Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Finding a 'W' amongst the Autumn Leaves

I wrote a blog back in June called 'Searching for a 'W'', centred on my experience of running here in the States and the relative weakness of races. At the time I had finished second or third overall 7 times in 17 races. Fast forward to last weekend and that record became 9 from 26, with the last two races, second places, both around 30 seconds behind the winner. During that time I've been setting personal bests in 10k, 15k, 21k and also a couple of sub 3 marathons, so although the races ARE weaker I have been running well enough. 

This weekend was the Autumn Leaves 50k, a 'trail' race in Champoeg State Park (pronounced Shampooey!) with 8k of cycle paths and 2k of trail on the 10k loops. Last year's winner Joe Uhan (3,18) was out, and with second place 3,58, this looked like a genuine 'W' chance. It may look like I'm targetting races, but it was local, I had the generous offer of a lift to the race, and the entry fee wasn't outrageous. A 50 miler was also taking place, and this had 2013 Western States winner Pam Smith gunning for the fastest 50 mile time in the US this year.

Flat, 5 loops, mostly cycle paths
It was dark at the start and I'd forgotten my headlamp so ran with Pam and another speedster in the 50 miler. Soon enough it was clear that the 50k wasn't that competitive and I was in the lead, but oddly with two 50 milers close. When one of those has won this year's most prestigious ultra, and the other is a previous sub 4 minute miler, you don't feel so bad. But, to 'win' the 50k and finish behind a 50 mile runner didn't seem the real deal, so I pushed on and made sure I at least had a gap. As this was an out and back type loop I could see gaps and work out what my pace had to be. Through the marathon in 3,07 and finished in 3,43 and change was enough to earn the 'W' a shield, shoe voucher for $120 and oddly a T-shirt voucher. So after months of busting my balls trying to hang with twentysomethings in shorter races, the W came easier than I'd thought. It's only the 8th fastest time on the course since 2006 (but seems to be a Masters/Vets course record) and I got lucky with the strength of the field, but it's still a good feeling to cross the line first, and have a race to go back to next year to 'defend'. Again, given that my mantra this year has been 'hills, hills and more hills' it's ironic that it came in probably the flattest trail race in America. 

My Otter Trail race top and K-Way 3/4's still doing great service!
It was fun, but I also know that my times would put me way down the field in most South African races. For example my recent 15k PB 53,46 (and 2nd place) would have only been good enough for 38th in a competitive Cape Town race, likewise, my half marathon PB of 80,38 (2nd again) would have put me 17th in last months CT 21.1km Classic. Like most running though, it's about doing it for yourself, your personal physical and mental wellbeing and also trying to improve your times and performances regardless of the field. I'm not sure that I was in either a good physical or mental place given a 30 mile training run last weekend and waking up with an overactive mind. 

But, theres rarely a time when going for a run puts you in a worse mood or frame of mind, so again it was cathartic, and nailing the 'W' a fillip for my soul.

June's 'searching for a W' blog HERE
Garmin file HERE


  1. Congrats, Ian! A win is a win!

    All the best

    James (Eustace)

    1. Thanks James! Thats was my thinking, AND i can say i ran with a WS winner and sub 4 minute miler :)

  2. A 'W' would be nice, but I am going to have to put something special together and make sure you aren't out for a holiday!!! I will just look for that first 40+ prize, but even that is getting harder and harder.

    PS while the hills make you strong for the hills, they also make you strong on the flat, so the 2nd half of the race gets easier and easier the stronger you get... So keep impressing us

    1. Thanks Coach. Im still trying to get to the track, bu once a week max if racing at w/e. I's LOVE another crack at Noel and Derrick at African X... Flights then are more reasonable than Xmas....