August 26, 2012

2012 Top of Utah Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Around 10.5 miles into the 2012 Top of Utah Half Marathon

Yesterday was a great morning at one of my all-time favorite races... I got the win and ran what I feel like was a pretty respectable time (1:06:03) considering my recent training (more details on that subject in pre-race thoughts blog entry). I feel like I am setting myself up to run a good marathon in 3 weeks.

About 4 guys were with me off the start, but after about a 1/2 mile I could feel that I had put a bit of a gap on everyone and couldn't here anymore footsteps behind me. Now it was a 12.5 mile solo time trial.

Down the canyon I just tried to keep an even effort. I wore my cheap Timex watch instead of the Garmin, because this race has 100% accurate mile markers and I really wanted to try and run on feel and what felt like a sustainable effort level. I didn't get out of the gate at a sub 4:50 clip like last year, which was smart. But without anyone to push me (ie. Paul right on my shoulder) the pace was a little slower in the first half of the course. That was fine with me. After the 5 mile mark the famous tailwind made an appearance, and during the mile #7 it was very noticeable and nice. Afterwards I asked the race directors to be sure to arrange that same wind for the marathon. 

My splits from this year and 2011 are below... as you can see - I was about 20 seconds slower in the first 6 miles of the race this year, but then ran nearly identical splits the rest of the way (which is actually pretty cool). Running 1:06 by yourself (especially on the second half of that course) is not an easy task so I'm happy with what I did today. It felt very good to cross the finish line first this time around.

Mile     2011        2012      Net +/-
1 4:48 4:54 +6
2 4:58  4:57  +5
3 5:03   5:04  +6
4 4:55   5:01   +12
5 4:51  4:55   +16
6 4:56   4:59  +19
7 4:53   4:53   +19
8 4:59   4:59   +19
9 5:05   5:05   +19
10 5:06  5:06  +19
11 5:14   5:13  +18
12 5:25   5:26  +19
13 4:58   5:00  +21
13.1 0:28   0:28  +21
Finish 1:05:40 1:06:03

Andrea and my parents were at mile 7, 10.5, and 13. It was great to have their support out there because its an otherwise very lonely (albeit scenic, wonderful, and somewhat challenging) course. That hill from 10.5 to 12 is a tough grind. 

So overall I'm pleased with the performance and where this tells me I'm at. My legs didn't have that "snappy / springy" feel - but there is no way I could have expected them to (after 5 weeks of 150-160 miles/week and then only cutting back to ~120 the week of this race). I feel very strong, though, and that is what will really matter over 26.2. I'm confident I will round into even better racing form over the next couple weeks.

Fast Running Blog - Full Race Recap

Below are some snippets from the Herald Journal's recap of the race. Click this link for the full article: Harmon keeps on winning; Krong gets his redemption
It was also a very satisfying day for Jake Krong, who earned some redemption Saturday. Despite posting the third-fastest time in the history of the TOU Half a year ago, Krong finished 10 seconds behind Paul Petersen, who clocked in at 1:05:30. 
However, the 29-year-old was not going to be denied in the 2012 field, which featured a record number 2,083 athletes who finished the race. Krong pulled away from his main competitors a half-mile into the event and ended up winning by 1:41. 
“Last year was a great duel with Paul,” said Krong, who crossed the finish line in 1:06:03. “We were just battling stride for stride for most of the race, and so this year my time was a little bit slower. But, I led it right from the gun and didn’t have anyone really with me, so it was kind of a solo time trial the whole way.” 
This doesn’t mean it was an easy victory for Krong, though. Although there was no one like Petersen to push Krong, this was arguably the deepest TOU Half field in at least 10 years. The top four men covered the course — which starts at the Hyrum Hydro Park seven miles up Blacksmith Fork Canyon and ends at Zollinger Park — in less than 1:09. 
“I definitely didn’t take those guys for granted,” Krong said. “There was a handful of other very good runners in the field today, so I kind of took it out pretty quick down the canyon and tried to gap everybody, and then just hold on and take no chances.” 
Krong now turns his attention to the TOU Marathon — a race he aspires to win in three weeks. A year ago, Krong’s primary focus was the TOU Half. In 2012, he’s been gearing his training regiment with the hopes of peaking at the full marathon and finishing in under 2:20. 
“All things considered, I’m very happy with how I ran today,” said Krong, who placed 23rd at the world-renowned Boston Marathon earlier this year. “I love coming up here. This is like my favorite race in Utah. It’s pretty awesome.”

