Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Lost Week?

Going into the National Half marathon last week, I ran 3 days and took 2 off to try and give myself some rest.  After running the race, I managed around 47 miles total.  Certainly not high, but not too low either, ok for an easy week.

Then the next week hit.  I had planned to take a couple more days off to clear my head from a less than stellar race when I got hit hard on Tuesday afternoon with nausea and a fever.  Anyone who knows me well knows I don't get sick, ever.  In fact, the last time I had a fever was in 2003 and since I graduated college in 2008, had never called in sick to work.

My streak ended as I couldn't be bothered to work Wednesday.  My fever didn't last very long, but the nausea and extreme lack of appetite persisted.  By Thursday, I was back at work, though still not 100%.  By Saturday morning, I could still count on one hand the number of meals I had eaten since Wednesday.  All the while, running has been quite out of the question.

Now, on Sunday, I'm hoping that things might finally be getting back to normal.  Saturday afternoon (and today) are the first two times I've actually felt hungry in almost a week, though I still fill up way too fast.  One more obstacle remains to running again, that being my bowels.  I'll spare details, but lets just say that I'm losing a lot of water in ways I should not be.  No dehydration though, not yet anyway!

I'm hoping by Wednesday at the latest, I'll be 100% again.  In such a scenario, that would be 10 days without running.  But, it may not be so bad.  My right lower leg was feeling tender (all too similar to what happened last year, though 1000x times less painful), and now feels fine.  I'm also pretty anxious to get going again (also a good sign).

Getting this in the mail has also cheered me up a bit:

Bib #: 609.  Not quite as cool as the #444 I didn't use last year, but I'll take a less unique number and a chance to actually run the race!

I have no idea how this will or will not change my pace at Boston.  I'll have to see how I feel when I actually start running again.  Regardless, I'm willing to run whatever pace I'll be in shape for.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The race that wasn't: National Half Marathon

Over these past few months, I seem to be experiencing a new phenomenon, where I start out feeling great in a race and then, at some point between 25%-50% completion, the wheels fall off and my pace goes right into the toilette.  This time, it was a bit after 4 miles into the National half.  Things were going well, I didn't go out too fast, and was on the whole, feeling pretty damn good.

5:53, 5:43, 11:25 over miles 3 and 4 for an average of about 5:43.  I felt strong, I could actually see the lead vehicle, and I had the entire road nearly to myself.  It was awesome to be that far up in a race this big (27 corrals).  Then we made a turn around and a left up a light and manageable hill.  Then I never saw 5:4X again.  I fell to pieces and pretty much just cruised in, my body wanting nothing to do with going hard.  I finished in an extremely pedestrian 1:22:17, my slowest half in over 2 years.  Heck, I've run near that time on regular runs.

This reminded me much of the NCR trail marathon where I felt invincible for 10-12 miles and then in a split second, everything went straight to hell.  What's even more frustrating is that on the whole, I've been running well as of late, but just fell flat on a day when it mattered.

So naturally, I want to try and figure out just what's going on.  On the whole, racing has been ok since I ran that 1:14:44 half in Philly in September.  Everything has been quite hit or miss, with 2 good races, some meh races, and a few bombs.  I think in general, it is just getting a lot harder to both stay where I am/get better.  I'm sure I'm a lot closer to my limits than I have been the last 13 years I've been running.  Although it doesn't mean I can't get better, I think it means I need to take better care of myself to keep getting better.

Things like sleep and eating well (or at least better...definitely not less!) may just be more important than they used to be.  I've let both of those get away from me and it shows because I feel really tired way too often these days.  It's a pretty vicious cycle really:

1. Go to bed too late.  2. Sleep in as late as possible before work to maximize sleep (7 hours is an accomplishment).  3.  Rush off to work, rarely having breakfast at the time sine it takes a little bit for my appetite to kick in.  4.  Get really hungry at work or on the way and eat whatever is available just to be full enough (rarely anything healthy).  5. Finally, by lunchtime, eat something I cooked that was designed to fill me up and be relatively healthy (I'm actually good at that). 6. crash by the afternoon and take a nap before running. 7. Run  8. Have a 50/50 shot of eating something healthy for dinner. 9. go to sleep too late  10. start over the next day!

Clearly, this is not working.  It all starts (for me anyway) going to sleep on time such that 8 hours from the time I hit the pillow, I need to wake up.  It doesn't mean I'm asleep for 8 hours, but that formula works, because the handful of times I get a week or two like that, I feel much, much better.

