Friday, April 27, 2012

Easter SunRun 10K Race Review

Easter weekend I ran a 10k.  In past years, I opted for the 2 mile race that follows the 10k, but this year I was climbing back from injury, and I thought it best to go for the extra mileage without the lung busting, muscle burning pace of a 2 miler.  Instead of going into great detail about the race, or who I saw and where, I am going to shift focus to a self reflective analysis of how temperatures can affect your race performance.

Let me just come out and say it right off the bat...  I set a 10k PR that day (by 21 seconds) when I thought I had no business coming close to one.  Some of you might recall my injured hip flexor that kept me from running the first 2 months of the year.  Well, the Easter SunRun came a little over a month after I started getting my running legs back to pre-injury form, and I still have a ways to go.

In fact, the week of the SunRun I did a test where I kept my heart rate at 175 bpm for about 8 miles and compared that to an identical run I did last fall.  The results indicated my pace was currently 30 seconds slower.  So, how did I manage a PR when I wasn't in top form?  My only explanation is the weather, just ask those who ran Boston this month.

As far as 10k's go, I really only do the same one every year, and it occurs more towards Summer.  Temps for all my previous 10k's have been in the 70º to 80º range.  Temperatures for the Easter SunRun this year were in the mid 50s with cloudy skies.  There have been plenty of articles published about why and how heat affects runners, so I won't go into much detail about the science here.  My hope is that my recent experience and the statistics I've recorded can serve as a good real world example of how varying temperatures can affect you.

Now I will concede that I made some decent progress between my previous 10k's and my injury, so an argument could be made that by taking "two steps forward and one step back," I still end up 1 step ahead.  However, I have one more point to make.

One week prior to the SunRun, I ran 2 legs in a relay which were on average 0.7 miles shorter than a 10k.  The temperatures for the relay started out in the 70s, and ended in the mid 80s.  It was a struggle for me to maintain an 8:00 pace.  In comparison, a week later at the SunRun 10k, I averaged a 7:04 pace.  Notice in my charts below the 10k is the longer race yet my pace is faster while my heart rate is lower.

Here's my Garmin Data from my last leg in the 84º Brew to Brew Relay 04-01-12:
Split Time Distance Avg HR Max HR
1 08:08.3 1 188 197
2 07:49.7 1 193 196
3 07:54.9 1 197 200
4 08:05.1 1 199 202
5 05:36.0 0.73 202 203
 Summary 37:33.9 4.73195.8 203

Here's my Garmin Data from the 55º SunRun 04-07-12:
Split Time Distance Avg HR Max HR
1 06:55.0 1 174 186
2 07:09.0 1 186 190
3 07:16.4 1 190 195
4 07:09.4 1 191 195
5 07:06.1 1 193 198
6 06:55.4 1 197 200
7 01:24.0 0.23 200 203
 Summary 43:55.0 6.23 189 203

2Slow4Boston Easter SunRun 10k
Chip Time43:54 (PR)
Overall Place68/689
Age Group6/37
Average Pace7:04

I'll leave you with a few pics from the SunRun:

I wonder if the guy in red looks as awkward in motion as he does frozen in time.

Headed down home stretch.  HR = 203

All smiles post race while pitching a different kind of tent.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brew To Brew, Relay Race Review

Back on April Fools Day I ran my first ever relay, a 44.4 mile race called "Brew To Brew."  It's called Brew To Brew since it basically runs from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri to Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas.  It is also called Brew to Brew since there is a lot of drinking (besides water) involved before/during/after the race. Kinda ironic that a relay race, where teams have to drive in the vicinity runners for half a day, picked beer and drinking as its theme, but hey, someone has to do it.

It is a very informal race.  First off, there was no expo which is to be expected for a non-marathon event.   Participant t-shirts were only available for those who paid extra, and they only handed out 2 race numbers for the entire team (a clue that wearing bibs are optional).  You only needed to wear a number to help label the official photographs, or have your time recorded when you crossed the finish line.  There was no prize money involved, but you will get some notoriety for being the last team to cross the finish line.

