Friday, July 29, 2011

California Dreamin'

Sorry that things have been so quiet here on the blog lately.  There really hasn't been much to talk about as I have been busy getting the 100k training done over the past few weeks.  I do want to tell you about something fun I did last weekend though.  I know I haven't made a big deal out of it, and I might not have even mentioned it, but I signed on to run with the GE corporate team at the 2011 US Corporate Cup Relays way back before I knew I was going to be running the 100k in September.  Basically, the meet is the corporate version of the track and field national championships.  I really wasn't sure what to expect but I'm glad I went because it really was a lot of fun.  And it was held in San Ramon, CA this year, about an hour east of San Francisco.  If you've been training the last few weeks in the eastern half of the country, then you know what I mean when I say that the trip was worth it just to get to run for 4 days in relatively cool and dry weather.

The meet itself is set up to be very team focused so that employees from all ages groups really have to contribute in order for their team to win.  Most of the events are held on the track (or in the field), but the events that I raced, the 5k and 10k, were off the track early in the morning.  They were kind of hybrid road/cross-country type courses with 50% or more of the race on a crushed gravel trail.  The courses weren't  what I'd call flat, so times were going to suffer a little bit.  But the weather...nearly perfect.  Temps were in the mid 50s at dawn and the humidity was low as well.  I needed to warm up in my track pants and jacket.  I could go on, but let's just say I'm beginning to understand the attraction to California.

The men's 5k went off after the women at 7:30 AM on Saturday.  Forty-one men from companies such as Lockheed Martin, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Texas Instruments, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and of course GE toed the line.  It was apparent early in the race that GE had fielded the strongest team by far.  I settled in behind a group of 4 GE guys plus another runner from Unum.  I was happy to let the pace go out relaxed and work into my own rhythm.  As we closed in on one mile I decided it was time to push the pace a little and take over control of the race in preparation for a long, gradual hill.  I was able to power up the hill and extend my lead without over extending myself.  Having crested the hill, well in control of the race, I chose keep some energy in the bank and cruise in the remainder of the race.  I was all alone as I entered the track for the last 250m of the race.  I was trying to concentrate on relaxing and enjoying the moment instead of kicking it in.  I crossed in the line in 16:03 with almost 30 seconds to spare over 2nd place.  GE swept the first 5 places.  While I crossed the line first, I was a little disappointed to learn that the times were WAVA age-graded and an older GE teammate, Stuart White, actually scored higher than I did.  I congratulated Stuart on his "win" and jokingly told him that I wouldn't let it happen again in the 10k.

The 10k was Sunday morning again under ideal weather conditions and was just two loops of the 5k course.  The men and women started together this time at 7AM.  Unlike the previous day, my GE Aviation co-worker and training partner Eric Bair was in the race.  He sat out the 5k on Saturday so he could blast a 4:28 mile on the track.  The 10k began much the same as the 5k, but Eric came with me when I separated from the pack around a mile.  We rolled up the hill together and I held back just a little as I wanted him to stay attached as long as he could.  I split 16:28 for the 5k with Eric still in tow.  That would have earned him 2nd place in the 5k the day before.  Soon afterward though, I pulled away for good.  I felt strong and decided to start seeing what I still had left in the legs.  I flew up the hill and pushed it back to the track.  I ran a big negative split the second 5k in 16:09, finishing with a 70 sec lap on the track and clocking a final time of 32:37.  And true to my word, I also won the WAVA age-graded contest.  I will admit though, that my buddy in the 45-49 age group had a higher average score from the 5k and 10k, so I have to give him the distance running MVP award for the weekend.

I'm very pleased with how I felt in both races.  I am super strong right now but I just don't have that finishing speed.  That's OK though.  I'm not supposed to right now and it wouldn't help me in a 100k if I did.  I did a 6 mile cool down after the 10k and then ran another 3 miles just for fun a little later.  The legs didn't get sore at all and I really didn't feel very fatigued.  The weekend served as a great reminder that any workouts that I've struggled through recently have been a result of the oppressive heat and humidity as opposed to a lack of fitness.  I also got a quick massage at the track and felt like my muscles were in much better shape than they were a few years back when I got  more regular treatment.

The GE team had a great weekend as well taking the top place in our division.  There were some great individual and relay performances that were really enjoyable to watch.  I must admit though (and you can tell from the 10k start picture above) that GE had the strongest and deepest team by far.  Very few other companies are supporting teams like GE does.  The USCAA track meet used to be a pretty big deal.  But recently support has dwindled and left the event just a fraction of what it once was.  Hopefully as the economy recovers more companies with return to supporting teams.  It's a fun event and I'd hate to see it slip away.  I met a lot of great people and made a bunch of new friends.  I hope we get to do it again.

Switching gears, let's do a quick training update.  Since the Blast, I've run weeks of 87, 94, and 101 miles coming into last week.  I still managed to get in 81 miles last week which included the 5k, 10k, and travel.  I'm planning to head back to better than 90 miles this week.  And after returning to Cincinnati this week, I paced an Earth Drummer teammate to a 2:09 800m.  Apparently I have little speed left.

As I alluded to earlier, the weather conditions in Cincinnati have made training quite tough lately.  I'm finally starting to acclimate a little better and I'm making adjustments like running earlier in the morning to avoid the heat as much as possible.  Hopefully this weather pattern will break for August and allow me to get in a solid month of training before heading to the Netherlands.  Speaking of which, we've started making travel reservations and the trip is becoming more of a reality.  I've got official USATF paperwork to fill out now which makes it all feel legitimate.  I'm so excited to have the opportunity to run for this great country. 

Thanks to Tom Leonard for the pictures from the track meet.  More can be found here.

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