Remembering Pedro 66

Mike and Ben

I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this blog knows why I wear the bracelet in this photo. If you’re new, it’s my way of remembering two PJs who at one time, worked under my command, and perished when their USAF rescue helicopter, call sign “Pedro 66” was shot down on June 9th, 2010. Mike Flores and Ben White weren’t the only ones who died that day, either. Dave Wisniewski, Dave Smith, and Joel Gentz, the first CRO to die in combat; none of them came home that day. When I found out, I had moved to another job in South Carolina, and I worked deployed USAF rescue issues. I got into the office, and one of the guys sat me down and told me we lost one of our helos, and some PJs were dead. I made some calls, and learned that Mike and Ben were gone.

Sometimes I wonder why I took it so hard. I wasn’t super close to either. Mike was one of my troops for well over a year, but Ben had just shown up to the unit before I left, so I didn’t know him that well. At the end of the day, all I can come up with is shared experience of the Continue reading

Race Report: Faster Than a Falcon 5k

Starting two Fridays ago, I was in Memphis for some awesome training with the boys. The days were long, hot, and muggy, which didn’t leave me with much gas at the end of the day. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of runs, but when you spend 12 hours a day on your feet, running around in full battle rattle, going for  a jog at the end of the day isn’t the first thing on your list. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I got about 5 hours of sleep a night, and usually knocked back a couple of beers around the table each night. Add some long travel days, and what arrived back in Anchorage Saturday night was a nicely de-tuned machine.

So this week was all about getting back into rhythm, but managing things so I didn’t end up overloading. An easy single on Monday, followed by a challenging double on Tuesday, to include AM strength work and afternoon with the Peak Performers again: 6 x 800m @ 2:36-41 with 2:00 rest. Wed was 6.5M in, and 10+ back out, Thu was an easy AM jog with Rider followed by 4 x 30s/45s/60s hard hills + strength; Friday was an EZ 6.5M home. By Fri, I accumulated 50M, two strength workouts, two Quality  (Tue/Thu) workouts, and eight separate runs. Not surprisingly, my legs weren’t exactly fresh when I woke up Saturday morning, but they weren’t supposed to be. I made the decision to “train through” the race, meaning I didn’t really take it easy during the week.

Jen, Rider and I loaded up and headed to Clark Middle School, in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage. It’s an interesting place; low-income and a higher crime rate from what I hear. I guess a few years ago, some developers made a concerted effort to try and revitalize the neighborhood by putting in a lot of modern architecture structures and renovating homes here and there. The jury is still out on the long-term effects, but it was interesting to see some new homes with nice lines sandwiched in between pretty rough-looking joints. 100% of the race proceeds went to the Mt View Boys and Girls Club; last year they raised $7000.

Warmup finished, it’s time to get after it…

The course was pancake-flat, so as I warmed up I knew the terrain would be no excuse for the day. The weather was ideal – 40s and very little wind. If anything, knocking the rust off, and establishing a baseline for my current fitness were myobjectives. I harbored a faint hope that I might slip in under 17:00, but I knew it was a long shot. I shed my watch before I stepped to the line, which was something I haven’t done in a long while. I had no idea what kind of pace I might be able to run, and my intent was to simply run hard, with as little objective feedback as possible. Don’t get me wrong – having a GPS strapped to your wrist is an incredible tool in terms of data and instant feedback. But my mental game is terrible – there have been races completely wasted because I’m working hard, see a slower pace than I’d like, get negative, and tube the rest of the race.

When the starter released us, there were some kids who took off at a dead sprint, and I just let them go as I settled into a nice hard pace. By the time we made the first turn, about a half mile in, I was in the lead. I judged my pace to be around 5:15, but couldn’t be sure without my GPS. Somewhere before the first mile, I noticed there was someone was on my shoulder, breathing as hard as me. I thought about letting him pass with the idea I could catch a draft, but decided against it. As we approached 1M, he pulled even, and I was struck by how much he reminded me of my old friend and Academy running mate Patrick Shanahan. He surged just before the mile, and we both crossed in around 5:23-24 according to the person announcing splits. At this point a few things happened. I was a little disappointed I wasn’t moving more quickly based on my effort level, but tried to push it to the back of my mind. At this time, the kid was pulling away, and I lost mental contact until he had about 10 meters on me because I was too busy thinking about my split.

In retrospect, this was the critical point in the race. I should have covered his surge and hung on his shoulder. Instead, I just kind of minimalized him, thinking he might be a low-16s 5k runner, so I wouldn’t be able to stick regardless. But deep inside my little oxygen-hungry mind, a doubt registered: this guy is going to run high 16s, and if you don’t stick with him, you will not. I let him go.

Dry heave in action.

