Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Speed + Endurance - LT Pace = Strange Circumstances!

Things have been quite interesting since the Baltimore 10 Miler.  Last week I got 31 miles in on 5 days of running.  I ended up sacrificing my 12 miler on Saturday to drive up to New York to satisfy my craving for a Duathlon.  I'll give a race report on that soon enough.  There was a 5x800m track workout mixed in there too.  It had been nearly 3 months since I did any speed work, with only 2 5k races mixed in there.  I returned to the same track that "ended" me back in March and proceeded to put up decent splits with 1 lap worth of recovery between each rep:

2:37, 2:37, 2:34, 2:37, 2:37

It may not have been the low 2:30s I was doing on less rest earlier, but it is still pretty strong.

After a couple more days of cycling and running, I participated in a 2 mile track race put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club.  I shocked myself again with a strong evenly paced race, finishing in 10:20 with 5:10 mile splits.  It was a race for sure as I battled 3 other runners, all probably about 4 to 6 years younger than me.  We ran out in a tight pack.  With the 400m track and two turns for every lap, taking the inside can be very important, and makes for interesting pacing decisions.

After the first two laps the top two runners picked up the pace and started to pull away.  The other runner in our group ran after them.  However, he sounded like he was going into cardiac arrest, so I knew he wouldn't last long.  After the 4th lap (there are 8 in this awful race), I knew I needed to focus on laps 5 and 6.  I used to run the 3200m in High School track all the time, and I remember how terrible this part of the race was.

I maintained focus as best I could and passed one of the runners who quickly faded out of the picture.  As we continued around I was slowly closing the gap on the two lead runners.  It was a painstakingly slow process to reel them in, and I really had to strain to keep the pace up.  By lap 6, one of them started to fade and I was able to get around to put myself in 2nd.  All that stood in my way was one last runner.  I kept the jets on and managed to get to his shoulder off the last turn on lap 7.  I ran right behind him through the front stretch and was getting ready to pass him on the back.  However, once we hit the bell (final) lap, he kicked it into another gear that I just did not have.  I was already at what felt like max speed, and he pulled away.  I ended up 3 seconds behind him, but nonetheless, very happy with my performance.  I also felt like I had a little more in the tank at the end, but my legs just would not move any faster.  That rust from the last few months is probably still there!

I may not have my 10k-half marathon racing under control, but this short stuff is still going pretty well!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baltimore 10 Miler...Kick in the Pants that I Needed

My general lack of posting lately coincides quite well with the malaise I have been experiencing for most of June.  I sort of lost my way for a little bit.  It was a combination of a lot of things but ultimately, running took second priority to everything else in my life.  All of a sudden, I missed a lot of runs and my mileage was not going in the direction I wanted.  Instead of cracking 40 mpw, I was lucky to hit 30.  I could blame it on being careful from my injury, but I think my motivation was kind of low too.  The cycling was helping, but I had yet been ready to jump back into running full bore.  Then the Baltimore 10 miler happened.

Back in Feburary, I ran a 56:55 on a tougher course though in better conditions.  Had I avoided injury, I would have been a serious contender for winning this race.  Knowing full well that I was undertrained, I went into this race to see how long I could hang with the leaders and maybe pull off a miracle.  I figured, if worse comes to worse, I'd still be able to hold some kind of pace together and finish in one piece.

The problem with running is that it only gives back what you put in, no matter what times you have run in the past...  I would pay dearly for my hubris going into the race.

It was hot (shocking), and I took a spot up near the front.  Very soon we were off.  By mile 2, I was all but completely dead.  I was trying so hard to keep up with the runner who finished just ahead of me at the 10 Mile Club Challenge back in February.  He had become my next target, and clearly, had not spent the spring being injured.

Splits for the first 2 miles were 5:30 and 5:36.  Yes it was downhill, but it really didn't matter.  I was dying just trying to stay in the vicinity of the leaders and realized I probably just blew the entire race.  Had I gone out at 5:50-6:00 pace, I probably could have broken 1 hour and easily won my age group.  Instead, the rest of the race proceeded to be a steady decline as I hemorrhaged time.

