Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feeling Refreshed

It's amazing what a few days off can do.  I needed a slight break if anything, more mentally than physically.  My legs feel fine right now.  In fact, I've become so full of energy that I could barely stand it anymore and had to do something, so I commuted by bike today.  It was substantially more enjoyable on a road bike than the hybrid I used to commute with.  Now if only some of the winter gear I ordered would come in so I don't have to freeze my feet and hands off...

Anyway, that amounts to 12 miles of biking over two ~6 mile rides, not Earth shattering of course, but it didn't make me tired either.  The name of the game is still rest, with no runs tomorrow or Friday.  I'll commute by bike tomorrow though.  Saturday, I am entered in a Jingle All the Way 5K.  I signed up because of two college friends who have very recently gotten into running.  One guy has already run a couple of 5ks and for the other, it will be his first.  It's cool to see some of my non running friends to pick it up!

Being that this will be my first run back, I won't exactly have expectations, but I'm still going to run hard because well, its only a 5K.  It should be a good evaluation of where I'm at.  Following that, I'll actually start running again next week, but easy to moderate miles only, no workouts.

After a relatively quiet December, things will slowly pick up in January, but in an effort to avoid peaking early, I'm delaying my ramp up ever so slightly so I can time it better with the next goal race..Boston (attempt #3 to run it!).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I am Content to Move Forward: NCR Trail Marathon Race Report

When you go all in for a race, sometimes it works out and you run an awesome race (1 minute and 20 second half marathon PR) and other times, you are taught rather harshly that there are risks.  After signing up for the NCR Trail Marathon less than 24 hours before the start, I already knew I was going all in.

I kept my goal the same, which essentially, was to try for a 2:38 on even splits.  In hindsight, I probably should have changed that to "just PR."  Of course, then I would be sitting here regretting holding back!

I couldn't have asked for a better day, high 30s/low 40s at the start, very light winds, partly cloudy skies.  Not only did I run this race last year, but I train on the NCR Trail all the time.  The race is put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club, and I was actually originally a volunteer (someone took my spot), and there were a few local runners doing the race who run around the pace I do.

As soon as the gun went off at the forgiving hour of 9AM (meaning I got to sleep in, and wake up in my own bed), I knew this day was going to be better.  The first 1.5 miles are on roads, rolling hills, mostly down.  I purposely didn't warm up in an effort to go out more controlled.  It worked...

Mile 1: 6:03

I also felt 1000x better than I did last week.  There was a pack of about 5 or 6 of us but eventually, it thinned out to 3; myself, a guy named Keith, and another guy with a Charm City Run singlet.  Mr. CCR took an early lead as Keith and I stuck together and went through mile 2 a bit slow...


Of course, I got impatient.  What I should have done was stay put right where I was and just ease into a quicker pace.  But, I was feeling great and didn't want to fall off pace early.  So I pushed forward ahead of Keith in an effort to catch Mr. CCR, but mainly, to stay on 6's.

Mile 3: 6:09
Mile 4: 5:36 (really?)  I doubt it...
Mile 5: 6:08

Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 I caught and passed the CCR runner.  We ran side by side for a bit, but he didn't stick around, and I was more interested in keeping it at low 6s.  So now I was leading the freaking race, which was kind of shocking.  I even had a lead cyclist (in fact I know him) to yell at people to get out of my way.

The next few miles could only be described as awesome.  I felt invincible and a local runner was leading the local marathon.

Mile 7: 5:59
Mile 8: 6:03
Mile 9: 6:00
Mile 10: 6:09

By about Mile 10, the thought crept into my mind that maybe I had gone out too hard and made a bad judgement on what I was capable of doing.  I tried to keep the thoughts out of mind and just kept pushing forward.  I was drinking water at each stop, and diligently eating my stingers, so hydration-wise, everything was golden.

