"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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kicking August in the face

I just finished a pretty successful week of training, perhaps the hardest of my life. I ran 127 miles between Sunday morning and Saturday afternoon, which is by far a high for me. I ran three workouts, each pretty difficult but not overwhelmingly so, and had a solid (for the most part) long run after 105 other miles.
Thursday night I took an easy 5.5 mile run around Falls Church and stayed loose.
Friday morning I woke up at 5:45 to start a 13 mile morn
ing run with a 10 mile tempo in the middle, The Pimmit-W&OD. I had about a two mile warmup to Pimmit Hills and started off a little fast- 5:27, for the first mile. It was rolling,and the 65 degree morning temperature was a true gift. Uphill with a slowdown at an intersection in mile two, closer to what I was hoping- 5:40. I don't have my watch with me to recall the rest of the splits, but they were mostly 5:40s, and I managed to keep that up through six miles so so. Miles seven and eight, however, were mostly uphill, a lot
more than I recall them being, and I was dragging by that point. I'm pretty sure by that point I was over 6:00 pace, but the last two miles were downhill on the W&OD Trail, with only four or five intersections. Based on the spot splits I took at the half mile markers, I ran a few 5:20s there to finish it off in 57:51. I jogged a mile home, showered and went to work pretty bushed. I did an easy five miles on the treadmill in the early afternoon before meeting up with Pokey for our drive to Joe Wildfire's wedding in Portersville, Pa.
We arrived at around 11:30, hung around the campfire for about an hour and a half, then I headed to bed- a thin sleeping mat in a tiny tent. I got to sleep sometime after 1:15, waking up a few times because in the tent next to me, my friends Dan and Bill were snoring like nobody's business.
This photo is from Giles County, not Moraine State Park, but I like it

The sun woke me up at 7 am, and I stayed in the tent, drinking water, trying to get ready for the 24 miles I had planned for my run that morning. I eventually got up and saw Pokey walking around our campsite wearing his suit. I guess he was cold. We sat around for a bit and stretched out, then started on our way to Moraine State Park. We drove eight miles of the loop I mapped and parked and were on our way. It was a bit later than I was used to starting runs, especially long runs, but it was cool, high 50s, and not humid. I started out fast. Way too fast, actually. As it turns out, I was about 3.5 miles in at 6:05 pace before I started to slow down, and it was pretty hilly. Maybe I was excited about running in western Pennsylvania, maybe it was the weather, maybe I was still amped from the tempo run the day before, but I realized I was going a little too hard and eased up. I was a little worried that I didn't see Camelot Road, what I presumed to be an access road that would have added some distance onto the loop.
I wasn't too concerned, though. The second turn came much faster than I was expecting, and I started climbing more steeply than before. It was generally rolling terrain, mostly shaded after a sunny two-mile stretch on West Park Road.By the time I was on Mt. Union Road, I was flying up and down the hills, and tracked one runner down within two minutes of seeing him. When I got back into the park and hit the sun at an intersection, I slowed down. Miles 9-11.5 were pretty slow, and I hit 11.5 at 1:17 even. I grabbed a gel and a bottle of water from the car and headed back out, practicing squeezing the goo out as I ran and washing it down. I didn't have enough water, though. By mile 15 I was pretty dry, and I stopped at a park office to hit the water fountain. The next few miles were alright, but against drenched in sun. The hills that I so playfully bounded up the first time were damn near impassible the second time. Again, no matter how cool it is, I am going to sweat like a mother. The downhills even seemed too steep. When I got back to the park again, I skipped a meandering loop and cut off another half mile and wound up with a 1:20 11 mile second loop, much slower than I would have liked, but hey, I slept a few hours on the ground the night before, didn't have much water and just finished a 127 mile week with three strong workouts, then just ran my third longest run of my life. I'm okay with it all. I was expecting to be hungrier, though.
After brunch, we headed back to the park to swim in Lake Arthur, and on our way back to the wedding I bumped into former Pharaoh Hound Todd Kletter, there with his fiance and daughter.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tugboats and Foxes and Neal Hannan, oh my!

This entry contains nothing about any of the people in the title, I was just lacking anything better.
I awoke Sunday morning near Reading, Pa., unsure of
how I was even awake. I had attended my good friend and ex-girlfriend Erin's wedding the night before in Lancaster, and met her challenge to drink five White Russians. Along the way, through, I had a bottle of whiskey that I stole from the service cart on my return flight from Reno, two large glasses of wine, an Old Fashioned and a glass of Maker's Mark. I stayed at the Notorious E.L.I.'s childhood home in Wyomissing, because she had a massage appointment that morning to fix her effed up hip. I put my shoes on and headed out to explore the area, which reminded me a lot of Mt. Lebanon if it was flattened.
A light rain accompanied my run, which was a great relief from the morning before. The temperature stuck around the mid 70s, which was again an improvement. I ran a few loops of the neighborhood pretty quickly, thanks to the topography and the drop in heat misery. I explored a series of woodchiped, limestone and grassy trails and headed back after 12 miles. We drove back to Virginia shortly after.

