Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Race That Wasn't: Richmond

My best laid plans seemingly, were not laid well enough.  I went into the Richmond Marathon with what I thought were solidly prepared legs.  Those "solidly prepared legs" yielded a time not even worth mentioning.  I'll give a story of the unraveling below....

After some trouble finding parking (according to the website, there was plenty of it), bag was checked, bowels were taken care of, and I was standing at the start line 7 minutes before the start with nearly perfect weather for running in the low 40s.

The gun went off, and we were off.  I had taken a spot right at the front, and was actually ahead of the lead group of elite women (6-7 in a tight pack with a bicycle leading them).  I would eventually yield to them, knowing they were running just a hair faster and had no intention of getting mixed up with that.  My plan early was simple, stay on 6:20 and ignore what everyone else was doing.

On my final two runs before the race, I had a problem with cramping in my mid section, cramping I haven't had all year.  But, it picked a hell of a time to come back.  Right from the start it was bothering me, but I ignored it and within 7 miles it went away.

I was pleased with my early splits...
Mile 1: 6:23
Mile 2: 6:25
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:16
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:29

The course was somewhat hilly, and a couple of times I got "locked in" trying to chase people ahead of me but made sure to stay largely in control.  I was taking water from each stop and even through mile 6 had consumed some of the honey stinger chews I carry with me.  It took some coaxing on my part to keep my stomach from rejecting them.

Mile 8 took us over a bridge to the part of the course that was not in the city itself.  It was lonely out there but I didn't mind.  I still decent to this point.

Mile 7: 6:20
Mile 8: 6:14
Mile 9: 6:30
Mile 10: 6:20
Mile 11: 6:29

I kept going, starting to notice that my body was overall very displeased with me.  I never felt right from the get go but figured if I just kept going with it, I would be fine.  After all, I was sticking to the plan.

I was trading places with various people as some dropped back, others went ahead, while I stayed as steady as I could.  I was hoping, just hoping my body would cooperate with me if I just kept going.

Mile 12: 6:36
Mile 13: 6:34

I came through the 13.1 mark at almost exactly 2:48 pace.  It was not a PR, but at that moment, despite slowing kept telling myself it was fine.  I'd take a sub-2:50, I just wanted something to go right for once.

The number of people passing me began to increase as we headed for another bridge to return to the city itself.

Mile 14: 6:42
Mile 15: 6:49
Mile 16: 7:00

And then "it" happened.  It was like deja vu to the NCR Trail Marathon last year all over again.  Somehow, somewhere a switch in my body flipped, and I couldn't run marathon pace anymore, and could barely run easy pace in the aftermath.

I won't report the rest of my miles, but after 18 it was just a march of despair to the finish line.  I'm so sick of dropping out of marathons that I forced myself to finish, regardless of how long it took.  It certainly took a freaking long time... 3:19.  You can do the math for what kind of positive split it takes to be at 2:48 at the half.

So here I am at the end of another marathon with more questions and fewer answers.  I thought I did everything right, perhaps could have run more marathon paced miles, maybe a few more miles overall, but more importantly, was not over trained.  I knew that's why I failed in 2011, and even if it wasn't hot in Boston, why I may have failed in spring 2012.

I can't point to any specific cause, but the best words of wisdom I heard all weekend were that even if you do everything right, things may still not come together on race day.

As for the future, there will be no "take 2" fall marathon.  I'm taking a week off to clear the slate and will focus on shorter stuff for the rest of the year including:

My hometown 4 mile turkey trot
 USATF cross country club nationals; 10K in Kentucky with a fast FRR crew
Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

I am not going to race a marathon this spring.  I've trained for one every spring and fall since 2008 and have had it.  I can really only take so much stuff going bad!!  I'm planning on focusing my running at distances of 13.1 miles and under for the spring.  I've got a 10 mile PR that I think I can crush.  I also really, really like lactic threshold paced running so it's about time I do what I really want to do.

On the bike front, I'm going to start riding again.  In fact, half marathon and under training is probably more conducive to bike riding anyway, easier to get in miles for both disciplines.  I will still pace the Kentucky Derby Marathon for 3:10 in April.  A small handful of easy 20 milers should have me more than prepared for that one.

I plan on revisiting the marathon in Fall of next year.

Outside of my horrible running experience, I would highly recommend the Richmond Marathon to anyone!  Great well put on race in a pretty cool city.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Richmond Marathon: 7 days

At long last, I have reached the final week before the Richmond Marathon.  This race distance and I have had our differences since I ran my sub-2:45 nearly two years ago.  However, a lot is going right for me this time around.  My new measured, lower mileage, less frequent racing approach has paid off quite well.  I've run a string of really good races and notched another PR this season.  I've avoided major injury.  I've steered clear of burnout.

Now all that's left is to race!  I never exceeded 65 miles of running in any given week, kept my racing to about 2 a month, sometimes less than that, made sure to take it easy leading up to races and immediately after, and took days off when I needed them.  If my bike and I hadn't become so acquainted with the pavement this Summer, I really only would have missed about 3-4 days total since late May.  I've nailed all my workouts and long runs, save 1 which is quite the high batting average.

