Thursday, May 26, 2016

2016 Carlsbad 5000 Race Weekend: Inaugural Adults Competitive One-mile and 20k All Day

2016 Carlsbad 5000 Race Weekend 

I had wanted to run in the Carlsbad 5000 for a couple years, after first hearing about it from friends and my sister, but never truly tried to make it happen.  I mistakenly believed that because the race was a world class competitive event a runner could only participate through invitation or qualification (i.e. The Boston Marathon), and I just wasn’t fast enough.  Of course I was way off the mark and I didn’t take the time to look into it:  Everyone who can run a 5k is welcome to participate (within the CGI rules and local laws).  They even have a variety of shorter races for children who are either too young to safely run a 5k or cannot yet complete that distance and they offer a multi-racing challenge in the All Day 20k for the adventurous runner (repeat the 5k with each of the four non-elite age groupings).  We’re all welcome.

This year (2016) the race owners added a new Adult One-mile race for those of us wishing to challenge ourselves at that level, it was originally the primary race distance for youths between 7 and 12 years old.  I was (and still am) very happy they added the Adult One-mile race, it cemented my determination to participate this year.  I had intended to wait until feeling fully recovered from hip surgery and to rebuild faith in my ability to run at a competitive level again but I just couldn’t pass up on the chance for a timed One-mile race.  I’d spent all of 2014 training hard to achieve a sub 3-hour marathon using the Hanson’s Marathon Method training plan, that training put me through weekly speed and endurance runs which naturally helped me become faster (especially for the shorter races).  As the weeks and months progressed I found myself dipping to and below a 6 minute per mile pace rather often.  Eventually I managed a personal One-mile best during a training run that was very exciting and made me want more.  Thereafter I wanted to run an “Official” One-mile race, something professionally timed that I could call my “Personal Record”.  It is very difficult to find a timed, competitive, One-mile race unless you are an Olympic or a track athlete for a school:  Commercial One-mile events are typically dubbed “fun” runs and aren’t measured or timed.  When this official and timed One-mile race was announced I truly felt that, because of the history and reputation of the Carlsbad 5000 races, runners from all over would show up to compete and their efforts would help me push beyond imagined boundaries to achieve my very best.  I was not disappointed and best of all, I learned things to help me be a better runner in the future.

We (my sister and I) signed up for the new One-mile race and the All Day 20k, to experience as much as possible over the full race weekend.  We chose the 20k instead of our individually categorized 5ks because it would allow us to run our age group 5k races as best we could plus run at least one of the 5k races together, and then we would could run the last one or two (depending on how things worked out in the first two) at a comfortable pace to soak up the special race atmosphere of the remaining group(s) pushing themselves to their max.  At least, that was the plan. 

 My sister (Charlene) and I made the trip from Vegas to Oceanside, CA on the Friday before the races, so we’d have a chance to relax and settle down after the 5+ hour drive.  We could have decided to make the drive on Saturday morning, as the adults One-mile race wasn’t scheduled to start until 9:26 am, but getting a good night’s rest before a race of any distance is always preferable.  Getting a “good night’s rest” turned out to be a little difficult, the hotel was well stocked with Ragnar teams and triathletes with their loved ones:  I wasn’t able to get to sleep until sometime around 11 pm but thankfully the race’s start time allowed us to sleep in more than is typical on race days.  All the activity around the hotel did add an interesting vibe to the atmosphere; triathletes checking over their bikes and gear, relay teams sharing comradery and teasing competitors, and of course we runners excited for Carlsbad.

Saturday morning started off rather chilly, despite the sun being up and shining brightly, when we left for the race (around 7 am) so we wore over-clothes for the trip to Carlsbad Village, attending packet pick (for both race days), and to wander around the outdoor expo.  Charlene and I arrived at the expo grounds before the crowds did so we stopped at the Glukos Energy booth for me to pick up some fuel for my marathon training and so we could take advantage of the opportunity to get in a quick Periscope video with one of the Glukos team members.  Please feel free to watch it here: 

We began our warmup exercises soon after leaving the expo and then dropping everything (including our extra clothing and race packets) off at the car.  We used some of the blocked off streets near the start line to stretch and run on, they made perfect traffic-free safe zones.  The streets kept us close enough to look in on the kids’ events now and then, to enjoy their excitement and cheer on their efforts.  We also got our first sight of the special race planning that the Village of Carlsbad requires; the necessary inclusion of the local commuter trains that cross through the town and the event courses.  The race officials and runners took the short delays in stride, it was all just another part of the experience.  Come to find out, what seemed to be unusual start times for the races were actually the inclusion of the train schedule with our own.  In so many ways the Carlsbad 5000 race weekend felt as if it were a part of the village, not just a visiting guest.

