Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Out with a Fitting Bang

I've had a fitting end to 2010 today...

AM: 4 miles.  Ran at a solid pace with two strong runners.  I don't get to run a moderate pace with other people in training very often these days, so I never take any opportunities for granted!

PM: 8.5 miles total, 4.5 @ tempo pace..5:28/mile average, 8:19; 8:11; 8:10 (1.5 mile splits); 24:40 overall.

It was quite mild in the afternoon, 47 degrees, warm enough to run in shorts and a t-shirt despite it being the dead of winter.  I rocked out this tempo run and just felt really solid.  I've been running in my racing flats the past few days since I retired my trainers (new ones are about ready to be commissioned).  With the shoe change all that dull pain I had earlier in the week has completely disappeared.  Additionally, my left knee is about 90-95% now.  I barely felt a twinge during the morning run and basically felt nothing in the afternoon.  Occasionally it will feel stiff after sitting down, but it's almost gone.

4 pairs of trainers and 3 pairs of racing flats later, I have hit 2704 miles for the year.

Now it's time to kick off 2011 with a 5K race tomorrow.  Training for Boston officially starts on Monday.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Review: How Fast? Faster, but never fast enough!!

I went into 2010 with three goals:

1) Break 3 hours in the marathon
2) PR at as many race distances as possible
3) Significantly increase my mileage

I had no idea what to expect with my huge mileage increase, and never could have predicted my final results.  Goal #3 was a huge success, my mileage from 2009 to 2010 increased by about 70% for a 2010 total of 2700 miles (pending the 31st).  All that extra mileage transformed me into a significantly better runner at all distances.  Here is an example of a few:

5K 17:24 to 16:53
10K 38:45 to 34:52
15K 57:53 to 54:11
1/2 Marathon: 1:29:15 to 1:18:09
Marathon: 3:09:12 to 2:44:54

My 5K times became much more consistent from race to race.  After that 16:53 all my "fast course" times were between 17:00-17:05, a couple of others that were hilly were slower.  Overall though, that was much more consistent than my 2009 times.

In the "lactic acid threshold range" 10K-half marathon, I have become a little better at running hard from start to finish rather than running negative splits.  In general, I've become willing to accept more pain and suffering early.

At the marathon distance, after running my first in March 2008, I can finally say I have the endurance needed to actually run the event hard.  I ran an evenly paced effort at just about the right pace.  My marathon time is also finally "in line" with my other times.  No longer does my 5K predict a much faster marathon time!

In general, I'm better at running through rough patches, knowing that those patches eventually fade.  It takes a lot more for me to give in now than it used to.

2010 has been by far my most successful running year ever.  I directly attribute it to my more aggressive training regiment.  I run to answer the question "How Fast?"  The answer: much faster than I could have dreamed, but not fast enough!

2010 is not my highpoint but merely the beginning.  Training builds on itself over days, weeks, months, and eventually.......years.  I've experienced months of successful training.  Let's see what another year brings.

Thursday: Rest: Last Real One!

This is officially my last "mandatory" rest day.  From now until at least the Boston Marathon my 1 day off per week becomes optional.  I'm still going to lean towards taking that day off.  However, if I can handle it, I will start running 7 days a week regularly.  It actually makes running high weekly mileage easier since you can reduce your average miles per day.

There is a small movement in running led by the rather simple phrase....


I have adopted it as my running philosophy.  It certainly goes against a lot of the training recommendations out there for recreational runners.  However, to those that can handle it, running more will lead to significant improvements.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday: 4 miles


4 miles, at a much faster pace than I'm used to running in the morning!  My knee was stiff a little during the run but once I got into work it subsided rather quickly and feels fine now.  It is slowly getting better, hurting less and less each day.

I was supposed to do a tempo run tonight, but I'm pushing it to Friday so I can actually do it in the daylight.  This is my last week of flexibility before I end up having no choice 9 times out of 10 for the next 16 weeks!  Now the next time I don't feel like doing that tempo run I'll be able to say, "remember the last week of 2010 where you gave yourself the chance to push it off?  No excuses now!!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday: 8 miles

8 miles: 52:30  6:34/mile pace.

It looks like we're experiencing a bit of a warming trend, which I'm certainly not complaining about!  I felt much better today than I have been the past few days.  My legs are still crying for new shoes, but that sluggish feeling is gone.  My knee was stiff for about the half the day but loosened up at work.  It was fine during my run and not as tight afterward.  The slightly warmer weather is probably good for it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday: 7 miles Monday: 4 + 5 miles

Sunday: 7 miles in 47:29 @ 6:47/mile pace

7 miles back in Baltimore with a light snowfall.  I was still dealing with that sluggish feeling that has been plaguing me on and off for a bit now.  I could probably use some more sleep, I know I've been slipping a bit lately.  It's also probably time to cut back on the junk and go back to eating "better."  Of course better doesn't mean less!  I think it actually means more...more vegetables, fruit, etc, and less junk food.  I kind of let my usual control go after the NCR Trail Marathon.

AM:  4 miles easy/moderate pace

4 miles in some of the worst wind I've ever run in.  The forecast claimed wind gusts of up to 50mph, with temperatures in the mid 20s.  Hitting that wind was like getting hit by a truck.  Overall though, it was a solid run.

PM: 5 miles in 34:58 @ 7:00/mile pace

I made sure to run this one just a bit slower than my last few runs.  That sluggishness seems to have gone away for now.  Though my left knee has become quite stiff the last couple of days.  My back has started getting stiff and I'm getting some dull shin pain.  Since my trainers have exceeded 400 miles (~450 miles), all this random pain means it's time to change!  Hopefully I can hold out until Thursday when I'll have some time.

The knee pain is a bit concerning, though it seems to just get stiff after I stop running or if I sit around for a while.  It loosens up rather quickly when I start running, walking around, or stretch out my hamstring.  I'll keep an eye on it, but I've run through substantially worse.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday: 14 miles, ~1:35

14 mile loop through the rolling hills of Suffolk county Long Island.  I felt a bit sluggish for the first half of the run, but felt better as it went on.  I ended up running in the late afternoon, which is not the norm, so I'm sure that had a little to do with it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday: AM: 3xmile (7 miles total) PM: 5 miles


3xMile with 2 lap jog, 2 mile warm up, 1 mile cool down.  25 mph wind gusts parallel to the back stretch of my High School Track made this a bit harder than it had to be.  It also didn't help that my first 800 meter split was 2:30 (5 minute pace).  I paid for that one pretty badly....

5:18; 5:27; 5:26

I'm not really concerned about a random track workout in the middle of my off season.  When I'm too fresh, my sense of pace really falls off the map.  My second two miles were more even at around 81-82 seconds per lap.  I was looking more for 5:20s, but oh well.


5 miles, moderate pace.  With the wind gone it was actually great running later in the day.  No soreness, so I did accomplish my goal for the morning run; just get the legs moving without breaking down.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2011 Part 1 Training: Plan in Place

Back in 2008 and 2009 when I ran a lot less and did not pay as much attention to putting together a "realistic" racing schedule, throwing together a training plan took one afternoon.  Now, with multiple doubles, a whole slew of different types of workouts, and carefully picked out races, it has taken me the better part of a couple of weeks to put everything together.

The extra work was worth it though, as it looks like I've got a solid plan between Jan 3rd up until my first taper week.  In my previous training cycle, I left the taper period open until a month out before filling in the details.  That worked out great, so I'll wait until later to fill that in.

As with every training cycle, I evaluated what worked and what needed to be changed from the previous one.  Minor or in some cases major tweaks help keep everything fresh and hopefully lead to even more success!  There are three aspects of my training that will see significant changes.

1. Fewer step back weeks.  I used to follow a pattern of 2 weeks up and 1 week back.  As I reached my peak, I would then alternate up and down weeks.  After reading about what a lot of faster and more experienced runners do, I've decided to can that for a more aggressive pattern.  I will take 1 step back week in January, 1 in February, and 1 in March/April.  My taper will start during that last step back.  This will bump up my average weekly mileage for the whole training cycle, which is really the key to being in marathon racing shape.  The long run really takes a step back to consistent high mileage week in and week out.  My endurance is quite established now, what I need to master is running through extreme discomfort.  High mileage accomplishes this quite effectively.

2. A completely revamped weekly pattern.
Monday: easy AM/easy PM
Tuesday: easy AM (Starting Feb.)/tempo, hills, or speed PM
Wednesday: rest or easy
Thursday: tempo, hills, or speed (One or two AM easy runs at my peak)
Friday: easy AM/easy PM
Saturday: easy, race, or long run
Sunday: easy, race, or long run

   Workouts move to Tuesday/Thursday instead of Monday/Friday and the now optional rest day moves to the middle of the week.  Assuming I can keep to this schedule, it perfects the alternating hard-easy pattern that is universally accepted in the running community.  It also gives me a breather after my weekend which can include long runs and races.

3. Timing of all runs, including easy runs.  I resisted this for a while, and would only time races, tempo runs, speedwork, and long runs.  All my easy/moderate paces were just runs at any pace.  However, I really think I need that extra feedback.  It should also keep my paces on those days in check.  "Feel" is still my number 1 feedback mechanism, but it can be hard to differentiate between a couple of rough days and overreaching.  High mileage will cause rough days (that's the point after all), but I don't want to overreact to them.  My hope is the extra monitoring will give me a better idea of how my training is going and whether I need to cut back (or add on!).  Plus, after reading about some sub-2:35 and sub-2:30 marathon runners who time everything, I figure that it must be helping them!

