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.

Friday: 3 miles, easy

I felt rather sore, and my hips and back were bothering me during and after the run.  I decided to move my afternoon 10 miler to Sunday afternoon so I could be as fresh as possible for my back-to-back races this weekend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday: Rest; Wednesday: 4 + 10.5 miles (tempo); Thursday: 6 + 13 Miles

A couple of days have gone by without an update, but I'm staying on top of it!

Tuesday: Rest
   I actually wanted to run, so that's a good sign.  For once, I didn't absolutely need the day off.

    AM: 4 miles, easy.  High 30's, aka cold!  My experiment with the Brooks T6 Racers continued.  My feet hurt a bit at the end, but I think it was because they were cold, and not really because of the shoes.  They still felt great to run in.  Overall, I felt good.

    PM: 10.5 miles total, 7.5 miles @ tempo pace: 42:16 overall, 5:38/mile pace.  Low 50s, windy.  This was my last tempo run of this length.  Starting next week I cut back, and not a moment too soon!  Though I felt really good on this run (better than I have in a while), I don't have very many of these efforts left in me for this training cycle.  Splits (~1.5 miles):

8:44; 8:25; 8:10; 8:20; 8:36

   AM: 6 miles, easy/moderate.  High 40s, and steady rain.  Run felt pretty good.

   PM: 13 miles, easy/moderate.  Low 50s, rain.  I got a bit hungry during the run, an issue with running this far after work, but I sucked it up and had a pretty good run overall.  The cool/rainy weather did a number on my legs, and I felt a bit tight and sore afterward, especially my left leg.  Hopefully, this is not the return of the on-again-off-again issues I've been having with it since May.

Monday, November 1, 2010

4 + 10 miles

AM: 4 miles, easy mid 40s for temperature.  My first run in the 6oz Brooks T6 Racers.  I must say, they felt great.  I did 2 strides in them and I felt very smooth.  The shoe reminds me of what my Saucony Fastwitches felt like when I first started using them back in December 2007.  Clearly, they will take some getting used to and I'll need to break them into my routine slowly.  However, I think I may have found a new racing shoe.

PM: 10 miles, easy/moderate pace, 50s.  Felt OK early, by about mile 6.5-7 I felt a lot stronger and finished strong.  My legs are not sore, but I felt a bit sapped of energy.  Honestly, after a 6:36/mile 22 miler on Sunday, I'll take it without complaining.

Tomorrow is a much deserved day off.  Though someday soon, I'll be running 7 days a week.  Until then, I'll cherish these days.