Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rockville Twlight 8K: Chasing Dark Shadowy Ghosts

The Rockville Twilight 8K is a race I've had my eye on for the last couple of years but never got around to participating.  It is an absolutely stacked race that goes off at 8:45PM in the "foreign" lands of Montgomery County.  With the Falls Road crew putting a team together to go down there, I certainly had every reason to go this year.

The weather in Maryland finally took a turn for the better at least if you spend large portions of your free time running.  Lots of rain rolled through on Friday and Saturday, with the sky being almost constantly overcast.  It cooled everything off nicely and the general lack of sun finally allowed the ground to stop baking in summer heat.  All of a sudden, our mid-July summer race was lining up to feel more like a late spring (or very late summer/early fall) race.

The rain let up slightly as the race approached, slowing down to a light mist.  Temperatures hovered in the very high 60s to low 70s.  I took my spot on the rather crowded start line, and we were off a few minutes after 8:45, with the course shrouded in darkness.

I've done a handful of relay races in the dark, but have never run an actual race in these types of conditions (first wet race of 2012 too).  Those 200 mile relays are more like time trials than actual races since I would just spend my time passing people running substantially different paces than me.  This was the first time I had to actually contend with other people, while barely being able to see anything.  The course mainly rolled through residential streets with minimal lighting.  Flashing lights of police cars in the distance made for a rather surreal feel.

The darkness also made for a few interesting perdiciments.  First, I could barely see my watch forgetting of course, to activate the light up on button press feature.  Second, it was really hard to tell who anyone was unless I ended up within a couple of strides of them.  With these issues, I realized my best bet was to just chase down as many shadowy figures as I could.

I did manage to go out reasonably conservatively, opting to avoid the mad early dash while still breaking through the crowded start effectively.  The first mile was mostly downhill...


I knew I wanted to go out somewhere around 5:30, but wasn't expecting it to feel as good as it did.  Regardless, I told myself to stay in control.  Thanks to a digital clock and intermittent light, I did see this split!

From miles 1 to 2, I stopped getting passed and slowly started picking people off, 1 small group at a time.  There were one or two hills that weren't steep, but at least made you think.  They didn't seem to bother me.  We looped back towards the start for what seemed to be a slow mile, possibly in the wrong location.


At this point, I decided to just turn on the jets.  I was feeling really good, despite being drenched in a combination of rain and sweat (it was still surprisingly humid) and decided to just see what I could do.  I kept trying to guess who I passed, and who was in the distance.

I caught and passed one Falls Road guy, Tim who can kick my ass at short distances, but it's more of a fair fight at longer races.

As we continued, I just kept pouring it on.

Mile 3: 5:23 (I didn't know the pace, just that my 3 mile split was around 16:28, which would turn out to be a decent 5K with another 0.1).

I could see another familiar runner in the distance, and thanks to some intel from some cheering support, I knew it was Ed.  The only reason I would ever end up near him would be a combination of a not so good day on his part, and a really good day on mine.  Regardless, if I could catch him, maybe we could help each other out.

It took a hell of a lot of energy to bridge that gap.  After almost falling on a cone taking a turn way, way too tight, I came up alongside him.  We went back and forth for a little, but eventually I passed him, half in shock, but figuring he would be back before the end.

Mile 4: 5:28 (never saw it on my watch, but did see I came in right around 22:00 thanks to the course clock, and would have to fly to get sub-27).

The course made all kinds of turns from 3-4.  It was kind of fun taking all the tangents, a bit easier when there is a whole train of fast runners ahead of you doing the same thing.  I was still feeling decent, but reaching that point where the race had to end because that crash-and-burn feeling wasn't too far off.

We hit a flat, straight section of road for the next couple of minutes and I threw down anything and everything I had left.  Sub-27 was a real possibility.  I passed a handful of people who had no answer to my move.  I could also see just ahead, another familiar figure.  It was actually the shoes that gave it away, but it was none other than Dusty, another runner I had no business being around.  Regardless of the circumstances causing us to be in each other's vicinity at the end of a race, I knew I had to at least try and get on his shoulder, even for a moment.

Imagine a car that has had its gas pedal through the floor, and is starting to fail catastrophically.  I'm taking about smoke pouring out of the engine, and random parts flying off the back, but somehow, it keeps barreling down the road.  That's what the last couple of minutes of this race felt like.

I never quite managed to bridge that gap, though I was closing until the last minute or two, when everyone started kicking it in.  Ed managed to pass me back.  I tried to at least make it a fight, but it wasn't one.  No one else passed me in those final moments, and I flew through the downhill finish in..