There are a few other things I'm doing specifically to prepare for Boston, and my 3:20 pacing effort at Kentucky.  I'll be doing hill repeats more frequently during the week with a few of the intervals being run downhill rather than uphill.  This should help prepare me not just for the famed hills at 17-22 but also all the downhill running that pummels unprepared quads into oblivion.  Though my long runs will still largely be on the pancake flat NCR Trail, I'm going to detour off the trail on occasion in the same area that the marathon ran through to get a solid uphill and a few good downhills in at the tail end of the long runs to help simulate Boston.  Lastly, a small handful of my long runs will be dedicated to running an even effort 7:37 pace.  This is essentially the slowest I should be doing my long runs, and should help me nail down pacing for Kentucky.  This should also help protect against injury.  I do almost all my long runs as progression runs, starting slow and speeding up to marathon pace (or sometimes faster) by the second half of the run.  After talking to a talented runner who suffered a rather significant injury doing the same exact thing, I decided to officially schedule "easier" long runs for extra insurance.

My peak week is going to inch very close to 100 miles, but this cycle is more about a "smooth" graph from week to week rather than a sharp peak.  I've also decided to only count miles run faster than a certain "minimum pace."  I'm not going to mention that pace or get into reasons why, but this is going to greatly help with some of my other running responsibilities in 2011.  Rest between all my speedwork intervals is being universally cut.  I'm not really increasing the quantity of speedwork I'm doing, and my paces probably won't change significantly, so this is a good opportunity to cut the rest.  That is the most effective way to make speedwork harder anyway!  And lastly, I've got some new types of tempo and speedwork to try and mix things up, hopefully they will go well.

A lot of details I know, but when March rolls around and I start cursing out the moron who put together this plan (myself of course..), I can read about my logic and reasoning behind it!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday: 6 miles

6 miles, easy/moderate pace.  I had to deal with gusting winds and light snowfall.  Those snowflakes feel like needles when they blow into your face.

It's always nice to run again on Long Island and mix things up!  I had a cramp most of the way, but otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary.  Some speedwork is on tap for tomorrow morning, followed by a 5 miler in the afternoon (yay doubles).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday: 4 miles

4 miles, easy pace, feeling impatient!!  I can't believe I actually miss running ~9 times in 7 days.  I have way too much free time.  It makes me appreciate how much time I choose to dedicate to what is ultimately, a hobby.

11 more days of this....

At the very least, I won't have any excuses when I'm redlining in March.  Sometimes when deciding whether to cut back, I think back to the last time I took it easy.  Since this "easy" period has gone so well, it should buy me enough mental fortitude to coax myself through some painful miles.  Surpassing 3000 miles total for 2011?  If I stay healthy, heck yes!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday: Rest

Day off, only about a week and a half to go.  Exactly this time last year, I forced myself up to 40 miles a week to get used to a higher base.  Now, 45ish miles is recovery mode.  A lot can change in a year, and running can definitely be transforming!

In other news, I am now officially going to be a pacer for the 3:20 group at the Kentucky Derby Marathon about 2 weeks after Boston.  I'll need to do a few runs at that pace since I'll only be one of two pacers leading the group.  The pace is going to be slower than even long slow distance pace, so I'm not concerned with its proximity to Boston.  Of course, I'm required to run in Asics shoes (any model I want, for free), so I'll have to take their road racing flat for overpronators, the Gel DS Racer.  With Saucony quite possibly ruining the Fastwitch for 2011 (to be determined), I may need to make a change anyway.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday: 8 miles

Monday, 8 miles easy/moderate pace, low 30s, wind.  I felt strong during this run.  I was also better able to keep my pace in check and for the most part, didn't run too fast.  High mileage is definitely the only fool-proof way to keep my pace down.  It's hard to run too fast when I'm sore as all hell!

Of course looking forward to this probably classifies me as crazy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday: 13 miles

The NCR trail has a light dusting of snow on it.  However, most of it is packed quite well making for a good running surface.  It is certainly the winter season now, as I'm sure that snow is not going to be completely gone until late March.  Hopefully, we will not get a whole lot more!

13 miles, 1:26.  I felt a bit off for most of the run, though after 10 miles, it started getting better.  My left quad was bothering me a bit at the end, but it's already better.  I'm sure once I start adding more moderately long runs during the week that these long runs won't feel as taxing.  That run right now is just making up a much higher percentage of my total mileage than usual.

I didn't quite hit 50 miles for the week...46.  The next two should come just over 50.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

The wind that plagued most of the week let up, and mid 30 degree weather made for a rather "mild" December race at 8:30AM.  I went with shorts, t-shirt, and gloves (non throwaway this time!) and was quite content.  I hate racing in multiple layers, and I can't stand sweating in a race in cool temperatures.  I avoided sweat, and I never really felt cold during the race.

Ice was a possible concern on the course since it snowed a bit on Wednesday.  However, I was not overly concerned and would still go hard from the start.  This particular race starts on Wyman Park Drive, with a decent uphill into Druid Hill Park right after the start.  The course continued through a winding paved trail and snaked through the center of the park.

I made sure to stay conservative early.  If I took that early hill too hard, it was going to kill the middle of my race.

Mile 1: 5:47

I felt ok, maybe a bit uncomfortable.  I hadn't really run this pace for a while, so I wasn't surprised by how I felt.  I didn't panic, and just decided to try and keep pace.  For most of the first mile the other runners around me seemed really anxious.  People were surging forward, dropping back, and changing pace a lot.  I didn't know what the problem was, and I just made sure not to get too caught up in it.  I passed a handful of people, got passed a couple of times, and went back and forth a few times with 2 other runners.

As we continued through the park, I missed Mile 2 as we hit some light rolling hills.  Once we moved up to the last 0.5 miles before the turnaround, my position, and the positions of those around me were solidified.  I lost one runner that went ahead, but put away another runner that had been trading off positions with me for most of the race.  Mile 3 was mostly downhill as we looped back around to the Druid Lake loop.

Mile 2 + 3: 11:08 (5:34 average)

Mile 2 had some uphill while 3 had a bit more, as well as a decent amount of downhill.  I doubt I ran consistent 5:34s.  After mile 3 I started to feel a bit more uncomfortable and kind of lost my rhythm a bit.  Nonetheless, I kept pushing as best I could knowing that the rest of the course was flat and downhill.  I've learned to trust myself more these days knowing that rough patches will pass if I push through them.

After some more downhill, we turned onto the lake loop where I've done more tempo runs than I care to remember.  Mile 4 was a bit slow.

Mile 4: 5:52

I sensed I had slowed a bit about 0.25 miles out from the mile marker and had already recommitted to running faster.  One of the runners ahead of me started fading, so I figured I'd take a shot at catching him.  I also started to feel stronger.  In fact, as we continued to loop around the lake, I only felt better and better.  By the time we got off the loop for the last 0.5 miles with a sharp downhill, I was really hitting my stride.

I never did catch the runner ahead of me.  He had said afterward he was really worried I would catch him so he made sure to hit the last downhill hard.  If the race was about 2 miles longer, I would have!  As I ran over the I-83 overpass and crossed the line, I was feeling better than I ever had at the end of a race.

Mile 5: 5:30
Overall: 28:17 (5:39/mile average), 8th out of 3000 people, 3 minutes behind the "fastest amateur in Baltimore." (pending review by the timing company, my chip failed to register my time!)

I really wish the race was longer.  After walking around for about 2-3 minutes I felt fine again.  I really thought I could go and run the race again at the same pace.  While sitting here writing this, my legs don't feel like they ran a race.  Even after tough 5Ks I usually feel a bit of soreness, but I've got nothing today!

This is not exactly unexpected.  I essentially did a tempo run for the first time in 3 weeks and it just took sometime to get a feel for that pace again.  I was certainly sharper than I expected, though clearly, some of my racing prowess was a bit rusty.  If I ran this race during my training cycle, I'm certain I would have broken 28 minutes.  In fact, I ran this race 2 seconds per mile slower than my most recent 10K.

Regardless, I am very pleased with the results and this is a good way to cap off my awesome 2010 racing season.  I finally get a 2:19 5 mile PR over last year (30:36 on a flat course).  That makes 30 events all together.

After tomorrow's long run, there will only be two more recovery weeks before I go back at it.  Though 2010 was my most successful running year ever, it is merely the beginning of something better, and not the pinnacle.

Friday: 3 miles

AM: 3 miles.  Any soreness and anything resembling pain or injury has left my legs.  I have not felt this fresh the entire year.  It's not that I've been hurt at all this year, but I've "red-lined" quite a lot, and it's nice that backing away from that for a couple of weeks has completely rejuivnated my legs.

Going into the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler, I felt nearly on top of my game.  Though maybe not quite as sharp since I hadn't done any tempo runs since my marathon.  My goal was simple, give it my all and test my legs.  As you'll see in my next race summary, things are going quite well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday: 8 + 5 miles Thursday: Rest


AM: 8 miles.  It was quite cold, low 20s with a windchill around 10.  Back on my Feet canceled their morning run, but I had planned to run outside regardless.  I felt great once I warmed up.  I actually started working up a sweat during the second half of the run.

PM: 5 miles.  Not as cold.  I was a bit tired during this one, running in all that cold can be draining.  I'm experiencing essentially no soreness.


Rest.  Good thing too, it's snowing out.  Though, I would certainly be out there if this was not a rest day.  All this mental and physical recharging is doing good, but I really want to get back to training now!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday: 4 miles Tuesday: 6.5 total (5x800 meter)

Monday: 4 miles, AM.  It was warmer at 5:30 in the morning than later in the day.

Tuesday: 2 mile warm up, 5x800 meter with 1 lap jog, 1 mile cool down

Days like Tuesday are when I really question my sanity.  At 5pm it was about 24 degrees out and winds gusted over 20mph.  The wind was blowing perpendicular to the track; each time I ran into turn 1 it was like hitting a wall of suckage.  About half way through my warm up I started to feel warm, though my fingers and toes were never quite warm despite a pair of gloves and smart wool socks.  Despite it being 3 weeks since my last speed workout, and the horrible, horrible conditions, my splits suprised me:

2:50; 2:34; 2:34; 2:37; 2:36

The first slow one was on purpose.  I usually run the first rep way too fast after a long layoff, so I made sure to stay under control.  Overall, the workout was not all that tough, which was my main goal.  I just needed to reawaken the legs.  I haven't lost all that much speed from my recovery layoff, I'm usually around 2:30-2:32 with shorter rest and better conditions.

