"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, October 25, 2011

Surprise hills and more Sunday meanderings

I discovered the W&OD Trail is not as flat as I thought. Saturday morning, I took the metro out to Vienna, then ran to the trail's intersection with Maple Ave. Inconveniently for my purposes, the half mile marker closest to that intersection was on the wrong side of Maple, so I continued another half mile west to the 12 mile mark. I switched into my racing flats and headed out toward Reston, hoping to average 5:40s for 10 miles.

I knew the trail trended uphill heading west, so I was a little worried to split 2:41 for the first half, 2:46 for the second, 2:44 and 2:47 for the second mile to split 11. I was better off in the third mile with 2:51 and 2:56, then I noticed some dramatic but short hills, which slowed me down to 2:57, 2:54 over the next mile. The hills, though they included both and up and down, but the 'up' won. I closed in on Reston and went 2:58, 2:52, before turning around and mirroring my 2:52 and speeding up to 2:44. Another 2:44 and 2:46 as I got to enjoy the down on that hill, then I started to slow exactly where I had been fast before- 2:46-2:50, then 2:54, 3:00. I was getting tired now, and closed in 2:57, 2:53. I even split the whole thing- 28:30s for 57:00, to average 5:42 per mile. A little slow, but given what turned out to be a much more inconsistent course than I expected, I'm okay with it. While I was out there, I saw the off-road trail next to the W&OD which looked a lot better than its counterpart in the Falls Church portion of the trail. Had I not been running with a consistent pace in mind, I would have loved to have tried it out. I ended up with 99 miles that week, feeling no need to run an additional mile just to reach triple digits.

I was as pleased as I could have been with it, considering the surprise hills and my general distaste for 180 turns. Despite some steep but short hills on the Four Mile Run trail in Arlington parallel to the W&OD, I thought the latter was pretty gradual, though the portion near Virginia Lane should have taught me otherwise.

I took a moderate walk in Rock Creek Park to Jack Manner's going away cookout. Though fun, it was bittersweet, because he has been one of my favorite people with whom to run on weekends. His training leading up to the 2010 Boston Marathon was quite motivating, and it's been hard to see him struggle with foot injuries since. Now he's being sent to a farm in Vermont where he can run and run and run. Little by little, a lot of the guys from my early days with the GRC are going away- Dylan, Ernst, Dirk, Towpath is still around but swallowed up by 12-hour workdays. Luckily Bain has had a long streak of workouts at BCC in advance of his New York-Richmond marathon double.

Sunday I slept in and waited for my mom to arrive on her way home from Richmond. We went out to watch Lauren Peterson race her bicycle, then she headed back to Pittsburgh and I went out to enjoy what will likely be my last real long run of the fall. I headed down Grove to West, over to Fairwood, which I had not run in full in more than a year, then up Virginia to Idylwood. I took it all the way north, as it turned into Kirby, until I hit Dolley Madison/Chain Bridge Road. It was more of last week's hectic running on a busy road with a barely-existent shoulder, but a lot more manageable this time, and only for a little more than a mile. Then it was up Glebe and down, up, down and up Military Road again. Quincy was pleasant, and somewhat new, and turning on 14th and back to Kirkwood was totally new. I got to do a little of Spout Run, two blocks, not as much fun as during Marine Corps but maybe I can join Breezy for that part. Lorcom Lane was very hilly, and maybe if I hadn't been 15 miles into a run it would have been more pleasant to run. I just took Lee Highway back to the W&OD and back up Grove. I'm really getting tired of that hill. I was pretty thirsty, so I stopped and bought a Gatorade at Lee and Glebe, that helped a little.

There's a chance I'll take a short road trip in two weekends to do a long run perhaps in Prince Edward County if the weather is really good, but that might be too close to the 8k. I'm doing them purely for pleasure now, which sounds weird, because who runs for more than two hours for the heck of it? Without a doubt, I am extremely sensitive to heat and humidity. I'm not sure if anyone else feels the same dramatic difference, but these days when I run I am thriving, rather than simply staying on my feet, as I do (sometimes) in the summer.