Mile 11: 6:12
Mile 12: 6:15
Mile 13: 6:29

Notice a pattern?  I started falling off the pace rather dramatically.  It was as if all of a sudden, my energy was sapped.  By the half way point, Keith and CCR caught back up to me.  Our half split was sub-1:20.  We made the turnaround at 13.5 and that's when things began to deteriorate even more quickly.

I lost contact with those two runners, got passed at least one more time, and slowly started to feel more and more tired:

Mile 14: 6:14
Mile 15: 6:38
Mile 16: 6:44

If this were a 20 mile race, I could have gutted out the last 4 miles, but with 10.2 more miles to go, my thoughts went negative in a hurry.  I started doubting myself, doubting the pace I tried to maintain, and actually wondered numerous times how I managed a 6:07 pace in 100% September humidity in a 20 mile race on this same trail.

Those are very, very bad thoughts to have in a marathon.  The downward spiral of despair continued...

Mile 17: 7:04
Mile 18: 7:32

I was completely toast at this point.  For some reason, it took FOREVER for anyone to catch me, but eventually the flood gates opened and I started bleeding positions and time like crazy.  I finally, shamefully, had to walk at Mile 19...


To say I was unhappy would be an understatement.  I already told myself I was finishing the damn race, no way I was going to DNF again.  This was it, I was going to take whatever the final result was and just live with it.  I actually ran mile 20...


But then walked again for part of 21...


Oh yea...12 minute mile....

At this point I was pretty fed up with myself.  Even breaking 3 was looking to be unlikely if I couldn't get myself running.  My legs were ok, though starting and stopping was actually making it worse because they kept tightening more each time I started up again.  I was just completely exhausted.

Mile 22: 8:09

I remember saying to myself "wow even 8 minute miles suck, what the hell is wrong with me."  I guess I finally got tired of feeling sorry for myself and decided to down any stingers I had left with me and just run the rest in without stopping (at least that's what I told myself).  I started walking again and started eating.  Just as I was nearly finished eating, I heard familiar footsteps behind me...

I've been dropping first names because it's easier to tell the story, and you can just look up the results and figure out who I'm talking about anyway.  My rule is, I name drop if I actually know the person..

Anyway, another local runner by the name of Jackie caught up to me.  She had just run the Philly Marathon last week in a 3:07-ish and was running the second half of the two person marathon relay.  We've done some running together in the past.  Without asking what was wrong, she yelled at me to follow her in.  My first thoughts were "hell no."  She looked back as she passed and asked again...

I didn't have much time to think, I was either going to have to turn it back on now, or keep wallowing in my own self-pity.  So at what was probably my last chance, I started running again and tracked her down just in time.  We were running sub-7 pace, and it was not very comfortable...

Mile 23: 7:51 (with some walking before I was beckoned to run again).

I'm not really sure who was pulling who along, but one thing was certain, I wasn't going to drop back now.  We hit mile 24 in 6:50 and then turned off the trail back to the roads.  3 hills, and a dusty road stood in our way.

Mile 25: 6:43

25 included a nice little hill, but we powered over that and kept going.  Mile 26 would prove quite tough, but I didn't stop and knew I would at least be able to finish with some dignity.

Mile 26: 7:38?  I think it was a bit long, we didn't slow very much

Final time: 3:01:57.  Jackie crossed one second behind me.

Up front, Keith ended up second with a 2:41.  The win went to a runner from New York who came from behind to break 2:40 and run a 2:39.  From what Keith told me, he was dropping some fast miles after passing me, but this other dude just passed him like he was standing still.  Apparently Mr. New York opted for the negative split strategy while I opted for all out from the beginning.

Was this the result I wanted?  Of course not...

Am I disappointed?  Not as much as I thought.  Once I finished, I was still content.  I had given it my all, ended up going out too hard, and paid for it.

Had this race been earlier in the fall, or if I had had a slightly better October/November perhaps I could have held that pace.  I'm thinking 6:10s-6:15s would have been perfect for this race.  That would have meant a PR, but not sub-2:40.  The marathon seems to require rather precise pacing.  About 10 seconds per mile too fast will burn you out in a hurry.

