Archive for April, 2014

Chardonnay 2014

April 19, 2014

Last Saturday everyone in my pace group seemed to be doing Chardonnay. I hadn’t considered it before, but after that I started thinking “Hmmm.” It would be more fun to race than to do a tempo with no one in the my group.

Well, let’s see. I’ve been running my tempos and 6:25~6:30 pace — according to my watch, which has a tendency to overestimate my speed by a few seconds per mile. Let’s just say 6:30. Now in theory my tempo pace and my 10 mile pace should be similar. So I trundle over to the age graded tables and ask how fast an 80% 54 year-old can run 10 miles and the tables say: 6:31 pace. So that sounds like the right ballpark.

OK. I’ve never quite reached 80% on Chardonnay in the past, my best was 79.76% but the difference isn’t worth quibbling over.

Then I talk to Rusty about it. Always a mistake. I tell him I expect to be somewhere between 65-66 minutes. He thinks I should be between 64-65. 64 minutes is a 6:24 pace, so, yeah, that’s possible, but it’s also 81.2% which seems less likely.

Race day dawns, bright and sunny. It’s been foggy all week, why do we get sun today?

I bike down to the start and get there an hour before race start. They offer me a map at registration, but I wave it away. “I’m not going to be first” I say, and I know the course, it hasn’t changed significantly in 30 odd years.

I do a warm up jog, out to State St. and back, and there the 1 mile marker is, right where it always is.

But when I get back Matt tells me the course has changed. He takes me over to the map, and damn it, he’s right. We start out with a steep uphill climb for the first mile going the wrong way, and then turn around and come back and head out to Montecito as we normally do — only not as far this time.

The 1 mile mark I saw was for the concurrent 5K race, which uses its old course.

My first thought is that now I have an extra mile and a half of concrete sidewalk to run on. I hate that. It splints my shins. My second thought is that we’ve got an extra hill in the route now and that’ll slow us down. Matt points out that this route avoids crossing the train tracks (so no one will get stopped by a train). I guess that’s to the good. I’ve never been stopped, but I know others have.

I see Fred Mellon. OK, no chance of first place in our age group then.

We line up. I say “Hi” to Jeff and Kent, and hey, Martin. Haven’t seen him since the marathon. Not many people seem to think they are fast so I stand in front. We have 2 lanes of the road so there’s no lack of space.

We’re off.

Up the hill and onto the sidewalk. There are about 13 people in front of me. I haven’t counted accurately but that’s about right. Doesn’t seem like a very fast field where a 54 year old who plans to run about 65 minutes can be in ~14th place.

As we are herded off the road and onto the sidewalk I hear the volunteer runnerherd shouting “Good job guys” and then “Oh, and ladies!” so I know the lead woman is close behind me. At the ½ mile mark she passes me. Another sign of the lack of depth to the field. There should be a woman or two ahead of a 54 year old male runner (65 minutes is only 76% for a young woman — 54 year-old men are comparable to 42 year old women as far as world records go). Oh well, one is ahead of me now.

For a while she draws further ahead but by the time I’m at the top of the park and at the turn-around I’m right behind her again. On the downhill she pulls away again. I pass the guy who was right behind her though. So I’m once again around 14th. There’s a long comet tail of runners going up the other sidewalk. The timing seems well thought out and by the time our two walks merge almost all of the slower runners have gone past and there are few human obstacles as we go down.

At the one mile mark (the real one), my watch reads 6:32. Ump. I had intended to go out a little slowly, and 6:32 is not slow (any more, for me) up that hill. Ah well. I tend to run what feels right…

Then the final short steep downhill and we’re back by the beach where we started. I hear noisy foot falls behind me, Martin, and there’s Jeff too, and probably Kent. I don’t look back but you learn people’s breathing, or something and can often tell who’s around. I was wondering when Jeff and Kent would catch me. I hadn’t really expected Martin to do so — he used to run with me, but he hasn’t been training of late — last I heard anyway.

And now my little group starts to catch up on the lead woman, and pull ahead. Jeff and I trade off for the lead, each drafting off the other, and then Martin and Kent drafting off us.

At the two mile mark my watch reads 6:13. After downloading my watch… If my watch be accurate, then the mile markers weren’t. The first one was at 1.02 miles (so my 6:32 was actually 6:28, even worse), and the second one was .97 after that (so my 6:13 was really 6:24). Having inaccurate markings gives one a false idea of what’s going on in the race. I thought I should slow down at this point (I didn’t because I was running with Jeff now), but if I’d known I did 6:24 instead I’d have thought that reasonable for a downhill mile.