This bodes quite well for my first comeback race this weekend!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Race fees......2011 Jan-Apr Race Schedule

My preliminary race schedule has been assembled for the start of 2011 through the Boston Marathon.  After dropping a large amount of money that I would rather not think about, here it is:

1/1/2011: Resolution Run 5K, Baltimore, MD
1/8/2011: BRRC Frozen Fingers 5 Miler, Baltimore, MD
1/16/2011: BRRC GPS 8 Miler, Baltimore County, MD
2/6/2011: Superbowl 5K, Dundalk, MD
2/27/2011: Maryland RRCA Club Challenge***, 10 Miler, Howard County, MD
3/5/2011: B&A Trail Half Marathon, ~Annapolis, MD
3/13/2011: St. Patrick's Day Shamrock 5K***, Baltimore, MD
3/26/2011: BRRC GPS 15K, Whitehall, MD
4/3/2011: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler***, Washington DC
4/18/2011: Boston Marathon***, Hopkinton-Boston, MA

BRRC= Baltimore Road Runners Club
GPS= Grand Prix Series

***=Races with very deep fields and guaranteed tough competition.

I may add another race to April if I can find a good one.  Mid February also has space for another, though it's tough to find races at that time.  I'm disappointed that I won't get a 10K on the schedule.  The only two local races worth doing, Pike's Peek and Clyde's are both the same weekend as Boston so they are out.

4 races with good competition makes me happy.  Each competitive race will be quite a big deal.  The shamrock 5K is the most competitive 5K around.  With the first mile completely downhill and the rest of the course flat, blazing times are easy to obtain.  My 16:53 PR is on that course and was good for only 28th thanks to all the fast guys that show up.  The RRCA club challenge brings all the heavy hitters at the local level for a cheap "for runners by runners" 10 mile race.  Cherry Blossom and Boston are of course mega races, but finding out how I place against the toughest fields in the world are always fun.

I should have a shot at winning or at least placing top 3 in my first 4 races of the year.  The B&A Half should be interesting.  I certainly will not win, but few runners will be ahead of me.  That may be a good race to test myself and run with faster people.

My major goals for this upcoming training cycle:

--->Sub-2:40 for the marathon, just under 6:06/mile, 12 seconds per mile faster than my current PR.  I've gone as far as 15 miles at that pace with extra gas in the tank.  Hopefully more training, and more "realization" from 2010 training will get me there.

-->Finally break 60:00 in a 10 miler.  I've run 60:00 flat 10 mile splits in both my 2010 half marathons, so this is hopefully just a formality.  I think I can go as low as sub-58:00 right now.

-->Bring my 5K time in line with my 10K time.  Right now, my 10K is only slightly more than twice my 5K.  If I can control myself and actually go out at 5:20-5:25 pace, my time should finally get and stay under 17:00.

--->Get ranked by Washington Running Report at least one season this year.  The system is probably as complicated as the BCS but basically, I need to run two races in a 10K equivalent time of 34:20 to be eligible in a given season for the open division.  Final rankings are posted at the end of the year based on how runners did for each season.  There is a conversion formula for different race distances.  A sub-2:40 marathon would count, then I would need one more equivalent performance.  The ranking system considers runners from MD, VA, and DC.  Becoming ranked gives you an idea of how you fare at the regional level, though it takes nearly national class times to get ranked highly.  I'm already on the heels of some of the lowest ranked runners and my times are inching closer.

One last note...

A system known as the WAVA age graded calculator provides a way for runners of all ages to compare each other.  A rather simple formula, one takes the world record time for their race distance and divides it by their time to yield a percentage.  Older runners receive a bump factor, allowing runners of all ages to be compared objectively.  Being 24, I receive no bump.  Scores above 70% are considered "regional level."  My fastest times of 2010 put me from 75-78%, an upper level regional runner.  I would love to break into 80% (national class).

Stay tuned....all of this will have to be earned though many, many miles.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday: 13 miles, Recovery Phase II Done

An unseasonably warm day was certainly welcome relief.  50 degrees with light/moderate rain at about 7:30AM.  I ran 13 miles in about 1:28-1:29.  I picked it up a bit for the last 5 to try and get my legs going.  I felt rather fresh.  The NCR Trail was quite muddy thanks to the rain which started the night before.  I was covered in dirt after it was over, but it still beats running in Baltimore City!

My left leg/groin was a bit tight, probably because I've been lazy about stretching lately.  I'll make sure to get back on that.

That completes week 2 of recovery, with 44 miles in the books.  This upcoming week reintroduces formal hard running, rather than arbitrary pick ups during easy/moderate runs.  My mileage will bump up to 50, and I'll be running my final race of 2010; the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler.  I certainly won't be on top of my game for that somewhat challenging race.  However, with an extremely deep field of fast runners, I certainly can't pass up the opportunity to test myself against the best the region has to offer!

The last part of recovery will take place over these next 3 weeks.  I'll stay somewhere between 50-55 miles and reintroduce all types of hard running as well as more frequent doubles.  I'll jump back on the training bandwagon in the first full week of January with a 60 mile week, a mere 16 weeks before the 2011 Boston Marathon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thursday: 8 miles Friday 3 + 5 Miles Saturday: 7 miles


8 miles moderate pace.  I felt somewhat tired during this run, but had a rather long day at work.  I also had to run a bit quick to get it in before picking up my Baltimore Road Runner's Club Grand Prix Series Award.  I won last year by default, but this year I had some competition early.  The series consists of 8 races.  Runners must complete at least 4.  They earn points equivalent to their place in their age group, lowest score wins.  There were originally a total of 4 other runners in the 20-24 year old age group.  One was faster than me early in the season.  By the end of the season, I was matching his times, but he never finished the series, so I took it home.  I was only ever in two races with this mystery runner and never actually met him; all I had was a name and times to chase.


AM: 3 miles, easy.  For once, it actually felt a bit warmer and not so chilly.
PM: 5 miles, moderate.  The warmer temperatures continued.  I felt a bit better than on Thursday.


7 miles, easy.  Low 30s and little wind made for a good morning run.  13 miles on deck for Sunday, then phase II of recovery (1.5 weeks of easy running) will be complete.  Phase III will consistent of reawakening my racing legs and regaining my edge.  Then I will have survived recovery without going crazy and can start hitting the roads, paths, and tracks hard again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday: 4 miles

It is quite cold outside.  The acclimation is taking longer since I am not running so much right now.  I am essentially 100% physically and mentally.  Everything is in place to start ramping up again.  Beginning tomorrow and into next week, my mileage is going to significantly but methodically increase.

I already know my marathon goal for 2011...sub-2:40.  I'm not expecting my massive pattern of continued improvement.  However, I certainly will not prevent it from happening either.  2011 is probably going to be the year where I find out exactly how much upside I have left.  If I can continue to knock off minutes at a time, there is a lot left in the tank.  If I start leveling off, I'm going to have to bump my mileage again and see if I can take the next level.  Of course, there are not a whole lot of mileage bumps I can make before just running out of time.

Such is the life of an amateur.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

History Part 3: High School Year 2 (2001-2002)

My sophomore year brought about some solid improvement.  It all started with Cross Country as it did every fall.  Many of the runners on the team attended a week long running camp in upstate New York.  Runners were assigned cabins based on recent times and would run together twice a day for a week.  Such things were unthinkable to me back then.  Regardless, I joined and all the running certainly helped.

I suffered from two problems though at all these camps.  I never ran enough during the summer to really be prepared, and I never really built up good endurance to last much longer than 7 miles.  Nonetheless, I plodded through the runs at camp as best I could.  Interestingly, those running camp weeks pale in comparison to my 70, 80, and 90 mile weeks that I've done this year.

After getting through running camp largely in one piece, our week long practice before the beginning of school started.  I was assuming that I would be allowed to run with the Varsity runners.  I had put in the work at running camp, and my coaches knew that I was there.  However, on the first day of practice, the varsity runners and a handful of others were taken out for a road run, while the freshmen and JV runners were left to do perimeters around the athletic fields.

I did not show it, but I was furious and decided to prove to everyone where I belonged.  Though I was never a high level high school runner and probably could have run a lot more, especially in the offseason, I still took the sport seriously and always gave 100%.  I really did not want to do the same run as the people who did not really care and were just there to stay in shape for something else.

I ran that workout as hard as I could; it was probably something around 3 or 4 perimeters, maybe a little over 3 miles total.  I was so far ahead of everyone after the first lap that the coach took note.  After I continued to pour it on he actually told me "Wow Dan, you want to run with the Varsity runners don't you?"  He told me something similar each time I passed.  I think by the time we finished, I had lapped everyone.

The next day, and for the remainder of my high school career, I never ran with the JV runners again.  That was probably the first time I realized what motivation can do.  These days, I am substantially more motivated than I ever was in High School, but I still take every little bit that I can thanks to this experience.  Just ask the very few trash-talking local Baltimore runners how the view of my back shoulder looks; firing me up is a mistake.

During the season, I was able to crack 20 minutes for the 3 mile, attaining a new PR of 19:06.  My 5K PR got down to 20:54.  I never ran road races back then, so these cross country times are difficult to compare.  Our team was never all that solid, the best we ever did was 500 (same number of wins and losses) and I was not some kind of all star.  However, I did work hard to try and move up both on our team and in the division.  I eventually broke into the "top-7."  In our particular league, your first 5 runners scored while the 6th and 7th could displace other top 5 runners.  Becoming a 6/7 was an awesome accomplishment for me, even if I was never fast enough to actually displace anyone.

Running for the team in divisions and counties was rather awesome too.  I seem to vaguely remember extremely cold days, running in nothing more than short-shorts and a racing singlet.  Old habits never die since I still wear next to nothing in races, even if it is bitterly cold.  After cross country, winter track with all of its new experiences came along.

This time around, I actually participated in winter track fully.  Though we did some running and training inside the school hallways, we were eventually forced outside for safety reasons.  I always did take pride that we were the only sport that braved the cold and trained outside.