Alex returned from his summer at camp and he started out my afternoon run with me- an eight-mile Westmoreland. He lasted 3.5 miles and I cut lose the last 4.5- averaging 7:15 pace for the whole thing. It was a good bit hotter, 85 degrees with a a reasonably high amount of humidity.

I slept in Monday and didn't run until I got home from work. I grabbed my long spikes and ran over to Lemon Road Park in McLean to do quarters on the grass field behind the school. When I got there, however, the grass on the lower part of the park was overgrown and I couldn't see the ground, so I decided to run laps of the level playing field. Without being able to measure my route, I decided to just do 80-second fartleks. I hoped that would work out to more than 400 meters at 5:00 pace, but who knows. A group of frisbee players marked off boundaries, so I ran around their setup, then out into the field around a piece of trash, then around the field again. I gave myself 40 seconds recovery, 60 seconds after sets of four. I wore my old Milers from my senior year of college, without socks. That started to work against me in the third set, when the hot spots on my left arch and right toes started to progress into blisterhood. I took a break after 12 to tighten my shoes, but the damage was done. During number 13, I felt like my feet were on fire. I threw in the towel and did a long cooldown to get
12 miles. If nothing else, I got my calves ready to race in spikes again at the Richmond alumni race and felt what it was like to run fast on uneven grass and take tight turns.
I slept in a but Tuesday, too, so I only got a 3.4-mile Fisherman's loop in the morning. In the afternoon I combined a Fairview Park with a Westmoreland, turning on Idylwood instead of Chain Bridge, and got 13.7 at 6:50 pace. It was cool en
ough I could wear a shirt, and my legs felt great. I didn't want to go too fast and endanger my workout, but it was hard. I really the last three miles of the Westmoreland loop.
Wednesday morning I did a Park-Tyson for 7 miles at 7:10 pace. Cool again, around the low 70s.
The evening was a chance for me to show my successful workout the week before wasn't a fluke. After a 2.5 mile warmup, plus some strides, we settled on two mile, 4x800, two mile. I was hoping for the other way around, to get more turnover work in advance of the Spider Alumni Race, but I guess I am ultimately training for a marathon.
Joe and Texas Paul are pretty friggin sharp, so Dickson and Karl and I hung back and planned to run our two mile in 10:30. After running 5:08 for our first mile, it became apparent to me that we would not be running 10:30. After a 5:04, I went into our 400 meter recovery feeling pretty good. I had remarked to Dirk before the work
out that my breathing didn't feel great, but it turns out I was just ready for what I would be doing shortly, and I felt great. The first 800 was easy- 2:26. The second was a little faster- 2:24. The third, well, it showed me how much progress I had made since the spring. One afternoon at Tilden Middle School, Karl and Wiggy and I ran some 400s and after intervals of 72 and 71 I was wasted. Well, I ran those back-to-back on the third interval, a little slow off of the line and catching up to the guys on the back stretch of the second lap. With the second two mile hanging over my head, and the laces loosening in my shoes, I eased off during the fourth and ran 2:25. I fixed my shoe and got started on the two mile. 79, 74, 76,76, then I started to suffer from the surge I put in to lead the second half mile. On the back stretch of the fifth quarter, I was desperately searching for air, and didn't go with Dickson as he roared past. I hit the second mile in 78,79,78,78, not quite as great as I had hop
ed, but I stuck with the workout and, I feel, had my most complete workout since I started training with the GRC. I didn't expect to run two
miles under 10:30 twice, around four 800s, all under 5:00 pace. After a deliriously fast cooldown, I had 12 miles for the evening and 19 for the day.
Thursday morning, I ran 13 miles to work at 7:01 pace, mostly downhill, with bikers speeding past me a lot of the time, forcing me into the sound wall along I-66. It was a little warmer and humid, but I survived.
After a haircut this afternoon, I will run a very slow five miles before packing for my weekend in Portersville, Pa. My childhood friend Joe Wildfire is getting married, and a slew of my high school chums and I will be camping out. This will avail me of a chance to do a long run in Moraine State Park on Saturday or Sunday, where the temperature range will be 60-80 and sunny both days, so an early run can be quite comfortable.

