Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quick Note for a Quick Race: RM Classic 5K

What is the RM Classic 5K you ask?  Well, it is the best kind of race.  Now a yearly tradition amongst the TWSS group, it is a no frills show up to the track and agree to run a set distance at whatever pace you want...race.

A field of 20 showed up at 6:30PM with the sun setting for what promised to be a fast race.  With an average finishing time of around 18 minutes (most 5Ks these days have average finishing times approaching 27-30 minutes) amongst the coed field, it certainly did not disappoint.  With no race fees, parking, swag, crowds, walkers, chips, water stops, course marshals, etc to worry about, it was sure to be a simple night!

Of course, it is unfair to compare a race like this straight up to the road since it was in fact, a track race.  Nonetheless, after a 2 mile warmup and  some strides, we were ready to start at 7PM on the far end of the track for 12.5 laps of awesome.

Despite there being at least 3 people on this track who could wipe the floor with me, I was initially the only one of the low-16/high-15 5K runners who was opting to go hard from the start.  The others all decided to go out at 5:20 pace to do just a workout.

Regardless, I held back momentarily on the first turn to see if anyone would go with me.  I had the full intention to take a shot at breaking 16 minutes whether I was going to get help or not.  By the end of the turn I realized I was on my own and proceeded to take the lead and try to hold 77/lap pace.

I figured my chances were decent.  It was an unseasonably warm but comfortable night with no wind, and my 5K PR of 16:12 on a downhill road course the day after a long run back in March showed I have a sub-16 5K in me, somewhere.

The first two miles were largely uneventful as I went round, and round the track.  Note, these splits are based off the finish line, rather than the start line.  I felt it would be easier to see the full finish stripe rather than the 1 lane wide painted stripe in the back corner in the dark.

First 200 meters...39 seconds
Lap 1: 77
Lap 2: 76
Lap 3: 76
Lap 4: 76

Mile 1: 5:06 (when including tenths/hundredths of seconds)

I felt pretty good, though I was running a tad faster than the 5:10 I had wanted.  Nevertheless, I wasn't sucking wind so I kept at it.

Lap 5: 78
Lap 6: 77
Lap 7: 78
Lap 8: 79

Mile 2: 5:12, 10:18 for two miles

Notice a pattern? It was hard to read my splits, but I knew I had begun to slow.  After passing through the 2 mile and 200 meter point, the pack finally caught the lone breaker.  I got passed by 4 people in rapid succession.

I guess I stirred the pot a little since that group of 4 was originally going to run 5:20 pace.  But, our 2 time defending champion (Dusty) probably didn't want to have anything to do with the likes of me taking the top spot!  His BFFs (Nate, Alex, and Steve) were also along for the ride.   Regardless, my shot for the prix de la combativit√© (aggressive rider award if you are a cycling nerd) was the right move on my part.

Mile 3 hurt, though maybe not as bad as it normally would.

Lap 9: 78
Lap 10: 79
Lap 11: 80
Lap 12: 79

Mile 3: 5:16

And so it was that I crossed in 16:13 and 5th.  I missed my road PR by 1 second, but beat my track PR by about 13.  Considering I have done exactly 0 miles of 5K training this year, I'll take it.  Clearly, I could use a bit more fire power for that sub-16, but it will come with time.

With this little foray into shorter stuff out of the way, I can now focus on the grandest prize of them all...the Richmond Marathon!  We're almost 2 weeks away now.

This is how races should be!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Training, the Baltimore Marathon, and More

In staying with my "keep it laid back" approach, I've got another post to sum up where I've been since my 10K PR just a few weeks ago.

Following that race, it was time to up the miles again after two consecutive weeks of pretty low mileage.  The week immediately following the race, the 24th, I opted to put some work in, both volume-wise and mileage-wise.  I was feeling good, and really needed to get the ball rolling on some solid training.

Tuesday night called for a 2x2400, followed by a 2x1600.  I deleted the splits from my watch before writing them down, but recall the 2400's in the low 5:30s for pace, and right on top of each other.  The 1600s had one in the 5:20s and the second just under 5:20.  Rest was of moderate length.  Overall, a pretty solid workout only shortly removed from a race.

With some more easy runs out of the way, by the weekend I was set for a 12 miler on Saturday and a 20 miler on Sunday.  I would end up missing that Saturday run however, due to (yet another) bike incident.  I had ridden from Baltimore to the BWI airport loop to take part in a bike charity ride in which myself and other "experienced" AFC riders led groups of kids on bikes around the BWI airport loop trail.  After 26 miles of really soft pedaling, I headed back.

Once back in the city, while pedaling northbound on Charles St in Fed Hill, I got out of my saddle to try and pick up some speed.  Next thing I right speed play cleat disengages from my pedal while I'm pushing down on the right side.  Disaster was imminent.  I was saved by a few things, one of which being the shear luck that there were no cars in either direction on the road.   My right foot hit the ground and the bike fell under me.  I was moving fast enough before loosing control that I continued sliding upright with the bike under me.  Through the course of this, my rear tire tube exploded, my rear wheel bent out of true, and my chain fell off the front cranks, getting pretty badly tangled.  The exposed front crank teeth hit my right calf at least 6 times, leaving some nice cuts that still have my calf marked up.

Did I mention I just got the bike tuned up and had a new chain put on it?  My left foot eventually unclipped too and I stumbled away from the bike as I and the bike came to a stop.  I never actually slid on the ground.  A few people came to check on me and we quickly discovered I had no road rash (sweet!).  I was more mentally shaken that actually physically hurt.  I had minor scrapes on my left knee and right side.  My knee, right side and left side all felt pretty beat up, since it would seem the bike saved me from hitting the road by repeatedly slamming into me and keeping me upright (thanks bike!).