I thought I hated the 3200m race on an outdoor track.  That was before I ran it indoors on a 200m track.  It took 16 laps to finish the race.  Though officials helped keep track of laps, if you were not a leader, it was ultimately up to you.  I am still terrible at counting laps.  Regardless, I knocked my 3200m time down to 11:43.  My mile time stood at 5:32.

Almost all meets were held at Suffolk County Community College at their indoor track.  The air quality was always suspect in there and we all seemed to developed the "S-west cough" as we liked to call it.  The new experiences and different running environment all helped to toughen me up in different ways.  With the shorter track, dealing with excessive monotony became a necessity.  Training outside in the freezing cold also helps to build character.  Both of those experiences certainly help with the year round marathon runner I have become today.

The spring track season brought about one of my top 3 most memorable races.  Though some details elude me now, I ran my fastest mile to date in early May 2002, a 5:16.  The track I did it on (St. Anthony's High School) would hold my mile PR each year until I graduated, and technically, until 2009.  I never did get under 12 minutes for the 3200m outdoors that year.  However, this is because I always had to run the 3200 about 20 minutes after the 1600 just my first year in High School.  Long distance runners were the work horses of our track teams.

My junior year is next up.

Reflecting back on all this, I do wonder what I could have done with more mileage.  Of course, I ran just as much for PRs as I did to run with my teammates.  Almost all my friends were other runners on the team so it was not all just about times.  However, I always wondered why some runners were just so good and others like me were so average (relatively speaking of course).  I always thought it was just talent that separated the fast and slow.  The real reason though, had to do with how many miles people put in.  Though talent certainly plays its role, lots of mileage is what defines a runner.

In some ways I knew this because our coaches eluded to it, and it was talked about a lot at those running camps.  People all over were saying that to get better at running, all you have to do is run more.  Truthfully, I really did not have the drive I needed to put the high mileage in to become a successful high school runner.  As these recollections near present day, it will become obvious that this whole time, I have had at least some talent (I was always convinced I had none), and eventually, I came to the realization that high mileage is what I've needed all along.

Of course this realization is what kicked off my current running era.  We just haven't quite arrived at that important moment yet.

Tuesday: Rest

I'm about done with all this lounging around.  This is actually less time than I took off back at the end of June with one week of no running and one 34 mile week before going back north of 50, but that does not make it any easier.  At the end of the day, I'd rather have this easy time by choice rather than being forced by injury.

The marathon racer must master the virtue of patience or he will suffer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday: 4 Miles easy

Well, it's certainly cold as crap out.  I'm starting to get used to it though.  4 miles at easy pace.  Feeling decent, though somewhat sluggish.  I'm getting really antsy with all this extra time and energy I have.  I know that my body needs this week, but it certainly doesn't make it easier.  Redlining, living life on the edge, and barely recovering in time for the next workout almost seems easier than this!

45 miles scheduled for this week with one double on Friday.  Final week with no hard running, though some of my easy/moderate efforts are probably being run a bit faster than usual thanks to my extra energy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

History Part 2: High School, Year 1 (2000-2001)

Moving up to the High School level introduced a variety of important changes.  For cross country, freshmen started with the 1.5 mile race, though eventually everyone moved up to 3 mile and 5K races.  Nearly all races were held at Sunken Meadow, a state park with one of the toughest courses around.  Training distances were longer, workouts were harder.  Additionally, running became a year round activity with cross country in the fall, winter track during the cold days, and spring track at the end of the year.  The 3200m (~2 miles) became the longest track event, and in general, we ran in more meets throughout the year.

Practice for the cross country season actually started a week before school.  I remember practice being early in the morning, though not as early as I run these days.  I still remember our first practice.  It was raining and we ran two perimeters around the HS athletic fields for a warm-up.  It ended up being close to 1.5 miles total, a far cry for the 0.5 mile warm up we did in Middle School.  That first day we stayed on the school grounds but in the future, we ventured out onto the roads for runs, also a relatively new experience.

I never could have guessed that many years later, the roads would become my domain.  Back then, the whole concept of running on roads was still quite new.  Time has faded much of my memory of the past.  I do know that I ran in quite a few 1.5 mile races, and roughly average in most of the races.  The 1.5 mile course at Sunken Meadow included one hill, known as Snake Hill.  It turned sharply to the right as it ascended at a rather unforgiving sharp angle.  The surface was mainly dirt with some wood chips.  Immediately after the crest, one hits a very, very sharp downhill.  I remember flying down that hill many times, dodging rocks and other runners.  Somehow, I never did fall in 4 years of running down that thing.

Times elude me, so I can't say how well I did in that regard.  However, there is one rather vivid experience I do have.  Invitational races were run on Saturdays, and that was when the 5K course was run.  In one of the last races of the year, somehow I, a lowly freshman got thrown into the Varsity 5K race.  I don't remember exactly why, but it happened.  We not only ran up Snake Hill, but also Cardiac Hill, a ~300m uphill with bad footing and 3 sections of varying incline right smack in the middle of the race after a less impressive but nonetheless long shallow, taxing hill.

To this day, it was probably my worst race in history.  The field was small and way too fast for me.  I stayed up with the other runners as best I could but completely blew up after about a mile and really, really struggled the rest of the way.  If I didn't finish last, it was probably pretty damn close.  My time was probably in the mid to high 20's...24, 25 or 26 minutes.  I remember having horrible cramps all through my midsection and questioning why I even ran the race.  Though a very humbling moment, I never really let it discourage me.

I did not run winter track my freshman year.  I had a back issue and didn't think I could handle running year round.  Yet another time when I wish "fast Dan" could tell "High School Dan" to suck it up and run harder, but you can't change the past.  I was at least a team manager and got to see how winter track works, with the smaller 200m indoor track.

After consulting some old records, I've discovered that my freshman year in Spring Track was the first time I broke 6:00 for the mile.  By the end of my Freshman year, I was running 5:42 in the mile.  I was also introduced to the 3200m race, an 8 lap race on the outdoor 400m track.  I hated that race, and still don't like it.  The Baltimore Road Runners Club actually hold track races in the summer and the 3200m was an option at one; I have yet to do it.

In dual meets, where two schools race against each other, events happen quickly, one right after the other.  So anytime I ran the 3200m, it was always a mere 20-30 minutes after having run an all out mile.  I always focused all my effort on the mile and just gave whatever I had left for the 3200.  Lets just say it made an already painful race even more painful.  Of course these experiences served me well to toughen me up and help shape the runner that I am today.  I was still under the working assumption that I was supposed to feel absolutely terrible during both races and that there was no holding back in either of them.  My first 3200m time was my best at 12:30.  That's a 6:15/mile pace.  The fact that I just ran an entire marathon at 6:18 pace completely blows my mind.  If someone told me immediately after that race that I would run almost that pace for 26.2 miles someday, I probably would have punched that person in the face and called them a moron.

After the end of freshman year, I became more used to the High School way of doing things.  I remember we focused a lot on speedwork.  Since my times continued to improve so well, I quickly learned just how important speedwork is to improving.  Of course, in hindsight, I think we needed a higher base of mileage also.  Regardless, those gut busting workouts stuck with me and still play a very important part in my training today.  I can also say that I still hate them just as much as I did back then!

Stay tuned for the next parts of the series.  I do finally have an order hashed out:

2001-2002 Part 3: High School, Year 2: Making a name for myself
2002-2003 Part 4: High School, Year 3: Trying to get better
2003-2004 Part 5: High School, Year 4: The final year, and goals left unfinished

2004-7/4/1007: Part 6: College, Years 1-3: The Dark Ages
7/5/2007-11/13/2009: Part 7: The Come Back
11/14/2009-Present: Part 8: The "Fast Dan" era

Saturday: 6 miles Sunday: 12 Miles, back to the NCR Trail


After a long day at work, woke up at 3am, worked from 4-4 (12 hours) I managed to get out the door for a 6 miler at about 6pm.  I felt kind of sluggish for the first 4 miles but finished strong.  I also narrowly avoided stepping on a mouse that darted in front of me while on Madison Ave.  I think the mouse was about as surprised as I was.

My hamstrings were a bit tight, but I blame that on the cold temperatures.  My right foot is a little tender, but I'm not concerned about it.


12 miles.  This was my first run back on the NCR Trail after my race; it was cool to relive portions.  I'll never see the Glencoe Road crossing the same way ever again.  It was windier than last week and about the same temperature.  I wore my gloves for 11 miles this time before taking them off.  No cold hands!  I have no idea what pace I ran, since I'm not timing anything right now.  Though, based on how I felt, it was probably a little fast.

My right heel was hurting today as oppose to just the foot, but I'm still not ready to be concerned about it.  My hamstrings were fine today, though my left quad was barking a bit on the last few miles.

I think I have to get used to this cold weather for all this random pain to stop.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday: 8 miles Friday: 4 miles


8  miles, moderate pace at night with weather in the high 30s.  The relatively mild October and November is certainly over.  It feels more like it should for this time of year.  I felt great on this run.  My pace was strong, and the course was actually quite hilly.  A good combination for sure.


4 miles, easy in another cold one.  Legs still feel good.  It's nice to run without battling almost daily soreness.

I'll probably end up with about 34 miles for the week, not too bad.  Next week will probably be about 45 miles.  Physically and mentally, I feel strong.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday? Rest Wednesday..Finally running again


I had the option of going 6 or taking the day off.  Though I was feeling good, I chose not to run.  There will be quite a few times between now and the Boston Marathon where I won't feel like running but will force myself to do it anyway.  I might as well take it easy while I still can!


First day back.  I picked a hell of a day, driving rain and wind mixed with 60 degree weather.  Went for an easy 3.  I felt sluggish early but half way through, my stride came back.  I feel no soreness at all and am almost ready to declare myself 100% and good to go.  I should know more Thursday with an 8 mile moderate run.