Surprisingly enough I didn’t have any nervousness or “butterflies” as we toed the One-mile start line, partly because I had no self-imposed pressure to try winning the race (I anticipated there would be plenty of 4-minute mile racers there).  I also truly felt ready to put all of my effort into that single mile, a 5-minute burst of power and running form.  I can still remember a lot of the things that went through my head during the race despite it being so quick; seeing other runners in my peripheral vision and those ahead of me; mentally noting how interesting the village looked despite my limited view.  My strongest memory (beyond the effort) is of seeing the finish line as we rounded the final corner:  It was an inviting, clear view from the top of a mild slope straight toward to the awaiting finish line (roughly 1/10th of a mile from the turn).  I leaned into the gentle downhill, hoping I had some kick left, and gave it all I had as the clock ticked towards 5 and ½ minutes (my official finish time was 5:28).  I think one of the coolest things about this One-mile race was the high energy and big smiles of the finish line volunteers, our announcer, and the cheering spectators.  This was a big deal to them too, a highly competitive and exciting race that they could see us giving everything we had.  I never once got the feeling from anyone that this was “just a one mile run” and therefore unimportant; everyone there was fully engaged and seemed excited.

After Charlene and I had a chance to cool down from the hard run and stretch (I also put in a couple more training miles) we visited a few local shops that I had noticed.  First we went into a cool looking place called Warm Waters Surf Shop; I wanted a better look at some interesting Star Wars clothing they had (a gift for my brother in-law).  We then went into the Carlsbad Chocolate Bar next door to get sis a latte, and to see if it was as interesting as a chocolate bar should be.  We finished walking along the row of buildings and ended up stopping in the Viz Art Ink Gallery; the window display caught our attention as we both really enjoy hand-crafted art.  The only things we bought were a pair of socks and a latte but sis and I both felt it was time well spent, learning a little of Carlsbad.  I can easily say that I would be very interested in exploring Carlsbad Village in and of itself, the feel and look of what little we saw sparked my imagination (to me that is very important).

Charlene and I continued our mini-adventure of exploring new places by wandering around a little of Oceanside a little after returning from the One-mile race:  We found a pretty cool “mom & pop” type store near the hotel that specialized in antiques and vintage knickknacks but not really much more in that area.  Perhaps the two most interesting things that night were seeing some skydivers landing in a nearby lot and a wedding being held in a conference room that shared our hotel’s building.  Neither was exciting enough to keep us up through the night, thankfully.  heh 

I didn’t have the calm start to race day as the day before, when the alarm woke me on Sunday morning, my excitement levels started to climb quickly.  I was eager to test myself on the Master's Men 5k specifically, almost as much as I had wanted to push myself the day before during the One-mile race.  During my training for the coming Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon (in June) I found that my pre-surgery speed was starting to return, much quicker than anticipated.  My endurance wasn’t coming back so quickly but the shorter distances (5 and 10k) were within my range of capability.  This race was my chance to feel like I was firmly on the road to recovery, being that much closer to where I had been such a short time ago (relatively speaking).  My injury and subsequent surgery had prevented me from establishing new personal bests in the 5k and Half Marathon distances while I was at my peak after the 2015 Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and I'm ashamed to admit that I kept thinking and referring to that peak as my "Glory Days" (as if I were a retired pro-sport star).  With some of my speed and capabilities returning I truly hoped to best my 2014 times and shut that lamenting thought/attitude down.

Sunday morning weather was almost night and day different from the previous morning; where Saturday had started off very bright but quite chilly, Sunday was overcast and warm.  It was also more humid than the day before but thankfully not so much that it made either Charlene or I worry about our race effort levels.  The short trip to Carlsbad and super easy access to parking helped keep us both as “relaxed” as could be expected before an event like this:  One way to make sure your big race starts out on the best foot (pun intended) is to get the VIP package when available, especially the VIP parking.  This special parking was a huge boon to us especially considering there were more than 7000 participants expected that morning (race day parking can be a massive headache especially for such popular events), even with ride sharing that’s a lot of cars.  We also knew ahead of time that post race care was already taken care of by getting the VIP package: for me specifically that VIP access was important because this 20k would be a big challenge during my recovery.  Sis and I met up with a mutual friend of ours, Joe, after we parked to give him a VIP wristband and hang out with him for the races, he too was running the All Day 20k.  Charlene and I walked through the outdoor expo again to see if it had any additional booths/tents as compared to what we saw on Saturday while Joe took care of his packet pick up and received his official race shirt.  I pointed out, and kept a mental note of, where the engraving tent was located.  I wanted to get my official One-mile PR engraved on the medal from Saturday, and if I were able to PR on the 5k then I would get it done as well.  The three of us then walked over to the PAON restaurant (the VIP hosts and lounge) to see if we could go in.  We were too early at that point, to get access, but it was a very nice looking place with a real comfortable Bistro quality to it (in my opinion).  We chatted with the person posted at the front gate for a few minutes, she was even nice enough to take a picture of us with the sign so we could share it and the location.

