"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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chills and sweats

We had a stretch of three cold days that shook my resolve and, to some extent, my dedication. Friday was pretty rough, but running in the morning in January means getting a bit chilly now and then. Saturday morning I woke up to 16 degrees and a metro delay between me and Georgetown, so I opted to skip the store run, sleep in, and head out on my own in the afternoon. It was 25 by the time I left, around 3:30, so I headed off on a loop I hadn't done much since the summer. At some point, however, I lost my way, and ended up off my course, about two miles in, which isn't that great because the first mile is a straight line. I was feeling pretty chilly, and decided to go home, so I got a little more than four miles for 70 that week.

Sunday, I again waited for an early afternoon long run, and went off on an altered Presidents' loop (lengthened to make it 15 miles). The loop added little bits all over to a loop I knew pretty well, but not enough to know the mileage markers. I didn't feel like the run was going well, and by 60 minutes I was really cold, despite a temperature near 32, so I headed back. When I mapped my splits, though, I found that at 9.25 (which I thought to be less than 9 miles in) I was averaging 6:28s, so I was better off than I thought. I ended up doing a little less than 12. After the prior week's successful long run, this was disappointing, though I was clearly doing well when I looked back. I realized as much as I like long (15+) runs, perhaps will like them (and run them) more consistently if I do them less frequently. This was a huge issue in the summer, when the humidity usually got me and wore me out psychologically. I kept doing them, and usually started pretty well before crashing after 13. Plus, I'm mainly running 5ks this spring, I doubt I will need weekly long runs.

Plus, what is a seven-day cycle to the human body, anyway? I mean, it's just an organizational ploy and weekends are just considered long run days because there's more free time. This country was founded, it was founded by people who were into aliens, man. George Washington, man, George Washington was in a cult, and that cult was into aliens, man. Did you ever look at a dollar bill? There's a lot of spooky stuff going on on that dollar bill, man...

That brings me to my next subject- for someone who's not into drinking beer, smoking grass or living (or being) in Texas, I really love Dazed and Confused. It is, perhaps, the greatest cultural one-hit wonder I have come across. Career high performances from Jason Landon, Sasha Jensen, Matthew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams and Ben Affleck. Parker Posey might have been the only actor to sustain a career I appreciated after this film. Adam Goldberg certainly
didn't, an opinion that my college girlfriend's emotional disaster of a friend could not handle when I voiced it while watching a movie I am too embarrassed
to admit seeing. Back to running...
Late weekend nights in high school usually led to my friend Lindsay's mom's house, which was usually the place to go to party, where someone was invariably watching this movie.

The next day, it was warmer and I tried out a new loop in Pimmit Hills. I missed a turn and ended up taking stabs at the streets trying to find Wilson, and after about a mile of experimentation I found it, and was rewarded with wide, long streets in an office park, largely empty of cars. I loved it. It's prime moderate run real estate. In the end, I added and extra mile to the run for 11, which I did in 6:45 pace, but I revised the loop for the future.

I moved my workout ahead to Tuesday to avoid what the forecast said would be freezing rain on Wednesday night. With George Mason's track both painfully close to my home and ridiculously scheduled, I gave Washington-Lee a shot. I put on some racing flats and started on 4x mile, but it did not go well. Despite checking my splits regularly, I ran very unevenly, 5:13 for the first mile, 5:16 for the second, and feeling my shoes not do the job for me. After a 2:40 first half, I cut the third. The traction was gone on my shoes. They felt like I was wearing slippers, and my stride was suffering from the unreliability. I realized I had owned the shoes since April 2007, and raced in them more frequently than not for three years, only occasionally breaking the races up with other pairs. Despite those shoes carrying me under 15 and on the best race of my life a few weeks later, it was time for them to go. I tossed them in the trash and headed for a long cool down and HMDs.

Impending snow sent people home early on Wednesday, and while I was inside changing and stretching in my apartment, it had snowed three inches. I headed out to run to Vienna, but it became apparent within two miles that I would not make it there. The snow was driving violently, and cars were driving slowly, if at all. It made the roads my playground, but I could barely keep my left eye open. I tried to consider the stinging snow to be a challenge to keep my head up and into the pain, but I soon acquiesced and looked ahead where I could. After a half hour, I figured I could keep it up as long as I needed. By the time my wanderings ended, I was soaking wet, half from melted snow, half from my profuse sweat. I averaged 7:20s through the driving snow, which wasn't too bad.

Thursday night I thought about doing a fartlek on a Presidents' loop, but I was wary of changing my pace too much on the inconsistently-icy ground. I was fine running on it, I think my form is efficient enough that it's easy to run consistently on slippery surfaces because my feet don't break my movement before pushing off. I was a little under 7:00 pace through seven miles, then I slowed down toward the end to average 7:05 for 10.

