My 2015-16 road racing season has come to a climactic end with a 33rd place finish at the Olympic Trials Marathon. The past few days have given me some time to reflect on my first trials experience and the road racing season as an entire body of work.
I've been training primarily solo over the course of the past fourteen months since beginning my development at marathon and half marathon distances. I spent a hot Savannah Summer and Fall in grueling 90-100% humidity at 115-140 miles per week on primarily flat terrain. At times, training in Savannah makes me yearn for the mountains. I'm lucky to have such great friends in nearby cities that I sporadically connect with in Appalachia. July's five hour session from Black Mountain, NC to Mount Mitchell and back with Morgan Elliot charged my batteries for a fall of road training. A quick break in Chattanooga, TN this August with Andrew Snope and Daniel Hamilton at the Still Hollow Half Marathon sparked my interest in Trail Racing. My solo debut 50K Trail in October on the Palmetto Bluff (3:06.09) solidified my eventual desire to focus on 50K-100K development this winter and spring.
A message from Richard Clark Fannin in (USATF 15K National Championships Race Director) changed my focus for what I believed would be 6 weeks. Richard invited me to the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon in October. He believed the race would draw around 30-40 athletes that were close to the OT standard, but hadn't quite hit the mark yet. I thought it over for 24 hours....musing how I'd done 0 miles under 5:00 since the previous winter of training for my debut Marathon last March. After accepting Richard's invite to the race, I dropped from the Tallahassee Ultradistance Classic (50K Road) from my schedule and picked up a few tuneups to develop my half marathon wheels.
You may question my decision making process here.....
I'd been rocking 120-140 miles a week for the past 10 weeks....doing very little quality work other than 50K/M Pace runs of 12-16 miles in length around 5:15-5:25 pace every 10 days. My long runs for ten weeks in a row were ranging from 25-35 miles at 6:10-6:35 pace. I hadn't run a single mile under 5:10 since last March. I only did a few intervals this fall at 5:05 with the SCAD Men's Cross Country Team. Yikes! What did I get myself into.
I figured the Half Marathon would be a great tune-up for the Way Too Cool Trail 50K in Cool, CA on March 5th. I stuck to my guns in my training, not tapering under 115 miles per week until December 1st. I did zero half marathon pace workouts approaching Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon, but did manage to line up for a few solo time trials on the roads in November (4 Miles: 19:18) and December (5 miles: 24:11).
As Jax Bank Half approached, the field looked more and more stacked. 60 men going for it! Ten guys who have run under 1:04.30! My buddy Tyler Pennel would be pacing; thus, I knew the race would be surgically perfect wire to wire. I was stoked, figuring with the solid taper to under 90 miles a week with maybe 80 the week of Jax may result in a PR in the 1:05 high range. Prior to Jacksonville, I had only raced one half (while tapered), my debut in Orlando in December 2013 (1:06.12).
The energy in Jax was off the charts. Richard organized an impeccable event that was very old school. We all funded our own trip to get there. We all had dinner together. Forty-five women, sixty men, one vision......let's get as many new qualifiers as possible.
The end result....27 men under 1:05....14 women under 1:15.....
I felt fantastic....15:27...15:24.....15:18....49:20 at 10 miles....Around 15:09 for my last 5K...1:04.29....
Somehow, PR'ing by 1:43 without doing half marathon race pace other than in races. I only ran 16 miles under 5:00 since March, yet averaged 4:55 for Half Marathon.
We had a fantastic celebration, all the new qualifiers and the men and women that paced us. The question was.....could I recover for Olympic trials? Could I reload in time?
I dropped the Way Too Cool 50K from my schedule (until next year) and instantly registered for trials. I punched my airfare and booked my room with my best friend Jeff Weiss. In the weeks approaching, I managed to get in two weeks at 115, one week at 105, 75 the week before, and 68 the week of trials. Training was smooth, with multiple 12-15 mile 50K/marathon pace runs inside 18-20 mile runs. I managed to get in six 20-24 mile XLs in between Jax and Trials.
LA was hot. How hot? In the 80's by the end of trials. Above 75 degrees for the last hour. My thought on the line was....how would Rob Krar run this race? He is an expert in the heat as he exemplified at Western States 100 the past two years.
I decided to carry all my own fluids, only checking two bottles. I used the UD Groove Mono with a 17 oz bottle (Yes, UD's new Hydration Belt in the Olympic Trials Marathon) and 5 oz Bottle Holsters in my hands. I downed 10 oz of coconut water and one gel before the warmup, only ten minutes in the shade, plus strides. On the line, I loaded 5 oz of coconut water in the left as a precaution.
Along the way, I decided to take two ice cold towels at every station and stored them in the band of my visor, getting as much ice cold water on my spine as possible to try to trick my body into thinking it was cool out. Along the way, I consumed a whopping 6 gels and 50 oz. of water.
Progression throughout the race was primarily with Stephen Shay and David Laney in the early stages of the race. We had a great chase group, engaging in a ton of verbal communication along the way. At 5 miles....13Xth....10K, 124th....Half Marathon, 77th.....and in the later stages, I managed to pass another 46 men, only getting passed by two men that ran perfect negative/even splits. Upon crossing the line at my first Olympic Marathon Trials and having run a well executed race, I celebrated the body of work. After being ranked 124th of 164 coming in, how could I be pissed with 33rd at trials? 210 men qualified this time around....not all ran the race....but, that still puts me in the top 15% of the 210 that qualified.
I made some great memories at trials. Spending time with my best friend Jeff Weiss and his wife Megan made the trip fun. It was great hanging with Tony Migliozzi and Joe Sarver as well. Andrew Benford was a hoot, kindred spirits undoubtedly my friend. I really enjoyed speaking with Max King about Ice Age 50 mile Trail (thanks for the advice Max). Spending time with the wizard of the NAIA...Conor Holt, Camille Herron, and Arya Bahreini in the airport was super enjoyable, great folks those Okies. As always, it was great to see my buddy Tyler Pennel.
After speaking with Camille Herron and telling her my goals for this year, I've committed to Mad City 50K rather than the USATF 100K Championships. Above all, I want to make the USA 50K Worlds team this year. I'm going for the gusto on April 9th in Madison, Wisconsin to take my best shot at the 50K standard. On May 14th, I'm signed up for Ice Age 50 Mile Trail in La Grange,Wisconsin.
I'm very excited about the summer of training in the mountains with Daniel Hamilton, Andrew Snope, and Morgan Elliot. Chattanooga and Black Mountain will be my weekend home, no doubt. I'll be doing alot of VERT in preparation for USATF 50K Trail Championships in August and USATF 1/2 Marathon Trail Champs in October. I'll still be keeping the road wheels at the ready for either USATF Club Cross in December or 50K Worlds in Doha, Qatar if I'm fortunate enough to make the team.
Until next time....signing off....thanks for all the support. Although this blog is a long time coming, a wizard is never late...he arrives precisely when he means to.