Next week, I sharpen for the alumni race...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A heated argument between my will and my good sense

My medium long run went well, despite the heat. I covered the first 10 miles at 7:13 pace, then slowed down for the last three. I did the Double Pimmit loop backwards.
Friday morning was an abbreviated road workout because I slept in- a 2:30 half mile in the first half of the Greenwich mile, then 77 and 74 for the last two quarters of the mile, warmed up and cooled down enough for a five mile morning. At lunch I hit the treadmill for another five miles at 6:43 pace, then came home and ran an easy Westmoreland.
Saturday morning I tried to do a long run that would involve a few loops near Falls Church that would take me to where I could grab water and hit 22 miles. I started with a longer Presidents' Loop, but it was full of mishaps.
I opted to listen to music and podcasts, because the importance of finishing a run like this outweighed the need for mental strengthening that I would get from running 22 miles with no consistent audio stimulation. Unfortunately, I managed to sweat so much in the first three miles that I shorted out the player after 20 minutes. I pressed on, and gradually felt just how humid it was, and how quickly the temperature was rising. But, I was running a loop on which I always felt good, so it would undoubtedly launch me into the second half with mileage under my belt and confidence that I could run the same distance again. It was not to be, however. After seven miles, I stopped to wring out my Pharaoh Hounds singlet that I wore to catch sweat from my upper body. I stopped again every 10 minutes and the fluid poured out. When I got to 11 miles, I stopped, and walked home. I could go no farther, and I had broken my routine of recovering from a bad long run one weekend with a good one the next. I still hit 100 miles, though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who get stomped on and those who do the stomping." -Jesus

The week hadn't started off well, but it got better when I decided I had to make the most of each run, regardless of whether I could reasonably accomplish my goals, given the weather conditions.

I slept in on Sunday instead of going out to Walney to take another shot at my long run. Thinking it would be less humid in the evening, I put off the run for the rest of the day and headed out at 5:30. I planned to run seven 3.1-3.2 mile loops, with the option to stop by my mom's car after each one for water or Gatorade. The first two loops were okay, though I always struggle a bit around the pond. I wrung my socks out after the second, and took a long drink. I started to feel better on the fourth loop, but the 80 degree heat and high humidity were definitely getting to me. I felt like if I could finish four loops, I could finish the whole thing. I took a water break after three, and had to force myself to get up and start the fourth. I was feeling great through the first mile and a half, but as soon as I started to approach the pond, I stopped, turned around and headed back to the car, calling it a day after 11.5 miles. Not what I wanted to do, but I was wearing myself down otherwise.

I slept in again Monday and decided to do a 12-mile ratchet run on the Double Pimmit loop. The heat index was at about 101, and I definitely felt it when I left my apartment after work. I was doing pretty well until four miles, when I started to get faint. I stopped and caught my breath, then bagged the rest of the workout and got another four miles and a relaxed pace. As much as I worry that stopping some of these runs early might make it easier for me to quit on a hard race, I am not racing in these conditions that are causing me the trouble in workouts. I have to reevaluate my expectations for what I can accomplish when the conditions oppose my ability to function safely.

Things got better Tuesday morning. I went out for a Westmoreland and easily averaged 6:45s for eight miles. In the evening, despite some heat, I ran 6:25 pace for 5.5 miles and then cruised in for 8.8 miles.

I woke Wednesday morning to torrential rain, a treat. The temperature was hovering around 70, and I actually wore a shirt for the first time in a while when I did a seven-mile run on the Tyson Park loop.

In the evening, I met up with Wiggy, Dutch Paul, Dirk and Mike Cotterell for a long workout in Bethesda. After a long warmup, we hit the Capital Crescent Trail for alternating miles. My first mile, an easy one, went by quickly in 6:00, I turned and started a fast mile, which I pledged not to run too hard for fear of blowing up like usual, and ran it comfortably in 5:16. Taking a wide turn afterward, however, I slipped on the mud and fell, and then a half mile into my 6:30 recovery mile I sucked in some insects and felt an itch for the rest of the workout, but I came back in 5:17, and felt pretty strong. I took the last recovery a little slow- 6:49, but I followed it up with a 5:05, despite slipping in wet clay under a bridge. I felt great, dropping time significantly on each interval, and watching Wiggy and Dutch Paul run so fast (4:46s and a 4:34) certainly contributed to my excitement. I should have pushed the recovery more, but there will be time for that soon. It was great to have four consecutive runs that felt great and turned out well. I have to backload the week's mileage to hit my goal, but as long as I double, I can make up the ground I lost on Sunday and Monday. I ran 11 in the afternoon, for 18 total on Wednesday.

