Archive for June, 2009

June 22, 2009

MTS 2009 Wrap Up

Wow – what a great day! My team just finished the 4th Mountains to Sound Relay, and it was a nail biter the whole way!

The drama started on Friday night, when our mountain biker called to let me know that his bike was broken – like – almost in half! While cleaning it up for the race, Phillip discovered a crack in the frame –so we sent out an emergency call for a replacement, and started to work on plan B.

Plan B? That’s right – that would be the “well, I’ll just ride it in my single gear bike” plan!

Sunday morning dawned gray and wet – and while the team assemble up at Exit 38 for the start, Ron (our road cyclist and new to the team this year), headed to his starting line at Rattlesnake Lake to warm up. Back up top, Phillip and Joe and Frank and I tried to stay warm and dry, and tried to figure out how to get Phillip a change of shoes. Phillip was very Zen: “Well – I have a fixed gear bike, so not much can break – and I’d rather not get something stuck in my cleats during the run up and back – so I’ll change shoes before I get on the bike.”

Phillip hit the trail about 30 people back, traded his sneakers for  his cycling shoes, and was off for the 5 mile uphill ride, while Joe and and Frank and I headed back down to Rattlesnake Lake.

Phillip is a top rider – and in the previous two years finished 2nd and 4th – and both of those times, the difference between finishing first and finishing 4th was just a few seconds. But with a new course this year, and a fixed gear bike – it was anyone’s guess. We waited at the hand off, with Ron ready to go. We thought we might see Phillip as early as 45 minutes or as late as an hour, depending on his strategic choice of a single gear.

At 45 minutes, there was a flurry of activity and yelling from the top:

Phillip winning the mtn bike

Phillip came roaring in 2 minutes ahead of of the rest of the pack, and Ron was off (as Frank said) “like the swine flu was right behind him”.

Phillip let us know that he was with the lead pack on the uphill, and they came to a divot in the trail, and each rider took a different path around it – leaving him in front of the pack.

He said “I was going 17 MPH, and I don’t know where they went, I was expecting them to be right behind me”. I mentioned that it was the 17 MPH UPHILL that kept them from keeping up!

While Phillip and Joe and Frank headed down to Luke McRedmond Park to prep for the kayak handoff, I set out to follow Ron in the car – it was wet, and I wanted to make sure he was safe and didn’t have mechanical trouble.

It took FOREVER to catch him – and you can see why:

Ron winning the road bike

He’d started with a 2 minute lead, and by the time I was in the car, I had to be careful of the rest of the cyclists out on the road. I finally caught up to him at the 25 mile mark or so – he was still in front, but a pack of 4 had teamed up and were in hot pursuit!

I pulled over to get a time check – he still had his two minute lead! However, now there were 8 riders working together trying to catch him, and at the next time check, they’d made up 30 seconds! The course has a lot of turns – which meant that it was hard to keep in visual contact, and I think that worked in our favor.

As Ron continued to tear it up (even on the uphill portions), the pack behind him blew up, leaving just one person in pursuit. Ron got one last update before heading toward the finish (with me in hot pursuit of a parking spot) and screamed into the finish in 1:48 – an unbelievably fast time, in first place!

I missed the handoff (parking the car), but Joe is one one of our founding members, and has finished in the top ten of our division each year. He was in a speedier boat than last year, and despite the water being low – we all were pretty sure that he’d turn in a great time, especially when hitting the water first! We knew that it was likely some of the folks in doubles (two people to a boat) or the former Olympic Gold medalist (a rower) might pass him by – and – that’s exactly what happened – but it took a while!

                   Joe setting a PR in the paddle Joe cruising down the slough

Joe also set a PR, and by three or four minutes! (I had a stopwatch malfunction, so I don’t yet know his actual time – but I DO know it was his best ever!)

Frank was up next – his second time running the half marathon, running from Log Boom Park in Kirkland to Gas Works Park. That’s a long way to run – and when you get a 2 minute lead but have 150 people chasing you – a pretty daunting effort! Frank had trained hard for the half, and the weather was cooperating this year – not 90 degrees like in 2008!

Frank had to set a strong and aggressive pace and hold it – he was aiming to break 1:40, and while he says he started a bit too fast, he looked pretty cool at the start:

Frank setting a PR in the Half

Frank fended off all but one runner, and hit Gas Works in a personal best of 1.39.17 – beating his previous best by two minutes!