Monday, November 29, 2010


No running Sunday or today.  I still felt rather sore for most of Sunday though by the end of the day it started breaking up.  Today, just walking around I feel no pain.  However, I could tell that running would probably bring back the soreness.

At this point, I don't feel any worse off than I did while peaking meaning I could continue to run if I wanted.  But, it is important to take it easy now.  It will make going hard for the next round a little more tolerable.  Though this recovery mode is driving me crazy, I know it's going to pay off come March-April of 2011.

Tuesday is an optional day, either rest or 6 miles.  I think I'll wait until the afternoon (or most likely late evening...) to decide whether to run.  So far, I'm leaning towards starting back up again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Race Report: NCR Trail Marathon; the race of all races

A bit long I know, but at least all my thoughts are recorded...

My moment had finally arrived.  It was delayed about 6 months thanks to my failures back in May.  This time around, I was more prepared and more confident than ever.  I had planned to run a sub-2:50 marathon, though how far under depended completely on how I felt early in the race.  I hit a 2:44:53 in a very, very evenly paced effort.  Now for the details....

The NCR Trail Marathon, in its 21st year is a small local marathon put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club.  The majority of it takes place on the NCR Trail, a bike path made of crushed stone/gravel.  The trail itself is completely flat with sporadic road crossings and is completely surrounded by trees.  Not in so many words, it is a runner's paradise.  The course started about 2 miles off the trail at Sparks Elementary School, adding some 4 miles total of rolling hills on the road sections.

It was a cold and windy day.  Temperatures were about 35 at the start (9AM) and probably didn't break 40 by the time I finished.  There was also a stiff, cold wind around 10-15mph with some nasty gusts up to about 30mph.  For the most part, it blew across the trail so there was little head wind.  Nonetheless, the weather did play a significant part.

I lined up at the front and knew I had a shot at the top 5, maybe even a win if the cards fell correctly.  I was most concerned with "running my own race" and would run with whomever had a compatible pace.  I took a pair of throw away gloves to keep my hands warm for a little while.  Along with shorts, a t-shirt, and 2 sports beans packets, I was certainly lightly dressed.

After the gun went off, 2 packs quickly formed.  4 runners (none of whom I recognized) made up the lead pack.  Approximately 7 of us formed a chase pack.  I knew at least one runner in my pack, and was confident in the early pace.  After some rolling hills on Belfast and York Roads we hit our first mile...

Mile 1: 5:47

After some debate amongst the other runners, we concluded that mile marker was off.  There was no way we just ran that split.  I think it was closer to 6:00-6:05.  So we continued.  I already had to make an early decision.  The lead pack was still within striking distance, but was slowly pulling away.  I could stay back and hold my current pace or surge up and make an attempt to run with them.  If this was anything but my 10th marathon, I may have given in to my pride and went after the leaders.  However, the pace I was running felt right, and I knew I was right where I needed to be.  So I let them go.  After turning onto Sparks road, running downhill, over a bridge, and onto the trail, we hit mile 2:

Mile 2: 6:03

I also don't think this mile marker was correct.  I felt fine and just decided to keep running at the current pace and the mile markers would work themselves out.  This is part of the way I run, based on feel.  Times are just feedback (and mile splits aren't always accurate!).  Our group of 7 slowly started to bleed people and we shrunk to 6.  It's a bit rough, but in a race, if you can't keep up, you get left behind.

One runner in our group decided to push forward to catch that lead pack which continued to pull away.  I resisted the urge to follow.  He had said early that he wanted to run a 2:45.  I knew we were essentially on that pace and that he was either going to have the race of his life or completely explode.  The next few miles were rather uneventful.

Mile 3-6: 6:22, 6:20, 6:18, 6:16

Our group of 5 jostled for position most of the way and we ended up taking turns at the lead to help block the wind for each other.  No one ever really planned this, it just kind of happened.  At least 2 people in the group were interested in pushing the pace, but we never really pushed harder, we just kept our rather consistent splits.  Eventually, one of the other runners tried to pull away.  Once again, I controlled myself and held back.  It paid off.  Forging on alone this early in a marathon, especially with the nasty wind is not a good idea.  That runner eventually dropped back and then dropped out of the picture entirely.  The group was down to 4.

After we passed mile 6 and the water stop at Monkton, I made my only mistake of the entire race.  To this point, my hands were warm and almost sweating.  I decided to ditch my throw away gloves.  I've run in colder weather without gloves and my hands had been fine.  Since they were already warm, I figured all would be good.  However, I failed to account for the wind which did a number on my hands, but more of that to come later.  Our remaining group of 4 continued to run a nice even pace:

Mile 7-8: 6:17; 6:18

After Mile 8, we had hit a total of 3 water stops.  I took water from all and had consumed 2/3 of one of my sports beans bags.  I was right on as far as hydration.  The more sporadic water stops actually worked to my favor, since I knew I could just take water from each instead of debating each time.  Unfortunately, I spilled the remaining 1/3rd of my first bag of sports beans.  My hands had starting getting colder, and the fast pace made it difficult to close the bag.  I didn't panic though, even 2 bags is almost too much for me at this point.

Mile 9-12: 6:17; 6:18; 6:24; 6:20

The even pace continued, but trouble was brewing with our group of 4.  One of the runners kept trying to push the pace but each time backed off.  I could tell he wasn't going to hold on much longer.  One of the other runners also seemed to just be along for the ride and wasn't going to hold on much longer.  The 3rd runner in our group however, seemed quite comfortable with the pace and I knew he was there to stay.  We had decided early on to run together as long as we could, and so far neither of us disappointed.

Over these miles we had slowly started to reel in the runner who broke away from us at Mile 2.  Though he had caught the lead pack, he couldn't hold the pace and had been bleeding time for most of the race.  It took a long, long time for us to catch him.  You can at times see almost 3/4 of a mile ahead on the trail.  Combine that with his pace (only a couple seconds slower) and it took a while to cover the ground.  As we got closer, my ally got impatient and pushed the pace to catch and pass him.

That move completely splintered our pack.  I stayed where I was at first, but after the smoke cleared decided to pull him back in.  He had not sped up much, and my pace had actually slackened to over 6:20.  So I strode back up to run alongside him, and he was certainly happy I did.  To this point, I was feeling decent, perhaps just a little tired.  I really wasn't thinking about the rest of the race, just reaching the turnaround.

Mile 13-14: 6:21; 6:14

After the turnaround, I felt much better.  Unfortunately, my left hand was now completely frozen and was stuck in it's "running position," making a lightly cupped "C."  I actually dropped a water cup because I couldn't clench my fingers around the cup.  Thankfully after the turnaround, with my right hand, I got the cup.  I had already stopped taking sports beans because I sensed trouble in my digestive track.  This would also be the last water I consumed for the rest of the race.  Good thing too, my hands were almost worthless at that point.

Since the course was out and back, we started running by the rest of the pack and received a lot of cheers and feedback on our positions.  I told my running ally not to get too caught up in it, because we still had a long way to go.  It was only his 2nd marathon, and after finding out it was my 10th, he listened, so we did our best to hold back.  Of course, young hot shots are only so good at not giving into their pride...

Mile 15-17: 6:12; 6:21; 6:14

My stomach distress was slowly getting worse.  My hands were frozen solid and my feet started to hurt, probably because of the cold.  I refused to give in, telling myself that all my hard work is not going down the drain now.  Miles 16-22 are the toughest part of the race for me.  I just tried to focus as best I could at getting through the gauntlet.  Thankfully, mercifully, we passed the water stop manned by Back on My Feet.  I received one of the most enthusiastic cheers ever, at nearly the height of my distress.

After passing the water stop, I fully committed all my willpower to maintain my pace and will away my stomach distress.  I got dangerously close to blowing chunks but a lot of yelling under my breath (and not panicking) fixed everything.  Ceasing all water and carb intake helped a lot too.  I bled a little time while fighting my failure of a digestive system, but overall, I was happy with the pace.  At this point, I had lost my running ally.  The pace was just too much for him.

Mile 18-24: 6:22; 6:24; 6:25; 6:21; 6:34; 5:55; 6:11

I don't really believe the 6:34 and 5:55.  My pace was quite consistent through both of those miles.  The median split is around 6:15, which I think is more believable based on how I felt.  I had pulled myself away from the brink of disaster.  Everything beyond mile 20 was made possible by my high mileage training.  All those long runs where I held on at the end of high weeks, and all those times I ran when it really, really, REALLY sucked was paying off.  Though my feet were absolutely killing me, the pace kept getting harder to hold, and my hands were worthless, I was not giving in.

After mile 24 I turned off onto Glencoe road to leave the trail and return to the school.  I knew 4 hills stood in my way, and the first one was going to suck, royally.

Mile 25: 6:19

The crest of that first hill was mile 25.  Somehow, I held pace.  Though my quads weren't jumping for joy before the hill, they were now very, very upset with me.  Soreness started to set in and I really started to feel tired.  A quick downhill followed, then some flat running and a turn onto York road.  With that, another uphill.  Though not as big as the last, it took out almost everything I had left.

None of these hills were very impressive, but to be at the end of a marathon, after having run mostly on downhill and flat terrain was just cruel.  I then turned onto Belfast road for the final push.  The road was still open to traffic and there was no shoulder.

I knew exactly where I was thanks to my advanced scouting, but it still sucked to dodge cars and the side of the road.  I started wondering whether I would die from exhaustion or from being run over by a car.  I could barely make sense of my surroundings at this point, but somehow, kept out of the way of the cars.

We hit not one but two more uphills.  By the second, I was completely toast.  My quads were finished.  Every step I took was 1000x more painful than the last.  I could literally feel my muscles accumulating micro tears.

Mile 26: 6:34

I have never cried during a race, nor thought to, but at that moment, I fully understood why some people do break down.  Finally, finally, FINALLY I saw the final turn off to the finish line.  Making the last turn killed my quads even more.  How they weren't already dead is beyond me.  Those last 30 seconds of running were a blur.  I remember looking at the clock, seeing I would finish under 2:45, then feeling relieved after crossing the line without falling over.