My poor bike didn't fare too well , as my rear wheel was visibly bent out of true.  Regardless, I fixed the flat, realized my cleat was still good enough to clip in, and soft pedaled the last couple of miles home.

Needless to say, my 12 miler did not happen that day.  On Sunday, I ran a hilly 20 around 6:58 pace in what turned out to be a pretty hot afternoon.  My various bike injuries still hurt, but only after I stopped running.  My right side actually still hurts occasionally as recently as my writing this post a few weeks later.

I haven't been on any bike since this incident, and won't get on one until after Richmond.

Overall for that week, I only ended up running 5 days, but still got mileage in the low 50s.

For the next week, my Tuesday workout consisted of a 1600, followed by a lap jog, a 3200, a lap jog, and another 1600.  Each 1600 was supposed to be nearly all out with the 3200 at tempo pace.  I nailed the workout, hitting 5:13 and 4:57 for the two 1600s, with a 5:33 average per mile pace for the 3200.  That 4:57 was the first time I've run a sub-5 in training, and it felt pretty good.

By Saturday, I was all set for a 21 mile progression long run.  I started at 7:00 pace and by the second half, was railing off miles anywhere from 6:10-6:20, ending up with a 6:32 pace overall, on flat terrain.  A little cool down walk, and a very short, but nonetheless important quarter mile run in at 7:50 pace rounded off that awesome morning.

I hit mileage in the low 60s for the week.

Enter the week of the Baltimore Marathon.  I had been looking forward to this race for a while.  This would be my third year in a row as an official pacer, and my first at this race as a 3:10 pacer, a goal of mine for a while.  I took Thursday and Friday off to work at the pacer booth at the expo (and filled those days with some other non-running stuff), so it was quite the running holiday weekend.  I have to give a shout out to the Falls Road Running store for what was essentially a Thursday night dinner at the quite expensive Woodberry Kitchen.  With $50 worth of gift certificates provided by FRR thanks to some luck and race volunteering, that dinner for two wasn't nearly as much a burning hole in food budget as it would have been.

My Tuesday workout consisted of 5x1600 with 200 meter jog in between.  I progressed from a 5:35 to a 5:24, steadily taking time off with each repetition.  It was hard but manageable, and felt like a good workout.

By Saturday morning, I was all set for an easy 7:15/mile long run through Baltimore, the one time of year I get to run down the middle of the street and not have to stop for any traffic lights!  You can see from the following picture how ridiculously happy I was to be doing this...

Picture at the start line, at about 7:40, courtesy of my friend Ben F.  It was cold, but I'm good at faking being warm.  I won't get into the multitude of reasons why I have such a goofball smile, but lets just say there are a lot of things going right this fall, that I certainly couldn't say about 2011 (bleh to everything), or even 2010 (running was fine, everything else, same old).

There were three official pacers in our group including myself, and probably 15-20 people that started with us.  By Mile 20, we had lost our pace group leader to a balky hamstring and all but 6 people in our group.  After rounding Lake Montebello, we had but 3 left, and they all went ahead.  2 of them hit big PRs, so we did our jobs well.  Overall, the other surviving pacer and myself came in at 3:09:31, 29 seconds under.

Another cool experience I had out there was all the crowd support I had/runners I recognized.  Back in 2009, I had been living in Baltimore for a little over a year, barely knew anyone and still didn't know the city very well.  3 years later, I couldn't go more than a mile without someone cheering my name, without seeing someone I knew, or without someone I knew running alongside with us (not in the race) just to talk.  I also knew every single yard of the course, and had probably run on each section of it countless times (except for the Zoo...I joked I've been to the zoo twice since living in Baltimore for 4 years, both during the marathon when the course started going through it last year).

So overall, it was a really, really awesome four days.

I took Sunday off, because well, I ran 65 miles in 5 days, crushed a track workout, and had too much fun on Saturday to slog through some crappy recovery run that I didn't need.

The following week (finally caught up!!), became a bit of a step back, with no tentative hard work scheduled, and a slight reduction in miles back to the low-mid 50s.

On Tuesday I did some pacing for 1200 meter repeats at ~6:50-7:00 pace.  Outside of official pace groups, you've got to be pretty convincing to get me to pace you in a workout; thankfully this particular person had no trouble doing that.

Fast forward to Saturday, and I had done just easy runs, none exceeding 9.5 miles in length.  I was feeling good running easy, and decided to try and push some marathon pace miles on a flat 17 mile long run to see how I would respond.  About 5 miles in, 6:50 pace felt like shit, so 6:20s were out of the question.  I opted just to cruise the rest of the way, finishing in around 6:55-7:00 pace.

It's tough to call that a failed long run since I was coming off of three weeks of pretty tough work both volume and intensity wise.  If this was my worst long run of the cycle, I'll take it.  After a little bit of extra distance, I closed with 17.5 miles for the day (something about waiting on the 1.25 mile bridge of the NCR trail to run someone in).

For the week, on 6 days of running, I managed 55 miles total, pretty solid post marathon pacing.

With Richmond drawing ever closer, I'm going one more week hard-ish, then spending the next two weeks tapering.  I don't do well with long tapers, and should get this one last week with a good workout and good long run to sharpen the blade one last time.

I'm considering getting a 5K in sometime between now and the race.  I really, really want to take a shot at sub-16 on a flat course.  I'll do a freaking time trial on the track if I have to, but I feel like it's possible and worth at least a shot.  I had two goals for this year...a sub-16 5k and a sub-2:40 marathon.  I think the sub-2:40 may be a stretch, but I know I can at least give the sub-16 5K a reasonable shot.

We'll see.  3 weeks to go!!