Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Day Challenge, Troy

Jan 1, 2012

It's our annual TeamSoares challenge of biking and running the first day of the year.  Last year there was rain and sleet.  This year it's proving to be a perfect day with a chilly start.

Bike Ride

At the Overlook it's exciting to see who shows up.  I meet two new ladies, Karen and Nikki.  Fearless Jessica Bonner is here.  Bob Funk just happened to be riding by and I roped him in.  Dependable David Malicoat is always up for a ride.  Bryan, the cross-country runner is ready.  And here comes the pain inflictors:  Lance Loveday, Michael Cook, and, the last to arrive, Kayden Kelly who, despite being sick, smiles just because he's on his bike.

The ladies are ready and head out first.  Soon when give chase.  We warm up with 10 miles through Newcastle, including a climb practice up Glenview Dr.  We all shed layers.  The pain inflictors are now far ahead.  The rest of us continue by the bike shop and then down the graceful sweeping turns of Hwy 49.  The sparkling river below makes for stunning views.

At the confluence we prepare for the first challenge.  The pain-inflictors arrive late after a flat tire repair.  It's a 3mi climb up Old Floresthill Rd.  It's a popular ranked climb.  This will be a good chance to see how we rank against the rest of the biking community.

The ladies take off.  Followed by the "over 50's".  And then the rest of us.  The climb is on.  In my group, Michael sets a blistering pace.  At first everything feels great.  I imagine holding until 1/2 way and then putting on a remarkable sprint.  But after the steep beginning, the feelings of racing heart rate and loud breathing force me to focus more on surviving.  Up ahead, Michael is chased by Lance and Kayden.  Kayden, even sick, looks so relaxed and fluid out-of-the-saddle on the steep parts. Near me is Bryan.

Around some more corners we start to see Bob and David ahead.  Farther up I think is Robin.  I'm trying to be very efficient, lifting my knees, getting lots of oxygen, being in the right gear.  I'm amazed how hard this hill always feels even after I entertain great aspirations of speed.

I pass Bob and then David.  But this challenge is age-graded and they've got 10 and 20 years on me.  I got the age-grade factors from the official WAVA tables but still don't know how it's going to play out.  We're all just doing our best.

I pass Kayden which is inspiring.  I know I'm having a good ride.  Who I thought was Robin was really Karen.  I don't see Robin, Jessica, Lance or Michael anywhere.  With a mile to go I near the reprieve - a flat section to be taken advantage of.  But every part of my body just wants to rest.  Must push.  Where others rest is where advantage can be gained.  Moments earlier, Lance had used a different strategy.. pushing hard to get on Michael's wheel to rest through the flat and put a final surge past him at the top.  Fine bike-racing strategy.

Even with a great push through the flat, followed by one more painful effort, I'm still unable to catch anyone else before the finish.  Wow, that hurt!  My throat is sore from breathing hard.  Kayden, right behind me says the same thing.  All the efforts were well spent, however, as we start calculating personal records for everyone.  I was 15:22.  Lance was 14:20.  Even David Malicoat who, after turning 50, seems to get faster each year.

We take a picture and re-group for the cruise down to the Bridge.  The Foresthill Bridge, tallest in California, is the start for the 2nd and final climb.  We line up in order of current placing.  Lance at front and me at number 3.  We remain neutral across the bridge and then hit the throttle for the .5 mi climb to the top. 

Normally we would have started staggered, based on a complicated calculation of predicted age-graded finish time.  However due to a number of factors:

1. our Microsoft Windows phone not running a Microsoft Excel file
2. Michael's Android phone not getting reception
3. bridge construction closing a lane
4. Kayden suggesting a group start would inspire better performances

we started right on each other's wheel.  Sure enough, Kayden, was right.  He thrived on this start.  Riding faster than before he passed me and moved up to Michael.  Locked on his wheel.  And then surged by him to go after Lance.  But no one was catching Lance.  He put on a phenomenal burst near the top and just rode away from all of us.

At the top we gasped as usual for a while until we were all able to say, "great job, we're glad we did it".  And then grouped up to head back.