Thursday I went to work early and hit the treadmill for a consistent, 6:45 paced five miles to recover from the workout. The medium long run is this evening.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In with a wimper

Readjusting to northern Virginia's humidity has been a little rough.
Thursday morning I did a pretty easy four-mile run around Falls Church to drop off the keys for my rental car, and I was feeling pretty sluggish, but it was just a morning run, so I didn't worry too much about it. In the afternoon, I went out for a 10 mile run from my office around Hains Point, but just three miles in I was starting to just feel awful. The humidity broke a little when a rainstorm started, but I still turned at the Jefferson Memorial and headed back for 6.5, my shortest day in a long time.
Friday was a little better. I woke up and did a light workout to get some turnover back into my legs. I went to the Greenwich mile loop and ran 8x400-or-so with 400-or-so meters of recovery. The first "quarter" is actually about .28 miles, but since I wasn't running on a track, I didn't scrutinize the times too much. I alternated 77-78 (the second interval was uphill) and I wound up pretty happy with it. The recovery was a little long, but I just wanted to get my legs moving fast, and get five miles out of the way in the morning.
That afternoon, I took a train to Cumberland, Md. to meet up with my mom and sister, who were biking the C&O Canal Towpath to Washington. I was going to take the car and be on call for assistance while they biked. The train, of course, was more than a half hour late, and I still had 10 miles to run on the towpath. I started around 8 pm and headed east, sucking in gnats with every breath. It was definitely cooler than in DC, though, and running wasn't an experience I had to endure.
I woke up at 6:30 and drove out to two points on my 22-mile long run route and dropped off water bottles at miles 9.5 and 14. I was looking forward to this run- I enjoy Cumberland, the weather is cooler there, and I came up with a pretty good loop- 12 miles up the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, then down a more direct route on Mt. Savage Road. The trail is crushed limestone and has some nice views to the north and east.
The problems began when my mom and sister were not ready to leave at 7:20 when I returned. An hour and a half later, they set off and I headed the other way on the trail.
It was humid, but I was feeling pretty good. I was moving at about 6:45 pace, which was pretty good for a gradual uphill at the beginning of a long run. I passed some bikers and into my fifth mile I saw a runner ahead of me. Over the next mile I reeled him in, which kept me focused. Within five minutes of passing him, though, I was starting to get weak. I slowed down to an 8:00 mile (though the accuracy of that split is dependent on the trail markers' precision). I just stopped for a minute, then decided to keep going to get to my water, which I mistakenly thought was eight miles in. I walked for a while, two miles, and some nice bicyclers passed me and asked if I needed help. I was fine, and took one of the gels, expecting to have water soon. No, another mile to go, as it turned out. I got my water and started running back down the hill. Why I didn't turn around when I first had trouble, I don't really know. I ran most of the way back, though I stopped to walk twice and had to wait for a train to pass. I immediately had to shower and pack the car and head back to Washington, so recovery had to wait until that night.
But, in the end, I did 112 miles, my highest mileage by far. I doubt I will match it, because the summer is just too brutal in northern Virginia, but it's also time to do some higher-quality work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation, a report by Charlie Ban

I had the good fortune to be able to spend a few days at the cabin that my coach Steve Taylor built, along with his brothers and friends, in Giles County, Va. I ran, ate, slept, read and explored the mountainous region of the New River Valley near and in the Jefferson National Forest in a 4.5-day stretch that turned out to be just what I needed to push my marathon training forward with renewed vigor.

After my work schedule quashed my plans to spend a week in northern California, I was looking around for some kind of running retreat, and Steve graciously offered me the use of his cabin when I asked him for suggestions. It was a few hours away from my usual weekend destination in the Canaan Valley, WV, but it was worth the trip, and, as he said, the price was right.

Steve has been a great coach and friend since I met him in October 2001, while visiting the University of Richmond for the first time. We talked at the time about our shared acquaintances Kristin Price (whom he and his wife Lori coached the year before at Virginia Tech and I knew from my nascent road racing career) and Scott Munro (whom he tried to recruit to come to Tech and I knew from high school track and his years living with my friend Charlie at Penn State).
Though he was rightly skeptical of a middling former Division III runner whose transfer made me possibly ineligible for a while, he gave me a fair shot and stuck with me through
a two week adjustment to Richmond's crippling summer heat and humidity in which any lesser coach would have cut me to get me out of his hair and saw his patience pay off when I finished among the varsity runners in our alumni race.
He has continued to encourage me in my pursuit of the running lifestyle and his offer to let me stay at the cabin did a lot to get me through part of a hot and muggy month and spend time recovering from the rest of the world. My other running-heavy trip, Reno, was also work-centric, so I didn't get the chance to nap, veg out and unplug from the world like I did in Giles County.

The view from the cabin's back porch.