Ultimately, it's time to close this chapter of training and move on.  I've got solid ideas for the next few months and will get that all down on paper soon.  In the meantime I'm taking a few days off because I think I need a mental break at this point.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Here We Go Again!

The funny thing about running/cycling/training/racing is if you want to keep getting better, you can never be satisfied.  As soon as you become satisfied, there is no longer any motivation to go out there for yet another training cycle.  So, we always keep moving towards an unattainable state where we are as fast as we wish to be.

Despite having an overall successful year in which the positives significantly outweighed the negatives, I could not just sit by looking at this PR:

Full Marathon: 2:44:53 (11/10)

Everything else has an 11 in the year.  I figured I'd rather try again and potentially crash and burn, than to never try at all and sit back wondering, and wondering until I ran my next marathon.  Well, life is too short, the peak of your athletic life is even shorter, and I hate wondering what if!

So, after running a hilly (much hillier than the part of Philly I did) 9.5 miles at 6:00/mile pace or better, and feeling strong instead of like death, I've decided to sign up for the NCR Trail Marathon, last minute at packet pick up tomorrow.  This course holds my current PR, and the NCR trail is where I do a lot of my long runs.  I'm familiar with it, I consider it my home course, and it's in my comfort zone.  The weather looks to be awesome, and I feel good again.  The plan will remain the same as it was for Philly.  I also know two other local runners who will be running around the same pace as me, so we should be able to help each other out.  The three of us comprised most of the lead pack at the 20 miler on this same trail back in September.  A bit of deja vu will be in the air...

By dropping out on Sunday, I at least left open the possibility of trying again since I didn't spend my all out marathon effort.  In fact, my legs never felt like I ran a race since 10-12 miles at marathon pace is certainly not a drop dead effort.  Though this time, no matter what happens, this will be my final attempt at actually completing a marathon as a racer this year.  After this, I will start focusing on what is to come in the future.

I'm still somewhat stuffed up in my nose/head/ears, but it is dissipating, and it didn't affect my run today.  My sore throat went away as of yesterday, and that general feeling of awfulness is gone.  I've run with head colds and such before, so I'm really not concerned.  It was that feeling of awfulness that I wanted gone.  I'm a pro with snot rockets anyway...

It's rare to get a second chance as good as this.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The answer to question 2?

It has become rather apparent that I am sick with something.  After an easy 3 today, I felt surprisingly bad during and after the run.  Tonight, my throat feels somewhat scratchy.

I'll take a day off and see how Wednesday goes.

I may yet actually have another chance to run a marathon this weekend, but only if I'm healthy.  The race, the NCR Trail marathon (not really a "trail"), is home to my current PR and takes place this Saturday.  Online registration is closed, but they are still taking walkups at packet pickup on Friday.  Pretty much everyone I know is telling me I should do it.

If, by Friday I feel better, and by better I mean I'm able to run without feeling like a train wreck, then I'll take a second shot.

I feel like I've been stuck in a loop of bad luck since October...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What happened?

If I (or you) could answer that question, it would make me feel a lot better...

The bottom line, I ended up dropping out of the race just short of mile 13.  I'm not really sure what happened to me between Thursday night and Sunday morning, but things went downhill in a hurry.  I crushed my Thursday afternoon run and thought I was all ready to go.

Friday rolled around and I may not have felt quite as good, but only now in hindsight do I realize it was a sign of things to come.  By Friday night I felt what could only be described as "off."  I didn't feel sick, but something in the back of my mind kept saying something was wrong.

Saturday morning rolled around and I got in an easy 7.  It felt harder than it should have, and I didn't have nearly the appetite I expected the whole day.  I figured it was just nerves, but once again, something still felt "off."  On my way up to Philly (around 2pm), I felt really, really tired most of the way up.  I didn't think much of it, because driving makes me tired, but even after a nap, I still felt kind of crappy.

