100k WC 2011

100k WC 2011

Gagarin Half Finish

Gagarin Half Finish
Gagarin Half Finish

Awards Gagarin Half

Awards Gagarin Half
Awards Gagarin Half

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)
Cosmonauts give out the awards



Sunday, April 29, 2012

100km World and European Championships.

What an interesting weekend to say the least. I flew out Friday afternoon from Moscow to get to Milan just in time for dinner. The schedule was ideal so I would not have to deal with having to leave for the airport for some ridiculously early flight then just spend the next day or so before the race recovering from that alone. I flew into Bergamo (near Milan) where teammates Anita, Valdis,and Viktor quickly met me. They had arrived an hour earlier. We were the last ones in. We hopped the train into Seregno where organizers picked us up and took us to the sports center where the rest of our delegation had already been waiting for a good FOUR HOURS! No one had taken them to where we were going to stay?!  So after a bit of hee hawing around, a driver showed us to a van where we sat for nearly another HOUR. Ok, now it's just getting late. The driver eventually took us to our accomodation which was halfway up the mountain in Eupilio and a good 45 min from Seregno /the start of the race. As it turned out, all the teams were scattered about this mountain quite a long way from the race site.
          Anita Liepina,Marina Bychkova (last year's winner) and me WAITING  to be taken to our accomodation.

Once we arrived,  we checked in and went to dinner. The food was really good the whole time we were there. Anita and I roomed together and both of us had no plans to set an alarm. Sleep on Friday was key.  I woke up arond 8:30 ish local time ...hehe I was still on Moscow time 2 hours ahead so it actually put me on a normal schedule here. After breakfast, Anita and I checked out the beautiful mountain scenery. We were staying at a Catholic school/monastery. This place was gorgeous! Yeah, and I love mountains. I still really miss the mountains after almost ten years in Alaska.

...... oh and a bit of advertising :-)  These are my medals from 2011 100k and 50k Latvian National Champion (my manager remembered to bring them:))

                                      I was actually loading up on Vitargo in the days before the race in between                   meals=calories are my friends!  This is also my staple during the race. It's lots of high calorie carbs that absorb quickly and don't upset my tummy.

After checking out the views, I went on a shakeout run. Who could complain about the views! PRETTY! After lunch, it was time to prepare my drinks for the race. Now, since no one really knew what the heck was going on and whether or not to trust that our bottles would get delivered to their homes along the course, I decided to make some extra backup ones to have at our main table every 20k. Yeah, this would later prove to be very smart indeeed.

Late afternoon, we were bused into Seregno for the opening ceremonies and later for dinner. Now I knew my old college teammate from Beloit, Todd Braje had made the U.S. team again and of course we found each other before the parade. Beloit Distance is still kicking ass after all these years! This was Todd's third Worlds and mine too. Todd is really an accomplished ultrarunner with numerous wins,multiple U.S. titles, and course records to boot. I really owe it to my coaches I had at Beloit for really getting me to develop as a distance runner during those years  and for laying the foundation for things to come.
                                                     GO TODD!

Some from the parade-

We were then taken to dinner and then bused home. Well this was almost comical. See, our bus driver got LOST on the way up the mountain and actually had to ask for directions several times before getting us home! By then it was nearly 10PM and we all had to be up and out the door EARLY the next day! So much for SLEEP!