Mountain Lake

I drove through the afternoon Saturday and arrived at the cabin around 6. After unpacking a little, I headed to the Mountain Lake to get an eight mile run before dinner. I started at 4000 feet and climbed until I reached a transformer station at the top of that particular hill. As I added distance to my run on different trails, I started to get a chill- I was no longer in the Washington area where running with a shirt was silly.
I headed to Perisburg to Queen's Pizza and Subs for dinner. Steve told me he ate there four nights in a row earlier this summer and it did not surprise me one bit. Great menu here- New York-oriented food without having to deal with New Yorkers.
I had a steak and cheese sub and a medium pizza and devoured it all. I fell asleep around 10:30, since there was no electricity to enable me in staying up too late. I planned to get up early and do a long run in the Cascades Recreation Area, but I ended up sleeping until 8:30, which was a little later than I had planned.
I headed back up to the Mountain Lake and parked farther down the road at the biological center. I ran to a grass-covered road and followed it until I hit the trail system, took that to the hotel and then followed the road back to the parking lot, then added on 33 minutes out and back farther out on the road to total 10 miles. I leafed through the new copy of Running Times and read fellow Spider track and journalism enthusiast Dan Petty's article.
After a nap, I read The Best Game Ever. It was a non-fiction book. It was a good book. It was about a football game. Some people say it was maybe the best game ever. (Is this satire of grade school book reports doing anything for anyone?)
That evening I took the camera out to the War Spur Trail and took some shots as I ran another seven miles. I tried to connect to the Appalachian Trail, but the farther I ran the less it seemed like I was making any headway.
Some parts of the War Spur Trail were so wild I couldn't always exactly follow the trail, and I very well may have veered off into the woods a few times.
I went back to Queens and had another steak sandwich and a dozen mild chicken wings, which were naturally too hot for me until the actual temperature cooled down.
The War Spur Trail, just look for where there aren't any ferns and run there.
Breathtaking view from the War Spur Overlook.
Where does the trail go, anyway? I don't really care, it's just good.
You have to duck a little.

Cascades Trail

I got up early on Monday and went to the nearby Cascades Recreation Area to start my 20 mile or so long run. I started with a 2+ mile trip on the second of two trails to the waterfalls. The trail was mostly large rocks and I moved very carefully, not wanting to destroy my legs in a fall. After a while I got sick of it and moved up to the trail across the creek, which was wider, softer and mostly dirt and small rocks and I was able to open up my stride and feel natural. I took that back to the parking lot, stopped at the bathroom and grabbed a drink from the car. I headed back out, intending on making a trail if I had to. I passed the waterfall and found a logging trail Steve had mentioned. I followed it until I wound up seemingly in someone's yard, and kept going. I ran out to the road and then followed it up the mountain for an hour, and I was moving pretty quickly at this point, enjoying the climb and the challenge.
The backdrop of the Cascades Trail area.

I wondered how recently anyone else had been out there, and whether I should have brought any water with me. Every almost every 3.5 minutes I saw a beer can, so I started considering them unofficial half-mile markets.
The Cascades Trail (in the fall). (I didn't take this)

It wasn't terribly warm, but I was moist with sweat and needed to wring my shirt out when I turned around after an hour of running and climbing but it was wet with effort, not my skin's tears. It had been a while since I had been this comfortable on a run, probably since my last day in Reno.
Later, I found I had started at about 2200 feet and stopped around 4100.
Logging Trail (in the fall). (I didn't take this)

The trip down was fun, though with all of the rocks in the road I wasn't exactly tearing irresponsibly down the mountain. I did get back to the car 11 minutes faster than it took me to get to the turnaround. I added a loop out on the road and back for an even 2:30, which I approximated to be about 21 miles. I took a nice nap in the afternoon and glanced through Bruce Fordyce's Marathon Runner's Handbook, which I curiously checked out of the Falls Church library, hoping to see what he suggested. Turns out, not much, but some of the anachronistic running fashions made for amusing photos.
I stopped by Howard Nippert's house down the road to check out his home remodeling effort. He has pretty much torn the house apart and undid all the damage and neglect the previous owners contributed and has a great project going on. Howard is an old Virgina Tech teammate of Steve and Lori's and one of their best friends. He kept increasing his racing distance and is now one of the county's top ultrarunners, competing in distances that make me ill to consider. He set me up with a road loop the next morning, then I hit Queens again for a chicken sandwich and fried mushrooms.

Running clothes have a way of adding up.

Clover Hollow

I drove out to Newport to the Clover Hollow Road loop that Howard suggested. Not having a detailed map, I wanted to drive it first, and of course, I missed some crucial detail as to where I should turn. Howard said to just stay on the same road and it would create a 6.2 mile loop, but I couldn't remember where he told me to park.
So, I just parked at Clover Hollow's intersection with Placid Lane, with the blessing of the woman who lived on the corner, and set out at about 10:40. I ran 40 minutes out through beautiful rolling farmland and turned around and came back, finishing five minutes faster than when I came out. It turns out the loop included a small portion of Jones Lane, which I passed about 1.5 into the run. I ended up doing about 11.25 miles in 80- minutes- 7:08 pace. Not great, but it was hot and sunny and I was a little worried about getting lost. I really enjoyed the views, though.
I liked the rolling hills.