Now my legs are fresh, and dare I say, I'm fully confident going into this race.  Last year, in early 2011, I never got my chance to run Boston, giving myself a stress fracture.  In late 2011, going into Philly, I was physically and mentally exhausted, running myself into the ground before race day.  In my "take 2" attempt at the NCR Trail marathon, I felt so good that I got way too eager way too early, and paid for it.  Going into Boston 2012, I was also over trained, coming down with the start of a stress fracture, and then melted into a pool of despair somewhere between Framingham and mile marker 17.

But, that 1.5 years of marathon failure taught me a lot more than my rise from a 3:29 to a 2:45 marathoner over the course of its own 1.5 years.  So now I'm entering race week with fresh legs, confidence, and high hopes of a PR.  I have no lofty, and perhaps unattainable goal that could trap me into going too fast.  I have no massive pace or race plan.  I'm not treating this marathon any different than any other race I've done the last few months.

The plan is to go out relaxed and controlled.  Hopefully that means 6:20 pace, but it doesn't have to.  It can be slower, but it won't be faster.  I crushed the Baltimore 10 Miler this year because I was smart, I PR'ed at Race for Our Kids 10K because I took what the course gave me, and I once ran a 2:45 marathon because I went out relaxed and dropped the hammer in the second half, when it really matters.

As long as I'm not an idiot, trust in the process that got me here, and have fun, next Saturday will go really well.  I'm in the same exact shape I essentially have been over the last 1.5 years, but it has been accomplished on a more sustainable level of training, and with a body in much more sound shape.

My previous two weeks of training...highly summarized:

Week of the RM Classic...65 miles total with the 16:13 5K and a 17.6 miler on the NCR Trail at 6:33 pace with the last ~8 or so at 6:24 pace or better.  Worked down to 6:10 pace by the end

This week....Hurricane Sandy threw me a bit for a whirl, but I haven't missed any miles...50 miles pending a 6 miler on Sunday.  Monday became an off day to avoid the worst of the storm, though my afternoon/evening was just as good if not better than running anyway.  Tuesday brought one last 5 mile tempo run averaged at 5:46 pace in the cold, dreary aftermath of the storm.  It felt really, really good.  Today, was an easy 12 miler.

Leading up to the race I'm running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, around 20 miles total.

Then, it will be go time!  I am looking forward to a race that no matter what, will have cooler temperatures than Boston.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quick Note for a Quick Race: RM Classic 5K

What is the RM Classic 5K you ask?  Well, it is the best kind of race.  Now a yearly tradition amongst the TWSS group, it is a no frills show up to the track and agree to run a set distance at whatever pace you want...race.

A field of 20 showed up at 6:30PM with the sun setting for what promised to be a fast race.  With an average finishing time of around 18 minutes (most 5Ks these days have average finishing times approaching 27-30 minutes) amongst the coed field, it certainly did not disappoint.  With no race fees, parking, swag, crowds, walkers, chips, water stops, course marshals, etc to worry about, it was sure to be a simple night!

Of course, it is unfair to compare a race like this straight up to the road since it was in fact, a track race.  Nonetheless, after a 2 mile warmup and  some strides, we were ready to start at 7PM on the far end of the track for 12.5 laps of awesome.

Despite there being at least 3 people on this track who could wipe the floor with me, I was initially the only one of the low-16/high-15 5K runners who was opting to go hard from the start.  The others all decided to go out at 5:20 pace to do just a workout.

Regardless, I held back momentarily on the first turn to see if anyone would go with me.  I had the full intention to take a shot at breaking 16 minutes whether I was going to get help or not.  By the end of the turn I realized I was on my own and proceeded to take the lead and try to hold 77/lap pace.

I figured my chances were decent.  It was an unseasonably warm but comfortable night with no wind, and my 5K PR of 16:12 on a downhill road course the day after a long run back in March showed I have a sub-16 5K in me, somewhere.

The first two miles were largely uneventful as I went round, and round the track.  Note, these splits are based off the finish line, rather than the start line.  I felt it would be easier to see the full finish stripe rather than the 1 lane wide painted stripe in the back corner in the dark.

First 200 meters...39 seconds
Lap 1: 77
Lap 2: 76
Lap 3: 76
Lap 4: 76

Mile 1: 5:06 (when including tenths/hundredths of seconds)

I felt pretty good, though I was running a tad faster than the 5:10 I had wanted.  Nevertheless, I wasn't sucking wind so I kept at it.

Lap 5: 78
Lap 6: 77
Lap 7: 78
Lap 8: 79

Mile 2: 5:12, 10:18 for two miles

Notice a pattern? It was hard to read my splits, but I knew I had begun to slow.  After passing through the 2 mile and 200 meter point, the pack finally caught the lone breaker.  I got passed by 4 people in rapid succession.

I guess I stirred the pot a little since that group of 4 was originally going to run 5:20 pace.  But, our 2 time defending champion (Dusty) probably didn't want to have anything to do with the likes of me taking the top spot!  His BFFs (Nate, Alex, and Steve) were also along for the ride.   Regardless, my shot for the prix de la combativit√© (aggressive rider award if you are a cycling nerd) was the right move on my part.

Mile 3 hurt, though maybe not as bad as it normally would.

Lap 9: 78
Lap 10: 79
Lap 11: 80
Lap 12: 79

Mile 3: 5:16

And so it was that I crossed in 16:13 and 5th.  I missed my road PR by 1 second, but beat my track PR by about 13.  Considering I have done exactly 0 miles of 5K training this year, I'll take it.  Clearly, I could use a bit more fire power for that sub-16, but it will come with time.

With this little foray into shorter stuff out of the way, I can now focus on the grandest prize of them all...the Richmond Marathon!  We're almost 2 weeks away now.

This is how races should be!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Training, the Baltimore Marathon, and More

In staying with my "keep it laid back" approach, I've got another post to sum up where I've been since my 10K PR just a few weeks ago.

Following that race, it was time to up the miles again after two consecutive weeks of pretty low mileage.  The week immediately following the race, the 24th, I opted to put some work in, both volume-wise and mileage-wise.  I was feeling good, and really needed to get the ball rolling on some solid training.

Tuesday night called for a 2x2400, followed by a 2x1600.  I deleted the splits from my watch before writing them down, but recall the 2400's in the low 5:30s for pace, and right on top of each other.  The 1600s had one in the 5:20s and the second just under 5:20.  Rest was of moderate length.  Overall, a pretty solid workout only shortly removed from a race.

With some more easy runs out of the way, by the weekend I was set for a 12 miler on Saturday and a 20 miler on Sunday.  I would end up missing that Saturday run however, due to (yet another) bike incident.  I had ridden from Baltimore to the BWI airport loop to take part in a bike charity ride in which myself and other "experienced" AFC riders led groups of kids on bikes around the BWI airport loop trail.  After 26 miles of really soft pedaling, I headed back.

Once back in the city, while pedaling northbound on Charles St in Fed Hill, I got out of my saddle to try and pick up some speed.  Next thing I right speed play cleat disengages from my pedal while I'm pushing down on the right side.  Disaster was imminent.  I was saved by a few things, one of which being the shear luck that there were no cars in either direction on the road.   My right foot hit the ground and the bike fell under me.  I was moving fast enough before loosing control that I continued sliding upright with the bike under me.  Through the course of this, my rear tire tube exploded, my rear wheel bent out of true, and my chain fell off the front cranks, getting pretty badly tangled.  The exposed front crank teeth hit my right calf at least 6 times, leaving some nice cuts that still have my calf marked up.

Did I mention I just got the bike tuned up and had a new chain put on it?  My left foot eventually unclipped too and I stumbled away from the bike as I and the bike came to a stop.  I never actually slid on the ground.  A few people came to check on me and we quickly discovered I had no road rash (sweet!).  I was more mentally shaken that actually physically hurt.  I had minor scrapes on my left knee and right side.  My knee, right side and left side all felt pretty beat up, since it would seem the bike saved me from hitting the road by repeatedly slamming into me and keeping me upright (thanks bike!).

My poor bike didn't fare too well , as my rear wheel was visibly bent out of true.  Regardless, I fixed the flat, realized my cleat was still good enough to clip in, and soft pedaled the last couple of miles home.

Needless to say, my 12 miler did not happen that day.  On Sunday, I ran a hilly 20 around 6:58 pace in what turned out to be a pretty hot afternoon.  My various bike injuries still hurt, but only after I stopped running.  My right side actually still hurts occasionally as recently as my writing this post a few weeks later.

I haven't been on any bike since this incident, and won't get on one until after Richmond.

Overall for that week, I only ended up running 5 days, but still got mileage in the low 50s.

For the next week, my Tuesday workout consisted of a 1600, followed by a lap jog, a 3200, a lap jog, and another 1600.  Each 1600 was supposed to be nearly all out with the 3200 at tempo pace.  I nailed the workout, hitting 5:13 and 4:57 for the two 1600s, with a 5:33 average per mile pace for the 3200.  That 4:57 was the first time I've run a sub-5 in training, and it felt pretty good.

By Saturday, I was all set for a 21 mile progression long run.  I started at 7:00 pace and by the second half, was railing off miles anywhere from 6:10-6:20, ending up with a 6:32 pace overall, on flat terrain.  A little cool down walk, and a very short, but nonetheless important quarter mile run in at 7:50 pace rounded off that awesome morning.

I hit mileage in the low 60s for the week.

Enter the week of the Baltimore Marathon.  I had been looking forward to this race for a while.  This would be my third year in a row as an official pacer, and my first at this race as a 3:10 pacer, a goal of mine for a while.  I took Thursday and Friday off to work at the pacer booth at the expo (and filled those days with some other non-running stuff), so it was quite the running holiday weekend.  I have to give a shout out to the Falls Road Running store for what was essentially a Thursday night dinner at the quite expensive Woodberry Kitchen.  With $50 worth of gift certificates provided by FRR thanks to some luck and race volunteering, that dinner for two wasn't nearly as much a burning hole in food budget as it would have been.