Resolution Run

Arriving back on the Overlook, the scene was now bustling with runners.  The perfect weather was drawing a record crowd.  We hustled back to our houses to get changed and line up for the run.  This was important because our run placing will be added to our bike placing for the overall ranking.

Michael and Karen are the current bike male and female leaders.  Robin leads the relay division.  Robin's runner will be Anna doing the 5k.  David Malicoat's runner is Dave Campbell.  And Jessica's is John Doolittle.  Dave is fired up and tells me that I have to run 10min faster than him to win an age-grading comparison.  Even straight-up it'll be a challenge to beat him but I think it's possible.

Dave, Michael (3rd), Bryan (5th), Karen (8th), John Doolittle and myself (6th) are doing the 10mi.  Lance (2nd) and Kayden (7th) are doing the 10k. It's going to be a challenge to move up.  I'll need a top 3 finish to have a chance.

At the start it's exciting.  Robin and I lose Anna.  We find her right on the start line with 500 adult runners behind her!  We take her back where she'll be safer.  I've been so excited for her today, doing her 2nd 5k and running well lately, that I haven't prepped well myself.

Go!  Everyone starts so fast.  I'm feeling a little slow but always confident I'll work back up.  At the split, the 5k/10k'rs head down the brutally steep dam road while the rest of us take the gradual 2 mile descent.  At 1 mile I can barely see Dave Campbell and Michael Cook down below with the leaders.  How are they running so fast?  They must be 5:30 pace.  Almost to the bottom I'm a little concerned I'm working hard going down.  Ok, the first climb.  Up the rocky trail.  Maybe I'll start feeling better.  I work hard.  I pass a couple girls, telling them good job.  And a number of guys and some young kids.  I'm breathing very hard when we reach the flatter parts.  A girl in white catches back up and we match pace for a 1/2 mile.

At 3.6mi, my legs suddenly get tired and heavy.  I'd been confident despite the signs up to this point.  Now it was clear that I was bonking.  The hard effort on the bike took a lot out of me.  I don't have food.  I haven't hydrated enough.  The girl in white quickly pulls away.  It's suddenly very difficult and yet there are 6 miles to go.  I will continue doing everything I can because you just never know what might happen.

We're running down the steep dam road and I hope for recovery.  But the jarring is not much less difficult.  We're back on the trails.  It's actually getting hot.  My legs feel like cement.  I'm humbled and amazed as I think about the remarkable running performances of Michael, Dave, Robin, and even Lance and Kayden, the bikers that run once a year.  This was my first time running this course after the bike hill climbs and it's tough!

I had been saying "I'm not going to walk" but soon a couple steep sections bring me to a walk.  Wow, this is tougher than expected.  One thing that's great in times like this is the heart-to-heart talks I get to have with the Lord.  I'm reminded of my reliance on Him, and how many times He's helped me, despite some of my decisions.  I know He'll get me through.  I know I've taken things for granted.  I'm reminded that a strong person is a repentive person.

At 6mi, I see Michael coming back.  He's 2mi ahead of me, looking strong, I'm staggering along and he still says, "come on, Troy, catch me!"  Always the optimist.

At 7mi it's so great to make the turn-around!  It's still a painful struggle.  Now I see some other runners like Mo Bartly coming up behind me and Christine Kelly wearing a "Hapy New Year" crown and having a great time.

Even though I know there's many hilly sections to go I keep thinking there's not.  Like the trail suddenly changed and became a short climb to the overlook.  But first there's the Robie pt climb, then up to the fireroad exit, then up to the blueberry trees, and finally, up to the overlook.  I try to walk fast on the steep stuff.  My legs are hurting.  As painful as it is, I know when I hear the cheering it'll bring me home.

Near the last corner I hear the finish.  The bright sun as we come out of the trees.  Onto the parking lot I hear familiar voices but it's all a blur as I just try to get to the line.  Finally done! 1:18:48.  Wow, that was tough.  I'm toast.

Besides it being a great training workout and character builder, the run also resulted in new resolutions for myself: 1. Prepare better  2. Get more sleep.  Thanks, God, even for the rough days.