I was immediately given a lot of assistance by people in the finish chute.  I'm sure I looked positively awful, because I barely had to say anything, and next I knew, I had my space blanket and medal, and someone had removed my timing chip.

I still have no idea how I ran that last 0.2 miles.  But I did and finished in record time, a 24 minute PR, and a 5th place finish.  I had to walk another 0.25 miles in the cold before going inside.  It took a full 30 minutes before I regained use of my hands.  As I write this now many hours later though, a lot of the soreness has gone away.

My half marathon split was a 1:22:01, my second half was done in 1:22:52.  That is as close to even as you can get.  Clearly, I picked the right pace early, held on for dear life at the end, and ran well.

I think I've earned at least a little time off/recovery time before ramping up again for Boston!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010



AM: 5 miles, moderate pace.  Good morning for a run, low 50's, felt really good.

PM: 7.5 miles total, 4.5 @ tempo pace.  I got a little carried away on this run.  For the first time in months, my legs are very fresh.

1.5 mile splits: 8:03; 8:06; 8:14 for a 5:25/mile average.  I just about PR'ed at the 5K distance within this run.  No wonder I felt a little more spent than usual after the first lap!

Wednesday: 4 miles, easy.

Thursday: 6.5 miles total 5x800meter with 2 miles warm up, 1 mile cool down, 1 lap jog between reps.  I didn't feel quite as good as I hoped during my final speed workout.  I believe it was my first workout in sub-40 degree weather (38 to be exact) with a nice cold breeze.  That certainly did not help.  Though I didn't feel too great during the workout, my splits were still acceptable.  It probably didn't help that I got carried away on the first one.

2:27; 2:33; 2:34; 2:34; 2:33

As the workout went on, I started settling in a little bit, and I never did give in to the urge to slow down.  I was expecting just a hair closer to 2:30, so I'll still take it!

Overall, my cold that has been bothering me for almost a week seems to be clearing up.  My throat is now fine and my nose is no longer running.  I can feel everything "draining" and have a slight cough, which usually means it's almost over.  My right side still has this weird burning/sensitive feeling, but it goes away when I run, so it's no big deal.

This must be taper madness, which I never really experienced before.  Ultimately, nothing will stand in my way come Saturday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday: Rest

My only rest day before the marathon.  I'm taking a day off after as well.  With the reduced mileage across the board over the last two weeks (with a more significant drop this past week), my body is no longer in "recovery debt."  My 15 miler yesterday left no lasting effects and I feel near 100% already without my rest day.

Tomorrow is my last double, a moderate 5 in the morning and a rather short tempo run in the evening.  Wednesday will be one easy run in the morning, Thursday will have some speedwork with lightly enforced rest, then a moderate 5 mile short run Friday.

Not very many miles left to run!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday: 15 miles @ ~Marathon Pace

I drove out to Sparks Elementary School to run the road portions of my upcoming Marathon (and some on the NCR Trail).  The NCR Trail Marathon starts somewhere in the School parking lot, takes a right on Belfast Road, right on York, Left on Sparks, and then hits the trail.  On the way back, it takes a right onto Glencoe Road, takes a left onto Lower Glencoe back out to York Road and comes back to the school via Belfast.

I know the NCR Trail like the back of my hand, but wanted to be familiar with the road sections as well.  Knowing the terrain, surroundings, and exactly when and where turns are will just make me more comfortable on race day.  Of course, I had to dodge some traffic since a couple of the roads weren't great to run on, but at least that won't be a problem on race day...

I ended up running a 1:30:34.  I think my run was about 0.2 miles short of 15, so my actual overall pace was probably somewhere between 6:02-6:10.  I did the run with no water and no carb intake.  My main goals were to memorize the road sections and get a feel for my pace.  I didn't take mile splits, just an overall time, in an effort to rely more on "feel" than data.

I have improved in a hurry this year and paying too much attention to my watch on raceday is just going to slow me down or cause too much self doubt.  My paces have dramatically changed, and I have to keep that in mind during this race.  My plan for the race is to feel just as I did during this run.  I'll probably hold back just a bit at the start to avoid wasting energy on the early hills.  However, once we hit Sparks road (and a nice downhill), I'll settle in and hold on for the ride.

The pace felt decent.  On the last couple of miles, I was starting to experience the "pain level off" that I have been getting right before entering my "it's not getting worse but still sucks" zone.  I'm sure if I continued I would enter the magical place where I could dissociate from the pain.

Overall, the hills are not that bad.  Belfast and York roll a bit but don't have real big hills.  Sparks road goes downhill to the trail.  The only issue is Lower Glencoe.  After leaving the trail, Glencoe is flat for a little while before hitting a rather sharp and sustained uphill.  Once it crests, you hit a very similar downhill section before returning to York for two more small hills.

Though it won't be fun to run up that hill at about mile 23-24, at that point, if I'm still alive, the hill isn't going to make a difference.  When it comes to race day I will keep the following thoughts in mind:

1. I am substantially more prepared for this marathon than any race I have ever run.

2. I have finally tapered correctly and will still have my edge on race day...the same edge that gives me big PRs in the middle of tough training weeks.

3. Even if I don't feel comfortable early, if I keep pushing, my body will respond, and I will access that zone where the pain levels off and stops mattering.

I've always thought that the first half of most of my marathons was too "easy."  I could usually sustain a conversation until about mile 16 when things would slowly get harder, and than things would begin to deteriorate.  Those marathons were all run on conservative new age less-is-more plans.  This time, it will be different.  The pace is going to be cruising, but still uncomfortable, and I know what it's going to take to maintain it at the end of the race.

Friday: AM: 3 miles PM: 4xmile Saturday: 9 miles easy


AM: 3 miles easy, my legs continue to improve with the slightly reduced training load.

PM: After getting stuck at work for 14 hours (and spending most of that time stressed out and standing up), I drove myself to the Patapsco High School Track and started warming up for my run at 9:30 at night.  With the Dundalk HS Track soon to be no more, I took the opportunity to use this track, which I scouted out a few nights before.

Patapsco is actually a much better track.  It appears to have been either recently resurfaced, or is just well kept.  The lines all look crisp and new, and the surface is very smooth with no damage.  It seems a bit harder than Dundalk was, but it is still a synthetic track, so it gets the job done.  There are actually lights around the track too, so I don't have to run in the dark.  Of course, I discovered on this run that they cut off the lights at about 10:30PM.

Workout: 2 mile warm up, 4xmile with ~5:00 rest, 1/2 mile jog, and 1 mile cool down.  I'm probably cutting that rest to about 3:30 for next year.  Regardless, splits:

5:23; 5:09; 5:12; 5:14

First one was a bit slow, I came through the 800m split in 2:45 and ran much harder in the second half to salvage the interval.  I think it just took a bit to get into it that late at night.  I've never hit sub-5:10 in one of these workouts, so that was awesome.

I didn't feel sore beforehand, and still felt decent afterward.  My body is completely out of recovery debt at this point and continues to freshen for next week.

Saturday: 9 miles, easy

Before this year, my easy runs were rarely "easy."  At best, they were usually done at a moderate pace.  My solo "easy" runs are still "moderate," but now that I actually have some easy miles in my schedule, it's ok.  I must say, running a relaxing pace with other people is awesome.  I felt very refreshed afterward.  Good day to run.

Wednesday: AM: 4 miles PM: 9 miles (6 @ tempo pace), Thursday: Rest


AM: 4 miles, easy pace.  Felt better than I did on Tuesday.  My left foot stopped hurting and the right is getting better.  My left IT band which was tight the past couple of days is also loosening up.  I have no idea where all this pain came from, but it's going away.

PM: Tempo run in Druid Hill Park.  6 miles in 33:52, 5:39/mile pace.  Slowly but surely, I'm feeling fresher and fresher.  In the past, I think I tapered too much too quickly and was ready for my goal race way too early.  This time though, everything is going as planned.

Splits (1.5 miles):

8:27; 8:14; 8:29; 8:43

Slowed a bit on the last lap, but it was quite windy that night.  It seems that long days at work don't really affect my running.  For the most part, my paces are consistent.  I had an 11 hour day today, and overall, my pace was comparable to days when I only worked 8.

Of course, it doesn't make me like my job more...or give me a reason to work more hours....but that's a discussion for another day.

Thursday: Rest

Getting closer and closer to the big day....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday: 4 miles Tuesday: 7 miles


4 miles AM, easy pace.  As usual on a Monday after an epic running weekend, I felt a bit sore, no more than usual.  My feet have been bothering me as of late.  The inside of my right, and outside of my left feel a bit painful.  It is a sharp "inflammatory" type of pain.  I doubt it's much to worry about.  It goes away when I run.


7 miles, AM, easy/moderate pace in the rain.  Both feet continued to hurt.  My ankles and shins didn't seem quite happy either.  It was still a decent run overall.  None of the pain I'm experiencing is much to worry about.  On a better note, my problematic toe feels better after some "surgical" cutting of the nail so it does not dig into my skin anymore.

I've concluded something always has to hurt....if it isn't one thing, it's another.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, AM: ~4.5 mile Cross Country Race PM: 7 miles (soon)

In the AM, I ran the final Baltimore Road Runners Club GPS race of the year.  Though I already locked up my age group a while ago, I ran this race just to get in at least one cross country event.  It took place at Towson High School and was a 3 loop course around the perimeter of the school.

It was certainly cross country; lots of sharp turns, extremely varied terrain, and some good hills.  We ran on grass, trail, the track, a wooden bridge (with a hole in it), and pavement.  The course was advertised as 5 miles, but it was probably closer to 4.5.

I went out somewhat conservative early, though conservative had me in 4th.  Two of the runners dropped off the pace, leaving me, and the leader, many strides ahead of me.  I ended up 2nd, and probably slowed down a bit by the last lap.  Being a self proclaimed road runner, I wasn't exactly in my comfort zone.  Of course, the winner is a road runner as well, so I guess I beat all the cross country runners.