Monday night I planned to go out to McLean High School for some quarters, but shortly after I got home from work, an unexpected rain started (well, unexpected in that I hadn't checked out the forecast). I toyed with taking the day off, but instead went outside, where it was no longer raining, and started instead toward New Virginia Manor. I evidently left my Run for Roch hat at BCC, so my backup was a still-new Gatorade synthetic hat I won at a Steelers 5k in 2007, 2008 or 2009. For a while I thought it was too much, and my head was getting pretty warm, but as I finished my first loop a light rain started up again, and I considered heading home and lying down. Then, without even thinking about it, I kept going and did another loop and felt much better once I made that apparently subconscious decision. I finished that 13 miles in 1:29.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Worth the wait

Thursday after work I started to do a Scott's Run, but changed my mind and ran to Vienna and back, with a little extra, to do 11 miles. It was nice and boring, and I kept it around 7:00 pace.

I ran to work Friday and realized just how much I dislike it, or at least the route I take. Rain was misting when I headed out and I never really felt relaxed. The W&OD trail portion is okay, but once I get on the Custis Trail I just get frustrated with the amount of bike traffic. There's a little bit of consistency with the portion on the Mt. Vernon Trail and crossing the Roosevelt Bridge, but ocne I get downtown, I'm stopping every few blocks for traffic and it leaves the run on a bad note. That said, it still is a nice way to combine a morning run and a commute, pretty much getting 12 miles done in the time it would take me to run three miles, shower and commute to work. Maybe running home would be more pleasant- I'd deal with traffic early, and not feel the long pounding downhill -- I actually prefer climbing. After work I did an easy three-mile loop.

Saturday morning, I had grand visions of the workout I would do. The weather was perfect, I felt rested, and I was ready to get faster every three miles on a 15 mile run though McLean. Unfortunately, I was so well rested because I slept longer than I should have, and didn't start my run until 10 am, which put my in direct conflict with the hordes of shoppers on their way to Tysons Corner. I had to stop about a half mile in while I waited for traffic to pass on Great Falls, then again on Westmoreland at Kirby. I responded by overcompensating with those miles, 5:53 and 5:55, where I was planning to go 6:30s. I was close on the third mile- 6:22, then once I started my 6:15s I once again dealt with traffic- at Chain Bridge Road at Old Dominion (5:45 for that mile) as I tried to cross Dolley Madison Parkway and Balls Hill Road. Spring Hill Road was once again challenging, moreso because of the twists and blind curves in the road, though the undulating hills didn't help.I think I was right on 6:00 pace though the second mile of that segment, then I slowed down to 6:05 in the third. When I hit the Lewinsville Bridge over the beltway, I had to cross through traffic to get to a shoulder, then when I got to the top of the hill at Dolley Madison, I once again had to stop at the intersection. At this point, I gave up, then headed down Chain Bridge Road to Pimmit Hills and ran home that way. Had I started the workout at 7 or 8 am, I would have been in a lot better shape, traffic-wise

Sunday morning I headed out the opposite way, up Great Falls until it became Lewinsville and got out to Brook. I usually stick with Old Dominion all the way back, but this time I took a left on Spring Hill. I found it to be a much better, and safer, segment of the road than between Old Dominion and Lewinsville. It was narrow enough that cars had to drive slowly maneuver properly, and I don't think I even saw any heading north. Georgetown Pike was another story, though. The entire 1.9 stretch west of the beltway had no shoulder to speak of, so I spent most of the constant climbing and descending switching back and forth across the road to make myself more visible to cars and be able to see them myself. Once I crossed the beltway, I had sidewalk paths, but the hills got even tougher. I thought back to the Freedom's Run Half, and how hills seemed to provoke me to run better, and how that was not happening today. I made the turn onto Chain Bridge Road at 13.25, at which point I had averaged 6:25s. I took that short road past the old Kennedy house Hickory Hill and turned onto Dolley Madison before finding the next portion of Chain Bridge. I turned onto Old Dominion and as I passed a segment of the Pimmit Run trail I guessed I had been running 1:39, looked to my watch and saw it was that time exactly. I felt pretty impressed with myself, which then deflated in last 5.5 miles. I looped through Forest Villa, headed down Carlin then up to Birch. Once again, I was climbing and dropping, and I forgot just how long that street is. When I crossed Kirby, I knew I still had work to do, because Lorraine is a bad mother. I had only climbed it once before, the day after the GMU track race, but this time I was able to focus on a walker who was halfway up the hill. The rest of the run was easy, though as I crossed I-66 a block from home, I was a little flabberghasted that I had been heading the other way 2:15 before. It seemed like days ago.

