Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Turkeys and Getting Sick

Thanksgiving Day I raced in the Turkey Chase 10k in Bethesda. I hate this race. A lot. It's really hilly and I always get stuck running with the UMD XC team. In the first 2 miles they do nothing but chit-chat amongst themselves. This leads to half of them dying off before halfway, and the other half zipping ahead. That leaves me in the middle with 1-2 other confused souls. It wasn't a BAD race but it wasn't great either. I eased off the gas way too much when we got to the city, worried I was pushing the hills too hard and lost the group I was with. I ended up having to run Old Georgetown Rd pretty much alone, with no one in sight behind me and the next guy about 10sec ahead. It was a little uphill and windy, so it wasn't amenable to catching anyone. I passed Jerry and he later noted it didn't look like I was working/racing hard. I think he's right. I did enjoy my time out there, which I never do when I'm running hard. The main thoughts in my head when I'm running fast/hard are "wow, this hurts" and "I so badly want to stop NOW"... those have been my thoughts in fast or PR races. I certainly wasn't feeling like that at Turkey Chase! I ended up with a 34:32 and 11th overall, certainly not an impressive time by any stretch, but I'll take an improvement over last year's Chase, when I was cramping and dying.

The lesson? I need to get competitive at Clubs. No more being passive and afraid of going out hard. I just have to go with the race. No being conservative. I need to be aggressive. Fitness is good, but I need to just get my mind in the race, like it was in the Spring.

Friday I ran an easy 6 with Jordan on the trails, legs felt pretty loose after the 10k, which leads me to believe I held back yet again.

Saturday I took the day OFF, completely. First day off in a long time. And another first in a long time... I started to get sick. Sore throat - here comes a cold! Is that what happens when I take days off? Geez. I immediately went on a vicious offensive, gulping down zincs, tea, yogurt and broth. I hate being sick.

Sunday I woke up with a pretty sore and dry throat, but still went out for a 13mi run with PMurph, Matias and Jimmy. Probably not wise to go 13, but did it anyway. Couldn't swallow at all but put in a decent effort in the last 3 miles... although really just because I wanted to be done. My condition got worse throughout the day, and I was pretty uncomfortable by the evening.

Monday the throat was a little better, but still quite dry and sore and being replaced by pressure in the sinuses. I ran 6.5mi in the evening and actually started to feel a little better.

Tuesday AM I ran too much again, 10 with Jake, Karl and Sam and an extra 2-3mi going from and to my car. I initially felt good and the sore throat was virtually gone but started feeling worse later in the day.

Wednesday I felt pretty yucky during the day, lots of pressure in the sinuses, coughing and sneezing a lot at work. Felt a little better by the evening, but it definitely affected my track workout with GRC, 4xmile (5:15, 5:05, 4:55, 4:45). I knew the 4:45 would be really tough healthy, but still feeling sick I wasn't sure of what would happen. Strangely enough I felt really (and I mean, REALLY) good for the first 3 miles, in which we hit paces exactly. I was surprised. But 400m into the last interval I felt tired pretty quick and felt like my breathing became very restricted. I went for another 800m and dropped once I hit the 1200 (was on 4:45 pace through 1000m). Legs felt fine, but I was struggling to breathe properly. I chalk it up to the cold, and it was also pretty chilly out... it had been pretty warm here during the week so it was a bit of a shock, coupled with still feeling under the weather, I think I was going to suffer. But at least I got most of it done, that I feel good about.

Ok, so I need to focus on a few things. The hardest workouts are done, it's time to think about resting, getting fully healthy and making sure my mind is in the right place. I have to admit, I am really excited about Clubs. Zwama told me on the phone tonight that an XC 10k is one of the most painful races one can do, but that got me even more stoked. Just have to make sure I arrive in Seattle all systems go.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holding my own again

Sunday I took it easy under Jerry's orders. I originally planned a 10-12mi run but ended up doing 6mi since it was between two hard workouts (Saturday's XC and Monday's early track workout). Again, I'm learning my body is adjusting pretty well to the mileage increase. It felt comfortable, as all of my recovery runs do now. It's a different feeling from my recovery jogs in the middle of tri season. I hit 62 miles for the week, which is possibly the most I've done either ever or for the past couple years.