Race day- we were bused to the start BUT let out nearly 3km from the START! We actually followed the course backwards to get to the start! Nice, as if I need the extra time on my feet! So, bottles were put in the boxes to be delivered to their homes alond the course. They had aid stations every 5km I sent my stash of Vitargo to the station I'd pass at 10,30,50,70,and90k. The rest of my goodies like Vespa which I take every 20 and extra gels were on our main table with my candy stash. Ok more surprises to come. Lena Simutina (from team Russia) found me before the start and we met with a big bear hug:-)  We have been chasing each other at marathons now for over 10 years. She is really nice and I really like her and I wish sometimes she lived closer to Moscow so I could have company on my long runs. She's fast and ran a blistering 8:38 in St Pete last fall. Well she let me know the race had been delayed 30 min-organizers not ready yet! Ok I just laughed because I was just not surprised anymore. So more waiting around was in store.
                                              Waiting Around
Ok the next surprise was a nasty. FIVE minutes before the start I was told I couldn't carry anything with me-no fuel belt with gels /saltsticks.Yeah it was like airport security before getting to the start! Ok awesome, that's like getting in the car and setting off for a long journey with only enough gas in the tank to get you about halfway! None of the team managers were warned of this one at the technical meeting the day before or we would have known. Luckily Andris was 200m away and I quickly hopped fence and handed off my goods and told him new rule- you can only get stuff from the tables so put it there I'll pickup what I need after the start. So that's what I did after the start quick grab of gels and into the pockets of the Moeben sleeves.....Moeben sleeves save the day because the cleaveage pocket in my bra only holds 1 gel! Ok so I'm on my merry way weather is good because I had goosebumps before the start. Anita and Inara, our other 2 women, took off fast. I passed Inara about 8k in. I ran the first 20k loop (course was 5x 20k loops) with Sasha from the Ukrainain team. The officials snagged his bottle before the start! We were just parking it 5.15-20km pace. I had no intent of going out faster. Last year, Sasha passed be just before 70k.At 10k, I had a major psychological blow-my bottles did not get delivered to their homes and not to the midway point inthe loop! Shit! I need to come up with a plan B fast for getting calories and not upsetting my tummy. At the aid stations they did have coke and a sports drink with salt which helped. Solid food I had not tried in training I was not keen to risk. I was so glad I made backup bottles for our main table. Still, access to my fuel only every 20k was not good so I ran a very conservative pace. 15 k in, I caught up to Lena Simutina. We ran a bit together then Sasha and I pulled ahead. 20k- pit stop 1 to drink and grab what I needed for lap 2:

Sasha wanted to pick up and go closer to 5min/km place so I let him go and decided to park and park I did. I was fine running my 5.15-20 is (8:30ish mile pace). 40k and still holding pace just fine....

                                                                60k pit stop
Just before 60k, I passed Viktor. I thought he might come along with me later.At 61k, I passed Anita who was having trouble and eventually dropped at 63. Inara had dropped at 20.Anita was on the Olympic team in 96,2000, and in 2004 in the 20k racewalk. She was hoping to racewalk the last 2 loops when she hit a rough patch  but it just didn't work out.

At 60K, I had to come up with a calorie plan for the last 2 laps. I was still holding pace and feeling ok but after drinking and getting what I needed for the next lap, I took a Vitargo bottle to go. I sipped it til 70k where I had over half left and strategically planted it on our table (where the rest of my bottles were supposed to have been)  to have when I came around again at 90. This would later prove to be a smart move. The sun was out on the last 2 laps and it was getting warm. they said 23C by the latter part of the race but I felt ok it was nothing like the sauna I ran in last year in the Netherlands! I started feeling a bit of a rough patch between 70-80 but just figured and hoped it would pass. Ultras have highs and lows and my craptastic part was 70-80. At 75 the bushes beckoned and I quickly ducked in not wanting to waste time. OOOOH yeah squatting after 75k is sooo fun!  Up to 80k for the final loop grabbed what I needed and some more candy too!

Ok, what  would happen next would get rather interesting. I still felt decent. I was still holding pace 5.25-30+km no big slowdown just a little rough patch 70-80 that seemed to be done now. If I parked where I was ,Iwas looking at a big PR but didn't want to push yet because nothing is worse than when the gas runs out. 85k, I pass a Canadian girl...hmm same one I run with every yr that has finished a little ahead of me. We went back and forth a bit 75-85 but then I never saw her. Ok, next victim(s) and  there would be many. I just kept catching up to whoever was just ahead and passing! Just before 90k, I saw Sasha again. Oh dear, I just felt bad for him . He and another guy on his team were helping each other to the finish. Ok 90k and my pick-me-up-bottle is waiting =) YAY! Next, I'd catch the lead Canadian woman, a couple Italian ladies and some guys too....it honestly helped me pass the time. There were some rollers on the backside of the loop and I caught some people there too. Mentally, I was just thinking there is only a little bit left maybe pick up a little bit to the next and final aid station. I passed a few more before hitting 95K. Saved by coke and my last gel and off I was to the finish. My pace was back to the 5.15-20 I had run til the rough patch 70-80 where I had a few 5.40s in there and a fast bush break. Last 5k was just over 26 min! With 3k to go I was pushing as close to 5 min/km pace as my legs would carry me. (just over 8 min mi)Holy crap did I go out too slow to have that kind of reserve left? Or rather did I pace just right early so as not to give up a ton in the end? In the final 20km I passed 7-8 women and over a dozen guys. No one passed me back nor did I get passed by anyone during the rest of the race I later didn't catch after 70k. Finish was 9:17 good enough for a PR,38th overall, and 25th in Europe. Actual time on the garmin was 9:05 meaning I lost 12 min farting around drinking and picking up stuff every 20k because I had to leave my stash on our table and my bottles didn't make it to their homes on the course. I never stopped on the course save the few seconds or so in the bush. I grabbed what I needed to drink and moved along. Goal was sub 9 but that's a bit tough when you have nutrition fail as in fail to get it on the course in the first place! The course itself was pretty with mountain views along the way.. I stared into the mountains and it helped me relax along the way....just think of it like a run along the old Coastal Trail back in Anchorage. Damn, I miss the mountains!
Next year the Euros will be in March in Paris and the Worlds in Korea in October. I get to do this twice....glad they are a good 7 months apart.