I also need time to actually eat a reasonable breakfast, and go back to avoiding buying all that food that I know is bad for me, mainly because it's all I'll eat, to the point of avoiding fruits and vegetables (even though I actually do like them).

And what's the cause of all this?'s just laziness.  I get distracted too easily and stay up too late.  Once that happens, everything crashes down around me as I get too tired when I'm free to actually do much.  Clearly, it didn't matter much in 2010 and early 2011 since I've more or less operated this way for a while.  But now, for whatever reason, it seems to matter more.

Thankfully, I care about my running that much to finally start changing my habits.  If I have to be healthier all around to run faster, than so be it.

It starts Sunday night!  The first step is to just get more sleep, and get up early enough to start the day the way I know I need to.  My next round of groceries are going to be slightly more thought out in terms of buying the right kind of fuel...

Monday, March 12, 2012

3/5-3/12: Catching Fire Now

If I was a little off for Club Challenge, I'm certainly on now.  This was my biggest week in over a year and I largely handled it well.  The underlying slight soreness that accompanies a lot of running was still there, but it was very manageable.

Monday: 11 miles total, to and from Fed Hill along with the usual Monday night run.  It was mostly easy, until we neared the end.  Felt reasonable.

Tuesday: 9.5 miles total with 5x 800...400.  Rather than do something in the tempo/longer range, I opted for a second week of faster stuff so my legs would remember what you are supposed to do in a 5K.  Overall, it went well:
2:33...68; 2:30...69; 2:28...69; 2:27...69; 2:27...66

The first 800 was slow, but it was tough to get a feel for it at first.

Wednesday: 15 miles total, mostly easy, a good chunk with the Wednesday night crew.  At one point, there were three prospective Boston runners running together through Canton, wondering what bib numbers we would get and how competitive the field would be with the new rolling registration.  Such running nerds...

Thursday AM: 7 miles, easy.  I felt somewhat dehydrated after the Wednesday run, and it continued into this run.  My electrolytes must have been out of whack, because my body didn't want to have anything to do with water.  After putting salt on everything I ate that day and actually drinking gatorade (rarity), I felt much better for the afternoon run.

                 PM: 7 miles, moderate-ish; the usual Thursday night run with Dave.  He may be in his 40s, but he is quick.

Friday: AM: 4 miles, real easy with the BoMF crew
             PM: 7 miles, easy

Saturday: 22 miles at 6:50 average.  I kept this one under control, with my fastest mile being a 6:35 and running a 2:30:15 overall.  I wanted to save it for the race the next day, and actually get a long run in that was near the time I expect to be on my feet at Boston.  Now when I see 2:30 on my watch in the race, it should be easier to pull out only another 10 minutes or so

Sunday: 12 miles total with the Shamrock 5K.  I actually ended up doing a bit more than I had planned, but it was fun to cool down through the city with some of the Falls Road and GRC guys that had just torn up the race.

Total: 94.5 miles

Now for this week, I'm taking it easy on the volume, dialing it down to the mid to high 60s.  I know I can use the break, and I'm hoping it will freshen my legs up for the "National" Half Marathon this weekend.  I'm not yet ready to try for a PR attempt, but hopefully my legs will be more cooperative come race morning.

Closing in!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shamrock 5K, THE 5k of 5k's: Race Report

In Baltimore, when March rolls around and Daylight Saving Time starts, every runner knows it's time to blaze through the streets on the fastest 5K course around.  My goal for this race was pretty simple, just PR.  Since most of my workouts are focused on the marathon, and I kept this week a big one (90+ miles), I knew my legs wouldn't exactly be firing fast.

So with that in mind, I set out from my apartment at 12:35pm to get a 15 minute warm up in, some stretching, and strides before the 1:15pm race.  Falls Road had a strong contingent out there both racing and spectating; they helped keep my warmup and cool down honest!  Crowds lined both sides of the starting street, a sharp downhill on Charles, a road normally quite busy at all hours of the day.  I lined up a couple of rows back, ready to go.

This point to point course runs through downtown Baltimore, starts off with a half mile downhill, and is largely flat the rest of the way.  There is always an ongoing debate about how to handle the fast first mile.  My plan was to run between 5:00-5:10.  I had no interest in running sub-5, as I knew many others would.

