Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ridin', Runnin', and Marathonin'

So the blogging slacking is finally coming to an end.

After TRT, I took it easy for a week. In that week, I noticed something in my gear room, kinda in the back. Mostly blue with some yellow thrown in, two wheels, a seat, handle, I have seen many of those things before, in a past life. Curious, I wandered back to it, dusted it off, and voila, a bicycle appeared! My cool Schwinn Paramount road bike. Sleek titanium frame, flawless Ultegra groupo, hot Spynergy Spox wheels...yessirree, she's a looker. I reminisced back to when I bought her 8 years ago. We did lots of riding together for a few years. Then something happened when I moved to Sisters. We didn't officially break-up, but definitely saw less and less of each other. I had a new passion, called ultrarunning. In fact, until the week after TRT, Paramount and I hadn't seen each other for 4 years!

So I put her in the front of my gear room, dusted her off, pumped up her rubber, found my super-old helmet and some dusty bike clothes. Then we went outside and rode. It was sweet! In the almost 4 weeks since that ride, we've been seeing quite a bit of each other. Like 3-5 times per week. I've been driving half way to work, then biking the rest. That's fun. And my butt is getting back into the groove of riding, too. On Thursday, I felt I should start bridging the gap between bike commuter and cyclist. So we rode 40 miles that day. Yes, it was fun, despite the little hip flexor / groin pain.

So I'm hoping to keep this cycling thing up for quite some time. I had forgotten how fun riding a road bike is. It's making me a stronger runner. My calves aren't quite as puny. Last week, I even thought about maybe signing up for a biathlon (as they were called in the late 80s and early 90s). But regardless of how much riding I do, unlike Hart and Nessski, I'm not shaving my legs.

After that post-TRT easy week, I got back into the groove of training again pretty easily. I've been doing some PBRs (Pilot Butte Repeats), track work (in the cool new Nike Lunaracer), and getting up in the mountains! I'm having a blast running. I feel fit.

Last weekend, I ran a marathon. Well, two actually. But it was supposed to just be one. Crater Lake Marathon was supposed to be the one. This is a seriously hard marathon. With about 2,300' of climbing and 3,500' of descent, looooong hills both up and down, high altitude between 6,000 - 8,000', and a brutal 500' dirt road climb from 22.8 to 24.3, I'm going to put it out there and say it's the toughest road marathon in the country. I would love to hear of a tougher one!

Anyway, so I went to Crater with a goal of running sub-3. Not many people do this, so I knew it would be hard. But this kind of marathon plays to my strength of running well on long, sustained climbs (up to 5 miles). I started easy with Jenn for the first few miles to warm up and to let the pack string out. Then miles 4 and 5 were downhill and both were sub-6. I was warmed up and feeling good!

I started reeling in many ambitious folks who started out a tad fast. At 9.5, I knew I had a lot of climbing ahead of me in the next 5 miles. So I used this to my advantage and went to work picking off more runners. At mile 11, as I was breathing heavy, I passed Todd Ragsdale, one of those RVR boys. Todd has a good history at Crater, winning in 2006 and 2nd last year. He let me know that I was now in 2nd. I had no idea who was ahead or how far up he was. I just kept plugging along.

Miles 13.5 to 15.5 are an out-and-back, so it was here that I saw Chuck Engle crushing me and everyone else. He probably had 5 minutes on me here. Then soon enough, I saw Brendan Lunday and Todd less than a minute behind me. At the turn at 14.5, we then pointed our feet downhill for 8 miles and almost 2000' vertical of descent. I wanted to run these miles hard. My recent big mileage let me average almost 6-flat for most of the way; however, my lack of recent speed training kept me from going faster. Just before the road bottomed out, I heard footsteps. Apparently Todd has been doing some speed workl. He went by hard and he looked strong. I was impressed.

A 1/2 mile later, when the road pointed up again, Todd came back fast, so I attacked hard to try to drop him. I ran hard up the dirt road all the way to the turn around. As much as I was trying to run away from Todd, I was also curious to see how far ahead Chuck was. When I got to the turn and still didn't see him, I was a bit confused. Was he in the bushes? Laying down in the volunteer's vehicle at the turn? Was I leading? Regardless, I still had 2 miles to get back to the finish. So I just leaned forward into the hill and let my legs fly. I finished up with a couple of 5:45s and the first to cross the finish.

