Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Louis – ‘A’ Race #1: Boney Mountain Trail Race

Most people define ‘A’ race as their focus race. They want to break their own person record or reach their goal. But mine is a little different. My definition of ‘A’ race is to race with all out effort, race with focus, and race smart. Basically… racing with my heart. Doesn’t always mean a new PR (Personal Best) for me, I just want to give it my best and have no regret. Gosh I think I just sound like William Hung.

Course and Pre-Race
Boney Mountain Trail Race is a 13 miles trail race in Newbury Park with 2600-2800 feet of climbing. To give you a perspective of how much people climb during this race, look at the US Bank Tower in downtown LA, and multiple that by 2.5.

Before this race I actually did this course twice just to scout. I ran once in 2010 (~3hr48min), and one last week (Jan 2, 2011 - 3hr20min). Doing the course really help me with race planning. With 12 minutes of stopping time last week (thanks to my Garmin Watch). I figure my time will be around 3:05 to 3:10.

Race Day - Jan 9, 2011
I went to pick up my packet with my friend Alison, saw Coach Scott from Team In Training East Side Tri Team and Tim from the West Side Tri Team. I then bumped into my teammate Abigail from the Warner Brother Triathlon Team, the other VitaPanda Kevin, Bad ass #1 Jimmy Freeman, his wife Kate Freeman, bad ass ultra runner Erin C, and the Boston Marathon guy from last week. It’s funny how you bump into people in races.

Coach Scott and course map

Abigail from WB Tri Team

I did my warm up, listened to the pre-race talk from Coach Jimmy, took a few pictures, and took off from the start line. I broke down the race into different sections so it’s easier for me to describe what’s going on and to get rid of my writer block… again.

Jimmy Freeman giving pre-race talk

VitaPanda Kevin looking over racers. Gosh he looks like a bouncer.. or a hawk

Section 1 (0 – 2 mi) The A+ effort
- narrow fireroad - flat
- paved road, slight incline
- paved road steep downhill
- single track, stream crossing, rolling hill.

I know going fast on the flat and downhill are keys to finish this race in a good time, so I dashed out on the fireroad right after the gun started. Since 300x of us are running in this narrow access road, none of us can really go fast. I did however, fought my position and kept it. As soon as we ht the paved road, the road gotten wider and the crowd started to thin out. I pushed my way thru knowing I can recover on the downhill. I kept the downhill easy so I don’t trash my leg for the rest of the race. As soon as I finished the downhill I enter the single track. There were people right in front of me and behind me. I felt like sliding down one of those twisty raging water pipe things with a bunch of people. I kept a good pace because I didn’t want the person behind me to bump into me. Next thing I knew I was force to stop because there of a stream crossing traffic jam. Apparently I know how to cross these streams much better than folks around me. So on the second stream crossing, I used my mad stream crossing skill to cut cross the stream, and passed at least 10 people. The fun disappeared around mile 2 when the side of my rib cage hurts… a sign of going too hard.

Section 2 (Mile 2 – Mile 6): Recovery
Rolling Hill
Steepest Climb
Flat on the mountain top
High Speed Trail Descend
One mile of gradual downhill on dirt access road

By now I was in trouble. My heart rate was skyrocket, I was breathing heavy, and about all, I was running slow! I needed to get out of this mess and start moving fast again. I knew the flat is coming up. I knew I want to run it and not walk it like an overheat car. So I slowed down my pace to recover. At times I needed to stop and catch my breath on the steep uphill, at time I needed to stop even at the small runnable flat. But over all I knew my condition was improving. After like 10 minutes or so the pain went away, I was able to catch my breath, and got back into my groove before I enter the flat area.

I ran the flat and entered the steep descend. I ran fast and passed a few people. What I noticed is that I was pounding the ground so hard my eyeballs was like bounding around. It’s like every time I pound on the ground my vision will not be as clear (because of the impact). It took a lot focus to read the road ahead and it was kind of interesting. Maybe my body wants me to slow down! LOL

By now I also learned that drinking liquid from your backpack is very hard when you are racing. I realized that I can’t really drink from the pack while running at the same time because I was breathing rapidly. I would suck the liquid, took barely a sip, and ran out of breath! Luckily I carried a handheld so I was able to drink from it as well! At this time pretty much everyone around me ran at my pace. I just can’t seem to catch the person in front of me. This went on for a few minutes then I heard footsteps coming from behind… fast. No one should run this fast behind me. Then I realized it’s VitaPanda Kevin. He checked on me and I told him was having fun. We chatted for a bit and he took off. Then… he passed all these people in front of me effortlessly… crazy Panda.

Section 3 (mile 6 to mile 10): Stay Focus
Bottom of the canyon, relatively flat
First uphill
Quick descent
Second big uphill

By now I got to the aid station at mile 6. I figured I should go to the porta potty now because there won’t be one until the end. I went to the handicap one and bumped my head on the way out. I think the designer make the entrance shorter so regular people will bump their head if they were to use it!

