Wednesday, February 10, 2016


The start of the 2016 Zena Road Runs 15k. I'm in orange right above the white van. This just the first part of a 600 foot hill.
Sunday morning was one of my favorite races, the Zena Road Runs in Salem. They have three distances, the 15k, a 6 miler, and a 3 miler. Something for everyone! Another perk is the race doesn't start until 11am, so there is plenty of time to sleep in. It also is over in plenty of time for me to get back and shower before the Super Bowl. So really it's perfect. The cherry on top is getting to go with my running friends and just having an overall fun time.

The worst part of the race is the race. Ha. Seriously though, it is a challenge. And for some reason, I really like that challenge. It is kind of like the Bald Peak Half Marathon... you know the course is daunting and you aren't going to get a smoking time but that's the fun part. Like the previous two times I signed up, I was in it for the big one, the 15k. Alejandro and Glenn were also doing that distance. Katie did the 3 mile race and Matt did the 6 mile race. I rolled up with about 30 minutes to go and had my bib a couple minutes later. Luckily the weather was great and I wasn't cold at all waiting for it to start.

THE FIRST THREE (8:38, 8:20, 8:28)

Pre-race selfie!
After a rendition of the national anthem just a touch below Lady Gaga's, the race started. Like Bald Peak, this race doesn't mess around. Right away you are running up a giant hill. It is 400 feet of elevation gain in 2/3rds of a mile. For me to run a 8:38 despite that is pretty impressive. That's right about what I was expecting, even a little faster than I thought. For whatever reason, it wasn't totally killing me. It was a nice surge of confidence to see my watch beep at 8:38. Now, I was exhausted and praying for a downhill, but I definitely survived and didn't completely blow it right there on the first hill.

The rest of that mile flattens out after the 400 feet and there's even a nice little downhill. Pretty soon though you are going back uphill. The next two miles don't have an uphill like that first mile but they still generally meander upwards. Just enough to where you feel it but not enough to visually make yourself okay with your mile times. It feels like you should and could run faster but really you can't. Anyways, my 8:20 and 8:28 were a touch slower than I was hoping for but these miles also had a few more hills than I remembered. I guess 200 feet in 2 miles isn't quite the walk in the park I was hoping for.

The gravel that appeared at mile one is really worn down and was so packed it was almost like running on blacktop. So that didn't pose an issue at all. Around mile 2.5 I thought I was going to have a heat stroke. The hills really hit me all of a sudden and I got really overheated. I had to close my eyes and concentrate on not passing out for a few seconds. Luckily that was right at the top of a hill and after running to the bottom we had a water station. I drank one cup and poured another over my head. I felt much better after that and ready to attack the downhill miles.

THE MIDDLE THREE (7:17, 6:59, 7:23)

Every year this is my favorite part of the race. Three miles of gradual downhill where you can really fly. At this point it also transitions back to pavement and the combination of the two feels amazing. Rarely is it too steep that you have to reign yourself in, for the most part it is just easy downhill running. To be honest, that fourth mile was a little slower than I wanted but the first quarter mile or so is flatter and I was still recovering from a small hill.

Lost all color... I'd say I was leaving it all out there.
That fifth mile is magic every year. It felt great to get one under seven given my relative lack of fitness recently. I was feeling so good at that point. Nothing like running a sub seven mile and having it feel pretty easy. Here I was also able to take in and appreciate the beautiful course. This race is really fantastic and might just be the prettiest race I do. The beautiful weather (sunny, high 50s) also contributed to this great feeling. Everything was just clicking here.

Mile six was pretty good as well. It definitely flattens out and maybe even has a slight gain. However, you have great momentum from the previous two miles and there's no big hills to really break that. I would have liked to do it a little faster, but I was doing the best I could. That's the thing about getting out of shape... everything feels the same and it seems like you are running just as fast but your watch disagrees with you. I was giving it my all though, so no shame.

THE FINAL THREE (8:13, 8:25, 7:36)

Status check at this point... still feeling pretty good but my legs definitely felt a little trashed from the downhills. I drank another cup of water at an aid station. I think my lack of downhill running this winter came into play these final three miles. The up and down of the previous six were starting to take their revenge on my legs. They just didn't quite have the "spring" I would have liked and the rolling hills of the next three miles were harder than they should have been.

To this point I was on my "A" goal pace but in order to maintain that I needed to run these below 8:00/mile. As you can see, I did not manage that. And those 38 seconds in mile 7 and 8 were the difference between my time and my "A" goal. No shame though, just the lack of hill training missing from previous years kicking in. I was giving it all I had on those uphills but could only manage 8:30ish. I'd try to make it back on the downhills but my legs were starting to wear out and I could only manage high 7s instead of low 7s.

That final mile I was on a mission though. While the previous two are definitely "rolling" and maybe even net uphill, that final mile is rolling in a downward fashion. So if you still have some juice it is actually a mile you can attack. Knowing the pain would be over in a matter of minutes, I went balls to the wall. I was hoping to maybe pull out a 1:12 but feel just short. However, there were points of this final mile where I was going under 7:00/mile on the downhill portions.


Everybody with their blue ribbons except me. :'(
Rolling through the finish I was a bit disappointed to see my time of 1:13:12. Given everything, that is an amazing time though. 7:52 over 9.32 miles on this course is great. Would have been nice to finish 13 seconds faster, but oh well! A goal for Shamrock perhaps! Overall I was quite pleased with my time and effort. I really don't think I could have done it any faster. I managed the race really well and got the best time for my current fitness.

Katie and Matt also had really good times at their distances. Go them. Ale finished in 1:04 and was disappointed, but still, that's an amazing time. I think Glenn finished in about 1:20. We all ended up winning age group awards, along with about half the runners, so we snacked on some delicious food they had while we waited for the awards ceremony. Everybody got first place expect for me with third. Man, I suck! Haha. Anyways, after that it was time to head home and watch the Super Bowl. My Doritos and beer were well earned.

Official Time: 1:13:12, 7:52/mi. 28/90 overall, 25/49 male, 3/3 M25-29.

1 comment:

  1. Thomas, I look fat in that picture with the purple jacket! Jeez. :P
    And you did really well. I know I'm impressed with your running abilities.
    And way to make it sound like everyone got a finisher award... ;)