At State St. some people shout my name. I’m not sure who, the voices are familiar, but my mind isn’t working well and doesn’t know who. But they don’t call Jeff’s name, which seems unfair. I mention this to Jeff, who says “That’s OK, the last group called just my name.” Perhaps they did. I didn’t notice I guess.

At the three mile mark my watch says 6:25. This is kind of nice. I could almost believe that Rusty was right and I’ll go below 65 minutes. But I know, I know, I’m going to slow down on the last two miles. I always do on this race.

Not much seems to change in the next mile or two. I’m running with my pack of runners, sometimes in the lead, sometimes not. We all seem to be hanging together.

At the 4 mile mark my watch says 6:30 exactly and I mention this. Jeff replies “This is hard.” 🙂 Yes, it is, but we’re doing it.

Hmm. I haven’t seen an aid station yet. Seems like a long way to go on a road race without an aid station. Not that I’m really planning to drink. The race is only an hour or so, I shan’t dehydrate significantly and drinking would just slow me down.

Jeff points to the guy (green shirt) about 50 feet in front and says that he’s going to catch him and draft off him. I’m not feeling that I can go faster than I’m already going so I say something like “Go ahead” only probably less coherent than that. So Jeff and Kent slowly pull away from me.

There is an aid station, oddly far from my path. I don’t detour to visit it, though I do wave at Ken who is manning it.

We come to the end of Cemetery Rd — and there are no course markings there, nor any runnerherd. The guy in the green shirt looks back to get confirmation as to which way to go, and Jeff and Kent point right. I’m not far behind, nor is Martin.

At the 5 mile mark 6:29. Not bad.

But now the hill. This one grinds on for about half a mile. Martin starts to drop back. Jeff and Kent catch up with and pass green shirt. I do too. Then I catch Jeff and Kent and the three of us run together again. Down to butterfly beach, and there is the 6 mile mark. I look at my watch and see 6:31. Excellent, even with the hill I’m still on pace.

We start to see the lead runners coming back. There really aren’t that many.

Then we reach the turn around, all three together, and can look behind us. Green shirt isn’t far back, nor is Martin or yellow shirt or the lead woman. We climb up out of butterfly beach, a short but steep climb. I start out greeting friends by name but when I reach the top I’m greeting people by grunts.

I even pull away from Jeff and Kent slightly here, but that doesn’t last long, soon they both are ahead of me. We pass the aid station, and again I don’t drink.

There’s the 7 mile mark. And when I look down at my watch I get a bit of a shock, it reads 7:39. Now I know I’m not running that slowly. I might have slowed down a bit, because it was a hilly mile, but not a whole minute. I am confused.

Now that I’m home I see that the time for the sixth mile was 5:31, not 6:31. Presumably I didn’t bother to check the lead digit because I knew it was a 6. I suspect that the mile marker should have been read on the return journey, rather than the outbound one. I think it was oriented incorrectly, but perhaps I just didn’t notice that either and my mind glossed over the way the “6” was written, because I knew what it had to be. Just as I knew I had to be running 6:30s. (In actually fact my pace for mile 6 was 6:33, and for mile 7 6:29, both reasonable).

I puzzle over this as Jeff and Kent pull further and further away. They are really leaving me behind, so clearly I must be slowing. This worries me, but I can’t go any faster. My legs feel tired. And we are now come to the stretch where traditionally I slow down. I must be going slowly.

Mile 8 comes up. 6:36… but my total time is 52 minutes and if you subtract 13=(2*6:30) you get 65 minutes, so I haven’t lost a minute after all. I’m confused.

Jeff looks as if he’s about a quarter mile ahead. That’s about a minute and a half…

State St. comes up and with it mile 9, 6:31. Well, I seem to be holding the pace pretty well in spite of being tired, and elapsed time is 58 something. Which is on track for something close to 65 minutes.

The last mile now. I can’t speed up. The swimming pool. This is taking forever. The harbor. I just want to rest. The penultimate parking lot. The bathroom. The last parking lot. The shoot. It twists, I still can’t see the clock. Now I can 64:51. Wow! I still have a chance. I try to speed up. A bit anyway. The first chip mat, but the clock is over the next one. 64:55. 64:56. I’m trying to sprint. As I get ready to pass underneath I see 64:59 slipping away…

Done. Official time 65:00. That is precisely 6:30s. My watch reads 64:58. I like that number even better, but it’s not the one that counts.

And it means I ran at 80.23%. Which is higher than I’ve achieved for this distance before.

