Somehow my unconscious mind recognized the measure of time we observe and woke me up just at the right moment for me to grab my phone and see the numbers change from 6:59 to 7:00. That was nifty, until I realized that I was due on the starting line of the Prevent Cancer 5k in exactly one hour. Wasn't I planning on waking up an hour earlier? If P.Diddy feels like this when he wakes up, I completely understand why he'd send someone to Queens to get him a sugar cookie. (Thank you, Lindsey, for introducing me to this musical monstrosity.) Thankfully, I had packed most of what I needed the night before, so I grabbed my backpack and ran out the door, hoping to catch the first metro train, the only one that would get me to the city in time. I didn't take the time to put my shoes on, which became an issue when I hit the escalators in the station, but I made it onto the platform in time for a train. Hitting Foggy Bottom shortly after 7:35 gave me a shot, and I ran down the street toward the Lincoln Memorial as fast as I could with my backpack on. After passing the memorial, I saw the finish line banner on Ohio Drive. I ran to the bathroom, came out and was "ready" to "race" at 7:45. I should have just put my flats on while riding the metro, rather than mess with my trainers for a few minutes. I got to the line and saw I wouldn't have to contend with many people- I should be free to pursue a sub 15:30 or 16:00 time without any threat from other runners. My knees were sore as hell from running with that backpack, and my lower back wasn't feeling too great, but I figured with a flat course, I should be okay. I wrung the sweat out of my shorts (it was in the low 70s by 7:45) and got a move on. Pretty soon I could only hear my own footsteps. I looked up and saw an airplane on its way into Reagan, I thought I would race it, like Carl Lewis.
Easy! I bounded over the bridge and on toward Hains Point. I heard my first mile split- 5:04, and was feeling alright with that. Not bad for having woken up an hour ago. After dodging a few cyclists, I started to come up on the turnaround. 8:03. Not great, but I would see what I could do- I certainly wasn't killing myself in the first mile like last week, but I was also a little more prepared and it was a little cooler last week. My left patella started to feel every step, and I was getting concerned. I saw my competition lagging behind, and I knew I wouldn't have to worry about them. Before looking at my watch, I figured I would hit the second mile in 5:25- and I was right on. This race was over- there was no need to try to run 4:50 for my last mile to break 16:00- I was totally over it. I eased up and started chatting with the slower runners working on their first mile. many of them were first-time racers, which was nice to learn. The volunteer at the bridge reminded me I could run the tangents, but I told him I was okay not doing so at that point. I slowed to a jog on Ohio and ran 6:15 for the third mile. Then I kicked it in with a 30 to add some excitement to a finish that saw me with a lead of 38 seconds. Not the fast 5k I was hoping to run.
The rest of the week following my mountain workout went pretty well. I had a solid, but not spectacular workout- 5x1000 on the track. I wasn't feeling great, especially intestinally, but I managed 3:05, 3:05, 3:03, 3:01, 3:01, running pretty consistently throughout, though with the speed Pat Murphy exhibited in the last 400 of the final 1000, I thought I was going to be a few seconds slower.
Thursday I woke up to run into work, trying out the Bluemont Junction Trail between the W&OD and Custis trails, and I liked it, even though I had to cross Wilson Boulevard. The first mile or so of the Custis Trail is unpleasantly steep and usually perilous with the number of commuting bikers.
Alex and I took to the streets to the north for a 5.25-mile afternoon run.
Friday, I slept in and did all of my running in the evening. I ran into Lisa Sikora on my way to Hains Point, she was headed there too, but the other way, so I joined her for about four miles, which gave me six days of running with other people, a high for me. With her detour, I ended up getting 10.75.
I stayed out a little too late on Friday and slept in on Saturday, and ran 7.5 miles, I can barely remember where, Saturday morning. I stayed at the Dusens' that evening, for ease of getting to the Rockville Metro station for the start of the Parks Half Marathon.
Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, so it was appropriately disappointing that when I woke up around 5:30 Sunday, the rain was pouring. We had to sprint through the downpour when Jordan picked us up, and I became less enthused with the race as we approached the start. We took a short ~mile-long warmup total and before we knew it, it was time to go. The rain slowed to a drizzle and I actually felt alright.
