"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Friday, September 21, 2012

The tragic folly of the Richmond athletic department

I started out the day reeling from the pain of sleeping off the painkillers prescribed after my wisdom tooth extraction yesterday. I was staying at Nadir's in Falls Church to watch his cat while he was out of town. I did an easy 13 miles on the New Virginia Manor loop, one of my favorites, and headed off to work, feeling pretty good. Shortly after noon, that changed, when I heard that the Richmond athletic department was planning to cut men's indoor and outdoor track. Soccer, too. I waited a few hours to hear that it was confirmed, and lost my afternoon in a combination of anger, grief and frustration.

It would be less painful if they cut a pound of my flesh. 

Times-Dispatch story
Collegian story

I loved my experience at the University of Richmond, I thought the faculty and the overall quality of life at the school were great on their own merits. The journalism department helped me figure out my calling in a  fundamental way. But what made my Richmond experience -- what motivates me to tell anyone about the school who will listen -- was my involvement with the track team. I'm written before about how important it was to me to make the team, but I'll put it even more bluntly: were it not for the Richmond track team, I would likely not care enough about the school to come back every few months, to speak of it as highly as I do, or to go to the lengths I do to communicate the regard I hold the school.  I wouldn't try to recruit every promising young person I meet, regardless of their interest in running.

On a macro level, without its track team, Richmond will have likely never enjoyed the presence of some wonderful contributors to the student body who are excelling outside of athletics- Garret Graham, Seann Mulcahy, Tim Caramore, Jon Lauder, Dan Petty, Dave Blanchard, many others. Men who made their mark on the track but made the school a better place. They would have chosen another school to continue their education.

This is to say nothing of runners like Andrew Benford and Matt Llano, both recent All Americans, who are pursuing professional running careers. Sos Bitok and Hillary Tuwei, who ran in the Olympics (No emphasis is necessary). Jon Molz and Pete Jennings, who are active and involved track coaches...

So many of these guys had the best grades among not just athletes, but the entire school. Track and field attracts introspective, cerebral students who not only act rationally, but their very discipline lends itself to thought and reflection. They are personable and engaging. Track men represent the university well in every sphere in which they are involved, and they are a credit to the entire student body. It's a short-sighted decision, and I don't think the board of trustees thought through its impact on general student recruitment.
I can't not touch on the notoriety of other schools' lacrosse teams in the region, but I will leave it with that allusion.

Now, the University of Richmond will no longer have this attractive option to offer to high school students. They'll go elsewhere, and who can blame them? An athletic department that doesn't offer basic athletics, and track and field is as basic as you can get, is laughable. It's shameful. How can I cheer for the 3-8 football team? Are those roster spots going to make the difference and stop the football team from being so terrible? Will we become a lacrosse powerhouse now?

At risk of sound like a conspiracy theorist, it also smacks of a disregard for women.. Cutting two men's sports for the sake of another might be what the state teachers college does, but Richmond is incredibly secure, financially. Why not create another women's sport? Rowing? Softball? Volleyball? Water polo? We already have a successful crew club.I also see a bit of class division. Running and soccer are about the cheapest sports to fund and play. Lacrosse isn't exactly hockey or crew, but there are more barriers to entry for youth participation.

We've been through this before, in 2000. The programs survived and improved drastically with the hiring of Steve and Lori Taylor, coaches who mean everything to me athletically and personally -- they're like an aunt and uncle -- and I know I'm not the only Spider to feel this way. I want to look at this crisis as an opportunity, if the alumni can express themselves in a constructive way that illustrates the collective character of the men who have run those laps with the name Richmond on their chests.

It may accomplish nothing, for all of track's qualities, it remains undervalued for all but two weeks every four years by the general public. Then again, people said the cross country team (which was thankfully left untouched this time) would never win anything without scholarships. We know how that turned out.

Back to self-absorption:

Sept. 11 - After days of 18, 15 and 20 miles, I took it easy on Tuesday before my meeting and ran with Dolla Billzzz from Clarendon. I was dragging for a while, but woke up about halfway through. I bid Billzzz adieu after six miles then did a few more on some flat neighborhood streets.

Sept 12 - BCC's track was in use, so practice was at American, so I jogged over with Dix, Diddy and a slew of others to use that track, which now featured a pothole and cone in lane one, 75 meters in. I got a 2:36 warmup 800, then joined Dix and Fridge for the half marathon workout- 2:34 and 2:32. Most of everyone else joined in for 2:30, 2:28, 2;24, 2:24, 2:22 and 2:18. I felt great throughout, despite some uneven pacing resulting from the wind on the stretches. We headed back to the house and Stefan and I got a few more miles in on our cooldown for 13 total.

Sept 13- I ran to work, coming down the CCT from Kenwood and then along the mall. I was a little tired after sleeping poorly, and was not really into running 13 miles that early. My five-mile afternoon run around AU Park was a drag. My nips hurt, thanks to running my whole workout in the GRC t-shirts from 2010. I think they're made of sandpaper.

Sept 14- I pretty much never feel like waking up early to run on Fridays, certainly not after running 18 the day before, so I slept in and delayed my workout to the evening. I ran a long warmup to the 11 mile mark for the Marine Corps Marathon and planned to do 5-6 miles starting at 5:50 and getting 10 seconds faster each mile. I was using the Nike+ thing I bought during my short stint at the Chevy Chase Running Company, with hopes of getting a somewhat accurate evaluation of my pace. It was a bit off, though, I came throuhg a mile in 5:45, the second in 5:40, third in 5:35 and fourth in 5:30. After that, I was wiped out, and my gastrointestinal ills were too much to ignore. I struggled back to my office, took a shower, went upstairs to get my stuff, but ended up just sitting at my desk for at least a half hour before dragging myself home.

Sept 15- After an early morning trip down to Hains Point to watch the GRC debut new uniforms and hit some great times at the Run, Geek, Run 8k and a trip to Elyse's pool to sit in the sun, I drove down to Lake Accotink to check the route I had planned for the Running Report's Nov/Dec edition, and to get away from the city. I dropped off some gatorade at the 4/16 mile mark and headed back to route 50 to start my run. I was cruising a little too fast, come through 6 miles in 38 minutes. The temperature dropped when I got to the lake and I looked around for a good photo for the article, but noticed my favorite view was obstructed by the lush vegetation. Lots of talkative people were taking walks that afternoon and plenty of friendly, passive dogs. Two laps were over in a hurry and I was headed back to the car. As usual, I felt pretty wrecked on the way back, which happens at the same place, whether I'm running 16 or 20 miles. I made it back in 2:11 for 20 miles, and was rather pleased with that. On the way back, I got to listen to the CSPAN broadcast of Arnold Palmer's Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.

Sunday morning I watched the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon and took a nap before some football. The Steelers played the late game, so I waited until that was done for my 13 mile run. I did a Nellie Custis that went quite well. Almost all of it was at dusk or darker, but it felt great. The weather was perfect and I was relaxed. I saw Texas Paul driving in Georgetown and chased him for a block. Using the wedding weekend mileage accrual system, I switched Saturday and Sunday's runs, so even though I had run 107 miles the week before, I counted it as 100 and gave Sunday credit for my long run.

Since I finished running at 9 pm Sunday, I took Monday morning off and set out that evening for American's track to do some 400s. While running along Nebraska with Witty, who was out for his own run, I heard some mocking from a young fellow in a car. Unfortunately for him, he was about to hit a long red light, giving me plenty of time to catch up, ask him to repeat what he said, then decry his lack of courage to be able to say to my face what he yelled so easily a minute before. I had been feeling a little flat before that, but the adrenaline pumped me up for my quarters. I changed into my flats and hit some 400s- four in 68. After that, though, the adrenaline wore off and I was tired again. I jogged home and called it a day at five miles.

Tuesday morning I woke up and sleepwalked through 8.25 miles on the CT-MA route, apparently waving to Drea without noticing who she was. I fell asleep on the metro on my ride home and woke up not looking forward to the 10 miles I had waiting for me. Witty joined me for six miles or so. I was not eager to climb Albemarle. I was delighted, however, to learn I will be able to return to Albemarle County in October for the Charlottesville Fall Classic Half. I had a really good feeling about the timing and location of this race, and I'm excited to take my shot at the half marathon there this fall.

Wednesday morning saw little interest in a morning run, but I made up for it with a solid workout. a 2:30 800 to warm up, then a 6:15 2k, 3:02, 3:01, 2:58 and 2:54 1ks.

Thursday (Sept. 20) morning I did an eight mile loop down Nebraska and back up Western to 47th and Van Ness. Then I had my wisdom teeth pulled. Yeesh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another sweaty summer

I neglected the hell out of writing for the last three months, here I go:

After a spring where I ran whatever pace I wanted with little resistance, once June weather began in earnest, I eventually had to relent to the elements. Try as I might, I can't change how my body dissipates heat, which is to say not well at all. I find the limit to mind over matter. I think about the late Sammy Wanjiru, who was able to hold a pace others thought to be a stunt in the 2008 Olympic Marathon's hot and humid weather, yet he came out on top in a huge Olympic record time. Why can't I do that? We had divergent experiences at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, the only time I raced him (I gave him a few seconds of a head start by starting several rows back), but I always wonder if I can push myself harder. I can't, but it was not for lack of trying.