Tonight (Monday) was an early week track workout since many people would probably be traveling home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Workout was 1600-1200-800-400 with 3min recoveries, a good pre-race workout but also with some tough paces. Made a little tougher by a somewhat stiff wind and annoying mist. Not to mention it was a little chilly! Not a fun night to run in. This workout's B group consisted of myself, Dangerous Dave and THE SHREDDER (Jason's new nickname, because he can shred on his trusty skateboard). Tender, Danger, Shredder. It's a good group, especially since I can finally hold pace with them in workouts again (something I was able to do in spring but not during the summer/early fall). We went 4:55 (74s), 3:36 (72s), 2:20 (70s) and 65. I led the 1600 and 800, and was able to hold an even pace just like last week. Another very solid workout that I was actually able to contribute to. I cooled down a little longer than usual since the workout was a little bit short. Probably about 9mi total

That makes 3 fast workouts in 5 days. And my legs feel great. I'll run medium distance easy the next couple days before Turkey Chase 10k on Thursday. If things go fine at the 10k I plan on taking my first day off in a while on Friday (or just spin for 30min).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Running well in the grass

I ran a little bit too long on Thursday with 3 J's (Jake, Jordan, Jimmy), aiming for only an hour but ending up running 80min, for probably 11-12 miles. That gave me enough reason to slice off 20min off my Friday run, going for 40min on my neighborhood loop, probably about 6mi since I picked the pace up a little for the last 20min.

Saturday AM was another XC workout with the team at the cell phone tower fields. Larger group this time, and I had a larger B-group contingent to work with this time (Dave, Jason, Jimmy and newcomer Will). The workout was 8x1km w/ 2:30 recovery jog. The idea was to cut down pace by 5sec every 2 intervals, but after we went out in 2:58 (4:46 mile pace, huh) for the first kilometer, that cutdown probably wasn't going to happen. And it didn't! But the good thing was that we stayed consistent. Dave and Jason gained 3-5sec on me for each interval, but that's the good news! I set a goal to keep Jason within 5 seconds, and I did just that. Our paces stayed even, 2:58, 2:56, 2:55, 2:56, 3:00, 3:02, 2:57 for the kilometers. It was a little slippery out there and we nearly bit it a couple times, but it was good practice without spikes.

So this would surpass Wednesday's track workout as my best workout yet of this current run build. I don't think I've ever been able to hold a sub-5 pace for 8km of a workout, so that was pretty neat to do! And that it was on rolling grass/dirt terrain was even more constructive.

Will run shorter than planned tomorrow because of an early-week track workout planned for Monday. I also need to watch my homedawg Michelle try to qualify for the trials in Philly and Ryan take on Ironman AZ tomorrow. Less running, more time to track them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I don't understand the body

My body is reacting oddly to the increase in running mileage. When I made the 3-week initial jump from 30-40-50 from early October I picked up a few minor knocks mainly in my feet, including an ankle/achilles ache and a strange swelling in the base of one of my toes. This was expected because a 20mi total increase in 3 weeks is a leap, especially by my standards. I was a little worried after a couple weeks of 50mi because the issues didn't get worse, but not much better. The toe stopped hurting but still swells a little bit (no redness or anything), but the achilles area still ached when walking or before warming up during a run. Leading into Vet's Day I felt it getting a little better, but of course I worried that I would just aggravate it during the race. I've been wearing trainers for all runs and workouts so I could protect my feet a little, so wearing flats during the 10k might have caused issues.