🙂 So Rusty and I were both right. He said 64-65, and I said 65-66 and it was exactly 65 🙂

Grunions

April 17, 2014

When the gruns come running,
None can turn them back,
None on the seashore,
None in the wrack.

Since moving to Santa Barbara I’ve heard about grunion runs — times when the grunion come out onto the beach to spawn. There are supposed to be thousands of them at once. Apparently these runs occur all up and down the California Coast from Baja to SF, though the tables I’ve seen only give times for San Diego-Santa Barbara section. But they only happen around midnight (and only on a high tide right after a full or new moon — according to Ca. Dept. of Fish and Game‘s grunion schedule), and being someone who goes to sleep at 9:30 I’ve never been interested in waking up at midnight to bike down to the beach to look for fish that may not show.

It was Cynthia’s idea. She suggested we do it. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the whole thing, but I felt I should at least try once to see them. So I went along.

We went to the East Beach grill and parked our bikes and walked down to the beach. We got there about 11:20, and wandered east along the surfline.

No fish.

The beach here was somewhat peculiar. It looked as if a temporary dune were forming. The sand reached a small peak right above the surfline, and then dropped slightly as you headed to the land. The result was that there were puddles of slowly draining seawater behind the mini-dune.

After walking for about 20 minutes we found one fish. It wasn’t doing much of anything, just lying there beside a diminishing puddle. It looked stranded. There didn’t seem any way it could get back to the sea. So I picked it up and carried it to the ocean and threw it back in. I think technically this may have been illegal. It’s off season for grunion at the moment and people aren’t supposed to touch them, but I couldn’t leave it to die…
Grunion just lying there

I’d assumed it would be all or nothing, either we’d see an extraordinary mass of swarming spawning fish, or we’d see nothing. Most likely nothing. The internet was clear that they usually don’t show. It hadn’t occurred to me that we might see one or two. After seeing one fish I felt the trip had been worth while.

A little later we saw a Night Heron right at the surfline. Was it looking for grunion too? Wikipedia says that herons do prey upon grunion, so perhaps it was. But we saw no other birds on the beach, not even later when the run picked up a bit.
NightHeron

We’d been walking east along the beach and hadn’t seen much of anything so we decided to turn around and walk west.

It was now getting on toward midnight. We realized that the place to see the fish was right at the surfline after a big wave broke. We started to notice a fish here and there wriggling back to the water.

It seemed odd. Weren’t they coming to the beach to spawn? Why go to all the work to get yourself stranded on the beach out of the water — and then wriggle back to the water without doing anything.

But that’s what seemed to be happening.
Grunion Squirming Grunion Squirming
You can see the marks the fish has left in the wet sand as it jumps and squirms down the beach.

And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

A little later we started seeing two or three together stranded by a wave. This looked a bit more interesting. We walked over to one such spot and stood there watching as the fish squirmed back to the sea — and then — right in front of us — a fish popped out of the sand and then followed its own path down.

Looking back at it I think several males and a female swam up in the wave together. The female dug herself down in the sand while the wave was breaking and we probably didn’t even see her, what we saw were the males stranded by the retreating wave, presumably depositing milt in the female’s hole. Then they left, and a little later the female popped out of the sand herself and followed them.
Grunion Fish in Hole
Fish’s nose poking out of hole

Grunion Leaping out of sand Grunion Leaving Hole
Grunion Hole
The hole left by a fish

We noticed several of these events up close. But after a time there seemed fewer and fewer fish in the waves. Three big waves would come and leave no fish behind. And then a wave would deposit one or two… And most of the waves weren’t big now. The tide must have started receding.

We left about 12:30. I’d guess we saw about 50 fish. At first we counted diligently, but after I got up to about 12 it didn’t seem worth it. I’m glad I went. I’ve seen grunion spawning. Not the huge writhing masses I was expecting, but some, and it’s still pretty cool to see a fish pop out of the sand right at your feet.

A little more web-searching this morning found an online form to fill out if you’ve had a gunion sighting. So I did.

Back to the shadows again

April 4, 2014

Sigh. So once again I am asking myself: “What could I do differently (if anything)?”

  1. Race somewhere cooler, more humid, at low elevation. It probably won’t make a huge difference, but it can’t hurt.
  2. Try resting to get my HR down so I can digest what’s in my stomach.
  3. Try eating less?
  4. Try running more slowly?
  5. After 3 or 4 hours I’m generally sick of sugar. Would switching to protein or fat be better? Cliff/Balance bars? Hunks of cheese?
  6. Accept that I can’t run for more than 9 hours? And give up.

(And that’s important!)