Road Racing Season Post-Mortem

By: Sam LaBrie 

My pattern the last few years has been to focus my training on road races from October to May and then “relax” on the trails from June to September. It’s not the ideal plan my coach, Carmen Troncoso, would suggest to improve my road racing times, but it allows me to mix in the various types of workouts that I enjoy and I haven’t succumbed to burnout or injury.

I had two main goals for the season: do well at the 3M half and get faster at the 5K. In the end, neither goal was met, but I did have a couple good races, some great workouts, and a lot of fun being with our group.

The race schedule mostly overlapped with the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge and some friends had enjoyed the “half-track” option last year, so I signed up. I was not in race shape for the IBM 10K and it was clear from the start, I kept on trying to go faster, but it would last only for a short stretch. The Run for the Water 10 miler was better, and I was especially happy with my negative split, pounding out the last few miles on Lake Austin Blvd and Cesar Chavez. Decker half was next. I don’t want to talk about it and don’t ask me to do that race again.

I was quite worried about my form for 3M at this point. Carmen said that I might not be getting the most out of the training by trying to stay close to Greg Baxter and Scott McIntyre. It’s hard not to be competitive in a small group, but I was able to stick with my targets for a few key workouts. The best was our pre-3M “Avocet” routine of 3×3 miles at half marathon goal pace on a hilly route near Carmen’s house. It nearly killed me last year when I tried to stay with the faster people. This year I was patient and hit my splits, going a bit faster on the third loop, a big confidence boost. I was ready for 3M, maybe not to run the 1:22 of last year, but solid. Then I got sick – a stupid chest cold. This type of thing is part of why I stopped running road marathons. You can train for 6 months for a single day of racing and then you get sick or the weather doesn’t cooperate or some other non-controllable item takes it all away. Race day came along and I held a decent pace for 8 miles before fading to 1:26:42. Yuck.

I sulked for a few days. Some may call it “recovery with beer.” The next race was the Rogue 10K. I’ve never liked this distance for a road race – it’s too long to run at that effort level for me. I’m anaerobic by 1.5 or 2 miles and have to stay that way for another 25-28 minutes. The course and the weather were favorable, but I didn’t do very well. My performances and the upcoming Austin Half made me regret signing up for the Distance Challenge.

But I had signed up, so I hit all the workouts, even though in my mind I had moved on to the upcoming 5K season and the Rogue Trail Series. Have you heard anyone say that they like the Austin Half course? I’d never run this race, but had been on every inch of that course over the years. I knew from the marathon how to run the S. Congress and S. First sections – avoid irrational exuberance, be patient, don’t worry. I had no idea how I’d feel over the last 2 miles with those 2 big hills. Race day arrived, good weather, no sickness. I cruised down Congress, chatting with Lee Toomey (who would go on to run an incredible 2:54 marathon), shortened my stride and kept the same effort level on the S. Congress uphill, eased into S. First, getting faster past the food trailers, sped up again going over the lake and maintained a good pace through the split from the marathoners, just before the 11 mile mark. Now the fun part – the hill on 15th looked like a wall. I must have eased up a bit too much because a couple people passed me here. I knew one of them, Roger Hickman, a good runner who had also passed me near the end of 3M. Not again. We both sped up for the last rolling stretch of 15th, passing multiple runners, turned onto San Jac and hit the last hill. I waited for the crest, then accelerated through the turn onto 11th, passed Roger and hit the finish. I ran 1:26:29, a bit faster than my 3M time and on a much harder course. Maybe I could have hit 1:22 at 3M if I had been healthy. Maybe next year.

I met with Carmen to talk about the spring races. I wanted to do well in a 5K and still run the Rogue Trail Series of 10K’s. Carmen said that I had to do all of the Wed/Sat workouts, even if I had a Sunday trail race. OK. We had a good plan. The problem turned out to be my work travel schedule. Twice to the EU, a few east coasters, San Fran. I did the workouts, but often in less than ideal conditions or when I was tired or jetlagged.

My first 5K was Lockhart. It’s a small race, flat, minimal turns, with cowbells for age-group prizes. Plus BBQ. Andy Bitner had run a blazing 5K the week before and it made us all confident. It was a bit humid, but not terrible. Still, no one in the group did well. I was happy with my effort, but 18:41 is much slower than I had hoped.

My last road race was the Leander Lions 5K. Most of the group did the Bun Run but I decided on Leander because it’s within a mile of our house. Wrong choice. It was much more humid and warmer than for the Bun Run. I kept a good pace through 1.5 miles, then faded to a 19:06. Jaime Pińa of Rogue won in 17:26.

That’s it for road racing until the fall. I’m sure it would have been better if I had traveled less and been with the group for more of the workouts. If I really want to get under 18 again for a 5K, I’ll need to devote a longer period to the training and target some races with cooler and dryer conditions. Carlsbad?

My target race for the summer is the Knee Knacker in Vancouver on July 13. 30 miles and 8,000 feet of uphill. I’ve done reasonably well in the first 2 Rogue Trail races (Maze and Loop) and hope to be in better shape for the Ranch. I’ll probably run at least some of the Captain Karl series from Tejas Trails.

On my EU trips I had a few great runs. This photo is in Paris, the Immigration Museum, near the Bois Vincennes. I ran from Gare de Lyon along the Rue Daumesnil to the Bois Vincennes Park.  Daumesnil was one of Napoleon’s generals.  He lost a leg in battle and later, when leading the defense of Vincennes, said “I shall surrender when I get my leg back.”  They lost, no return of his leg, and Napoleon went to Elba.

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This photo is in Manchester. I ran along this canal tow path for about 10 miles. It dates from the Industrial Revolution, which had a big start in Manchester with the textile industry.

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