In the expo, I continued to feel worse, and finally by the time I sat down for dinner with a few friends, started to worry about how bad I felt.  I had what I considered a rather light breakfast and lunch, but yet still wasn't all that hungry come dinnertime.  I ate what I could, then eventually settled down to sleep.  I was extremely tired for having only run 7 miles a little bit after waking up.

Race morning rolls around, and for the most part, I thought I would be ok.  I didn't feel nearly as crappy as I did Saturday night, and figured I'd be good to go.  After a very short warmup and some stretching, I found my way to the front of corral 2 10 minutes before the start.

After a minor delay, they sent off the wheel chair division, then had corral 1 and eventually corral 2 move up to the start.  I was real close to the front, just where I wanted to be.  The gun went off and we started...

I immediately felt off, but wasn't too alarmed.  In general, I've been known to take a few miles to settle in, and feelings of strength/weakness come and go, especially in long races.  So I just sat back and waited, expecting to eventually feel better.

Mile 1: 5:48

A bit fast, but aerobically, it felt alright.  I pretty much felt like shit at this point and was sweating an awful lot considering it wasn't even 50 degrees.  There was a breeze that would come and go, and it made me feel even more uncomfortable.  But no matter, I kept going...

Mile 2: 6:02
Mile 3: 6:02

My pacing started to fall in line.  I sort of had people to run with, but everyone seemed really antsy and would either pick it up or drop back instead of maintaining a pack.  My  name was printed on my bib (which I don't remember asking for), so I got a lot of cheers.  It actually started to get annoying in a hurry...

I was doing my best to get water down, but I didn't even think of reaching for my stingers for fear I would get sick.  I was already boarderline feeling sick as it was.

Mile 4; 6:08
Mile 5: 6:01
Mile 6: 6:07
Mile 7: 5:59

These miles were mostly flat, and I knew a slightly hilly section was coming up.  I continued to feel worse.  I never really got excessively sick, but I felt somewhat light headed, knew I must have looked pale and still felt really, really off.  I've had some rough marathon paced runs before, but this was getting ridiculous.

Mile 8: 6:13
Mile 9: 6:15
Mile 10: 6:18

These next 3 miles were somewhat hilly, a bit more than I expected.  I gave back some time, but it wasn't just the hills working against me.  It was getting really hard to focus on anything but how shitty I felt.  By now, 10 miles into a run, I had to start feeling better, but yet nothing was improving.  My 10 mile split was 1:00:51; I should have been at a 1:00:20 for a 1:19 half, so I was still in the ball park.

As we hit a steep downhill, my abdomen right along my large intestine started cramping, pretty badly.  It started to dissipate by mile 11, but I already had it at that point.  I couldn't possibly fathom running anymore and I wasn't having anything resembling the least bit of fun.  The course at this point was looping back to the start so I knew if I was going to drop, it would have to be now.  If I decided to go on and really got myself into trouble, I'd be out in the middle of Philly with no way to get back to the start.

As I approached the start area, part of me wanted to go on.  But my split times were telling me that anything resembling a race was over.  I was also getting passed like crazy...

Mile 11: 6:23
Mile 12: 6:57

I decided not to go across the half marathon finish line, but opted to continue on the marathon course to try and find my parents, who had all my stuff.  I knew within a few minutes of stopping I would need warmer clothes than the shorts and singlet I was wearing.

Somewhere before Mile 13, I had it and ducked off the course at a gap in the barriers where there weren't many people around.  Thankfully, my parents were actually nearby and walked over.

Even with my sweats on (which was enough to keep me warm prerace), I was freezing.  We drove back to our hotel, and I slept the whole way in the car.  I slept more in the hotel, and was still really cold.

After I should have finished, I woke up and ate something, feeling just a little better.  I finally ended up driving back to Baltimore, only to get tired again on the way down and sleep more.  I probably slept for a good 1.5 to 2 hours total after what was essentially a 13 mile run.

As I write this now, I'm kind of hungry, and finally not tired.

The questions that remain after today:

-->Why did this happen?

-->What do I do now?