After that it was time for us to find the All Day 20k Lounge to drop off our race gear bags and then start pre-race warmup.  The All Day 20k Lounge was a great little haven for those of us participating in the challenge, perfectly set up to support us over the course of four consecutive 5k races; restricted access to only 20k participants; our own gear check which we could access as often as we needed; our own food and drinks; a lot of chairs and tables to rest at; and most importantly, we had our own porta potties.  It was almost a VIP lounge unto itself, a little more basecamp than true lounge, but no less wonderful for us.  Heh

My excitement quickly approached the “butterfly” level when the race announcer called for the runners to approach the start line of the first race, the Master’s Men 5k:  I was completely surrounded by runners from all over the world who were mostly my peers in age and capabilities, with a few exceptions (both plus and minus in either direction of both).  Our start had to be unexpectedly delayed by a few minutes due to the scheduled trains being late to cross our route but that turned out to be a little bit of a relief.  The extra few minutes gave me a chance to do a few more strides and other quick warmup runs to keep ready (and dispel some of the nervous energy I felt building).  By the time the start gun sent us on our way I was completely focused and in the moment.  I really enjoyed how the 5k course was laid out; though it had two 90 degree left turns and two U-turns it was very fast on the straight always and overall easy to run.  I had no problems controlling my pace and giving the race everything I had (the cloudy and cooling weather helped too).  The final turn (the second 90 degree left) was a real special moment for us, it was the "big reveal" of the final stretch/sprint to the finish line.  It was the same finish sprint we had for the One Mile race but it felt utterly new.  I gave the run what kick I had leftover and finally established a new personal record for the 5k.  The effort left me completely winded in the finish zone but elated too:  I left everything on the course, finished strong, and made a good showing (even managed to finish in that race's top 10% overall, AG, and sex).  Joe and I were also fortunate enough to be one of the first 250 runners in this age group to finish the race and received a special finisher’s medal for being among those numbers.
I’m sure there are people who look at the race options on the Carlsbad 5000 website and think that the 20k would be boring or monotonous for running the same 5k course 4 times in a row.  I’m here to tell you (and them) that it’s not at all the case, so long as you don’t enter the challenge with that kind thought process or expectation.  Each of the races meant something different to me and each had a different atmosphere:  The first being Master’s Men (mine to race hard), the second was the Master’s Women (Charlene’s race opportunity, and my chance to help by pacing her – she too received the top 250 medal), the third was for Women and Men between 30-39 (Sis and I ran it together as an easy recovery run), and the fourth was for Men and Women 29 and under plus the People’s Walk 5k (we ran that with Joe and used as our chance to really look around and visually soak up Carlsbad).  Each race meant something different to everyone on the road and we could feel it from them.  For the most part every 5k was primarily peopled by single event runners so there was no lack of focused and intense attitudes at the start line and there was always a lot of first time racers buzzing with excitement.  To me; each run was brand new in some way, I saw or experienced something stimulating each time.  Perhaps one of the more interesting things for each race this year was that the weather was different for each and every race.  I’m used to fluctuating weather patterns, being a desert dweller, but that morning was entertaining enough to make me laugh at times.  We started out a little warm but cloudy, thankfully it wasn’t warm enough to effect the run.  The weather shifted towards being nice and sunny, and a little cool, but then a fog bank moved in from the ocean to make things ghostly and mysterious.  That didn’t last more than one race (if I remember correctly) but it lasted long enough for me to get a chuckle out of a building at the distant end of the first straightaway appearing out of nowhere between races.  Charlene and I joked about how the building could have been moved in or built in such a short time.  By the time we completed our series of races and gathered to watch the elites run the clouds had taken over the sky; it made for a nice mellow and cooler run for them (in my opinion anyway).
As far as race event amenities went, the All Day 20k Lounge was a godsend the entire morning; it gave us a comfortable place to prepare for each race, recover from them after each one, and grab a little fuel between races.  We made good use of the opportunity it provided after each race by retrieving our gear bags and digging out necessities; sunscreen, foam rollers, water, and of course some good stretching space.  I also used the opportunity to test out the Glukos Energy Bars since I could divide it up evenly for each rest period and keep them stored with my gear, leaving me free to race without carrying extra stuff with me.  One of the best things available to us in the lounge was a big table full of Glukos Energy Gel packets and bottles of Gatorade (both of which they kept stocked).  Truly we had access to just about everything a runner needs (except fresh legs).  Maybe the only thing missing was a clock or something to keep track of the next start time, which would have been nice.  The next time I do the 20k challenge I have to remember to set alarms on my phone for the start of each race; we pushed our luck a couple times before the end of the day, barely making the gun for the final two races.  The 20k Lounge was also where our finisher’s medals were given out, which we happily picked up while retrieving our gear bags.