I was careful to let the lead pack get ahead of me early- there was no need to go ridiculously fast early on, especially if I just wanted to run my goal marathon pace (5:40). The downhill first two miles made it a little tough to hold back, try as I might, through 5:33 and 5:25. The third mile was a little more varied, and certainly had more turns, and I was back to a more reasonable pace at 5:40, and the fourth mile more varied still at 5:42. The fifth mile started to give me a little trouble, and I found myself working way too hard for a 5:47. Though I was still under my aggregate goal pace, I was well aware the last few miles were uphill, so I hoped to at least maintain a margin for error in case I didn't have enough to keep me going. By the sixth mile, I was clearly in trouble- barely getting by under 6:00 in 5:55. I was starting to notice things that don't cause a problem when I am running well- the puddles, mud and gradual rain. Thanks to the rain the night before, many parts of the course were under water, and my shoes and socks seemed to soak up more of it than when I am on distance runs. The mud was a little more hazardous and reflected Karl's concern about slipperiness on the way to the race. He was worried more about his shoes on the pavement, and I dismissed that, but I was having genuine trouble staying on my feet when I ran through muddy sections. After slipping a few times, I decided it was time to call it a day and hopefully make it through the race with my body, spirit and enthusiasm for running intact. I slowed considerably and tried my best to stay out of people's way as they passed me. Twice, I stopped to take my shoes off and fix my socks, which had sagged under my heels. When I got to water stops, I stopped and drank the Gatorade they offered while standing still- if time was no longer of the essence, I might as well enjoy myself, though I wasn't likely to do so on the whole.
Toward the end, I stopped enjoying the experience and started ruing the decision to run. I clearly wasn't recovered enough from my long run the previous week to seriously attempt a long race like this.
I probably stopped enjoying it around mile eight, when people started to pass me. I tried to get out of their way, and felt terrible that the comped entry was going to waste. I didn't drop out because I wanted the finishing numbers to reflect the extent to which the MCRRC recruited runners, in fact the race was sold out. I am not sure if they figured people not showing up into the participant limit, but surely someone who wanted to race but couldn't would not be thrilled to see fewer than the maximum number of runners participate.
The race event itself was nice, the MCRRC couldn't do anything about the rain, just as they couldn't have changed the heat and humidity the morning of Riley's Rumble.
In short, I am disappointed that I have yet to run a good half marathon. Just running my marathon goal pace would have meant a four-minute improvement on my second-softest PR. It's not like I am incapable of running fast for 13 miles- in my marathon, when I clowned around for a good chunk of it, I ran faster than my Parks time for twice as long. Granted, the circumstances were not great, but I should be able to handle 5:40 pace for a while, based on the work I have put in.
The challenge here is considering my mountain workout the week before to be a more accurate indicator of my marathon readiness than what I did in Maryland. It would be too depressing if all the emphasis I put on running turned out to not only make me mediocre, but less than what I had done in the past.
The problem with running as long of a workout as I did on Sunday is that I ran 88 percent of a marathon in the mountains and then had to deal with the consequences. Even with the cooldown figured in, I was on pace for a 2:41, an eight minute "PR." It didn't help that the climbing and dropping added to the wear on my body and that soon after finishing the run we jumped in the car for the trip home to Richmond and shortly after that I rode a bus for 2.5 hours. Would it have killed me to take an ice bath when I got back? So now I feel like I would if I ran most of a hilly marathon a few days ago...
Back in northern Virginia, I woke up at 6:45 Monday to take the Metro to Alexandria for a run with Laura O'Hara. We ran a simple 8.5 mile loop, but my tight back and sore rest of my body made it a rough effort. After a few miles, I loosened up and felt better. Also, I came across a bathroom. We ran about 8:00 pace, and that was fine with me, it was rough, I tell 'ya.
I tried an evening run to get another eight miles in, but five steps in I figured it was more trouble than it was worth.
I slept in Tuesday, my first day of work this week, as is my custom, and waited until I got home to run. I managed to coax Alex out for a part of my 12 miles. We ran north of 8:00 miles for the first four miles, which was fine with me because I was still sore. After he headed home after four miles, I cut down to 7:20s and finished a Fineview Park, which I extended to South and Broad. It was hot, I was thirsty.
Wednesday's morning run was over before I got across Haycock. I'm only doing one workout this week, so I guess I will save my effort today for it and go after these 1000s or two miles or whatever we're doing.
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.
I am heading down to Richmond for the alumni race on the Amtrak train shortly, which I dub the "big metal priest," because Amtrak just molests me every time I get on board.
It is supposedly a few degrees cooler in Richmond, and I could use that.
Wednesday's workout went about as well as I expected. The heat affected me more in the recovery miles and it was over pretty quickly. I went through the first (easy) mile in 6:00, just as I did two weeks prior, but I was already hurting. I started the first hard mile with very crisp form, which belied the hot, humid air. I ran the first one in 5:08, and felt solid, but the recovery didn't feel like much of one. I continued to heat up, and ran 6:35 for the mile.
I planned to chase Murph and Mike on the second one, but was dangerously close to catching them within the first quarter mile, so I dropped back and
came after them again in the second half, but I wasn't accelerating like I could earlier in the mile. I finished and took a long time grabbing water, and a few minutes into a very slow fifth mile, I decided to cut the intervals in half and run half miles. I turned around and had at it, but something was wrong. I was running well, ending up with a 2:32, but I had no friggin clue where I was. It had gotten dark, and all I knew was that the trail ahead was clear. I finished it and just chilled out with Dan and Jimmy (who quit his job at the Discovery Channel a week before that day's hostage taking). I knew going in it wasn't going to be an ideal workout, so I didn't assign much import to the results. I got a good first mile in, at least.
