"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

Monday, April 12, 2010

All aboard the pain train

"It's go time." -Izzy Mandelbaum
Well, racing season is upon me. I feel like I'm not ready, but I still have three weeks to work out my kinks before Pittsburgh.
The few days before Cherry Blossom alternated between hopeful and worrisome.
With Wednesday's successful workout still giving me some confidence, I headed out for a 10 mile run in Falls Church Thursday night. It was hot, humid and pollen was everywhere, and I felt full of bad vibes. Then, 40 minutes into the run, the sky started spazzing out. Rain! A thunderstorm! The sudden universal relief that came with the rain relaxed me to the core. I amusedly traipsed along to the end of the run and felt like this would affect an improvement in a lot of the things that ailed me. My strained abdominal muscles were improving and I could breathe again. I was soaked, but didn't care.
Friday, I slept in once again and did not run to work, as I had planned. Instead, I ventured out to Hains Point after work to check out the last four miles of the Cherry Blossom course with an eye toward the race. Though the weather was beautiful, the wind was brutal. I turned around after a few minutes along the Potomac and could take no more. Since I was short of my planned 12 miles, I decided to cut my weekly mileage under 70. Given the long race I had ahead of me, I could spare a few miles.
Saturday I slept in and skipped the GRC run, just as well anyway. After getting my Cherry Blossom race materials, I met up with Nate Wildfire, who, along with his girlfriend Gillian and roommate Luke Clavey, had come to visit, though primarily so he and Luke could compete in an acapella competition in Alexandria. We had lunch, drove around and they left me to take a nap. I then took a four-mile pre-race jog and did some drills.
I tried to get to bed early, but it just wasn't happening. I made some pasta, but I wasn't pleased with it, and I ate an entire box of cookies to comfort myself to sleep. I think I fell asleep some time around 12:20, and I woke up around 4 and had some pop tarts, then went back to sleep until 5:30.

Cherry Blossom 10 miler
The warmup started poorly. My left knee has had some sharp pains when I have started running lately, and it was no different as we got going. It abated after a few minutes, and I started to feel alright. A little tired, but not hydrated, thank God. I lined up between Joan Samuelson and Adrian Fenty and behind a slew of Africans. They mayor here is fast. I wasn't in Pittsburgh...
At the gun, I tried to hold back, despite the throngs sprinting ahead. 5:25, I told myself, would be the perfect first mile split. I hold that for a while and then move up in the second half. It was not to be...5:10. As we crossed into Virginia, I locked into an even pace. Luckily the Arlington Memorial Bride did not involve a climb and the breeze was light. I started hearing my name, and got some confidence from that, I wasn't alone out here. 5:21. More like it... I started pushing the next mile, knowing that I could easily get complacent and lose track of my pace. 5:07... pushed a little hard.... 5k in 16:13. Last time I ran a 5k outright I ran 17:08. A month ago I ran 16:54 on my way to 8k, two weeks ago 16:39 en route to 10k. Big improvement there. I felt like I wasn't done, either. 5:20 for the fourth mile, though I started to worry, seeing Chris Sloane struggling on that mile; I wanted to keep track of him because he's a lot more experienced than I am in running longer races. I realized only later that this was only my fifth race longer than 10k, and only one did I feel was run competently. A 5:24 later, and I was 10 seconds shy of my five mile PR, with another five miles to go. When I ran that PR, I thought I was in another world. Now, it's commonplace... Compared to 27:23 for 8k last month and 26:52 for five miles two weeks ago, I was doing pretty well.
Pat Murphy had been a little ahead of me since the third mile, and I was started to get up with him. Having seen him run some fast workouts and races lately, I knew he was capable of some good things, so I tried to catch up with him. As I pulled closer, rather than slow down and lock into his pace, I just kind of kept up my chasing pace and kept going, putting myself too far behind the next guy ahead of me to be able to use him but also condemning Murphy to chase me for a while. 5:27. Plus, I was slowing. I needed to keep it up. Murphy passed me back and I didn't respond. I let him and a pack of runners from Charlotte pass me. I cursed the course for not taking the earlier turn as we rounded the point, and I just got slower. 5:39. No good. I'm in no-man's land, but I keep doing the math to see where my pace will take me. Turns out that wasn't the best time to be doing math. I was a total idiot at that point. 5:23?! Great! Just cruise like this for another mile! 6:06?! Brother of Christ! What am I doing? I stopped trying to overcome my pain and just dig in for more. Then I saw Sloane come up back on my shoulder. Either I died a lot worse than I thought and came back to him, or he clawed like hell from his agony in the first half and he came back. I tried to kick, but it was a mistimed surge. Right as we were hitting the hill not a half mile from the finish I died again. This time there was no coming back. Sloane turned and yelled "come on!!!!" but I did not follow him in the spirit I wanted. I pretty much eased it in, my characteristic gut kick absent. Billy took me down in the final seconds as I crossed the line with a 10th "mile" of 5:18 for a 54:24 final.
Gut reactions: Well, I PRed...by 84 seconds. I was also terribly disappointed, because I died terribly in the last four miles. Only the adrenaline that comes from smelling the finish line saved me. I wanted to average between 5:20 and 5:25 pace, and I fell just short of that- 5:26
The truth is, I died. Around Hains Point, I just died. My quads stopped feeling responsive, and I rationalized not pushing the pace more. I got too hung up on predicting what I would run for the rest of the race and let those expectations overwhelm me. And as a result, I am disappointed by the way things turned out.
Every time I race, I am getting faster over longer distances. I have always considered myself a 5k runner, and now I am working on the mindset transition to that of a long distance runner. It's my fifth long race, my third serious one, and I improved my time by over a minute from when I was in the best shape of my life. Just imagine what I could do if I wasn't so heavy. Jake Klim said it, not knowing exactly how my last few years have gone but taking a strong guess that it was the race of my last few years. He was right. It was my first PR at any distance (at which I had previously raced) since the Great Race in late September 2007.
Though I ran almost a minute and a half faster at Cherry Blossom than the 2007 Spring Thaw, I still consider the latter to have been a better race because I just put it away in the second half. I got faster and started nailing those rolling hills and would have probably gotten faster had the race been longer. What I did there was push the pace with Shafer, Rich and Herb Cratty until five miles then run away, which I obviously couldn't do with the competition in DC, but the point was that I passed the time at a decent pace, then negative spitted by 70 seconds for the second half.
I might not have scored a major win or an amazing time, but I made a major stride in putting training to good use. I have three weeks until Pittsburgh. That's time to crack down on my diet and sharpen my legs for speeding up and holding that pace for another 5k. I certainly will not go out in 5:10 in Pittsburgh. That is where 5:25 will be more my style. I won't be dealing with a huge field of people ambitious to run fast times, I'll be mixed in with a few half marathoners, marathoners and relay runners.
The pace will work itself out to be more conservative and more conducive to me getting miles out of the way at a decent pace before I start attacking in the second half.
I got another 3 miles in that afternoon after brunch with the guests and the Spitznagels.
Three weeks starts today!

1 comment:

  1. Charlie - you are a pop tart freak! You should ask them for sponsorhip.