"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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Worth 50?

I was so underwhelmed by the Crystal City Twilighter 5k last year that I really didn't want to do it again. Then Jake started pulling this "good for the team" polemic while recruiting people to race year. I said I would if it wasn't 90+ degrees, figuring I had a way out with those terms.

While I was running in a slight chill in Portland, it became evident that the midwestern heat wave was going to be moving right over the Washington area by the early weekend, triggering my escape clause. The pure volume of running I did in Portland, 106.5 miles from Saturday to Friday, and the intensity inherent in each run -- extremely hilly for all but one run- the quarter workout Wednesday morning -- also gave me an excuse not to race. My heat acclimation I had so painfully acquired was wearing off quickly. I wasn't going to "race," but as long as the race was on, I was running.

I attribute this apparent irrationality to my office's wellness program. I ignored it for a few months, until earlier in July when the results from June's segment came in. I checked out the original e-mail and got a little more motivated to participate:

"The top 3 employees with the most points earned at the end of October will win one of three grand prizes. Grand prizes will include 6 months of free health insurance premiums (employee only), and cash prizes up to $500!!!"

I looked at the criteria for the different activities and noticed a great option- take 10,000 steps. I e-mailed the coordinator to ask if a. running counted and b. that was a renewable point source. She affirmed both. I had to get my hands on a pedometer, but that evening I counted my steps in the first mile- around 1300. If I run 100 miles a week, that's 130,000 steps right there,worth 130 points, about 520 points a month.

I just have to be in the top three to earn a grand prize, but I am not here to finish in the top three. To quote Jake Taylor in Major League "Well I guess there's only one thing left to do. Win the whole fucking thing..."

There are plenty of other sources of points, and the most delightful of all was "participate in a 5k: 50 points." That's worth 38 miles right there. So, regardless of the heat, I was participating in that race. Other options include keeping a fitness diary, making a recipe healthier, etc. For the most part, I don't even have to alter my behavior, though it did take me a week to get a pedometer, so I missed a week of earning points for a 100 mile week. But, I still walk more than a mile a day, and take more steps walking than when I run a mile, so that will add up, too.

On to the race: The WMATA trip planner suggested I take a bus to Alexandria and a train north to Crystal City, so I left with plenty of time to do that, unfortunately the bus I caught had not changed its marquee, so I spent a half hour going up the road to Tyson's Corner and back. Then another hour getting to Alexandria. I got the race with 10 minutes to spare, so no warmup beyond a few strides.

I was thinking of just jogging the race and earning the points, but that would kind of be a waste of an opportunity to run fast for a while. The course is as flat as it gets, albeit with the typical Pacers 180 turn. And it's only 5k, so I figured the best of use of my time, given the time I had spent getting there, was to run hard as long as I could until I just got too darn hot. I ran the first mile in the chase pack with Karl and Dutch Paul. We weren't too far off the leaders- 4:54 at the mile, just five seconds back.

When we passed the start/finish line about halfway in, the consequences started hitting me, and I dropped immediately. It was less humid than last year, but the heat (probably 95+) was still definitely getting to me. My head was starting to get painfully hot, and the cup of water I splashed on it barely made a difference. It was time to just finish, and there was no hanging on and gradually slowing, I came to pretty much a direct slowdown to jogging. I came through two miles in 10:25- 5:30, so not too bad of a deceleration, but it wasn't going to get any better. When we hit the 180, I was done, for all intents and purposes. Outlaw exhorted me to catch Wardian, a few steps ahead of me, but I demurred and just wanted to jog it in. Brandon ran by a few seconds after I resigned myself, and it would have been fun to finish with him, but I wasn't here to run fast, I was here for my 50 wellness points, a counter intuitive pursuit given the conditions, but hey, it's just 5k. I actually did hold a few people, including a high school runner, off before the finish, then I grabbed two bottles of water and doused myself. It was cold this year, a big improvement over last.

I did an easy 9 minute cooldown with Karl to take me well over 100 for the week ending that evening. 16:40 was actually 39 seconds faster than last year, but comparing the two years as if they were competent races conflates the issue- I got a good mile+ in and 50 points for the month. It's nice to think of it as an improvement, and I certainly am better in the heat this year, but you just can't empirically compare the two. It was a hard week of running, despite the favors the northwestern weather did for me, and it ended about as uncomfortably as I could have expected. I'm ready for an easy week to just get some mileage in the heat and work on my acclimation again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Go 'head, chase waterfalls

In Oregon...