I planned to run to work on Friday morning, but slept in, and didn't really want to run that much after work, so I figured now would be a good day off.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'm running out of titles for these posts

I did an easy run Tuesday after work, a Park Plus, averaging 6:50 for seven miles in spite of the ice and having to stop for traffic. It had been a while since I had run it, probably since late summer. It's one of my reliable loops, with plenty of hills and not much traffic, besides crossing Washington.

Wednesday's workout at B-CC reinforced the way I had been feeling. After doing two 2ks at 5:40 pace and four miles at 5:21 pace in the prior two weeks, 5:10 pace for 1k seemed reasonable. I'd do between 6-8. Mike Cotterell and Bryan joined me, it was chilly and very windy, but I got by with shorts and a long-sleeved shirt.
Mike and I chatted a bit in our first 200 and it showed when we came through 400 in 82. We picked it up to 75 for the second, then cruised in for 3:16. We took 300 m jogs between 1ks, and I pushed through some wind for three straight 3:13s. I tried hard to keep things under control on those two, because I naturally wanted to keep getting faster, but I was more inclined to try to handle a reasonable effort. After all, 3:13 is 5:10 mile pace- faster than I have run, except for a 400m, since September and 11 seconds faster than my fastest miles last Thursday.
Mike and Bryan dropped off and I took an extra 100m to start on the back stretch in hopes of avoiding running into the wind three times. Even though I led all but the first lap of the first k, it felt different starting on my own, though that might have been my fatigue catching up. The wind was still there, regardless, and I felt like I was slowing down, way down, but I came through the quarter in mid-76, so I consciously slowed down and finished in 3:12.
One more definitely seemed doable, though I expected to end up limping in at 3:20, just because that is, more often than not, what I am used to doing. I didn't look at my watch coming through, but I just pushed ahead, careful to not to sprint too much in the beginning and sure to fight into the wind. I was amazed to finish 3:13 even. Much like my miles last week, despite feeling like I was slowing down to a crawl, I was hitting my splits right on.

I took a long lunch break Thursday to run my latest revision of the Catholic loop. It was a pleasant run, and I tried to keep it slow to actively recover from the workout the day before, but the downhill second half is hard to fight. I would up doing 6:45 pace for 10.3.

I finally got a run over 7:00 average Friday when I ran to work. I must not get going well in the morning, because I was dragging the whole run. I must have needed more time to wake up and such, because I never got into a groove, which is necessary for a 13-mile run.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I don't know why I didn't expect it, but my plans to run to work on Friday met a lazy demise when I refused to wake up in time to do so. That left me with 12 miles to run after work, in the dark. I decided to try a loop up Connecticut and down Massachusetts, but I managed to forget that Massachusetts spurred off of the traffic circle near American, so I went a bit over and ended up running 13 miles instead, with a 6:43 average.

Saturday morning's run was about 13.5 hours after that, so I was a bit tired and not into running, but I managed nine miles to make it 70 for the week. Murphy, Wiggy and Big City and I ran the Ernst loop, in honor of our relocated teammate.

On Sunday, I ran a variation of the Chesterbrook loop, coming back on Williamsburg instead. I averaged 6:30 on the nose for the loop, with my splits averaging 6:20 at 5.65 miles (downhill the last mile), 6:30 at 10 miles and 6:30 at 12.3. It was in the mid 30s, but I was able to get by with shorts, which felt awesome. The climb up Glebe wasn't terrible, but wasn't form-relatedly transcendent, either.

I slept in until noon on Monday, sat around until about 4 then went out and ran an Oak loop- 10 miles, with a 6:37 average pace, supported by splits taken at 4.5 and 7. I bounded up Grove at the end. I credit this consistency, both in distance runs and workouts, to my ease of breathing. I no longer have to fight for every breath. I hope that either BCC's track is clear Wednesday or GMHS's is open Thursday so I can give 1000s a shot and see if I can keep this consistency going when I am on a flat surface and dip to 5:10.

Despite the ice that seemed to coat everything Tuesday morning, I am getting along pretty well in the winter. I haven't felt nearly as cold as I did at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon, which is good!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Scheduling, distracted film criticism

I'm more than two months away from my first race, which is great, because I certainly don't have the speed endurance to run an actual race any time soon. Aerobically, I'm doing pretty well. I went out Monday night and did a 10 mile Presidents' loop and kept a consistent 6:28 pace at 4.5, 8.25 and 10 miles.