To my pleasant surprise, the race effort did not hurt my feet, but actually seemed to accelerate the healing! Including last night's workout I have run 25mi since the race and each day my feet feel better. I'm going to hit 60mi this week, so it's nice to see my body is indeed healing, even though I'm not decreasing effort or mileage. It's really weird how the body works!! Michelle knows what I'm talking about.

Monday AM I ran 8mi or so with Sam and Jake, feeling no fatigue or soreness from the 10k. Tuesday AM I ran 6mi around my neighborhood loop nice and easy, and it felt quite relaxing. Last night was probably my best track workout since the Spring. 2x1600 (5:04, 5:05), 2x800 (2:26, 2:24), 4x400 (67, 67, 65, 65) with relatively short recoveries. Led the 2nd mile (first was a little quick for the group), and the 1st 800. That was something I hadn't done since my Spring season. To be honest, that is what I've wanted to do most of all in workouts during this run build. I used to be able to lead and pace the B group earlier in the year during workouts. I haven't been able to since. The past few workouts have been good, but I was just sitting in and keeping up. This workout felt comfortably tough and I was able to take control of parts of it. Progress! The 67s and 65s at the end were pretty important to me, considering I want to work on my turnover/leg speed in the coming weeks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Veteran's Day 10k and COOKIES

I'll get it out of the way first. Best part of the Veteran's Day 10k, above the "best part" that is most appropriate for this running/multisport-related blog, were the chocolate chip cookies that were provided at the race. MAN, they were great. Chewy but not overly so and with chocolate chips the size of Montana, I must have eaten at least 8 of them and even shared some with Charlie, who can do a good Cookie Monster.

About the race, it was pretty good too. Great morning for racing at Hain's Point, mid-40s at start time, so I was able to go jersey and my new half-tights, which Chris "SURPRISE" Sloane sold me, with no winter gear. A little bit windy, which one could definitely feel on the Point.

Race started and I did my best to hang back, but this also made life difficult as a big gap immediately opened up between me and my to-be main competitor in the race, PRR's Andy Ciarfalia and the front pack... about 8-10 seconds by the time we got to the point. Andy C got about 10 seconds ahead of me by mile 1, so aside from a Riadha girl I had just passed, I was alone, my least favorite way to be at HP. Came through mile 1 in 5:10 according to my watch and Jerry, who reminded me to relax. I was feeling pretty relaxed though, so it must have been a short mile. I do remember it being a little bit further down the road. The positioning stayed the same up to and around the turn at the end of HP, and came through mile 2 in 5:50, which also didn't feel right, so miles 1 and 2 definitely weren't measured correctly.

Made the turn to head down the other side of HP, and was greeted, pushed rather, by a tailwind. We had been running into a headwind from the start so this was refreshing. Came through 5k in 17:00, which was my plan. I went through in 16:40 or so last year and fell apart, so at least this year I could say I took it conservative and smart, so the race was shaping up well so far. I also had caught up to Ciarfalia and a young guy from Falls Road team, Alex Weldt, who had fallen way off his 33:low pace. I caught both at the turn to head home, at around 3.5mi. Weldt couldn't keep pace but Ciarfalia nestled behind my left shoulder and I knew it would be a race from here. We exchanged leads for the next 2 miles, giving each other momentary breaks from the unexpected headwind (yeah, it felt a headwind going both ways, must have been a crosswind).

I passed by Jerry at mile 5 and he gave me some encouragement and I realized that I was well on my way to getting close to 33:45. Ciarfalia then asked me if I was Andy as well, since all he had been hearing from guys like Charlie, Max and Jerry was encouragement for "Andy" (or fish-stick, Captain, Chicken Tender et al.). We exchanged chuckles and resumed the competition. I tried at this point to pull away and for a second I did, but strangely enough my legs weren't agreeing. They didn't hurt, they just didn't want to speed up. Aerobically I felt great... regular breathing, controlled/tempo HR, but my legs just didn't want to spin any faster or harder than sub-threshold. We sped up a bit as we came within half a mile to go, but I really couldn't get my legs to go faster, despite feeling like I had a lot of energy to expend. Finally hit mile 6 and I knew I'd hit my B goal of 33:45 or better, but Ciarfalia launched his kick and my legs didn't respond. Hit the line in 33:45 and 18th overall, 5:26/mi. My best finish at Veteran's Day and any HP 10k. And my first non-disaster at Vets Day! Sweet! And my best 10k not named Pike's Peak (which is an absurdly fast race). Also got a gift certificate for 3rd in the 25-29 age group, so that pays for a new pair of half-tights that Chris Sloane will enthusiastically sell to me.

