Moab Half-Marathon. 1:15:58, 6th place. Mike Nielson won in 1:11:55, Joe Wilson second in 1:12:23. Then Ken Pliska 1:14:13, Mike Kirk 1:14:36, and Ewen North 1:15:03. I barely held off Neal Gassmann at the end - he finished with 1:16:03. The times were very slow, probably by anywhere between 2 and 4 minutes depending on your drafting opportunities due to extreme headwind for pretty much the entire duration of the race.
The race started with a pack consisting of Joe, Ken, Mike Nielson, Mike Kirk, and myself hitting the first two miles in 5:27 and 5:21. At that point I felt my quads started cramping up a bit, I needed to back off. I had two choices to make - either try to go at faster pace with the pack and crash later, or be left in no-mans land. Unfortunately, at that point I did not realize how strong the headwind really was. Joe did, however. He tried to break away from the pack, but after five seconds changed his mind.
So faced with the decision, chose a more conservative pace. Perhaps this was a mistake. Mike Kirk and Ken Pliska hitched a ride with Mike Nielsen and Joe to about mile 4, and then backed off. Being left alone, I could not break 5:45 for another 6 miles. Then Ewen passed me. He was going strong. I decided to hitch a ride, and got behind him. The wind weakened a bit, and we hit a 5:33, and then a 5:34. 10 miles in 56:44. If we do a decent 5 K, this could be a low 1:14. Not that great, but decent for the conditions. Ewen put on a surge at around 10.5 and dropped me, or maybe he just kept going, and I could not hold the pace. I did not really try that hard to stick with him thinking we were coming out of the canyon, and once we got into town there will be no wind. Oh, was I wrong!
As we neared the end of Hwy 128, the wind intensified. The next mile was 5:58. I thought it could not get any worse than that. I was wrong again. We turned on Hwy 191, and the dust started flying in my eyes. The next mile was 6:45, and the competion ahead of me did not seem to be getting away very much if at all. Finally, the peak of the torment ended as we turned on 500 West, where we experienced a regular headwind. A lesson on learning to be thankful. I was really happy to have it, and be able to run somewhat normally again. Left turn on 400 North, and headed to the finish. As I turned, I saw Neal Gassmann out of the corner of my eye. This is trouble, as if I had not had my fair share already. Neal in his young days ran a 14:08 5 K. He slowed down to 15:26 since then, but he still has the 14:08 kick. What do I do? Well, he has his kick, but he is tired, and he is far enough behind that if I start mine early he might hesitate for long enough for me to escape. It worked. Last mile in 5:48.
After the race, almost everybody I talked to was depressed because of their slow times. However, there was no reason. Everybody ran about what I expected them to with the adjustment for the wind, except for Mike Nieslon and Joe. They beat the curve, possibly because they traded off leads most of the way.
With the warm-up, cooldown, kids run, and always on the run miles, ended the day with 20 miles total.
Running a 1:12:30 or so equivalent of a still air Moab course is all nice and good, but I need to do something different to move to a new level. The lab measurements of VO2 Max in 2004, as well as my intuition tell me the problem is severe lack of economy. I have been thinking about ways to improve it that are fundamentally different from what I have already tried. What I am after is a high power output while keeping the leg, especially the quad, muscles relaxed the maximum possible chunk of the stride cycle. I can relaxed them at low power, which is why I run well downhill with no headwind. Running downhill teaches relaxation, which is why my uphill running improves when I run downhill. Dumb uphill running makes me tense up, and I run worse in all directions.
But downhill running is only a preparatory step. I need to have extensive practice running uphill relaxed for long periods of time. Here is one idea - run uphill for as long as a certain normally uncomfortable pace is sustained without tension. As soon as the tension comes, stop, jog to recover, then do a stride downhill to re-learn relaxation. Then try again.