It got a little gross

I went to Christianburg to see Inception, then came back to the cabin for my afternoon run.
I was headed down to Whitt-Riverbend Park for some flat recovery running. I crossed the train bridge, which was a little frightening, and ran along the tracks, looking for a break in the fence to get to the park. I smelled a pungent oder, much like the pellets you could feed to animals at the zoo when I was younger. When one such trip to the fence proved fruitless, I climbed back to the tracks and was staring right into the eyes of a deer. On its side. On the train tracks. With no flesh or fur anywhere but its head, otherwise just a skeleton. I must have an iron stomach, because the smell was enough to choke me- I am shocked I didn't vomit.

I eventually didn't find a way in farther down the tracks, so I headed back, then right before I crossed back over the bridge I saw there was a wooden frame on the fence at about the same level as the barbed wire.
I could climb onto it and jump over the barbed wire. I did a few laps around the park, running a trail along the New River and back up to the campground area that was perfectly flat. I probably did about 6.5-7 miles. Then, back over the fence and up the hill to the cabin and a korean stir fry dinner in Pembroke.

Pandapas Park and the trip home

I got up Wednesday and met Howard at Pandapas Park in Newport.
We ran around for nine miles and toward the end I noticed the humidity and temperature start to creep up. I ditched the shirt and had some Gatorade and headed back out for six more miles, but about a mile in I started to get lightheaded, so I went back to the car and decided to put off some of the distance until my afternoon run.
I drove home, with a stop in Salem to check out Roanoke College, where my brother Edward is starting in a few weeks. It's a nice enough place, but it left me missing Hampden-Sydney, despite the persistent boredom and lack of women. I tried to go to Roanoke to see a few sights suggested by my stepmother, who grew up there, but just as I was arriving, a heavy storm moved in and I headed back home.

I made a detour into Centreville to do my afternoon run at Walney Park. When I got out of the car, the discomfort inherent in northern Virginia punched me in the face, then the kidneys, then the groin. This was going to be miserable. I headed off for my first of three 3.25 mile loops on the wood chips and dirt. It's a really nice park, and it feels softer than anything else on which I run. The heat got to me after about 20 minutes, but I kept pressing. I started to feel better around 35, then I stopped to use the restroom and the heat that I felt the second I stepped into the confined portable bathroom was too much to bear. The smell wasn't a factor, it was just so hot. I was once again nauseated, but managed to hold onto my lunch. I stopped after 6.5 miles and headed home, after 20 minutes of trying to stop sweating.

This wire counts the number of people who enter Walney Park, both to keep records and to put Joe Wiegner out of a job.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Boring 100 mile week

Last Friday- Slept in, ran 3.5 or so on the treadmill before heading home because my only chance to run was at 3 pm and I was on a tight schedule.
Saturday evening- ran 7.5 miles in Schenley Park, Squirrel Hill and Greenfield late in the afternoon, averaged 6:57.
Sunday morning- Gathered a group together for a long run in the West End. Greg Brynes, Eric Shafer, Steve garrand, Moira Davenport, Laura O'Hara and Jess Gangjee. I was planning on running 20 miles, the first 90 minutes at 8:00 pace and then ratcheting the pace up until the end, but nobody else wanted to do 20. I also had a 15 mile course, so we went with that. It was very relaxed, since we didn't want to lose anyone, so we just kind of cruised along at a little over 8:00 pace, stopped for Gatorade twice. We did have one snafu when I led us on the wrong side of the Montour Railroad tracks, rather than the smooth paved surface of Napor Boulevard, we climbed over a lot of fist-sized rocks along the tracks. Brandon G drove to see us in Fairywood, and was waiting for us at the finish. It wasn't hard at all and given how rough I felt after the race, maybe it was better I took it easy.
Sunday evening- When I got back to Virginia, I ran an easy five miiles in Falls Church.
Monday- 7:40 pace for 5.8 miles as I did a Park loop before work, then I ran to Logan Circle and did a few miles with Elyse and then back to the office for a total of 7.4 miles. 13.2 for the entire day.
Tuesday- Slept in and skipped my morning run, did 12.5 doing a Pimmit Hills Plus at 7:09 pace for the first 10 then slowing down after that. I'm well on the way to 100 miles this week.
I'm looking forward to my running vacation in Giles County, and now I have a second trip next week. My mom and sister will be taking a bike trip, and I'll take the train to Cumberland, MD to pick up their car Friday evening, so I will get 10 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath then 20 in LaVale,MD over Mount Savage, which will be a rough climb the first half and a delightful descent over the second.
Wednesday- Did an easy 3.5 mile morning run on the Fisherman's loop.
Evening- miserable workout. Was going to be a five-mile tempo on the CCT, turned into me running kind of hard for two miles until I totally overheated, then I paced around like a demented old dog.
Thursday- Good morning seven mile run on the Park ++ loop, much much better than the night before. The evening run, 9.5 miles, was just before a massive storm came through. I was pelted the whole time with rain and enough hit my right eye that was was sore and irritated, but after fixing the brim of my hat I was alright. I slowed down toward the end, but the loop- a Hopewood+ New Virginia Manor, was pretty good. It was exciting to run in the rain, and refreshing.
Friday- Planned to do an eight-mile Westmoreland loop in the morning, and was doing fine until about 5.25 miles, then I just lost all of my motivation and headed back home for 6.5. I decided to hammer my afternoon run, but wanted to get out of the heat, so I got on the treadmill with a fan with the intention of running five miles at 5:15 pace. I was going great at three miles, and started bumping the speed up to 5:00 pace, but when I took a drink of water at about 4.25 miles, i choked and coughed a bit. When I recovered, I knew my spirit was broken, and the coughing got worse, so I cooled down and got a total of 13.5 miles.
Saturday morning I biked to Falls Church High School to watch the Notorious E.L.I. run a mile. I ran 5.5 around the park.
Now I'm off to Steve's cabin in Giles County for 4.5 days of running, sleeping, reading and eating. I am pretty much "going all Walden on everyone's ass," as birthday boy Karl Dusen puts it. Really, I am imitating Katie Jarocki's Quenton Cassidy phase. No electricity, no running water, nothing to keep me awake when I should be sleeping- it's going to be just what I need. I'll get a run in with Howard Nippert, hopefully catch Steve and hear about the fast-approaching Richmond cross country season, and get a lot of time on some trails, starting with 7.5 when I arrive Saturday afternoon...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Hell of a Race for a Spectator in Heaven

