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.