If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Greenland 25k : Putting the Non-Plan to the Test

Two years ago, after a second straight implosion on lap 2 of the Greenland 25k, I swore off this race.  However, like a moth to a flame, early spring had my mind wandering to this race and possibly taking another stab at it with more focused workouts.  This race has had everything in the past - howling wind, snowstorms, exposed baking heat - and year after year, it sells out.  Derek and all the folks over at Colorado Runner Events put on an excellent event, which lends to the appeal as well.  This year, with an increased registration of 1000 runners, it sold out later than the previous two but still was full prior to registration closing.  With the increased cap also came staggered starts for the 3 distances - this was a relief because the 550 runner mass start in 2010 was harsh, and I could not have imagined a 1000 runner stampede to start!

What a view to start the race!
Race Central - almost time.

Unlike previous years that I have run this, we showed up to Greenland about an hour prior to the race start to blue sky, relatively warm, and NOT WINDY conditions - hmmm?  While I know that most racer types relish frigid temps to start a race, I was completely OK with this scenario, especially sans-wind.  When I hopped in line for packet pick up, I got to chat for about 10 minutes with Mr Ace, which is always a pleasant way to start the day!  This guy is a spring of enthusiasm, and was getting ready for his second 50k in seven days with badly blistered feet - wow!  

Anyway, got my bib and went back to the car to get pinned up, put the chip on the shoe, and get in line for the "facilities".  Uh, oh.  The waiting line for the cans ended up being over 15 minutes, which ended any chance of getting a warmup run in.  I'm not sure about logistics or park regs for Greenland, but I am not sure 10 portalets adequately cover 1000 racers....  I wormed my way in to the front area of the start with 3 minutes to spare.  I was lucky - keep reading.
Massing at the start
And they're off - stampede at the start - I was about 8 deep at the start, which was good!
Eventual winner and new CR Daniel Kraft had to pass everyone coming out
of the parking area - we surmise he got stuck in the potty line too long!

LOL on that one - Kathleen remembered seeing this kid hauling onto the course after everyone was across the mat!  I noticed him pulling through because he reminded me of a twenty something Scott Jurek - floppy curly hair and smooth as silk stride.  He blazed a 1:34:38 which blows my mind.  

Now back to the race in front of me.  Start was hopping as expected, but I have a patience problem with wading through people and I always worry about getting tripped, rolling an ankle, going to jail for punching someone who keeps stepping on my shoes, and so forth....  So after about 3/4 mile I had to tune it down a bit as there is no way these legs are rolling 7's for 25k :)  By about 2.5 miles, I had settled in to my comfort zone and started to, for the first time, look around and enjoy the scenery.  Given the vast open expanses here and the complete lack of any shade, Greenland Open Space still has its charm.
Looking over to Spruce Mountain Open Space
Coming off the hill toward the end of the first loop and feeling good.

I hit the top of Kipps Loop climb about on target at 7:49ish pace, and dropped in for the first screaming descent off the back side.  I kept it reeled in a bit given the past experiences of Lap 2 doom.  However, with the turnover I have been doing this spring and my legs being used to better pace, "reeled in" ended up being 6:50 - 7:05 pace, which is newer territory for a comfortable running pace but felt good.  There were already quite a few 50k runners mixed in with the line by this point but I could tell from posture and body language who I was racing with.  The folks with the "I will be out in this exposure for another 3 or 4 hours" look were pretty obvious.  And it was getting warm.

I made the turn at I am guessing 59 and change, though the chip splits aren't up on the Greenland page yet (hope they will be), and grabbed a cup of Heed at the aid station before crossing the mat and starting Lap 2.  I have been pretty dialed on hydration and seemed to be doing really well as far as that goes.  Lap 2 is kind of tricky as the gradual climb back on Greenland trail to the pond starts to tell you where the legs are.  Then the sharp climb over the ridge from the pond twists that down a bit and you must concentrate on regaining some turnover before the second trip up Kipps.  I flagged a bit on mojo here and had to wrap my head around the task at hand.  Unlike past years, I was still running fluid and no signs of blowing up.  Progress.

