Sunday, January 18, 2009

Redding Marathon

Casually pondering the decision to run the Redding Marathon for a few weeks, but committing only the morning before the race, I made the easy drive down on Saturday afternoon after work for a couple of reasons: to get out of central Oregon's 25 degrees and freezing fog, and to test my current fitness. Sure, I just ran a 1/2 marathon p.r. last weekend, but that's a short race. I wanted to see where I'm at for longer stuff, and if I had a good race only a week after the 1/2, then I know I'm fit.

Cruising down to mile 15

The website's description of the race is very inticing. It is very thorough, has great pictures, and explained really well the variety of terrain. There were paved roads, steep downs, flat gravel trails, rolly dirt roads, flat bike paths, and rolly bike paths. I love a course with good variety, and the Redding Marathon has lots of variety.

I knew Hal had won the marathon the last 2 years in 2:45 and 2:35, and Ian got second last year in 2:49. Although the course was a bit harder this year (according to many vets), and a bit long (anywhere from 1/4 mile to 1/3 mile, depending on who's Garmin you believe), Hal's and Ian's times helped me set a good, solid goal of 2:45-2:49. I felt if I could comfortably run somewhere in that range without ever going all out, then I'm fit. Also, since Hal and Ian weren't going this year, nor was 2005 champ Neil Olsen from Central Point, OR, I knew I had to represent Oregon well.

At the gun, the pack took off flying down the first mile and a half to the dam. I held myself back and still ran a 5:56 first mile - my fastest opening mile ever in a marathon. I was probably in 12th place. As the road flattened crossing the dam, I passed a few people, but on the other side, the trail turned down hard again, and people started flying again. Except me...I held back, although I still passed 3 in 18:15. When the trail flattened just past 4, I was in 15th place and again started reeling in people. I didn't speed up, they just slowed down. I passed mile 5 in 30:55, and by 7 (43:45), I was in 7th place and feeling good. I even whooped it up with an early starter through a really cool tunnel.

Around 9 (56:31), I passed 2 more guys and could see a string of 3 down the trail in the distance. This continued to give me motivation and as I flew by the first one around 10, I asked who ahead were marathoners and relay runners. He said the 2 right ahead were marathoners, and another guy was way up, but he was a relay runner. Approaching mile 11, the first relay exchange, I could hear a big crowd cheering crazy. That motivated me to fly by the next marathoner, JC Callans, right at mile 11 (1:08:52). I chatted with JC for a few seconds about him starting out so fast. He wasn't wearing a watch, so he didn't know any better.

The next guy up the trail kept looking back and would surge whenever I kinda got close. I could tell he was running a little scared. I caught up to him just before 12 and just to verify my place, I asked him what place he was in. He said first. Well, technically, I was a couple strides ahead at that point, so I said, "no, I'm in first". He conceded the point.

Miles 11 to 16 were pretty fun because they were the biggest up hills of the race, with sustained ups and downs and some great rollers. I passed 13.1 in 1:22:25, slightly ahead of my planned pace, but feeling great. Mile 14 was a nice uphill grinder then 15 was a fast downhill, which I cruised past in 1:34:44.

I was now on the Sacramento River Trail paved bike path for the rest of the race and in direct sunlight, starting to get a bit warm. But shortly, the trail weaved in and out of shade, providing welcome coolness and some unwelcome icy parts. I continued running comfortably, going by 17 in 1:47:03 and 19 in 1:59:36. Around 20, the course gets pretty windy and goes up a couple of short, but steep, hills. These kinda hurt and definitely slowed me a bit, as my 22 mile split in 2:18:51 shows. My super-secret big goal of sub-2:45 now seemed out of reach.

I did get a little boost at 22 by passing the first relay runner, now putting me in the overall lead. I ran past 24 in 2:31:26 and although I probably could have killed myself to go sub-2:45, that wasn't the goal for the day, so I just continued on at my steady pace. As I approached the spectacular Sundial Bridge (which I lamely did not check-out after the race), I started to get excited. I just had to cross it and finish...but wait! They threw a cruel trick our way and made us do about a kilometer an out and back before crossing the bridge. I wasn't psyched about this. Anyway, I eventually ran past 26 in 2:44:30 and pushed hard to the finish to go sub-2:46. I was super happy to finish in 2:45:42 for the win. It was a beautiful day, with spectacular views, on a great course, with excellent volunteers. And the weather was perfect; mid-40s to mid-60s during the run and mid-70s for the post-race in the park. It was so nice to hang out in shorts, short sleeves, and flip flops. Thanks SWEAT Running Club!