We could have hung around the lounge after finishing the final race but all three of us were eager to get to the VIP lounge we’d tried to visit first in the morning; it was time for some comfort and ease.

Charlene and I (with Joe in tow – heh) picked up a special pint glass for having run the One-mile race on Saturday and then running again on Sunday, as we all made our way from the 20k Lounge to the VIP Lounge at the PAON Restaurant (the VIP Lounge host).  The outer area we’d seen in the morning, which I previously said had a nice bistro look, was the front dining patio.  It still had that kind of “old country” feel/look to it but now it was alive with runners.  The three of us made our way inside the restaurant to look around, stake out a place to sit, and find some food.  We were lucky enough to grab a nice comfortable booth under a window looking out at the patio.  The food they had for us was set out buffet style (like the corporate Christmas party buffet not a casino one) and all looked high quality.  Charlene and Joe enjoyed the lunch (I confess I didn’t eat anything they offered, the buffet fare didn’t suit my needs) while I took a few minutes to return to the car for a couple of “treats” Charlene and I had picked up before leaving home; just something that she had thought of which would go well with our challenge medals and the expected food (it amused us).

I also used the few moments away to get my One-mile and All Day 20k finisher medals engraved with the newly established Personal Records.

The nice soft booth and comfortable atmosphere of the VIP Lounge was exactly what we needed after all of the running that morning.  We got a chance to talk about our experiences, our impressions of the event and weekend, and most importantly we were able to wind down and relax.  While we were talking about how tiring a 4x5k run is compared to running a half marathon (the All Day 20k wins) sis got a funny idea:

After all, VIPs can sleep anywhere they please right?  Heh

We stayed in PAON right up to the final few minutes before the last two races of the day, the races all three of us were excited to see: The Women’s Elite 5k and the Men’s Elite.  I never thought I’d actually get the chance to watch world class runners (including 2016 Olympic hopefuls) live and actively competing.  I’ve run in the same races as some of professional racers, at other Rock ‘n’ Roll events across the country (Half and full Marathons) and a few other big races but they weren’t competing against their peers for a shot at improving their status in the higher tiers of the Track and Field world, they were there to make a living at what they do best.  The exception to this was the one and only Marathon Major I’ve run, the 2014 Boston Marathon won by Meb Keflezighi: even then I never saw the marathon elites only read about them after.  To me this year’s Carlsbad 5000 (with the 2016 Summer Olympics just around the bend) kind of had a playoff feeling to it, like the more typical televised professional sports, and I was watching them live.  This race always has the possibility of seeing a new 5k world record established but the big “O” does add extra incentive. 
We positioned ourselves at the finish line to see the final excitement and because we were still much too tired to walk to a more central point of the course.  We also hoped to catch the finish on Periscope, to share what excitement we could with anyone watching.  I failed pretty badly in my video attempt (messed up the audio, and poor positioning), Charlene did a better job (as she annoyingly tends to do).  The entire finish stretch was packed with highly excited spectators, as was the finish area where we were.  When the first race started (the Women’s Elite) everyone around began to get excited, the anticipation was palpable even though we didn’t expect the first runner for at least 12 or 13 minutes.  We saw the racers a couple times in the distance as they made two loops on Carlsbad Blvd; part of the new route created by the Executive Race Director designed to give the elite an opportunity to be even faster, and to give us (the fans/spectators) the best cheering and viewing experience.  Everything shifted into high gear around us when the leaders turned on to Carlsbad Village Drive and made their final kick toward the finish: the race staff started to scramble around the finish line to position the ceremonial tape and photographers, the lead vehicles and the ElliptiGo Pacer exited the course just ahead of the finish line, Ethiopian National flags were raised as the lead racer (Meseret Defar) was recognized, and of course the entire crowd cheered for her and all of the runners.  I tried yelling myself hoarse as the winner came in, and for her trailing competitors, but the hoarse turned into a frog after second place crossed so I had to settle for whooping.  Haha  I was happy to be caught up in the excitement of seeing some of the best at my craft work their magic, especially since I just ran that same road (and had better weather in my opinion).  While every one of the Elite Women were faster than I am, by far, I could put myself in their place: I ran my best (no matter the speed difference), I tried to execute my race plan successfully, I felt that same stretch of road under me, I also knew well the rush of feelings and thoughts that came with seeing the finish line from the final turn.  I didn’t run with them physically but I was there again, in the moment.  It really was a crazy experience and wicked fun.

