Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dolphin South End Runners Club Brisbane Scenic 12 km

Last week I decided I wanted to do a short-ish running race, something close to home and easy to get to. Fitting the bill perfectly: Dolphin South End Runners' Club Brisbane "Scenic" 12 km race.

I'd proposed to Cara that I ride down there, do the race, then she could meet me at the finish and we'd do a little post-race ride together. We could do something flat, as she's just getting back to outdoor riding after back and knee issues. Instead, she said, she'd go down with me at the start and while I ran she'd do a little loop in Brisbane: a circuit with e little hill which has been used for the Brisbane Circuit Race.

The start (Cara Coburn).

So as I got ready to start, Cara left on her bike. I mostly did a few form drills and rolled my legs and shoulders with a massage stick. Then I did some shoulder stretches.

This race was a mixed 5 km/12 km start at a ball field in Brisbane, near the eastern base of Guadalupe Canyon Road. Both courses ran over a short climb on Mission Blue before merging with Guadalupe Canyon for the main climb of around 1000 vertical feet. Up Guadalupe, gradual in steps, then left around a closed gate to Radio Road which averages 7.2% to the summit. The turn-around was close to the summit finish of the New Years bike race. Then it was back to the start.

I noticed at the start line one guy in particular looked particularly ready to go. He had the chiseled look of super-fit guys like Leor Pantelot or Gary Gellin. Curiously he had two ribbons, one for the 5 km and the other for the 12 km race. I wasn’t sure what that was about…. Joining him on the front row were a bunch of other shirtless guys who seemed to all know each other. Hmm…. At least none of them had water, which seemed to validate my choice to leave the bottle behind. 12 km is close to my threshold for carrying water given there was none available on the course. Given the unusually warm sunshine at the start, the security blanket of water would have been comforting.

Soon enough the start, and these guys shot off in a sprint. What? Didn’t these guys realize we had a mountain to climb? I checked out quickly, and they were gone.

As I turned from Mission Blue to the curiously overbuilt Guadalupe Canyon Road (a sign of housing developments thankfully deterred?) I could see what was happening ahead. WAY off in the distance was the shirtless pack. Then there was a larger group including the lead woman. Then two solo guys, then me. I wasn’t worried, however: I could run the pace I could run and that’s all there was too it. I knew most of those following the early rabbits couldn't sustain that pace.

Sure enough I picked off people steadily on Guadalupe. Approaching the 5 km turnaround, I was surprised how many of the shirtless crew were coming back -- they were running the 5 km, obviously, including the double-tagged guy. It seemed wrong -- the quality on this run is all on the upper portion.

Soon I was at the gate, trailing one guy who I was clearly outclimbing at this point (“Alex”) and another on whom I seemed to be slowly making ground only because I was apexing corners he was taking at constant radius. I passed Alex soon enough, and tried to focus on catching the rider ahead of him. The sunshine was now gone as we’d entered the fog which enshrouded the top of the mountain.

Approaching the summit I saw a rider emerge from the mist wearing a Team Roaring Mouse vest. A teammate on a training ride? No -- it was Cara. I was shocked to see her here -- so much for her little Brisbane loop! I was very happy to see she had the confidence to try and the strength to succeed.

almost to the top
almost to the top (Cara Coburn)

The turn-around came a bit sooner than I’d expected. I still felt good, which I immediately tagged as a possible pacing error. I’ve been focusing on trail runs, where this would have been the first in a series of climbs. There you can’t go into the red or there will be a high price to pay later. But here, how much did I need to save for the descent? Maybe I should have hurt a bit more on the climb, given the descent would shift the load to different muscles, and I’d be limited by impact other than aerobic condition. If it had been 6 km into a 12 km flat race, fine, but the mixed terrain had me suspecting I should have pushed it a bit harder in the second 3 km.

Descents are my weakness. I tried to limit the losses to the runner I’d been chasing. But any thoughts of improvement here were shattered when Alex came blowing by. He literally seemed to be flying down the hill, making me look silly. Within seconds he’d passed the runner ahead of me and disappeared into the mist. I wasn’t even breathing hard: what was limiting my speed was instead the stride-by-stride impact of bounding down tarmac at grades up to 10%.

As the grade leveled out near the gate, I was able to actually run again instead of my inefficient downhill stomp. Passing through the gate I was surprised to see that fast 4 km runner heading back up. Later I heard he was doing both races today, the reason for his having both ribbons. Impressive: not so much running 17 km, but doing it with an opening 5 km done at an essentially maximal effort.

I tried to keep my Garmin at over 15 kph from here, but goals didn’t mean much at this point, it was just a matter of going as quickly as possible, of avoiding getting in the way of gravity. Back into sunshine, Alex was still out of view. The guy I’d been chasing was up the road but out of range. I glanced back and the closest chaser was too far back to be a concern. This was essentially a time trial.

My left leg in particular causes me issues on descents (although my right leg isn’t much better): probably some muscular imbalance. But it held out okay, and with the gravity assist I was soon enough back to Mission Blue. Back over the climb and to the finish… 55:04, I think. That was 4 seconds off my rough goal for the run. Ah, well: I couldn’t complain about that.

Approaching the finish (Cara Coburn).

I think I was 7th, but am not sure. Ribbons went 5 deep and I missed out on those. I think what would help my descending, in addition to practice, would be shoes with a bit more padding. I use 6 ounce Nike track shoes, pre-minimalist miminals, and I love them on the flats and especially on climbs but on the bounding downhills I think my muscles could use a break. Even the New Balance Minimalist road show looks beefy in comparison. Also I really need to work on the cycling-related muscle imbalances. A few minutes a day with a theraband might do wonders.

But no complaints: it was s fun day and I certainly can’t be disappointed with my result, especially given the fun, low-key nature of these races.

finisher's ribbon! (Cara Coburn)


ammon said...

Nice run! Re: "the curiously overbuilt Guadalupe Canyon Road (a sign of housing developments thankfully deterred?)", it looks like development will continue (if it hasn't already):

2009 Fish and Wildlife issues biological opinion allowing final phase of northeast ridge development to proceed. Project is reduced to 71 homes and located in swale above existing development.
2010 Brisbane City Council gives final approval to an additional 71 homes on the Northeast Ridge.

According to this documentary: http://www.butterfliesandbulldozers.com/facts-about-san-bruno-mountain

djconnel said...

That's tragic. We live in an area where the hills have been so beautifully preserved from sprawl, from the Marin Headlands, the Skyline ridge south of 92, Diablo, upper Hamilton, and down to the Santa Cruz mountains. In contrast the blight on San Bruno is so unfortunate.