"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, November 26, 2010


Maybe it was the 6.5 hour drive to Pittsburgh the night before.
The lasting effects of the poor sleep after my midnight drive to Virginia and subsequent illness just 36 hours before might have hung over me.
Running twice a week might have affected my fitness.
There's a chance the driving rain with temperatures in the mid 30s had something to do with it.
Or perhaps there are mysterious forces at work.
For whatever reason, I am glad I'll be putting away my racing flats for a while.
Steady rain against the windows dashed my hopes for a pleasant racing morning on Thanksgiving. I had two races--the YMCA Turkey Trot and the Gutbuster--and given the $50 in registration fees I had paid, I wasn't going to miss them.
My mom bailed on the Turkey Trot, so I headed down the mountain to the north shore and parked next to the Trib building. I sat in the car until 10 minutes before the start, then jogged off to a spot under the Fort Duquesne Bridge to get out of the rain. With five minutes left I headed to the line and saw who was gathered- Ryan "Perverted Justice" "Predator" Hanson, Jeremy Cornman, Brandon G, and Dan Mazzocco. Dan said he was wearing Hello Kitty band aids on his nipples, but I did not confirm that. We headed out onto the course and I tried to hold back, aware that the 5k run concurrently with the five mile would no doubt cause chaos for pacing. The clock seemed to creep ahead while I was running out of breath 1200 meters in.
Greg Byrnes, another of the Northside Dragons, eased up alongside me. They scurried away and I just kind of let myself move along, with no real purpose in my steps. We wrapped around a Heinz Field Parking lot and past PNC Park, then over the Clemente Bridge, then around to the old YMCA building on the Boulevard of the Allies and back. I started moving up through the pack shortly before I saw Larry Quinn before Commonwealth Avenue. I passed a few people who were running the 5k, which gave me a charge- at least I was running faster than they were. After the split, the next 1.9 miles were boring. Out to the casino, back to the starting line, then back around to the finish line next to PNC Park.
The rain made my skin itch, but after a few miles my skin got numb. I spent the last mile inching up on this dude, and I made a strong move to overwhelm him with about half a mile to go, then just held on. I had gone in hoping to run 5:30s, but fell way short of that- I ended up in seventh place at 30:05- 6:01 pace. Yikes. Anyone who doesn't run fast for some reason or another will say "oh, it's just a tempo run." Well, that's the kind of tempo I do on moderate days, so I can't even use that cop out.
No time to dawdle, though, I had a half hour to get to the Gutbuster. I ran to the car and skedatled out to Frick Park. I managed to change into some dry clothes, a tight allocation of resources because I forgot a bag of cold weather running clothes in Virginia. This time I wore a long-sleeved shirt, since I would be out running a good bit longer at a slower pace over difficult terrain. I saw Maureen and Robin and chilled (literally) with them before the race started. To keep the trail race true to its essence, we started on a narrow trail, rather than the wide parking lot, and I wound up a few dozen people from the starting line. Everyone pretty much walked out of the start to avoid a huge puddle, so by the time I got to the line, the leaders were gone, and I bagged any idea of competing for the win.
That did not preclude aggressive running, however, and I drove hard up the Falls Ravine Trail. Straight up for one mile. My watch said 8:22, but more than 45 seconds of that was before I ran. As soon as the downhill started (another mile) I started moving pretty fast, passing seven guys. I eased up on the turn onto the Tranquil Trail and followed three guys who looked pretty used to trail racing. I took it easy up the Biddle Trail and renewed my chase on the Clayton Trail. I caught all three before heading back down the Nature and Falls Raine trails. I saw Luke Briola leading the race back up the second loop as I was finishing the first, and given how strong he looked and how bushed I was after pushing that much for four miles in about 28 minutes, and given his lead on me, I acquiesced once again to the lure of a hopeless cause, shifting out of the competitive focus that had somehow reverted.
The second loop was just a horror show. I walked up part of the Falls Ravine Trail and exclaimed to Steve Garrand how tired and hungry I was. When I finished six miles, I repeated my hunger claim and Dan Holland said there were cookies at the finish. Splendid! Something to motivate me!
I was well into no-man's land now. Three runners had passed me near the top of the Falls Ravine Trail and I ha left my one pursuer at that point in the dust (or mud) on the way back down. I saw Leslie directing traffic at the bottom of the Biddle Trail and tried to hit the hill hard for him, but after a minute I was once again reduced to a walk. I was so cold, so hungry, so tired. Just 1.3 miles to go. Maybe I could break 60, though the walking made that goal difficult. I tried to let loose on the way down the hill for the last time, giving Timmy Wu a high five on the way. I sprinted as fast as I could, given the ground conditions, but when I hit the bottom, with .2 miles to go, I was empty. I moseyed on into the finish just over 61 minutes and headed straight for the food. The cookies were all gone. The g-d two and four mile runners had eaten them! I headed straight back to the car, peeled off my soaking wet clothes and took my racing flats off for the last time until I race in Virginia Beach in March.
It's so cold in Pittsburgh, and I am starting to feel pretty cruddy, so I'm going to stop running for a little bit. I might get a few miles here or there, but for the most part, I am done until I recover from my tonsil/tongue surgery, which is scheduled for the 6th. I hope to be back running in time for the WPIAL alumni run on Christmas Eve, but for now I will just ease up dramatically and hopefully build on the insatiable hunger to run that will motor another high-mileage year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

64 legs dashed across the LaVerne Gibson cross country course

(I'm not sure if I will ever get the font right...)
There's no better way to feel slow and out of shape quite than trying to sprint around rolling fields on a windy day chasing a massive pack of the nation's fastest runners a few hours after eating a foot-long sub.

That's how I spent Monday in Terre Haute, chasing down eight Spiders.

I spent most of Sunday traveling, and didn't run. I took the metro to Greenbelt, a bus to the airport, a flight to Charlotte and another to Indianapolis. When Watson arrived, we drove to Terre Haute and met up with Hunter, Molz, Dan, Fatty Z and another Richmond alumnus I can't name because he'd be fired. But he looks like the guy to the right.
We bowled and headed back to bed.

In the morning, we caught up with Andrew Benford's family and found our way to the course. It's a great plot of land, probably the best compromise for a national cross country race I can think of. I would surely prefer a hillier course on par with Frick Park or more eastern-biased like Furman, but the Laverne Gibson course is pretty cool.

After seeing Tim Quinn and Matt Llano's parents, we bumped into Garrett and his girlfriend
Juliette, who drove up from Brevard, N.C. the night before. Watson wryly noted that Garrett still had the look of a focused driver when we came across him in the bleachers.
Rad Guzenhauser and Dave Adley passed by on their way to find T.J. Hobart, but none of the three were running, so as far as I know, Penn State's Chris Cipro, from Seneca Valley, was the only WPIAL athlete racing for the men.