Aside from a few days in March and the regrettable warm weather in Cleveland, I was lucky to not have to deal with too many hot days this spring. That's coming to an end, though to be fair it's actually Summer now.I took two days off after I couldn't manage one Sunday, but found much nicer temperatures Wednesday night (June 13) I set out for what would be my last New Virginia Manor loop. To say I was aggressive would be fair, I was out close to 6:00 pace for the first two miles to get to the loop, then let loose and ran fast enough for the two loops to average 5:50 for 10 miles. It felt like that was my natural state. I knew it might be the last good run I have in the summer and in northern Virginia for a long time. I absolutely relished all 12.5 miles of it. I took the next day off, then ran a strained three miles Friday (June 15) evening down to the W&OD and back up through the metrobus road. My mom was in town for a wedding, so I took her to Lake Accotink for some running Saturday (June 16), and I tried the place out for the first time without running the six miles from Vienna. I liked it, though it was pretty warm and I insisted on running with some mountain bikers as long as I could. I went clockwise then counterclockwise plus a little extra for 8.5 miles. The next morning (June 17), after a day of shuttling stuff to my new house, I went out to Arlington to run the Little Falls loop that I didn't do nearly enough. It was unremarkable, though it was a worthwhile option to have.

Monday (June 18) evening, I continued my farewell tour with a Steelers loop at 6:30 pace. It was cool and pleasant. I took Tuesday off, then Wednesday (June 20) fought the evening heat to run a Westmoreland one last time. By five miles, I was in trouble, and I bailed out on Haycock and finished up with 6.5. With the temperature pushing 95, I didn't need to make myself hate running.

The next night (June 21) I finished my move with a van full of furniture and ends (no odds). Another hot, but dry, day- 98 at one point. When I took the van back to the West Falls Church, I decided to get my last run in and make it functional- I'd run the nine miles between my homes. I started out well- clutching a squeeze bottle of gatorade I would earn the right to drink. I slightly altered a Williamsburg and made it four miles at 6:30 pace, then cruised along Glebe feeling like a million bucks. The steep downhill to the Chain Bridge pushed my average to 6:21 for the first 5.5 miles, and I gulped the Gatorade when I crossed the Potomac and bid farewell to Virginia. I ran along Canal, with little traffic to hassle me, and turned up Arizona, about to tackle the 2.3-mile climb to Tenleytown. As I shot up the hill, though, everything crashed. I couldn't see, my heart started racing but feeling weak, my lungs began to hurt, and I had no recourse but to sit the hell down. I'm not sure how long I was there, but when I summoned the strength to resume, I jogged gingerly. After a few minutes climbed Arizona, it became apparent I would have been unwise to continue. So, I walked, still light headed. I kept walking until I reached Rockwood- a flat mile from the house. I jogged slowly but surely and finished the job, collapsing into the first-floor bathtub to rinse myself cool. I downed two quarts of gatorade and went about trying -- and failing -- to carry my stuff upstairs. I gave up soon and went to bed, waking up four hours later, falsely panicked that I had overslept.  The next day at work, my head felt like it was cement, and my arms could barely function. I think I am pretty much ran myself to exhaustion the night before. I think it was the most miserable I have been while running, and I probably pushed myself harder than I ever had before, though it was a bad idea to do so. I took the Friday off, smartly.

June 23- I slept in and ran a little too late to beat the rising temperatures. I headed off on what I'm calling my bad ending loop- around to Connecticut, down to Dupont and back up Massachusetts and Wisconsin. I made it halfway up Massachusetts before I overheated and decided to play it safe, in case I had done myself grievous harm Thursday night, and walked the rest of the way after running 5.75 miles.

June 24- Sunday morning I slept in a little bit too much again and resigned myself to an easy 5 miles on my Fordham loop that I adapted from my AU workout warmup.

July 4 I headed up to BCC to run around the track while some of the guys worked out. Ran around with Wiggy a lot and had a total of eight miles. In the afternoon, Witty and I went out and did a Hannay's Gate and I had to stop several times in the fifth mile to let me heart rate slow down.

July 5-6 Thursday and Friday I ran the same Partial Stefan loop, up Wisconsin to Somerset, then to the CCT and down to Albemarle, and back home. Thursday I was on my own and Friday I finally had a run with both Sam and Ryan.

July 7- I was up early Saturday to avoid the 106-degree heat, starting at 6:30, and even then I felt like I had slept in too much. Luckily I had only 9 miles to meet my 60 mile goal for the week, so I simply did a Rockland, stayed on Western to Chevy Chase Circle, came back on Nebraska then headed down Wisconsin to the Hearst field, did a few laps then came back.

July 8- Sunday afternoon, I wanted until the rains were supposed to come in the late afternoon. I set out around 5, with the temperatures still in the 90s, and journeyed down Porter to the Western Ridge Trail and eventually Beach Drive. When I hit Beach, the wind picked up as a thunderstorm brewed, and my first crossing of Rock Creek was greeted with a dramatic thunderclap. The temperature was more bearable and I braced for rain that didn't come. I turned up Bingham and then a long climb up Nebraska home.

July 9- Monday was dramatically better, and it showed in my pace. I ran up Nebraska to Connecticut, to the CCT. I started taking splits at the two-mile mark and marveled as I went 6:10, 6:00, 5:30 for the three miles before I eased up for a mile then was back up those dang Albemarle hills and off for home on Butterworth, a slightly better alternative to Albemarle. I ended up hitting 10.1 miles at 6:30 pace, my fastest in a while.

July 10- Tuesday morning's run to work was a pain. It was humid, I was tired and my knees hurt. Military Road has no sidewalk to speak of, and that made crossing Rock Creek Park a lot less pleasant than I had anticipated. By the time I got to Fort Totten Park, I was feeling beaten up, so I ran to the Brookland Metro and took that the rest of the way. I still got 6.5 miles at 6:55 pace. In the evening, I set off for a run in Somerset and hit a rainstorm less than a mile in, which was fantastic. It felt refreshing to have the water all over the place, blinding me at times, cooling me off constantly, providing entertainment. I ran some turns that had calf-deep torrents running down the hill. After my shoes were completely soaked, the knowledge that it couldn't get any worse released me to enjoy it more. I ended up getting 6.25 miles at a little under 7:00 pace for 13.75 total.

The next morning I headed out on my own to run a 10 mile loop in Somerset. It was incredibly humid and I was soaked within 20 minutes. It was a decent neighborhood for running, with little traffic, and I can easily see a road race working in there, assuming cooperation from the residents. I ended up averaging 7:30s, which

Friday morning I was in Pittsburgh and running eight miles around Chatham Village before taking a nap and heading down to my hotel for a conference. The weather was cool and dry and it looked like I'd have a good stint of training while I was home.

NOPE The next morning, I was up at 5:30 to warm up for my organization's fitness 5k. It was humid as all get out. I got down to the Convention Center and we were off. I burst out into the lead and passed by my department director, who was directing participants, and pointed out that that's why they hired me- to win the fitness 5k. I cruised over the Allegheny to the North Shore and ran alone out to the casino- 8:30 out. I turned and crossed paths with a variety of delegates and staff members and waved to them. I chose one of the bridges, bounded up the steps and back over the river and back to the convention center. I saw the organizer. Oh hello! Surprised to see me here? Yes, she was, because apparently the run finished on the lower level. I ran even splits for 17:00 on what I believe to have been 5k+, because there was no indication of when to turn around. I went out on the jail trail to finish up 12 miles.

I slept in the next morning and ran in the afternoon. It was pretty damned hot. I took Second Avenue out to Hazlewood Avenue and climbed one of the more miserable hills in recently memory. I must have been out of practice running in Pittsburgh. By the time I got to Schenley Park, I opted out of my golf course loop and headed back down the Panther Hollow Trail and back on the Jail Trail. I was pretty beaten up and ready to be done after 12 miles.

I took Monday off. Tuesday evening I headed out from the William Penn to Penn Avenue, then Butler until One Wild Place, then wound up the hill to Negley, then Penn until Children's Hospital, then Liberty. I had a life-sustaining drink of water near the Church Brew Works and continued my cruise down Liberty, totaling 12.

Wednesday morning I did five miles around Chatham Village in the morning, then eight around Fox Chapel in the evening. Climbing Guyasuta from Squaw Run was no joke. Thursday morning I did an easy five around Squaw Valley Park, and eight in the evening in Mt. Lebanon. Both were really tough, weatherwise.

Friday morning I struggled through wretched humidity in Frick Park and was lucky to get about seven miles in. I supplemented that with five around Chatham Village that evening. I took Saturday off to get more rest, because I clearly needed it. Sunday, I headed back to Frick and actually got a solid 10 miles in.

I finally got some new shoes, I realized only after looking up my old order confirmation e-mails that I had been wearing the same two pairs, aside from workouts and some long runs, since early January, almost 2,100 miles.