By Mile 2, he had a significant gap on me. I tried to keep up the positive self-talk. There were brief periods where I looked at the gap and felt like it was manageable to start closing it. I would take a couple of hard strides, but that was about it. Nobody announced the splits at Mile 2, so I had no idea how badly my pace was falling off. There are only two possibilities when you get passed: either you’re slowing down or whoever is passing you is speeding up. While I hoped it was the latter, I knew it was the former. Then I realized someone else was pulling even with me around 2.5M into the race. At this point, all I could think of was the finish, and there wasn’t a lot of positive rattling around in my brain. I matched his surge for a about 100m, then let him go. I was now in third.

That’s where I stayed through the finish, not even sprinting for the finish. I saw 17:32 as I crossed the line, and that was it.

I’ve processed the race over the past 48hrs, and there are both positives and negatives to take from it. On the positive side, 17:32 for my first race since Nov isn’t too bad. It’s only about 10-15s off my best mark from last year. It tells me what I did over the winter gave me a good cardiovascular base and capacity, and that my leg turnover didn’t suffer much. The speed is there. On the negative side, my lack of mental focus and tenacity yesterday was a little embarrassing. I should have hung with that guy until I was absolutely ad extremis and struggling. Instead, I took a mental break and lost contact with someone who could have helped drag me to a faster time. I’m not sure if I had a sub-17 in me yesterday, but I know 17:30 wasn’t the best I could have done.

Moving ahead, I have my work cut out for me if I want to break 17:00 by the end of July. But then again, putting in the work has never been an issue. Putting it all together on race day is the real challenge, and to get there my mental game is going to need some serious improvement.

Race Report: Anchorage Turkey Trot

Well, the good news is, I won. The bad news is, conditions weren’t exactly PR material. Temps were good – 10 or 15, but it was snowing and we ran on variable packed snow.

I got up early yesterday to get some food prep rolling, then kissed Jen and Rider on my way out the door. Driving up to Bartlett HS, the driving was a little tricky in the snow, and vis wasn’t great. Pulling in to the parking lot, I saw what I expected: super small race, just 100-odd folks around trying to stay warm. Luckily  they opened the school for us, so I was able to duck in and drop some things off before warming up.

The course was three loops around the school, pancake flat. On a summer day, it was PR material. Yesterday…not so much. As I jogged around, I found myself on decently packed or shallow snow one minute, slipping and punching through crust the next. My hopes of ideal conditions were dashed in about the first 100 yds. So, I decided the day needed to be about effort, not time. Not any easy mindset shift for me, but necessary nonetheless. I felt pretty good, but I was still disappointed in the conditions.

I decided on spikes after warming up in my Yaktrax, hoping they would give me some traction when I needed it while staying light on my feet. On the starting line, the cold didn’t even bother me, thanks to the unseasonable weather last week, which was good.

I took the lead from the start, trying to pick paths with the best footing, but some of the turns required me to slow way, way down lest I risk eating it. In my head, I felt like my effort level was honest. I resolved before the start to avoid looking at my Garmin, so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going, but I guessed 5:30. As we neared the end of the first lap, I strained to hear the timer…

“5:56, 57, 58, 59, six minutes,” was the unwelcome cry I heard at the first lap.

Say what? Six minutes? I tempo runs faster than that pace! I tried to just let it roll off my back and focused on the task at hand. It was hard. Luckily, there was one guy on my shoulder to keep me honest. For the next half mile, I did my best to drop the pace, working the stuff with good footing and just kind of making it through the bad stuff. I dropped 2nd somewhere around 1.5-1.75 on a short surge, and never looked back.

I started to lap people, which got tricky. We were all looking for the good traction, but I made the standard pleas for space as I approached slower people. But, some folks just don’t know what “On your left!” means. So that was tricky too. Coming into the last mile, I really dug for another gear, but just as I felt like I was picking things up, my feet would slip and throw me off. It was a little frustrating but I didn’t let it bother me too much. I just kept thinking that I needed to work each section as hard as I could, and that kept me on track.

I finished in 17:48, which is not fast at all, but how do you account for conditions? There were times when I felt like a Loony Tunes character, feet spinning out as I tried to ratchet down the pace. I was able to negative split each lap, but not by much. And even those precious few seconds each mile came with a bill attached.

On Monday, I had to do a PT test I forgot about, which included a 1.5 mile run on an indoor 200m track. Without even a warmup, I ran it in 7:56 (5:17 pace). It was the fastest I’ve run the distance since my college days, and I while wasn’t jogging, it wasn’t 100% either. As a result, coming in to yesterday, I didn’t think that holding 5:25 pace for 5k was a stretch. So, it was definitely disappointing to run 17:48.  But, keeping things in perspective, I think I raced as well as can be expected for the conditions. It’s a tough pill to swallow, because I want to be the guy who is fast regardless of how slippery the roads might be.

But, first is first. I even got a Butterball for my efforts so how can I complain? I know where my fitness level is at, and if I have to wait until spring to prove it in a race, so be it.