My Tuesday workout consisted of 5x1600 with 200 meter jog in between.  I progressed from a 5:35 to a 5:24, steadily taking time off with each repetition.  It was hard but manageable, and felt like a good workout.

By Saturday morning, I was all set for an easy 7:15/mile long run through Baltimore, the one time of year I get to run down the middle of the street and not have to stop for any traffic lights!  You can see from the following picture how ridiculously happy I was to be doing this...

Picture at the start line, at about 7:40, courtesy of my friend Ben F.  It was cold, but I'm good at faking being warm.  I won't get into the multitude of reasons why I have such a goofball smile, but lets just say there are a lot of things going right this fall, that I certainly couldn't say about 2011 (bleh to everything), or even 2010 (running was fine, everything else, same old).

There were three official pacers in our group including myself, and probably 15-20 people that started with us.  By Mile 20, we had lost our pace group leader to a balky hamstring and all but 6 people in our group.  After rounding Lake Montebello, we had but 3 left, and they all went ahead.  2 of them hit big PRs, so we did our jobs well.  Overall, the other surviving pacer and myself came in at 3:09:31, 29 seconds under.

Another cool experience I had out there was all the crowd support I had/runners I recognized.  Back in 2009, I had been living in Baltimore for a little over a year, barely knew anyone and still didn't know the city very well.  3 years later, I couldn't go more than a mile without someone cheering my name, without seeing someone I knew, or without someone I knew running alongside with us (not in the race) just to talk.  I also knew every single yard of the course, and had probably run on each section of it countless times (except for the Zoo...I joked I've been to the zoo twice since living in Baltimore for 4 years, both during the marathon when the course started going through it last year).

So overall, it was a really, really awesome four days.

I took Sunday off, because well, I ran 65 miles in 5 days, crushed a track workout, and had too much fun on Saturday to slog through some crappy recovery run that I didn't need.

The following week (finally caught up!!), became a bit of a step back, with no tentative hard work scheduled, and a slight reduction in miles back to the low-mid 50s.

On Tuesday I did some pacing for 1200 meter repeats at ~6:50-7:00 pace.  Outside of official pace groups, you've got to be pretty convincing to get me to pace you in a workout; thankfully this particular person had no trouble doing that.

Fast forward to Saturday, and I had done just easy runs, none exceeding 9.5 miles in length.  I was feeling good running easy, and decided to try and push some marathon pace miles on a flat 17 mile long run to see how I would respond.  About 5 miles in, 6:50 pace felt like shit, so 6:20s were out of the question.  I opted just to cruise the rest of the way, finishing in around 6:55-7:00 pace.

It's tough to call that a failed long run since I was coming off of three weeks of pretty tough work both volume and intensity wise.  If this was my worst long run of the cycle, I'll take it.  After a little bit of extra distance, I closed with 17.5 miles for the day (something about waiting on the 1.25 mile bridge of the NCR trail to run someone in).

For the week, on 6 days of running, I managed 55 miles total, pretty solid post marathon pacing.

With Richmond drawing ever closer, I'm going one more week hard-ish, then spending the next two weeks tapering.  I don't do well with long tapers, and should get this one last week with a good workout and good long run to sharpen the blade one last time.

I'm considering getting a 5K in sometime between now and the race.  I really, really want to take a shot at sub-16 on a flat course.  I'll do a freaking time trial on the track if I have to, but I feel like it's possible and worth at least a shot.  I had two goals for this year...a sub-16 5k and a sub-2:40 marathon.  I think the sub-2:40 may be a stretch, but I know I can at least give the sub-16 5K a reasonable shot.

We'll see.  3 weeks to go!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bombed Races, PRs and More!

I've done quite the 180 in how meticulously I've tracked my training of late.  Instead of fretting over every detail and every mile, I've taken quite a laid back approach.  I've got a training plan, and I know exactly what I need to do.  However, if I've needed time off, I've taken it.  If things have had to shift around, I've let it.

Something must be going right because I feel mostly in awesome shape.  Of course, that means I have barely been doing much tracking in my spreadsheets, or updating this blog very much.  No matter though, it's all about results!

So, here is a quick run down of where I've been since my last update:

The week following the A-10, I took it pretty easy doing no workouts during the week, but trying for a fast finish 19 miler the following Sunday.  The NCR trail turned out to be the Amazon rainforest and I was terrible at controlling myself.  When it was all said and done, I blazed through 17 miles at low 6:40s pace, partially drowning in my own sweat before I was forced by a tired body to take a break and jog in the last two miles.  Not a big deal... 60 miles for the week.

That week also contained my first attempt at a bicycle road race.  One word: FAILURE!!  Myself and 44 other morons took part in an 8 lap, 20ish mile race in Lancaster, PA.  I was basically freaking out before the race, being way, way too nervous.  After a terrible position at the start line, and even more terrible positioning in the pack, I watched an early break of 5 riders get away, never to be seen again.  The ensuing cluster fuck of riders was a crash waiting to happen, and it took all I could to dodge other riders while also trying to stay on the road.  Needless to say I quickly exhausted myself without being able to keep my wheel behind someone and got dropped like a bad habit.  Should of gone with that break....

