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Holy Fast Running! Bell-Jeff Open Race Report

The Bellarmine-Jefferson Cross Country Invitational is a 40-year-old high school race in LA.  Its quite a thing, I gather (not growing up here, I don't know for sure, but it seemed like quite a thing).  Three years ago, the organizers decided to add an "open" division for older folks, alumni of the race, coaches, etc.  It is run about 5 minutes from my house, on trails I do several times a month.  Of COURSE I wanted to run this race.  Thankfully, it fell right on a racing day on my marathon training schedule. A local racer I knew said that only one or two semi-competitve women show up, so if I could run a sub 20 5k, I could get on the podium. (hint: he was WRONG). I was pretty psyched about the race. I also had a good laugh when I picked up my bib the day before:


 Because I am a middle school boy. 

 The course:  

5k, starting on a grassy uphil, then running up the Vermont Canyon trailhead (which is a crazy steep incline)

The start, with some of the speedsters running strides. 

The whole course was either up or down, very little flat.  This contributed to the horror of it.  

Pre race:

The open division race started at 7:15, and since it was so close to my house, I didn't have to get up until 6:15.  I had an apple and some coffee and went on my way.  I parked where they told me, which will come into play later.  I was still early, so I went to the starting line and ran some strides to warm up.  I knew the uphill start would be difficult, but there was  a turn about .25 miles out, and then it went downhill, so I figured I'd be good.  When other racers started warming up as well, I started to notice something:  These were only real runners.  There were only track clubs.  There was not a fun runner to be seen.  The big teams were there;  ARC Racing Project, Santa Monica Track Club, the women of Gritty City Track (one of whom recognized me and actually said "you should be running with us! - hello ego boost).  Lily Hernandez, local trail legend and winner of several races I've done, lined up and I knew I could kiss the podium goodbye.  This year, the race was serious business.  Sub 20 wasn't going to win shit.  

The race:

back behind the line, people, or they will make us do this over again. 

So the gun went off...and so did the runners.  Fast.  Holy shit.  Fast.  I sprinted up the hill with them, and it wasn't so bad, until the first turn.  My quad locked up harder than I have ever experienced.  I tried to stretch it out on the downhill, and it was ok.  Then of course another uphill came, and I was in pain.  I toughed it out, and made it to the first big incline.  At the first mile, I looked at my watch, and had run 7 minutes.  That would normally be a great time, considering a vicious quad cramp and all the hills.  However, i was at the back of the pack.  I was officially getting schooled. 

Women better at running than me, getting up the steepness

Thankfully, the next mile of the course was flat trail followed by a steep downhill to a road.  Of course, then it climbed back up a huge hill.

I gained a lot of ground on the downhill, but there was another problem here.  It hasn't rained in quite some time in LA.  There was a dust problem.  I think I inhaled half the trail.  My lungs were burning.  Once I  hit the hill up back to the trail, my quad and lungs were not having it.  I had to walk.  I had to WALK, during a 5k.  I was pissed pissed PISSED.  Eventually my anger got me running again (coincidentally at the top of the hill).  I ran down another hill to the starting area, got confused, took two wrong turns and had to have the course officials correct me on to the right path.  I limped along a slight incline but decided 'fuck it, there is like half a mile left' and gave it all I had to the finish.  I passed a girl who had overtaken me on the uphill I came in at 22:30-ish, which given the hills and the 2 minutes of walking, was not so bad.  I handed in my bib tag, and the guy put it on a ring and slid the '#2' tag next to it...could it be that I still placed in my age group?  

I downed two bottles of gatorade and wheezed with the group of people who had finished around me.  We all proceeded to cough up half of our lungs.  

Post Race:

I thought I may have placed in my AG, but they hadn't posted results yet, so I went to my car to change and get my phone.  Upon getting there, I discovered they had blocked us in completely, and wouldn't let us out until the entire race was over (it was 8am, the race didn't end until 12). I thought I still had to go to work, so I took some time to try to maneuver out of there.  While doing this, I missed the awards announcements.  Oh well.  

The good:

Held my own against some tough competition.  Overcame a cramp.  Soldiered on.

The bad;  

I have a long way to go before I am truly competetive in this area.

The annoying:

I have horrible quad DOMS today and am still coughing up dirt.  I will have to put off my long run until tonight or tomorrow.  

2 weeks until Chicago!!!

September Plan: Getting myself PR/race ready

I had a few too many glass of sangria while bbq-ing last night, so I spent my morning on the couch watching "Back to the Future", nibbling on leftover watermelon and sipping coffee.  A pretty good day off, actually. 