Watson and Z and I found a good routine for watching the opening of the women's race. It was hard to find Amy Van Alstine because she ran the right kind of race-- ensconced in a pack. The wind was prohibitive, and she put herself in a situation where she could rely on her fitness to race, rather than having to worry as much about the elements. It was deceptively warm- in the upper 60s, but with nothing of substance for miles, the wind was going "buck wild," to paraphrase Sarah V. Taylor (Westhampton College '03).

George Washington's Megan Hogan was running a gutsy race in the front, taking the lead at one point and staying in contention. Now that it's been about 10 years since they replaced that dick of a coach I spoke to during my college visit in 1999, it's about time I let that grudge go and could cheer openly for Hogan. Her quick
ascendancy to the sport's upper echelon is pretty remarkable. She finished eighth, tucked behind two Stony Brook girls. It was again hard to see Amy, but I caught a glimpse through the crowd a
long the fence. She wound up 67th in 21:06.

I broke from the older alumni in a successful attempt to see Amy before the finish, then caught up with Mello, Ellis, Adam and Patrick for the beginning of the men's race. I had never seen such a tightly-bunched pack before. They were gone in five seconds! I did see Levi and Skipper toward the back, though, and thought perhaps their time was up this season.

It's hard to describe exactly what I saw because it all happened to fast, disjointedly and on limited amounts of oxygen. I dashed from point to point on the course trying to see and yell as much as I could. I went long stretches without seeing Benford, and of course I jumped to conclusions that he had dropped out rather than considering the possibility I missed him. Then, all of a sudden, he was ahead of Llano. Then, right with him. Later, about 20 seconds behind. Trying to keep track of five runners was maddening.

The least in command of a race I had ever seen Benford and Llano was when I first time I met them, as a freshmen at the A-10 meet, when they were 8th and 10th, respectively. To see them lost in this crowd was disorienting, though it was also my first time watching a national championship race in person.

Throughout the race, Tim Quinn seemed the most in command. Jonny Wilson started out slow and moved his way up confidently. Chris York was also pretty far back, but looked within himself. Levi was hurting, but not too far back, Skipper was walking dead, way off the back, at the mercy of the wind pummeling his tall frame.
It's useless to try to untangle my memories into a readable narrative. So here are the numbers and what I thought:
44 Matt Llano 30:36
75 Andrew Benford 30:55
116 Tim Quinn 31:20
204 Jon Wilson 32:13
219 Chris York 32:35
225 Levi Grandt 32:53
246 Jason Skipper 36:46

Llano ran close to his regionals time, so did Quinn. Wilson and York actually ran faster, despite fighting the wind for most of the race on their own. Skipper just faced compounding odds on his own against the wind plus whatever illness he had that took him out of the race early. I'd say Quinn probably ran the best race relative to how he consistently performs. His improvement over the last three years has been the most remarkable of the guys on the team. Wilson also ran pretty well, and moved up throughout the race.

Nobody was going to run fast, with that wind in their faces three times and nine days after another cross country 10k. They beat their 28th place ranking by finishing 24th, and beat Notre Dame, Texas, Minnesota, Louisville, Georgetown, Penn State and California (of California).

As the athletes, alumni, and recruit visiting from Chicago stood locked in arms with Steve, I could see the gamut of emotions. From regret that some couldn't run faster, to nascent melancholy that the races were over for them, to the admiration that I know I was expressing. A few have said, this was a once-in-a-lifetime race for us. Some take offense to that, interpreting it as a slight to the future of the program that the Spiders couldn't make it back. I think they can, and they will- their appearance certainly raised the program's visibility to recruits that will want to get better, not just be part of an all-star team. But the moments that this team created, breaking through after years of improvement, will never happen the same way. The first conference championship, the first at-large bid for the national meet, the first time the runners could improve on the team's pre-race ranking and demonstrate that they deserved to be there. From there the program continues to build, and I hope it builds the right way. Steve is a fantastic coach who not only knows how to train your body, but manage your mental approach to the sport, and life. That's only part of the equation, the runners that populate the program will need to continue to be right.

I hope that the caliber of our recruits in the future is defined not by their high school times, but by their attitudes about running and the strength of their determination. I have seen too many great high school runners come to the program and flame out, sooner or later, for a variety of reasons (see T. Santifort, R. Chapman, P.J.) because they don't want to put in the work. Watson and I put in the work, we might not have been supremely talented, but I don't think we could have done much more. I don't want to speak for Jeff, but I don't think I want top-notch runners coming to Richmond,I want the middle-tier runners who get better and appreciate the value of hard work and succeed. John Cicarelli, who famously showed up in Steve's office the first week of school, wanting to run, and two years later was our first individual conference champion.
Teams made of guys like that and Dan Petty, who didn't have the same physical ability to compete at the highest levels, but shoehorned himself into the decathlon for the sake of the team.

If anyone is Googling "University of Richmond cross country" and gets this, that's the kind of athlete this alumnus wants to see join us.
As for the results, no Miami of Ohio, I am pleased to say, they couldn't make it to the meet. That might be the most satisfying for me, though beating Penn State was pretty sweet. When my high school teammate Charlie VanGombos went there as a freshman in 2000, he relayed that the upperclassmen were trying to make nationals, and a few of them were major-league assholes. Even though they were long-graduated (though the biggest of such was there as a coach of another school) it was nice to beat them, though doing so came at the expense of a number of my friends' program.

Some notes:
  • Mustaches are getting out of control. They don't look cool, they look awful. Especially on the Penn State team. Florida State finished second in both races, and that was pretty darned cool, but they also had mustaches, so that tempers their accomplishment. Especially the ladies'.
  • I miss our old uniforms. As nice as I am sure the Nike uniforms are, it is so hard to pick out our runners. See the top photo for a comparison with our old B.O.A. uniforms. They were distinctive. So were the red shorts-white top combo they wore for the 2008 A-10 meet.
  • Jeff Watson's analysis of the way crowds move across the field as the runners pass:
  • Imagine if every time the ball changed possession in a football game fans for each team had to run across the field and switch bleachers -- that is what it's like at a big XC meet. Human Stampede.
  • The Duke coach is pretty cool. His gracious praise for our team's performance was appreciated.
  • We were five points from beating Villanova. Llano was four spots from a cross country All-American award to go with his outdoor track 10k distinction.
  • I passed the Alabama tent and yelled in "Texas Paul sends his love," but I didn't stick around for the follow-up questions.
  • The trip was totally worth it.

