Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions and Performance Goals

As the year nears its end it is that time when I reflect on last year and start to make plans for what and how I want to run in 2012. All in all, 2011 was a very good year for me and my running. I trained harder than I have ever run before. I was able to be competitive in nearly all my races and I ran personal bests in all the distances I raced. In fact, I even ran lifetime bests in the 5k and 10k, racing to times faster than I was able to pull together as a teenager over 20 years. From the 5k, to the 10k to the half marathon to the marathon, I ran better than ever.

The loot from racing in 2011!

One personal goal I have set, which I first achieved last year, is to be able to place in the top three in my age group in every race I run. With the exception of the “big ones” which are the USATF masters championship races (Twin Cities Marathon, Club Cross Country), I was able to pull this off, never placing below third in the 40-45 or 40-49 age division. My friend Joe Dudman has correctly pointed out that it is kind of weak to relegate oneself to racing within one’s age group when we are still able to mix it up somewhat against all competitors regardless of age. Of course, Joe is correct; however, I will continue to measure my performances and competitiveness in part by my relative place among my peers. At the very least, I will continue to be happy to be rewarded for running well as a kind of consolation prize or a reward for the hard work it took me to get there.

With such improvements this year, one might ask if I was happy and satisfied with these times and races? And like most competitive runners, I would have to say yes and no. Of course I am very happy to be running faster than last year or even as fast as I ever have, but in many ways that was the plan and I knew I could do it if I stayed healthy. At this time last year, I wrote down a number of admittedly ambitious time goals I wanted to hit for the year on the track and the roads. Sadly, I did not run in any track meets in 2011, so all those targets were left untried. Likewise, I was not able to find a mile race on the road at the right time in my racing and training, so I never took a crack at that time, but I did race the 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon on the roads and did pretty well against these goals.


200m: 25.0

400m: 56.0

800m: 2:04.00

Mile: 4:40.00

5000m: 16:30


Mile: 4:45

5k: 16:45

10k: 35:00 DONE - Scandia Run 34:56

Half-Marathon: 1:18:00 DONE - Rogue River Half Marathon 1:17:54

Marathon: 2:45

In the 5k I came oh so close, getting down to 16:55 and breaking through the sub-17 barrier. In 2012 the 5k will be a major focus of my racing efforts as I try to bring that time down below 16:30 and as close to 16 flat as I can muster. In the 10k, I nailed my goal of 35 flat with a 34:56 on a pancake flat course. Like the 5k, in 2012, I plan to put extra attention on running even faster in the 10k and am setting my target at 34 flat.

The half marathon was pretty good to me in 2011 as I never raced the distance before. I accomplished this goal from the get go in my very first race of the year. In my three attempts at this distance, I progressively dropped my time from 1:17: 54, to 1;17:31, to 1:16:33 at the Foot Traffic Flat Half. Although we now know that the course was short at the Flat Half, but we don’t know just how short. I’m still going to call that my PR, since based on my effort that day, I think it still would have been PR on an accurate course. Plus, calling this my PR makes me work that much harder to run a faster PR.

Stride for stride in the Rogue River Half Marathon in February.

I spent a lot of time focused on running a strong marathon in 2011 and am very happy with how it went, even if I didn’t meet the target I set a year ago or even the goal time on race day. As has been said by many before me, the marathon is tricky race to master and no matter how ready you think you are, it all has to come together that day and stay together for all 26.2 miles. I knew I was ready to run around 2:42 and went after it at the Twin Cities Marathon. For the most part I ran strong and smart, but as I wrote about in an earlier blog entry, I just ran out of gas. I am learning more every time I run a marathon and am getting closer to understanding my fueling and hydration needs.

I really don’t plan to focus my training on the marathon or half marathon in 2012 like I did in 2011, so I’m not putting any targets down on paper for those distances. Maybe in 2013 I will try to run another fast marathon, but for 2012, I’m taking a break from the marathon.

A pretty typical sight, me chasing Larry Merrifield and Bria Wetsch at mile 9 in the Eugene Half Marathon.

The other significant goal time for 2012 is in the mile or 1500 meters, where I would like to run as close to my life time PR as I can, which means running faster than I did in High School. If my memory is correct, my fastest High School mile was 4:35.

So, here they are, in writing (lord have mercy), my official 2012 racing goals -


1500m: 4:19

Mile: 4:38

3000m: 9:20

5000m: 16:15


Mile: 4:40

5k: 16:20

10k: 34:00

In short, 2012 will be more about speed and racing shorter distances than I attempted in 2011. As Long as I can stay healthy and get in the training, it should be another great adventure on the road and track.

Oh, and two more very important goal for 2012. I want to see the Bowerman Athletic Club masters men make the podium at the Club Cross Country championships and The Leapin Lizards defeat the Slug Hunters in the Hood to Coast Relay with me playing a significant role in both.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The End to a Great Year of Running - Club XC Championships

Last weekend I raced in the USATF Club XC Championships in Seattle. It was my last race of the year, but probably the one with the most competitive field. I was proud and fortunate to be able to run on the Bowerman Athletic Club’s (BAC) masters 40-49 year old team, a team of some of the very best masters men in Oregon. We pulled together 12 guys to form two teams of 6 broken into A and B teams where the first five runners score.