In terms of racing, I don't see that happening anytime soon. That said, it's never too early to spend time hypothetically looking at a racing schedule. I have a few races nailed down- the Fred Hardy Invitational 5k, Cherry Blossom and the BAA 5k and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon before finishing up the spring at the Laywers Have Heart 10k. I started to think about where I really want to go this year, and doing a bunch of 5ks then a half marathon seems a little unwise now. So I cut Pittsburgh, first to the relay and now possibly entirely, so I can justify traveling back instead on Memorial Day weekend and running the Kevin Gatons 5k instead. Cherry Blossom even seems a little out of place, but at least I have two weeks before the BAA 5k. So, I will still do Cherry Blossom, but as a 5k runner trying something longer, not a half marathoner running something shorter.

The Pikes Peek 10k ended up to be the same day as the BAA 5k, but I don't have a problem with that. Racing in suburban Maryland doesn't strike me as gangs of fun, anyway.

Then the Pittsburgh Marathon published its new course and I'm finding it hard to stay away for one silly reason. Although my suggestions were afterthoughts in 2009 when changing the course meant little, I still tossed out a loop through the West End, and that is what happened. Unless there's some other interest in a Pittsburgh relay, I'll probably skip this year's race. It never was kind to me, anyway.

The Swathmore Last Chance meet seems like a great opportunity for a fast 5k, after a few races to get me back into "short" distances this spring.

Though Jake and Ernst have promoted the Falmouth Road Race, Towpath tells me it can be brutally hot, and my thoughts wander to Jonny Wilson's encouragement to run the Beach to Beacon 10k in Maine a week earlier. I am open to that, if for no other reason to run a cool race and visit Maine.

I did a bit of a fartlek on Tuesday afternoon on a shortened (7.5 miles) Hains Point loop. It was windy.

I saw the Hood to Coast documentary Tuesday night and though I enjoyed the cinematography and the fact that there was the option to see a running movie in the theater, I wasn't exactly floored. It was entertaining if you kept your expectations within the event's parameters.

Many people were disappointed elite teams didn't get much attention, but the truth is it really isn't an elite race. You get three or four highly-competitive teams to show up, but after that it's an orgy of age-group competitive teams. What do you expect when Google is among the top teams? Personally, I would have liked to have seen the Bucknell Alumni team featured, probably at the expense of the Dead Jocks in a Box, but that is more of a matter of personal preference having heard their legends from Scott Sehon over the years. the Ryan Bowe team hit some of the college cross country team marks by bringing in a few Washington and Lee guys, some of whom I raced my freshman year.
I actually enjoyed the group of non-runners, a the dude's obnoxious pink hair got old immediately, but his insight was refreshing, and his effort-laced kick to the finish was inspiring, insofar as it makes me want to follow a decent diet.
Although the older woman who had the heart attack the year before was pretty narcissistic and grating, I guess including her and her gang was representative of the mid-pack teams in the race.
Ultimately, the interest in elite runners would not have supported the majority of people who would have paid to see the movie in a one-night engagement. It took forever to get home from Chevy Chase, but I guess I am glad I saw the movie in the theater, rather than wait for it to come out on Netflix -- which currently is streaming the Spirit of the Marathon (good enough, I guess) and Run for Your Life (great enough that it made me want to run the New York Marathon, and I hate New York, and marathons).
But again, the cinematography, wow... Good God, I can't wait until I get to spend nine days in Oregon this summer.

I ran at lunch Wednesday again, adding to my Catholic University loop. It's now 10 miles. I averaged 6:49 for it.

Thursday night, I eventually got going for my road workout, one which I had planned for a while and ended up coinciding with what Jerry's kids were doing- 5x mile. Unfortunately, some work got in the way Wednesday, so I did it alone after all, on the Greenwich mile loop. I tried out a new three-mile warmup loop that turned out to be perfect, then got to work. I was initially planning to average 5:30, running somewhere within five seconds. I ended up outperforming that comfortably. Though I love the Greenwich mile because it's not a track, it's exactly a mile and it has varying topography, it's hard to gauge your effort, because the first quarter is the only flat stretch, but I somehow managed to run very evenly- 5:21, 5:23, 5:21, 5:21. I hit the same splits throughout, with a slight slowdown in the second quarter of number two when a car forced me onto some ice. I didn't feel the cumulative loss of breath that had had recently at the end of longer intervals, either a result of better rest or easier breathing, but I think that had a lot to do with my consistent running. After my first mile, I thought I would plummet back down and run 5:3x, but I just ran a hard effort and came up with the same splits. I'd like to keep that going...
I started the last mile over-my-head fast, though, hoping to blow away what I had done in my previous miles. I disregarded my rationality telling me to save it for the uphills in the second half, especially the turn at the end, and instead went out in 72 seconds for the first quarter, I eased up, possibly taking myself out of it, but finished the half at 2:30, which was slow, given the downhill in the second quarter, then jogged a quarter and finished up in 76. It was a good workout and has me ready to start speeding up my work once I get back on a track with people.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Early January