I don't know that I will be able to come up with an answer for the first one.  As for the second one, I'll post about that tomorrow.  But at this point, I'm leaning towards cutting my loses, focusing on what I accomplished this year (major mile, 5K, 10k, 10 mile, and half marathon PRs), and just getting ready for the next one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Philly Plan

At long last...too long I've arrived at the final moments before stepping up to the start line of a marathon with intent to run my heart out!

I've felt really good this week and have been keeping it mostly easy just to get as fresh as possible.  Wednesday was an easy 4, today was a mostly easy 7, though I did let it fly a little; it can be hard to hold back now.

But, enough of training talk, its time for some race talk.  I don't generally over think racing since at its core, the concept is an easy and simple one.  Therefore, my plans going into races are easy, simple, and just vague enough that I can adjust to ever changing variables.

As of now the forecast is calling for around 41 degrees at the start, a 6 degree drop from earlier.  It will probably change again, but the bottom line is, 40s.  That is more than warm enough for my new singlet, and shorts which are now battle tested through a 14 mile run, more than enough to find out about any issues.  I'm leaning towards taking gloves to wear the whole race, especially after my hands froze solid last year.  Even if it breaks 50, I'd rather have toasty hands than cold ones.

I'm done with sports beans and am switching to stingers.  They go down easier and aren't subject to choking or freezing.  Of course, I may still get sick on them, but that remains to be seen since I can't keep anything down.  I'll take one bag with me and try and at least get through it by the 13-16 mile point.

I'm starting in corral 2, having missed the cut off for corral 1 by about 4 minutes.  The time I want to run is most likely the pace those guys in the back of 1 will be running, so I'm putting myself at the very, very front of corral 2.  I started a bit too far back in R&R Philly in September and won't make that mistake again.

The course falls into my general category of "time trial" and not "strategic."  Therefore, I have no special pace strategy, just pedal to the floor the entire time.  There are some bumps, but nothing I would call a hill.  My goal for the first half of the race is a 1:19.  That works out to roughly a 6:02 pace.  I'll be shooting for 6's, just because its an even number.  More specifically, between 5:55-6:05.  5:50-6:10 is fine too, it won't make me freak out, though I want to avoid approaching 5:50.  5:49 and under is the danger zone, I won't last at that pace so any splits like that will force me to back off.

After that 1:19ish, it will just be a matter of holding on.  I'm fully confident that getting to the half in 1:19 will be straightforward.  For me, its miles 16-22 that will determine the race.  All my marathons have either been made or broken over those miles.  That is where I'll need to focus and if I'm still alive after mile 22, I'll throw down everything I have left to hold on.

With a 1:19, I can still come through in nearly a 1:21 second half and break 2:40.  Upwards of a 1:25 would still give me a PR.  I have no plans to slow; I'm going for my A goal of a 2:38.  This year has had its ups and downs, but all that is behind me and somehow, I've arrived in fall marathon season in damn good shape.  I don't intend to waste it.

I'm certainly very thankful to be getting to this line healthy, but that isn't going to make me conservative, it's time to give this race hell.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 days...

Last week went pretty well overall.  Any and all remnants of my upper left thigh pain are now completely gone.  My left knee has been a bit weird the last two days, but I think that is just pre-race fake pain.  I'm actually pretty excited, relatively confident, and still very mindful of the task that is off in the distance.

My week from last Monday..

AM: 4 miles, easy

AM: 7 miles, easy
PM: 8.5 miles with 9x800 meters at 2:38-2:40 pace with one 2:32 thrown in there.  ~80 seconds rest between most, 1 lap rest every 4th.  I was actually doing this with a group of runners doing a 3 x 3200meter at a pace a bit too fast for me so close to a goal race (and probably too fast normally), so I jumped on the wagon for an 800, rested for one of their laps, then jumped back on.  It was a great workout and I felt really strong.  It was good to get some shorter stuff in for a change of pace.