Monday I had another nice nighttime run, this time though Annandale. It was a similar to a 13 mile run I had done one morning in July, back before Oregon, but with the stark difference that I didn't worry about whether I would survive until I got home. The last time I ran it, I started with a squeeze bottle of solid ice, drained it halfway though, then had to find a water fountain so I could refill the bottle. Monday's run was much more pleasant. I'm so glad the weather is cool and I can train without fear of overheating

Tuesday night, I ran five miles out to McLean High School, via Powhatan, Birch and Old Chesterbook. I did 12 400s with 200 jog- 74,72,71,73,71,71,72,71,72,71,72,71 and ran home on Great Falls. 13 total.

Wednesday I pretty much just ran around the Tidal Basin until the GRC people showed up on the Mall for a workout, warmed up with them and then headed back for a miserable 13 miles.

Thursday I biked to McLean High School for a long workout- 6x2k. It wasn't too ambitious- starting at 80 and getting one second faster per lap in subsequent repeats. YF2K53 was there walking his laps on the outside lane in the dark. It wasn't a memorable workout, I ran 6:36, 6:32, 6:28 and 6:25, but during the third and fourth, I felt increasing gastrointestinal distress. After neutralizing the situation, I resumed the workout, but my legs felt weak. I came through the 1200 a second fast- 3:47, but slowed dramatically and stopped after a 5:07 mile. I thought about doing another 2k at 5:18 pace, but 200 meters in I just didn't have the will for it anymore, so I went for a long cooldown to total 13.

Friday morning I woke up to run before work, but felt terrible, so I slept in and only did 3.25 miles and after work got in another seven.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The last big month begins

Although my illness came at an unfortunate time because it took me a few days of holding back running in great, cool weather, it kept me under control last week. I took Sunday completely off and slept in every day except for Friday. Monday I was able to get through the work day with a minimum of misery and went out to run with no real plan. I wound up doing two loops of New Virginia Manor for 13 miles, right around 6:50 pace, and I felt fantastic. No breathing trouble, a little congestion, but a delightful run.

Tuesday after work I did a 10 mile loop at Hains Point at 6:30 pace, great weather there.

Wednesday evening I joined Hanson, Sam and Outlaw for their pre-Army Ten Miler workout- 1600-1200-800-400. Though the pacing (72, 70, 68, 66) was feasible for me, I didn't want to risk bombing and ruining my newfound confidence for the Great Pumpkin 5k on Saturday, I did a 1600 earlier- in 4:56, then did one fewer lap than the pack. I definitely felt like I could have done the whole thing, I felt totally under control running 3:36, 2:19, and 67, but I was left hungry for more. So I joined in for the 400 in 66, but cut loose with 200 left and ran 62, my fastest 400 since April 2007. And I still wanted more.

Thursday I did a reverse Steelers loop. Friday morning and afternoon I did Fishermans loops.

Saturday morning I felt alright when I woke up and got a ride to Reston with Fun Lizard, whose hips have unfortunately become unaligned, rendering her Lame Liz. It was cool but humid, and I felt okay when I went out for a warmup. I wasn't feeling quite right when I got to the line, though, and within about five seconds of the race starting, I knew it wasn't going to be good. I rushed off the line to keep up with two Africans and the creepiest boy in the world, but it was only a matter of time before I dropped. I could tell they were scared, because "Contagion" is still playing in the theaters and my lungs were making a hell of a racket. Within a half mile they had five yards on me and the gap only grew when we headed downhill, did a moronic turnaround and my fate was sealed on the way back up. I came through the mile in 5:04, two in 5:08 and the third in 15:24. It was a pretty boring course around Reston Town Center, and I spent most of the time coughing and blowing my nose. I saw Liz and Rich, but otherwise it was lonely. My third mile split, 15:36, was just five seconds faster than my three mile split of my half the week before, and my 5k time 16:15, was just a little faster than my 10k pace from the Great Race.

I reasonably expected to run in the low 15:20s and on my best day would have hung with 2 and 3 in the mid 14:40s. That course in no-man's land was brutal. Wind, general apathy, just terrible. I'm sure it would have been a lot more fun if I was racing someone, but when the race was over, I realized I had raced 20 out of 22 miles in the last three weekends by myself. No matter what, I'm running with someone in Richmond, even if it's slower of faster than I would like.

After the race I took a three hour nap and felt a lot better afterward. I went out and ran another 13, starting pretty fast- 5:30 and 5:15 for the first two miles of a Marymount-Florida loop. By 9.75, I had run 6:05 pace mainly out of frustration with the race and eased into finish 13 miles.