After the gun went off, we all settled in, while I made sure to hold back just a bit early.  As soon as the course flattened out and made a quick left, I started to pick up the effort.  With the early downhill over, the rest was going to be a grind to the finish.  I passed some people early, but eventually settled into a loose group with 3 or 4 other runners.  I run with two of them, Brennan and Andy somewhat regularly.  This was the second race in a row running with people I know and train with, which makes everything so much easier!

I hit mile 1 right at 5:01, and just kept pouring it on.

I didn't feel completely dead at that point, so I must have done something right.  Brennan ran ahead of me, while Andy started fading back (but was still ahead).  As we made the turn around, Andy faded off just a bit, leaving Brennan, me, and some other random guy.  I dropped the random guy and managed to catch up to Brennan.  We hit mile 2, getting hit by some wind..


I was looking for sub 5:15 for the second mile, but based on the conditions (windy) and how my legs felt (unhappy I ran 82 miles in 6 days), I figured this was what I would get.  I focused any speed and strength I had left to keep the last mile at 5:20 as well.

Brennan and I towed each other along, as we kept getting hit by wind gusts running back towards home.  I got a few cheers from the main pack on the other side of the road, decked out in full on green (everyone else was much more festive than the lead runners).  As we turned off Key Highway and onto Light Street, I started to really feel the pace, the miles, the road, the air, my legs, and anything else that wanted to complain.

But I kept grinding.  As we made the second to last turn onto Pratt street, it took nearly everything I had to hold it together.  We got some cheers, a runner caught and passed Brennan and me (neither of us had an answer), and as I crossed mile 3, I threw down the last little bit that was left in the tank.  We hit the final turn onto Market place, and I crossed the finish line...

16:14 by my watch, though my official net time was 16:12 (16:15 gun time).  I'll take the 16:12, well because, the race hurt!  That beats my time from last year of 16:25 by 13 seconds, and my overall PR (16: 24 on the track) by 12 seconds.  Not too bad for a big mileage week and a bunch of marathon training!

I ended up going for a rather long cooldown to round out what is probably slightly more 90 miles for the week.  I also completely skipped the post race awards, mainly because the post race party turns into a giant cluster f*** of runners and beer.  But as it turns out, much to my elated surprise, I actually won my age group...

11th overall, and 4th 20-29 year old male to cross.  The top 3 were all 20-29 as well, making me the age group winner.  Damn!  I may have placed 11th last year and came in 6th for my age group, but either way, it's been a dream of mine to place in my age group at the 5K of 5Ks.  I'm going to make sure I get that stupid glass beer mug (or whatever it is).

Overall, a highly successful race.  I think a sub-16 is in the not so distant future.  Maybe some summer speed work will be just what this runner needs!  But now, back to what matters, marathon training.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2/20-3/4...Some Catching up

With race reports and the like, I need a training log dump to catch up.

Week of 2/20:
Mon: 7 miles, easy/moderate

Tues: 9 miles total, with 5x800 and 2x (3x400).  Relatively short rest within each set, lap jog between each.  We kept it hard but not blazing, and threw in some trickery with various pacing targets on some of the reps.  Overall times...2:43, 2:31, 2:39; 2:39; 2:26......79, 77, 82, 75, 74, 74

Wed: 10 miles, easy

Thurs: 7 miles, moderate.  Finally started feeling strong leading up to race weekend.

Fri: 3 miles, easy

Sat: 7 miles, easy

Sun: Club Challenge, 57:28, 10 miles of racing, 5 miles of warmup/cool down

Total Miles: 58

The week largely accomplished what it was supposed to, I felt relatively fresh for the race, and possibly, a little too good in the days to follow.  Does that mean I could have run harder?  Maybe...

Week of 2/27:

Mon: 11 miles total, 6 with the Fed Hill Runners group.  It was a real chill group run through the Harbor, feeling like quite the victory lap after the race.

Tues: 10.5 miles, easy.  Ran a relatively new loop (really, just a loop others have done, but did it myself the first time), going through the back of Druid Hill Park, cutting through Johns Hopkins, and running back south down Charles St.  I actually enjoyed it.

Wed: AM: 7 miles, easy.  Felt pretty strong, no lingering soreness as has plagued me for most of Feb.
          PM: 6.5 miles total with the world famous Leap Day 4K.  I continued to feel good

Thurs: 7 miles, easy

Fri: AM: 4 miles, easy
       PM: 10 miles total with 5x 800 meter hill.  Greenspring road in the back of Druid Hill park.  Though not as impressive as Gun Road, it more of the type of hill you can actually charge up, rather than feeling like the grade is going to knock you down.  Felt pretty good, though I was lame and waited until that night to run after the rain stopped.