The Run for Roch

Admittedly, I wasn't creative when planning my race strategy for the Run for Roch. It's a rough course, a really rough course, and I had success in 2007 by just running hard from the start and gapping everyone. That was the race's weakest field- Eric Shafer was second, but he wasn't on top of his game thanks to grad school. It's a course, though, that if you build enough of a lead, the topography can discourage people from closing the gap. It's on Mount Washington, overlooking the city of Pittsburgh, and the course is an out-and-back on Grandview Avenue and an out-and-back on the McArdle Roadway, which descends and climbs the side of the mountain.

Run for Roch elevation profile - today's 5k

It's a good time to mention that the Run for Roch is probably the hardest real 5k course I have ever run. The Ohio Township 5k is technically worse, but that's because it was just thrown together on some roads that aren't fit for pedestians. The Run for Roch was developed by coach John Papa of Slippery Rock University and Rich Wright of Baldwin High School, it's a true competitive course, but it is a monster. I ran 15:56 to win the 2007 race, and I have no idea how I did it then, it is now all a blur to me.

I got involved in the race in 2006, after I moved back to Pittsburgh from Richmond. I had metRoch Furguiele in 2000 at a WPIAL alumni run and got to know him the next few years as I grew into the Pittsburgh running community, particularly as a friend of Scott Sehon and Dave O'Hara from Mt. Lebanon and Larry and Brian Quinn from Baldwin. His positivity influenced my attitude and I came to know him as a principled and talented athlete. He was a member of the Pharaoh Hounds and a volunteer coach at Pitt, but in 2004 he drowned while on a family camping trip in West Virginia. His parents, Roch and Donna, started a scholarship fund for Pittsburgh city high school track athletes to go to Slippery Rock. I've thrown myself into promoting the race to improve our numbers and bolster our case to potential sponsors. We've financed a few scholarships, but the goal will always be to have a great race befitting Roch's legacy as one of the greatest runners in Pittsburgh Public Schools history.

This year, I was going to do the same. Ryan Sheehan and Jeff Weiss weren't here to dominate, so I guess I had to be the one.

I started out hard, harder than I had all year. I was in the lead within seconds. Roch's mom, Donna, was ahead of us in a Corvette, cheering me on. In fact, I heard people cheering for me the whole time. It was great. Less than 90 seconds in, I felt someone on my shoulder. Steve Kirkland. He's been having a great year, with breakout 5ks at the Brentwood and Fathers' Day races. He might be ready to take that next step and take me out, so I knew I had to push it now and nip his hopes in the bud. I opened my stride up coming down the first hill and hit the half mile mark at 2:30 even. The second uphill is probably the most miserable on the course and by the time I got to the top, where Matt Ciccone and Amy Lazarus were cheering, I was back in the lead. Or so I thought.