Rest of my splits...6:36, 6:13, 6:21, 6:43, 7:00, 6:15, 7:15, 6:53, for a 6:24 average and a 1:04:25 overall.  That ended up being around a 4 minute positive split which is pure insanity for a 10 miler.  I put on a clinic for how one SHOULD NOT race.  I was 8th near the half way point and ended up an unremarkable 29th, 6th in my age group.  To make matters worse, many of my running friends were out there racing, and many cheered for me, including blogger/runner extraordinaire Jess; most still thought I did well, and a few noticed how "unhappy" I was during the second half.  I am certainly glad for the unwavering support despite my poor showing, and that most of them had much more fun than I did!

Overall, I only ran about a minute slower than I did last year, and as I said, am convinced I could have run substantially better if I didn't bust out of the gate on a mission to kill myself.  Most importantly, something sparked inside me.  That fire that has been missing for a long time caught again and all I could think about was how ridiculous I had become with missing runs.  At that moment, I decided no more.  I've drawn up a plan to get me to 18 weeks from the Philly marathon which includes running with some cycling.  By early August, my mileage will be comparable to what I was doing June-November of 2010, when I was kicking ass without getting injured.  Cycling will fill the time I used to run more that caused my injury in Feburary.

The Philly Marathon will most likely be my next main goal race with the specific goal TBD, though I would love to reattempt sub-2:40.  I'll have a half marathon thrown somewhere in there for a test beforehand.  I'm still planning on a duathlon a month through October to keep things on that front interesting.  Triathlons may be in the future as well.  But for now, I'm just happy to have a plan again!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Start of a new Era, led by a Cannondale SuperSix 5 Road Bike

After skipping my 10K race on Sunday, I went for a 30 mile bike ride on my borrowed road bike.

Monday I ran an easy three miles and did a total of 40 miles of biking, 15 on my hybrid and another 25 on that road bike.  The stress fracture pain seemingly disappeared.

Tuesday was a day off, Wednesday I biked a hard and hilly 15 miles and followed that up with a 5.5 mile hilly run.  Still no pain in the leg.

Friday was an easy 3.

Saturday, I participated in the North Face Endurance Challenge, specifically the trail marathon relay event.  We had a rather stacked team of 4 runners, each of which had to run a ~6.4 mile trail loop.  The course was flat and not all that difficult, I've done significantly harder trail races.  I won't give a full blown race report because there is not much to report.  We decided to send our fastest runner (me) out first to try and build a massive lead, figuring it would be hard to pass people at the end of the race with the narrow trails.  I completely blow the field out of the water by nearly 3 minutes, crossing the line in 35:11, for a smooth sub-6 minute pace.  I ran somewhat conservatively early since I did not know what to expect on the course, so I felt pretty strong at the end.  Despite the huge lead, we ended up finishing 3rd.  My time was the 2nd fastest on the day.  The best news of all, no pain in the leg.

While all this running was going on, I made the decision to officially pick up cycling as a second sport.  Up until this point, I had bought a hybrid bike only to cross train and try and maintain my running while on the come back.  After borrowing a Trek 1.2 road bike, my thoughts immediately went to picking up the sport for real.  I have always wanted to get into cycling, but never really saw the need when my running was going so well.  The seed got planted though, thanks to my injury and some very convincing friends.

So I decided to make an investment.  Cycling is extremely expensive to get into, but comparative to running in terms of ongoing cost after the initial investment.  I want to start with duathlons, and had no interest in buying some junk entry level bike that was going to put me at a huge disadvantage.  I wanted something on par with my general athletic abilities.  So, I took the plunge and purchased a Cannondale SuperSix 5 105 Road Bike with Speedplay Zero pedals.  It has a full carbon fiber frame, fork, and seat post, with shimano 105 components, and shimano RS 10 wheels.  That sucker can fly with me as the engine.  Now all I have to do is turbo charge it by training!

Sunday I took it out for 27 miles, then ran 6 afterward.

Monday I ran an easy 3, then took the SuperSix for another 40 miles.

I can really feel the momentum again, hopefully this time for good.  I'm also excited about throwing cycling and duathlons into the mix.  I can really use another challenge, since these days, it's getting harder to get good competition at races unless I do the real big ones.

Here is the bike.  Since taking this picture, I've added a wireless cycling computer to track cadence, speed, distance, and time.  I also added a seat bag and a double water bottle holder under the seat.  I've gone as fast as 38mph, and could have hit 40 had I not been approaching an intersection that I had to slow down for.

I averaged roughly 18 mph on my first ride while still getting used to the gearing.  On the longer ride, I took it a bit easier and averaged 16.5.

I'll try and take it for a "harder" ride sometime this week.