Now that I feel better, its time to outline my September plan.  My marathon is October 13th, so these are the last weeks of solid training before I taper.  If I can grind out these next three weeks, I will be golden.  The focus now is moving from building mileage and strength to more quality efforts.  My intervals get longer (5x1000m @5k pace, rather than 5x600m), my long runs include more goal pace miles (17 miles with 14 @goal pace this sunday).  Fewer, but more intense miles will be the name of the game.  I will have to manage my anxiety.

That being said, I have a few other changes to make this month.

I gave up tracking calories entirely in August.  I was running 50-60 miles a week, and tyring to shovel whatever food I could find into my face just to keep up my energy.  I need to tighten the nutrition up a bit.  Obviously I won't eat at a large defict, but I need to make sure I am getting enough protein, and not over-doing it on ice cream.  I will crack down harder the two weeks before the race, and do my normal carb de-load/re-load race week. 

Strength training:  I have been slacking on this a bit, but no more.  I am resolving to start every day with at least 2 minutes of planks (regular and each side), sets of squats, or lunges.  Its not much, and I don't dare lift heavy right now, but I need to keep up my glute strength.  

Three weeks.  Then taper. Three weeks to make the race feel easier. Not easy, easier. Time to train my brain to handle the pain, the pacing, the anxiety, and the patience of keeping a consistent effort up for more than 90 minutes. Let's do this thing.

Race Report: Santa Monica Summer Dash

Ok, so the review of the plan:

 1) Run a race Saturday, then a long run Sunday

2) Don't "go for it" - keep myself in marathon mode and run a steady pace.  This is not my 'A' race.  Be competitive, manage nerves, but no sprinting to the finish and killing yourself for a race that doesn't matter.

3) Pace of 7:15 - not as fast as tempo, not as slow as marathon

4) Don't poop self, as always. 

Wrinkles in the plan:

1) my shoes are old, yo.  Brooks Pure Cadence is a minimalist-type shoe that has no plastic on the sole.  Good for 300-350 miles.  These had seen 400 already, and I had been getting aches and pains because of it.


3) hip felt wonky while warming up.  I asked the race people if I could switch from the 15k to the 10k because of it.  No problem there. 


I woke up about 5:20.  I ate a slice of wheat toast with peanut butter and honey.  Had a cup of black coffee.  Drove to Santa Monica.  I was hoping for 60s and overcast, as it normally is this early at the beach.  I had no such luck.  It was 75 and the sun wasn't even up yet. Ugh.  I hate running in the heat.  I suck at it.  My body does not transfer heat well.  I met my friend Madeline who was running the 5k and we chatted and sipped water until it was time to line up.  The race was small but very well organized.

The course:

out and back route along the Santa Monica bike path, past the pier.  Gorgeous.  5k did one loop, 10k did two.  This set up is nice, because you can see how far people are ahead of you/behind you near the turn arounds.  

The race:

Took off quick, as I am wont to do.  I ran the first half mile too fast, and adjusted pace.  I was far ahead of every woman at the first turn, but stuck to my plan.  At the 5k mark, I was still the first woman.  I took the turn and didn't see anyone for a good half mile.  It was a struggle to stick to my plan with no one chasing me.  By the second lap, the sun was up and it was hot.  Very hot.  I was annoyed, but my pace didn't change.  It was actually an easy race.   I came across at the 10k mark, which my watch reading 42:49. That's faster than I wanted, but I also ran less than I planned, so whatever. There was a minute of confusion while I reminded the timer that I was no longer running the 15k.  Part of me just wanted to head out for the 3rd loop, but there was no need to be a hero.  I took my medal and my protein drink and went home. 


It sunk it on the way home that I won a race!  The results were posted later, and I not only won the women's side, but came in 2nd overall, beating all but one guy.  Its a good thing I didn't chase him, it would have blown my plan.  Pictures aren't up yet, but hopefully some will be there soon. 


as per the original plan, I ran my long run today.  17 miles.  It felt good, though hot and gross.  the first 3 miles were a struggle, and there was some walking (during which I found some cash laying on the ground with no one around for a mile- yay profit!).  After that my legs loosened up, and I got back to my normal long run pace.  I came home feeling salty, but good, with a few more (very sweat-logged) dollars.  


All in all, a good weekend.  I will now bbq my face off and have a few drinks. Next week's training include a track session and a steady-state long run, which will no doubt include many miles at my goal pace of 7:30.  


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