I was ready for the hand off – 2008 hadn’t been a great race for me, due to the heat, and the gnarly head wind. And while it looked like there was still going to be a head wind, it was in the mid 60’s. Better yet, I’d trained better, hitting the track once a week, racing twice, and upping my mileage to prepare for the just under 10k run. My wife was with me, too – an enormous help. She had water, a phone, and the capacity to stop traffic on my behalf – just what I’d need to get through the race without having to wait at the lights!

And even better – she was behind me the whole way, giving me an emotional push towards Golden Gardens!

Frank handed off and I started the chase –  there was a racer about a minute ahead of me, and I thought I’d go and reel him in. I could tell at the first mile that I was going to have a a good day – I hit a 6.17 for the first mile, and still felt pretty relaxed. Puja had helped me through both the stoplight at Stone Way and the crowd in Fremont, so I was feeling pretty good – although the guy in front of me was nowhere in sight yet. I kept to the Burke, and as we turned the corner, the wind picked up a bit.

The 2nd mile was a little slower, a 6.28, but that was okay – I was aiming for a sub 6.30 pace, and I was right on it – and I was still feeling pretty good. The crowd had thinned out, and I was headed towards the halfway mark – and the hardest part of the course. We ran along the railroad tracks – a pretty bumpy run, with railroad ties, loose gravel, paved crossings to get to the water. I had to pay close attention to keep from falling, and maybe that helped me stay focused, because I hit mile three at 6.12 – my fastest mile yet!

We ran past the Locks along the trail and the wind picked up a bit again (but nowhere near as badly as last year). As I ran past the water station I asked “can I catch that guy”, and the response told me everything I needed to know: “Uh, well, hmmm, MAYBE . . .”.

Mile 5 was a blur – I was in my top heart rate zone, and was starting to get that coppery taste in my mouth that said I was in the red zone – not much gas left in the tank. I crossed mile 5 at a 6.11 pace, and headed toward the finish at Golden Gardens!

But not before I body checked a walker.

I was up on the curb – and he heard be coming, and we did that dance: You know – you move right, I move left, I try to pass, and you move back into my path. I swore, but wasn’t angry  -it was one of those things – both of us were trying to get out of the way! It knocked me off stride a bit – but by then I was in the park, and I knew that the finish was less than a quarter of a mile away. My fatigue eased, since I knew that I could rest in a minute, and I hauled down the trail for all I was worth. My team was cheering for me, and while I hadn’t caught the guy in front of me – I hadn’t been caught, either:

pcs at the finish line

I finished the last segment under a 6 minute pace (unless the course was short – always a possibility), and found out that we’d WON our division and came in FIFTH overall, living up to our name – Faster Than Last Year!

Team minus Ron

(Phillip, me, Joe, Frank, and Ron was MIA)


Kudos to Chris and Vicki and all of the MTS organizers and sponsors – they planned and held a super race, which also serves as a benefit for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

June 20, 2009

Mountains to Sound – Preview!

Tomorrow is the 4th annual Mountains to Sound Relay race – and my team will be racing for the fourth time. Not all us, mind you, you see . . .

We have a Spinal Tap like team – we’ve a trio (me, my brother Frank, and our friend Joe L) who have raced every year. Phillip is almost a 4 year veteran – he joined us for year two (on the mountain bike stage). But the road cyclist? Yep – a new one every year. And a tough act to follow, I might add, as each year has brought us a speedier road rider! We’ll see if we can maintain the streak.

And it looks like the MTS weather pattern is holding true to form as well – very not one year, mild the next. And that’s good news – last year the hot topped out near the 90 degree mark, making for very unpleasant racing conditions. Add in a nasty headwind for the last 6 miles to make the unpleasant racing conditions downright evil.

We finished 9th last year, and are hoping to crack the top ten again this year. I’m in better 10k shape than I was last year, and Frank is in better half marathon shape – also good.

But Phillip discovered a crack in his bike frame – so he’ll be on a borrowed or a fixed gear bike – so – although we know that we’ll get a great effort – we don’t know what it might mean in terms of time!

So – check back tomorrow (or maybe the next day) for results. Our team name is Faster Than Last Year – hope that holds true!