On another interesting note, American Amy Sproston pulled away late for the win and Irina Vishnevskaya (Russia)also made an awesome late move into 3rd for her first top 3 individual placing. Meghan Arbogast (US) actually led for quite a bit before finishing 4th. I just have to say, she is incredibly inspiring. I would have loved to see a 51 yr old win the whole thing and "school" the rest of us "young bucks". She did take out her own WR in the 50-54 group though.Her performance is just mind shattering and I wish her many more records.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Next Stop 100k Worlds!

Well this is it. That sure crept up fast. It seems like yesterday I was just beginning to prep for this in December and lay the foundation over the winter for what I hope leads to a 100K PR. I've been on a steady diet of 100 mile weeks all winter dropping a little every 4th week. I have been  sleeping again thanks to a consistent work/sleep schedule. I also have had time to eat better as a result. Hell, in January I gave up pop and started using my pop money to buy fresh fruit instead. I was just drinking way too much pop. Ok coke in an ultra or a long run is ok but 2+liters of pop daily just because is stupid.

On the 14th, I ran the Kirzhach Half as my last formal tempo run before the 100K. First off, I was categorically forbidden to break 1:30 much less pop a 1:25 (not to mention this course is hellaciously hilly). Second, I was to take the first half slow and easy at my hardly working effort...somewhere about 50k starting pace. I could work the second half as a tempo run, but I was not to burn down the barn even if I felt like doing so. I need to burn down the barn next week at the 100. Damn, that's a hard task. I began slightly tapering earlier in the week and my legs were fresh and raring to burn down that barn. "Don't you dare," said the little voice in my head,"Don't you even think of putting down a mid 1:20s smthg on this course today or you will be sorry next week!"  Ok, start off easy then go medium hard.

This is a point to point course that starts at the site where Yuri Gagarin died in a plane crash and runs into the town of Kirzhach. Most of the big hills are in the first 10km then the course just rolls the rest of the way. This year, we were treated to an unexpected surprise at the start and actually the first 2km:

UNMELTED SNOW! Are you kidding me???? It's mid April and the road is still snowed under?! Spring breakup has been very slow to start this year. OK, no problem of being at risk of running a mid 1:20s time today even  if I wanted to! Luba Morgunova was back again and also doing a workout. Scrap plans of winning this 3 yrs in a row but again my task was to get in one final workout at a controlled pace and no barn burning. I seriously hope Luba can kick some ass at a major marathon this year and maybe still go sub 2:30. I thought it was way kickass when at 40 she won Nationals last yr.

Off we were through the sloppy snow and slow it was in the beginning. Wow 5 min pace (8 min miles) on the snow, puddle,ice mix! Damn, that's pedestrian snail slow!  Nice -if I were trying to actually race, I'd have lost over a minute just because of the course conditions here.  Once I cleared the snow, I just settled in at 4.30-35km (about 7.15-20 mile pace). Wow, I really am screwing around and barely breathing barely working! This is like a training run! I screwed around until I hit 11km where the water stop was. Coach had handed off a bottle of Vitargo to one of the volunteers but somehow it didn't appear at the water stop. I got a bottle of water and drank it and began to start my tempo run. Ok I want to work here medium hard but not eyeballs out because I need to save that now. 10k tempo run at 4 min/km pace. So that's exactly what I proceeded to do.