So what about that inability to speed up? I talked to Jerry and expressed my concerns. He presented a logical explanation: I need more speed work. I agree. I've had 3 straight weeks of good speed work, but that's not enough. A months-worth more of speed and I hopefully will be able to increase my turnover and leg speed by XC Club Nationals. But this race was quite the positive experience and was good practice for me to finally race smart and strong the whole way through. Plus, it was a lot of fun and to me that was the BEST part of all. As I wrote before, my competitive spirit had been quelled after Columbia, but running MCM around Emily in October reignited that fire. I felt it today and it made racing a heck of a lot more exciting. Running with the team and seeing them succeed as well (we won the team competition, no thanks to me who always runs too slow to be counted) makes it even better.

Here's to some more speed and fun in the next month.

1 mile in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Godzilla likes races too


Another solid week of running leading into Veteran's Day 10k this Sunday. Ran about 10mi on Monday with Uncle Buttweenis, a spin on Tuesday, hard but short track workout Wednesday, and a pair of shakeout runs Thursday and Friday (today).

Wednesday's track was another success, but good golly it was hard. It seemed shorter and therefore easier, but this would end up being only half true. I felt really light and loose in the warmup, which is great news to me, as I've been feeling a little better each week. This was definitely the best I've felt while running since I started focusing on my run training again. The workout was 2k @ 77s, 2x1k @ 73s and 72s, 4x500 @ 67s. We really were closer to 75s on the 2k, hit the 1ks on time and then I started to fall apart a bit on the 500s. First one I hit 67, but really lagged on the second, coming in at closer to 70. I was ready to call it quits then, but PMurph (almost literally, I fear) slapped some sense into me and convinced me to finish the workout. Hit the last two on pace, in 67 each, so I still have some mental demons to defeat apparently since my legs clearly weren't finished. Thanks to Patrick for somehow knowing this.

So it was a hard workout with short recoveries that was about the edge of my abilities, but it apparently was the right workout as Thursday's recovery run felt really smooth. No stiffness or aches, but rather my legs felt loose and ready to go faster. That's the idea, I think?? One more easy run tomorrow with strides and then it's time to race again!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cross weekend & new friend

I met up with some GRCers on Saturday AM at the "Cell Phone Towers" field for a cross country workout. It was mostly A groupers but fortunately Jimmy showed up so I had a workout partner... and it's really good he showed as the A group ran away from me in the first interval!

Ah, the Cell Phone Towers field. Last time I did a workout there was during high school, as the Sidwell XC team often went there for workouts. Funny enough, they were out there Saturday AM as well doing some sort of time trial workout. That was actually a bit annoying to me, as it brought back memories of being held back in order to "run as a group"... it certainly didn't help my development that season, and I don't remember doing workouts in the offseason as a team. The same coach I had then is still the coach and he was out there shouting times... it would have been nice to have that back in my day. O well, that's the past!

So this workout was 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 minutes @ 10k pace, with recoveries being half of each interval. It was a cold morning, barely above freezing. I like the cold though, and I think it helped as I had a great workout. Was holding around 5:20-5:30s for the intervals... my best estimate based on what Jimmy was clocking. That's good enough, because I want to hold that at both Veteran's Day and XC Club Nationals. It was an effort that was tough but didn't hurt, and was long enough that I got to see if my goal paces are realistic... I think they are.

