Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stone Steps, a step in the right direction

Accepting my sweet custom award from RD Dave Corfman.
(Thanks to Brian Nash for sharing the photos.)

I'm the type of guy that likes to pick out a few goal races during the year and focus on running those really well. I believe you can only get a few truly all-out efforts from your body a couple times a year. I pride myself in being able to time my peak to race well at these select events as opposed to just racing every weekend and occasionally popping a good one. And I'm very deliberate in the way I structure my training plan around these focus races.  

But I frequently use other races as substitutes for regular long runs, fitness checks, or a hard workout. There are many advantages to using races as workouts, but to be perfectly honest, my primary reason is that it just gets boring training by myself. I try to run with friends when I can, but my specific training plans and busy work schedule don't always align well with others' schedules. So I jump at the opportunity to participate in a local event like the Stone Steps 50k that requires no travel and allows me to run around with a bunch of friends all day. Even if I'm not exactly running with anyone most of the time, I really enjoy being around everyone and socializing at the end. I feed off the energy of the spectators, aid station volunteers, and fellow competitors. The convenience of aid stations is also a huge benefit when you're running a really long run.

Cresting the Steps with the sunrise on my back.
I mention all of this because I used this year's Stone Steps 50k as a hard, long, trail run. But the primary goal was to continuing building my fitness ahead of the JFK 50 mile on November 19th. That's the focus race. I didn't taper at all this week. I didn't come in with fresh legs ready to see how fast I could run. In fact, I hit a personal all-time high of 120 miles last week, capped off with the 50k on Sunday. That included a track workout on Tuesday, marathon pace run on Thursday, and an easy 21 road miles the day before. I was definitely taking a risk pushing that hard last week, but I feel it's necessary to push my limits if I want to compete with the guys that are going to be at JFK.

Early in the race, the legs were definitely feeling fatigued. I focused on staying relaxed and happily let Harvey Lewis lead the first 5+ miles. I knew roughly what my course record splits from last year were, but I wasn't sure I'd be fresh enough to better that time (3:44:39). I planned to run relaxed and see what the legs were giving me toward the end. Last year, I blasted the second 5 mile loop (~8.5-13.8 mi), but paid for my early aggression later in the race. I was much more patient this year, running alone after the first 8 miles. (My very first blog post was my race report for the 2010 Stone Steps 50k. Check it out here.)

Relax your arms!
I was definitely having my doubts with 10 miles to go that I'd be able to set a new CR. At times I found myself hoping that my aid station split at mile 22.3 would be slow enough that I could forget about my record and just cruise it in.  Although I felt tired, my splits were still looking solid, so I just kept trucking. With just the final 5+ mi loop remaining, I was less than minute off pace. I knew then that I had to go for it.  But I also knew that I had a mini blowup on the last loop in 2010 because I hadn't been taking my salt tabs and started to cramp a bit. Somehow I found a little extra energy and really attacked the start of the loop hoping to put some time in the bank to prepare for the large withdrawal that the infamous Stone Steps were bound to require. I just about passed out when the GPS watch reported that I ran an 8:15 mile which included the Steps ascent. That's the fastest I've ever run a mile that included that climb. At that point I knew I had my CR in the bag and I could shut it down and cruise in without going to the well. I grabbed some gummy bears atop Gummy Bear Hill as treat to enjoy over the last half mile and then headed for the finish. I crossed the line in 3:40:56 shaving almost 4 minutes off my time from last year.

The real takeaway from my race performance really must take into account the work I did leading up to the race. It is a huge confidence boost to run that fast with no taper and tired legs. I may not have the leg speed that I had last year, but I definitely have another level of trail strength. As long as I can stay healthy, the past week was a big step in the right direction.

Full Results


  1. David,
    I stop by every few months to read your blog.
    It's great to have National Class talent in the area.

    These CRs your laying down are pretty remarkable.

    Good Luck at JFK and stay healthy.

    - Jeff

  2. Thanks Jeff. Glad you enjoy reading my blog. I've had a couple people tell me how much they've enjoyed it lately and that means a lot to me because I put a good bit of time, effort and thought into some of these posts. Glad to be part of the SW Ohio running community. Thanks for making me feel welcome. I'll try my best to represent at JFK.