I gave myself plenty of time to recover from my long run by taking Monday morning off, then
planning to do an easy 10 in the afternoon, mainly on the Wildwood Trail in Forest and Wash
ington parks. I had covered a bit of it on Saturday morning, but I wanted to see a little more, so I ran up Cornell Drive to about five miles into the trail, then started climbing. As the Fox can attest, they are some long climbs, though heading south I had some steep ones near the Pittock Mansion. I retraced my steps from Satur
day morning and kept going, well over an hour at this point. Then the trail just kind of stopped at the edge of a parking lot. I ran around it trying to figure out where I was, and the only major road I could find heading anywhere was a highway, so I backtracked until I found Kingston Road. I pretty much let loose down 2.5 miles of hill, running 6:00 pace as it turned out for a relatively relaxed run, which gives you an idea how gentle but constant the hill was. I ended up running 1:53, which I gave myself credit for 16 miles, definitely more than I wanted. (Photo by Jennifer Wallace)

I wanted to reverse most of the trail that I had done, so I climbed Kingston until I hit the Wildwood Trail again, then headed out to Cornell Road. I wanted to keep going, but a nagging sense of prudence convinced me to stop.

Given my 2 pm flight home Friday, I could maximize my use of a rental car by picking it up at noon Wednesday, so I ran a short track workout at Lincoln High School, alma mater of renowned miler Jim Grelle. I was a bit dehydrated, and the sun was direct for the first time I had been in Oregon, but it was still much cooler than it would have been in Virginia. I initially planned to do 12-16x400, but after the first, in 75, I knew that would be a tall order, given how thirsty I already was. I ended up doing eight, running a second faster on each subsequent 400, with 200 recovery. I then turned my attention to the row of hurdles that was just waiting for me to use for HMDs.

I picked up my rental car and headed south to Cottage Grove, past Eugene. My plan was to stop in Eugene to get a photo of the balcony at the University of Oregon's McArthur Court for Craig, since he loves Without Limits so much, particularly when the girls invite Pre to a Three Dog Night concert. Then I would head to the trail Steve, Molz and Benford chronicled here, then out to the coast to drive back north as the sun set. Brilliant plan. I came across a set of outlet stores on the way, and was pumped to find a pair of size 12 supernovas for $50 at the Adidas store and a $20 pair of tights at the Nike store, along with several pairs of socks to replace those I had decimated over the prior few days.

When Steve said this trail, in the Umpqua National Forest, was remote, he wasn't joking.
It was mostly single track trails, except when you come around a corner so fast you can fall down the slope if you lean the wrong way, then the trails are about a foot wide. I pretty much echo what everyone else says about running in Oregon forests- it's just so green!

Reaching the Lower Trestle Falls was my first order of business. I climbed and climbed and climbed until I got there. In between gasps for air, I looked around and realized how lucky I was that my office had flown me to Oregon and all I had to do in exchange for this kind of running was work eight hours a day. A pretty nice arrangement, if you ask me. The falls were great. Turns out "umpqua" means "thundering waters." Pretty apt, if you ask me.
I went back down to the primary trail, then decided to head out and back. I didn't look at my watch to figure out when to turn back, the opportunity to run out here was too valuable to leave up to arbitrary numbers like time.
Just a knockout. I didn't see anybody else for the 1:50 I was out there. As far as I was concerned, it was my forest. My plan did backfire, twice, though. While climbing over a tree trunk that had fallen across the path--and someone had cut a helpful chunk out of it to help people climb over, I slipped on the trunk, which was a little slimey, and fell chest first, my shoulders taking the brunt of the blow. I got back up and kept going, and a few minutes later, my trail leg caught a rock sticking out of the trail and I went down and slid, landing a few inches from a stake-like branch coming out of the ground. So, I was a little tired, and really beaten up. I then though I took a wrong turn and backtracked three times until I realized I was on the right path.

My favorite part of this run was when the trail ran along the side of a cliff above Brice Creek. I went back to Portland that night, too late to get out to the coast in time to see the sun set. I stopped for dinner at Track Town Pizza in Eugene, but was underwhelmed. The pesto, chicken and artichoke pizza was so-so, and the various photos and memorabilia around the place didn't really do it for me. While Steve Prefontaine's personality, charisma and racing style makes him a great personality, even 36 years after his death, maybe I'm just too jaded to really appreciate him. Moreso than Prefontaine, I was drawn, as a teenager learning about the mythology of Oregon track and cross country, to Matt Davis, who struggled with injury throughout his Duck years but through guts, determination and such and such, still popped off a few great races. He was not featured on
the pizza shop's walls.

I left from Portland on Thursday to do three things- run the trail Steve said I had to do, see a fish ladder, and go to Hood River. I got out to Multnomah Falls around 10 and drove along the highway until I reached Horsetail Falls. It was chilly and raining, though not as hard as Sunday's long run. My shoulders were so sore from my fall the day before that I took a few minutes to lift my arms to change my shirt. Steve and Matt Llano ran out here before NCAAs last year, and I count myself lucky to have great advice on where to find an outstanding trail, and to have a photo preview to serve as an appetizer, which, according to Cartman on South Park, is what you eat before you eat to make you hungrier, if my memory serves. Well, I was hungry as heck for these trails.

These trails pretty much just travel alongside the face of the Columbia River Gorge. