Sunday, February 26, 2012

10 Mile Club Challenge Race Report

I've gotta get this up quickly, since there are celebrations to be had.  This particular race, a tough 10 miler held in Howard County is scored team style with all the various local clubs running against each other.  The past two times I did this race, I ran for the Baltimore Road Runners Club.  Although it was nice to be able to do the race, they had very little chance of ever winning.  My second time running it, last year, when I posted a 56:54, put me a full 2 minutes ahead of the 2nd fastest BRRC runner.  It was at that moment I knew it was time to join one of the faster groups.

So this year, after having run with them since August, I ran the race for Falls Road Racing, a group who is always in contention for top honors.  This year they really brought their A team with a very strong showing on all fronts.  I was hoping to just score for the men, and put up a respectable time.

This race is notorious for inaccurate mile markers.  In fact, I've decided that I won't take mile splits next year because the information is next to worthless anyway.  So, I'm only going to save my 5-ish mile split and my final split, just to get an idea of the two halves of the race.

On an ideal day with the right combo of tempo work and hills, I could have probably run somewhere in the 55-56 range.  I had that in mind, but knew full well that I'd take whatever I could get.  Unlike last year, my mileage is lower, and I have done fewer workouts/races leading up to this day.  All of that is in an effort to peak later to coincide with my actual goal race.  Generally, I end up peaking about a month early and then fizzle out towards the end of the season.

So with that said, I ended up with a 57:26, good for 17th overall and by my count, the 11th scorer for the Men's team (first 12 score).

After a very crowded start in which I cut more than a few people off, the pack quickly thinned out and by about mile 3, I was in no man's land.  People were ahead of me, people were behind me, and I was stuck right in the middle.  As the race wore on, I could tell that I was not nearly prepared enough for the hills.  It was taking me way too long to recover back to "normal effort" after cresting each hill, and it was only getting worse.  I decided to just try and hold on as best as I could.  My 5 mile split ended up being 28:17.

Over the second half of the race, I would get passed by a few people, but all of them (thankfully) were fellow Falls Road runners.  The first guy to pass me, Seth, did so somewhere after mile 5.  I stuck with him for a little bit but couldn't keep up.  As we continued on past mile 7, the course started to flatten out but the wind would prove troublesome.  Two more guys caught me, Brennan and Chris.  After Chris passed me, the three of us were separated by a few strides a piece, with Seth and a Howard County runner (the team most likely to beat us) off in the distance.

I finally started to feel a little better with most of the hills behind us, so I decided that I should be running with these guys rather than behind them.  So I picked it up (it helped that I could hear people who may not have been Falls Road behind me) as best I could.  I caught up to Chris, who matched my pace, and we both caught up to Brennan.

From that point on we stuck together for the last 1.5ish miles.  That Howard County runner in the distance proved to be a good carrot, as I made it my mission to give whatever I had left to close the gap.  As we neared the finish, our pace quickened but it was clear we didn't have enough ground left to catch the other runner.

In the end, Chris passed me, and I finished right behind him with the 57:26.

I tried to be disappointed after crossing the line.  But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake the feeling of being "content."  So I just accepted it.  I may have been about 30 seconds slower than last year, and close to 2 minutes slower than what I was probably capable of.  However, I still gave it a strong effort and was able to close strong on the flatter ending of the race.

At this time last year, I was putting in a tempo or speed workout plus hill repeats nearly every week.  I also ran 5 races leading up to Club Challenge, and put in much higher mileage.  I also got hurt...

This year, I've done 2 races in the time leading up, and really only started a second formal workout last week.  I'm sure after a few more weeks of hills, I'll be able to handle them better.  I've got a chance to find out in mid March at the National Half Marathon, and of course, at the ultimate prize (which is the entire focus of my running existence right now)...Boston.

So with that said, I'll chalk today up to a slightly off day, but a good solid start to my "spring" racing season.

It was also great to see my various running friends out there, as the race always brings everyone out, even Mark all the way from North Carolina.  Check out his blog if you don't already!

And finally, it helps that I was part of the most successful showing of Falls Road ever with a clean sweep of all awards:
-Male Overall
-Female Overall
-Coed Team Winners
-Male Team Winners
-Female Team Winners

Sunday, February 19, 2012

2/13-2/19 One Year Ago...

It will be exactly one year ago tomorrow that I finished up a 20 miler and thought to myself "Wow, the inside of both my legs really hurt."  Within 2.5 weeks I finally succumbed to a stress fracture.  I ran at the time what were the three best races ever, but at significant cost.

Now, things look a lot better.  I may have slightly less mileage under my legs for the start of 2012 compared to 2011, but I'm physically and mentally healthy.  Though I have experienced all kinds of pain everywhere as mileage has increased, nothing has lingered or been cause for concern.  I even still check the tibia in both my legs for any pinpoint pain, and nothing has stuck for more than a day.  Everything is holding together!

Mon: 7 miles, easy

Tues: 10 miles, easy

Wed: 12 miles total with 4x2 mile (1:20 rest between): Mile splits: 5:38, 5:32, 5:32, 5:31, 5:31, 5:30, 5:28, 5:29.  I felt better during this workout than I did the previous week, despite having run more miles in the days leading up.  Doing it on a track with faster people who were running that pace continuously (jumping back on when they came through the start) really helped too.

Thurs: 7 miles, easy/moderate

Fri: AM: 4 miles, easy
       PM: 9 miles, easy/moderate

Sat: 10 miles total with hill repeats on what in my mind is now the infamous "Gun rd;" a random road about 20 minutes from my apartment that makes you suffer.  4 repeats total at 6:11; 6:09; 6:13; 6:22.  That last one was tough...The hill has a steep initial ascent, flattens for a little, then has two much shorter ascents before hitting a good downhill.  In total, it's about a mile and serves as decent training for Boston since you can get a couple of very short downhill sections at speed.

Sun: 19 miles, NCR Trail progression style.  I was originally just going to make this a "chill" long run, but after a couple of miles, realized I felt pretty good, so I picked it up...
7:41, 7:01, 6:50, 6:55, 6:45, 6:48, 6:45, 6:36, 6:41, 6:34, 6:33, 6:34, 6:26, 6:20, 6:19, 6:12, 6:11, 6:12, 6:04...2:05:26 total, 6:36/mile average.

I didn't feel too spent at the end of the run, though I was certainly glad I didn't have to run anymore!

Total mileage: 78

Upcoming: A 55 mile week, and the Club Challenge 10 Miler.  It's been over a month since my last race, and close to 2 since I've done any race of consequence.  I'm certainly looking forward to this one!  My focus this week will just to let myself recover and catch up with the work I've put in over the last two, then try and kick some ass on Sunday.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2/5-2/12, Most Weekly Miles in a Long Time

The number 70 seems like quite an arbitrary number, but either physically or mentally (maybe both), things start to change once I surpass 70 miles in a week.  Looking through all of 2011, post injury, I hit 70+ miles twice.  Pre-injury, I had 7 consecutive weeks exceeding 70 (and in many cases 80) miles per week.  Leading up to what still stands as my best marathon, the 2010 NCR Trail marathon, I surpassed 70 miles in 9 weeks (somewhat spread out) leading up to the race.

Though the sample size isn't exactly massive, it would appear that more miles = better chance of running a strong marathon.  With how weak and dead I felt going into my 2011 marathons, clearly I was doing something right in 2010 and not 2011.  Though even through 2010 looking back on the few weeks leading up to that marathon, I was very lucky to get out alive as I still vividly remember teetering on the edge of blowing up physically and mentally.  High risk, high reward certainly pays off when the stars align.  But as I have learned, the consequences of pushing right up to your limits all the time far outweigh the benefits.  10 miles per week less on carefully built mileage is infinitely more desirable than missing 4 months (nearly 2 with no running, and 2 with significantly reduced running) just to run 15-20 miles per week more than you can really handle.  It also turns out that the magic of 70 gets transferred to 60 or less if I try to ride a bike on top of all of that.

So what does all my rambling mean?

I need multiple weeks exceeding 70 miles to truly be ready for a marathon.  However, it is almost impossible to run 70+mpw at the level I want to while also riding a bike.  Furthermore, my body can and will go into significant recovery debt if I constantly push week after week on 70+ miles.  Finally, the paces I run are the paces I run.  If I ran my easy runs a little easier, perhaps the magic number would shift higher, but well, I just don't.  Sometimes easy runs are in the 7s, sometimes they don't end up being so easy and end up in the 6s.  Sometimes I'm really stupid and run sub 6 on "easy" days.  As long as I avoid the last one, that is really the best I can do!

So with that, here is my first 70+ mile week in a long time (to be followed with one more before jumping back to 55), which I got to by starting with a 33 mile post marathon week on 12/2/2011 and culminating with 77 miles 9 weeks later:

Monday 2/5: 7 miles, easy-ish, felt somewhat tired from my 15 mile trail run through mud (but would still do it again)
Tuesday 2/6: 12 miles total with 8 miles worth of tempo (on the track, because I am crazy) work as summarized below:
4 miles on: 5:38, 5:38, 5:29, 5:28
1 lap jog
2 miles on: 5:29, 5:32
1 lap jog
1 mile on: 5:29
1 lap jog
1 mile on: 5:28

By nature of the format, I wanted to pick it up a bit as I went on.  The 4 miler was a bit too fast, and my legs were still dead from the past weekend.  But, I wasn't disappointed.  I still ran faster than I would have on a straight 8 mile tempo.  I also got to work hard on tired legs which never happened leading up to my 2011 fall marathon debacle.  Holding on even with uncooperative legs is the key!  Not having runs on tired legs all the time though, means staying healthy.

Wednesday 2/7: 10 miles total, ran downtown, joined the Wednesday night group out of Canton, ran back.  My legs were still quite displeased with me, though as the run went on, they slowly started feeling better.

Thursday 2/8: 7 miles, still felt meh, but better than Wednesday.  I made extra sure to keep this one on the easy end.

Friday 2/9: AM: 3 miles easy with the Back on My Feet crew
                   PM: 7 miles easy-ish, finally started feeling something resembling good again

Saturday 2/10: 18 miles total on the NCR Trail.  It was a bit snowy, but there was no wind and the 35 degree temperatures were perfect for a long run.  Shorts, t-shirt, and gloves all the way!  I crushed this run and felt really strong the entire way.  It ended up being a slightly up-tempo long run:
7:15; 6:44; 6:44; 6:44; 6:42; 6:39; 6:39; 6:37; 6:36; 6:39; 6:31; 6:35; 6:41; 6:30; 6:30; 6;26; 6:31; 6:16, just under 2 hours overall for a 6:38 average.

Legs felt decent afterwards, just slightly stiff but the feeling went away a few hours later.

Sunday 2/11: The rather calm and peaceful Saturday gave way to freaking cold temperatures (20s) and nasty winds.  I drove down to Howard County to get a workout in with TWSS on the Club Challenge course.  The workout...

4 miles easy, followed by a farlek with timed intervals: 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1 minutes with identical rest, a little recovery, then 3 miles tempo pace.  By the end, we had run the whole course, and all the wonderful hills.  With some warm up and cool down, I ended up with about 13 total.

Unfortunately, the run sucked, though not because of my legs; the cold and the wind really did a number.  It was really hard to breathe (even on the easy section), and the wind made things even more difficult.  But no matter, I survived and still got the work in.  Now lets just hope it's warmer come race day, because this mild winter has made me incredibly weak in sub 30 degree temperatures!

Total miles for the week: 77

This coming week, roughly the same mileage.  No 80+ yet.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More Warm Weather (1/23-2/4)

In roughly one more month, it is actually supposed to get warmer.  Even if February turns out rather cold, overall I've been quite pleased with the mild winter.  Here's to hoping it won't be 100 degrees everyday in the summer....

1/23 Monday:
PM: 7 miles total, 6 with the Monday night Fed Hill group.

1/24 Tuesday:
PM: 11 miles total with 6 in a progression style quick run (on the Gilman track) at least starting out at half marathon pace...
5:39; 5:32; 5:32; 5:30; 5:30

It still amazes me how much I struggle to put together three consecutive miles under 5:20 in a 5K, but slow it down 10-15 seconds, and I can rail off mid 5:20s to mid 5:40s almost on command.  This problem has existed forever, the miles just keep getting faster.

1/25 Wednesday:
PM: 7 miles from Canton Square, first half easy, second half not so much

1/26 Thursday:
AM: 5 Miles
PM: (cut short) 4 miles

My shins and ankles still seemed upset with me from the previous weekend and rather than make it worse, I canned the afternoon run halfway through.

1/27 Friday:
AM: 4 miles, easy with the Back on My Feet crew
PM: 7 miles, easy/moderate

Legs felt ok.

1/28 Saturday:
AM: 7 miles, easy/moderate

1/29 Sunday:
About 17 miles total in roughly 2 hours.  This was the morning  after some bar hopping, which I haven't done in a long time, but a friend was leaving for Philadelphia for a new job opportunity, so we decided to send her off in style.  10 bars in 10 hours (though not quite 10 drinks because well, I only weigh 142 lbs) made for an interesting long run.  Overall, it was actually pretty good, until the last 20 minutes; I almost puked but managed to hold it together.  I was glad to have the company of TWSS on that one.

Total Miles: 69

That made for three consecutive weeks in the 60s...61, 66, 69.  A nice careful addition of miles with no bike riding has left me rather healthy.  Except for these pesky shins, but keep reading.

1/30 Monday:
PM: 7 miles with the Monday night Fed Hill Group.  It started easy, but as usual, it did not end easy.  Good run though.

1/31 Tuesday:
PM: 9 miles total. On yet another crazy warm night in the 60s, I got in a pretty cool workout (thanks to the creativity of others).  It was termed a "broken 1600" workout, for good reason.

Rep 1: 1 mile....5:22
1 lap jog
Rep 2: 1200 meters...3:53
short rest
Rep 3: 400 meters...69
1 lap jog
Rep 4: 800 meters...2:30
short rest
Rep 5: 800 meters...2:25
1 lap jog
Final...4x400 meters with short rest between each lap: 72, 67, 67, 65

I had done a lot of sustained hard runs the past few Tuesdays, so it was good to mix it up with some speed.  That last 4x400 was a great way to work on that finishing kick.

My shins were actually quite displeased with this run (but don't worry it gets better).

2/1 Wednesday:
7 miles, easy from Canton Square

Shins and ankles were meh.

2/2 Thursday:
By now I'm finally thinking, if I can't get this pain to go away which has been coming and going for the last 2 weeks, I'll take some time off.  However, I had a very sneaking suspicion that my shoe laces were to blame.  I've occasionally had shin pain when I had running shoes that tended to loosen up in the past.  Though I've never had problems with my ST5s doing that, my latest pair for whatever reason would not stay tight.

I changed to that pair around the same time I ran an icy 16 miles the previous weekend.  So for 2 weeks, I was experiencing shin and ankle pain that I thought was related to that run when in reality, it may have been related to my shoes.  So I tied the shit out of my shoes and went for a not so easy 7 miler with some dude who ran a 58 at Club Challenge last year.  He wasn't running for HCS, so I didn't have to dump him in the harbor...

And as luck would have it, all my issues were in fact caused by shoe laces that were loosening up and/or not tight enough to begin with.  After that run, I had no pain at all.  Kind of stupid in hindsight, but at least I seemingly figured out the problem.

2/3 Friday:
AM: 3 miles easy.  The pace nearly makes it an off day, but I'll still count the miles.  As I learned last year, even really slow miles can contribute to and make overuse injuries worse, so they need to be tracked.

2/4 Saturday:
7 miles easy/moderate.  I actually ran into 3 people I knew.  Go Baltimore runners!  No pain at all again.  Tightly tied shoes = no pain.  Hopefully my next pair will be easier to tie.

I've got about 15 miles on tap for tomorrow to cap off a 55 mile step back week.  Following this one, things are going to ramp up.  I'm going to make my Monday and Wednesday runs longer, around 11 and 10 miles instead of 7 each to get some mid week longer stuff in.  I'll also add a secondary workout on Fridays, some hills to help augment my training, rather than just dropping the hammer whenever I encounter hills on regular runs.  Both Club Challenge and Boston require some dedication to hills.  Mileage will go up into the mid to upper 70s, and I'm still avoiding the bike like the plague to maximize my chances of staying healthy. One step back week during the final week in February will cap this month off, then its time for the races I've been impatiently waiting for:

10 Mile Club Challenge
Shamrock 5K
National Half Marathon
Boston Marathon

I'm gunning to crush Club Challenge and National.  I'll take a PR of even 1 second at the 5K.  As for Boston, well I have yet to determine a goal time but the main goal is to finally run that damn race after first qualifying in November 2009.  I'll worry about a time when I get close to the finish line.