Friday, August 30, 2013

Blue Ridge Relay leg analysis: Leg 31

The Mountain Goat leg. The Big One. The Billy Goat. The Climb. The Hill. The Switchbacks. Whatever you call it, this is arguably the toughest leg on the Blue Ridge relay, and for the second year in a row, I'm going to run it.

Last year I wasn't planning on running it, but one of our runners got sick, so the order of runners changed and I was called into action. When I got to this leg, I had already run 5 legs, and I would be running one more after it, so I was already exhausted and still needed to save something for the last leg. I told Chas I was hoping for a 10:30 pace on the leg and I ended up running a 10:19. Not very impressive, despite the leg's 1,400 feet of climbing in 6.5 miles.

One of the reasons I wanted to run the Blue Ridge Relay again this year was to run this leg. A week from tomorrow, somewhere around 8:00 a.m., I should get my chance. Here's the BRR info sheet on the leg:

As you can see, the route is flat for the first mile, then gradually starts climbing in Mile 2, and from there on out it's pretty much a steady climb to the finish. My team gives me a projected 7:20 pace for this leg, and I can say right now, there's no chance I will do that. I honestly would be very satisfied with an 8:00 pace for the leg, but I will probably shoot for something in between the two and hang on as long as I can. Here's how the leg breaks down, mile by mile.

I got the gain / descent figures from last year's GPS record of the leg, so they should be fairly accurate, although I must say I don't remember any downhill in Mile 6! If there's any bright spot here, it should be in Mile 5, where it does level off ever so slightly before entering the notorious switchback section on Mile 6. As you can see, I slowed considerably on those switchbacks last year, because for some reason I thought the leg was 7.4 miles, not 6.5, so I didn't realize how close I was to the finish. A car passed me at the end of Mile 6 and told me it was just a half-mile to the finish, and I didn't believe him! I only really picked up the pace when I started to see team vans parked on the side of the road about a quarter-mile from the end.

This year (assuming no one has to drop out and change the order of the runners) I should be better prepared for my final leg. I've done a lot of BRR-specific training, including plenty of hill repeats and workouts on the bleachers at Davidson College, so I think I'll be ready for this. In addition, I've now studied the route (in addition to having actually run it), so I'd like to believe that armed with that knowledge and training, I should be able to perform well.

I'm planning a relatively slow first mile because I don't want to go into the hill feeling tired. I'm going to treat that mile almost like a fast warm-up to prepare me for things to come. I'll slow down just a touch, to a 7:45 pace as I start heading up the hill, and then do all I can to hang on to that pace all the way to the top, even as I get progressively more exhausted.

Last year as I ran up the hill there were perhaps a dozen spectators, each of them thinking they were encouraging me by telling me "this is your last leg -- give it all you've got!" That didn't do much good because I knew that in fact I had another leg yet to run. This year it really will be my last leg, so perhaps that knowledge will actually help this time around! I'd like to get through this leg without walking (as I did many times last year) except perhaps for 10 yards at a time when the road gets super-steep as it heads around switchbacks.

If everything goes as planned for our team, I should be running this leg around 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. Currently the forecast overnight low for Friday is 55 degrees, so with any luck I'll be running this leg in temperatures below 60. That would be absolutely fantastic, and considerably cooler than last year, when I started at 10 a.m. on a much warmer day.

This is a very tough leg, as my humbling performance last year demonstrates. Hopefully this year I'll be able to turn that around. If I can, it could be one of my most satisfying races ever.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blue Ridge Relay leg analysis: Leg 19

This is the second post in my series analyzing my legs for the Blue Ridge Relay. My second leg is 19, a 4.4-miler that I'll be running at roughly 12:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. Here's the official info-sheet for the leg:

As you can see, the route is straightforward, and mostly a gentle downhill throughout. There's a net loss of 90 feet for the leg, and the only hill is a slight one in Mile 4. Since the leg is easy, my team has projected my average pace for the leg at 5:58 per mile. That's fast, even on a downhill leg. I think my only strategy is going to be to try to run even splits. No need to break them down individually -- the final uphill is near the end so hopefully adrenaline will get me through it.

As with leg 7, I'm going to need to be well-warmed-up for this leg as once again I'm going to have to get moving relatively quickly. The other trick is just forcing my body to run fast at night. Fortunately I do most of my speed work in the dark hours of the morning, so hopefully that won't be too much of a problem.

In the past I've enjoyed nighttime legs on the BRR, especially if there isn't much traffic. The description says it's a "heavily traveled" road but I'm hoping the traffic won't be quite so heavy this late at night.

I do think I'm not going to be too concerned about nailing my pace exactly. If I'm a few seconds slow I'm not going to kill myself to get back on pace; I will need to save something for the final leg, Leg 31, which is traditionally thought to be the toughest leg in the event. More on that soon!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blue Ridge Relay leg analysis: Leg 7

This year, once again, I'll be running the Blue Ridge Relay, as a member of team Stache and Dash. The race is on September 6 and 7, and I'm going to be runner #7, which means on our 12-member team, I'll be running legs 7, 19, and 31.

The total mileage for my 3 legs is 16.5, which breaks down as 5.6 for leg 7, 4.4 for leg 19, and 6.5 for leg 31. I'll have roughly 8 hours of rest between each leg, so my plan is to go fairly close to all-out every time, with the expectation that I will be slowing a bit each time.

Here's the info sheet for Leg 7:

As you can see, it's back-loaded with climbs. It's a net downhill route, with 773 feet of descent and 512 feet of climbing. Miles 3 and 5 look to be rather tough, but the other 3.6 miles should allow for some fast downhill cruising. My team has given me a projected pace based on my 10K times of 6:07 per mile for the whole leg. So how can I accomplish that?

I've made a spreadsheet to try to address the issue. Here it is:

I estimated the gain and descent for each mile based on the graph at the bottom of the info sheet, then made my best guess at what pace I could achieve for that mile. Basically I've got to run 5:40s on the downhill legs, a 6:50 for Mile 3 with its 120 or so feet of climbing, and a 7:20 for Mile 5 with 230 feet of climbing.

But my guesstimates from the graph don't add up to the actual vertical for the whole leg, so I adjusted each mile to account for that. As you can see, the adjusted gain for Miles 3 and 5 is now 151 and 231 feet respectively. I still think those paces are doable, but it will be a little more challenging to hit them. All I can do is try!

The other tricky aspect to this leg is the weather. This assumes perfect running conditions -- let's say 55 degrees with no humidity. But this leg will likely be the warmest leg I run -- I'm expecting to run it from 4 to 4:30 in the afternoon, and this time of the year, temperatures can be as high as 80 degrees in that area. Realistically if it's that hot I'll need to add a minimum of 30 seconds to my pace.

The other thing I'll need to be careful about is warming up. With a downhill start, I'll need to be getting up to speed quickly, so I'll need to make sure I'm properly warmed up, running at least a mile and possibly two before starting.

Next I'll give the rundown for Leg 19.

Details of today's workout are below:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My run today


My run today, a set on Flickr.

I'm on vacation, staying in Brooklyn today. It was a gorgeous morning so I decided to take my camera along for the run. Not a bad way to start the day!