January 21, 2014

USA Half Marathon Championships

Start of the 2014 USA Half Marathon Championship in Houston, TX
You can find me if you look for the sunglasses

I ran in the USA Half Marathon Championships the past two summers in Duluth, and despite still being in post-CIM "coast" mode and not being in top shape, I decided to head down to Houston over the weekend and run in the 2014 race. I ended up running 1:07:26 for 55th place, but I'm not really bummed out because that's roughly what I expected, given my very gradual progression back into harder efforts over the past few weeks.

Below is my race report, also posted on my Fast Running Blog.

Overall it was a pretty awesome weekend. Eight guys broke 1:02 in the half, and my friend Scott ran 2:17 in the marathon and got the Olympic Trials "B" standard. There were something like 60 performances that hit the OTQ A/B standards for Men/Women combined.

Race Recap...

My time (1:07:26) wasn't stellar on the fast Houston course, but as long as I can look back on this as my slowest race of the year, I'll take it. Targeted 16:00 5K splits and was pretty much dead on - had a little lapse from 15K to 10 miles, but otherwise ran very consistently. The effort never felt that hard, but when you haven't run under 5:10 pace in two months, it's kind of hard to get moving quicker than that.

5K Splits - 16:01, 15:55, 15:58, 16:08

I finished pretty much at the back of the race, which isn't exactly something for me to be proud of... but I feel like I'm actually at a good starting point for 2014. Last year I ran 65:55 in January, and the next 7 months weren't any better. I was either regressing or stagnant until later in the summer. I have a good plan for the winter / spring, and I think that my incremental approach will actually get me to where I want to be.

Some additional thoughts...

When I decided to run here (registered in November) I knew I wasn't going to be in good racing shape unless I pressed right back into harder workouts after CIM. I didn't do that (which was smart), but I was also over-optimistic at the time and figured I could still run low/mid 1:06s without training for it. When I look back now, I really haven't done much work faster than MP since Indy Monumental... 11 weeks ago! If anything, I was stretching out the window in which you can run 5:00 pace without training for it at the Mesa 10K on Thanksgiving. By the time Houston rolled around, it had been way too long since I've run any LT workouts! Luckily I realized this a few weeks ago and adjusted my goals accordingly.

This may seem very ambitious to say after running one of my slowest half-marathons ever, but I really believe I'll be in range to take a serious crack at 2:17 this year if I follow through on what I have outlined. Talked to a lot of fast guys who will also be targeting the OT standard at the Grandmas Marathon.

Course - Flat and fast loop. Long straightaways, minimal turns. Lots of concrete. It was perfect. I can draw the elevation profile using my keyboard:

Race Organization - Just like Duluth, awesome. They take care of everything for you. I can definitely see why most athletes who ran in 2012 want the Olympic Trials to return to Houston in 2016. I was hoping we might get cowboy hats as a gift... no dice... nice pullover fleeces instead. If Andrea qualifies, we'll go back in 2015. And I will not run 1:07 again in that scenario!

MUST-DO in Houston - I highly recommend the rooftop hot tub at the Hilton Americas.

Random people - to my assigned roommate, whoever you may be, thanks for not showing up! I had my own room for the weekend which was nice. I cooled down after the race with the guy who beat me by a few seconds at the Portland 10,000m in 2012 - we exchanged some words during that race (all of which started with "F"), but we're cool now :-)

Mile splits - 5:09, 5:11, 5:11, 5:03, 5:08, 5:07, 5:05, 5:10, 5:09, 5:15, 5:07, 5:11, 5:39 for the last 1.1. I wore my Garmin (I can't remember the last time I've done that in a half-marathon) to make sure I didn't go out too fast. It was useful early and then I didn't pay much attention to it after that (probably should have paid more attention in the tenth mile!). Pro-Tip: Turn off autosplits if you wear a satellite watch in a race. You'll get some relative pacing feedback but the course markers on the road are more accurate 99.9% of the time.

January 5, 2014

New Years Week Skiing

Andrea skiing Grizzly Gulch on New Years Day, above the valley smog
We kicked off 2014 by getting out for some short ski tours this week. It felt great to be out on the skis!

Some photos...

Emma Ridge, New Years Day, T-Shirt weather?!?

Relaxing back at the jeep after skiing
A few days later, the smog/haze/inversion was gone...

Andrea on the Emma Ridge
Snowpack is thin, but this is better than nothing!