I got home at 10:30, and it took me a long time to fall asleep, so I wasn't up for a medium long run in the morning. I did five miles on a Greenwich-reverse Fisherman's, then came home and ran out to Vienna on the W&OD (at 6:40 pace, I learned, after the fact), then came home on Gallows Road. In 13 miles, I lost 11 pounds. Yikes.
Friday morning, I ran a miserable 6.5 miles on a Pimmit Hills loop. 7:45 pace. I sleep horribly.
I am going to do a small-town marathon with my high school buddies Evan, Nate and Pokey in the next few years, and I am looking forward to it, mostly to the relaxed atmosphere and chance to chill out. This is maybe two years down the road, when we're all 30.
When I arrive in Richmond I will shake the trip out with a 5.5 mile run around campus, then hopefully some Mary Angela's pizza with the guys. I'm staying with Lauder and Molz, definitely Fatty Z, and I assume Hunter, Garrett, and I'm not sure who else. I think there are either seven guests or seven people total. Then, I'll get my first race in since the Run for Roch. It's odd that I didn't race at all in August, but I did the best month of training in my life, so missing a few 5ks doesn't bother me that much. I'm excited to race with a few of my college teammates, even though we won't be slaughtered by the immensely talented, young and well-trained Richmond top seven. Then, breakfast at the dining hall, an afternoon run, and a party at the Hannays.
That is the assessment from my friend Pokey Litten after last week's cold wave. I certainly identify with it- I'm a different runner in cool weather, so I am hoping for a cool marathon- I might not survive an honest effort in the 70 degree range.
It seemed appropriate to take it a little easy after a 127-mile week, but it makes a lot more sense in theory. I woke up and ran five miles in McConnells Mill State Park on Sunday, but the terrain was a lot more dramatic and I was beaten up from the long run the day before. When I got back to the campsite, Max Louik, his lovely wife Kate and Ian Glinka were driving around in a golf cart, and they challenged me to a race, about 600 meters long. I totally destroyed them!
After a long drive back to Virginia, I contemplated going out for an evening run. I went from lying on the couch to standing outside in shorts and my running shoes four times, but in the end I saw no point to running eight or so miles.
I slept in on Monday, as it my now practice, and took my spikes back to the Lemon Road School yard for another fartlek workout, but my feet remembered the blisters all too well and after my first 25 seconds I felt like I was straining too much to run fast. I ended up running some strides with the spikes on and heading back home, for five miles.
I slept in again on Tuesday, possibly could have gotten three miles in, but opted to lie around the house before work. In the evening I set off for an altered Fineview Park, totaling 10.6 and averaging 6:56 pace. A decent pace, considering the heat, about 87-90 degrees. I felt myself slip into a pretty fast clip in the middle few miles. Afterward I felt good for the first time since Saturday.
The alumni race will not be quite the tour de force that once seemed potential. The big guns are all sitting out, on both sides- only the freshmen and Levi will be racing for the Richmond team and Molz is sitting out. He just ran 1:08 on Saturday for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon in Ashland, so I suppose he needs a little rest. Emily Ward won her race too, in a PR time. I had been planning to run that until Joe’s wedding conflicted. William and Mary will send some athletes, perhaps Rad will run, but I doubt it. At least without Llano, Benford, Quinn, Wilson and the like running, I won’t be buried behind guys who will make me feel like I’m standing still on those soft fields. I think I should be able to break 16:00, just the drop in mileage alone will be a relief for my legs. About 40 fewer miles will certainly help.
I am certainly ready for a break from this traveling- Aside from the weekend of the Crystal City Twilighter and Riley’s Rumble, I have been out of town for at least part of the weekend since early July- Reno, Rockville, Pittsburgh, Pembroke, Cumberland, Lancaster/Wyomissing, Portersville and now Richmond. I’m not sure if I should go to Philly to watch the half marathon, but if I can somehow be of help to the guys, I might as well go and enjoy it.
I’ll be taking a side trip, while in Richmond, to Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a long run. As far as I know, it’s just Molz, but I hope Lauder will be coming along on his bike. No matter the temperature, it will be dryer there. We’ll be running 12 normal miles, eight at marathon pace (5:40 for me, I hope) and three easy. I hope we’ll drive part of it first and drop off some water bottles, I don’t want a dehydrated nightmare like last weekend (it wasn’t a nightmare, but it certainly wasn’t ideal.)
I ran a relaxed 3.5 mile Fisherman morning run at 7:25 pace, half of my usual Wednesday morning fare. It's currently 97 degrees as I get ready to head to Bethesda for a repeat of the workout from two weeks ago- six alternating miles on the CCT. I'm really going to be putting my momentum on the line from the last few workouts, but I won't assign too much to the outcome if things don't go well. If they do, well, then I'll be surprised! I can take solace in my pattern of following bad workouts with good races and unfortunately, vice versa. The looming alumni race reminds me too much of my early-season struggles in college to adjust to the heat and humidity.