Sunday morning I ran around the Army Ten Mile course with Klim and Murph.

Monday morning I slept in, thanks to Columbus Day, and biked out to McLean High School for some quarters at 68-70 and HMDs. In the afternoon I did 11 miles on the Pimmit Run trail.

Tuesday's trip home for what I hoped would be an early afternoon run was complicated severely when a metro disruption at Clarendon stopped all traffic between Rosslyn and Ballston. After taking a train to the cemetery, which then turned and went back to Rosslyn's upper deck, I spent 20 minutes trying to get out of the station, then walked 2.5 miles to Ballston to avoid having to wait for a shuttle bus. By the time I got home and was ready to run, it was 8. I did a New Virginia Manor, 13 miles in the dark, and it was glorious. The whole time I was in the four-mile loop, I came across four cars, and three were together. Wide, luxurious, smooth roads, long hills and an almost out-of-body experience. I can barely see anything, especially in the first, second and fourth miles,

Wednesday I woke up for eight miles on the Westmoreland loop, then in the evening did a long medium workout on the track. Since I had done 400s recently, I instead opted for a Richmond classic- 20-8-20. It was entirely successful- the first 20 minutes at 5:28 pace, eight minutes easy, then 20 minutes at 5:20 pace. I ran smoothly the whole time, didn't kick or anything, and I had a maximum lap-by-lap variation of .3 seconds. It was more successful than the same workout I did several Sundays ago, and I know I could have gone on longer, which is how I guess you want all of your workouts to feel.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Paying the fiddler

I had to pick up my rental car for my trip to the Freedom's Run Half Marathon around 5 on Friday, but I didn't want to sit in beltway and 270 traffic all evening, so I went home for a few hours to wait it out. While watching a few episodes of Mad Men, I noticed a real pain my the top of my throat when I swallowed. It was an alarming symptom, I predicted, of an impending sickness.

I hoped a good night's sleep would help, but getting to my motel in Hagerstown was tougher than I thought. I had to pull over and take two breaks during the 75 minute drive. I had dinner and got to bed, but sleep was evasive. I woke up constantly, including once following a dream in which I was late for a race of some sort because the bus driver taking me to the starting line got lost. I didn't want to take any cold medicine, for fear of dehydrating myself.

I woke up with the sore throat spreading and congestion setting in, and a steady chilly rain falling. I thought about not going, but the money was already spent on the car, motel and entry fee. I drove down to Shepardstown, passing a Hoss's--the only roadside steakhouse worthy of Coach A's time during high school cross country and track--and got to Shepherd University.
I warmed up the first mile and back, and actually felt alright as we gathered on the starting line.

After the start, I bolted to the front, seeing two Newton-sponsored guys in the pack. By the time we got to the bridge over the Potomac, only one was near me, and by the time I climbed the first hill in Maryland, I was clear. Made the first turn and headed down a hill that was a little too steep to race down, but almost jogging down it helped relieve whatever tension the uphill had caused. I turned onto a delightful road that paralleled the towpath and hit the first mile in 5:14. I hoped to stay on it for a while, but had to make a sharp turn over a bridge and onto the towpath. I started rolling there, remembering a much different morning six or seven weeks before when I tried to hang on with Tex during a long run before wilting in the humidity and ultimately walking the last two miles. The heat wasn't a problem this time, and I split 4:59 for my second mile. I was keeping that pace up in the third mile until the course turned off of the towpath and headed up a long, long hill, partway up I hit 5:27 for my third split, the rain starting to sputter through the trees.
However much skepticism I had for the recounts from various four-hour marathoners I had read about the course in regards to its difficulty, I knew this would be the long hill and getting up it without surrendering my lead would be an accomplishment. I worried that I was going out too hard, especially going under 5:00, but I never felt like I was in over my head. I was bummed for my fourth mile split- 6:01, but I knew I was working hard for the ground I was covering, and almost all downhills had been immediately followed by sharp uphills, so I knew the course wasn't doing me any favors like the flat second mile. I thought about taking some water or Gatorade along the way, but my throat hurt too much to consider drinking anything, so I declined. My fifth mile, 5:33, was back on track, and I was a little surprised to only be a minute slower than my split at the same point last week. The next two miles, 5:32 and 5:53, we largely uphill, with a few instances to get a feel for my lead. By then, the rain was constant, and it just provoked my willingness to put aside discomfort, which probably helped my race.