As the course currently is, although it's net-downhill, it's definitely not a fast course, but it is a course that keeps you honest by rewarding you later on if you don't kill yourself the first 4 miles. That's what makes it fun. I would love to run it in the reverse direction, finishing with a killer 4 mile climb. That would be awesome!

Full results.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Suggestion to the Western States Board of Trustees

To everyone who runs Western States, or has even tried to get in to Western States, we all know this is a statistically difficult process. The WS lottery isn't quite as difficult as winning the Power Ball lottery, but at a 16% chance of getting in via the lottery in 2008, it is pretty difficult. The WS board knows this.

Other ways to get to the starting line in Squaw Valley (which, if held in Sisters, would be called Wychus Valley, as the creek formerly known as Squaw Creek is now Wychus Creek) are finishing top-10 female or male the year before, finishing top-3 female or male at one of six Montrail Ultracup qualifying races (White River 50m, Mt. Masochist 50m, JFK 50m, Way Too Cool 50k, American River 50m, and Miwok 100k), and special consideration.

Top-10 getting automatic entry next year - totally cool. Up to 36 other top runners getting in via the 6 qualifiers - also cool, as it makes an always competitive race even more competitive. This is good.

As for the special consideration option, I'm definitely all for this. I think it's a great way for other runners "whose contributions to the organization of the event have been unusual and substantial" to receive a starting bib. The board says "No special consideration will be given to athletes that would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race. Competitive athletes that feel they would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race have the opportunity to gain entry into WS via the Montrail Ultra Cup Series".

Okay, so last year, Scott Jurek really wanted in Western States. You know Scott, the guy who has started WS 7 times, won WS each of said 7 times, and holds the course record. Yes, that Scott. Well, last spring he came up 4 seconds short of qualifying at Way Too Cool and 4:15 short of qualifying at Miwok. Yep, that sucks. And as the WS special consideration qualifying rules are written, Scott shouldn't have received an entry into last year's race. And although he petitioned to the board to be allowed in the game, he didn't get in.

That sucks.

I mean really...the guy was basically the poster child for Western States from 1999 - 2005. Not only did he win by a convincing 44 minutes average margin each of those 7 years, but he was (and is) a great ambassador for Western States. Scott's closest margin of victory came in his last appearance...only 21 minutes seperated him from AJW. Scott's toughest victory arguably came against Dave Mackey in 2004, when Dave and Scott were basically neck-and-neck from Squaw to Foresthill. Scott put the hammer down on Cal Street and went on to the break the course record. Obviously Dave played a big role in helping Scott break the record, and Scott readily acknowledges this - he even thanked Dave at the award's ceremony.

Anyway, Scott likes to race against the best. After a couple years hiatus from Western States, he knew the best field ever assembled was going to be in Squaw in June, 2008, and he wanted to be toeing the line with that field. He was willing to put up his unblemished record against the best so he could race against the best.

Cool. Very cool.

But for some reason, the Board didn't think granting Scott special consideration was a good idea. As I don't know the real reason why, I can only guess on this, so I won't. But I will say it was lame.

Hey Western States Board of Trustees: when Scott Jurek wants in Western States, let him in! He has obviously done a lot to promote the race in many, many, many ways. It just makes sense to let him in. Same goes for Ann. If she ever decides to run WS again, let her in.

As most WS followers know, Scott was granted entry into this year's race. So, obviously the Board figured out the error of their ways...too bad it took a year. Since the race didn't happen last year, Scott not being in it obviously didn't do anything to the outcome. But nobody knew the race was going to be cancelled until race week. The point being, he shouldn't have had to wait a year. And hopefully he won't again.

I'm looking forward to toeing the line with Scott in Squaw Valley on June 27.

*This post is the first in a series of five Western States 100 synchroblogs leading up to the 2009 race. For this first one, the following four bloggers have agreed to write a post making a plea or request directly to the Western States Board of Directors. See what they have to say to the board:
* AJW writes a letter to the WS board suggesting ten course changes.
* Bryon Powell pleas for transparency and accountability.
* Craig Thornley urges the board to reconsider mandatory volunteerism.
* Scott Dunlap asks John Trent what the Western States Board of Trustees is and what they do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another p.r.!

Yesterday I ran the very flat and fast Cascade 1/2 Marathon in the bustling metropolis of Turner, OR. Okay, not so bustling, but on Cascade 1/2 Marathon day, it is definitely taken over by runners - about 600 people gather to run either the 1/2, 10k, or 2 mile. I mean, it is Oregon's only 1/2 marathon in January (seriously, that's what the website says).

Anyway, this was my 5th road race since the Bigfoot 10k in Bend in late-September. Out of those 5 road races, I p.r.ed in 4 of them. One was intentional; the other 3 weren't. This was one of the other 3.