So with that horrendous experiment behind me, I set out on the next week and put in another 60 miles.  My Tuesday workout consisted of 7 miles of tempo running on the track which I nailed.  According to a few people, it looked like I wasn't even trying as I started at 5:50 pace and worked down to 5:40 pace by mile 6, finishing with a 5:30.  I felt, really freaking good.  Sunday brought about my first 20 mile long run, which I opted to do at steady pace, finding every hill I could in Baltimore.  I nailed that one at 6:51 pace.

Unfortunately, my right knee did not approve of my choices and voiced its concerns the rest of the week.  Pain started in the knee itself, but eventually faded, to be replaced with tightness behind it.  Regardless, I pressed on in hopes of running a half marathon PR at the Philly Distance Run (now of Rock and Roll brand).  I took it easy for most of the week, save a 4xmile workout on Tuesday in which I ran in the 5:30s.

As race day drew near, I came down with a cold (and I know exactly who gave it to me too!).  Despite a bum knee and a sore throat, I went out Sunday morning with the intention of doing well.  After going out at 5:55 pace (I wanted 5:40) and feeling like shit, I realized the odds were not exactly on my side.  I fought through mile, but eventually had no choice but to back off.  I threw it on cruise control, which happened to be 6:18 pace and finished just under 1:20.  A terrible time for sure, since I wanted to go sub 1:14:44 but 6:18 pace sure felt easy, and that was a bit of a lift.  Hanging out in Philly Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday morning was also cool and made up for it.

My knee was none too pleased with me the following week, so I opted to just chill out and try and let it get better.  I was still peeved about my misfire in that race, my first poor performance essentially since Boston.  I had nailed all my summer races despite heat, hills, and monsoons.  When I finally got good weather and felt in PR shape, things didn't work out.

Enter...Race for our Kids.  This is a local big prize money race that has both a 5k and the elusive 10K.  After a friend offered me a chance for a free entry, I knew I had to do this race.  Towards the end of the week, my cold had passed, and though my knee was (and still is) not 100%, I decided I just had to do the race.

I was greeted with 50 degree weather Sunday morning, and legs that were very pleased to get going.  I had done 13 miles Saturday nice and easy, and felt ready to go after my 15 minute warm up.  A few strides confirmed that it was likely to be a good day.

With $750, $500, and $250 on the line for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the 10K, I knew I'd have little shot of placing, but should at least have people to chase after.  After taking my spot on the start line, we were off.  The course started with a sharp downhill lasting about 0.25 miles.

I immediately realized something was wrong.  Up ahead with the pace car was some fast looking guy.  Behind him was a pack of 6 people, and a few strides back was me.  In that pack was none other than Dave Berdan (injured, but still), and Alex B, a fellow TWSS runner.  Dave exclaimed the leader was a 28 minute 10K guy and that we should let him go.  This happened rather quickly leaving just that pack and me a few strides behind.

I told myself that I certainly shouldn't be anywhere near Dave or Alex, but I felt good and decided to "humor the situation" for a little.

Mile 1: 5:17

There was a downhill early, but I knew I was running just a hair too fast.  I let myself slow just a tad and let the faster runners get away, allowing myself to fade out of contact.  This course is notoriously challenging, and I had no intention of killing myself too early.  I could hear people behind me, but they were slowly fading.  It actually turned out to be the overall women battling for their top 3 spots.  It's pretty obvious when you run through an aid station and are largely ignored (being just some ugly dude in 8th), but then hear a massive cheer behind you for the overall females.

The course started going up, and would continue to go up all the way to the turn around at the half way point.  The hills never got steep, but were just enough to make you work.

Miles 2 and 3 were useless since 2 was clearly long and 3 was short.  All I knew was, I was working, and stuck running by myself.  The pack ahead had strung out and I could barely see anyone in front of me.  It would likely be a time trial the rest of the way.

After hitting the turn around, I was glad to be going back downhill.  I got myself at 5:07 for mile 4.  I have no clue if it was accurate.  I was hitting the downhill pretty hard, but wouldn't exactly count on it.

Off in the distance, I could see Alex ever so slightly coming back to me, but there was a ton of ground between us, and I would likely not catch him.  My only option was to just keep blasting downhill.

The 5K started 25 minutes after us and the course was fully contained on the 10K course, with the turnaround about 1.5 miles away from the original start.  I passed the turnaround before the leaders for the 5K came through, meaning I'd have the road to myself the rest of the way.

As I closed in on mile 5, I encountered the middle of the 5K pack and rather quickly realized the 5 and 10K courses actually intersect each other.  I barely realized I was supposed to go straight instead of turning in the direction the 5K runners were coming from.  However, a well placed Jim Adams (of Falls Road Running fame) yelled at me to keep going straight.

Disaster was quite imminent as the sea of 5K runners was now right in front of me, running perpendicular.  I had no interest in even slowing down, so everyone certainly had to get the hell out of my way.  Just as I was about to cross the path of the runners, a police officer stopped the 5K pack momentarily to let me sneak through.  Relieved, I continued on hitting mile 5 in an overall time of 26:59, a PR.