The course had no actual spectators to speak of besides a few concentrations of volunteers. I would listen to when they stopped yelling for me and wait for when they would start cheering for my pursuer. After seven miles, though, I stopped running like I was scared of him catching me and started running like I wanted to make my mark on the race, it was time to push myself and see what I was all about, discovering how hard I could push. I did with the next two miles, both in 5:16, both of which featured nice rolling rural roads in the Antietam Battlefield. With the lead biker ahead of me, I had something on which to focus my attention and a few times caught up with her while climbing particularly steep hills. In mile 10, she sped away to make sure intersections were clear ahead, and I had to readjust my focus. I came through that mile in 5:44, splitting 54:58 for 10 miles, just 34 seconds slower than my 10 mile PR on a flat course with competition. I was buoyed significantly by this, because I was averaging just under 5:30 per mile and blowing away my pre-race prediction that I would hit 10 miles in 58 - 5:48 pace. It was my second-fastest 10 miles ever, beating my Spring Thaw time from 2007 by 50 seconds. And I still felt strong.

I thought, looking at the elevation profile, that the last three miles would be steadily downhill. That was wrong, so my hopes to run close to 5:00 for the last few miles were out the window. I was largely relegated to the road's narrow shoulder or the beaten up sidewalk and couldn't quite cruise like I did on the open roads. The rain was pretty much constant now, and passing cars and trucks soaked me with filthy splashes. Two more miles, 5:39 and 5:25. As I came upon the last mile, I knew it would have to be solidly downhill back to the bridge, I just didn't imagine having to switch sides of the road in poorly-controlled traffic, with no real direction from course marshals, or overtaking the 10k runners and 5k walkers on a

very narrow stretch. For a while, it helped to have the runners to pick off, until they thought they were competing with me and tried to block me. I got close to the stadium containing the finish and started to navigate some tight turns on a narrow walkway and ran right into a pack of older women walking the 5k. Three courses were bottlenecked at the finish onto a steep downhill and a 180 degree turn in the mud. I squeezed by when I could, yelled as much as I could to look out, pretty much stopped to let a woman walk by and then surged to the finish, my last mile a disgraceful 5:47 and a frantic 31 second .1 to finish in 1:12:19 -- a course record by 1:08.

As nice and scenic as the race was prior, the finish was an absolute disaster. It wasn't good for competitive runners and it certainly wasn't safe for runners or the walkers. I am pleasantly surprised I didn't hurt myself or anyone else on the course in the last tenth of a mile.

After a few seconds of trying to convince the race director there was a continuing problem, I relented and thought about my race. I had bit of an internal debate about how much by which I PRed. My fastest half marathon to that point had been 1:18:19 from the horrible Pacers Half last spring, but I had run 13.1 miles in 1:15:16 in the first half of the Chicago Marathon last year. Will had been insistent that my actual PR was the prior. Now, it's not an issue.

I can't remember the last time I felt so satisfied with a race, maybe 2007's Dash for Dogs and Cats, when I could impose my will on my body to run a certain way. I got exactly what I needed out of the race- a solid hard run, and it pretty much turned into a time trial as soon as I dropped second place, and to be blunt, that's what I wanted- just me and the course ahead of me. It was hilly, and the course was difficult, but I seemed to draw motivation from that. I'm left feeling like I'm in a great position to take a swing at what I would like for the rest of the season. A little break and some turnover work should get me ready for the Great Pumpkin 5k on Saturday, but then back to some long workouts in the cooler fall temperatures. A year ago I was tapering to get ready for Chicago, now I'm just getting started on the hardest work I have to do. There's no better time of the year to do it, either.

I got in a five-mile cooldown to hit 20 for the day and 90 for the week, then headed home, knowing the impending sickness was going to hit me like a shoe in the face. As I was finishing my cooldown, the reality of how cold I was hit me, and I started shivering to a ridiculous extent. That kept up for about two hours, and I was absolutely miserable. I had no appetite, I could barely swallow anyway, and I just wanted to feel warm again. That night I went home miserable and slept in Sunday, taking the day off of running and not leaving my apartment until the evening to go grocery shopping. Monday afternoon I'm coughing like crazy, congested so much I feel like my sinuses will burst and unmotivated to do anything. I ran from the cold as much as I could on Saturday, but it caught me, and now I have to deal with it.