Thursday, July 31, 2014

Race Report: Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay

When I first became an ambassador for A Runner's Circle, one of the first things they told me was that there were two race requirements.  One was the LA River Run (which I previously blogged about on this blog) and the other was the Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay.

Initially, I thought that this race would be a disaster.  There's just something about relays, running with people you don't / haven't known, etc etc that lends itself to disaster in my mind.  I'm happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong.

The team I was placed on was with the other Ambassadors for A Runner's Circle and we had no delusions of grandeur that we would be winning this race.  In fact, we were all relatively aiming for a sub 5 hour finish.  Most of the team was running the San Francisco Marathon the next weekend, except for me (I was doing Vineman 140.6 distance triathlon the next weekend).  So no one was really expecting a PR on this run and the effort wasn't really going to be there.  Most of us were expecting to come in around the 50 minute to 1 hour mark for the course.  

For the course itself - it's a beastie of a 5 1/3 (ish) mile course that takes you up and away into Griffith Park for the first 2 miles through fire trails, and then up and around to the other side of the park via a rolling service road, and then abruptly downhill for the last mile and a half all the way to the finish line (although there is a short and steep climb right at the end).  It's not an overly easily course by any stretch of the imagination, and is a good challenge.

In addition to the challenge of the hills - I also have the challenge of being the only male on a team full of girls (for this event - there is another guy who is an Ambassador but he was on vacation).  Ultimately, this led to me being asked to run in a tutu (again, similar to the Pediatric Half Marathon earlier this year where I did that) and after a long, arduous series of back and forth bargaining - it was deemed that I would wear a tutu on my ankle for the race.

Before the race with the girls.
It was also determined (through no back and forth and no arguing) that I would be the 5th leg of the race.  This was mainly because none of them wanted to get overly hot and sweaty and the sun would be out by that time.    So alas - the heat fell upon me.  Poor old me.  *sigh*

So the race went off without a hitch and went pretty well.  Our first leg came in well under their estimated time (by around 10 minutes or so), and then our second leg did more the same.  Our third leg blew their time off the roof (over 20 minutes under the one hour estimate) and our fourth leg came in under their estimated time too.  What this ultimately led to was "Wow, we can totally break 4 hours if Bryan doesn't go after this as lazy as he said he was going to."

So when I got the baton - I saw the time was 3:20:00 or so and figured I'd give it a whirl and see if I could actually get the team in under 4 hours (since everyone else had done their part to actually put us in that position).

So off I went and was pushing fairly hard coming out of the gate.  After that I took a wrong turn on the first uphill (apparently arrows pointing to the LEFT DO NOT mean "Go Right" - go figure), but managed to quickly realize my mistake without losing too much time.  The rest of the run - while somewhat hot and miserable - was ok.  Griffith Park was beautiful during that time of day.

The Park was beautiful and it was an awesome course.  Also, see the ankle tutu.

I'm obviously confused at the camera guy for some weird reason.

Aid stations were plentiful (there were 3) and well placed.

I look like a hungry monster zeroing in on its prey in this picture lol

I finished with enough time to get us right under 4 hours - which is amazing and impressive that we were able to do that.  We have 5 or so minutes to spare too - which was impressive.

The Skora Cores worked wonderful on this race - and they're really the perfect shoe for these kind of trails.  Just enough traction that they keep you on the trail, but not too much and still lightweight so you don't get bogged down.  I'm more and more impressed with the versatility of this shoe whenever I wear it.  

All in all, I'd say the day was a success and good tune up for all of our races the weekend after (which has already happened at the time of this writing and everyone - except me - had an awesome race from what I've seen).  I'm honored to be able to run with this group and hope I'll be able to do more races with them in the future.  

Afterwards showing off our tutus in front of the Ambassador banner.

Mandatory "caught in the air" shot.  We only rehearsed this shot 47 times. :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Race Report: Special Olympic World Games Endurance Weekend: Sprint Triathlon and Half Marathon

This is long overdue - but I've had some issues with spammers getting ahold of my blog account which has now been resolved.
Unfortunately, that meant that this race report is going to be a little late - but better late than never, I suppose.

The Special Olympics World Games Endurance weekend is an event to commemorate the Special Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2015.  This multi-event weekend was put together as a "test run" for the event that will coincide with the Special Olympics next year.

The first day of the event is a sprint triathlon that encompasses a 1/2 mile ocean swim, an 11 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.

The event was run by the folks over at Renegade Race Series, and the organization went off without a hitch.  The transition area was very easily secured and perfect for the event.  I actually placed myself away from the bike in/out (it wasn't a huge transition area anyway) and more towards the run exit - mainly because there was a mass of people squeezing in their bikes right by the "bike out" and I wanted a bit more space.