Photo of the pack by James Galen and Letsrun.com, others by me or as credited to PrettySporty.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cross country weekend

I had planned, weeks ago, to run the Kinhaven 5k on Sunday, before possibly heading to Pittsburgh and then on to Terre Haute. When it became apparent that driving to Indiana was a bad idea and I opted to fly, the race didn’t fit in my plans. I liked it because it was the Bluemont Park 5k course, on which I ran a completely even race in early June, but my plans were dashed by my greater goal--getting to watch the Spiders at the NCAA meet. It's pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I gladly skipped it.

Jess McGuire suggested a race to me earlier in the week- the Herndon Turkey Trot. She said the winners got turkeys, and that seemed like a good deal. It was only $15, and she promised a ride, so I went for it. As it turned out, she couldn’t race, but she took me there anyway, which was a nice move because biking 13 miles to the race would have drained me.

Toward the middle of the week I stopped wanting to run. After my aborted workout Wednesday, I headed home. Thursday evening I got off the metro in Falls Church and really didn’t feel like going out for the seven miles I had planned, so I took that afternoon off. I slept in on Friday and didn’t run to work, so I took that evening off, too. I did managed to get up and run a sedate 3.5-mile Fisherman loop in the morning on Saturday, then had my hair cut to exorcise the bad mojo Mr. Barber gave me the day before Chicago.

When I got to the course, I tried to run it for a warmup, but I didn’t want to run on the golf course portion and disturb the golfers. I also felt really winded, and worried a bit. A slew of guys ran under 16 here two years ago, though last year’s winner just broke 17, so I had no idea how the competition would be. I got to the starting line but didn’t see much. Mostly kids and parents. I took it easy at the start, satisfied to let the Herndon cross country team burn themselves out early. After a 180-turn, the two kids leading me faltered, so I figured I would take it from there.

The long but slight downhill was right into the wind, so no matter how hard I pushed to break away, I felt like I wasn’t moving. Someone was right on me, but I figured it was one of the high school kids, so I tried to see how long I could push them. We turned onto the W&OD trail and after climbing a small bridge, I started to tire, so I relented a bit, and this Frenchman flew past me. I guess I hadn’t broken anyone but myself. I kept him somewhat close when we got onto the grass, but he pulled ahead a little before the first mile mark. I checked my watch- 5:36. WHAAAAAAAT. If that effort only yielded a 5:36, I really am coming apart, I immediately felt like registering for two races on Thanksgiving was a grave mistake. Another guy--in Oakton shorts--passed me. Then two others. Then another. At this point I was just feeling bad for myself and giving up. How could I train like I did all year and come apart like this? It was inconceivable! High school kids weren't running the workouts I was... this won't do. I had to catch them.

I accelerated a little coming over a hill, and I started to catch up to two fellows. I passed them back right before the two-mile mark, 5:41. Did I really only run 5 seconds slower despite giving up so much? If I wasn’t fighting for air, I would have realized that the first mile mark was actually the 1.1 mile. I passed the third place dude, a high schooler, and started to drag myself toward the leaders, who were deep in a battle about 10 seconds ahead of me. I made up ground until we went over a small bridge--when I landed on solid ground, my motivation was gone. The leaders added to their gap, and I just tried to finish hard, hopefully break 18. Break 18? Good God…. What happened to me? I saw the read Runner’s High finish line and knew I wouldn’t be breaking it. I did, however, marvel that I was finishing under 17:00- 16:55- my last split at 5:37. I didn’t look at the last split until after I talked to the winners.

“You took it out so hard!” the Frenchman exclaimed. I was perplexed. 5:37 isn’t hard, or at least it shouldn’t be to someone how dusted me like that. I checked my watch and realized the course error. I let that de-motivate my entire last 2/3 of my race.

I did end up running 20 seconds faster than last week on a course that I feel was slower, thanks to the grass. I also won a pie.

Now I’m in the Indianapolis airport waiting for Jeff Watson so we can drive to Terre Haute and watch the Spiders.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just like that, wham, apathy

I ran the Albemarle loop on Monday evening, hoping for the same dark, spooky experience as I had a few weeks ago, but a few cars ruined it with bright headlights. I ended up averaging 6:40s for 10.6 miles.
The next day, I planned for an easy 10 miles, out and back heading west on the W&OD. I wanted to average 7:00 or slower, and I thought having half-mile makers would help me hold back. What followed was instead a frustrating series of splits that were too fast. I was usually about 10 second fast per half mile, which really adds up. When I would see my split I would try to slow down, but I would inevitably speed back up, until I finished 10.1 miles averaging 6:47.
I went to BCC Wednesday planning to do 20x400, after the warmup, the workout evidently changed to 6x1200. I ran the first one in 4:02 and felt ok, the second one felt better, but the third one started with a 77 second quarter, and as we were coming down the last 50 meters of that lap, I decided I didn't want to run fast anymore. I did a 32 second 200 and then just stopped.
Then I took the next two days off. Without the USATF cross country meet about a month away, it's hard to rationalize pushing hard in a workout when I should be recovering from the marathons.
It's been eight years since the Mt. Lebanon cross country teams lost Amy Fehr. I can't think of what else to say that would be appropriate here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spiders headed to NCAAs

It's official- the Richmond men's cross country team qualified for the NCAA national championships!
(Photo by Sue Llano)

Things were looking good Saturday, beating Louisville and Virginia was pretty significant, but to finally see it in black and white from the NCAA is just so invigorating. Now I just have to get Monday off of work so I can go. After checking last year's results from the Tuckahoe 5k, it turns out I broke the course record by 1:17. That still doesn't make running 17:15 okay... I took an incredible four-hour nap after the regionals results came in. I watched three hours of the Wire and went back to bed.

I woke up and headed to Hains Point to watch the GRC guys race the Veterans' Day 10k. With my breakless bike, I headed to the tidal basin bridge, then to near the turnaround, and back to watch the finish. Wiggy, Texas Paul, Outlaw and Perverted Justice all ran good sub-32 times. I went home and headed out for my long run, what has become my standard Vienna loop. I averaged 6:28 for the first 10 miles, and felt great, then started to dry out after 12. When I got to 16, I stopped and walked the rest of the way in. Sooner or later I will realize I have to take time off after a marathon, but it's going to be later....

My throat is hurting constantly now, and I can't wait to have these tonsils removed. Sleep hasn't been great, either, aside from my Saturday nap.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Terre Haute (like a boat)?