Sat: 13 miles, easyish.  A rolling hill run with TWSS.  I was feeling a bit stiff, but it actually got better as the run went on.

Sun: 20 miles with the last 8 at marathon pace, on the NCR Trail.  Things really started to come together before, during, and after this run.  My legs seemed to have caught up with me, and my body is getting used to the demands I have placed on it.  I rocked this run, and with hindsight of Monday, realized it didn't take a whole lot out of me as I had a solid run today as well.  Here are some splits...

7:06; 6:39; 6:41; 6:41; 6:43; 6:40; 6:32; 6:27; 6:27; 6:34; 6:28; 6:11; 6:05; 6:08; 6:11; 6:01; 5:58; 5:59; 6:00; 5:54...2:07:25 overall, 6:22 average.

I wasn't extremely sore at all following this run.  Initially, of course after driving back to my apartment, I was a bit slow getting out of my car but later that day, it certainly did not feel like I had just run 20 miles at a pretty decent pace.  My next long run will be a lot slower, so that I can stretch out the legs for close to the total time I expect to be on my feet at Boston.  Then perhaps, I'll do this style of run one more time.  I've believed in it for a long time, so I'll certainly stick to it!  It got me my 2:44, and it should get me into the shape I want to be in again (this time without overdoing it).

Total Miles: 89

That is my second biggest mile week ever.  The largest, ironically was this very week last year.  After the B&A Trail Half Marathon in which I PR'ed and hit 97 miles, I could barely walk being in so much pain.  Now, after 89 miles, I rocked an 11 mile easy/moderate run tonight without feeling any ill-effects.

My slightly delayed start of a peak (by about 2-3 weeks), seems to be working out well.  The taper isn't too far away, and I don't feel anything resembling drained.  One more big week, then a step down for a half marathon.

Getting closer!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rain, Lightning, Leap Day, 4Ks

Historically, Leap Day has been a rather uneventful mundane occurrence in my life where the Gregorian Calendar merely makes up for the approximate 0.25 Earth days per year that go unaccounted for.  Then an ingenious idea was presented to me, make Leap Day about running!

The glorious day started at 5AM with an easy 7 mile run in comfortable 40 degree weather.  As the day wore on, the weather turned, and most of the rest of the day was a downpour.  We even had a malfunction-caused fire alarm at work requiring us to all go outside in the rain.  It's rather amazing that people would hesitate to leave what is potentially a burning building just to avoid getting wet.  You won't melt in the rain, but you will burn in fire...

Anyway, the conclusion of Leap Day, and something I was strangely looking forward to, was an impromptu, inaugural, largest most awesome ever Leap Day 4K race.  This race took place of our usual Tuesday track workout to give some more recovery time after Club Challenge, and well, because it's Leap Day.  After much debate, I decided to just make the 4K a hard run and count it as speedwork for the week.  With a hill workout and another progression long run in the cards, a slightly short track day a few days after a race sounded like a good idea.

Little did I know what I was actually getting myself into...

Based on the weather radar, it was clear that the sky was going to open up in pouring rain for this event.  I drove to the track anyway, and all of us warmed up in a downpour.  With Nate declaring "this is bullshit!" I knew we were all in for an interesting "workout."

Once 7pm rolled around, we began the run.  Some people used it as a workout, others ran hard, others ran to win because well, it's Leap Day, and you get to be the champ for 4 years.  I on the other hand, was content to use this as a dry (well I guess wet) run for my upcoming 5K.

About 1.5 laps in to the 10 lap race, the sky lit up purple as a massive lightning bolt discharged across the sky.  It got serious after that!

With lightning and thunder continuing to intermittently crash overhead, and the rain only slightly abating, we continued over the waterlogged track.

Mile 1: 5:21

Not content to lose the guys I was running with, I just kept going

Mile 2: 5:14

With 2 laps to go we made a race of it, and I got burned by the two guys around me.  I'll blame my "marathon legs" or something like that.

Last 0.5: 2:35

13:09 overall, and 6th place.

I actually felt really good at the end of this, and for a fleeting moment, considered finishing out the 5K because I was on a tear and could have easily smoked my 16:24 track PR.  However, this may bode well for an upcoming downhill 5K next weekend...

Either way, it was an awesome way to end the month of February.  287 miles total, (276.5 last month), and 42 consecutive days of running this year including no days off in February.  Of course, some of those days were real, real easy 3 or 4 milers, but I'll still take it!

Bring on March...