I ran a 26:20 (no splits, no mile markers).  Assuming 4.5 miles, that comes out to 5:51/mile pace.  Not bad for my one and only cross country race of the year.  By comparison, the Rockville 10K I ran last week was at 5:37 pace, so clearly, I am designed to be a road runner.

Most shockingly was how quickly I recovered.  Since I could never really get into a groove, I couldn't really expend all my energy, I was just fighting terrain, turns, and hills the whole time.  Within about 5 minutes of stopping, I felt fine again.

PM: Going for a 7 mile run as soon as I post this.  This run replaces the 4Xmile that I did not do on Friday afternoon.  I'll have to check to see if I can get to the Dundalk HS track next week to get the run in.

Mileage for the week: 70.  The taper goes into full swing next week, 60 followed by 55, my two lowest weekly miles in over a month.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday: 4 + ... Saturday: 20 miles @ 6:24/mile pace (final 20 miler!)

AM: 4 miles easy pace in moderately cool conditions.  I was feeling kind of sore, probably a bit more than I anticipated.

PM: I was supposed to do a 4xmile, but did not get it done.  After arriving at the Dundalk HS Track, I saw some kind of construction going on, and a high fence surrounded the entire track.  The fence was covered in some sort of tarp.  It looks like they are just replacing the fence, but regardless, I had no access.  I sat in traffic for about an hour trying to get to Goucher College to use their track and ended up being rather exhausted by the time I got there.  After an hour nap in my car, I couldn't bring myself to run.


20 miles....29 degrees at the start, 50s by the end.  After 9.5 hours of sleep, 10.5 total including Friday's nap, I felt completely rejuvenated.  Clearly, I was exhausted Friday afternoon.  The cold temperatures froze my hands for the first few miles, but they thawed out eventually.  I blew away this run:

7:31; 6:52; 6:49; 6:38; 6:34; 6:32; 6:26; 6:23; 6:28; 6:14; 6:25; 6:11; 6:31; 6:14; 6:16; 6:01; 6:05; 6:00; 6:00; 5:59...2:08:07 overall.

My long run pace has done nothing but get faster all year.  I already do these runs probably a bit faster than I should.  Nonetheless, this run has shown me that I am poised for a huge PR.  It just comes down to how fast I can convince myself to run.

I felt pretty good at the end of this run, the best I've felt all year.  My feet hurt a little, probably because it was cold, and there is something very wrong with the second toenail on my left foot, but my muscles are acting like I could have done more.  I may have to get that nail checked out, but that will be after the marathon.

There is a massive growth of hard material underneath the nail, and at this point, I can barely tell the difference between the nail and the other material.  Sometimes it hurts after running, but most of the time it doesn't.  That nail has not been growing correctly for almost the entire year now.  I'm hoping that the entire thing will just fall off or grow out, but neither of those things have happened.

This is one of many runs where after early struggles and discomfort, all pain just leveled off and stopped getting worse, then slowly dulled as I continued to run.  If I can get into that mode in my marathon, I'll be unstoppable.  I'll just need to remember to fight through early discomfort, no matter how early it is in the race.

As for that missed workout, I'm converting the mileage to a Sunday afternoon run after my cross country race in the morning.  I'm debating whether to do it next week (while keeping the weekly mileage at 60) or just canning it all together.  At this point, I can't do a whole lot more to improve my fitness, it's just a matter of staying sharp for the race.

Of course now the million dollar question is my marathon race pace.  It is very likely I will end up running a pace that even earlier this year (May) I had no hopes of maintaining.  I'd rather throw it all out there and come up short than be too conservative and leave too much in the tank.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday: 4 + 9 (6 @ tempo pace) miles Thursday: 8 miles


AM: 4 miles easy.  A bit warmer than usual...high 40's.  Felt pretty good.  With a relatively easy Monday, I was expecting feel better today.

PM: 9 miles total, 6 @ 5:33 pace (33:21 overall).  High 50s.  I rocked this workout, probably a bit too quickly, but I felt good so I went for it.  My pace was actually faster than my 10K race, though this run was completely flat while the 10K was not.  Splits (1.5 miles):

8:35, 8:08, 8:13, 8:26


8 miles, easy/moderate pace, high 50s.  I did this run, reluctantly after waking up at 3am, going into work at 4am, and working on a very long tablet compression run.  Our manufacturing facility was having issues controlling temperature, so I basically spent hours standing in a poorly breathing tyvek jumpsuit, sweating my ass off.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the day.

Too bad I don't have time for excuses.  I did the run anyway.  My legs were not all that fresh, but I still ran at a good pace.  So far, my legs are in better condition than they have been (thanks to a slightly easier week), but probably not as good as I was expecting.  Once I get through this week, and knock down to 60 miles next week, I'm thinking I'll feel a bit stronger.

Gotta stay patient through these last days!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday: Rest Day

I may regret taking today off since I may get stuck at work for 15 hours on Thursday, but oh well.  I feel like I could run today if I really wanted to, but this will hopefully make tomorrow's afternoon tempo run a bit easier!  I'm less than 3 weeks away from my goal race, and time has gone by quickly.  But right around now is when it starts to drag.

Overall, I'm right where I need to be, my body is not 100%, but I'm no longer living life a mile at a time.  My hopes are to be 100% at most 2 days before the race.  Any longer, and I'll start to lose my hard earned edge.  I'm going to need every bit of it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday Afternoon: 10 Miles, Monday: 4 + 8 miles

Sunday Afternoon:

Went for an easy 10 mile shake out run.  For once in a long time, I actually did a solo run at an easy pace.  I guess back to back races will do that to me.  My right knee, left IT band, both hamstrings, and my back all hurt a little.  As the run went on though, all the pain melted away and I felt rather decent after the run was over.

AM: 4 miles easy, low 40s.  I still didn't really feel all that great at beginning of this run.  However, once again, as the run went on, I felt a little better.

PM: 8 miles moderate pace, high 50s, sunset at freaking 4:57PM.  I hate the end of Daylight Saving Time.  I rocked this run a bit more steady than I usually do, with a consistent moderate effort the whole way.  I had the usual tightness and soreness early, but it felt better as the run went on.  My legs are still feeling the weekend, but it's getting better.

Tuesday will be a well earned day off.  This week, I will only hit ~70 miles, my lowest total (by only about 5 miles) in almost 6 weeks.  The taper begins, only very, very slightly.  Though my 76 mile week before was less than my peak of 90, I hardly consider it part of a taper.  76 miles lines up well with my 3 weeks of running before my 90 mile week, and 2 races plus a tempo run certainly made for a challenge.

70...60...55...the tentative plan leading up to the race.  If I need a bit more rest, I'll cut up to 5 miles out of one or both of the last two weeks.  I never thought I would be looking forward to 60 and 55 mile weeks!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Rockville 10K

After coming off my 17:03 5K on Saturday, I had to turn it around quickly for the Rockville 10K.  A good performance would earn me quite a few notable accomplishments.  I had a chance to blow away my one year old PR, solidify my 1st place position in the Maryland RRCA Grand Prix Series, and even place in the open division (top 5) in a relatively competitive race.

Temperatures at the start were cold, barely breaking 40 degrees, though the sun was out.  There was a slight breeze, but a lot of the course was sheltered by either buildings or trees, so it was not a huge factor.  My legs did not feel all that great until after my warm up was done.  Even a few minutes before the race, I still was not sure how my body would respond to back-to-back efforts.  I took my spot in front and saw about 3-4 other runners who would probably make a race of it.

The gun went off and a group of 5 immediately took the lead and put about 5-7 strides on me.  I was alone with some faint footsteps behind me.  The pace felt reasonable.  As we continued and made our first turn, I had an early decision to make: stay where I am, or link up with that pack.  I decided to link up with the pack.  After their initial burst at the start, they never gained more ground on me.  One runner faded and I never saw him again.  After he faded back, I caught the pack on the first of many uphills on the course.  As we made our first hairpin U-turn, we hit the first mile:


I was looking to run roughly 5:40s.  The pace actually felt slow to me.  The other runners around me all seemed to be breathing a lot harder and generally sounded much more uncomfortable than I was.  Of course, I wasn't exactly on a Sunday morning stroll either, but I made a mental note of my observation.  The course took a sharp downhill, another turn, and the hills rolled a bit from there.

Every time we hit an uphill, I took the lead, and could hear the other runners struggling.  Every time we hit the next downhill or extended flat, I was caught again.  Eventually, all but one other runner dropped off the pace.  It came down to the two of us.  2nd mile:


We continued running side by side, clearly neither of us were going to give in easily.  However, I noticed especially on the next two uphills that my foe was having more and more trouble getting back on my shoulder after the hill ended.  I finally started putting distance on him around mile 3:


The pace was a bit faster than I had intended on running to this point.  However, I still felt ok, and was not about to slow down now that I was leading the Rockville 10K.  The next ~1/2-3/4 mile proved to be the hardest part of the course.  It was a sustained, steady uphill.  Though not particularly steep, it just never ended.  The race was decided right here.  At first, I could hear breathing and footsteps.  Eventually it was just breathing, and then there was silence.  I had buried the final runner that had stayed with me and was now building a lead.

The hill crested and we pulled a sharp u-turn to run back down the hill on the other side of the road.  All I had to follow now was the lead police motorcycle, and the lead bicyclist.  The bicyclist was extremely helpful, making hand signals when turns were coming up and telling me where to run to get the best line for upcoming turns.  The best part about a u-turn is being able to see how far back other runners were, without having to "cheat" and look back.

After the turn around I saw I had a rather sizable lead.  The lead bicyclist told me I had a 30 second lead.  That hill conquered everyone behind me, but I just plowed through it.  Mile 4:


Considering the hill, that was a crazy fast mile.  By now, my breathing was labored, just as labored as the runners in the original lead pack.  My legs felt a bit tired and me feet were really hurting.  I think by this point they had become rather cold and all the downhill running was just irritating them.  I thought to myself (at least something like this): "there's 2.2 miles to go, I have a huge lead, and I'm on pace for a massive PR.  I feel like shit, but I'm not giving in."  My actual thought process was probably more profanity-laden and much more disconnected and illogical.

