and the 2014 Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler.

My coach, Todd Braje (former US champ at 100 and 50 mile events), has me training hard each week for these races.  Typically, the week will likely include a track/interval session and a tempo or marathon pace run.  Depending on my future schedule, the workouts might take place on a hillier course (e.g. my Western States training) or on flatter courses (e.g. Rocky Raccoon training).

At the moment, Todd has me focusing on the flatter faster stuff, as my race schedule dictates with the New Jersey Ultra Festival 50K in 3 weeks (maybe), 3 Days at the Fair 24hr in May, Vermont 100 in July, and North Coast 24hr National Champs in Sept.  All of these races are relatively flat, with exception of Vermont which has rolling hills totaling about 15K ft of climbing, but of the untechnical kind, so it will require leg speed.  Needless to say, I would like to grab some of that speed from my early to mid-30's and pump it back in my legs.

That brings me to "Racing Again".  Last night I made the decision to forgo running the Horseshoe Trail Elevation Fest, hosted by Stephan Weiss of Uberendurance Sports, and run the Quakertown Rotary Run for Kids 10 Miler!  10 MILES ONLY!!!!  That is my shortest distance race since the 2012 Downingtown Turkey Trot where I ran 17:19 or something.  A very hurting 17:19.

I've raced 15K-10 miles a few times in my life, so this distance is nothing new.  In fact, I have a PR of 54min+ that I set at the Broad Street Run back in 2006 or something.  Here are my times.  I also ran in 2005 and finished in 55 and change, but that isn't listed here.
200710 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerSpring City, PAM0:56:130:56:1290

200610 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerSpring City, PAM0:54:460:54:4357

200010 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerLambertville, NJM0:59:270:59:215149
199910 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerLambertville, NJM0:56:460:56:425554
199810 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerYardley, PAM1:00:49

199710 Mile RaceJoshua N FingerLansdale, PAM1:06:48


But, I haven't raced this distance since 2007, so going "fast" for a longer period of time was going to be a challenge.

The race started promptly at 9AM with Ron Horn of Pretzel City Sports getting us started.  A group of 5 of us immediately split from the pack in the first mile, one of which was running the 4-miler.  We cruised through the first mile in 5:59.  A very moderate pace which served as a warm-up mile for the eventual winner, some guy with a 2009 Atlantic Division Championship shirt, my guess a Villanova guy....are they in the Atlantic Division?  He destroyed the field, running a course-record in 54:17 or something.  That is on a hilly course folks!  I settled into a rather tempo-ish pace with another guy from Allentown pumping out the next couple miles (some hills in there) in 6:16 and 6:10.  I broke away from him on a long downhill in during mile 3.  Mile 4 (6:27) included a longish climb and I could hear the constant stone under foot of my pursuer.  Over the next few miles, I kept pressing to try and break him, but he stayed consistently 100 ft behind.  I could hear him catching me on the climbs, but the descents I was moving swifter.  Mile 5 was still "slow" in 6:23, but I was able to pick the pace up on the next mile which was somewhat flatter to 6:14 and even faster still for mile 7 in 6:05.  It's the last few miles where the race is won or lost, at least the race for the podium.  I kept trying to push the flats and survive the up's.  Mile 8 continued with a 6:05 and was followed by the quickest mile of the day in 5:52.  This included a nice 11% grade (downhill) where I was able to relax and stretch the legs out.  With a mile to go, I kept trying to push the pace, but could still feel him on my tail.  With 1/2 mile to go, I made a right hand turn and he was still 100 ft back.  As I pushed, I stayed attentive for footsteps in my rears, but didn't hear anything.  The last little climb threw me for a shock, but I was able to hold my pursuer off  and finish with a 6:02 final mile and the masters win in 1:01:35 (3rd overall).  4th place was only a measly 10 seconds back.

I was pretty happy for this race.  Having not done much in the way of speed training, or running for that matter, since Rocky Raccoon 4 weeks earlier.  I never really felt like I was running hard like I used to be able to do, but was running hard enough to feel the effort.  Getting into that fast racing mindset is going to take some getting used to, as I try to use some shorter races in the early spring to get my "forever" pace faster for those all day racing events and the Vermont 100. 

I'm not shy to put out there that I want to make the US 24hr team for 2015.  This is going to take some major effort, not so much physically-wise, but more so mentally-wise.  The competition is going to be stiff for the team, as Jon Olsen, Jon Denis, Joe Fejes, Zach Bitter, and many others will vie for those 6 spots.  I know I am up for the task.

Thanks to my sponsors for my support.  As a Hoka One One ambassador, Don Morrison and the Chester County Running Store in Pottstown, PA keep my feet comfy all day long.  As a Vitargo S2 athlete, Genr8 Endurace keeps me fueled for the long haul.  GET SOME!!!