"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, September 5, 2010

Up and down (repeat as necessary)

Well, the Spider alumni race didn't go quite as well as I would have liked, partially because of my overconfidence in my ability to run hard for 5k, partially because my back hurt in a variety of running postures. The train was actually fast, for once, and I joined six other former Richmond track athletes for a mexican dinner, after a 5.5 mile run around campus. The sleeping bag I brought was not enough to help me fall asleep in the evening, despite my exhaustion, so I lined up some couch cushions, which turned out to be a mistake. The lack of firmness and support caused my back to sag, and when I woke up it felt as though a shard of glass was jabbed into the left side of my lower back. No twisting seemed to pop in into comfort, so I went off to the race, hoping it would straighten itself out. That never really happened.During my one-mile early warmup, I was so stiff I was running almost completely horizontally. Stretching helped, and when I ran a ~3 mile warmup with some dude from UVA who knows my step-cousin, I felt decent. I must have mismanaged my time somehow because suddenly we were seven minutes from the start and I was trying to get my spikes on.
After a raucous alumni team cheer and some strides, we were off. I bolted around a pack of William and Mary guys (which sadly did not include Mt. Lebanon alumnus Rad Guzenhauser) and was in the front before I knew it, with Sean McKinney close behind. The grass was a lot longer than I expected. I hit the first of three damp soccer fields and let loose with my legs on the short grass, pulling away from a few pursuers. This persisted for a while, with shouts of encouragement from Lauder, and me egging him on. I thought, "Well, let's see how long I can stay in the lead. I can at least continue to amuse my cohort." Yes, I thought the word "cohort."
This lasted until a little short of a mile in. I started to fall back right as Levi Grandt, Ryan Lee and a W&M dude came by on a short uphill. Levi graciously thanked me for my rabbiting work, which was quite nice of him, and I tucked in behind them. We passed what I thought was the mile in 5:00, and I was hearted by that- I clearly hadn't gone out too fast, and had a good start for the rest of the race. I wanted to just keep my pace up, and I tried, but the long, wet grass started to slow me down. Despite its layout, the course, on the St. Catherine's school fields in Goochland County, is not terribly fast. Though it has its fast portions, they are broken up with long grass and uneven hills. For what we work with, it is a good cross country course, because you have to be strong and smart to race it well. A fewmore people passed me and I hit the two mile in 5:22, a step down, but I continued to have a chance at sub 16. I pretty much kept my pace up and took two guys out, but hitting the third mile in another 5:22 scuttled my chances for my moderate goal. I didn't really kick it in and finished in 16:22 in 11th place, if nothing else, the first among the alumni to finish.

Did I honestly expect to run fast with form like that?

It turned out that the person who was calling out mile splits was actually at the mile mark for the girls' race, which was a bit farther along on the course. Levi said our first mile split was 4:47-4:48. In one regard, I am impressed I was able to run that on such an unfriendly course. On the other hand, I am horrified that it makes my second mile split 5:35 or so... At least I recovered an ran 5:22.

After a delicious waffle and hashbrowns at the dining hall, we toured the new football stadium surrounding the Fred Hardy track. Simply put, it's beautiful, inside and out. All we have to do is win games.
I did a 6.5 mile afternoon run from the Hannays' house, into Byrd and Maymont parks, but I was parched the whole time. I focused on rehydrating as soon as I got back in preparation for the long run workout the next morning.
Lauder and Molz and I drove to the southern end of Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park.
We parked several rolling miles in and started running, six out and six back. Lauder kept us company on his bike and juggled water bottles for us. I dropped back from Molz after 3.5 on Lauder's suggestion, which turned out to be pretty good. It gave me some time to focus on chasing him and building some mental strength. I caught back up about nine miles in, and finished the last three miles with him. They had been out there a handful of times prior, so for me, the first 12 miles was largely about getting to know the layout and preparing for the workout. After a monster climb in the last mile, we finished up the "warmup" in 75 minute- 6:15 pace for 12 miles. Molz changed his shoes and I took some water before starting on my eight mile marathon pace (5:40) workout. I went ahead so Molz would have someone to chase, and it seemed from his movement I was on time, but I very well might have been too early. I held back like crazy on the first, downhill, mile, running 5:17. I held back more for another mile- 5:20, flatter, but still downhill.
The third mile turned uphill, and I slowed down to more of what I wanted- 5:31. The next mile was more uphill- 5:48, and Lauder pulled up to me on the bike. The coaxed me through mile five as best as he could, telling me what 6:00 pace was, but I was starting to falter and meander into the middle of the road, which was hazardous with faster-than-appropriate traffic coming around corners. I didn't light the world on fire with that mile- 6:25, but recovered when things flattened out for 5:38. Every now and then he would remind me to turn my head to check an overlook, and each time I was glad I did.
The turnaround, of course, knocked me off pace, as I ran the seventh mile in 5:48 and never felt like I had my momentum until the very end of the mile, then closed downhill in 5:27, but was not aggressive at all by that point, even when given a downhill mile on a platter. I would have liked to have finished the last mile closer to 5:00, given how much it beguiled me on the way up, but I just wasn't pushing enough downhill. Also, it was my 20th mile, and if I am running 5:27s after 19 other miles, I will be pretty happy. Lauder keeping me company and encouraging me, especially in the fifth mile, was crucial to my successful workout. Molz's suggestion was the reason this all happened. There wasn't a second of the run where I wasn't enjoying the experience, even when I saw the fifth mile marker way out of reach for my goal pace, I knew it was just one of eight miles and I could recover. The run was gorgeous, the hills challenging, the weather amazing and the overall morning was incredible and reinforces the confidence I have gleaned from the shorter track workouts.
Molz and I ran three easy miles at 7:00 pace or so, then Lauder picked us up at the bottom of the hill, we headed for the Charlottesville Waffle House, where Ann Mazur stopped in to say hello, and then back to Richmond.

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