Here's where things get a bit confusing.  Your relay team can consist of anywhere from 2 to 10 people.  If your team donates over $200, you become a "generous" team, meaning you can buy a handicap so that your recognized finish time is faster than it really is.  If you donate enough to charity, you can actually finish before you start.  If you're not in a generous mood, then there are about 7 other divisions to be in including 2 person, female only, male and mixed, military, racewalking, scratch, and six leg special (only run first 6 legs) teams.  There are 10 total legs of different distances all under 6 miles.  So is all that clear as mud?

I drove up to K.C. with 4 other friends from Wichita.  We ended up in the male and mixed teams division which uses a handicap based on age (as do some other divisions).  We each picked two legs to run.  I selected legs 3 and 10 which are two of the longer legs totaling about 11 miles.  I didn't realize it at the time but I picked the flatter sections of the course, while the other legs are shorter, but hillier.

I'll try and keep my experience with the race brief.  I knew days before the race that it was going to be a hot one.  Turns out the temps got into the mid 80s by the time we were done by 2:30p without a cloud in the sky.  I can honestly say that I have never raced in weather that hot before, and I think I've only done one or two training runs above 85º.  When I did the 5.9 mile third leg in the morning, I ran it hard and I overheated, but it was probably only in the low to mid 70s, and that's not really enough combined time or heat to make it a health issue.

However, by the time my tenth and final leg came around, the Sun was at its apex with no cloud cover and the mercury read 84º.  On top of the early leg I ran, I had been constantly exposed to the elements since we hung around outside waiting at all transition points.  I applied sunscreen twice during the morning in an effort to ward off skin cancer someday, and some of it eventually found its way into my eye mixed in with sweat.  What I'm getting at is that I didn't have much going for me.  So off I went on the last leg of the day, a 4.7 miler.  Soon after, I was running between a 7:30 and 8:00 pace, and my heart rate was starting to red line.  As I saw my HR get to 200 with about 2 miles still to go, and my body temp as high as ever, I wondered to myself if I should back off.  It's one thing to have a HR of 200 when it's 65º, it's another sensation to have a HR that high when it's 20 degrees warmer.  I decided to walk until my HR came down a bit.  I probably walked a couple hundred feet before my HR got down to 195, and I started running again.  I wondered to myself if I was experiencing heat exhaustion, and if the way I felt was cause for concern.  I tried to tell myself that I was just hot and to finish as best as the conditions would allow.  When I saw the finish line, the adrenaline shot through me and I was able to finish strong, but it took a lot longer than usual to recover and compose myself.

One word of wisdom I would pass on to anyone running this race in the future is to figure out how fast your team is going to run each leg.  If the pace is going to be much less than 8 minute miles, then it could be difficult to make it to the next transition point on some legs before the runner you're meeting up with gets there.  In the case of our team, the runner beat the rest of us to the rendezvous on 3 of the legs.  This caused a delay in our time, and since one of those times was crossing the finish line we missed out on that photo op. On the other hand most teams aren't there to run fast and they have time to enjoy some beer or toss a Frisbee while waiting their turn.  We waited until the race was over to partake in the alcohol, but still had a great bonding experience during the relay.

Not that stats matter in this race, but we finished 42nd in our division out of 344 recorded teams.  Official time was 5:51:28 for 44.XX miles, with an adjusted/handicap time of 5:43:28.  Two of our guys were running a sub 7:00 pace.

Finally, I present to you some obligatory pictures from the day.

Team "Joggers And Lagers" at starting brewery.  From left to right: Brant,
2 Slow 4 Boston, Eric, Todd, and Chuck.
Yours truly after my first leg.
We are on a non sectioned off highway

Between KC and Lawrence, a farm served as a transition

Farm #2 complete with port-a-potties in the driveway.

Still at Farm #2, notice the girl in green with the open container
waiting her turn.

Post race photo with the finish line in the background.

My HR chart.  I combined both legs, so the dip in the middle is where I started
my second leg.  The peak HR was 202 when I finished, then it still took almost 8.5
minutes for my HR to get down to 134 (thanks to over heating) which is where it was when
I finally stopped my watch.