The last mile of the race was mostly uphill, much steeper than the rest of the race.  Were it flat, I think sub-34 was possible.  However, as I fought the hill, I realized I would have to settle for something between 34 and my PR.  I blazed through the finish in 8th overall, 2nd in my age group, and the last dude to finish ahead of the women (1st woman= 34:54, yea).

Time: 34:07, a 20 second PR.

Awesome, awesome stuff.

So through it all, I bagged another PR and am still in great shape.  My knee is still meh, but it's not getting worse.  It seems that if I keep my calf loose, the knee mostly cooperates.  For this week, I'm going back up to 60+ miles and will hit a 20 mile long run on the weekend.

Overall, I'm very pleased with where I am.

Oh...and there was some bike riding in this mix, but I don't feel like recalling much of it.

My next event will be the Baltimore Marathon, for which I am pacing the 3:10 group.  Then the Richmond full is on the horizon.  Fall used to be for cross country, but I'll settle for marathon season!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Annapolis 10 Miler, Nearly Washed Away!!

Last year, the Annapolis 10 Miler was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene.  This year, for at least a little while, it was probably raining nearly as hard anyway.  The Annapolis 10 miler is a rather challenging late summer race known for its hills, and hot weather.  It is certainly no Cherry Blossom or Army 10 Miler in terms of competition, giving wannabes like myself a chance to "live the dream."

I ran this race once before in what feels like a different life now.  In 2009 I ran a a 1:11:08 and came in 227th place.  It wasn't exactly a good day, but I specifically remember trying for a sub 1:10.  I also remember, while dying in the heat, wondering and dreaming what it would be like to start up front and duke it out for a top spot.  I had my work cut out for me....

Fast forward to this year, and I was hoping for a 57:00 or under time, though once the weather was not ready to cooperate, I was willing to just get close to 57.  The forecast was for relatively cool, though somewhat humid low 70s at the 7:45 start.  Though, while driving down from Baltimore, I hit some nasty, nasty storms as in the kind where you can't see where you're driving.

I got to the race early, by 6:15 and had a lot of time to kill before having to warm up.  The rain was coming and going, occasionally picking up.  There was some lightning as well, which made me fearful they would call the race (I really wanted to run!).  I checked the radar on my phone, and saw that it looked like the rain would break sometime before the race, but that we were likely to get slammed again during the race.

Right around 7:25, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I got my warmup in.  It actually felt pretty comfortable out, all things considered.  Of course, it was no use keeping my feet dry before the race, as my shoes were water logged pretty quickly.  I made my way to the front, and we were off right at 7:45.

The rain held off early, though of course the roads were covered in water and puddles.  #1 and #2 quickly took the lead, never to be seen again.  On long straights early, I could see them (and the lead vehicle), but it was clear 3rd place was the one up for grabs.

Mile 1 and 2: 5:39, 5:51

Mile 2 was definitely long.  On the whole, I did what I wanted to do, go out at 5:40 pace.  I was alone for a little bit until two guys caught up to me (an army and a navy guy, apparently there was a competition between academies going on).  I opted to tuck in with them so we could work together as long as possible.

We meandered through downhill Annapolis, which I caught glimpses of as we powered through the early miles.  I remembered 2009, running 7 minute, surrounded by other runners, and how different this experience was with a wide open road, running just over 10mph.  I let myself savor it for a moment, but quickly got back to business.

As we approached mile 3, the rain started picking up.  Before long, the stuff was coming down in buckets.  It reached the point where breathing forced water into your nose and mouth, making it a bit difficult to stay in rhythm.

Regardless, we pushed forward for what was clearly a short mile 3:

Mile 3(?): 5:15

If only 5:15 was that easy.  With the rain and the two guys I was with, the pace didn't really matter, and we were doing a good job at staying honest.  Though, I could tell the Navy guy was having the easiest time of the three of us.  I was definitely working the hardest, but did my best to hide it.  If you can fake it long enough, interesting things can happen.

As we approached the Severn River, and the notoriously steep US Naval Academy Bridge, the rain had peaked, coming down so hard and so fast that we were basically running through a water fall.  As we started climbing the bridge, and got more and more exposed, the wind started whipping around like crazy.  I saw the mile 4 marker right before the wind blew it over...

Mile 4: 5:48

Not bad for running uphill in whipping wind with torrential rain.  None of us could even see where we were going.  In fact, it was impossible to even look forward with all the rain falling.  There was only one way to go though, so we just pushed on.

Over the top we went and back down the other side.  The next few miles of the course would prove tough, with constant unforgiving rolling hills.  The rain finally started subsiding, and by mile 6, nearly stopped all together.  I think we were all sick of it anyway.

Mile 5(?): 6:05

Terrible placement of mile markers, but we were holding steady.  The Army guy's shoe came untied and he opted to stop and tie it, leaving just me and the Navy guy for a little while.  Though, the army guy actually managed to catch back up.

We ran uphill for what felt like forever, eventually hitting the next mile.

Mile 6: 5:45

Next up would be the hardest part of the race, a turnaround.  After turning around, we'd go back the way we came, taking the short way back to the start at the Navy Memorial Stadium.  I hate turnarounds, and this one was no different.  We hit a big downhill, and at the bottom, made the slick and slow turnaround, only to have to run back uphill.

