Sunday, November 16, 2008

Low-Key running

Metcalf profile
The Metcalf Mauler
In the spirit of Low-Key, I decided to run the Low-Key Hillclimb up Metcalf Road. I wasn't at all surprised to see Gary Gellin there, as well. Gary also ran nearby Quimby Road, and clearly understands a runner's relative disadvantage is less the steeper the road. Metcalf, with a 12% sustained grade until the final half-mile or so, is an excellent opportunity for a runner to impress.

I started a bit ahead of Gary. We skipped the brief "promenade" section, moving ahead to where coordinator Gary Griffin would honk the horn to indicate the start. The rules of Low-Key are the rules of the vehicle code, which means bikes ride to the right, but of course runners are not thus constrained. So we each set off on the left side of the road, I starting a bit ahead. Unfortunately, I retained my lead ahead of Gary for at best 10 seconds, before he came by with an incredible speed differential, leaving me smiling to myself that such a pace on this hill was possible. Soon he was gone, the next time I'd see him was at the finish-line food, where he told me he's run a 7:36/mile pace up the hill. That's just amazing: a 3:19 marathon pace.

Gary Gellin
Gary finishes with elite company
Stephen Fong photo
Once Gary was gone, it was just me and the bikes. Of course, the leaders surged by in a flash. I knew I wouldn't be slowest up the hill, but where in the crowd I'd be able to call home was an open experiment. Riders passed quickly, then less quick, then finally I slotted over in what seemed a decent position.

Not long after the start I realized I'd forgotten to start my watch. This was just as well: it kept me in the moment. It's easy to do on Metcalf; the road rises steady, steeply, curve after curve.

I have to admit it was fun following riders up the hill. I managed to pass a few, but more whom I followed were able to pull away.

at the top
I arrive much later
Stephen Fong photo
Finally someone called from the side of the road, "that's the end of the steep part!" As a cyclist, this is of course good news. Click, click, click with the up-shift, keep up the pressure, accelerate to the line. But as a runner, I wasn't glad to hear it. Runners can upshift as well, of course: lengthen the stride behind, reduce the emphasis on arm-swing. But the cyclists clearly gain the upper hand. And not long after, I heard the unmistakable sound from behind of an overtaking rider. Mei Xi came by.... my brain shouted "get on her wheel!", but of course it wasn't possible. She rode away.

The 200 yard sign appeared. I opened my stride, kept the focus on relaxation, and tried to lengthen my stride more. The finish! I gave my number to the fantastic volunteers, and went to get some liquid after the unseasonably hot climb. I recovered quickly: I felt as if I could do it again. A good sign: I was adapting to running, clearly! Not that long ago I'd have been incapacitated for days. But also a bad sign. I clearly hadn't been able to push myself hard enough. But that's not a bad thing: it indicates room for improvement!

Later, I ran back down to the start. This wasn't bad at all: I felt relaxed, loose. The descent was fun, even if I ran slowly. When I arrived at the bottom, I fetched my bicycle off Greg McQuaid's roof-rack, and redid the climb. 12:02 of embracing the pain and I was back at the top. Ah! Much better. Running is fun, a wonderful diversion, a novel experience, but cycling is where my heart is.

No comments: