Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fall Racing Recap

Just a quick post to let you know what I've been up to...

Following the North Coast 24 hour, it took nearly a week for the swelling to subside enough to see my ankles again, and another week of sore, easy jogging until I started feeling somewhat back to normal.  Within a couple of weeks, though, I was back on the track, helping Laura prepare for her crack at TNF, and starting to feel pretty good.  With some low-key local events offering a nice opportunity to socialize with friends and training partners, I put together a small fall season to keep myself fresh and engaged in preparation for my next big outing.

Dr. Mike's Doggie Duathlon
photo: Michele Halstead
First up was the inaugural Dr. Mike Doggie Duathlon.  Dr. Mike is one of my great friends and training buddies, and a true legend of the local triathlon scene; he is a multiple-time USAT All-America and has been ranked #1 nationally in his age group.   For the past several years Mike has battled MS, though it hasn't been much of a fight; he basically did not let it slow him down at all, and if anything has actually gotten a bit faster, at least in the running discipline.  Mike put in a great winter of training and was in great shape heading into the spring, only to be blindsided with a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma.  He's battled on and appears to be making great headway, and is still in great shape; I run with him at least twice a week, and he hasn't lost a step despite surgery and chemotherapy.  So this duathlon was a great celebration of Mike and his incredible spirit and determination, as well as a fundraiser for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

My plan was to tune up the CX bike and cruise my way through an easy, fun day at the back of the back.   Unfortunately Phil had other ideas; he had just finished an epic day at Grindstone and wasn't up for running, so he badgered me into joining him on a relay team.  I ran the two 2-mile legs while Phil took care of the 12-mile bike segment.  This was theoretically a great idea, but it ensured that I'd have to run hard to put on a good show/not embarrass myself.  There was a challenge from a young post-collegian on the first leg, and I had to work pretty hard in cold, rainy conditions to split 11:11 for the opening two miles, giving Phil about a 20-second lead.  Phil managed one of the fastest bike splits of the day and gave me back the baton with enough cushion that I could run a relaxed, tempo-type effort on the second leg to secure an easy team victory.

Gump, at the start of the Monster Sprint
photo: Martin Weiner
Eight days later I abandoned Jodi and the girls in the midst of trick-or-treating for the New Paltz Monster Sprint.  Halloween is a big deal in our weird little town, with haunted houses, pumpkin-carving contests, and a huge parade that shuts down Main Street for much of the evening.  This was the second year that the Monster Sprint led off the parade; this is a one-mile out-and-back race from the finish of the parade, uphill to the start of the parade, and back down to the finish.  I figured I'd have a built-in advantage as Forrest Gump, but I didn't count on 4:05 miler Joe Gentsch showing up dressed as the Flash.  I was able to hang with Joe for the opening, uphill half-mile, actually leading for a few strides and making the turn only about three seconds behind, but he put me away quickly and easily on the way back down, running 4:50 to my 5:12.  Second place was enough to nab one of the very cool, real marble, headstone-shaped awards, though, so I was pretty happy with that.

Six days later Laura and I were the co-RDs for yet another ridiculous undertaking, the Apple Cider Donut Challenge.  Following on the heels of the New Paltz Pizza Challenge, we conceived a 50K loop that incorporated stops at six different orchards, each of which made their own apple cider donuts.  Each runner would have to eat two donuts at each stop for a dozen total donuts, or face time penalties for failure to finish them.  Time bonuses were awarded for drinking hard cider at those orchards that make their own.

Four donuts to go.
photo: Martin Weiner
We weren't really sure if anyone else would show up, but as it turned out, ten of us took off on a beautiful Saturday morning to eat our way around New Paltz and Gardiner.  Laura and I ran together and opened up a quick lead after the first donut stop, less than a mile into the race.  The course was mostly road and rail trail, and therefore didn't require any real marking except for one tricky section of trail, about half a mile long, that I had flagged with surveyor's tape the previous day.  Unfortunately, when we reached that section (just before donut stop #2, at the six-mile mark), the marks had all been taken down.  I let Laura run ahead and stopped to escort the rest of the field through that section, which was very difficult to follow due to thick leaf cover; by the time I reached the second orchard with the last of the stragglers, Laura had over twenty minutes on me, with Joe Gentsch (attempting his first-ever run of longer than 16 miles) following close behind her.  I settled into a nice, solid tempo, and eventually reeled in most of the field; by the fifth orchard (21 miles, donuts 9-10) I was only a few minutes behind Joe.  Those two donuts were pretty rough, though, compounded by the fact that I felt compelled to drink some cider, as I knew Joe had.  I started to struggle over the next few miles, wishing I could vomit but unable to make myself do it, and was doubting my ability to catch Joe--until I jogged into the final donut stop at mile 25 and found him sitting on a stone fence, caked in dried sweat, with a blank, glassy look in his eyes and half of a donut hanging out of his mouth.

Sometimes we forget that ultras are hard.

The fall stretch concluded, as always for me, with the Rockland Alumni XC Run, a 5K cross-country race at Bear Mountain with a team competition for alumni of Rockland-area high schools.  As always, this is one of my favorite days of the year, and the race is simultaneously one of the most fun and most painful experiences I have each season.  I have a separate website for that race, though, so I won't bore you here.

Generally it was a good fall, mixing these fun, slightly harder efforts in with a good solid training base.  None of these races required a taper or any extended recovery, so I've been able to build back up fairly consistently, and training is going pretty well heading into the winter; I'm pointing to Rocky Raccoon in February as my next big effort, so it will require a big push training-wise between now and then.  I'll have a few more posts coming before the end of the year, so keep checking back, and good luck to everyone in the lotteries this weekend.