26:56 for 5:25 pace and 40th overall.  The last not-quite-a-mile split was 5:01.

That race was definitely an 8K PR.  It's been a while since I've run an 8K, but I know for a fact I was completely incapable of running a 5K at that pace the last time I ran an 8K.  For comparison, the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler in December was a 27:01 and 5:24 pace.  So both races were right on top of each other.  It's hard to compare what kind of shape I'm in now to what I was then.  But regardless, the result was better than I expected and my legs felt really, really strong.

I think this bodes well for the start of training for the Richmond Marathon.  The name of the game....conservative approach!!!  If I can just take the fitness I have right now and extend my endurance for the marathon, I'll be happy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maryland 2xrip Duathlon: Burning Rubber

At long last, a race where I could test my new found bike legs.  The race, 2 mile run, 26 mile bike, 4 mile run through the rolling hills of Howard County.  This particular duathlon, one of the few competitive ones out there, welcomed a field of ~450 entrants, and an elite/open field of ~16 men.  The field promised to be fast, though I was excited to see how everything would fall.  Three other guys that I ride with, Adam, Pat, and Lance as part of AFC were all out there as well.  Adam was the defending champ, and a favorite to win.  Pat and Lance are significantly better riders than me, so it would take some seriously strong running to finish ahead of them.

The gun went off at 7AM, and we were off.  Graham, a very strong runner took the first run out hard as we started on a big downhill.  I separated myself a little bit from everyone else and ran through transition in 2nd, 10:49 overall.  Honestly, it was probably way too fast, but I knew I needed a cushion.

Unlike last year, there was no fumbling in transition and I got out quick (despite this being the first time using an aero helmet in a race), though would never quite catch Graham.  It turns out he is not only a better runner than me, but is also better on the bike.  Within a mile of riding, I started feeling awful.  Both my hips tightened up, and my right knee started bothering me.  I never really experienced anything like that in training rides leading up to this race.  I also couldn't get into much of a rhythm on the uphills and felt like I was fighting with my bike rather than cruising.

By around mile 8, things finally started getting better.  I never really slowed down, or sped up very much, but the perceived effort finally became more what I expected.  I made sure to keep drinking water, as it was quite humid and just kept pedaling away.

During the first 13 mile loop, I was passed by 6 people.  I would get passed by one more on the second loop to fall to 9th overall.  However, one of those guys, Adam F., (on his TT bike) never quite pulled away, so I made sure to keep him in sight, hoping to get him on the run.  It would be tough, because he isn't a push over on foot.

As we continued on the second lap, I had to contend with people still on their first.  For the most part I was ok, only having to straddle the double yellow line twice and yell "on your left" three or four times.  Thanks to an event motorcycle (not a referee), I did have one close call.  On one of the faster decents, with a sweeping left turn, I basically got blocked by the motorcycle.  People on their first lap were two wide as people were passing each other.  The motorcycle passed me, and then came up on the passing cyclists, but didn't go ahead and just stayed to their left.  I began approaching 40mph and closed in a hurry on that motorcycle.

After realizing it wasn't going to move, I had to let up and coast, coming just up on his wheel, and slowing to 35mph.  Whether it was my ratchet on my free wheel mechanism screaming (Mavic wheels are loud), or my "COME ON" shout, the guys on the bike looked behind and saw me right there.  I took a hand off my aero bars to further illustrate my disgust.  They sort of moved, but it was too late by then.  Kind of ridiculous that they didn't think I would be trying to fly past all those people, but oh well.  It also didn't help I was hopped up on adrenaline and had a really short fuse.

As we approached transition, I finally just passed Adam F, as every time we hit an uphill in the last few miles, I had to avoid his 3-bike length zone.  A quick hard left back into the starting park, and a drama free dismount made me realize something body was fried.  Despite being fried, my bike computer got me at 1:12:10, approximately 3:30 faster than my bike leg last year, and a full ~1mph faster, at 22mph avg. 

Adam actually passed me in transition.  My transition was quick, but he was just moving faster on his feet.  As soon as I started running, things were not good.  My legs just would not move.  Adam by comparison, pulled away.  I noticed I had worked a lot harder on the uphills and actually pedaled on the downhills, all in an effort to stay near him.  I guess it was time to pay for that...

I don't have a time on the second run, but by math, it seems to be right around 27:00; the most painful 6:45 average I've done in a while.  I even got passed within a quarter mile of the finish line, and had nothing, no way to respond.  First time I got passed on the second run of a duathlon...

When it was finally over, I crossed the line in 1:52:58, about 2:30 faster than last year, despite my painfully awful second run.  I ended up 10th overall with no age groupers beating me, so racing elite was the right call.