After CIM five weeks ago, I didn't run for a week, the next week was 40ish, then Christmas Camp and its 102 miles, another 100 mile week (only because the BadAss was in this week), then last week was 70ish. I guess I did a tiny bit of speed work, but only the few times I ran on a treadmill. Anyway, I guess that, plus my residual fitness from CIM (which I was sure I had lost by now), plus a couple 100 mile weeks, got me back into shape.

I had a nice, long, 4-mile warmup (in anticipation of a 3 mile cool down, to get 20 for the day), so I felt in control when I cruised by the first mile in 5:43 - a little surprised, but good. I stayed very steady all day, eventually hitting 5 in 29:06, and the turn around (6.55 miles) in 37:58. Going out we had a tail-to-side wind. So, that meant going back, it was a head-to-side wind. Kinda sucky conditions, but I felt great, so kept up my tempo.

I was definitely working harder going back into the wind, but I ran the exact same pace. Usually I like to negative split, but I was happy with how I was doing. I hit 10 miles right around 58-flat. At that point, I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-1:16. So I pushed hard for a mile, eased off for a mile, then planned to go hard the last mile directly into the wind. I was pretty beat when I reached 12.1 in 1:10:15 and knew a solo 5:45 last mile was going to be tough.

Suddenly, two dudes caught me from out of nowhere, and normally I would hate that at this point in a race, but today I was stoked. I tucked in right behind them and they pulled me along the next 3/4 of a mile. The last 1/4, they sprinted each other and I didn't have anything to give chase. So I pushed on solo, happily finishing in 1:15:57, good for 9th place, and my new 1/2 marathon p.r. That gave me a 5:48 pace, and 2nd 1/2 of 37:59. Pretty much perfectly even splits. I was happy!

Good lookin',' couple!

Other notable runs in Turner:
Gina 2:01:02 p.r.
William 1:20:55 p.r. (I think)
Luvin 1:18:23 p.r. (I think) - and he ran in the coolest shirt ever! I won't go into too much detail, but if you like Ligers, then you would LOVE his shirt! Plus, Mike even won his age group!
Ian Nurse 1:11:07, race winner. He just moved to Portland from Boston. In addition to being super fast, he's also super nice. Watch out for him in upcoming northwest races - he's good.

Full results.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Yesterday was the third installment of what we here in Central Oregon affectionately refer to as the BadAss. BadAss? Yep...see, it's the Badlands fatass. The Badlands is a cool recreation area managed by the BLM about 25 miles east of Bend. It's high desert running at its finest. Well, maybe not finest, but it is really cool.

In Nov., 2006, Bronco and I brainstormed about holding a fatass in Central Oregon. Although we both love Smith Rock State Park and all of its cool trails and climbing, it's kinda tough to make a route that's not too confusing. So we decided on the Badlands. There's a great 9-mile loop that includes a good climb us a cinder butte (aka, Petar Peak), nice downhill running, then a long, runnable, grinder of a climb up Smith Canyon. The loop distance makes it nice to offer many distance options, as well as going by the parking area every 9 miles for aid. The distance options include the Numb Ass 9 mi., Half Ass 13 mi., Tight Ass 22 mi., and the Bad Ass 50k.

This year started off a bit chilly. While getting stuff set up, I heard someone say their car's thermometer showed 6 degrees. While chilly, I didn't believe it was that cold. Shortly after, I heard a few others say the same. Okay, I guess it really was 6. However, the mostly clear, sunny weather, and no wind, helped the temperature rise to probably the high-30s/low-40s by the finish. We were also treated to beautiful views of the Central Oregon Cascades.

Bronco and I were excited to greet 50ish people and 15 dogs. It's awesome that our little ass-of-a-run has drawn such a great crew. Most people carpooled out with friends and opted to be Numb Asses and Half Asses - both solid choices for this time of year when all of our asses are at their fullest. About ten Tight Asses enjoyed chasing two of Bend's fastest, Andy and Max. Finally, another 1/2 dozen Bad Asses showed their badness by running the full 50k with 3,600' vertical. Yep, they are definitely bad.

As has become a BadAss tradition, Dan and Kathy once again graciously hosted their popular hot cocoa and soup kitchen. Many other runners also brought goodies to share on the community aid station table. And of course, a Central Oregon ultra wouldn't be complete without finish line PBR.

Thank you to everyone who came out and participated. Bronco and I really appreciate it.

BadAss Results:
Sean Meissner, 35 4:23 - C.R.
Jeff Browning, 37 4:34
Chris Askew, 37 4:50
Darla Askew, 36 4:51 - C.R.
Chip Collins, 45 5:07
Kevin Johnston, 39 6:00