 AM: 4 miles, easy
 PM: 7 miles, easy


AM: 9 miles total, with a few miles in the 6:40 range...joined a couple people who were doing a tempo paced workout on the track, just offering my company as I have the past few weeks.  Felt very relaxed.

AM: 4 miles easy
PM...was going to run, but had a few beers with a coworker who moved on to another job.  It's taper time anyway, so I didn't mind.

8 miles, marathon pace.  Every mile was between 5:57-6:05 with one quick one at 5:52.  I was surprised by how shitty 3 beers made me feel.  Talk about being a light weight...  Regardless, after 3 or 4 miles, I started to feel better and by the end, it really didn't feel like I even ran.  So my pacing is down pat now.  I can do it in snow, rain, on tight muscles, and with what was apparently a slight hangover.


14 miles total...

2 miles warm up, 2 miles at 5:30 pace, 4 miles easy, 2 miles at some kind of fast pace, 1 mile easy, 1 mile fast, 2 miles cool down.

My watch died in the middle of this workout.  I knew I needed a new battery but was hoping I could get one more workout in!  Not quite though, as it went dead after my 2 @ 5:30 pace.  I felt like absolute crap during the second pickup, which is why I threw in the 1 mile easy.  I think I just ended up running it way too hard without the watch to guide me.  I can guess quick paces on a track pretty well, but on a trail with mile markers, it's a lot tougher.  I still got the run in though, so that's all that matters.

Mileage: 66.5.

I've concluded that I can run mid 60 mile weeks forever.  It seems to be my sustainable sweet spot, though just a tad short of true peak training.

So far in this week...


AM: 4 miles, easy
PM: 6 miles, quick


6.5 miles, with 4x400 meter around 75-80 pace

Things are looking good.  All that's left now is the race.  I'll make one more post regarding my plan (it's real simple), then it will be time to finally get to the start line of a marathon race healthy!!  Being that I was 4 minutes short of being a seeded runner, I have to settle for corral 2 at Philly, but I'll be at the very front of said corral.

5 days...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Runner Rankings?

I was rather shocked to discover that I made the Washington Running Report rankings for the 2011 Summer Season.  It has been a goal of mine for most of the year to get ranked, but I kept coming up just a hair short, having races fall in different seasons, or doing ones out of the acceptable area.

In a nutshell, you have to hit a time standard in two races to even be eligible to be ranked, than you rank is determined by a variety of factors to give you an idea of how you stack up versus the area.  It probably isn't perfect, but it makes for a good competitive goal to shoot for.  It clearly encourages competition and participation in DC-VA-MD races, so it doesn't hurt to strive to be ranked!

Out of 54 open division males, I was ranked 50th.  One of the races they used to rank me may have been a bit short, so I consider myself really just barely getting in.

Hopefully by next year I'll be more solidly entrenched!  No age graded results above 80% yet, just a 79.4%.  One of these days...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 Rockville 10K: Ponytails, Englishmen, and Hills

Today's 10K race ended up being a rather exciting one.  I went in with hopes of winning and breaking 34 minutes, but would of course settle for a PR and a top 5 finish.  Little did I know what I was getting into...

This race starts at the King Farm Village Center in Rockville, MD basically right in the middle of a preplanned cookie cutter development where everything looks the same.  I never want to live somewhere like that...  Temperatures at the start of the race were in the low 40s and there was little wind, making for a perfect morning.

This was my first race trying out some new racing gear I bought, namely a Brooks singlet and the shortest pair of shorts they sell.  I opted for gloves as well, but was lightly dressed.  The clothing worked out awesome as I knew it would because everything I have ever purchased from the Brooks brand has been perfect.  The shorts with the split up the side never got in the way of my stride, and the shirt just sat on my upper body without impeding me at all.  I can see why people race in stuff like this, even if it may make you look ridiculous in a "normal" setting.

The race started at 8:30AM with a rather narrow timing mat and an immediate right turn about 5 seconds into the race.  I got a good jump off the start and darted out first to hit the turn without getting stuck in traffic.  I had only seen one other runner that I knew, a rival of sorts, but no one else looked to be a threat.