Charlene, Joe, and I decided to reposition ourselves to the opposite side of the road for the Men’s Elite race, to hopefully get a closer and clearer view of the final stretch.  I really expected the crowd to quiet down and more or less reset themselves between races but they kept a constant and energetic buzz going the entire time.  When the Men’s Elite was kicked off I remember thinking to myself: “This race could be over in just 12 minutes (plus some seconds)”.  That just seemed crazy to me but it really was within these racer’s capabilities.  I don’t remember much at all about the short time from gun to final stretch, it went by too fast to absorb.  I know we had the two bursts of excitement from the crowd in our area when the racers crossed our view as they made their loops, and I distinctly remember hearing Charlene talking excitedly when she began her Periscope session for the finish.  Me, I was lost again in the memory and sensation of racing the same streets just hours before.  The Elite route was considerably different from the “People’s Route” but their course was actually contained entirely within ours, so we really had run the same roads.  I failed again in my attempt to create a Periscope video of the race (for the Elite Men this time) but it was actually a good thing, I rambled more than actually giving any good information or coverage.  When the lead vehicles and ElliptiGo pacer turned onto our street everything around us kicked into high gear, again.  I snapped out of my “race reverie” (imagining/remembering running the 5k) once I could see the lead runner, I wanted to see the finish clearly.  I mentally gave leader his due, thinking (I may have said it out loud too): “Man, he’s fast”.  He had a strong lead over the second place runner and third wouldn’t come into view for quite a while (in race time).  I had hoped I’d get to see some of his form and technique, to pick up a few pointers, but from where I stood the only thing I got out of his race to help mine is “Run real fast”.  Haha Seeing Joshua Cheptegei get wrapped in his national Ugandan flag just after the finish was very cool: it was a not-so-subtle reminder that I witnessed a world class event.  I was also fortunate enough to catch a nice example of sportsmanship/comradery a few seconds after Joshua won and some of his competitors finished, I always appreciate seeing such things.  The gentlemen who placed fourth and fifth were so winded from the race that they doubled over shortly after crossing the finish line, side by side.  The two saw each other’s condition and cared enough to check how the other felt, congratulate each other, and then they walked off together:  Maybe they were friends, maybe strangers, but they were certainly friendly competitors after all was said and done.  What a great way to wrap up a hard competition.

Charlene, Joe, and I stayed at the finish line long enough to see all of the racers cross and then made our way back toward our cars to head home.  We stopped by the famous Pizza Port restaurant and considered going in (They were one of the race Event Partners and had supplied the pint glass given to those of us who completed the two days of racing) but the line was so long at that point it would have put us on a bad schedule for the very long drive.  Next time we come to Carlsbad, for racing or just to explore, it’ll definitely be one of the places to look into.

My sister and I said that we’re very interested in experiencing more of Carlsbad, after exploring a little piece of it post One-mile race on Saturday, and our experiences Sunday added to the feeling and desire to return.  I want to race this again, and I want to experience more of the Village. 

I want thank the Competitor Group (Rock ‘n’ Roll) for opportunity to participate in this marvelous race and experience, the wonderful life memories that the Carlsbad 5000 has given my sister and I will always be cherished.

*Disclaimer:   I was an invited guest to the Carlsbad 5000 race weekend, the views, reviews and opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by the organizers nor sponsors or any other company/individual affiliated with the event.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Race Fuel Product Review: Glukos Energy

Through several years of running, the last two of which were focused mainly on the marathon distance, I've been searching far and near for a race fuel that would work with my "somewhat" picky system.  I have tried natural products, standard "performance" drinks, bars, gels, gummies/blocks, and even coconut water based fluids, hoping to find one that would agree with me and still be easy to use while racing and/or training; they have all been either too sweet, too difficult to transport and consume, or they (pardon the indelicacies) irritated my bowels.  My training and racing was actually starving my body because I couldn't palette existing fuels, more than 2 gels during a marathon would actually make me retch.  At several periods during training I had dropped down to the mid 150's and around 5% body fat, that worried my family and friends (not me, I was blissfully stupid).  My inability to find a compatible fuel has kept me from achieving my one and only goal; to be the best runner that I can be.
My sister, Charlene, and I first heard about Glukos Energy from the email and social media posts put out by the Competitor Group just prior to the 2016 Rock 'n' Roll Arizona race weekend after Glukos had been named the official Energy Gel and Gummy of the entire Rock n Roll Marathon series. We read the informational pages on their website ; about the company itself, the science behind their products, and about the product's nutritional information.  There was more than enough in those pages to pique our interest (certainly enough to make stopping at their booth a priority at the race's Expo).
The first person we talked to was front and center at the table, and in a smart looking suit.  Charlene spied him as we approached and told me, "There's the Owner, or CEO.  Definitely someone important and in the know."  She was right; We shook the hand of, and introduced ourselves to, Mick McCormick CEO of Glukos.  He really set the tone of the experience; he was polite, enthusiastic, and as knowledgeable as you'd hope from a company executive.  Charlene and I tried a sample of the Glukos Energy Gel at his invitation:  The flavor was mild and not at all sweet, it was also very easy to "consume" as it went down just like water (which is the first ingredient after all).  My sister and I looked at each other with essentially the same thought, "This just might be the answer to my running woes".  Mick suggested we talk to Mark Jensen  (also at the expo just a short distance away), to get a fellow competitor's opinion and viewpoint, as well as the formulator's technical expertise.  Mark's enthusiasm for Glukos was naturally high but it was his understanding and experience with the requirements of high demand athletics that really spoke to me.  He had great advice for me toward rebuilding my marathon conditioning and creating a fueling plan that would help me reach my goals.  He also made a statement that has stuck with me to this date, "It [Glukos] is essentially an I.V. for a runner".