I was down and out for the rest of the day because of this workout. It was practically a 10k race on terrain I'm not used to running on! Sunday AM I went for a shakeout jog and it really helped loosen my legs, especially my feet, which have been picking up random knocks since I've been building up my mileage. The good running continues! Hopefully a good sign for Sunday's Veteran's Day race.

Oh, I got a new bike! It's a custom-built TT bike from Elite Bicycles, with full-Ultegra spec (except for pedals and wheels) and a comfy (and complimentary!) new ISM Prologue saddle. The bike of my dreams. The name is almost decided but will be unveiled, uh, soon. Not to build suspense, but because it needs the absolute perfect name possible. Plus, no one other than me cares. But it's really important, you know.

Hmm, what to name you?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hi again

Yeah, that Nation's FLASH never really became more than a FLASH. Oops. Chalk it up to laziness and a small side of disappointment. But now I think I'll start blogging again. The triathlon season is long over and I'm in the midst of a short running season, attempting to regain some of my Spring 2011 glory, culminating in hopefully a good race at USATF XC Club Nationals in Seattle on December 10.

In a couple weeks I'll be racing at Veteran's Day 10k, and I don't really know why. I always do terribly at that race. 2 years in a row, in fact. Both were attempts at big PRs, and both were colossal failures. But I like to think I'm older and wiser (?) and this time I'll succeed... but this time I'm not going for a PR, just to get some practice in and hopefully a confidence boost. I guess I'm going for a Veteran's Day PR, which currently stands at 34:06, my 3rd best 10k time to date. 11 days after that I'll run the Turkey Chase 10k, another 10k I haven't had much luck in, but I'm doing it for the same reason as Veteran's Day, practice and hopefully a confidence boost. A course PR might be good too.

And I suppose I have reason to be confident going into races now, as I've had 2 fantastic track workouts, and hard ones at that. Last week it was 2x2000 + 4x1000, all at the prescribed paces (which going in I thought were too fast) and yesterday was 6x800 + 6x400. Both workouts I was able to not only FINISH (with Patrick Murphy, the first time in a long time we were able to do that with the souped-up B group) but also hang onto the group through all intervals. So, I have all that going for me. It's been really helpful having Coach Jerry getting involved with my running. I'm taking a break from swimming and only cycling easy 2-3 days a week, so Todd is giving me some freedom with my running. I'm turning to Jerry and he's been very supportive and helpful, as have my GRC teammates.

I also had an out-of-nowhere 17-mile long run on Sunday. I jumped into the Marine Corps Marathon at mile 8.5 with my pal Ryan McGrath, and we planned on running together until mile 20. We decided a mile or so later to stick with Falls Road runner Emily Hurley in her quest for sub-3 hours, so my long run now had purpose. Around the 18-mile marker, I made a decision to stick with Emily for a little longer, to maybe mile 23, since the course would only get tougher, and to be honest, I was feeling really good! I hadn't run longer than 11 miles in a while, so why not get to 14? Ryan hopped off at mile 20, his long run complete. I stayed just ahead of Emily, and within the next couple miles, the 8th, 9th and 11th place girls (Emily was 10th at this point) all came within 15 meters of each other. I could sense the competitive tension and spirit and I got really pumped up from it, getting visions of my races in the near future. In those moments I felt really excited to race again. I hadn't felt such fire since before Columbia! I was so excited in fact that I totally forgot I was going to jump out at mile 23 and ran with Emily to mile 26, a 17.5 mile run for me! Holy cow. I jumped out as she powered her way past some competitors and through the last .2 miles to a 2:56 and 10th overall finish. A mighty effort. As for me, I felt no worse for the wear, despite that being my longest run by at least 5 miles in the last 2-3 years.

I guess if nothing else, it made me a little stronger, more confident in my stamina and most importantly, excited to race again. So yeah, running is going well. I hope it shows in the coming race weekends.

Me, Ryan and Emily just past 13.1 at Hain's Point during MCM.