Bloomsday

Jeffrey’s concise re-cap of the 2011 Bloomsday Run in Spokane, WA.

The Bloomsday Run in Spokane, WA was my third straight weekend racing on the roads and my first stop on the ultra-competitive Professional Road Racing Organization (PRRO) Circuit. While the race can boast to have one of the deepest professional fields in the World each year, the Bloomsday 12K–now in its 35th running– has also evolved into one of the largest timed road races in the country with over 50,000 participants.  Given Bloomsday’s level of competition, history and prolific status in the national running community, it’s easy to recognize that an event of this magnitude cannot be missed.

Aside from the challenges of competing against top international and American athletes, the undulating profile of this 7.46 mile course presents an increased level of difficulty. The flat start and early downhill ramp in the second mile sends overzealous competitors rushing headlong down Riverside Avenue. The series of sobering climbs that follow on Government Way quickly introduce the headstrong to preliminary fatigue. After the 4th mile, the grave reality of Doomsday Hill becomes imminent. Recognized as one of the most daunting climbs in road racing, Doomsday Hill is nearly three-quarters of a mile of a leg-numbing 6.5% climb. After 145 vertical feet, there is still 2 1/2 miles of race remaining. The elevation map closely resembles  an EKG:

This was my third consecutive year racing in Spokane, and I used my veteran instincts to remain conservative for the first few miles. The brisk morning called for gloves and my CEP Compression Socks to keep me running smooth. I stalked the lead pack as we descended towards Latah Creek, favoring gravity over my glycogen stores. I ran even with a few fellow Yanks, Mbarak Hussein and the aforementioned Christian Hesch. During the rolling climbs that followed, I pulled away from this group and comfortably used the inclines to push forward. By 3 miles the lead pack was becoming fragmented.

I continued to bridge the gap from myself to other athletes. Robert Letting of Kenya quickly floated backwards. For a short period, I worked with Justin Young on a flat stretch near Spokane Falls Community College to catch up to Mike Reneau (a friend and former teammate from Michigan) and Joe Gray. We crossed the T.J. Meenach Bridge as an American trio, primed for Doomsday Hill. I recalled my practice runs up Snow Bowl Road and in Jerome as I climbed, and keyed off of Joe’s Mountain Running prowess. I crested Pettit Drive feeling strong, hitting the watch at 5 miles (a 4:48 split).

I moved into the 5th U.S. spot near Broadway. Joe was tenaciously following as we passed a Team USA Minnesotan wearing a neon Brooks ID Elite Singlet. I put my head down and kept grinding in an effort to distance myself from both of them. It’s the best part about racing– when competitive instincts override the body’s level of fatigue and discomfort. Regardless of my finishing time or place, I chose to make it hurt. A sharp right-hand turn after the Courthouse signified a 220-yard downhill finishing straight onto the Monroe Street Bridge. A three-way sprint finish ensued with Samuel Kosgei of Uganda and Ireland’s Andrew Ledwith. I was unable to pull the two in, but put a significant time margin on my compatriots to secure my American position in 36:16. It was a strong improvement my past years’ performances at Bloomsday, although I still feel that I have a ways to go in mastering this tough course. After changing out of my racing gear, I sipped some Vita Coco and threw on my Garmin Forerunner 305 for an extended cool-down on the Sentential Trail.

I always have a great Bloomsday experience thanks largely to the efforts of a World Class race organization. Hats off to benevolent Race Director Don Kardong and the indefatigable Jon Neill for coordinating the Elite field. With an extremely hospitable support crew, I always look forward to my annual May trip to the Lilac City.  –JDE

A Phantasmagorical 5K… in VEGA$

Jeffrey and Ali take an Easter weekend trip to Sin City for the Las Vegas 5K, presented by Ryno Running.

It was Friday evening and we were hurtling across the desert in my Subaru Baja on the I-40… en route for Las Vegas. The Easter weekend had just begun, but our road trip was anything but a lively impulse. So what were we doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip?

Well, Ryno Running had broadcasted a 5K event to be held at UNLV, appropriately dubbed the Las Vegas 5K, which served as the perfect excuse for Ali and me to plan a trip to Vegas. Seeing that I had never visited Sin City in my 2-year tenure in Arizona, this seemed to be the opportune time– and in the spirit of Easter! So we both registered for the event in the weeks prior, with the resolve to be Vegas-bound after work that Friday.

The race itself was going to be as intriguing as the host city and its surroundings. The course was advertised as being “flat and fast,” although I had my reservations after viewing the course tour video (which gave me mild motion sickness):

I counted nearly 30 turns when warming up on the course Saturday morning. Ryno Running had it well-marked with cones and directional signs, so the route–either fast or slow– was obvious enough. Its design mimicked something of a labyrinth, following winding concrete sidewalks between faculty buildings and through the heart of the UNLV campus.

I finished my warm-up and arrived at the starting line at 7:52AM. A group of Japanese Drummers were performing, creating a very intense pre-race ambiance. As I was wishing Ali luck (it was her first 5K) and rehydrating, an abrupt announcement was made that the race would be starting in 1 minute. I quickly meandered to the front of the starting line, settling next to my affable MarathonGuide.com teammate, Trent Briney. Memories of the start are hazy from this moment forward. I regained consciousness in about 20th place, possibly on pace for a 400m personal best.

After a few early turns, I was in contact with a very eclectic lead pack. I passed a tall athlete wearing long basketball shorts and a Nike singlet. It was road warrior Christian Hesch. “What up surfer dude!” I said casually. When the athlete turned to me with a puzzled glance, I realized it wasn’t “Hollywood” Hesch. My bad.

I did recognize Ezkyas Sisay,  who distinctly powered his way to the front. He was still making it to the starting line when we were sent off, but had miraculously worked his way through the throngs of runners and pulled into the lead by a half-mile in. I went right after him, recognizing the threat of this Flagstaff-based 1:01:56 half-marathoner.

I had pulled clear of the other chasers by the first mile, and was focused ahead on the elusive leader. Chasing Ezkyas proved to be more like hunting the Predator; with dreadlocks flying, his strength and speed simply could not be matched. As we blazed through the main campus walkway, a stray dog chased after Ezkyas and nearly re-routed him. The dog had second thoughts. We then passed by a water station to the cheers of an enthusiastic group of young volunteers.

The course became increasingly technical in the final mile. We veered off the sidewalk into a grass courtyard before heading back towards the Thomas & Mack Center. I was still pushing forward in an effort to make up ground on the green adidas jersey ahead, but it seemed my efforts were only sustaining the +15 second margin.

I was careful on the final turns of the race, hoping the lack of friction between the outsoles of my T7 Racers and the grass would not send me sprawling to the ground. I crossed the finish decisively in 2nd place with a time of 14:47. Despite the slower time, I was pleased that I went after the leader (even if it cost me some time in the race). Course conditions aside, it was another important racing experience for me.

After I finished,  I watched Eric (our benevolent host) gut out his race and then I ran with Ali out on the course. It was great to see so many participants in the 5K, and also in the Cease to be Obese Charity Walk. Ryan Geurts and Ryno Running did a fantastic job coordinating these events!

After a marathon pace run, awards and a gargantuan veggie burrito, Eric, Ali and I hit the Strip that afternoon… it involved a certain degree of culture shock. Here are a few photo highlights:

  

Hope everyone had a Happy Easter! –JDE

  • Las Vegas 5K Results (insert “Hollywood” Hesch with his 15:01 Time Trial… dude missed the start)