Sunday, August 19, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Kellerman Batwa Challenge 10K

Spent, after a brutal Kellerman 10K in Nevada City
Today's Gold Country Grand Prix race was held in Nevada City, my home town. The Kellerman Batwa Challenge 5K/10K is a fundraiser for the Kellerman Foundation, a non-profit organized to benefit the Batwa Pygmy Community in Uganda. Dr. Kellerman and his wife spend considerable time in Uganda helping build medical facilities and shelter for the Batwa tribe.

This was the second annual event, but its first year as part of the Grand Prix series. The course is a 5K loop, which is repeated for the 10K. Those who had run the inaugural event in 2011 warned about the elevation change on the course, including a steep downhill on a paved section. As a result, the stars aligned and I saw an opportunity to get an age group win in the 10K, as my main competition was either injured and not participating, or running the 5K to avoid running the brutal course twice. The ten points for first place would vault me from fifth place to the top three in the Men 40-49 category, one point ahead of Kevin, whose back I seemed to be looking at approaching every finish line until the Bear River 5K two weeks ago.

Being between training programs, this race was actually a "C" race on my schedule. My training over the last two weeks has been mellow; about 20 miles a week, with a ten mile long run on the weekends. I wanted to start my marathon program (which begins tomorrow) with fresh legs. So, despite the opportunity for a win in this 10K, I did not do any speedwork or tapering in preparation. I did, however, acquire the Hoka One One Stinson Evo trail running shoes, with an extraordinary 36 millimeters of the most comfortable foam you've ever stepped foot on! That's about three times as much as your typical daily trainer. Combine that with a 4mm drop, and I was sold. I wanted to get them for the 50Ks and longer races, trying to save these old legs from too much brutality, and given the nature of this course, they worked like a charm. Of course, Twirly (my wife) sings the melody to "Puttin' on the Ritz" when she sees me in them, prompting my best Peter Boyle impersonation.

The race began and ended at the Nevada County Sportsman's Club, and had some logistical stumbles, as is expected in a young race. They advertised separate starts for the 10K and 5K races (8:00 and 8:10, respectively), which I thought would be cool, knowing who I was racing, and not having all the 5K speed demons take me out too fast, but they corralled all the runners up and turned us loose as one bunch. Not the end of the world, but going out at 7:00/mile for 10K was a bad idea...

The loop began on paved road and went up a short but steep hill before turning to gravel and diving down over 100 feet into a wooded valley. We ran through a gate, into a private claim held by a mining company, and began the long climb back up to about the starting elevation, where we joined the paved road which held the steep downhill most participants were concerned about. After the steep section, the course continued a rolling descent to Pioneer Park in Nevada City, having lost about 250 feet by the bottom of the course.

My heart rate was never in control, exceeding 170 for most of the first half of the loop. At this point, I decided to let go of what little connection I had with the 5K runners and Phil, a 50-59 age group 10K runner who had kept up a pace very close to mine in the previous race. The pack had become strung out at this point, and I knew we had to regain the elevation back to the end of the loop, so I slowed down and focused on breathing and form, kinda zoning out for the last mile of the loop. Coming through the finish line, I could hardly believe I had to do it all over again. "Age Groups will make you do some pretty strange things", a fellow Grand Prix runner told me after the race.


By the time I was back on the gravel road, I felt I had my age group position locked up. A few 20-39 year old's were chasing me, and as I missed a turn in the woods and had to backtrack 10-15 yards, they caught and passed me as we began the climb again. I got chicked by the first and second women at this point, but who the hell cared? At least I knew they weren't going to affect my finishing points. I practiced my run/walk/run transitioning (read: I walked most of the uphill this time around) until reaching the paved section for the second time.

Handmade by the Pygmies. Coolest. Medal. Ever.
So, I bombed down that hill again (LOVE the Hokas!) and settled into a good rhythm, focusing on breathing and form again, and rolled into the finishing chute at 51:31. I had run the second loop 2 minutes slower than the first, but still managed to get those ten points for Age Group first place! Twelfth place overall, and enough points to get me into that coveted top three for the Grand Prix. Four races to go, and another goal is within reach. I also checked off the goal of winning two age group races, so despite the pain, it was a day full of accomplishment for yours truly. To celebrate, I tacked on a four mile cool down to get in the long run weekend miles that are to be my MO for the next 8 months. Four miles on tired legs never felt so delicious!

Here is my Garmin Connect data for the race. Click "view details" to (wait for it)... view the details...

UPDATE: Once again, I failed to acknowledge the organizers and volunteers for their time and effort! This race was the senior project of local student Jacque Day. Jacque and all the volunteers did an excellent job marking the course and cheering on the runners. The snafu's with starting and scoring notwithstanding, the crew was much appreciated. Now, about that course...

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