I took Wednesday and Thursday off because I just felt like garbage. Friday I planned on running a little in the evening before the Candy Cane City 5k Saturday morning, but Alex wasn't keen on racing, so I looked around and found the Tuckahoe PTA 5k, about two miles away from home. It started at 8 a.m., so I would be able to make it to run with the GRC guys afterward. I went out to check out the course after work on Friday, and liked what I saw.
It was a rolling course, but downhills followed all the uphills, so that was coo'. I ended up running eight miles, and feeling pretty good doing it. Then I put myself at a disadvantage by going out to my friend's birthday party, enjoying myself too much and staying out late. I slept about five hours, got out to the Metro and waited for a train that ran pretty late and barely made it to the registration table in time. I took a short warmup and got to the line. I saw a few dudes in racing flats, but figured after gutting out a pair of marathons in the last five weeks, I could handle 5k.
Despite all of the kids on the starting line, the other guys in flats took the lead.
I can't remember the last uphill start I've had at a road race, but it helped me stay cool and hang behind three other guys. After the first turn I wound up alongside everyone else, and another minute in I started pulling away. The pack broke up then, and one guy kept chasing me. We headed down Williamsburg and I broke the guy behind me. I cruised from there- 5:14 first mile, 5:28 second mile, 5 something high for the first mile. The last half mile was on fine woodchips, a wooden winding bridge and some muddy and grassy hills. I looked to the left while on the bridge and saw the second place guy heading down onto the trail. I shut it down and cruised in, finishing in 17:15. Not great at all, but it demonstrated how slowly I ran the second half of the Run Against Cancer 5k, where I ran two seconds slower on a flat-as-heck course.
I grabbed my $100, ran to the metro, and caught up with Alex on the way to practice. We made it in time and ran around Teddy Roosevelt Island. I totaled 11 miles.
As it turns out, the Candy Cane City course was ridiculously short this year, and I wouldn't have made any money from it, so I ended up making the right move anyway. I also really enjoyed racing in the Falls Church area.
I got home and waited for updates on the Richmond
teams' races at the NCAA regional meet. I relied on Steve's Twitter account, and it didn't look good for the girls. As the guys took to the line, I hoped their improvement would continue with an extra 2k of course to cover. I sat back and watched the tweets:
The men are off to the races...
At 3k split...spider men in 5th as ateam...excellent
Llano...benford in top 6 at 4k...
Llano and benford still in top 10 pack at 3.5 miles...need our 4 &5 to hold on
Spider men hurting ...into 4th as a team at 7k...pain..serious pain!
wow...no one can imagine the excitement. these men ran their guts out. they welcomed the pain today!
Nothing for a while. I texted Molz- heard back "4th! We are dancing!"
More from Steve: We have to wait until tomorrow to find out if our men get the at-large bid to national championships...
So, it's looking good, but not a lock. Llano and Benford were less than a second apart at 8 and 10. Quinn ran a hell of a race, absolutely awesome. Levi fought through some knee pain to run a great race and Wilson was close behind.
I hope to find a few other Spiders who want to make the road trip to Terra Haute if they indeed qualify as a team.
(All photos by Dan Petty)

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That's it, 2010

I had hoped my season would end at McAlpine Park in Charlotte after the USATF Club cross country championships. Despite feeling pretty great less than a week after Marine Corps, I had doubts about running fast enough to contribute even to the B team. I alternated between confidence and uncertainty, especially this week. Now the decision on the race is out of my hands.

My plan was to have my tonsils removed Dec. 16, at which point I would have nothing to do for a week at work, the cross country race would be over and I would be taking time off anyway. Unfortunately, two doctors have to coordinate their schedules for the surgery, and the only day they are able in December is the 6th. So, no more nationals for me.

That effectively ends my consequential season. I'll still run the Candy Cane City 5k and some Thanksgiving races, but I just don't care now. I took yesterday off, and I might take today off, too. I'm tired. My throat hurts, and I don't want to complain any more after today.

At least now I won't be rushing to try to get back to running in time for the WPIAL alumni run, a tradition I have missed just once, though I didn't run two of the other years.

Despite having two, possibly three races left, it's as good a time as any to review how the year went -- lots of promise and encouraging performances, but ultimately my peak races were disappointing. In the spring I ran increasingly longer races and got faster in each- the five-mile split of the Monument Avenue 10k was faster than my open 8k time at the St. Patrick's Day race, and my estimated 10k split at Cherry Blossom was faster than my Monument Avenue overall time. That was certainly encouraging. Whether I tapered too much or just wasn't ready for the humidity, I was out of it quickly at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. My rebound race, at the Pacers Half Marathon, was better, though for all intents and purposes I stopped racing after 10 miles and jogged in the last three, still ending up nine minutes faster than the week before.

I ran a few 5ks in the summer to keep myself limber -- a meltdown at the Gatons 5k, a perfect race at the Run After the Women 5k in early June, where I ran the most even-splitted race of my life. I was a little bummed to have run the same time a month later at the Independence 5k, though I knew my mileage was building up like I had never seen before, that week being my first at 90. I ran my first 100 while in Reno and came home to a miserably hot Washington, including the Crystal City 5k, which was somewhere between 96 and 98 degrees.

I learned why when it's one guy versus the field, you pick the field when I w
ent back to Pittsburgh for the Run for Roch. I faced challenges from five guys during that race and beat four. I lost, but I had a fun time doing it. I noticed, months later, that the fellow who beat me there was in a photo with Klim and Dwyer during the 2008 Philadelphia Distance Run on the GRC blog's slideshow.

I took all of August off of racing and just kept stacking the mileage and foun
I liked it. I had probably my best week of training toward the end of the month, when I hit 127 miles and knew I could handle it.

September varied, as I got close to Chicago. I hurt my back sleeping on the floor the night before the alumni race, and ran an underwhelming time there, but the next day I had a spectacular marathon workout in the mountains with Molz and Lauder. I realize now, having done two marathons in 22 days, the difference between a good marathon and a bad marathon. I arguably ran a better 23 miles that day, climbing and falling, than I did at either Chicago or Marine Corps, yet besides the near paralysis in my back the next day, I was fine and able to run close to three minutes for my 1ks three days later.

Trying to run Parks a week after that workout, though, might had been folly. Thought I felt fine for a few miles, it was clear my tank was empty. I was better a week later when I ran a strong 4k of the Navy Federal 5k. I went out a little fast, but it was okay, I liked the race. The next weekend I did the Run Against Cancer 5k for the heck of it, didn't feel great, and bagged it.

Then came Chicago, and for a long time, I felt like it was going pretty well. It was warm, yes, but we were in the shade. I was cruising along and went through the half in what was a 3:03 PR. That is pretty friggin' cool, and I didn't feel like I had gone out too fast, either. But the heat, oh lordy the heat...