The course eventually made a right turn for what was clearly a "fudge" factor out and back on a side street.  Another sharp U-turn (I was really pissed at this u-turn since I was already so tired) showed my lead had grown.  After another quick uphill we made a right onto what was almost the home stretch.  Mile 5:


I didn't believe my watch.  I felt awful but somehow was still running the same pace.  I thought maybe the cold had caused it to stop working (I was rather delirious at this point).  But I continued to push on.  Aside from the 10K, there was also a 5K that started 15 minutes after our race and would end at the same finish line.  The two courses overlap for the last ~1.1 miles.

I expected this, since I ran the race last year.  I remember having to pass through quite a lot of traffic, people running substantially slower paces for their 5K race while I was trying to finish up a 10K.  However, this year, I had a couple of advantages.  First, since I hit the overlap sooner, the 5K field was much thinner.  Though the runners I encountered were slower than me, they weren't extremely slow, so there was both time and space for people to manuver.

Perhaps my biggest advantage from last year was my escort.  The police motorcycle used it's sirens and horn to get people out of the way, and the bicyclist shouted "lead 10K runner" a few times to get people to move to the right.  This was especially helpful in the narrow section of the course immediately after the 5 mile marker.

Though there were elite athletes running the NYC marathon at a pace faster than I was running my 10K, it still felt awesome to be referred to as the "lead runner" and have my own escort to clear the way.  After an extremely steep but short uphill, we made a hard right onto a much wider stretch of road, so I now had all the room I needed to finish my race unimpeded.

Unfortunately, that hill almost killed me.  I was completely spent at the top, and knew that I slowed a bit.  Whenever I'm ahead of runners, I am always worried that I will be caught.  Even if I know I have a massive lead, I'm constantly thinking they are right behind me, that I'll get passed and all my hard work running ahead of them will be for nothing.  Leading does nothing but haunt me with ghost runners.  At this point, I was worried to death that I would be caught.

After about a minute of cresting the hill, I started to feel just good enough to turn the jets back on.  I knew at that point the finish line was close, and I wasn't about to bleed time.  Though I was guaranteed a PR and a victory, I wanted every single second I could get.  All those tempo runs in Druid Hill Park, and all those laps I ran proved helpful.

Even though my mind and legs were screaming to slow down, I picked up the pace as much as I could.  The lead bicylist, who probably saw I was digging deep told me the 6 mile mark was right around the corner.  And he wasn't wrong!  As soon as he said that, I could see the digital clock for the 6.  Mile 6:


Not terrible, still faster than my first mile.  Of course, I only realized that in hindsight.  In my adrenaline filled, running on fumes mad dash for the finish, I could only think: "Shit, that was too slow."  I threw down everything I had left, and continued passing 5K runners.  A few tried to run with me but stood no chance.  I only hope they realized I was in a different race.

The finish was actually around a corner, you have to take a left before seeing the "last stretch."  I knew this from last year, and knew exactly where I was as I closed in.  I was able to maintain my form, despite my exhaustion setting in.  I made more than a few grunts along the way.

Finally, mercifully, we took the left.  I heard the race announcer mention my name, and that I was the 10K leader.  The police motorcycle and bicyclist moved out of my way and I threw myself across the finish line.  Two clocks were going, one for the 5K and one for the 10K.  I could barely read them, but saw that I was sub-35, with an overall time of 34:52. After crossing the line, I was simultaneously fired up, and felt completely awful.  It probably made for quite a scene.

The finish chute was huge, and almost completely empty, with only a handful of finished 5K runners.  I spent a while walking around, stopping and knelling over, cursing like hell under my breath, trying to catch my breath, etc.  At least one person asked if I was ok; I'm not sure if I actually said something to him.  Eventually though, my composure returned just as the second place 10K runner came through, and proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach everywhere.

I didn't even bother asking if he was ok.  I've been there more than a few times and hated when people asked me that.  I shook his hand between bouts of puking and walked out of the chute.  I made sure to find and shake hands with each runner in that original pack, as is my custom.

Once recovered and in sweats again, I was able to bask in the awesomeness that was the race.  My hamstrings tightened up badly thanks to the cold, but it did not take away from the good feelings.  I ended up winning a $50 gift certificate to a local running store, and a free dinner for two at Hard Times Cafe in Rockville.  I must say, not bad for a $30 entry fee and 34:52 of work.

Now it's time to focus on the last few weeks before the NCR Trail Marathon...

Local Races Starting to Get Left in the Dust

This is the first weekend in history in which I've doubled up on races.  There are quite a few rather accomplished local runners who do the same quite regularly.  Though I don't plan on doing it often, this was one weekend where I wanted to run in both the Turek House 5K and the Rockville 10K.  This weekend has shown me that I may need to be more selective in my races next year if I want good competition.

I race for two reasons, to run an all out effort on a marked/accurate course, and to race other runners.  I love to compete against people of similar ability to me.  Up until this year, finding races was never a problem.  I could pretty much enter any race and have competition.  However, I'm slowly moving up in the field and a lot of the smaller local races are not cutting it anymore.

I still enjoy racing often, so I can't exclusively sign up for big expensive races.  I also despise the logistical nightmare that is large races.  There is something so satisfying about just showing up, parking, using your car as a base, and running without having to stand around for hours on end.  I think all of this is still possible, I just need to take a careful look at available races, and be willing to drive just a bit further.

Overall, I think this a good problem to have.  I have always said I would rather finish last, run a PR, and have a great race with people than just win small local races (while blowing away the field) all the time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Turek House 5K

Another day, and another 5K.  This race was set to take place at Druid Hill Park at 9AM.  Temperatures were in the mid-40s with a rather cold and stiff wind blowing roughly East to West.  I know Druid Hill Park well and was looking forward to racing there.

In the few days leading up to the race, my hips and back were killing me.  I've blamed it on running my Wednesday tempo run on dead Saucony Fastwitches.  So I retired them a few miles short of 200 and broke out a fresh pair for the race.

This was Back on My Feet's race for November, and I was given the honor of leading warmups and stretching.  Though I love doing it, I have to make sure to get in my own warm up and stretch, just to be sure I'm ready.  A quick 12 minute warmup and some stretching from 8:00-8:20 took care of that.  I spent another 20 minutes warming up the Back on My Feet crew, then ran around and did strides to stay warm before toeing to the line in just shorts and a t-shirt.

After lining up and looking around, I immediately identified 2 people that I recognized and knew would make the race interesting.  I was hoping for a race, and it looks like I got my wish.  After the starting horn, a guy in a yellow shirt quickly jumped out to the lead.  After the first minute or so he had built a decent lead quickly.  However, I could sense in his stride that he was reaching and decided to sit tight and slowly regain the ground.  I did not want a repeat of a race I ran back in August where I stayed 10 strides behind the leader the whole way and never caught him.  If I couldn't slowly bring him back I would surge to catch him by mile 1.5 if needed.  As it turns out, this runner was the same guy I could not catch back in August.

We ran towards Druid Hill Lake to run around it counterclockwise.  I've run that damn loop so many times, so I was glad to do it in a race.  It was really easy to run the tangents despite the many turns.  As we approached mile 1 I started closing in on the leader.  Overall, I knew the pace was faster than 5:20, despite my best efforts to control it early.  I looked at my watch and discovered much to my dismay, that it had not started when I hit it at the beginning.

Rather than flip out, I just said "f--k it, all I need to do is catch this guy, who cares about the pace."  When we passed mile 1 I hit the start button to at least get some feedback on the last two miles.  At this point, the wind was right in our faces, but I continued to gain ground.  I also no longer heard footsteps behind me, so I knew most likely, the race would come down to this moment.  As we made the far turn around the lake I finally caught the leader and ran alongside him for a good couple of minutes.

I could tell he was struggling to hold the pace and as we left the lake and went down a hill; I picked it up just a bit and passed him.  From that point on, I was only concerned with holding pace.  At the time, I didn't know the first mile split (though it ended up being 5:15), so I was just focused on trying to come in under 17.  At mile 2 my watch read 5:30.  Another 5K, another race where I couldn't hold the early pace.

Regardless, we hit the turnaround and I continued to push hard.  The course was mainly flat at this point.  We only had an early uphill, and a slight downhill so far.  As we made the turnaround, the lead vehicle starting instructing runners coming the other way to move to the right.  It got a little hectic.  At one point the SUV had to stop because there were too many runners coming the other way.  I actually caught and almost passed it, but everything cleared up at the last second.

The home stretch included two slight uphills, but they were just enough to kill me.  My third mile was a 5:42 and I ended up crossing the line in 17:03.  I did win the race, though I was disappointed that for the 6th time in a row, I have failed to go sub 17 after doing it back in March.

The wind and the slight hills did not help, but I'm not one for making excuses.  I think my main weakness at this point are hills and holding that tough early pace.  I can train on the hills, and I need to come with speed workouts that will train me to hold 5K pace.  I have some ideas that I can hopefully implement next summer.  I think all the speedwork I did this past summer helped, but perhaps I need to cut the rest between reps or include some "combo" workouts that include running and speed work.  I bet if I run the course that I got my PR again, I'd probably get another one.

In the meantime, I'm sure my 5K time is eventually going to explode through the 17 minute barrier.  Two years ago, I was stuck on 19 and through marathon training, I broke through that.  My 10k-half marathon range continues to be my strong suit, and I continue to be frustrated by the fact that I can sometimes hit 5:40s in those races but yet barely run that in the last mile of a 5K.  However, the same was true when I was stuck at 19 minutes.  So I just have to accept that the 5K is no longer my strongest race (which is fine!).

If I want my marathon time to significantly improve, my other race distances by default have to improve also.  I'll continue to take it a day at a time like I always do!

Now it's time to recover for a 10K tomorrow.  I need to wipe out my 1 year old PR.  I have yet to run a 10K this year and am looking forward to it.