I'm not quite sure what I did for a while, and I won't delay in finishing this up just to figure that out. There was a lot of doubling and I steadily increased my mileage: 80, 85, 90, 96, and 100 the week ending when I went out to Steve's cabin. I do remember a lot of struggle against the heat and humidity and dissatisfaction with running in northwest DC. It's not to say that it's bad. It's the best part of the city in which to live to be a long distance runner, but in comparison, it's terrible compared to what I had in McLean. The traffic relegates me to the sidewalks, which are crowded with people. Though I have mapped and explored extensively, I have yet to find anything that compares to even my middling loops before. The climbs uphill at the end of every run might be making me stronger, but I don't need them every day. I'm a few miles from Rock Creek Park, but in the summer, it's so muggy and bereft of wind, it's miserable. When it cools down, it will get dark too early to be able to safely run there. And every time we have a heavy rain, trees come down and block trails. Despite all of this, however, I've been able to run decent mileage.

Possibly adding to my frustration is the savagery with which the summer beat me. I don't want to belabor the point, but I'm going to. I should just stop trying to run fast during the summer. Nothing good comes from it. I'll be fine when the weather cools, but for two months, I'm useless faster than 7:00 pace. So, as long as I live here, I won't even plan on racing in the summer.

Friday night, Sam, Beth, Drea and I drove out to Pembroke to Steve and Lori's cabin for an abbreviated training camp. We drove out to Pandapas Park Saturday morning and ran about 10.5 miles on the Poverty Creek Trail, out and back. The climatic change from DC was remarkable, we were running at 10:30 am and feeling great. That afternoon we ran to the War Spur overlook, gingerly, thanks to all of the rocks on the trail. The view was magnificent, as (almost) always. We tried to eat three dishes at Kal Bee among the four of us, but my resistance to pork was our weak spot, and we yielded.

That night, we got to bed significantly earlier than the night before, but woke much earlier after a sudden rain shower hammered the tin roof like thousands of gunshots. Earplugs fixed that. Later that morning, we headed up to the Mountain Lake hotel to meet the Richmond team for its preseason camp long run. At noon, it was still 59 degrees, with a wet chill. It was absolutely ideal. I caught up with a bunch of the guys and met the freshmen as we headed up the gravel road past the lake. We took a detour to see the overlook but the group split up later on. Sam and I continued on the road, climbing like crazy, then turned. On the way back, Sam wanted to let the thing be pressed and I went with him for a while, until my knee started to get sore. he was going less than I was anyway, and I decided to explore the dirt (mud) trails for a while. I ended up getting 2:12, which I equated to 20 miles.

The next evening, Witty and I went out for a run through Rock Creek Park via Calvert. It began pouring and we just relished it.

Thursday evening I went to Falls Church to see my barber and get a decent run. I ended up doing a Slate Run and reveling in the empty suburban streets and I had all to myself.

Saturday I went out to Bull Run Park for a potential long run. The humidity and my fatigue from a long week of not sleeping well doomed me, and I ended up only getting in a little more than 90 minutes for 13 and another 100 mile week.

Sunday morning, I slept in and ran down to Rock Creek Park and around the Western Ridge trail until I got to the field off of Military where I planned to do a fartlek. Only, I didn't want to anymore. I ran some lame laps around the field and headed home for a total of eight. That afternoon, I did the Connecticut loop until I hit the Massachusetts Bridge, and instead took the trail down to Rock Creek Park and ran to the Melvin Hazen Trail for 12.

Monday morning I did the Van Ness Street loop Scott and I did a few weeks ago for eight, then in the afternoon ran to the Donaldsons Run Trail with Billzzz for another eight. It was a little too warm and the park had no water fountain.

Tuesday I did a partial Stefan in the morning in wretched humidity, which drained me down to my lowest weight in years. It was about 90 degrees after work when I did a Potomac loop, extended around the Capitol, and I was really feeling parched by five miles. 13 total.

Wednesday  (Aug. 29) I did a Hannay's Gate five miles easy in the morning, then went to BCC for a workout. I was feeling great after a 2:32 800 warmup. I stuck in the middle of the pack first the first mile and went through in 4:59, then 4:55 for the second, feeling like it was natural. Then, on the 400 jog after the second, I started feeling like I couldn't get a deep breath in. I didn't make it 100 meters in. I came back and started the 5:04 mile with the B group, but was a second slow at the 400 and wasn't feeling up to the rest, so I got off the track and cooled down.

Thursday (Aug 30) I did another Hanny's Gate in the morning, then a Nellie Custis in the evening for 18 total.
Friday morning I woke up without any interest in running, so I didn't. It was my first day off all month, but after 413 miles, I figured why not.

Saturday morning I woke up to hear Molz, Guy and Andy talking about how humid it was. It couldn't be anything worse than what I've felt this summer, I thought. YES, IT COULD. It was awful. It wasn't just uncomfortable, it was hard to breathe. Lauder and Dana picked Hunter and me up a little while later and took us to Pole Green Park. I hadn't been there since 2005, while working for the Herald-Progress. I took off on my warmup around the course and started to feel a stabbing sensation under my shoulder. I joined Watson for a bit and wore my 10-year-old spikes, at which Rhue continues to amaze that they are still in one piece.

I lined up on the far end of a field of 70-some and judged my chances for success. Earlier in the week, I wanted to run as close to 5:00 pace as possible. With the humidity as bad as it was, that was unfeasible. I decided I might as well see how long I could hang on and just have the race kick me into action. I wouldn't be in the same shape as last year, given that I'm a month behind in my training, so I didn't want to set even moderate goals without extremely favorable conditions, lest I lose the results in a cloud of frustration.

Instead, I was lost in a cloud of runners as we ran across the field at Pole Green Park. The last time I was here, it was covered in booths during the Hanover Tomato Festival. I was shocked I was able to run across the grass as fast as I was- during my warmup I could barely jog. It must be the adrenaline of my first race since May. I just kind of sat back in the lead group for a while and followed Kyle and Adam. I realized after most of a lap that I had been running pretty fast for a while, but had no idea how long of how far we were on the course. We came back into the open field and soon enough I found out how fast we were going- 4:51 for the mile. Lauder reportedly said "he's going to pay for that." I kept pushing, but I was starting to feel the combination of thick air and the fastest mile I had run in months. I hung on for a while, but started to fall out of the pack and then was on my own. After what I guess to have been eight minutes, my breathing was a wreck, and I was just pushing for the heck of it, to finish the race. I went through the second mile in 10:10 and just couldn't wait for it to be over. People kept passing me and I had no motivation to stop them. I hoped some animal would come out of the woods and tear me to pieces so I didn't have to finish the race. Not soon enough, I got to the last stretch, and Lauder yelled to "use your weight on the downhill." I tried to kick, but two chaps caught me at the end as we crossed the line and ran right into the finishers waiting to have their numbers recorded. I ended up running 16:05, surprising, given how dead I was at the end. Looking back, I could have pushed more, if I was ready for that kind of pain. I paid lip service to cooling down, but not very much. I was going to enjoy the rest of my day off.

Until I woke up from my nap when Benford showed up to run with Molz. he had my shoes with him, and I figured I might as well go for another run to clear out my legs, after wearing spikes. The first 10 minutes were a rough sequence of belches and back cracks as I dealt with my only-recently-digested lunch, then  an ankle turn. I shook it all off, though. We ran through Byrd Park's Northbank trail, new to me, and over the Lee pedestrian Bridge for a loop of Belle Isle before heading back over the Nickel Bridge and back to Molz's. I hit 10 miles in  61:50, for 6:11 pace, most of that made up in the second half. I found out later that the temperature was in the 90s, but I felt a lot better than I had in the morning. And I ended up getting my 100 miles in for the week, to boot.

The next morning I went off on my own over the Nickel Bridge again to Forest Hill Avenue, then pretty much went backwards on the marathon course. I passed Kyle and Conor heading the other way, but wanted to stick with my route rather than go with them. I was cruising along uncomfortably fast for the humid morning when I got to Stratford Hills and chased a guy down five miles in before heading up Rockfalls. The trip down was bereft of the normal breeze I enjoy so. I followed the detour from Riverside Drive up to Hugenot, then down the hill and over the new bridge to Panorama and through campus. I stopped at the track for water, 10 miles in, and headed up Towana and along Tree Chopt to Grove. I stopped at the mercifully-placed cooler and had a few drinks and gave myself an absolutely necessary splash of ice water in the face. The rest was just miserable. I was hitting the limit for the heat my body could handle and get rid of. When I got to the Boulevard, I stopped and walked back to Molz's. I got 14.25 and later that day decided against doubling.
I checked out the Google streetview of the Hugenot Bridge and saw this dude running

Labor Day morning, I ran from the line with Dickson, Murph, Fox, Tex, Outlaw and Seamus. It was again muggy, and my plans for 13 miles were quickly quashed by my general misery. I ended up getting 11. That evening, I headed down CT to Rock Creek, via Calvert, and headed up the trail toward Ridge Road. As I passed the zoo, though, I saw someone I thought I knew and for the rest of the run was unsure if I was going crazy or not.

Tuesday night I ran a Partial Stefan, but was having a rough time and barely finished seven miles. Wednesday I ran up Nebraska to Oregon and took Western back. That was difficult too, the humidity was killing me. The track workout was over quickly. I led the B group through 3/4 mile and felt the stabbing sensation in my lung, so I dropped out.