                                            catching the 10k runners(they start at our 11k mark 45 min after we do)

 Some sub 4 a few just over and voila nice smooth tempo run over some rolling hills. I could easily have held that pace for the whole race (well save for the first part on snow) but busting that out on the hills for the half as opposed to just a 10k tempo run I'm sure would have cost me in the 100k so I just worked that part of the course. 4min /km nice and steady and soon I was off chicking all the guys in my path! I am surprised how many people start out too fast. Up and down the hills at 4 min pace we go ...well with about 2km to go traffic was a bitch. yes, traffic! They didn't shut the road into town and I had to meander my way between traffic...still sticking to pace albeit ! WTF! This is nice and safe...NOT! With about 500m to go I hit the final turn into the park which was completely underwater from meltoff. yeah it was ankle deep. I just ran right down the middle of it -screw finding somewhere in the snow off to the side to run. I came out of the flood zone and up the final hill to the finish. I finished 2nd behind Luba Morgunova and was just over 1:32. If not for the flood in the final km I'd have likely beat my 1:31 and change from last year. The irony is that last year and the year before I was actually busting my ass to run that 1:31 and in 2010 1:33 (this is NOT  a FAST course). The funny thing is this year, in much worse conditions,screwing around and not pushing too hard, I was no worse off. Ok I sandbagged 6 minutes slower than my time 2 weeks ago, but I was not busting my ass at all! The scary thing is that yeah, I dropped over 5 minutes in the final 10k once I picked it up a bit and that pace felt comfortable. Yes, I could have run the whole thing like that and I probably would have been very close to the time I ran 2 weeks ago which is damn good considering the difficulty of this course and the unexpected snow that slowed things down. Yes, it took a LOT of self control to hold back when I knew darn well I could go. Doug Heron, 800m Alaska recordholder at 1:49, whom I used to work with helping the distance kids on the track team in Fairbanks once put it this way when we were doing intervals with the kids," Today, you want to take that hot pizza to the door and knock. On race day, the door opens up and you go in deliver that pizza ready to eat." Yeah, that's spot on. This run was about getting that pizza to the door. Next week I get to go in and eat it! The hay is in the barn and it's time to rest and do mostly nothing. There is really nothing more I can do. I'm either ready or I'm not at this point.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Yuri Gagarin Half -No April Fool's Joke and Overcoming Fear

For a long time, my coach has been telling me he thinks I'm holding back and there is a lot more reserve inside than I'm letting go. I haven't talked or written much about this, probably because I'm afraid I'll jinx something or  just don't know what to do next. Well, toward the end of last season, I started getting speedy again and started feeling stronger than I had been in a long time. Fluke? No, this continued into the winter as I began preparation for the 100K Worlds in three weeks. By the time January rolled around and we got into February, I started hitting long tempo runs slightly below last year's race paces at those distances. Mind you, this is on a boring as hell indoor track, but where else can I go to hit the paces I need to? Hmmmmmmm I really started thinking and I opened my journal and went back to what I was doing in the winter of 09 leading up to that 3rd place finish in Riga AKA the last decent marathon I ran and the last one I ran for time before moving to the 100k. it was like comparing apples to oranges. What I was running now was coming out MINUTES faster than the same workouts did then. Note that I always run faster in races than I do my tempo runs in training. Hmmmmmm this is kind of scary, so I went back further to my marathon and half marathon PRs....oooh damn that's been too long:-(. Still, no comparison, what I'm doing now is still better. Really? So, now I need to figure out just what I'm really capable of.

Sometime in February, I mentioned to Coach that I really don't want to say this because I'm not 100% sure, but I think I could probably put down a 1:25 ish half now. He just laughed and said that would be too easy and he thought I could do better. That's the time we had the conversation about my finding a marathon to run in March because he said I am more than ready to go after a PR. Ugh PR? That's ambitious. I figured logically probably pretty close based on how things were going. We decided on Barcelona until my effing visa issues screwed that. I only have one more exit/entry from Russia until May while I await the last of the work visa process-suck is not the beginning to describe this.

So, I ran Solnechnogorsk last weekend as a glorified long run. The plan was to get in a nice controlled effort and then turn around in eight days and run a fast half in Zvezdniy Gorodok at the Gagarin Half as a HARD tempo 3 weeks out from the 100. This is USUALLY the first good weather/clean pavement race of the season. well, one would think...

Although the main road was clear, the 500mor so  stretch in and out of the start finish area+ the loop we do in and out of there was totally covered in sloppy snow. I took one look at that and abandoned any plans of running much under 1:30 given that I'd be dealing with a 500 or so m out,then return to the same stretch for about a 400 down to the turnaround crossover  to head back out 400 or so to the snow free road, plus, I'd have to finish the last 500m in that sloppy slop at a time when I should be hauling ass not have to be worried about being slowed by slop. I figured I could kiss at least a couple minutes goodbye on the snowy slop.
                                                   Nice snowy slop -pic by Masha Shalneva

So off we were onto the snowy slop before hitting pavement. I went out as planned at 4.15/km pace. I wanted to try for at least 4.10 but I figured that would be too ambitious because the snowy slop would chew up more time.Also,being it right at freezing, I'd decided to go with my 3/4length CWX compression tights instead of my shorter ones. This is the first time ever I have not run this race in above the knee tights or shorts. I also decided to run in my summer flats instead of the Icebugs and just do the best I could on the snowy slop spots. The compression tights and socks give me just the right feel for my legs too. I started out with Andrei, a friend from the running club who had planned to run about 4.15 ish too. At 3k, he went a little ahead and I just kept things parked just over4.10 hanging 4.10-12 ish. The first loop was a 10k the 2nd was the 11 and change to get the full half marathon. Coming down after thhe 5k turnaround Coach was waiting at about 8k with my first Vitargo bottle. After 9k, I hit the snowy slop down and back before heading out to the 2nd loop. My paced dropped off to near 4.30/km !!!! Damn slop just stole quite a bit from me! First 10k was EXTREMELY PEDESTRIAN, probably too pedestrian over 42 min! WTH? I have been way the hell faster in training without really pushing the envelope, but ,yeah not on snow. Coach was wating just past the snowy slop with my 2nd Vitargo. After I took that, I felt a bit better. From 10K on I just picked up and went to work. What happened next was just scary. 4 min, then I just kept dropping 3.58,56,55 and just held on. After a couple k's at that pace, I looked at my Garmin and freaked and thought maybe it was a tree or someting causing it to read too fast. Next couple ks were faster. Then I thought I had better slow the hell  down a little or I'm going to die. No, something just clicked. yes, I knew perfectly well that 4 min even =1:24 pace and I decided to just see if I could park it at or a little faster than said pace since my legs seemed to be going there anyways. I decided not to freak out but to take a risk and really push the envelope, redline for a change and see how long I could hold this. Instead of looking and seeing the 4 min pace and thinking, "Oh shit I'd better back off a little," I thought, "Oh last k was 4.02 better counter it with a 3.50 smthg." What's the worst thing that could happen? The 2nd loop was only 11k and for me that's like nothing coming off all this high volume 100k training. So off I was and I started chicking quite a few guys along the way.
                                                      pics by Masha Shalneva
                                                                  setting up to chick another dude

The 4th woman was nowhere in sight and unless I came to a dead walk, I'd at least finish 3rd. I was running a solid 3rd behind Lyubov Morgunova about 600 or so ahead and some other new girl I didn't know was not far off Lyuba. At 13k I caught up to Andrei and passed him-Garmin showed 3.56 pace. I kind of felt bad for him because we were supposed to help each other out and run together, but he had apparently gone out too fast. Down to the last turnaround with 5.5 k to go and I see 2nd woman is fading the difference is about 40 seconds. I decided to try and see if I could close the gap and reel her in. With each k, I was getting closer and closer because I just was not slowing down. catch her or not, I wanted to really try eyeballs out redlining for a change to see just how fast I could keep going. At 18k Coach picked me up -I knew I had closed the gap to within 15 seconds and just kept getting faster. The last 3k was just surreal. I think 2nd lady had been warned that I was coming and picked up a little. At 19k I dug in and really wanted to use any gas left in that tank just to see what I could do, just go for broke, and this was the most insane closing-km's 19 and 20 came in at 3.43 pace-that's 5.50ish mile pace. OMFG are you kidding me? I was closing the gap but there just wasn't enough -I hit the snow looked at my watch-just about to hit 1:25.That's when I just thought  EFF the snow hammer the last 500-yeah I'll lose some time inevitably, but I was going to fight it as much as I could. I came in just over 1:26 despite the snow handicap. Holy sh!t-that last 11k was insane and I have never had a closing maintaining sub 6 min mile pace in a half-not even when I PRed! The course was measured accurately this year so it was an honest time. I was left with two questions:
1. Did I go out too slow and cautious?
2. Take away the snow and could I have chased down a PR?

Lesson learned- don't be afraid to redline or you will never even come close to knowing where the potential is.If going faster feels ok, don't fight it.  I'd like keep cutting that time but not sure where now. The Kirzhach Half is on the 14th, but it's a hilly hard course I probably should not risk eight days off the 100. After the 100K, I'm not sure where I'll be speedwise.

Luba Morgunova won in just over 1:23 2nd woman and were just over 1:26. it's ok for Luba beat me:-) I have nothing but respect for her.
Last year, at 40, she won marathon NCs in just over 2:30 and won Rotterdam in 08 among other things. She has won more major marathons that I can count and is still kicking ass!