I should have done more marathon-pace long runs somewhere flat, because even though your legs just go on automatic, flat gets old after a while. As for in-race adjustments, when I started to fall off in the second half, I should have taken a little break, maybe even walked, and joined a pack, as I did it, I just fell farther and father back.

As for Marine Corps, the only thing I regret is not asking Jake for a shirt or jacket or something in the last 10k. Also, what the hell happened to Outlaw? I thought he said he was going to run the last few miles with me?

Anyway, I hope that this tonsillectomy does something to improve my breathing while I sleep and my susceptibility to colds, and that will mean more meaningful recovery training-wise.

In other news:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Enjoying November

Friday night I came home and went out for a Westmoreland and realized two miles in that I was running 6:10 pace. I knocked that off after another mile and noticed how much I was sweating and how cold it was. Since the Marine Corps Marathon I have been unnaturally cold, and about five miles in I really started to feel the chill, so I cut the run short and went back on Haycock to run 6.5.

Saturday morning I waited for 17 hours for Wiggy to show up at the store to run. Eventually he and Ryan joined Outlaw and me for a run around Hains Point so those DC racing neophytes could check out the Veterans' Day 10k course. It was windy, of course, but I sufficed with shorts and short sleeves, though I brought a long-sleeved shirt as backup, which I used on the way back.

Sunday morning I ran with a big group at the Line, heading off for another trip through Rock Creek Park's trails. My left foot landed oddly a few times and I sprained it a bit the last time, this being my most serious running injury since I messed up my back on the Lauder/Molz floor-sleeping incident before the alumni race. Much like burning your tongue on hot chocolate, the resulting pain is constant and lingering. It hasn't affected my form, but I decided to cut the run short because my ankles were getting tired of navigating the rough trail covered in leaves. I did about 6.5 miles with Jakes Marren and Klim, Dickson and YF/Anonymous. Later in the day I went out and ran another four miles on the Idylwood north loop, but it didn't feel great.

Monday I had to get up and out the door by 5 to get to a conference in Baltimore that turned out to be useless, yet I still worked until 5:45. On my commute home, I expected to take the day off and just relax until the Steelers game started, but when I felt how excellent the mid 50s temperature felt in Falls Church, I couldn't resist. I set out on a Presidents' Loop-- Allan (Chester Arthur), Quincy, Harrison, Roosevelt, Johnson, Tyler, Jefferson, Grove(r Cleveland) starting pretty easily, 6:50 through the first mile, but before I knew it, I was moving. Checking later, I found I hit three and six miles at 6:20 pace and kept it consistent through 10.25. Not bad. That loop is great in the dark, a situation I will certainly be getting used to thanks to winter's approach.

I went to Washington and Lee's (the Fighting Pat Fishers) track Tuesday evening to do my first fast workout since September, and suffice to say it didn't go well. I was planning on 4x2k at 5:12 pace. The first one went splendidly, though my second lap was three seconds fast. After 1200 of the second, I started feeling some GI pressure, which hasn't really been a problem since April. After dealing with it, I went out for a cooldown and came back for some HMDs.

On Saturday I will likely race the Candy Cane City 5k in Chevy Chase, my first race last year after I moved. This time will likely be more successful- I am in remarkably better shape, will get to the front of the pack and will likely have my shoes on and tied when the race starts.
Hopefully after a trip to Terra Haute, I will run the five mile YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh, which is making its return after two years of road-construction-caused hysteria. I was really worried the booming participation numbers for the 5k, which served as the alternative, would keep the Y from resuming the race. They are compromising by holding both a 5k and a 5 mile. I expect that they will jut have the 5 milers take a different turn after the end of the 5k. The course isn't great- starting at PNC park and consisting of a few out-and-back stretches. It won't rival the pleasantness of the 2003-2004 course, but what will anyway?

I hope to double that morning and run the Gutbuster again, this time the four mile race. I found out, almost a year later, that I, as Gary Kline, won the four mile last year. How about that?
I wasn't sure Sunday, because I was generally feeling crummy, but I probably will do the USATF Cross Country meet in December. I will struggle to break 33, but it's not and experience I want to pass up.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I wanted to run the two days after Marine Corps, to follow through with JARRIN's post-race recovery plan, but I found that my 25.2-mile run had suppressed my immune system a bit and gave my cold a chance to regroup, so I ended up taking Monday and Tuesday off.

By Wednesday, I had enough sitting around, and went up to B-CC to be around runners again. For one thing, I hadn't seen any of them since Jake left me to fend for myself on Sunday.
I planned to do the warmup and some sedate laps around the track, but Lindsey needed some help pacing her mile workout. So I helped her out by running 6:16, 6:13, 6:10, 6:03 and 5:56. I kept my breathing easy and my body relaxed. Texas Paul and I hit a pretty speedy cooldown, and before I knew it I had 9.5+ miles, and I was feeling great.

Thursday evening I came home and headed out on a new loop, first returning a book to the library in Falls Church. I headed up Sycamore to Williamsburg, which sports bike lanes on both sides of the road and great rolling hills. I turned onto Albemarle, which was the darkest street ever. Eventually a car drove by and illuminated things, but otherwise it was pretty awesome. It had been raining all day, and my shorts were a little too light to keep my appropriately warm, but luckily I don't have to deal with 2.5+ hours of being wet and cold.
After that run I felt fantastic- my legs were looser than they had been in weeks,
like I hadn't even run either of those marathons.
I am starting to get some seeds of regret that I didn't push through to finish, but the birds of my renewed confidence swoop down and eat them before they begin to sprout.

I'm aching for a short race, but will have one soon enough. If Molz doesn't do the Richmond marathon, we will drive to Louisville to watch Richmond run the regional meet. If we don't go, I will either do the Candy Cane City 5k that Saturday or a 5k in Vienna on Sunday. Then, a five mile in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving. I can't wait to not even think about carrying GU in my shorts pocket.

Fatty Z had a great guest column in the Collegian.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

That's enough...

I slept in a bit on Friday, preventing me from feeling comfortable enough to stop in Hancock for my run during my drive home. I made it to Pittsburgh with 45 minutes to spare before lunch with my dad at Tessaro's, so I ran a quick three miles in Frick Park. It was great to be back there, and crisp fall weather that I have come to associate with that park, but recent tree removals uphill from the Kensington Trail have left the northern edge of the park looking awful. My mom said they were diseased, but still...