Thursday, I struggled through something in the morning, but then joined Witty for an hour out and back on the CCT via Somerset. I felt much better after that. I took Friday off.

Saturday I did an easy 63 minutes from the line with Jake and Sam, without a doubt the most enjoyable run from the line for me, ever. In the evening I did a CT-CCT with Bitz after a storm and relished the cool air. I had been waiting months for that. The run in the mountains was a tease, because I'd have to come back to DC weather. Now, it's getting reasonable to expect this weather.

Sunday morning I woke early to run up to BCC and warm up around the normal loop so I could see the guys finishing the Parks Half. I missed them, though, but got back to the track and was right on schedule for my 2x20 workout. I started slow, 83, but quickly got ahead of pace and averaged 5:26s, feeling really relaxed. I had to take a break during my recovery jog to attend to my intestines, but was right on time to start the second set. Through the mile alone in 5:19, Dickson and Fridge joined me for their three miles at 5:20. Dickson led superbly and I was through 3.75 in 19:53, with no major distress. Given the problem I had digestively, I was even happier with what was on paper my best 2x20 workout ever. Ahead of pace and relaxed. The cool weather does wonders, even though it was still incredibly humid. I didn't have a long cooldown in me.

Monday I met up with Scott for a morning run, then went off into RCP on my own in the evenings, down the Soapstone Valley Trail, along the Western Ridge to the line and the Valley Trail, then the trail between Beach and Ross drives, and up the Melvin Hazen Trail for a total of 20 for the day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cleveland Marathon is Decadent and Depraved

I did my usual Bolling for seven miles Wednesday (April 25) morning, but then decided against going to BCC for track work, opting instead for an 11 mile route on the W&OD to Vienna, then a loop back through neighborhoods. I wasn't feeling too great, though.

I took Thursday off of work to go up and watch the Penn Relays, so I took my time in the morning running out to McLean High School to do 4k,3k,2k, 2x1k, but early on I wasn't feeling great. I did some drills and ran back home. It was a late night, and I got about 3.5 hours of sleep on a shockingly comfortable couch.

Friday, I walked to work and before I went in I got a tired eight miles, out to the FDR fields and back. That evening I ran an Idylwood+ for another five, and slept like crazy after.

The next morning, I was up at 6 and out the door at 6:40. I planned to run 12 miles before the Jaguar 5k to get myself nice and tired, then race the 5k and cool down home. My first mile was just over 7:00, but I caught up in the next two, hitting three miles in 19:00. Three more miles in 18:30, by which point I was on Cottage and just rolling, having never run that direction before, it was cool to see everything from the other side. The next three miles were 18:05, but apparently when I remapped the course to include a few missed turns, it was more than three miles. I slowed down a little, with the intention of actually trying to run fast at the race, but when I got to the vestigial bridge over the beltway, I couldn't resist a few surges,and I kept of kept that going through Fairview Park. I thought better of my plan to cut it very close to the 5k start, since I was picking up my packet, so I cut a mile off the loop. I eased up as I headed down Route 50 and showed up at Falls Church High School for the Jaguar 5k, having averaged 6:13 for the 11 miles.

Everything I had read indicated the race started at 8, but when I picked up my number, it became apparent the race was a half hour later. I jogged around trying to stay loose and keep my heart rate up, but my brilliant plan to be "nice and tired" at the start to simulate the latter stages of the half marathon was beaching like a whale. Eventually the 5k start rolled around.

The gun went off and with it, a flock of floppy-haired teens out for yucks in the race's first stretch. I got around them by the first turn, then caught the last one, who actually looked like he could be kind of dangerous, right as we got out of the parking lot. I cruised through the neighborhoods, pushing a little more than I would have liked, but not interested in having any of the kids catch me. The first mile was mostly downhill, but I was shocked to come through at 5:01, I was expecting something more in the 4:40 range, considering my effort and the course.  I had nothing to worry about from the teens chasing me- I didn't hear any footsteps or cheers behind me. The second mile was heavily uphill as I turned onto Camp Alger Avenue, I saw the same old man out walking that I had seen two weeks before. I slowed a bit to say hi, then got back to business to split a lackluster 5:25 in the second mile.The third mile was more uphill and battling through the crowds of runners still in the first mile, but when I turned onto Holly Hill I found out the roads were not closed to traffic after all, because I had cars on either side of me as I turned onto Marc. I claimed the middle of the road after the turn and let the drivers deal with me until I got back to the school grounds popped up a hill and ran 300 on the track to finish in 16:30. I was pleased that after the long, pretty hard warmup and the unexpected wait, I was able to average a little faster than my goal half pace, but I still would have liked to have been faster.

As much as I love the CCT to Lake Accotink, it always tires me out a lot more than a mostly-flat trail should, and Sunday was no different. Gone, though, were the sunset clouds of gnats who pestered Karl and me the last time I was there. I took it easy and averaged 6:50s throughout, though as usual I was ridiculously thirsty in the last four miles.

Monday was a trip to Tenleytown to look at a house then a late run to McLean High School for some quarters. 69, 69, 67, 69, 68, 67, 67, 67, 69, 70, 70, 67. Then a cooldown for 13. Tuesday was another house but an earlier return home and, I believe, a Pimmit-Idylwood, though I'm not positive. Wednesday I struggled through the humidity to do some 1200s with Karl, Diddy and Syd Barrett, but I got pretty dizzy after a while and dropped out in favor of a few laps with Murph.

The next day I did five miles, probably an Idylwood+. That was when my back started to hurt, a different part than last time, I think I took the afternoon off to recover, or something. Friday morning I started a New Virginia Manor, but cut it after one loop, it was just too humid.

Saturday morning I was back in Pittsburgh and had plans for a nice long workout at 5:20 pace- 400 on the track, 1k on the oval, a mile on the track, 2k on the oval, 2 miles on the track, 4k on the oval, then 4k on the track. I was doing just fine until the youth soccer teams starts swarming the field inside the track while I was in the middle of my two mile. With kids running into lane one after soccer balls and parents not seeming to care where they stood, I was fed up. I tried to do the 4ks on the oval, the humidity was really getting to me by that point, and the temperature was climbing, so I opted for a long cooldown. It was really humid, I felt awful and wondered if I should even bother with Cleveland--two weeks later in a volatile month. The recent, very favorable temperatures on race day, however, convinced me to stick with the plan.

Sunday, I ran around and watched the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half, a total of 18 miles. My back was not a  problem while I was running. Monday I did another fartlek on the W&OD, my back wasn't even an issue. Tuesday I took off. Wendesday back to BCC for 5xmile- 5:30, 5:20, 5:10, 5:00, 4:49. Our pacer was slow at 800 for the last (2:28+) so I took the second half a little harder- 69 and 70. I didn't feel my back at all. The next morning I did a Slade Run at 6:35 pace, with some intestinal problems in mile 6 and 7. Friday was off to let my back rest.

Saturday was a run up to McLean High School for 2x20, but I got out fast- 5:08 for the first and second miles. I managed to ease up later on, but dodged a lot of lane-one walkers. I decided to just go for 4 mile, and averaged 5:15 pace feeling easy. Again, no pain. Afterward, though, was another issue.

Sunday I went out to Alexandria to run with Dave O'Hara and Murph on the Mt. Vernon Trail. The back pain was constant, though I could run through it. I was seriously regretting putting $93 into the Cleveland Half at this point.

I took Monday off to rest the back. Tuesday evening I headed off to do a NVM, but the back wasn't cooperating. I made it a mile and turned around and went home. The next morning I successfully ran an Idylwood+ in the morning, then up to McLean in the evening for 5:13, 5:18, 5:13 and back. No 30 miles on my 30th birthday.

Thursday morning I went out to do a NVM, but stopped after one loop. Friday morning I took off, and in the afternoon, I headed up to Pittsburgh with Dickson and Beth, with Drea and Paul in their car. After stopping at the Country Club Mall in Cumberland, I drove the rest of the way to the JBI, choosing one of my favorite routes -- through the Laurel Highlands and the Mon Valley. That two hour chunk was nothing short of amazing, even as I was driving right into the setting sun.

My back and hip were still troubling me Saturday morning, so I skipped my pre-race jog around Chatham Village in fantastic weather. That would have been a good day for the race, aside from my discomfort.

After the drive to Cleveland and a stop at the miserable IX Expo Center to pick up our bibs, after paying $8 to park, we got some dinner and we all settled into the bizarrely-designed rooms at the Comfort Inn Suites near Cleveland State that lacked a wall between the shower and the living room. After a long night of sleep the night before at home, I was prepared for general discomfort on the foldout bed which didn't really conduct body heat too readily.

In the morning, we took a cab ride with two delightful ladies from Charleston, WV, driven by a temperamental cabbie who "enjoyed the hell out of being fat" and congregated at a place where every out-of-town team feels like a winner- Cleveland Browns Stadium. It was warm- in the 60s, and after our warmup, sweat was running all over my head and torso. It was going to be rough. Thanks to seven or so Aleve, I couldn't feel my back or hip. At least something was going right.

The start was up a slight hill, evidently they have those in Cleveland, they also have a number of delays for the race start that never were clear to me. It looked like an awfully pale field, if you know what I mean.

