Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Oh Capitan, My Capitan

El Capitan
Yosemite National Park was the setting for this year’s first Vacation Races half marathon.  The race was held on Saturday, May 13, beginning at 6:00 AM. 

That’s right, 6:00 AM.  The race was run in two heats to accommodate the large number of runners and cars.  Since the start line was in a remote area outside of the park, every runner had to be bussed to the start line.  No exceptions.  The first heat’s runners departed their assigned parking lot at 4:30 AM.  I have no idea how many busses it took – but doing the math:  1500 runners per heat divided by 50 seats per bus = 30 busses.  That looked about right. 

About that 4:30 AM departure – our hotel was only five minutes from the parking lot, so we left at 4:20.  Big mistake.  So did every other carload of runners, and the two lane highway with a single stoplight at the turn to the parking lot was backed up for a couple of miles.  It took 20 minutes to make that 5 minute drive.  Thankfully, there were plenty of volunteers to direct the cars to the overflow parking, and plenty of busses to get us to the start line – with about 10 minutes to spare.  Not enough time for the porta-potty line.  Thank goodness for the bathroom on the bus!

And we were off.  The first five miles of the race were on a decent dirt road with only a few muddy spots.  Then it was downhill most of the way, with miles 5 – 10 a blur as we floated down the mountain.  I say we because I was actually keeping up with Sue!  At about mile 10, beautiful Bass Lake came into view, and rolling hills past beach houses and shore-side businesses dotted the course. 

Unfortunately, at about mile 10 that hip injury came back with a vengeance.  As Sue’s confident stride faded in front of me, I walked the uphills and ran the downhills into the finish line.  Even so, I finished in second place in my age division.  Sue and I were stopped at the finish line by a cute 20-something who gushed about how inspirational we were and how we’d kept her on pace.  We posed for a photo together. 

After the traditional celebration, we headed to the park. According to the locals, Yosemite was 
actually the first National Park (sorry, Yellowstone) because it was set aside by President Lincoln long before Teddy Roosevelt established the National Park Service.  In any case, the land is spectacular, with high cliffs and waterfalls, glaciers, and giant redwoods and sequoias.  Or so we are told.  On that Saturday afternoon, traffic toward Yosemite Valley was at a standstill and signs indicated to park now and walk in.  But the walk would have been nearly six miles – more than our tired old legs could handle, so we turned around and took photos from the overlook.

A good reason to return – on a weekday.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dissecting a Race

I ran the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on Saturday, April 22, 2017.  Here’s what I discovered during the race.  I hope to use what I’ve learned to better train for future races.

I finished just over three minutes slower than last year.  As I compare the two races, I realized that I ran ahead of my target pace for the first five miles both times.  Because I could.  The race-day adrenaline was in full force, the weather was cool, and a good portion of the first five miles is downhill. 

The difference?  When I reached the long hill climb on South Temple I walked for a bit last year.  This year I ran the whole way.  And I noticed when I got to the stop that I had to consciously slow down because I could tell my heart rate was faster than it should have been.  Maybe that little bit of walking helped me to make up time later in the course.  Hmmmm.

My left hip started to bother me about halfway through the race.  Of course, I kept going.  Did it slow me down?  Possibly.   What was that all about?  Hmmmm.  After the race I paid a visit to my chiropractor and learned that my right leg was out of alignment and my left side took the punishment.  The sad thing is that I had started to feel it a few days before the race and decided I’d just power through it.  My bad.

I had read in one of the running newsletters I subscribe to that runners need about 45 grams of carbs per hour.  So I tried consciously making sure to eat a sport bean and drink some water every mile.  I’m not sure it was helpful.  It felt like too much.  I need to come up with a way to get sufficient nutrition without having to eat so much during the actual race.  Hmmmm.  

Even with my slower finish, my “graduation” into an older age group made my time fast enough not only  for first place in the 60 – 64 age group, but for first place in the Grand Masters category!  This was my first ever first place finish in a half marathon.  And best of all, my daughter and her fiancĂ© were there at the finish line, holding a large, neon-pink sign that read My Mom is Faster than your Mom!  That made it the sweetest finish of all.