Saturday, March 08, 2008

Race Report: Champoeg 30K
I've been amazingly lucky with the weather for my rainy-season races here in the land of the perpetual drip, drip, drip. Since the Blue Lake 15K misery last October, I've enjoyed: Autumn Leaves, where it was dry, cool and sunny; the Cascade half, where it was foggy and mid-30s but the air was utterly calm and, going hard, couldn't have been more comfortable; Hagg Lake, all bright and gorgeous, spring nosing its way into winter; and, today, the Champoeg 30K, where overnight rain gave way to patchy low clouds, a bit of sun and mild temps.

What’s that? Mmm, yes, I should have been swimming laps this morning, what with ICDA barely more than three months away and my swim absolutely nowhere. But before that is Boston, and a good hard 30K (18.6 miles) seemed just the ticket for assessing my fitness for that race.

The plan: I told myself to go out at an aggressive marathon pace, which for me would be in the 7:30 to 7:40 per mile range, given that my PR was run at a 7:48 pace. But I was really more interested in gauging my effort by how it felt. I wanted to run hard, not on the edge but close to it.

The course was a lot like what we did at Champoeg for Autumn Leaves, 3.1 miles out to the turnaround, then back to the start, and repeat that three times. I’d guess 150 or so people were massed at the line when the folks up front got going, hearing a signal those of us even 10 yards back didn’t pick up. So we were off. As usual, I was irked to find walkers and slow joggers placing themselves up front, an especially obnoxious practice when the track is fairly narrow. But I wiggled my way around and through and pretty soon things opened enough where I could run comfortably. A fit woman in a pink top and black shorts provided excellent pacing (not to mention distraction) to the turnaround and a bit beyond. My miles were coming in around 7:10 and though faster than I had anticipated, it didn’t feel bad. So I stuck with that and finished the first lap (10K) in 44:28.

The second lap was my favorite part of the race. I was loose and cruising. My pace was just a little faster, the miles coming in generally well under 7:10, and I felt great, completely comfortable. I stayed tucked behind the three guys I’d latched onto late in the first lap for a couple more miles and thought I’d keep working to stay with them. But I had a little more pace than them and gradually pulled away. That left a guy in yellow in sight ahead, and I tried to stay five or 10 yards behind him. I thought that wouldn’t last, and it didn’t – but again, I was the guy doing the passing.

Heading out for the last lap, I wasn’t sure what would happen. I thought it quite possible my miles might slow to 7:30, maybe 7:45. It sure felt like that was happening. Everything was coming harder now. My stride, so easy and free three or four miles ago, now felt tight, labored. Fighting hard against that, I actually started the last lap with my fastest mile of the day, right at 7 minutes. But that didn’t last and I struggled not to fade over the next three miles. Finally, when I hit the four-mile marker on the last lap, and knew there was only 2.2 to go, I stopped worrying and just ran. A guy in black had passed me a mile earlier and was now about 20 yards out front. I vowed not to let him put any more distance between us – and he didn’t. I closed strong and on my clock completed the 30 kilometers in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 38 seconds, a pace of 7:07 per mile.

Going that hard was pretty stressful on my body; I was aching afterward. But I didn’t feel wrecked. As I mentioned in my Hagg report, doing longer races – like the 50 miles of Autumn Leaves, or the 50K at Hagg – had helped make me stronger both physically and mentally. Running for two-plus hours, even running very hard, just isn’t a big deal anymore.

What’s interesting to me now is what this says about my Boston plan. I tell myself it isn’t my A race, that I should just run it and have fun not damage myself for ICDA. But Boston is a great race that for that reason alone deserves my best effort. Plus, I may never cross the continent to do it again. So, assuming I won't be able to resist aiming for my best time at Boston, what can I do, using this 30K effort as a guide?

Well, I can’t maintain a 7:07 pace for an additional 7.6 miles. But what about going 7:25 the whole way? That would bring me home in 3:14:27 – a PR by 10 minutes. Hmm.

Here are the miles splits from today, with 6, 12 and 18 each 1.2 miles to complete the 10K laps:
6---8:33.4 (44:26 10K)
12--8:24.4 (43:56 10K)
18--8:21.7 (44:16 10K)

UPDATE: Officially, my time was 2:12:40, a 7:08 pace. That put me 20th out of 110 finishers, 16th out of 75 men, and 2nd out of 11 men aged 45-49.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Checking In
Oh, Brett Favre was great. How could you not appreciate Brett Favre? Talented, gutsy, charismatic, swashbuckling (there’s a word)… all of that. Nevertheless, the Old Blue in me is happy that Aaron Rodgers is finally going to get his chance – his chance to shine, and his chance to demonstrate just exactly how absurd was the 49ers’ choice of Alex Smith over him way back when. So I don’t share Emily's dismay, but I do commend you to read her blog, which is full of all kinds of interesting and exquisitely told travails and triumphs, if you are into that kind of thing. And that is really the point this morning – to mention some personal blogs that are cool. In addition to Emily’s, there is Olga’s, which featured, recently, the most remarkable race report I’ve ever read. And there is Infospigot, who writes so well and from whom I learn tons. And lastly, for now, there is curmudgeonly Jack Bog. I often find myself disagreeing with Jack, but his voice is, ultimately, so very good for Portland, and he, too, is a fine writer.