I lagged at the start, as is my tendency. After weaving through the hoi polloi, I was within reach of the leaders, and none of them looked to be going too fast. I was in the front within 30 seconds and cruised along with the pack until we hit the first turn. I took it aggressively, keeping my pace consistent, but everyone else slowed. I figured it was time to go for it- nobody else was going to be taking the half seriously, with its lack of prize money, so I shouldn't concern myself with the early-race jockeying among marathoners from Lorian, Ashtabula and Streetsboro.
So, I ran ahead and nobody else came with me. I hit the first mile in 5:28, and I was surprised it was that slow, though the hill certainly was a factor. There wasn't a sliver of shade on the shoreway along Lake Erie. All I could hear were my own steps, and I thought maybe I could run away with this thing. That thought was reinforced when I hit the second mile in 5:05. I couldn't feel my hip, maybe it was better, maybe my stride was doing its job, maybe the borderline overdose of anti-inflammatories was doing its job. Maybe any of my multitude of relatives in Cleveland would see the race on the television before they took their Sunday morning trips to Marc's, the May Company, Malley's Candies or the Crawford Auto Museum and say "oh my, that's Charlie."

I kept cranking, marveling at the amount of sun-- there was nothing stopping that mother today. After a mile in 5:15, I started to feel the muscles around my shins tighten up and my forefoot striking was coming to an end. A few seconds later, I heard a bicycle, then a lot of breathing. Then I saw the shadows, not-so-elongated by the sun behind me, of a pack of skinny dudes. Suddenly, I was surrounded by east africans and one white dude. There was the pack of marathoners shooting for the sub 2:20 bonus. I hadn't seen a single member of this pack on the starting line. They rushed past me, no surprise, since my fourth mile was 5:41-- not where I needed to be, to put it lightly.
Now it was time for me to figure out what kind of race it was going to be. Would I try to regain that pace the pack was setting, or fight for whatever position I had in the half marathon, ambiguous as it was? That fantasy about leading the race crashed faster than Kellen Winslow, Jr on a motorcycle.

I tried to get back on my forefeet to chase that pack, and my legs cramped immediately. Looks like I was going to be forced to the latter. I managed to maintain by pace for the next mile. 5:41 for a 27:12 five mile split as we weaved through a shady neighborhood. That was kind of nice, though I lost a few positions there. As I turned eastward on Detroit Avenue and finished a 5:43 mile, I was running directly at the sun. I passed the 10k park in 34:01, well behind where I hoped to be at that point. I took two cups at each water stop and doused myself to try to keep my head together. It helped for about 15 seconds, which made a difference in my 5:30 seventh mile and 5:34 eighth. I don't remember much of nine, in 5:35, but 10 was an adventure. A downhill of which I failed to take advantage in my chase of a pack of three, complicated by a few loose cars on the course that I dodged on my way back up the hill. At the top, I was cooked, and it showed in my 5:47 split for a 55:23 10 mile. At least in my Philly half I was under 55 at 10--this was troubling. Maybe I could gut it out.


Back into the sun on Carnegie, over the bridge, those now-creepy statues and another 5:47 for a real kick in the pills. The last two miles offered a little shady relief, though I was losing the capacity to judge my distance traveled. I got a little better in mile 12- 5:38, but soon after the marathoners split off and I saw the one chance for redeeming this race fade away when one guy continued straight toward the half marathon finish. Victory now beyond my reach, I focused on finishing, merging streams of 10k runners.
"What the hell??" I said.
I really had enough by this point, and even the otherwise-welcome downhill didn't do anything for me, I finished up, with a 6:24 last 1.1--miserable, really, and came to a rapid stop when I crossed the line. I had no idea there was a fellow four seconds behind me. I also had no idea in which place I had finished. Some handler tried to scoop me away, but I escaped to watch Drea and Beth finish. My first thought was that one of my left toes must be bleeding like hell. The pains and aches I had been deferring for 73 minutes all called in their debts at the same time, and I lurched around with a degenerative limp. It got really f%$@#ing hot out there, and the marathoners all suffered. I'm sure the winner didn't want to sneak in at 2:19:59.

1:13:13. Not what I was hoping to run. Part of me was thrilled that I was even able to run 13 miles at 5:35 pace, after the discomfort and downright pain I had felt in the weeks prior. The fact that it was a sweaty mess didn't help things, and should have made me happier with being able to hang on, but all of these add up to the fact that I didn't get the job done. I didn't win the race or improve my best time, which remains from a hilly race I ran with a cold- granted, in perfect conditions.

Despite my feelings of failure in terms of the race, the trip itself was fantastic. On the way home, I nailed the Breezewood trifecta of KFC, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell. The KFC was nothing short of divine.

Back in Virginia, I took a full week off. The bender I had planned became a Tuesday evening and a Saturday night where I stretched the limits of a full liver and an empty stomach. It was a miserable week and I'm not sure if not running made it worse or prevented it from sinking lower.

Then Molz and I headed up to Winchester on Memorial Day to run the Loudoun Street Mile with Witty and Billzzz. The drive was pleasant. The race did not bode well. It was warm, I hadn't run in a week, and I was ill prepared to race a mile, but what the hell? Molz and I warmed up and I realized a few minutes in that there would be no miracles. I was drenched after 15 minutes. My back, which was miraculously comfortable  starting Monday morning, started acting up as we jogged to the start. I saw Tim Schuler, the maniac master, down from Chambersburg. The heat was overwhelming me, but as I would find out minutes later when the race started, it was the least of my worries.

My habitual slow starts off the line was deadly here. I was immediately left behind and rushed down the hill to catch the huge pack. At the bottom, though, I felt the exertion catch up to me and I felt, for the first time in my running career, like I might not live to see the finish. My lungs has to have been run clean through with a sword, there was no other explanation for what I was feeling. Except maybe the 63 second 400 split...

The next 400 was up a hill in the sun. I stopped even pretending I was racing and jogged it. 79.99. Not quite 80. I thought of Lauder's 4:52 last year at this race and wondered if I had the wherewithal to match it at this point. I charged down the hill. No I didn't. I meandered a bit. 74. We hit the flat-to-uphill last stretch on the pedestrian mall and I started to fight for my position again, but that didn't last too long. I started hemorrhaging places and managed to struggled in at 4:51.8 for 25th place. I just managed to squeek by what a fellow who trained much less than I did ran on a much hotter day the year before. Great job, Chaz.
I'd rather be a half a second slower than look like an idiot

The next day I went out to Burke Lake with Fun Liz. The sky was dark, in advance of a rainstorm, and the humidity was raging. I ran off around the lake and was feeling pretty good for a while, splitting 6:00 miles for a little over 18 minutes. The clouds of gnats were a pain, but I was moving again, and without pain. Then suddenly everything caught up with me- the heat, humidity, and I stopped. I grabbed my knees as I struggled to breathe, and watched the bicyclists I passed with such ease cruise by me. Soon Liz caught me, and I ran with her for about a minute until I had to take another break. My decline was swift, but decisive. I jogged in and finished 35 minutes of running right before the storm started.

Wednesday after work I gave running another shot- an Idylwood+. Five miles in 33:30. Thursday evening a Seaton, for six miles at 6:40 pace. Friday was a nice day to take off. Saturday morning I rose and just started running and played it by ear. 6:30 average for this loop, with a few stops at garage sales.

I had planned to run very early Sunday morning, taking advantage of the phenomenal June weather. Back after the George Washington Parkway race, I had a crazy thought that I would keep my options open for a spring marathon after Cleveland. I settled on the God's Country Marathon in Coudersport, Pa. It was a small race, a point-to-point course between two towns, and I'd be able to register the day of the race, giving me flexibility to strike if the weather was good. I figured why the hell not? If I am feeling good after Cleveland, and the weather wouldn't be too oppressive, I might as well just see what I could do. As it turned out, the weather was great, but I was not. AJ Kelly ended up winning in 2:42, which would have been a nice time to run, especially if we had kept each other company on a pretty lonely course. So, I designed a 26.2 mile course through McLean, Great Falls and Falls Church and I would give it a shot.

When I didn't want to do that when the alarm went of at 4, I slept in and decided to do it after I watched the episode of Mad Men I missed the week before. That eventually meant a 9:30 start. It was warmer than had I started at 4:30, but not terrible. I ran the first two miles carrying a quart of gatorade, which I hid in a tree two miles in. After I got that out of my hand, my form straightened out.

I navigated the new neighborhood past Daleview with more ease this time than in March, but I struggled on the Belleview hills. My thirst was starting to hit me when I got to Georgetown Pike. Luckily I was coming up to a point where I could turn back toward where I stashed my Gatorade. I can't remember the name of the subdivision I entered, but it was clear it didn't consider itself a thoroughfare. The map I consulted, however, begged to differ. It was hilly, and I was starting to labor, but I could keep going. I wound around until what I thought to be the logical turn. Eventually I hit a cul de sac I hadn't expected. Maybe I turned early. I headed the opposite way and found the same situation. Back from whence I came, I saw an imposing-looking gatehouse blocking what looked like a driveway. I decided to just go back and turn on Swinks Mill, a long uphill that really didn't do it for me. Back over the beltway and up Balls Hill Road. I stopped a few times in the last few miles, not sure what it would take to make me comfortable again running, but I knew the answer was going to be fluid of some sort. Salt was caking my once-flexible shorts turning them into a chamois-like consistency. I finally got back to the Gatorade bottle and went to town. After that, there would be no more running. I ended up running this. I walked home the last two miles, pretty tired out and still thirsty.