Overall, I'm really, really happy with the result, though it clearly could have been so much better.  I was up big on last year's time coming off the bike, and had a chance at 9th and possibly 8th.  Of course, I've done a total of 2 runs off the bike this entire year, neither of which being a hilly 4 miles.  I also didn't eat anything on the bike, which was probably a mistake.

Regardless, I gave that bike leg everything I had and did much, much better.  So I'll take it!

Monday will be a well earned day off.  I'll run Tuesday, but will only do a workout if I feel up to it.  It's almost time to start up that marathon training!

One picture of the race, afterwards.  From left to right, Adam D (winner for two years in a row), Lance, myself, and Pat.  Courtesy of Lance's wife.  Note: we were all absolutely disgusting in that pic thanks to the humidity.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Races for the Fall? Sure!

If it was up to me, I would register for all my races no more than a week in advance.  Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in, so I finally broke open the wallet and filled out my fall schedule.  This is subject to the addition of a 5K in September and a 5K or 10K in October...

Maryland 2xrip "Olympic Duathlon" 2 mile run, 26 mile bike, 4 mile run (7/15)
Rockville Twilight 8K (7/21)

Highway to Heaven Time Trial (bike race, up a hill): (8/11)
Lums Pond Duathlon: 2 mile run, 19.5 mile flat bike, 3.3 mile run (8/19) (sandbag 2.0?)
Annapolis 10 Miler: (8/26)

Philadelphia Distance Run (Half Marathon): (9/16)

Baltimore Marathon, 3:10 pacer (10/13)

Richmond Marathon (11/11)

Despite my marathon troubles of late, I'm going for it again.  The name of the training game this time though will merely be to maintain.  I'll stretch out my endurance, but I have no intention of adding anymore "cylinders" to the engine.  Despite my best efforts to sabotage myself, somehow I'm still in really good running shape, and I'm only running 35 miles a week.  With some sharpening over the next couple of months, I have a feeling that a conservative mindset may pay dividends this fall.  After the Maryland 2xrip race, there are 18 weeks to Richmond, a perfect time to start transitioning more to running.

However, I have no intention of exceeding 60-65 miles per week through at least the Philly Distance Run.  Beyond that, I plan to top out at no more than 75 miles per week.  I've gone above 80 miles per week in two clusters and both times it helped at first, and then everything came crashing down.  Somehow, the "good" parts of that training are still in my legs, and I've rested and healed away all the "bad" parts.  Maybe now I can get to November firing on the cylinders I already have, which should be good enough to get me a "reasonable" marathon time, even if I don't know exactly what that reasonable time is, yet.

But enough rambling, here is the miles report...
Monday: Run, easy, easy 3 miles.  My calf muscles were sore as crap after that 5K roller coaster

Tuesday: Commute to and from work: 13 miles
                Run: 6.5 miles, easy, calf muscles felt better

Wednesday: Arbutus 10K, 9.2 ish miles with warm up/cool down. 34:53, 5:38 pace.

Thursday: Bike: 38.5 miles total with a morning commute and a 31 ish mile ride from my office to my apartment.  It was hot as shit out and I suffered.  It also didn't help that I only used ice water in my bottles instead of frozen water.  Everything got hot and nasty way too fast.  Gatorade is also disgusting when it is warm.  If it wasn't actually 100 degrees according to the forecast, I can guarantee you it was in downtown Baltimore on that awful pavement.

Friday: Run: AM: 4 miles, really easy  PM (late night): 7 miles, easy
            Bike: 14 miles (slightly extra), commute

I was originally going to ride on Friday, but the weather made me rethink that.  Another 100+ day made me realize that perhaps I should wait for the sun to go down and just run at night instead.  It is amazing how much easier it is to run at night, even when it's still hot as shit out.

Saturday: 45 mile bike ride.  I started at 6:15AM and it was 80 degrees out.  It was at least 90 when I finished.  Despite feeling terrible, with tired legs I actually rode pretty well, not much slower than I usually ride.  Though, I did cut it 5 miles short.  No problems with food or drink on this ride!

               Run: easy 5 miles after the sun went down.  My running legs felt much better than my cycling legs.

Sunday: 31.7 mile bike ride with my aero bars, mostly just to practice for next week.  I'm planning to stay glued to those suckers next Sunday unless I hit a climb I've got to get out of the saddle for, or have to take a sharp turn.  All these bike miles, Wednesday night rides, and occasional sprinting have made me better able to grind out hills and tougher sections without having to downshift as much as I used to.  Keep those watts up!