I have tried to do more easy runs to boost my basic endurance, in terms of time on my feet. It's easy to rush through eight miles, but I yearn to be back to where I was this summer, where I felt like I could run all day.
Monday, I ran a very easy six miles from Lululemon with Will, Elyse, Brooks Rebecca and some strangers I really need to make an effort to talk to, more. We went around the Capitol and back, and I felt pretty relaxed.

Tuesday I planned to run 6-7 in the morning and ride the stationary bike after work, but I couldn't bring myself to wake up in time, so instead I ran a Westmoreland after work. I couldn't find my watch, so I just decided to go without one. I tried hard to keep myself under control, especially in the second and third miles, and I think I did that well.

Wednesday night I did a pretty good job for most of the workout- 6x1200m. We started off slow in the first lap and I tried to bring the group back on pace, but I ended up running exactly on pace for the second and third laps to finish in 4:04. I took the lead the next three and ran 3:58, 3:56 (four seconds fast for the first lap of that one...) and 4:00. I decided before the fifth to slow down, and I ended up running 4:10, which was fine. I started the sixth with a 76, and told Tender I was going to take the middle lap off and finish the third with him. He came through in in 2:30, and we ran the last lap in 72. That was by far the fastest I had run since the 5k I ran in Vienna in September, given my marathon-centric running in the fall.

Thursday I did a lunchtime run on a loop I made up that follows the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which I expected a lot more from while gazing at it from the Metro on my way to the Washington Hospital Center, to Catholic University and back. I meant to do eight miles but ended up doing 8.75, not terribly fast, but it was nice to run in daylight.

Friday I felt tired, so I decided early in the afternoon to take the day off and maybe double on Saturday. It's my first day off since Dec. 19, and right now I guess I can appreciate them more than when I am used to higher mileage.

We got started somewhat close to on time Saturday morning from the store and did a Hains Point loop. After a few miles, Hanson and I decided the rest of the gang was going too fast and we committed to running slower, though he said we still stuck around the 6:50s. I ended up doing 11, went home, napped, and ran another 3.75 on an extended Fisherman's loop.

Sunday morning, Alex and I traveled to Rockville to run on the Millenium Sidewalk. I planned to do 14 miles, extending one way or another after a 10.5-mile loop, but toward the end of that first loop, I knew I didn't want to do that. I spent the first 5.5 miles at the front of our pack, running into a strong wind, uphill mostly, and I was pretty tired of that. The trail itself, a paved sidewalk, for the most part, looped around the miserable developments Rockville comprises. There was maybe two miles at most of interesting trail, but for the most part, it was ugly and miserable. Though it's hard to find an example of how Montgomery County hasn't mismanaged its budget in the last decade, that trail is a good place to start looking. It made me appreciate where I live and run in Virginia so much more. The idea of running on that "trail" any longer than I was required to get back to the car was a nightmare. In conclusion, suburban Maryland is far inferior to Virginia for the quality of distance running loops. I would personally rather run in the various neighborhoods on the streets in Virginia than on some cruddy "trail." As much as I complain about the W&OD, at least it doesn't follow busy roads.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Drawing a line, for now

Having run a little more than 50 miles last week, with two 10-mile runs, I felt it was time to try a "long" run. I'm shooting for 60 miles this week, so as short as it seems, relative to the long runs I did last year, 12 miles would suffice this week. I put together a new loop, the Sleepy Hollow, and gave it a shot Sunday around noon.

It turned out to be a pretty good loop, especially the Sleepy Hollow section- nice hills there. Crossing Route 50 was a pain,though what lies south of it is ripe for exploration. The section on Columbia Pike was harrowing, but I can work on that. I stopped when I hit 84 minutes, and I was just at 12 miles, so I managed to average 7:00 pace. I will have enough time where I will be running for a while, I should appreciate the discipline of running lighter weeks for now.
Next weekend I will shoot for 14 miles, but will run slower.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Getting my groove on, so to speak