Monday evening I ran with the DC Capital Striders and bumped into Teddy Winschel, a total of nine miles, then did six the next evening with Elyse's gang of fun runners. I took Wednesday, National Running Day, off. Thursday night I did what be my last Slade Run, averaging 6:22 pace for 13.25 miles. Toward the end, I actually got chilly. What a gift this first part of June has given runners in DC. Friday morning I woke up to 56 degrees and hopped out of bed for a morning run, but found that my elusive hip/back pain had returned. I meandered six miles around part of the Bolling loop, but never settled in.

Saturday morning I ran a sleep-deprived eight miles on the towpath with Karl, Jake, Diddy, Dix, Murph and Bitz. Sunday I planned to a variety of the Irvin long run, but within a mile I could tell the heat would be too much, I switched to a Double Pimmit, but that proved to be too hot, too. I made it seven miles.

I'm still figuring out my fall schedule vis-a-via cross country races, but I will give the half another shot in late October, which should fit well, at the Charlottesville Fall Classic. That will also give me a chance, after the race to tour south-central Virginia in its most enjoyable month.

For now, nothing but base, most runs will be less than an hour for my own sake. The heat is here and it's time for me to get used to it. A few weeks of my northern Virginia farewell tour, then it's onto the big city and the Tenleytown Running Endeavour.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Five years gone

Saturday (April 7)morning, I took the metro to Vienna, then biked down Nutley to Arlington Boulevard to the Cross County Trail.  I saw the trail and was dismayed because it was paved. I asked some walkers how far it was paved, and they said five miles, acting as though that answer would please me. If there's any way a trail through the woods can be ruined, it's by paving it. Eventually, though, it transitioned to gravel and dirt as the trail wove through a series of parks as I headed southeast along the beltway towards Lake Accotink. The actual loop around the lake was fantastic, rolling hills and a beautiful view of the lake through the trees and a majestic train trestle. I was pretty thirsty on the way back, and ready for the run to be over. At the end I had 16 miles, 95 for the week and a gift card for the Sweetwater Tavern nearby, where I had a delicious filet, thanks to the Van Metre Five Mile. 

Sunday's (Easter) progression did not start well. I felt cruddy in the first mile, though I managed to keep at under control, at 7:00. The next mile was not as easy- 6:00. I manged to drag it back down to 6:45 before I started the actual workout- 3 at 6:30, 3 at 6:00, 3 at 5:45 and 3 at 5:20. 
I was 6:00 for the first mile, way too fast, and it just never got better. I changed my plan in the middle to get 20 seconds faster per mile every three miles, but even then I was going too fast. I was hitting 5:30s when I should have been running 5:40s, and about a block from the end of mile 12, I stopped. I jogged it in, past a small park where a few kids were participating in an Easter egg hunt -- truly the sport of kings. I wondered, during my trudging last mile home, whether I had lost sight of what was important, and was clawing for every second I could at the expense of those little surprises I would find in a less structured life, the Easter eggs in a day without routine. No, I wasn't.

That afternoon I developed a new loop -- the Bolling -- that was seven miles long and looped through Falls Church. I like it.

I worked a little late Monday and did a Pimmit-Idylwood. The next morning I did a Bolling for 7, then planned to do the Hounds workout that evening in Pittsburgh, but my schedule did not work out that way in the end and I got there an hour late, so I ran a few laps of the oval while Jim, Brandon G, Mark and Ed ran their workout, then we did a cooldown and I had another 7 for 14 for the day.

My morning run Wednesday morning gave me great cause for alarm. I set off around Chatham Village for a few miles before I would wander throughout Mt. Washington, but two miles in, I felt a sharp pain in my right IT band that forced me to stop. I walked back to my mom's house and stretched, but felt no improvement. Throughout the day, I felt it being tight and worried I had somehow suddenly damaged my knee. I thought about trying to run again after a four-hour car ride back to Virginia, but I figured a little extra rest couldn't hurt.

Thursday morning, I felt only a hint of tightness in my knee less than a minute into a five-mile morning run, but just for a second. The rest of the run was fine. That afternoon I did a series of one-minute fartleks on the W&OD to Vienna, a loop around the library and school and over into Falls Church and back. After the first three I felt like I was done, but soon after I felt able to push through it. The next evening, I ran one of the Crystal City 5ks with Will and Elyse for her birthday, starting a minute after the gun and jogging through the crowds to finish in 26:01. Then I took another few miles to cool down, both of which were faster than my pace for the race.

Saturday morning I headed up to McLean High School for a long progression run, but I was feelin pretty dehydrated. I ran a mile or so, then figured I'd postpone the workout until Sunday. I ran home to drop off my flats, then ran a Bolling to total 13. That afternoon I did an easy Idylwood+ for 5 more for 90 miles that week. Then I went out to George Mason to watch a track meet. The Spiders took a small but solid crew up, and I had a chance to hang out with Molz, Steve and Lori and see some of the young guys go after their 1500 PRs. I watched Sam pull Webb along for two miles before the no-longer-bald miler took off for a pretty cheap win at a small college meet. 

The next morning I woke early for the workout I had scrapped. I headed to McLean but noticed undeniable stomach problems a little more than a mile in. I kept going anyway and eventually started the workout, but was too fast- a minute ahead of schedule at four miles. I gave up and headed home, then did some drills before meeting Melissa for a four mile run and brunch.

Monday morning my legs were a mess after my first walking lunges in months. It was also well into the 80s by the afternoon, when I met Karl at the head of the cross county trail on Arlington Boulevard. He was stuck in traffic and we got a late start on a run to Lake Accotink. We immediate encountered clouds of gnats swarming around the trail. The heat was getting to me when we approached the lake, and luckily the water fountain was on for a reprieve, but with our late start, Karl acknowledged that we would have to push the pace to make it back before dark.

As it turns out, nothing short of cutting the trail short would have helped us there, and we ran the last 20 minutes in relative darkness, though we could see enough to run on the dirt part of the trail. I was falling apart, but would ease up for about 15 seconds before pushing the pace again. The end couldn't have come at a better time- I was pretty much out of gas when we made it back out to Arlington Boulevard.

I was able to get up the next morning for a very easy Idylwood+, thanks to both my legs being ridiculously sore and the rest of me still trying to catch up from running in the heat 11 hours before. That afternoon, the schedule looked clear for McLean's track, so I biked out there so I could do hurdle drills after my run, but I arrived to find the place swarming with lax bros. There couldn't have been a worse infestation. I locked the bike, though, and took off on an eight-mile loop up Balls Hill Road to the neighborhood I explored during my pre-Cherry Blossom long run- the Ben and Doug. It was really pleasant, though my legs were still lagging. I noticed, moreso this time, the absolutely gigantic houses on Benjamin and Douglas streets, the roads that give this loop its name.

Wednesday, I hit a Bolling in the morning and went to the track after work, concerned about my ability to break 6:00 pace. Luckily, a group was doing miles at 5:20 pace. I did three, leading the second precisely. On the fourth, I let Tender and New Sam take a 20 second lead, which I would try to gain on, but in the meantime, the guys doing 69 second quarters jumped into start. I was close behind them, and didn't back off enough and came through 400 in 70 seconds. I called it a day, happy to have those 5:20s feel as easy as they did, considering how lousy I felt before it all started.

Thursday afternoon I headed out to Fairview Park, which I hadn't seen in months. After a few laps of the pond, I took the trail around the office park to Falls Church High School and tried out much of the Jaguar 5k course. I liked the way it looked- rolling hills in a residential neighborhood, reminiscent of a lot of low-key 5k races I had run in Pittsburgh and Richmond. I headed home via Hollywood Cemetery, another route I hadn't taken in a while, and got 13.5 on a few missteps of a new loop I call, aptly, the Jaguar.

I woke up Friday needing a day off, and took one. Saturday I trudged through a pre-race run of the Park++, hoping for some relief from the heat before the George Washington Parkway Classic. Little did I know just how much relief I would get. 

I tried to find a comfortable niche on Mike Smith's futon Saturday night and get to sleep before the race. My mind kept running through a Bruce Hornsby song (not The Way It Is) that I routinely listened to on my drive to Hounds practice from work in 2007, particularly when I got to the corner of Beeler and Forbes and sat at the light next to Dan Ruef's old house. It invariably drew my thoughts to much of that year, one marked by a lot of solid running, and that it was five years since my best 5k, a 14:57 at the Genesis 5k. That year wasn't all great, my heart issues threw the feasibility of my journalism career into doubt and I found a few times to feel lost and frustrated, but it had long held an awful lot of highlights from my adult life, both in and out of running. Part of me thought I was foolish for even trying to run fast again, because I was nowhere near that shape for short distances. It also reminded me that I was no longer a young man, with 30 coming pretty soon. Why was I still doing this? It was one thing when I was running really well (at the time) for the effort I put in back then, but this was now 2.5 years into committing serious time every day into running. Is there something else I'd rather do? I was revisiting the doubts that came on Easter, after a broken workout. I felt it might be unfair to weigh it all on the results the next morning, but there was a chance I would do it anyway.