As I settled in behind the lead bicycle and motorcycle, I could hear footsteps and realized immediately I would not be leading wire-to-wire.  I really didn't expect to, and races like that are boring anyway.  A runner pulled alongside me whom I have never seen before, but he looked legit so I fell in stride with him.  We went over the first hill, made a U-turn, and started coming back down going through Mile 1 in:


I noticed my foe didn't look at his watch or the digital clock next to the mile marker.  I though that was odd; not everyone always takes splits, but most people at least glance at the clock, especially early.  No matter, we continued on and this guy really started pushing the pace.  I kept matching stride with him, so there was a lot of back and forth and some incidental elbows (I swear incidental!) as we tried to stick to the tangents on the many curves of the course.

We hit mile 2 a little faster, but I was still happy with the overall pace


The second mile was mostly rolling, but I knew the bigger hill in this course was coming up soon.  I also sensed weakness in my foe and remembering this was the spot last year that I took off and blew away the field, I kicked it up just a little bit.  It was harder to drop this guy than I thought, but eventually I pulled away.

The lead cyclist was enjoying the race, he would always hang back to tell us of upcoming turns (as he did last year) and said at least a couple of times "who's going to break away?"  As I approached mile 3, I once again heard footsteps behind me, but they were different.  I was shocked to see it was the local runner I had recognized at the start line.  We both run similar times, but I've had his number lately.  I had assumed this would be a two horse race and that he was out of the picture.  Man was I wrong...

I crossed mile 3 in 5:18.  At that point, I was a bit worried that I had just run a bit too hard, especially considering we were now going up hill, and I have seriously neglected hill training as of late.  The other local runner passed me and that's when I realized I had played right into his hands.  My 3 mile race with the mystery runner who didn't look at his watch ran both of us into the ground.  This other guy who held back the whole time just watched it play out and cruised past us when the moment was right.  He keeps his hair in a ponytail, hence the title of my race report.

I couldn't match him on the ~0.5 mile uphill and lost enough ground that I had to start considering defending second.  I was running scared now, realizing I may have spent too much energy early and that the two or three remaining hills were not going to be pretty.  As we made the U-turn at the top of this hill, the mystery runner was a lot closer than I had hoped, but I figured I could hold him off.

As we continued racing down on the other side of the street, mile 4 came through slow:


I picked it up a bit, trying to get back into gear and realizing I was probably losing ground to 3rd place.  It didn't help.  Eventually, I heard footsteps, then breathing, then I got passed cleanly with no answer.

We continued on a fudge factor out and back portion of the course, then continued uphill as we headed back towards the finish and the merge with the 5k race going on at  the same time.

Mile 5: 5:39

I eventually stopped losing ground and started to pull myself together, but I was running out of time to try and bridge the gap I now had.  To make matters worse, I didn't have the benefit of the police motorcycle to part the sea of slow 5K runners that were now in my way.  The hidden benefits of being the leader..

On this part of the course, there were 5K runners coming towards us, and 5K runners going in the same direction as us after having turned around, all running significantly slower than us.  Cones separated the two lanes.  Unfortunately, about 20 runners turned around just as I was getting to that area.  I was too tired to say anything to get people out of my way (I'd also probably sound like a jerk), so instead I just tunnel visioned on the mystery runner and tried to follow him.

He ended up taking the "oncoming" lane which was really smart.  Running directly at the other runners forced them to see us, and to get out of our way.  We both made it clear we weren't moving or slowing down.  We also kind of stood out with our red bibs, bright colored shoes, and general lack of clothing.

After another uphill, and a right turn, the road widened enough that we could separate ourselves from the 5K-ers.  I started closing the gap, hoping I could get to 2nd place in time, but we crossed mile 6 and there was still too much space.


We made the last hard turn to the finish and crossed, 2nd place less than 10 seconds ahead of me, and a 34:27 overall for myself.