I always look at a stretch of training in Pittsburgh as an opportunity to get myself in a shape in a hurry- there's no choice if you put in the work on the hills that permeate the region.
Wednesday night, I joined the GRC guys at BCC for their 2.5-mile warmup and then added four miles around the track during their workout. Not bad, a PR for distance since I came back.
I came back to Pittsburgh on the Thursday before Christmas with plans to run with Ann Mazur, another Pittsburgh native who now runs for Charlottesville's Ragged Mountain Running. When I arrived home, however, she blew me off, so it made me that much happier that the GRC beat her men's team at nationals. I ended up waiting until rather late to run, and attempted the 6.5-mile winding Mt. Washington run that I did while recovering from my seizure in 2006. I made it 2.5 miles before I gave up -- the snow and hills combined with my brisk early pace to send my heart rate through the roof. That evening I accomplished one of my culinary goals-- a meatball sandwich, at the Bigham Tavern a few blocks from my mom's house. Matt Ciccone and I enjoyed simultaneous Penguins and Steelers victories.
Friday morning I headed to Mt. Lebanon for the annual WPIAL alumni run. Two other GRC-related dudes showed up- Predator and Scott Munro, who first told me about the team a few years ago. We had probably our biggest group, larger, perhaps, than the original run in 2000.
From Mt. Lebanon- myself,
Greg Costello, Mark Delaney and Ross McGowan
Baldwin- Larry Quinn, Ryan Sheehan, Dan Mazzocco
Cannon-Mac- Taryn, Kyle, Gibson
Chartiers Valley- Ryan Hanson, Marco Dozzi
Peters Township- Michelle Corkum
Seneca Valley- Matt Gaudet
Highlands- Tom Slosky
Norwin- Jess McGuire
Thomas Jefferson- Brad Shapiro
Carrick- Craig Woshner
Riverview- Dave Hackworth
Bethel Park- Ed Koontz
South Park- Scott Munro
Northgate- Brandon Gillingham
Pine-Richland- Greg Byrnes

Notable absences: Timmy Wu, Sean Kennedy, any North Allegheny guys, Brian Quinn,

A good group, but unfortunately much faster than I was ready to accompany. I stuck with the pack well through 5.5 miles, but going up Kane destroyed me. I tried to stick with Moonrow and Maz, but my heart was pounding and I was gasping for breath. Thank goodness Slosky was also in rudimentary shape, because he hung back with me and kept me going up Bower Hill Road to Kelso. We took it very slowly the rest of the way and in doing so I hit my longest run yet- 8.25 miles. I was able to eat one of two pancakes at Gab & Eat, which was actually a good sign.

Christmas morning I went out on my own and ran a 5.5 mile loop in Schenley Park- down the hill from the overlook to the collegiate trail, back up to Phipps, then backwards up through the golf course and down Serpentine and to the car. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard.

I was planning to run around Fox Chapel the morning after Christmas, but I decided to go to church with my dad and stepmother to hear my brother Edward sing. I hadn't heard him before, despite my appreciation and encouragement for his pursuit of a music education. He was outstanding. Later that day, I made up a new loop in the West End. Starting at Tramps, I headed up Greentree Road to Kearns, which is closed for a portion, which happens to be really steep, and covered in snow. I took Kearns to Poplar and Noblestown, then went out and back on a dead end street before finishing up.

Monday, I met up with Predator at Mt. Lebanon's track for an eight-mile run of moderate hilliness. We didn't go fast, but it was good to push my endurance.

I met up with Slosky on Tuesday in Shadyside to run my classic loop from my tenure in that neighborhood- the Emerson. We averaged 8:02 over 10.5 miles, which was sobering, but I relished that I had broken 10 miles.

Wednesday I planned to run with Brandon G in Fairywood, Windgap, McKees Rocks, Kennedy Township and Thornburg, but I ended up running alone from my mom's house. I intended to run nine miles around Chatham Village, but that is ridiculously boring. I just did three miles, at 6:35 pace. I headed back to DC that afternoon.

Thursday after work, Alex joined me for the first two miles of an Oak loop, which we did around 7:35-7:45 pace. He departed at Fairwood and I sped up down Shreve. By the six-mile mark I knew I was under 7:00 pace, but by the time I got back, I realized I ran 6:36 pace for 10 miles. Not bad.

I had plans, the next day, to try to double- 8 and 5, but I slept in and just did the 8- a Westmoreland averaging 6:32, with a definite slowdown in mile five.

Saturday I closed off a 50-mile week with a short workout at B-CC in the afternoon. I ran 2x2k with this dude Brian, and I ran 7:05 and 7:01, 5:41 and 5:38 paces. Considering it was the fastest I had run since the Herndon Turkey Trot and was a minute faster than a lot of my mileage, I was pretty happy.

The weather, which improved significantly on Wednesday, helped, but I do think I am starting to regain my legs and lungs. My long run this week will be a big step- 12 miles, as I shoot for 60 this week.