Run:  34.7 miles
Bike: 142.2 miles

Still only 5 days of running, but I'm running well enough right now that I don't really care.  This upcoming week may be my last of 5 days of running for a while.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Arbutus 10K: Hot, Hilly, but Good

I've known of this particular race for years, but could never quite fit it into my schedule.  This time in 2012, I finally managed to throw my name in the mix.  It is known for being somewhat hilly, more of a rolling course than one with big climbs, but certainly not flat.  Being on the 4th of July, it is also guaranteed to be hot.

At the 8AM start, it actually wasn't that bad, temperatures were in the high 70s, and the sky was overcast.  It was still humid out, as I was sweating a good deal after a 2 mile warm up.  It wasn't quite as bad as my Sunday 5K, but still not ideal.  I took it really easy Monday and Tuesday to try and recover as well as I could for this one, and after that warm up, felt reasonably good.

This race actually gives out prize money per 10 year age group, with no overall awards.  What it basically means is if you are between the ages of 20-29 or 30-39, you would probably get nothing even if you finished close to the front.  But no matter, I get paid to be an expert on pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, not to win races.

At 8, the race went off, and we immediately started uphill.  Going into this race blind, with no real idea what to expect as far as terrain, I made sure to go out reasonably conservative.  About 8-9 people went out with the lead group, consisting of the legend himself, Dave Berdan.  I knew that wouldn't last as there are few people that can keep up with Berdan, and was content to stay behind that group.

As we crested the hill, made a turn, and started going back down hill, more than a few people fell back and I found myself in 6th, behind Adam of AFC, and Tristram of Falls Road.  This would be Tristram's last race before moving to Italy for a year, and talking to him earlier, had mentioned he wanted to do 5:30s.  So I figured I was happy with where I was, even if I was a few seconds behind Adam...

Unfortunately, the mile markers on this course were pathetically placed and my mile splits are next to worthless.  I went through mile 1 in 5:50 and was concerned with how bad it felt.  After finding out it was long, and I likely was in the low 5:40s, it made me feel a little better, since I did exactly what I wanted on mile 1.

The course from that point went up and down, left and right, like a freaking roller coaster.  After mile 2, the sun broke through the clouds and it started getting hot in a hurry.  I just focused on taking every tangent, and trying to bridge the gap to Adam, especially since after running a "4:50" on mile 2, that I would have no feedback on my pace.

Since we were in AFC territory, two other guys I ride with were out on the course with their wives on tandem bicycles, cheering for Adam and me.  It was actually extremely helpful to have them riding alongside.  They never paced me (which is good), opting to stay between us, but the encouragement was awesome.

The course flattened out a little by mile 3, and I tried to turn it up and reel Adam in, but no matter what I threw at him, I just couldn't shrink the gap.  Tristram eventually dropped Adam to continue ahead.

As we started approaching the finish, the hills and heat were taking their toll.  A lot of people had sprinklers on the course, which I only used if they were on tangents or already in my path.  It certainly helped a little, even if it broke up my rhythm a little.

We made yet another turn after mile 5, and to that point, had only managed to knock over two cups of water rather than taking any.  One kid backed away as I tried to grab a cup, and I hit another trying to take a tangent.  Oh well...

After the mile 5 marker, we hit the worst uphill of the course, a long, long steady climb.  I hit the hill as hard as my legs would go, with one last ditch effort to catch Adam.  Try as I could, I just could not make up that last bit of ground.  As we passed mile 6, we finally got a little downhill to sprint down into the finish....

34:53 and 6th overall, for 5:38 pace.  I finished 4th in my age group, so no money; I think Adam was more upset for me than I was!

I didn't really know what to think of the time at first, especially since I had no real splits to look at.  I was 26 seconds slower than my PR, but that PR was in November temperatures on a slightly easier course.  I was also in much better running shape back then.  I finally decided that for running this course for the first time, in these conditions, I ran what I considered a smart race.  I never fell apart, and probably ran somewhat evenly, taking what the course would give me.  The overall pace also makes sense, a few seconds per mile faster than my Baltimore 10 Miler time, with a 5K average of 17:26, comfortably slower than the straight up 5Ks I have run lately.

So overall, I think I ran as well as I could have for today.  Could I have gone faster if I didn't race a 5K on Sunday?  Probably...  But I got a free pair of shoes for winning that race, so it was worth it.

I already stuffed my face at one July 4th gathering, and will be going for #2 this afternoon.  Overall, I think this is a good way to spend the 4th!

The next race up is a big one...Maryland 2xrip duathlon.  I'm really, really looking forward to crushing my bike time on this course from last year!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Track Work? Awesome!