Charlene and I have been training with Glukos since then; both of us making extensive use of the Energy Tablets, she's also been using the Energy Gummies while I've leaned more towards the Energy Gels.  After these have been so favorable to us both we decided to ask Mark to give us a little bit of his time for a "Phone Interview" to talk more about the company, the products, the future of Glukos, and the high level athletes associated with them.  You are more than welcome to listen to the interview here:  Running Siblings interview with Mark Jensen creator of Glukos

Here are a few highlights that I enjoyed from the interview:
Mark Jensen  (an accomplished runner and triathlete in his own right) decided to create a type of fueling system that would work better for him and other athletes, something that would process quickly without being just another super sweet goo.  The epiphany that inspired his creation(s)?  A simple medical I.V.; Glucose, water, and electrolytes (not simple scientifically but simple by way of not being complex and chemical laden).  There was the "I.V. for runners" reference again, I still enjoy that thought.
Glukos Energy products are already in approximately 1000 retail stores across the country and Mark is projecting that they'll be in 8 to 10 thousand stores by the end of 2016.  While having the ability to order everything by the case online is fantastic (and a money saver), we do have the unfortunate tendency to run ourselves out before reordering; having the ability to buy a tube or two of Tablets or a few packets of the Gels locally is important.
The rather exciting Marathon Olympic Trials, recently held on February 13, 2016 in LA, featured a strong 3rd place finish by Jared Ward, one of the Glukos Energy Elite Athletes.  I had to ask about how an Olympic quality (and now US Olympic Team Member) marathon runner fuels on course.  We never get to see or hear those details during the event television coverage.
Please also read the interview Mark had with Jared shortly after the Olympic Trials success,  it is a great opportunity to peak into how a pro uses the same product I have on my running belt:  Glukos Energy Interview with new Olympian Jared Ward

Charlene and I both want to thank Mark Jensen for spending so much time with us and for making this wonderful race fuel.  I've been needing a product the will work with my crazy picky system and I really think this is my answer.

Please read my sister's blog on her Glukos experiences, her point of view is very different from mine and insightful.  FabRunning Glukos review

Friday, February 12, 2016

2016 Las Vegas Big Game 10K Recap

The 2016 Las Vegas Big Game 10K in downtown area near the Fremont Street Experience.

I ran this event last year because it was a local race, inexpensive, and it gave me something to do during the morning of the Big Game.  This year I ran it again because it's a pretty fast course (I set my 10k PR on it at the 2015 race), it's local, and still inexpensive.  I asked my sister Charlene to participate this year too since it was so fast for me and because I had fun last year.  I knew I could not surpass (or even duplicate) last year's results but I believed we'd be able to enjoy ourselves and really test our speed.

I decided to skip the Expo this year: Based on my experience from last year it wouldn't be worth the time and effort to get downtown for an expo that was frankly uninspiring.  Charlene was scheduled be working there as an ambassador for the coming Hot Chocolate 15k Race so I asked her to pick up my race stuff, if she couldn't then I'd have to use the other option of race day pick up.  She agreed to get my bib and swag bag while she was there.  I was pretty confused when she asked me if I wanted a black event shirt or a white one, neither one was a team color and though white often represents the home team black rarely represents home or away.  Both teams have white somewhere in their uniform but it doesn't represent either of them.  Carolina does have black in their normal color scheme but blue is their signature color (they even have a special shade of blue).  Since neither made sense I just told her to get whatever because I didn't care.  I felt bad for Charlene by the end of the night; the winds were up and down the whole time (up near 10 mph during the early hours of the expo) and the temps were in the 50s and dropping into the 40s by the end of the expo.  Poor sis was pretty cold and unhappy by the time she went home.