I ran a PR at this race last year, 34:52 and blew away the field.  This year, I PR'ed again (no 10Ks in a year, shameful!), but ended up losing to first by a minute and 30 seconds, to a runner I had been doing well against this year.  It just goes to show how tough racing and running well can be!

It also turns out the mystery runner is from London, and was over here in DC for business.  He found this race and decided to throw his name in.  Wonderful...I got beat by some out of country ringer!!

Though I didn't break 34, faded a bit, didn't do well on the hills, and lost a race to two other runners, I still PR'ed and can't be too disappointed.  I think this race has shown me that the little things are starting to become more important and that I really need to plan my training a bit better if I want to consistently race well.  More on that in the future.  Starting next year, I'll be making some changes to my life in general to make my training as big a priority as I can make it.  In summary, it is going to be a "train more, race less, but make those races count" strategy.  Additionally, I'm going to better balance my volunteering/charity to the local running community.  Though I love giving back, my current running level and my hopes and dreams for the future are making it obvious that I need more time for my own training.  It also doesn't help that I went from just a slightly above average runner to a good local runner.

I had to skip my long run this weekend (which really, really sucks) because my left leg was very unhappy with the 4 hours I spent outside in the freezing cold Saturday morning directing a race (my first time).  I still got 10 in, so it could have been worse.  Overall, I'm not changing my goals for Philly.  And honestly, getting to the start healthy is more important than getting all my miles in.

I just have to avoid standing in the cold for long periods of time, because that seems to do a bigger number on my left leg than running on it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

17 days....

The fact that it has been nearly a year since I've been this close to a goal marathon probably explains my extreme impatience!  This week has been going rather well, and it would appear that so far, whatever was/is wrong with my upper left leg has nearly subsided completely.  Update so far...

Monday: 10 miles total, mostly easy with about 1.5-2 a bit faster.  My Mondays are now definitely Federal Hill Runners night.  I run the 2.25 miles from my apartment to Fed Hill, join up with some other runners, we all lie that we'll run 7 minute pace, start off slow, and then eventually someone pushes the pace.  Afterwards, I run back home, uphill.  Good times...

Tuesday: 9 miles total with 2 miles @ "tempo" pace, ~5 minutes easy, 1 mile @ "tempo" pace, ~4 minutes easy, 2 miles @ "tempo" pace.

I put that in quotes because I'm starting to see a change in my paces.  The first two miles were just under 11 minutes, 5:32, 5:28.  The lone mile was at about 5:15, and the last two was ~10:35 total.  I did most of this run with people faster than me and a few months ago, would have considered this way too fast.  It still felt just a hair too fast, but not earth shattering.  My legs felt fine afterwards and the next day.  Of course the rest was a bit soft, but it does make me think that perhaps I can start pushing just a bit higher when it comes to 2012.

Wednesday: AM: 4 miles, easy...felt great
                     PM: 8 miles, kind of tired and hungry when I started, but by about mile 3 I was in a groove, mostly easy pace

Thursday: AM: 9 miles total.  Once again, I joined a couple other runners finishing off some marathon training with mile repeats on the track.  They started at 7:20 pace and cut down to 6:40 pace with a lap recovery between.  I just had my run go by the track, joined them for some reps, and ran back to my apartment.  Mostly easy miles, with some company.

Despite cooler temperatures, my leg has been largely ok.  My back seems to have been part of the massive issue I've had and it feels loose again too.  Stretching feels really good, and I actually feel more flexible again.  It is very possible that my general lack of stretching for much of September may have played a role in whatever the hell happened to me; don't get lazy!!

I'm looking forward to the weekend.  After helping put on a cross country race Saturday morning, I'll be getting in 22 on the NCR trail, with the last 1/3rd at marathon pace or faster.  Sunday I'll race in the rockville 10K with whatever I have left, last two chances to run on tired legs.  It should help me blow off some steam too, I have a lot of pent up excitement for Nov. 20th right now.

After that, the work will be in the bag, the last two weeks will just have the occasional tougher run to remind myself that running is supposed to hurt.