That move broke me.  I lost the race for 3rd in that moment, as Army and Navy guy pulled away.  I refused to just give up though, and knew if I could just stick around, maybe I could pull this out.

Mile 7: 5:40

Not bad for getting broken I guess.  As we turned back onto the main road, still combating the rolling hills, I got passed by a guy in Maryland flag shorts.  I was still struggling to hold myself together, and couldn't stay with him.

Though, as we approached that horrid bridge for another go, all the tempo miles I've been doing on the track finally kicked in, and I started feeling better.

Mile 8: 5:51

I could see that Army guy was dropped by the Navy guy and was fading fast.  Flag shorts passed him, and then there was me, not too far back.  With the help of encouragement from the rest of the racers, since we were heading back, I started picking it up.

I turned onto the bridge, to be greeted by a wall of people that was the rest of the race still coming out.  Then, I noticed there was a gap on the right side.  Some people were coming down on the sidewalk, and everyone else was staying left.  No where else, do I have the power to split a sea of people like that!

I powered up the bridge, focused very intensely on Army guy and Flag shorts ahead of me.  At one point, someone still going out came off the sidewalk right into my path, only to be pulled back up by her fellow runners who said "don't get in his way!!"  Good for her, because I likely would have just bowled right over her.  I had a serious case of tunnel vision at that point.

We crested the hill and I realized that Flag shorts was going to get away, as he was opening up his stride, but Army guy was continuing to fall back to me.  I could catch him, but it was going to hurt.  I took half a stride to collect myself, and proceeded to hammer the downhill of the bridge as hard as I could.

Ever so slowly, the gap was decreasing.  I eventually noticed something was going on with my left foot.  All the rain had caused my foot to slide all over inside my shoe, and the bottom of my heel and big toe felt real gritty, like skin was coming off.  I couldn't be bothered by such things at this point though.

Mile 9: 5:34

The gap was closing as we made the turn onto the final straight.  Spectators were shouting at me to catch the guy, and I knew I was close enough that he could hear it.  With about 2 minutes to go, I finally established contact.  I knew the course was going to end on a section with soggy grass, and a slight uphill.  A sprint to the finish would be a blood bath.

So I took the lessons of my high school coaches to heart, paused for a moment, then in my head shouted "go" and I blew past the guy without hesitation.  Turns out he was only 16 years old, so let that be a lesson to him for future races!!  With no chance to respond, I gaped him and took 5th place right there.  It was a good thing too, because the last little bit sucked!

Mile 10: 5:53

Final result: 57:17 gun time, 57:19 chip time, 57:20 on my watch.  Somewhat annoyingly, they did overall place on chip time rather than gun time.  Although I was the 5th person across the line, my actual place was 7th.  The Army guy is shown ahead of me in the results, but we both know who won and someone else who started real far back had a faster time...  Overall should be by gun time (by the way) because it absolutely matters if a runner is there to influence the race.

In any event, clearly a monumental improvement over my previous A-10 time, and a time that given the conditions and course, is right where I need it to be, near my PR.  My goal in this training cycle is not to get faster, but to maintain so I can go in with the fitness I already have and run a respectable marathon.  So far, so good.

For my efforts, I did win the 25-29 year old age group.  And regardless of my 5th or 7th place, I'll take it out of 3800+ finishers.

A couple of pictures:

Picture on left is the sweet award I got.  What else would I get from a race in Annapolis but a sail boat??  Picture on the right courtesy of a friend, this was within minutes of finishing, about the first time I could stand up without the familiar "hands on knees pose" most runners know about.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lums Pond Duathlon: Run Bike Run This Year

Before diving into this race I should mention I've fallen quite far behind on logging my training.  There is a draft post I've got with a rolling update of what's been going on, but I have yet to catch up to the present.  It will happen soon!

For a quick recap of cycling related events that occured leading up to this race...

2 weeks ago I wiped out on my bike going about 20mph trying to reach for a spare water bottle in my jersey pocket.  I gave myself a nasty case of road rash on my right knee and elbow.  There were three total wounds on my knee, one of which bled during the 10 miles I had to ride home.  I eventually got a tetanus shot since it had been years since I got one and within 2 weeks, all but the nastiest of the abrasions were close to healed.  The final one scabbed over in the days leading up to this race.

Last week I participated in a hill climb time trial, a short 1.0 mile time trial bicycle race up Illchester road in Catonsville, MD.  It was my first true bicycle race, and I did pretty well for myself, placing 4th in Category 5, just 2 seconds from 3rd (bicycle racing is broken into categories, first based on experience, then on speed, 5 is for newbs).  I also rode to the race, did some riding afterwards, and rode home.  It would have been quite the successful day until I got clipped by an SUV's side view mirror while coming to a stop light.  The mirror folded in, my forearm took a good shot but didn't bruise, and I managed to stay upright, though the car ended up helping with that.