I met up with Steve when the Richmond team arrived at Schenley Park to make dinner plans then sped off to Mt. Lebanon to catch Coach A and the Lebo cross country guys, who had just finished third at the WPIAL meet. North Allegheny and Baldwin ended up beating them, but they were on their way to states again. I wish I had been able to take Thursday off, too, so I could have watched the WPIAL race that afternoon. Lebo 2000 alumnus Tim Sofis is coaching now, along with Oscar Shutt, who has been there a few years.
I had a little time to take a hot bath at my mom's house, which I miss terribly since I don't have a bath tub. After visiting my neighbor and hearing about his Halloween costume, I joined the Richmond teams for dinner at their hotel. Pat Barkhuff arrived and I hung out with Steve, Molz and Dan Petty before the team meeting started. We ran into Coach Wright on our way out of the hotel.

The next morning I got another easy three miles in on the course and got ready to see the race that would pump wild amounts of adrenaline through my body. When I ran, I heard a constant bleeting of a horn and the humming of a vuvuzela. I had enough of those during the World Cup, but now it seemed an awful bunch of Duquesne guys were making as much noise as possible, to my chagrin. I turned to Barkhuff and said, "that will be even funnier when they come in fifth."

I've always had a distaste for Duquesne. Both of my parents went to grad school there, though they would be loathe to admit it. We never discussed it as an option when I thought about college, though I didn't want to stay in Pittsburgh anyway. Their cross country team once featured Dickie Hildebrand, a hated North Allegheny rival of my LCC teams, and for some collection of reasons, I always resented the school and the program in particular. Maybe part of it comes from Tim Wu, which I promise will come up later in the story. I take a lot of pleasure in the Richmond basketball team never losing to Duquesne, even in our worst years. Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review writers would write "the Dukes lost to lowly Richmond" but those homers rarely checked to realize Duquesne had never won in that rivalry, so it was Duquesne that was lowly.

The Richmond women got out well. George Washington's Megan Hogan lead from the start and pulled away throughout for a dominant win, but the Spiders looked great from my vantage point a mile in on top of one of the dirt piles in the wasteland, the sandy, open portion of the Schenley Park trails near the Anderson Bridge. Nicol Traynor and Amy Van Alstine were solidly in second and third, and Julie Rechel and Jill Prentice were in sixth and seventh, with Jenn Ennis slightly back. The collegiate 5k course at Schenley isn't terribly great for spectators, though it's great for runners. I ran up the hill and saw them finish, and Richmond scored a comfortable victory over LaSalle, 43-68.

Then it was time for the show to start.

Eight years, ago, sidelined with a stress fracture after two races that saw me in the team's top five, I drove to Pittsburgh from Richmond with Ian Woie and Angry to watch the 2002 conference championship. We were a motley group, most of whom had suffered for at least a year, some two, under a less-than-ideal coaching situation for collegiate runners before Steve and Lori Taylor arrived, typified by Jon Lauder, who developed from a gangly high school runner, whom his teammate bet his car wouldn't break five minutes in a mile, into a 15:23 5k runner in his first spring under Steve's coaching. The cross country team had improved -- we won the Overton's Pirate Invitational in North Carolina and had seven healthy guys who could break 27 minutes (that was good for us). After an eighth-place finish in our first year in the Atlantic 10, we were sure to climb the results. Right?

On a freezing morning, I hobbled around and watched my teammates race. We gave it our best shot, but ended up eighth again, demoralized. I missed the bus ride back because I drove back with my fellow travelers, but I could not imagine the mood.
When the gun went off, I assumed my normal routine for watching the race. Catching the guys 100 meters in, then scrambling down a hill to 700 meters where an absolute wall of runners heads down the trail.The first mile had to have been faster than 4:30. I ran over to the 2.25 mile mark and hung from a tree on the hillside so I could yell down to them. The pack was still pretty tight, Andrew Benford and Matt Llano in front, with the Lemon twins from Dayton close behind. Tim Quinn followed, with another Dayton guy behind him. It looked to be close with them. I was surprised to see Jon Wilson, continuing his comeback season, with Levi Grandt and Ryan Lee in pursuit. We looked to be in good shape. The course makes a loop that climbs a steep hill on a single-track trail, and Llano came out first.

As soon as the slower runners got off the trail, I headed back to about 900 meters left on the course to watch them come out of the woods and onto the flat oval. I stood at the top of the hill where John Ciccarelli broke Mike Didio in 2004 to win Richmond's first individual A-10 title. I heard Mrs. Benford shout "It's Andrew!" and got ready for what would be one of the heart-stopping moments of my life as a distance running enthusiast. Benford fights up the hill, Chris
Lemon a step or two back. Llano moving ferociously to catch them. Matt Lemon chasing him, keeping the team race close. Then Quinn surged up the hill, and another Dayton guy chased him. This was turning out to be more like a dual meet, which is what I worried about. With such a great top three, Richmond did well because Benford and Llano could score in the single digits with Quinn perhaps 20 back. In a smaller race, having the the two best runners in the conference didn't provide such an advantage.

After Quinn passed I saw a disturbing number of Duquesne runners and no Richmond. I finally saw Levi chasing the fifth Duquesne guy. What happened to Jonny? Did he drop out? Did he just fall apart? Get hurt? Go out too fast? I started spouting gibberish to my mom, who came to watch. This couldn't happen. Duquesne couldn't beat us- not with this team we put together. Not that awful school on the bluff!

I rushed over to see the finish. Benford had a five second lead on Lemon 1 and held it to the finish. Llano came in six seconds later. Lemon 2 followed. Quinn was sixth, just ahead of the first Duquesne guy. Then the second, third and fourth guys. Oh man, here comes reality, the unlikely defeat. Suddenly, Jonny popped up. I don't know how I missed him, but I was glad to see him now. Levi came charging behind Duquesne's fifth. That was five for us. I ran over to the chute. Quinn saw me sprinting and hugged me with whatever intensity he was able to muster. Llano was on the ground, exhausted. Benford was staggering around. Levi had saliva all over the place. Jonny had his hands on his knees, I slapped him on the back and told him great job, but I hit him hard enough that he vomited bright green liquid all over the place. Oops. I got away for a while to let them collect themselves and chewed on the tension. How did things shake out with Dayton? I stopped watching them completely.

I thought about where this team had been. In 2000, before I came there, the program was on the ropes. Richmond was moving to the A-10 from the Colonial Athletic Association, and the athletic department was examining its priorities. In November, a subcommittee of the athletic council met to make a recommendation on the future of the men's track and cross country teams to then-President Bill Cooper. The Athletic Strategic Plan stressed promoting the university through revenue sports, plus a return-on-investment analysis of the other sports. As non-scholarship programs, track and cross country were at risk. Athletic Director Jim Miller said at the time that it was probably the teams would remain the way they were -- non-scholarship with few roster spots, but fear remained.
"There decision could be made that this would be the last year of track, but that's not likely," he told The Collegian.
The cross country coach at the time reflected on the strategic plan's emphasis on winning A-10 titles.
"The chances of men's cross country or track doing that are nil," he said. "They're not going to do it without scholarships."

