Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cross Country Running Season - California Style

Ahhhh, cross country running season - cool, crisp weather, Fall foliage, the smell of Ben-Gay, mud and even some hay bales jumps if your lucky.   

Portland, Oregon XC Race - Fall 2009

In California, yesterday, we had none of that.  The USATF Pacific Association XC season starts early in NorCal with race number one on the campus of UC Santa Cruz.  The race started and finished in a dusty field surrounded by tall coastal pine trees and featured a somewhat hilly 4 mile loop on wide, rocky dirt roads.  Not exactly classic grassy XC but more like a nice trail race.

Since I'm recovering from an injury my expectations for todays race were low. Goals: have fun, don't get hurt, go out slow, see what happens. I still don't know most runners in the masters field but I didn't see old guy speedsters Jaime Heilpern and Brian that was helpful. 

Ready to race in Santa Cruz, CA

The pace was slow for the first mile - lots of guys jockeying near the front as we climbed towards mile 1. First mile 6:21. Pretty much the same pace up to the turn-around. At mile 2 (6:00) a couple guys started to pick up the pace a bit (a River City Rebel and a Pamakid). At 2.75 miles the RCR runner made a solid move to pull away on a slight uphill and I went with him. A 3 miles I glanced back to see that we gapped the Pamakid and other runner wearing a red singlet. At this point we're running about 5:30 pace and not knowing what kind of kick the RCR runner had I decided to press the pace even faster at 3.25 miles. RCR slid back a few seconds and by the final sharp right turn appeared to be about 5 seconds back - comfortably out of striking distance. I crossed the line just as the clock struck 23:00 - my last mile was a 5:10.

I'm happy to get the win but more pleased to be able to run 5:45 pace on 25 miles per week. 150 miles a week of cycling certainly helps bridge the gap but I'll need to work the mileage up and hit the track to be competitive with Jamie or Brian.......assuming they're not also injured.  Getting old sucks.

Race results have been posted here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The world is getting smaller

Maybe you didn't notice but I did.  It happened yesterday at about 2:00 PM Pacific time.  

Back in the olden days if you wanted to get a group of people together for a chat you could have a conference call on something called a "telephone".  You've probably seen them - just imagine an iPhone that only makes voice calls - only MUCH bigger......and sometimes connected to a cord.

Every year between June and September myself and other staff members of the US Mountain Running Team prepare for the World Mountain Running Championships using these telephone devices and also email and Facebook.  These's also been Skype video chats but like all the aforementioned communication methods it's one-to-one (or asymmetric).

Team athletes conduct a "hangout" back in 2006

We call this a mountain running "team" but we only see each other all together in the same place once or maybe twice a year.  At the world championships we gather primarily to race but also get to hangout in hotel rooms catching up on a years worth of happenings.  

In an effort to builder a stronger sense of team and to promote the athletes as they prepare for the World Mountain Running Championships we tried out a new-fangled technology.......and that's when the world changed.

Dave Dunham & Nancy Hobbs emailing a press release way back in 2006 (Bursa, Turkey)

Yesterday the US Mountain Running Team held its first ever press conference broadcast live on YouTube.  Using Google's Hangouts multi-person free video conference we were able to have 3 staff members 6 athletes and 1 reporter all in the same virtual place at the same time to talk about the teams preparations for the world championships.  

The small world part?  Consider this; we had people on the hangout from Germany, Washington state, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Oregon.  Aside from some users with low bandwidth it was a very high quality video conference experience.  The video quality was good and the audio clean with almost no delay......across thousands of miles!  Gosh the Internets is cool.

Thank you Paul Kirsch for helping pull the event together.  Our athletes who joined included Tommy Manning, Sage Canaday, Joe Gray, Glenn Randall, Stevie Kremer, Morgan Arritola and staff member Ellen Miller.  Conducting the Q&A we had Mt. Washington Road Race veteren Jeff Dengate who works for Runners World magazine.  

You can watch a replay of the press conference on YouTube here:

Follow the team at this year's world championships in Ponte di Legno, Italy on September 2.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Patterson Pass Road Race

In my first race as a Cat 4, teammate Jim and I were the only IDTB's in the 25 rider field and agreed on an ambitious race plan - DON'T CRASH.  I proceeded to f-up that plan at mile 2 with a spectacularly un-Hoorgarland style fall as we really slowly inched up towards Patterson Pass.  Somehow I got my front wheel in the gravel off the edge of the road and went straight down hard on my left elbow........and then I got run over.  I don't remember getting run over but after the race I noticed chain grease across my jersey and chainring divots in my back.  I popped back up quickly, straightened my left brake lever and took off after the pack which had sped thousands of centimeters up the road.  

Now, as the resident pelaton dufus I took my place at the back of the pack and tried to get my stunned and frozen little fingers to work again.  With the stiff headwind nobody wanted to lead so we proceeded up to the pass in leisurely 25ish minutes.  The rest of lap 1 was more of the same - nobody wanted to work so we came by the start/finish line with the original starting group intact.  

After passing under the railroad tracks Jim took the lead and began to pick-up the pace.  As the group strung-out I moved up into the top 5 riders to be ready if anyone attacked.  No attacks came but a couple other stronger riders came to the front to push the pace.  I continued to suck wheel until 100m from the pass when I moved off the front to ensure a clear (safe??) road for the descent.  As we turned onto Flynn I saw the group was down to 8 riders but unfortunately Jim was not among them.  

I stayed at the front and pushed the pace up Flynn hoping to spit out any weaker riders.  We lost only one on the ascent and a Mike's Bikes rider who over-cooked the downhill hairpin left on Flynn Rd.  The remaining all moved the pace along pretty well for the next few miles.  Nobody wanted to do a ton of work at the front but all wanted the pace fast enough to keep any stragglers from re-joining.  

As we turned right onto Midway Rd the cross-wind struck and a little jockeying ensued.  1 rider finally put the hammer down as we passed under 580 and it was game on.  I found a good wheel in 3rd place sheltered from the cross wind but started to get dropped as we neared the crest of the hill.  Seeing a possible win slipping away I sprinted like it was the finish to catch the two leaders before the downhill.  A fourth rider also bridged up and we stayed out front until the final 2 corners.  I was well positioned in 3rd as we started the sprint but just didn't have the legs to "meep, meep bitch" or even keep up with the first 2 riders.  The 4th rider came around with 50m to go leaving me in 4th overall at the finish line.  

Regardless of the 4th place finish and crashing, I had fun and got another road race under my belt. Thanks to Hans for the birthday cake for me (42) and Eric (41).  IDTB was looking good on the roads of Patterson Pass and hogging the it should be.