This past Wednesday, the rear tube on my CAAD8 exploded as I was taking a corner.  After some super elite bike handling skills (or a lot of luck), I managed to stay upright.  It was certainly an unsettling experience, and it took a while before I stopped being gun shy around corners.  I'm also pretty sure my rear rim is shot after it dragged on the road while I was attempting to stop the bike.

So I went into Lums Pond looking to both do well, and have an uneventful bike leg with my SuperSix, which thankfully, has two good rims!  This would be my last Du of the season as the only other semi local one I know of is the same weekend as the Baltimore Marathon and of course, my "hometown" marathon takes precedent!!

With everything set to go in transition, and a special someone to serve as my enthusiastic cheering squad (who drove over an hour to see me, and ran between two places to see me as many times as possible!), I was off at 7:45AM.  The distances... 2 mile run, 19.5 mile bike, 3.3 mile run.

Last year, this race was converted to a 10K mud run thanks the monsoon that rolled through the day before and day of the race.  This year, we got to experience the somewhat unique cross country run courses.  Three of us took out the run, going neck and neck most of the way.  On the more rugged sections, I backed off a little, trading the lead with another guy who was clearly a runner.  The 16 year old that was running with us eventually dropped off the pace.  I wonder if his XC coach knew he was doing a DU just a week or two before the season started!!

Anyway, I came through run #1 in 11:34, right next to the other runner.  As it turned out, we were not only both on the same rack, but our bikes were right next to each other.  I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when he went for a mountain bike as I grabbed my road bike.  With only one other guy even in transition at that point, the race was likely determined.

I busted out of transition in 45 seconds, ahead of Mr. mountain bike, struggling only to get my 56cm frame free from the rather short transition racks.  I clipped in, stood out of the saddle to get the bike going, then dove into the aero bars.  The bike course was FLAT as anything, with long, long straight aways and roads in really, really good shape.

Such a course is terrible for someone like me who does better on hills, but I was looking forward to the challenge.  After having to deal with a police motorcycle that was going way too slow, he finally moved and it was just me, and the lead pick up truck driving far enough ahead not to influence my pace.

I wanted to see if I could hold 25mph, though quickly realized that perhaps 24mph was more realistic.  I plowed through about 15 miles of the course maintaining that 24mph average before I started running out of gas.  I also got a little sick to my stomach, though was able to fight it off.  Regardless, no one ever passed me, or even got close.  I also had only one minor incident involving other racers....

The course has one "lollipop" section where you take a right off the main road, then three lefts to get back to the main road, riding back in the opposite direction you came.  I hit that right without having to go too far into the travel lane.  However, as I was coming back in the opposite direction, racers coming towards me decided they needed to swing so wide as to cross the double yellow line.  One guy in particular swung so wide that he ended up in my path.

Besides being completely excessive and unsafe, it's also against the rules.  I held steady, never letting up on the pedals and never flinching.  I think the other rider got the point that I wasn't moving and he had to either get out of my way, or both our days were over.

Past mile 15, I could see my speed slipping.  Rather than fight it, I opted to try and save something for the last run, remembering all too well the suffer fest that was my previous second run after going all out on the bike.  I came back into transition first (the triathlon going on at the same time had a 10 minute wait after we started, so I wasn't the fastest bike on the day), hit my dismount well and ran through the timing mat in:

50:29, good for about 23.2mph.  Not quite the 24mph I had hoped for, but 1.2mph faster average than the hilly 26 I did at my previous Du, so I suppose I rode well.  Better than I would have last year at any rate!!

I had a pretty solid T2, getting out of there in 37 seconds.  I realized though that I managed to bust open two of my scabs on my knee, and get a whole bunch of grass and some bugs caught in the wounds.  Most of my transition is done on my knees, and unfortunately, I wasn't exactly careful in taking my right knee to the ground...

I started run #2 with a mountain bike leading the way for another cross country style course, which was actually really, really fun.  I felt like shit running in transition, but after hitting the first turn of the run, started kicking it back into gear.

The run was uneventful, other than the fact that my heart rate was actually up, meaning my legs weren't so torn up that I couldn't run fast (unlike my last du).  I finished the 3.3 mile run in 19:35 good for a time of 1:23:02, a win by over 3 minutes.

On the day, I tied for fastest first run, had the second fastest Du bike leg, and the fastest second run.  Compared to the tri, I was top 15-20 on the bike, though only separated by a minute or two, mostly by guys that had actual tri bikes and disk wheels, and only one triathlete had a faster second run than me.

Overall, it was a great way to finish out a rather short 3 race duathlon season.  I'm not done with my new found cycling engine though.  I've got a road race in a couple of weeks, which I'm going to try and win.  The course has "rolling hills" which are only rolling if you live in Lancaster, PA, and not if you are an Adventures for the Cure A rider.  As long as there aren't any other Cat 5 newbs that should be Cat 3 because of who they ride with, I'll try and take the race on that rolling section on either the second to last or last lap (the course is 8 laps total, somewhere around 30K) with the intent of breaking away for the win.  Cat 5 riders are notorious for taking each other out in finishing sprints since they can't hold a line, so hopefully I can just drop everyone before that.

Oh, and I also have the Annapolis 10 Miler next week.  No workouts this coming week, that's for sure!