Knowing this is the last flat I have for a long time; I stayed focus and ran as fast as I can. I passed a person holding a stick as support and I thought to myself, good job for holding this heavy stick and weight you down! After 10 minutes, I got to the start of the climb. Basically I hiked the uphill that’s too steep and jog at places where it wasn’t too steep for me. Half way thru the first uphill Kevin caught up to me (Well I think it’s more like he just had a hamburger and he needed a nice, easy run). It’s now 1hr40mins into the race and I took my second salt tablet pill. Kevin was behind me for probably another ¾ of a mile and then took off after he realized one of the mile marker is off (he was doing course marking the day before). By then I was running behind this two women. I knew they are more experience and faster than me on the uphill so I decided to use them as pacer. I would hike when they hike, run when they run. They would pull away from me every now and then but I managed to get back to their tails by running longer. It worked. I got to the top around 2hr10min

One of the few picture I took during the race. This is when I am going up the mountain. I eventually passed the woman in front of me at the downhill

Section 4 (mile 10- mile 13): Louis the mountain lion
Super Long Downhill: steep down hill, flat, steep down hill
The 6 minutes uphill
The last downhill
The flat
The finish line
Now the fun part began. 18 minutes of downhill that required 100% of my attention. As soon as I started going down hill I passed the two women in front of me. I kept up with my pace and passed another 2 guys, the two more. I was making good speed! But… when I go to the flat area in the middle of the downhill, I realized once again that I was running too fast and I needed to slow down and catch my breath. The last two guys that I passed? They passed me. I started talking to one of the guy and he told me he was having this hip cramp issue, we chatted until the downhill start, I took off again, passed another 3 people before I made it to the bottom. Right then I caught up this girl who took off at mile 6! I guess I made good use of that downhill.

By now I passed mile 12 with a time of 2hr 33 min. Holly crap I can finish the race in under 3 hours! I did a little victory dance in my head but I knew I still have this 6 minutes uphill that I needed to conquer. I called it 6 minutes uphill because it took me 6 minutes last week to climb. I knew I only need to suck it up for 6 more minutes before running in home stretch. By then my left calf act up and I can totally feel it, but it doesn’t really matter, I am going to push it. So like after I minute later I saw the Boston Marathon guy not too far away. Yes was far, but I knew I have a chance to catch him. I decided to go for it and pass him. I had this picture of a mountain lion trying to take down a big horn sheep. I sneak up on him and I gotten very close to pass him before the uphill. Well I missed it. So I ran for the second kill… on the down hill. I knew once he got to the flat he will be golden so I need to use my advantage… foot hill and my big leg muscle (I am guessing I can absorb more impact with my big legs so I can go at a faster speed than him). I know after the downhill I won’t be able to catch him… he doesn’t wear that Boston Marathon jacket for nothing! I got a bit closer, closer, and when he slowed down at this loose path, I went for the kill… No I did not knock him over and try to break his neck! I passed him.

Then second I passed him, I ran as fast as I can. As if I just knock over a police officer’s donut and coffee (Officer Morrison to be precise) on purpose and try to run away from him. And wow… I was able to hold him off for a while… until my left calf started to cramp. But instead of slowing down, I actually speed up with smaller steps and try to shake it off. But I can’t… so he over took me on the access path right before we make this right turn back to the paved road. I took down the prey, but the sheep got away. By now I reduced to this limping thing… which didn’t do me any good. I stopped; put pressure around my leg… and did not help. I decided to just kind of limp run my way in. When I got close to the finish line, I saw Kate, Jimmy, Erin C, and Kevin all cheering for me. I sucked it up and finish the course. 2hr and 51 minutes. A whole 15 minutes faster than what I expected! An hour faster than what I did last year (but last year I was on my own and didn’t know where I was going)

After the Race
My plan was to get warm, drink my recovery drink, then watch people finish. I know Alison won’t come in til at least 3:10 so I figured I have 20 minutes to do my thing. Right after I mixed my drink few minutes after I finished, Alison was standing in front of me smiling… I was speechless. She never run the course, biked 4 hours up the canyon the day before, and managed to finish only 9 minutes after me? But then again she is Alison, I shouldn’t be surprised. I stop guessing what she is capable a while in ago. I took pictures with the gang, ate lunch, and went home.

Jimmy wants me to show the Coyotes logo. Chill Jimmy! I will do it.

See, I love Coyotes (VitaPanda Louis and VitaPanda Kevin)

Alison, training partner in crime

I play smart, give it all I have, and I am happy with my result. This is the first time I used my trail running pack in a race and I learned a lot with my equipments. That it’s impossible to drink of the bladder if you are breathing heavily! That the new bottle that I have leaks! What the heck right… and a few other things. I tried a few things and they worked and a few things that didn’t. I gain valuable lessons about running on trail and I am sure I can apply my knowledge in my up coming races. I can’t wait to do my ‘A’ race #2.

Thanks to Coach Jimmy for the preview and race day support (check out his running group Coyotes running). Thanks to Coach Paul from Team Square One for some tough love training. Lastly I would like to thanks Kevin the other VitaPanda, who paced with me for a while. I also would like to give a shout out to my first time TNT marathon teammate Emily Shanker. We ran the Los Angeles Marathon back in March 2008 and she is going to run the Rock N roll Arizona Marathon as her second marathon this week! I am excited for her! Go Emily!

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