Over near the Richmond tent, the team was back in dry clothes and warmup suits. Steve motioned for me to come over. He gathered the team, and fellow alumni Barkuff, Garrett Graham, Sean McKinney, and Jon Molz and me in a huddle. With his voice low and somber, he said that we had indeed won the race. We quietly celebrated in as dignified a manner as I have ever seen.

The horns and vuvuzela fell silent.

What followed was among him and the men in the huddle, but it was hard to hold back the liquid emotion that was gathering around my eyes. I thought back to the day I met him in October 2001. He told me the team was focused on winning a conference championship. He believed it, and knew it wouldn't be a quick fix. Everything built on itself, and it took a non-linear journey -- the results of the A-10 meet show it- 8,8,4,4,5,4,2,3,8,1. We had guys finishing all over the place some years, but on the day that mattered, we put together a hell of a team.


They learned how to be winners. Benford and Llano, already strong freshmen, became about as dominant as they could be. Tim Quinn improved steadily to the point where, as our third man, he finished higher than anyone on the teams for which I ran. Jonny Wilson endured a long injury last year and a comeback that started with him as the eighth man on our team two races ago -- he didn't even figure into the team scoring. Levi Grandt used every ounce of what he had to try to catch that Duquesne guy. Chris York and Jason Skipper finished together to be our six and seventh men. In 2002, their times would have made them the first and second men on our team. Ryan Lee was about 15 seconds behind them.

Dayton wasn't even an issue. Their fourth guy was 42nd, their fifth- 60th. Massachusetts snuck into third, but we had a 51-64 margin over Duquesne.

I walked over to the results and saw Timmy Wu. He said to me "Duquesne ran awesome!"
I responded, "Richmond ran better."
Lori heard me and laughed.

She and Steve were recognized as the coaches of the year. I knew it nine years ago, now the whole conference does.

On to regionals...

The Marathon Rebound

I drove back to Washington afterward, trying to get to the convention center in time to get my race packet. I made it, then skedaddled to Lauren's for dinner with her, Juan, Erin and Mike. I wasn't getting much better, health-wise. The cold that knocked me out most of the week was still there, and I took a Benedryl tablet to help make me able to sleep. It was 8 pm, so I had 12 hours to work it through my system. I drank water and Gatorade expressly to avoid the dehydration that comes with an antihistamine.

I woke up, took a shower, and braved the crowds on the metro ride to the Pentagon.

I spent 35 minutes waiting in line for the bathroom before the race, and found out that the people at the front of the line were only appropriating two bathrooms to our line, rather than three or four, as others were. I checked my bag and ran to the start, making it to the head of the pack with two minutes to spare. I retied my flats and looked around for Dave Burnham and Paul McCaffery, but saw neither.

The cannon fired and I tried to hold my pace while dozens of middle aged men ran ahead. I took it easy and stuck in a pack and came through the first mile in 6:07. I saw a crowd of GRC guys near the Key Bridge, specifically Murphy and Alex. I was already sweating, which was weird. The pack around me thinned, and I kept myself on pace up the hill through the second mile mark at 6:08. 12:15 was pretty much what I wanted for the first two miles.

I got some Powerade (fruit punch, turrible) and water. The third mile was downhill, so 5:45 wasn't alarming. I wound up with another pack and settled in with them. Mike Wardian said we were moving along at just under 6:00 pace, and I was happy with that. It turned out to be 5:50, but that was ok, I had people with whom to go.We crossed the key bridge and I got more Powerade and water, then I heard the shouts of the assembled GRC guys- particularly Texas Paul. As we turned left onto Canal, Jakes Klim and Marren ran alongside me, telling me that Ian was near the lead. I was really happy to be hanging back as I hit five miles in 29:49, with a 5:58 split. A fellow in black with white compression socks who looked familiar inched over and said "I thought that was Charlie Ban," it took me a second, but it was A.J. Kelly, the former IUP runner who still terrorizes the roads in western Pennsylvania. He said he was shooting for 2:35-pace for the half and then speeding up from there. That's exactly what I wanted to hear.
We hit the sixth mile in 5:52, then climbed in the seventh mile, where I took my first gel and had Powerade and water. We headed downhill and I hit 5:42, then I saw Sara "Science" Roberts at the Georgetown driveway. The scene in front of the GRC store on M Street was a zoo, I loved it. I saw a chap in a Richmond sweatshirt and yelled to him. Halfway down Wisconsin, we hit another mile in 5:42. That's where I first became aware of this stocky loudmouth from West Point, who proceeded to talk too effing much for the next few miles.
Another mile, in 5:42 again, got me through 10 miles in 58:59- 5:54 pace- perfect. I heard Mollie right before the mile mark, and she was indeed as loud as she advertised. The West Point guy was getting obnoxious, commenting on everything, trying to talk to people. The price for sticking with this pack was getting higher. Mile 11 went by in 5:53- I was very happy with that pacing. Mile 12 got boring quickly, 5:51. I saw Jake Klim and Chicken Finger Biker in mile 13, and I took another gel before having more Powerade and water- 6:01 at 13, 1:17:19 for the half. 5:48 for mile 14, the West Point guy was really starting to piss me off. We hit a slight hill after 15, which I hit in 5:56, and I let the pack go, figuring I would enjoy it more on my own.
Then I realized that was a mistake. Independence Avenue got really lonely, though Lindsey Jerdonek came to my aid with vocal support. I hit 16 miles at 6:06, and I figured I would just try to run 6:20 pace for the rest of the race. I saw Alex near the Lincoln Memorial, then started to pick up guys who were falling back. 6:13 for mile 17, feeling alright, another aid station. Mile 18 went by in 6:23. Then I started to get a little, I don't know...weak? I moved over to the right side of the course to get out of people's way. Wardian was escorting the women's leader and he kept yelling that people were passing on my right, but it didn't make sense because I was on the far right. They got out of the way eventually. Texas Paul was back, running around like a maniac, and telling me Ian was just a block ahead of me. As much as I wanted to catch him and chide him for running a marathon like that, I was hurting. I went through 19 in 6:52. Uh oh. I drank and had my last gel. Around the 14th Street turn I heard a crowd yelling "go Lebo!" and all of a sudden Neal Hannan was running alongside me. I was starting to get woozy, and I tried to make conversation. Someone had cups
of Gatorade near the bottom of the hill- that was awesome. Lemon-Lime, so much better than fruit punch Powerade. I savored it. I hit 20 miles at 2:00:50, for a 6:44 split. I was averaging a little over 6:02 per mile. Neal patiently ran with me until almost the 21 mile mark, then I was on my own. I hit 6:53 for 21. The friggin' bridge kept going, taking me into Arlington County, which I pretty much hate. I saw Mike Rossi. When I reached Crystal City, Klim popped up and ran with me. He kept me going, even though I couldn't converse much. He waited for me to make a loop at the turnaround and joined up with me again. I asked him but he didn't know how Dave and Jimmy were doing. 23 mile split- 7:21. A few seconds later, Dave ran by and I was powerless to go with him. I saw Rossi again.Then Jake left. 24 mile split: 7:50. Things were getting miserable. I was heading onto a long stretch on Jefferson David Highway. I hated this road when I ran it during the Pacers Half Marathon, and I sure as heckfire hate it now. I ran the 25th mile in 8:16. Just turrible. 1.2 miles left. The course turned down an exit ramp, and I sped up. I could push it to the finish- I was at 2:38 and would still PR. I ran under a bridge and could see the last stretch before the finish line hill. The shade washed over me, I shivered, and can't remember what I felt next. I just remember my legs feeling like they were dropping, even though I was still on my feet. I moved over to the sidewalk. I don't remember making the conscious decision to sit down, but I did. Then I thought about how much better it would feel to lie down. Two medical staffers ran over to me.
"Are you okay?"
"Do you want to try to finish running?"
I was freezing. The helped me up and just about 20 feet over to a medical tent I had run by a few seconds before. I wonder if my subconscious took note of that convenience.
They offered to walk with me to the finish. I didn't want to. If I walked, I would probably just finish around 2:50. That was way too much to do to run that time again. I think that I tried to push myself to run faster than my body was able at that point and my body rebelled. I was probably suffering from acute hypothermia. I was sweating from the very beginning, and my insistence on drinking Powerade and water at every aid station, sometimes two cups of either, probably accelerated things. I was soaked for almost the entire race, and I was never warm. It was an odd twist after the last 11 miles in Chicago...
I saw Paul McCaffery run by and tried to yell, but I think my timing was off.
The put me in a cot and covered me with blankets. The oral thermometer read 92 degrees. I was understandably freaked out and asked one of the workers how accurate it was.
"Well, when you've been exerting yourself like this for 2.5 hours, the oral thermometer isn't quite right. If you had passed out, we would have taken your temperature rectally."
I then responded to everyone in attendance, "Rectum? Damn near killed him!"
I saw Kelly Knicklebein run by, I yelled.