I was stoked with my effort that produced a 2:55:47, but puzzled by the win. Apparently, Chuck didn't make the turn around at 24.3. The volunteers said they yelled to him; Chuck said nobody said anything. Regardless, it's too bad and I'm sorry it happened. Yes, I wanted to win, but not by default. Here are a couple of articles regarding the race.

Anyway, at only 11 min. of my p.r., and 7 min. off Boston, Crater Lake Marathon was easily my best-ever marathon. I went out smart, warmed up, took advantage of my strengths on the course, and hammered when I need to. I never had a low spot. It was sweet. And, it continues my streak of having a good race after a dnf. Not that I enjoy testing that theory, but it's never let me down.

On the drive home after Crater, I was feeling good and a little peppy. So when I got to Bend, I stopped at packet pick-up for the Haulin' Aspen Trail Marathon to see if I could get in. I could and I did. I knew I wouldn't be able to put out the same effort I did at Crater, nor would I run the time I ran at Haulin' last year, but in addition to being a fun, tough double, I figured it would be great training for TransRockies.

I actually felt pretty good while warming up. At the start, I let the usual pack go by me and was happy to be leading a train through 3 miles. Then the trail started going uphill a bit and the train fell apart. Eventually I was running with just one other person, ultrarunner Drew Breyenton from Corvallis. We worked well together, then he stopped at an a.s. while I kept going on up.

Whenever I tried to go faster up the long climb, my legs said no. So I just grinded my way up, slowing gaining ground on a 1/2 dozen people up the dirt road. Finally I hit mile 14 in 1:57 (6 min. slower than last year), which was the start of the 12 miles of single track mostly downhill. I tried to just let my legs float down the hill, and mostly did, but I just couldn't get good turnover. Obviously I knew why and I was okay with that. So I just ran on down, occasionally passing someone, and getting passed by Drew, on my way to the finish. I thought I had a shot at sub-3:20, but was happy with my 3:22:13. A nice, solid effort on a good course. As soon as I stopped, my legs seized up then starting quivering. It was fun.

I believe I broke the unofficial record the the Crater Lake / Haulin' Aspen double. As far as I can see, Todd had the record from last year: 3:03:03 + 3:15:44 = 6:18:48. My Crater was able to hold off his hard-charging Haulin': 2:55:47 + 3:22:13 = 6:18:00. Come on, Todd. The gauntlet has been thrown. Come get it!


Anonymous said...

lake tahoe marathon....elevation, long hills, probably comparable to crater

Matt Hart said...

dood - bad ass. congrats man. recover well.. we have transrockies to rock.

Rod Bien said...

an impressive duo to be sure. I'm pushing for you to make the 100k team next year. You sure have the leg speed for it.


saschasdad said...

I've run the Tahoe Marathon 5 times via the Tahoe Triple, and another 2 times during the 72. Challenging - definitely. But Crater is much harder.

I am so ready for next week! We're gonna rock TR!

Sounds good to me. Now I need to find a good qualifier race.

William Swint said...

Sean,you're bad ass dude!

kendra ralstin said...

Wow! Speedee! Way to keep bouncing back and having fun in life. As a bonafide blog slacker, it's nice to know there's a place I can always go to smile and borrow some feelings of satisfaction. So, does Sascha get to come along on the TransRockies?

Brad Mitchell said...

Hey Sean, Sounds as though you're getting back to things quite well. I too rediscovered my road bike this summer and I'm pretty sure it will play a larger role in my 09 training plan.
On another note - Great to see you at Waldo especially the aids you were moving to. Your words of encouragement, advice, and all around help were greatly appreciated. THANKS!
Good luck with the remainder of your season - stay healthy.

Matt said...

Good to see you at Waldo. Good to see you've been running FAST! Have a blast at Trans-rockies. I can't think of a more fun way to spend a week or so.

Scott Dunlap said...

Nice work, Sean! Best of luck at TransRockies. Should be a great time.