Early in the race - Blacksmith Fork Canyon
Around Mile 7
~10.5 miles
Towards the finish
Any race that has Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches afterwards is a first-class event!
Top 5 Men

Post race w/ Andrea and my parents

August 22, 2012

Jake's Family Invades Utah

Some member of my (Jake's) family decided to escape AZ/CA and come up to Utah for a week. My parents drive up from Phoenix last Friday, while my aunt and uncle (Aline and John) drove out from LA. They rented a "cabin" up outside of Heber and we've been having a fun time doing all sort of stuff - rafting, shooting, fishing, bowling, etc. They all want to move here, and I can't blame them! 

Here's some photos from the last four days...

My buddy Jesse James and I
Horses in the backyard
Sunset from the back deck, where we've been eating dinner outside every night in the cool air
Clearly the owner of this house is a hunter!

Bridal Veil Falls
With the family and the south side of Mt Timp behind us
Andrea in the Provo River

Andrea's first shot with a 12 gauge shotgun!

Dad shooting
My Mom can be a bada$$
My turn to blow apart some clay pigeons

Mirror Lake (High Uintas)
Dad slaying some trout

Trial Lake is LOW this year. We were up here last year at this time and the lake was full.

Provo River Falls

Jupiter Bowl in Park City

August 15, 2012

How I got my start in running - Part 1

The 1999 Amsterdam High School Cross Country team.
Yes, that's the entire team.
Coach Rzeznik is on the left, back row. I'm 3rd from left in the back.

A few days ago my friend Rob blogged on how a chance encounter / conversation as a 13 year old set him up for a lifetime of running. That got me thinking about how I got my start as a runner in a similar, unexpected fashion... and I figured its a story worth sharing... I just wish I had more old photos at my disposal!

Jenna (my sister) and I...
Somehow I look almost exactly the same
20+ years later...
I was born into a sports family, but definitely not a running family. My Dad was college basketball player, and while my Mom didn't play team sports growing up - she was athletic and competed in steeplechase (the horse kind!). When I was a kid, both of my parents jogged a couple times a week - it was all the rage back in those days. Dad still played in a local hoops league and Mom was an aerobics instructor (think Reebok STEP). We were an active family to say the least. From a young age I was all about basketball. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was already playing on a traveling team. From 4th grade until high school, I was probably playing about 30-40 basketball games every winter. During the summers I'd attend basketball camps and play a lot of golf.

During my freshman year in high school, I played on the golf team - but mainly just as a way to kill time after school before basketball season started. Amsterdam High School was a football/basketball school and I had an excellent freshman basketball season - starting on the JV team and then getting moved up to the Varsity at the end of the year. I was on track to do what I had been groomed for since I was about 10 years old - play point guard for AHS.

Then a chance encounter changed everything.

At some point in June of 1999, as school was winding down for the year, I was standing in the hallway near my locker and Mr. Rzeznik, chemistry teacher and cross-country coach, came up to me and said "Hey, are you going to sign up for cross country this year?" I thought about it and figured it would be a good way to get in even better shape for basketball season.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure Mr. Rzeznik actually wasn't trying to recruit me for the team. I'm almost 100% certain that he had confused me with Mike, my best friend. We looked very similar, and Mike had 2 older brothers who had run for the AHS XC team when they were in high school. In any case, I signed up for XC (Mike didn't!) and then didn't proceed to think about running again until practice started a week before school started in the fall. I spent that summer playing basketball 24/7.

Newspaper article from our first meet of 1999.
I'm on the far left.
Our first practice was a Saturday morning at the McDonalds on Route 30 where we ran a 4 mile loop. I was the second or third guy to finish the run. My teammate Jaime was a phenom - one of the best runners in the area (eventually we'd form quite a 1-2 punch). Within a week or so of practice, it was clear that I had some talent* for long distance running, although I knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing. I was probably running about 10-15 miles per week, which seemed like a lot at the time (now that's just a typical morning before work).

[*There is a story in Amsterdam folklore that when my Dad was in high school, the XC team was short one guy, and they asked him to run so they could field a full team. He was captain of the basketball team and this was his senior year. The details get murky at this point, and I've heard different versions of the story, but apparently my Dad ended up running and winning the race (or coming in the top 3, depending on who you ask... no one seems to know for sure)... wearing a pair of Chuck Taylor high-top basketball sneakers. So there is a distance running talent gene in the family!]

Snippet from my first race
I fell into place as the #2 guy on the team. As I mentioned above, AHS was not a powerhouse in sports like XC - we only had 9 runners on the team TOTAL that year (boys/girls/JV/varsity/modified combined). It was a small squad to say the least. We took the short bus to meets. That first year of XC was a lot of fun. AHS was able to field a scoring varsity team and after a 3-5 season, we went 7-1 in Big 10 league dual meets. It was quite a turnaround. I improved every week and by the end of the year ran a 16:26 5K at Saratoga State Park to close out the season.