They gave me Gatorade (thank God) and a delicious strawberry muffin. I warmed up. After a half hour, they said I seemed fine and could go whenever. They gave me a mylar blanket and sent me on my way. I walked up the road, runners lined up behind me trailing me by hours. Derek Heiss bumped into me at one point. I technically could still finish, but I wasn't going to. The funniest part about it was that I didn't care. I wasn't devastated, nor even sorely disappointed. I was just glad it was over. It didn't work out, now onto something else.

I eventually walked off the course and straight to the baggage trucks, got my clothes and stretched out. I saw Jimmy Daly and looked for anyone else I could find. I found Lauren and Juan and we waited for Erin and Mike to finish. In the teamtime I saw Jessie, the old cross country trainer at Richmond, who mistook me for Hunter Willis. Billy Eayre, Jeff Tissue, Dan Kliefgen and Kristen Connolley came down from Ithaca and Toronto to run and I chatted with them for a while. At no point did I feel sorry for myself, and I was pretty happy with that.
The Richmond victories on Saturday truly made up for any marathon disappointment.

Mike and Erin ran 4:21, pretty good for neither having run more than 14 miles. She spazzed out at mile 15, but Mike kept her together.

I really like most of the Marine Corps Marathon course, certainly the first 20 miles. I just hate most of Arlington County. The bleak highway stretches and that stupid bridge are real kicks in the face after a great 20 miles.

The race was a Hail Mary. It had been five weeks since I had run 70 miles -- I had a five-week taper. I had a chest cold. I ran a marathon 21 days before. There were plenty of reasons the race wouldn't have worked, people told me I was crazy for trying, but I wanted to give it a shot so my fitness didn't go to waste. My fitness was gone, though. If it wasn't my confidence in it was. I missed the high mileage. I railed against the unfairness that now that it was cool enough for me to run far without overheating, I wasn't supposed to anymore.

I decided before this race that I was going to stay away from marathons for a while. I am glad I came to that decision before Marine Corps. I gave it a shot, and though I know the result didn't match my aptitude, I am fine with it now. Other people were fine with one mishap, like Dickson. I wasn't comfortable with chalking it up as a loss, I insisted that it be a spectacular failure, and that's what I got, even though it luckily doesn't feel like it.

I think the adizero adios was the wrong shoe for this race. I was too heavy- I should have stuck with the Manas. My feet were cramped when I was in the tent, and my right calf was tight.

The weekend overall was a pleasant celebration of running for me, though. I got to run in Frick Park, see my high school coach, run in Schenley Park, see college teammates and my college coach, plus the high point for my college team in decades, then run a mostly-pleasant marathon, cheered on by dozens of friends, and see one of my best friends finish her first marathon.

Now what?

I can't even think about running a serious marathon again. Nate, Pokey and Evan and I are doing a 30th birthday race in 2012, even though Evan will almost be 31 by that point, like the Hatfield and McCoy Reunion Festival Marathon. I don't know when I'll want to run another one seriously. I know I never wanted to run one, now I have almost run three. It's hard to rationalize. While I live in the D.C. area, I will never race a fall marathon again, though. Running so much in the summer was miserable.

I'm a little heavy for a marathon runner. Some of it is the junk food, but for the most part I am pretty muscular, which is great in terms of keeping my body resilient through high-mileage training, but weighs on every step in a race. I do enjoy high-mileage training, though. There's no reason I can't do it for half marathons.

Next year will be about short distances, the ones I love. The Fred Hardy Track Invitational 5k, the B.A.A. 5k (this time without a redeye bus trip the day before). The Shamrock 8k, the Pike's Peak 10k, and revenge on the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Cherry Blossom, though I can't find anything wrong with this year's race. Monument Avenue will be a casualty, and thankfully so will the St. Patrick's Day8k in DC. Falmouth in the summer. Another half in the fall- perhaps Richmond or Philadelphia (not the Rock and Roll race) in November.

I should be getting my tonsils out in December, and I can't wait for that. I will be able to sleep again and not feel them blocking my throat when I am even just sitting down or running.