The Dirty Half: You can’t fake it!

I was reminded today of a couple of things…

1) always be a little earlier to the start than you think you should be
2) if you want to run hard, you have to put in the time

In other words…you can’t fake it, baby!

I decided to spin my cross commuter to the Dirty Half start this morning. I left my house at 6:47am and took it easy the 11.5 miles over to the 8am start. I stopped and stretched in the woods about a mile from the start, as I was cutting KGB trail to the old gravel road from Tethrow over to the start line.

I got there, checked my bike in and said hello to a few folks and was changing out of my cycling gear when Sean Meissner, who had run from town for a warm-up, mentioned something to the effect of “don’t let anyone steal my stuff” or something like that. I misunderstood and thought he was saying to watch his stuff, as I assumed he needed to use the restroom real quick…we were 10 minutes from start time.

Well, I stand there, ready to go and no Sean, wait a few more minutes, no Sean. Then, I’m running out of time so I head out, as the start is about a half mile up a gravel road. I start jogging, still looking for him, no Sean. Come to find out, he was just making a joke about stealing his stuff and I TOTALLY misunderstood what he said. He had said it and headed for the start line. Mistake #1.

So, I’m jogging up to the start and I’m about 50 yards out from the very back of the first wave group of people when the gun goes off…AHHHHH! I take off, 50 yards behind last place. I quickly surge along the shoulder passing everyone to get up to the front and within 1/2 a mile I’m tucking in to the back of the front group at WAY too hard a sprint effort…lots of matches burned out of the gates. Mistake #2.

I ran the first mile in 5:30ish and by the climb up Phil’s canyon was toast and couldn’t hang with the lead pack anymore. In hindsight, I should have just settled down and started to pick folks off up the climb. 20/20 right?

I settled in and did what I could and by the top at Road 300, I was feeling okay. That first mile effort had really taken it out of me. I just tried to maintain consistent pace down Ben’s Trail and by 10 miles to go, Katie Caba (the women’s winner) was right behind me. Last year, I had to hold off Lisa Nye (08 female winner) at the end too. I’m honored to push the ladies to a good finish, as we have some tough local ladies for sure. However, I’m not giving up a slot either…I’m no softie in a race, no gifts. Plus, if AT ALL possible, as a competitive male runner, we have a rule, you must try, if at ALL possible, not to get “chick’d.” No disrespect ladies!

Runner Sixth Sense? When you run a lot and see the same folks at race locally, you get a “sense” at times by just listening. I didn’t even look to see if it was Katie behind me. I figured it out over a mile or so by listening to her footsteps and breathing. I guess Lisa wasn’t in it this year, but I thought she was and I knew it was either Katie or Lisa. After listening to the light footsteps and the breathing, which was coming from someone shorter than me (Lisa is tall), I deducted that it was Katie. Kinda weird.

So, after burning books of matches early, I didn’t have much left for surges or finish kicks. I tried a few small surges to drop Katie in the last mile (as I didn’t want to have to duke it out at the finish), but she was on me like glue. So be it. She was running strong and I could feel her energy…she was not backing down. I got to the last little downhill and let it fly, but on the last little flat, Katie surged and I got a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye coming up hard on my right as I was almost to the line. I did one last surge to hold her off by a half stride in 1:25:27. Phew! Nice work Katie, way to bring it!

All in all, great day, beautiful weather. The special Dirty Half IPA was great and I had a blast as usual. That race is a staple and really is a great community event. FootZone, Super Dave and Teague and all the volunteers really have created a stellar home town event. Brook Gardner and I were talking about how this event has evolved into the same type of community thing that the Friday Night Crit for the Cascade Cycling Classic is. You can’t miss it. If you’re a runner and don’t run it, you are missing out…missing out!

This brings me back to my “you can’t fake it” lesson. Here are some Deep Thoughts By Bronco Billy

The past 4 years at the Dirty Half, I’ve been peaking for an upcoming 100 mile race (Bighorn in 05 and 06, Hardrock in 07, and Bighorn in 08). So, when June rolls around, I’ve been really fit, and the Dirty Half is just a fun, long tempo run for me. No matter how hard the effort, just a blip on the radar.

This year, however, with the SI Joint injury, I’ve been logging 25-35 miles a week running, and a lot of cycling. Today I was reminded that you can’t substitute cycling fully for running. To run strong, you have to run…a lot. I’ve been running 3 days a week, but no real volume, just quality. The past 4 seasons, I’ve been running 70-90 miles a week by June and cycling 8-10 hours on top of that. Volume.

As I reflect on that level of fitness, it’s a nice place to be come Dirty Half race day and you begin to feel a bit invencible and think you can just jump in a race and run hard and be fine. I guess coming from an ultrarunner mindset, you think you can do it all the time. Today, I was remindered otherwise. After I pedaled the 11.5 miles back home…I was shot and had to take a nap.

Good wake up call. No substitutes, fakes, or quick fix pills y’all. Giddyup!

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