I don't know when I actually fell asleep, but when I woke up I didn't feel too bad. I walked down the street to Old Town in a slight drizzle. The bus ride up took a while, but got us to Mount Vernon at just the right time for a warmup but not enough time to stand around. I was kind of frantic to get my shoes on, the laces of my racing flats were a little tight, but it all came together. The weather was pretty much the best I could hope to have- cool, with a little rain and not too much wind, yet.

The pack thinned out quickly, and I found myself in the middle of it. I knew it was going to be fleeting, though. I knew how fast a lot of these guys could go, and it would have been ill-advised for me to try to hang with them too long, lest I be left on the side of the road. We went through the first mile in 5:06, jarringly slow, given then downhill, but I think people were playing it safe in regards to the rain on the ground. I eased up and let the pack go but still came through two in another 5:06. In three I started to feel the effort I was putting in and I gradually eased up into the uphills and came through in 5:19, with an African in blue ahead of me. I caught up with him and passed, which he did to me a few minutes later. Matt Barresi blew by us but didn't intend to wait. We yo-yoed through a 5:24 fourth mile before I caught the African in the fifth, for a second, I hesitated and waited for him to join me, eager to have someone with whom to run on this wide open course. 
Thank you, Cheryl Young
Then I thought about something Steve observed while we were watching the track meet at GMU. He noticed that there was no fight in the eyes of one of the runners that night, no indication that anyone trying to pass was a concern. Maybe that runner was focused on hitting splits, but Steve said that person didn't look ready to race. I thought about that in that split second in the drizzle on the course. Was I just going to run this race like a time trial? No, I was going to race, and that meant I had to get rid of this guy while I felt I could. I surged and put nine seconds on him before the five mile mark (4:27- 26:23). 

From then, I just kept pushing. 5:10, 5:25. I was starting to get dark spots on the bottoms of my eyes, but I realized there was a safe balance somewhere. If I fell over one side, I had my roadID to identify me Once the trees stopped shielding us, the wind from the Potomac was right in our faces. I saw a dude in a Pittsburgh Half shirt running the other way on the Mount Vernon trail and couldn't stifle my smile. 5:28. Dave O'Hara was waiting at a bridge, getting me ready to tackle the hills. I ran parallel to a bus that was driving through a narrow lane, marked off with cones. He was hitting pretty much every cone.

The wind was getting silly. I had a brief respite at the end of mile nine, but that also included a sudden climb over a hill -- 5:35. Down the hill and around the corner, I was headed right into the wind again. I saw what I thought to be the finish line ahead, and I started to kick, but I really had no idea how far away it was. I was squinting into the wind and just trying to leave enough energy so I wouldn't fall apart out there. The finish chute finally made sense to my depth perception and before I knew it, I was there in 53:22, with a 5:18 last mile. It sure seemed like I was going a lot faster than that.
I outkicked her

So, I had a 57 second PR, and a race much more along the lines of what I wanted to do three weeks prior. Part of me wants to credit the course, which, while rolling, did lose elevation, but I also ran most of it alone, and the last few miles into a healthy headwind. I'd say it all balances out. I cooled down a solid two miles with the O'Haras, then stood around in the rain for the awards and got very cold. I didn't feel much warmer throughout the day, so I decided not to go out in the downpour in the afternoon for a second run.

Monday night, I went out for a New Virginia Manor. Though planning to take it easy, I hit 24:45 and 24:25 for the two four-mile loops and ended up averaging 6:10s for a very hilly 13. My mind was thinking ahead to what late May could feel like if I keep my training moving. The race did more than give me a new PR and $50 for being the fifth American, it renewed my confidence that I was headed in the right direction. As recently as Wednesday, I was wondering if I was over training, when I was really just feeling sore after doing drills again. Things are coming together now. Maybe not the way I dreamed in the winter, but in a way that it challenging and rewarding. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lonely on Hains Point

Two days before the Cherry Blossom race, I took a last look at Hains Point, running 10 miles from my office in the afternoon. Saturday morning I ran an easy Park++.
Then came the race.

Never before has a PR felt so miserable. It certainly didn't feel like my best 10 mile. Every other PR I set, I do so with ease, but this one was a struggle.
I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. The ride to the race was uneventful and easy. I felt fit and ready to go during the warmup, and figured out Evan, Wertz and Luke all wanted to run 5:20s. That seemed pretty ideal to me.

The first mile was a mess. Dudes with gray hair, idiots in costumes who started fast and were fading halfway down Independence Avenue. Evan and I cruised along, but I had a feeling the pace had to be too easy to be right. A shame, because I could have seen myself keeping that with no problem for 10 miles. I hoped there was a chance I was on pace and was in better shape than I thought, but as we made the turn to the Lincoln Memorial, the clock was passing 5:15 and we split 5:31.When we reached that point, Evan was ready to go, and I knew that staying behind would be a good way to lose my pacing help. We surged, launching around a pack getting onto the bridge and tracked down Dickson, moving closer on the cemetery circle and catching up on the way back to DC, splitting 5:14 for the second mile in the process.

We cruised up Rock Creek Parkway to the Kennedy Center and one of the unnecessary 180 turns that plague the course. We came through in 15:12 and hit the 5k in 16:30. I was hitting my goal splits of 5:20s, but we were obviously going a little faster, and I decided that running 5:15s with a group of people, which now included Wertz, Rich Saunders and Luke, would be a better move than trying to stick to 5:20s on my own.

We scooted down Ohio Drive and hit another 5:15. I tried to watch the race develop in the front with the Pacers. I couldn't account for everyone, but my attention was focused mainly on the pack we had going. Dickson had dropped us in the fourth mile, but I was now leading the group and still feeling pretty relaxed.

When we turned onto Independence, I pushed it a little bit and think I shook the pack up.I felt the slight uphill, but kept pushing, feeling like as soon as I stopped pushing, I'd start falling back. We hit the fifth mile in 5:27, but made it halfway in 26:40- dead solid perfect. I made up for the first mile's malaise and was in position to just pass the next five miles with this tremendous pack. Then the doubt crept in.

We actually started heading downhill a bit as we headed over to Hains Point. I remember my right arm suddenly flailing and nearly whacking one of the fences between us and Tom Jefferson. I fell a step behind. I heard Evan bid me continue, but I wasn't home to answer. I trailed by a few steps as we started toward the point, and even though I was close enough to lunge at one of the guys in the pack and tackle him, I was running a different race. My next mile was solid- 5:22, but the rest of the pack was 5:20, and the gap only grew from there. 10k in 33:10, mile seven in 5:34. I hit that awful turnaround at the edge of the peninsula that seems so excessive, when the old Marine Corps Marathon course turned through the parking lot prior. I don't really hate Hains Point, just the tip. I saw a runner pull over to the side shortly after. I tried to yell to him to finish, to help me, but I was wheezing and gasping and wouldn't have made much noise. I was going to be on my own. Mile eight in 5:35. I caught a few fading advance start women, and tried to reel in a guy who had fallen off the pack badly, but it wasn't happening. Mile nine in 5:35. At least I'm consistent when I'm dying. A crowd of GRCers waited near the turn toward 15th street, as encouraging as ever. Then, they started encouraging Matias. Oh man, I had no idea he was anywhere close to me. If there was any motivation left for my race, it was to avoid being outkicked, but this was going to be an effort. He was charging like hell, the bull that he is. The cheers got closer in comparison for him and me, like radar speeding up when the target gets closer. He charged up the hill near the Holocaust Museum and I climbed it like I was afraid of offending the ground by stepping on it too hard. He caught me and said it was time to go. I tried to pick my legs up but they wouldn't go. He told me again. I rejected his offer, with an  unspeakable oath for emphasis. He pulled away and we crested the hill and somehow I had a charge left to kick it in down the hill. That incline is a ball buster, but the slope is a hell of a gift. I somehow summoned the strength to finish in 5:31 for a 54:19 total, five seconds faster than 2010. As the public address system broadcast that I was from Falls Church, it only put an exclamation point on my fury and disappointment.
Yeah, I was having a rough time (pictured above)

I saw Nora standing near the chute waiting for Geoff and I unleashed my disappointment when she asked how I did. The whole thing had shades of Philly for me--I was ready to blow my old time out of the water and watched it fade away in the last miles. Sure, I PRed by five seconds, but that previous best was from two years ago, when I was just getting used to this training regimen. I am immeasurably stronger, but evidently in this sport, when you have a definite measure, it was only worth a five second improvement. Is that all I could improve in two years? I wound up 35th, it was a weak year. Two years ago I was 49th with practically the same time. How can I spend so much effort on something silly like running and not have more to show for it? Well, first of all, photos from Dustin Whitlow, Michelle Miller, Cheryl Young and Jimmy Daly, respectively.

With more time, I felt better. I realized that was the end of the fourth week since I started running again, a little more than two weeks after I came out from under the pall of my allergy problems. The first week back I was just trying to readjust to the impact and how it beat up my legs, the second I was constantly on the edge of feeling human. I had a solid 91 mile week two weeks ago, but in that whole month, I had one solid hard workout and one solid long run. Most importantly, my 27:39 second half was still faster than the 27:47 for which I got credit at Van Metre (when in reality I ran 28:17). So, I was able to run much faster for 10 miles than I was for 5 miles three weeks before.