In transition.  All set and ready to go!

By far my weakest leg and I haven't made much progress with the lack of training this year - but the swim in a sprint hurts me less than it does in an Olympic or Half Iron distance race - so I was hoping to come out of the pack reasonably decent this time around.

Getting ready for the swim start!
\This was my first competitive race with my Zone 3 wetsuit - and I was hoping for good things.  It's by far the best fitting and highest quality wetsuit I've ever owned and judging from the practice swims I had in it before this race - I was expecting to have a decent (for me) result here.

The swim was an 800 (ish) - advertised as half a mile) swim just out in the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach.  I lined up in the front - feeling that the faster I got to the first buoy the better I'd be.  

When the horn went off for my wave to go - I took off as fast as I was able to and swam as hard as I could to the first buoy and only had a couple of people ahead of me at that point.  Right after the turn I started seeing people pass me - and I just kept chugging a long to T-1.

It was a fairly fast swim for me (just a shade over 11 minutes according to my watch) and I'm reasonably happy with that.  I came out of the water with a bunch of people ahead of me - but that's nothing new.


The bike was a quick, two loop course with a hill in the middle of it.  Nothing really fancy about it, but it was kind of cool to cycle around streets that are normally never closed in downtown Long Beach.

It was about as fast as bike courses could go and I was relatively happy with how things were going on the bike.  It was my first ride since changing out my aerobars - and while I was stoked with my position on the bike - the bars themselves just weren't comfortable so I knew I'd be changing them shortly after (and I have since then).  However, my fit was great - done by Metis Bike Fit and I couldn't be happier.

Coming into the turn for T2, I did hit a pothole or crack in the road or something, and got a flat.  I was only about 500 feet from the transition area, so it wasn't worth fixing.

I managed to bike my way to the front of the pack - and came into T2 in 5th place.  I ended up with the second fastest bike split on the day.

The turn down the hill before the final turn into T2.

Unclipping for transition.

The run was a simple out and back along the bike path by the beach in Long Beach.  The weather was perfect and it was about as good a course as you could have for a fast run.  

I felt pretty good on the run - not as fast as I'd like - but I tend to carry unrealistic expectations for myself on anything running related.  Ended up with the second fastest run of the day which put me in 3rd place overall and 3rd place in my age group.  However, since the overall winner was in my age group - they bumped me to second place in the age group standards (they don't do double awards).  

I didn't find any of this out until later though - as I had to take off to home to fufill my fatherly duties (wife was called in to work).  

Sweatpants :p

The second day of the event was a half marathon through (largely) the same course as the triathlon.  There was only a couple hundred people at this race - so that created the perfect environment for me to bring Brucie along in the stroller and still be able to attempt to post a decent time.  

The course was laid out pretty nicely - basically twist and turns along the bike path and through some of the walking areas (by the pier and aquarium) in downtown Long Beach.  It was completely closed to traffic and had a police escort leading the pack the entire time (which was kind of cool because he was actually encouraging people running over his intercom).

At the start line making sure Brucie has a ton of fuel for the race.
Once the horn went off, I took off at a fairly fast pace.  I wanted to put as much distance between myself and everyone else as possible right off the bat.  Mainly because if anyone was going to pass me, I wanted them to be able to do so without any issues but also because the faster I go at first - the quicker my son falls asleep and the more he's asleep - the less chance of me having to stop to change his diaper, etc.  The possibility of him deciding he's "over it" is very, very real - so in stroller races of any kind of distance (and a half marathon is about as far as I'd ever go with him) - it's a real possibility that I'll be in the front of the pack and have to stop and walk the rest of the way because he decides that the race is done.

With that said - the race went as well as it could have gone.  Once I took off in the lead, I spent the rest of the time pushing myself and trying to catch the motorcade in front of me.  At about mile 4 or 5, I realized that no one was close to me and I'd be able to win the race outright if I kept going at the pace I was going.

At around mile 10 (according to the signs posted), I was at 1:05 or so.  It was about this time that my son work up and start fussing a little bit.  I slowed down (because I felt the bumps where the concrete panels change on the bike path were irritating him) and took it in at a 7:30 or so pace the rest of the way.

I ended up finishing just a shade under 1:27:00 and in first place overall.  Which is a pretty decent time for me in a stroller, all things considered.

The final turn into the finish line.

Brucie and I at the finish chute with out medals.
 The awards were kind of fun, and I came home with a couple of cases of drinks that were kind of nice to have and give out.  All in all a pretty solid weekend for me!
Brucie wanting to talk into the microphone.

Some pretty decent prizes!  Luckily I had a stroller to haul them away.