Got to the aid spot at the base of the climb hoping for a Heed cup but the tanks.were.dry.  "Can you hang on a minute while we're mixing?"  Um, like, I am racing here....  So I grabbed a water cup, drank half, and tossed the other half over my head.  The breeze we had to start had completely ceased and the second time up Kipps with the overhead sun was definitely warm.  Felt bad for the 50k folks to go two more rounds on that - ouch.   Took my last gel about 4 minutes from the top of Kipps - one of my bigger mistakes was not having a couple more gels - and I knew I had to grind one out of the legs to push over the top.  Ended up about 1:20 slower on the second time through the climb, which is a good sign.  However, I hit the crest and started running calculations on some "silent" goals I had.  Sketchy, but I spent a lot of time preparing for it, so I decided it was all or nothing.  A younger guy I had been running with for a good portion of the time drug me over the top and we picked our way through the eternal line of 50k runners on the back side.  We had traded some chatter earlier but were in red light zone at this point.  He asked me to pull through as he was not sure what he had left, so I did - but realistically I didn't know either.  I told him that I was going for broke, but might see him again...  
Smelling the Barn - mission almost accomplished.

There were a lot of runners to pick through the entire way down the backside descent, most of them 50k folks in damage control mode with the quickly mounting heat.  At one point I was hitting sub 6 paces and knew this was simply not in my sustainable range.  However, in the heat of the moment, the brain doesn't function like that!  By the time I hit the turn off the Kipps Loop to the main drag for the last .9 miles my fleeting dream of sub-2 Hours was all but gone.  I have no business running a 6:05 mile (and I am OK with that) and it was going to take that from my fuzzy-brained calculators but still I rolled.  Three quarters out, for the first time all day, one of those neural twinges hit my left calf.  Then two hit my right.  Why Me?  I almost said it out loud, but tried to push through.  Then it hit, at one half mile out, my right toes curled under my foot in a ball and I almost toppled.  I pulled off trail, unable to move my foot, and desperately dug both thumbs into the ball of twisted mass that was my right calf and pushed them all the way to the bone.  Within what I guess to be about twenty seconds I was hobbling, then running gingerly, then flogging for my life!  I vaguely remember my young friend going by screaming at me to get up and run - and I thanked him at the finish.  I pulled in behind him for the last half and he shouted "Not a word - I am this close (holding up his thumb and finger about a quarter inch apart) to having both calves ball up and I am hanging on..."  

And so I rolled in at 2:00:48, nearly a 10 minute PR and quite a satisfying day.  The barely structured training program I had concocted worked well and the efforts of the previous 2 months paid off.  The strong second lap and all out finish vanquished those lingering demons this race had left me with in the past.  Granted, in those previous years, I had no training schedule to speak of and really expected more than I had worked for.  This year was different.  For someone in their 40's who is mostly a 3 day per week runner, I would say that I have to be ecstatic with where I ended up.  And I planned the peaking pretty well too.  A month ago, I ran a two lap trainer here and yesterday took another 13 seconds per mile off that effort.  So I am happy.  And now I do not have anything hanging over my head about Greenland, which is OK by me.  Unless the flame draws me in...again...  (Or when Kathleen is recovered and decides to go for the Masters Women's win there :) )

Here are the numbers, for those who must know:
22nd overall, 5th masters 
7:47 per mile if you use raw 25k, or 7:45 if you use the race's advertised distance of 15.56 miles
               BTW, I ran good tangents - Garmin showed 15.57
1987 calories burned  ( I only ate 300 during - oops)
1380' elevation gain - pretty "flat" for out here
73 degrees, 7% humidity at my finish time - that's right Midwesterners/Southerners - single digit humidity

Shoes: Saucony Kinvara2 

We finally got to meet Craig and his family after the race, and hung out for a while chatting up race recap, future trail runs, etc. - Good Times!  Craig and his son both won awards - sweet!  After that, we got to run into the entire "Ace" clan in the parking lot, including Mrs Ace, the kiddos, and the rest of the family who were visiting from Montana - pretty neat!  We stayed for a bit to see some of the front 50k runners come in.  We were absolutely stunned when Peter Maksimow came in at just over 3:22 for a new course record - 5 of the 6 CR's fell yesterday, even with the heat.  We were hoping to see Brad finish before heading out and he rolled in with an awesome sub-4 hour finish.  Good day all around! 

Oh - and forget Gluten-Free for a minute,
Kathleen insisted - Black Forest Roulade Was Mandatory!
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