My whole family started to catch the running bug - my parents started running local road races, and my sister signed up for modified track and field. My heart, however, was still attached to basketball. After another good winter of basketball, the AHS track coaches tried hard to get me on the track in the spring of my sophomore year, but I opted to play AAU basketball instead.

So while I wasn't "all-in" right off the bat - that random hallway conversation with Coach Rzeznik got me involved in the sport. If he hadn't confused me with Mike, and I hadn't started running (along with realizing I was pretty good at it and enjoyed it), who knows how the course of things would have changed? I owe Coach Rzeznik quite a bit - his encouragement and coaching fueled my early success and got me on the course to where I am today.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years I actually did some running in the summer to get ready for cross country season. Our team got a lot bigger and enthusiasm for cross country grew. During this time period, I found that I was enjoying running just as much as basketball... and at some point during that junior year of XC, there was a tipping point where I started to actually like running more... and I was getting pretty good at it!

Jaime and I dominated the league competition, going 1-2 in every meet, and we finished undefeated in the Big 10 for the first time in school history. I improved my 5K time at Saratoga to just over 16-flat.

The 2000 AHS XC team. Our numbers grew quite a bit in one year!

I still played basketball during my junior year, but my passion for it had diminished. The day after we got knocked out of the state tournament in February I went out for a run in the snow... it was time to "get in shape" for track.

That first year of track (2001) was another case of not knowing anything about what I was doing, but I was lucky to have good coaches who brought me along slowly. I focused on running the 800m that year and got my time down to 1:58.6. We also broke the school records in the 4x800m, 4x1600m, and DMR relays. After we broke all those records, I "moved up" to the 1600m for the end of the season, and broke the school record with a 4:25.2.

I'm going to extend this post into a "Part 2" (next week), but needless to say, after that 4:25, my basketball days were OVER! I wanted to run further and faster...

May 2001 - The AHS 4x800m relay team after we broke the school record

August 11, 2012

Dash for Donation Race Report

This is slightly modified version of my Fast Running Blog recap of the race...

I decided a few days ago to jump in the Dash for Donation "5K" in Sugar House Park this weekend to cap off a big week of mileage and workouts - it close to home and for a really good cause... I ran on the Running for Trevor team that Rachelle's family had put together.

My plan for the morning was to put in a solid effort during the race, then add on another tempo run on the track where I'd practice drinking while running at marathon pace. I ran 4 miles up to the park for a warmup and was feeling a bit tired from another big week of miles and 3 tempo runs in the past 5 days.

There was a big turnout and the race started about 15 minutes late... no big deal. Once we got going I actually felt surprisingly good. There wasn't any competition after the first 100 meters, so it was a solo effort. The course was 2 laps around SHP, then some extra... it was a bit long... I hate to say that... but I run in SHP enough to know how far 5K is, and they added a bonus 0.2 for us today :-) Everyone in Utah knows what this loop looks like, but for those who don't, here's the course profile:

I hit the first mile in 4:57. Needless to say that was a surprise and I didn't feel like it was very tough. Miles 2 and 3 were 5:02 and 4:55. During the second mile I started to lap the field (most of whom were walking) so I did a lot of weaving! The final stretch was 1:26, so obviously not 0.1, because that usually takes me less than 30 seconds in a 5K... and I was moving pretty good.

So my 3 mile split was 14:54, which I was really happy about. With the rolling hills, I figure that 3 miles in SHP is about approximately equivalent to what you can run for a full 5K on the track. Averaging sub-5 pace in SHP is usually pretty tough to do.

After finishing the race I jogged over to the Highland HS track and started the second part of the workout - 5K at marathon pace taking a drink of gatorade every other lap. Andrea came over with me and handed me bottles. I figured that I need to practice drinking while moving at race pace. I could eat a sandwich at 7:00 pace on long runs, but I need to be able to process fluids while running significantly faster than that. I did the 5K tempo in 16:45 (5:23, 5:24, 5:19, 38).

When that was finally done we headed back over to the post-race area and had to choose between the 8 different types of ice cream novelties that were offered. I went with a Drumstick and was very satisfied with that choice!

We hung out with Rachelle (she finished 2nd place overall - beating all the rest of the guys!) and her family for a bit, then I ran 3.5 miles home.

Overall a good confidence booster this morning. I've been feeling very good about the upcoming TOU Marathon, but I've been unsure of how the TOU 1/2 is going to feel... whether I can take a reasonable shot at running as fast as I did last year. Now I think sub 1:06 might be in the cards again.

Andrea took a bunch of pictures - she is getting good w/ her new camera!...