Several people remarked that I looked solid whenthey saw me (they obviously saw me in the first half). I ran an easy five that afternoon to get the crud out of my legs.

Monday night I worked late and got home after dark, setting the stage for a Slade Run. I averaged 6:30s and did so with no regard for how fast I was running in the middle. I love that loop in the dark.

Tuesday night was the same situation, and I went out to the New Virginia Manor Loop, where I unwittingly ran 5:20s for the two four-mile loops sandwiched in the 13 miles.

Wednesday night, I felt bushed, and ended up just running six easy miles around BCC during the workout.

Thursday, I met up with Karl in Vienna and we took the W&OD west to the cross county trail. We stopped along the way to check out a parallel trail to the north, then caught the other trail. It was nothing short of marvelous. Soft, scenic and restorative. We eventually turned back and grabbed some greek food for dinner and ran back to his car for a total of about 13.5.

The office closed early Friday, so I had a little more sunlight for my workout- 2ks at McLean High School. It was a bit windy, though, and I misjudged my effort to fight the wind, coming through the first lap in 72, then calming down to a 4:55 mile and a 6:17 2k. Then I was a little more on track with a 6:19 second 2k. I hit the 1k in 3:06 for the third, right on, but couldn't breathe, so I gave up and took a long cooldown home for 12.5.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It doesn't get better than this

I worked a little late Tuesday night and didn't have much sunlight left to hit the Pimmit Run trail for an hour, so I took it as far as I could- out to Bryan Branch, then back via Old Dominion and New Virginia Manor for 10 miles at about 7:00 pace.

Wednesday I had my ritual steak and eggs breakfast in advance of the evening's workout, which I had high hopes for- 5xmile starting at 5:15 and speeding up five seconds from there. When we got back from our warmup, the high school meet on the track was still raging, so we had to look at our options. We decided on the Capital Crescent Trail, which had half mile markers and a one-mile stretch between Connecticut Ave and the tunnel. The drawback is that heading north means going downhill and south is back uphill.
We started out downhill and finished in 5:08- I started a little late and caught up. It seemed too easy. The second was 5:11, but it was tough. The third was 4:58 and easy again, but the fourth was a struggle. I went out in 2:32, but fell back over the second half when my turnover wasn't quite there and finished in 5:17. By then it was pretty dark, and I spent enough time worrying about whether I would trip in the myriad of ditches and holes in the trail, so I retired to the track, which was just about to clear. That fourth mile busted me, though. I started to do some miles on the track, but had no sense of pace and went 70 seconds for a first lap, then jogged around a bit. I decided to try again, but felt wasted after a 75 quarter. I met up with the guys who finished the workout on the trail and we cooled down on the track while watching Diddy put some miles away, getting as fast as 4:23.

Thursday morning I woke early to head to the office so I could run among the cherry trees on Hains Point. It was miserably humid and I wasn't thrilled to do a second loop, so I headed back and just did 10. The cherry blossoms looked okay, but the real feature was the fog- I couldn't see Virginia from the west side of Hains Point. Not before I saw a guy who looked like Neal Hannan running. It turned out, however, to be his twin brother, Veal.

Looking at the forecast, Saturday morning looked rough, so I decided to do my weekend workout Friday morning. That meant an early wakeup -- 5:30 -- so I could get some water and ease into it. I headed out to McLean High School in the dark. I passed a few other runners, and wasn't feeling too spry, myself. The track was shrouded in fog and I didn't waste any time getting started with 20 minutes aiming for 5:30s. I was a little slow, though, running 5:31s, and was feeling awful. Part of me wanted to go home, but then I set myself straight. I woke up early, and I certainly wasn't going to be falling asleep again if I went home, so I might as well finish what I started. Also, this was my last chance to get an ambitious workout in that would contribute to my race at Cherry Blossom, so run I must!

I made it 14.5 laps in 20 minutes, and took an easy mile for recovery, but then the fog had lifted and the sun was all over the place. I figured I had nothing to lose from giving it a shot and running 80 second laps as long as I could. I was a little fast- 78 for the first one, and slowed only slightly as I came through my splits exactly on time- 5:20, 10:40 (with a 79.99 eight lap) and 16:00. I was a little slow on 13, but picked it up for 14 and 15 and finished in exactly 20, giving me an even 1:20.00 average. Beautiful. I thought back to the last time I did this workout successfully and remembered that I wasn't terribly sharp in the first segment, then was fine for the second. I felt like I was definitely running much harder to hit 5:31s than to hit 5:20s. When running 80s, every time I came through the 200, I threw in threw our four quick steps to keep turnover from slipping, and I think that helped. I did a longer cooldown on Westmoreland and felt magnificent. I took photos of the average split time to relish them, but I can't seem to get them off of my camera, so, no art for this post.

Saturday morning I ran all of the Pimmit Run Trail in a light rain. I finally saw the rest of the downstream section. Once I got to the end, I went up Glebe, Old Glebe, Glebe again,Williamsburg and through part of NVM to Orland, then I walked in from Longfellow for 14, no need for 15. I totaled 91 for the week and felt strong. Unfortunately, at some point on the trail, my right leg rubbed some poison ivy, to which I had just lost my immunity last year.

Sunday morning I went out for a new variation on my Brook loop. It was slightly misty in the mid 50s and felt very comfortable. I started out with a  6:15 for the first mile, but then ran 6:00 for the next. That was going to be the way things shook out. I wrote the names of the new streets I would be running on my warm, but the ink was already running seven miles in when I was supposed to turn on Daleview. I saw a "no outlet" sign, so I figured that much be the wrong road. Then I looked closely at my arm and realized it was right, and I would take my chances that the sign was full of it. I came across some fancy new houses and caught the right roads and figured out what the sign meant- there was an outlet, but drivers were discouraged from taking it because it looked like a driveway- one car wide. I then came across what might have been the nexus on the universe- the intersection of Old Tolson Mill Road and Old Tolson Mill Road. It looked like running ahead would take me into a yard, so I took a left and down a hill to a creek then back up the hill...into someone's yard. I turned around and went back, sure now that the mile markers I had committed to memory were not at least a quarter mile off. I came out on Bellview and was right in the middle of some rough Great Falls hills. It only got steeper when I crossed Old Dominion, and I was smelling lobster just about nine miles in. I didn't let that bother me, though, and took it as a challenge to push through it.

Drivers on Georgetown Pike were mostly (all but two) generous with a little space on the lack of a shoulder, and I gave so many thank you waves that I worried they seemed insincere after a while. After crossing the beltway, I ventured into the neighborhood north of GTP and liked what I saw-- rolling hills and not much traffic. Some middle-aged woman running along seemed annoyed to have to share to road with me, though I had given her a wide berth. As I wound through the neighborhood, I realized that I was doing exactly what I loved, and it couldn't get any better than this. I got back down to the rental car neighborhood (Mayflower and Enterprise) and nearly fell on my face after slipping in mud, but kept cranking. I hit 1:45 and decided to keep it up and crank it on Rupert and Lemon. I passed two hours at Crutchfield and finished up in 2:04 flat. I mapped it out to be a little more than 20.4, for a 6:03 average. A lot faster than I had planned, but it's hard to measure just how much pleasure a run like that gave me. More than anything, it gave me the confidence to head into the last month or two of my spring season with assertiveness. I can't wait until after Cherry Blossom, when I can let loose and work the miles for a few weeks. If I don't earn a Pittsburgh half entry, I'm seriously considering Cleveland, which will certainly give me a few more weeks to train.

Monday I ran an easy 8 at 6:30 pace on the Westmoreland loop. Tuesday I came home with every intention of running 10, but instead I lied around and didn't run. Wednesday's trip to the track was somewhat unnecessary, because I had my own plans and would not really get anything at BCC I couldn't do at home. I did three moderate miles- 5:12, 5:16, 5:14 and called it a day with a long cooldown. Thursday morning I did an easy reverse Westmoreland at 6:31 pace. I'll run nice and easily this afternoon, an Oak tomorrow morning with a fast 9th mile, then an easy Park++ Saturday. Sunday, I'd like to start no faster than 5:20, speed up a little over the next few miles, but really attack miles 4-9, then smell the finish line. I'm thrilled to be able to run this race, a month ago I wasn't sure it would be feasible. Even after I started running again, my quads felt like they were tearing apart. Luckily everything has tied itself up nicely.

I'll miss the Spider Relays and Monument Ave 10k, a bummer indeed, but I want to be sure I'm rested for Sunday.

Meanwhile a new Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Pittsburgh will kick off in August 2013. Though its scheduling was done with regard to the Great Race in October, holding it in early August is dubious, at best. I have confidence that it won't have the same fly-by-night, generic marketing act that 2009's Spirit  of Pittbsurgh Half Marathon carried, but at least those buffoons had the wisdom to run it in the fall. 

Also, the Richmond Marathon has a new sponsor-Anthem health insurance. As the Times-Dispatch article describes, the finish line will move for all three races.