On Sunday, when we arrived at the starting area, the big stage was already hopping with activity; some of the KVVU Fox 5 TV personalities were polling the handful of runners present as to which team they were rooting for (it was very one sided), the Warriors Cheerleading Squad from Western High School was in front getting everyone revved up, and I think we caught the tail end of a costume contest.  I really appreciate these homey touches at local races.

One of the things that I really liked about the course design was the placement of the start line; it was set well within the course and gave us several blocks of traffic free streets to warm up and stretch. While Charlene and I warmed up the morning show crew from radio station 97.1 took over the MC job on stage and kept the growing crowd of runners engaged.  We were also introduced to Martha Watson, a Gold (and Silver) Medalist at the '75 PanAm games and 4 time Olympic qualifier.  She's still very active and is heavily involved in senior activities around Las Vegas.  At the award ceremony later in the morning she invited me to participate in a senior racing event in the near future (still unsure if I should feel insulted or not since I'm not old enough to be a senior yet - heh, I'm not).

The first race to be "kicked off" that morning was the Kids Dash; it was a treat to see them running and listening to most of the adult racers cheering them on (and to turn around when a pair of preteen siblings accidentally went past the u-turn marker).  I liked having them race before we did, I rarely get the chance to watch the kids races at other events because I'm typically recovering from my run.

The next race to be started was the 5k, the one my sister ran in.  It was started in style with a live singing of the National Anthem and our flags presented by the UNLV ROTC Color Guard.  I could have joined my sister for the 5k (as part of the Big Game Combo Challenge) but I didn't want to exceed my recovery and I like Charlene to be able to have her own race without little brother always tagging along.  I spent the time between our races to get in some "Strides" and other warm up runs.  I also used that time to "pre-fuel" with a Glukos Energy Tablet, I knew I'd need the electrolytes very quickly once the race started.

We prefaced my race with the Bengal Marching Band from Bonanza High School playing the National Anthem and the Color Guard presenting our flags.  I didn't feel nervous at the start line at all, I had a pacing plan in my head.  Honestly, one of the best things about training is that you learn your present capabilities:  I knew very well that I could run a 10k at a 7 minute pace (a medium-high effort level) so that was my plan.  This year I had no hope of matching or surpassing my results of 2015 but I knew it would be a good course on which to test my current capabilities and still be competitive.

The 5k and 10k courses didn't share much of the same route but we did share many of the same roads.  The courses ran us mostly through an older residential area (along with homes that were turned into lawyer's offices) which is part of the original Downtown Las Vegas.  The streets are very flat and in great shape (two big reasons the run is so fast).  I haven't run the 5k race for this event so I can't really say how the necessary turns effected speed but for the 10k it's one of the fastest I've had the opportunity to run on; it could only be faster if there weren't so many switchbacks (4 U-turns to be exact).  That is the price you have to pay to hold a race in that part of Las Vegas, there just aren't a lot of options.

I started with, and stayed up near, the front of the pack the entire race and ended up finishing 17th out of 224 with an average pace of 6:50 minutes per mile (pretty darn close to my estimated pace).  I pushed myself hard enough to need a gel at mile 4 but I'd included that in my plans and had a Glukos Energy Gel on my belt; in fact it was my hydration and electrolyte boost as well as muscle fuel.  I'm really trying to nail down my marathon fueling plan before I head out for 26.2.

#52 on the left side of center

Charlene was at the finish line as I rounded the final corner, that was a nice treat especially since I was feeling very winded at that point.  I'd put a lot of effort into the run which made me heart sing and my lungs wheeze.  heh  She even shot a short video of my finish for me, that was very cool.  My happy feeling went away in milliseconds though; as I turned my focus on the finish line I immediately saw a huge crowd of people filling the finish line, barely a single yard away from the finish arch.  That is such a huge pet-peeve of mine:  I greatly appreciate the race volunteers and my fellow runners but I really dislike them crowding the finish line, making me come to a screeching halt the second I clock in.  I need at least a body length to slow down, preferably 5 (30 feet), and catch my breath; the last thing I need is to get mugged and jostled about immediately after a hard run.  Topping it all off, as I looked at my Garmin to stop and save the run data, I saw that the recorded distance from start to finish was short of the required 6.2 miles that make up a 10k.  That is why my run data has a huge drop in pace at the end (feel free to check out my race data here - MapmyFitness Big Game10k for Kirk ), I had to walk around a few minutes to make up the missing distance.  As a racer, especially as a USATF member, an accurate course is very important to me.  The 2015 course was perfect; this year's being short was rather surprising.