Can you believe I'm actually watching/paying attention to the Tour de France this year?  I am still a runner...I swear.  The second half of this week proved to be another hot one, but I've acclimated pretty well.  This was a week of staying steady with the running and dialing back the bike a little to accommodate a couple of harder runs.  I know it's shocking, but I'm trying as hard as possible not to do anything incredibly stupid with training over the next few months.

Monday: Run: 8 miles, easy with the Fed Hill crew
Tuesday: Commute: 18.4 miles total (a little detour)
                Run: 8.5 miles total...3 miles @ tempo pace: 5:50, 5:48, 5:45 2 laps easy, then 4x400...70, 71, 70, 69.
                 First the commute.  Since I've quickly become a complete cycling nerd, I now use Strava to track all my rides.  It basically uses a GPS enabled device to track the routes you take, and gives you all kinds of stats on your mileage, elevation gain, and if you have the hardware...power and heart rate.  People can also create "segments" or specific stretches of road that they consider a good spot to race.  Strava will then track everyone's efforts on the particular segments and rank you.  The fastest gets to be king of the mountain.  This of course, is perfect for a moron like me.  So I took a little detour Tuesday afternoon to reclaim a KOM that was stolen from me.  I've got a couple to my name, though they are mostly small time.  Soon I'm going to start going after some of the better known ones to see what I can do..
               Second, the track workout was awesome.  It felt so good to finally do a workout and get the legs moving in a non racing setting.  I set out specifically to keep myself in check and not do anything crazy this early.  It worked pretty well.  I've also decided that my tempo work will not dip under 5:40 until at least late September/early October (if ever).  This is part of that don't be an idiot streak I've got going...

Wednesday: Ride: 35 miles total, West Side Worlds, yet again.  One of the stronger riders out there, Pat was on fire and broke away more than a few times.  I could tell this was going to be a fast one.  I was smart about not overexposing myself, but I was also starting to realize that I could hang on this ride, even if I did take a few turns leading the pace line.  I even helped pull Pat back in on one of the break aways between two of our bigger climbs, so that was a good confidence booster.  I ended up getting dropped 25 miles in after getting stuck behind the wrong people, but managed to loop back around and finish strong.  Overall, that was probably the fastest ride I had done.

Thursday: Hot as crap out...
              AM: Commute: 6.5 miles
              PM: ride from work, 30 miles total.  It was 95 degrees, I wasn't hydrated going into the ride, and my water bottles got piss warm in a hurry.  My legs were also tired from Wednesday.  Not a very good day.
              Run (PM): 5 miles.  By comparison, the run felt a lot better, though I had to deal with some cramping.

         AM: Run, easy, easy, easy 3 miles

         At around 11pm Friday, the state of Maryland was slammed with a really nasty storm that knocked out about 1/3rd of the state's power.  I opted for an easy 40 mile bike ride, and went out early to beat the heat, and make time for other important Saturday stuff!  Overall, I felt 100x times better than I did on Thursday.  There were a lot of downed trees, debris, non functioning traffic lights, a couple of downed power lines, one closed road, and some slick spots, but it didn't take away from the ride one bit.  It was however, humid as crap.

Sunday:  5K out at Banneker Park.  This was an event to benefit Adventures for the Cure.  Since their Wednesday night ride (and the bike in general) has kept me together over these last few weeks, I knew I had to go out there to represent.  It was probably 80 degrees at the start, and real humid as I was completely covered in sweat after a 2 mile warm up.  The course was crazy, flying downhill for 1.5 miles before turning up to make us climb all the way back to the start.

Splits: 4:55 (yea), 5:25, ~5:55.  The splits tell the story.  That 4:55 was with holding back.  The downhill in this race was steeper and longer than the famed Shamrock 5K.  But unfortunately, going back up cost a lot of time.  I ended up with a 16:52 and the win.  One of the other ridiculously strong AFC riders, Adam was neck and neck with me through the half way point.  He tried to take it on the hill, but I knew it was coming so just stayed with him until I started pulling away.

I ran for another 35 minutes afterwards easy to try and get 5ish more miles in.

Compared to the Fiesta 5K I ran in early May, where it was just as hot, but on a completely flat course, I think I ran substantially better here, beating that flat course time by 3 seconds on a freaking roller coaster.  A combination of heat acclimation, fresh running legs, and a crap ton of bike miles may be the cause.

Cycling: 130 miles
Running: ~34 miles

Next up...Arbutus 10K on July 4th.  Should be another hot as crap race, and I hear it's hilly.  I can't wait!  I'm not doing anything Monday, and will likely just commute on Tuesday and run easy.