This was my first time running with a BAC team and I have to say, the BAC is a fun outfit to run for because they are serious about competing at the highest level, yet still maintain a sense of team camaraderie and encouragement. As teams go, they also do a good job of managing the logistics and organization. While it sure helps to have the sponsorship of Nike behind you, it still takes some dedicated individuals to pull it all together and take care of the details, which they do very well.

Team races are really a lot of fun, and like the Hood to Coast relay, draw the best out of people who have the support of their teammates and a little something more on the line than their own performance and personal satisfaction with a race well run.

Off with the gun at the Men's Masters 10k race start.

Knowing this was going to be my last race of the year, I put in a final block of hard training with my usual training partners, Mercy Ray and Bree Ray. In addition to the Ray sisters, we pulled together some workouts with other friends and teammates who would also be racing in Seattle, namely Bob Julian, Maggie Donavan, and Dave Engstrom. Doing these workouts together in the weeks before the race helped get us all excited and ready physically and mentally to race cross country. In addition to Bob Julian and I on the BAC masters team, Mercy and Bree and Maggie represented the Rogue Valley Runners women's open team and Dave ran with a Oregon Track Club masters team.

Coming through the second kilometer of the men's masters race.

On race day our two BAC men’s masters 40+ teams and a BAC men’s 50s team toed the line with over 350 masters men racers. The race was 10 kilometers, covering five laps of two kilometers each on a relatively flat grassy golf course. As cross country courses go, this was like a grass track, with a long start and finish straightaway and no real hills. My plan was to start out conservatively the first kilometer and slowly work my way up and try to kick hard at the end. For the most part that was exactly how I raced, covering the first mile in 5:39 then clicked off four more miles at 5:45 pace before slowing a bit on mile 6. Coming into the straight away to the finish I reminded myself this was the last race of the year and every point counts in cross country, so dig down and catch some of these guys in front of you, which I did. Nobody passed me in the last 400 meters and I caught at least 6 guys before the finish line.

Hanging on in the middle of the race.

In the end, I finished 114th in the men's masters race which put me at 75th in the 40-49 age group for team scoring. My time was 36:43 for 10k. Although it is cross country and actual distances are really not that relevant, my Garmin showed the final distance as 6.39 miles. And, yes I wore a Garmin, it is the watch I always wear. And no I was wasn't using it for pacing, I was there to race, but I do like to look at my stats afterwards.

Sporting the BAC black.

With about one kilometer left to run I heard a guy coming up on me breathing hard and rhythmically like an air compressor working in overdrive. As this heavy breather caught me, I realized it was my friend and fellow competitor Joe Dudman from Portland. At first I thought, what the heck was Joe doing behind me, but that thought passed quickly as I heard my brain say “Stick with him, go with Joe”. I managed to tuck in behind for about 100 meters, but Joe was pushing hard and I was just hanging on. Joe pulled away and kept it up to the end bettering me by 11 seconds.

Trying to hang onto Joe Dudman with 900 meters to go.

Since I was on the B team, I knew I was not in the scoring for a possible podium finish for the BAC, but our A team had to be in the running for 2nd or 3rd. First place was sewn up easily by the men from the Atlanta Track Club, aided by the overall masters winner. In the end, they scored an impressive 22 points and walked away with first. The race for 2nd and third was a little tighter, but in the end, the BAC A-Team finished fourth just one point away from a tie for 3rd. Had we tied and gone to the score of the 6th man BAC would have won the tie breaker. In fact, the depth of the BAC A and B squads was such that our B team, which I was the fourth runner, still finished 10th in the team scoring and with the exception of the Atlanta Track winning team, our 6th through 11th (all the rest of our team) were the fastest performer for those relative team positions.

Bringing it home at the finish.

This race and running with the BAC team was a great finale to my best running year so far. I was able to run lifetime PRs in the 5k, 10k, and marathon and even run faster over 5k and 10k than I did many years ago in High School. I set what I thought at the time were ambitious time goals (16:45 5k, 35:00 10k, 1:18:00 half marathon, 2:45:00 marathon) at the beginning of the year, and while I only achieved two (sub-35 minute 10k, sub-1:18 half marathon), I came close in all and trained myself to a level of fitness that made them all a real possibility if not probable. Along the way, I found some great training partners in the Rogue Valley and hope to continue on the same upward trajectory. Although I am relatively new to being a competitive masters runner, having taken so many years off from running, I am still improving and waiting to find that point where aging catches up with improving performance. So far it hasn’t arrived. Until then, I’ll keep training even harder, and hopefully smarter, than last year, and see where I can take this.

Time to rest and set some new goals and challenges for 2012. See you at the races.