While I walked around the finisher's area to cool down and catch my breath my good mood from the great run drifted away like smoke:  There was a table of what I believed to be cups of water a few yards beyond the finish line but there wasn't a scrap of food in sight.  I can't honestly remember if that was the same case at the 2015 race but it was sadly the case this year.  I'd just expended 800+ calories of effort to do that run and there wasn't any type of refueling for us when/where we needed it most.  Despite the fact that I'm rebuilding myself after a long downtime and hip surgery in August 2015 I'm in pretty decent shape, my body still handles physical exertion pretty efficiently.  That 10k race cost me 1/3 of my USDA daily recommended calories for both my age group and my activity level.  Think of what it costed a person heavier than I, not as active as I, someone who spent an hour and more on the course (95 finishers this year) working their bodies to their max to complete 6.2 miles.  I was famished as soon as my body realized it didn't need to race anymore, I could only imagine those further back would be nearly starving.
Thankfully my sister and I try to be at least minimally prepared for these instances and brought some fruit just in case, she grabbed it from the car earlier while I was still running. We met back up beyond the finish line, at a line of oddly empty tables and chairs, a few minutes after I'd crossed and ate the bananas she'd gotten from the car. 

We didn't stay around the finish line after meeting back up; neither of us were in the mood to hang around empty tables, I was very concerned about getting her to the 5k award ceremony near the scheduled start time, and I needed to find someplace to stretch before my muscles cramped up.  We stopped at the car real quick to get her over-clothes and our regular glasses and then made our way over to the Gold Spike, the advertised post-race gathering area and award ceremony stage.  When we walked in the door I was at first concerned that we'd completely missed the 5k ceremony because there were very few runners there but it hadn't even started yet (the awards weren't out and the finish results were not delivered yet), there would be a delay on giving out the awards.  Charlene gave me the classic "I told you so" look that sisters are so good at but I didn't want to risk her not getting an award if she'd earned it so I don't mind hustling over.  I decided to look around to find a place to stretch and to see if there was any fruit and water for us (the runners); they had the bar and cafe open but nothing set out for us to grab as part of the race support.  I didn't expect they would as they didn't offer it in 2015 but I looked around just in case the race owners decided to improve our race experience.  I did end up finding a live band playing in the big adult playground in the outdoor section behind the building which was pretty cool, I didn't even know they were there since the DJ inside completely drowned them out: I'd rather have had the live music piped in than have the DJ but that's a personal opinion.  The band had a pretty good sound but I moved on, continuing the search for a good stretch place.

The awards ceremony didn’t go any better this year than it did last year, surprisingly enough; the award medals were a huge snafu for both the 5k and 10k.  It was a bad enough mess that the “Special Guest” Martha had to sort out medals while trying to present them to the winners (with the official award photo being taken) as they were called forward.  It gives me a headache to think about.  Charlene stepped in to help Martha as soon as she saw what was happening, I stayed out of it for a few minutes (being left to guard our valuables) but had to lend a hand as well a few minutes later because the winners started stacking up behind them waiting for their awards (a few come back because they did not get the correct ones).  It took the 3 of us, rushing, at least 30 minutes to get the medals sorted and untangled; all the while the winners were announced and waiting around for us to give them what they’d earned.  The lack of prior preparation made the ceremony a chore rather than a celebration; at least in 2015 it was only slow and disorganized.    

It’s not really surprising that so few runners showed up for the ceremony; no doubt most left straight from the finish line to get something to eat, some probably didn’t want to walk the several blocks after the long run to wait around hungry just to find out they didn’t even place, or maybe some just weren’t interested in collecting an uninspiring, generic award medal with an event sticker on it (that may sound snobbish but creativity shows involvement and care where cheap and generic shows a lack of interest and emotional investment).  I went, and brought Charlene, because I wanted to know the results and if I and/or Charlene earned an award I wanted it/them: It's what is fair (if that makes any sense).
 I’d hoped that things would have improved over last year but almost every phase of the event took a step backwards in my opinion.  It’s depressing; Vegas needs a great local race experience, on a fast course, and this one could be just that but it just seems to move further and further away from it’s potential. 

Charlene asked me a very difficult question later that day:  Would I run the Big Game 10k again, after the overall experience had gotten worse in the second year?  Ordinarily it would be an easy and immediate answer of “No!” but I have to admit that the fast course is a big draw to me.  I could care less about the event and post-race mess at this point, unless the race owner decides to improve things for their customers, but the fast course gives me the opportunity to test myself in ways that no other race in Vegas has/does.  Time will tell but at this point I doubt I’ll allow myself to be taken advantage of again just for a chance to test my speed.

*Disclaimer:   The opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the organizers nor sponsors or any other company/individual affiliated with the event.