A smaller dude in back shorts flew by, opening a huge gap down the hill. I heard people cheering for Bobby. I thought it was this Baldwin grad who runs at Louisville, and as he increased his lead, I thought to myself "Ok, this is it, I'm losing this." My mind wasn't on the race, I thought about my cat. Not the right attitude or focus, but Bobby ran 16:09 at a really hot race in Greensburg where I just snuck in under 17, so I was worried and a little blown away. I relaxed a little and felt Sean Staltari, a proud Mt. Lebanon alumnus, on my shoulder. I would ordinarily love to have him with whom to run, but he has signed with St. Joseph's, a bitter conference rival of the Richmond Spiders, so I figured it was time to start hammering again. I started to reel Bobby in, passing the mile in 5:23 (pretty darn slow, despite the hills), and catching him at the first turnaround.

I moved quickly to put distance on him and the rest of the chase pack, which included Sean, Steve, Pharaoh Hounds Greg Byrnes and Tim Wu, Shadyside Academy alumnus Andrew Bell, and some dude in green shorts who looked like Sam Weiser, all in hot pursuit.

Right then, Larry Quinn ran by on his way out on the course and told me to race like a man.

At this point, I thought, there were eight guys who could win this race. If I was going to be the one, I would have to string the field out so they couldn't chase me in a pack. They wouldn't all have the strength to come after me and keep the pack intact. After cresting the second worst hill on the course, I started to fade a bit, but took the next downhills hard. Then, Bell was right there. Every time I tried to recover from putting a move on someone to get away, there was another challenger there to take a shot. Back up the initial hard hill, I dropped him and tried to keep my momentum going down the hill. Green shorts caught me then, and I pulled away. We were both going top speed down the awful hill that leads into the McArdle Roadway. I continued to hold him off until the turnaround halfway down the mountain.

I am just plain bad at turnarounds, and Greenshorts got the jump on me. I was a step behind him climbing the hill, and the last turn to the church at the very top of the hill was my undoing. When I got to the top, I saw he wasn't too far ahead. I could get him if I cast my fate with a half-mile kick to the finish. I listened and heard steps behind me. I wasn't sure who it was, but if I tried this kick and it failed, or just like every other time someone was just keying off of me, I would at least get sucked up by a few pursuers. I decided to be conservative, hold off anyone who was behind me and take a shot at Greenshorts if I felt I had a chance a little closer to the line.

As it turns out, I didn't, and I finished in second place at 16:25. The winner turned out to be a 34-year-old Irish fellow named Conor McGee from new York who was visiting his sister-in-law and found the race online. He told me how he was running scared the last half mile, which flattered and infuriated me, because I kicked myself for not taking another swing at him.

Not to be egotistical, but I feel like I made the race a bit exciting by pushing the pace and being competitive. I hope I made everyone else run faster. Even though I lost, it was an exciting race, and I really really enjoyed it.

I was struck by the consistency with which I run this race- the last three years I have finished with the same time and place. Moreover, the general timing of the top places has been similar

2007 2008 2009 2010 Me 15:56 Wu 16:14 Sheehan 15:39 McGee 16:18 Shafer 16:24 Me 16:25 Me 16:25 Me 16:25 Rabe 16:35 Shafer 16:34 Wu 16:32 Bell 16:34

I know I don't feel fast, but I feel strong. That I averaged 5:17 for 5k after opening in 5:23 makes me feel pretty good, but not as good as winning the race would have been. I trained though the race, even though I dropped my mileage. That wasn't so much intentional as it just happened.

The women's race was great, too with Michelle Corkum running like crazy to hold off Laura O'Hara, who took the lead with less than 1200 meters left and cruised to victory and a new course record.

We had 294 finishers, our second highest turnout, and I think that with competitions like those, we held a race that would have pleased Roch. Sadly, Dave O'Hara was unable to run, thanks to an Achilles tendon problem, but he got to see the

finish as he clipped off the chips on people's shoes.

I hope the race resumes its growth next year. We do face competition from two other big events- the Pittsburgh Triathlon the next morning and the Turtle Trot, an absolutely flat 5k in Turtle Creek.

People who want to run the Turtle Trot clearly know what they want, and it isn't a hilly course. What we can offer is a challenging course and a great experience. I was happy to see some familiar runners: 10 Hounds, including Dave Hackworth pushing his two sons at 7:37 pace, Dave and Tricia Keen with Mara and Mati; Jim Schweitzer, whom I met at some race last year and convinced to come to Mt. Washington; Jess and Nick, two PT students I recruited at the Greenfield Glide last year, Dave Torrey and a crew of FrontRunners, Nate Wildfire, Regina Anderson, Pokey, Scott Rosenblum, Clay Northouse, Mike Bode, Laurel Chiapetta, Erin Egal, Karen Nichols, Sara Roberts and of course, my mom and sister, who ran together until my mom cut Hallie off at the end (accidentally, she says) and improved their time from last year by 15 seconds.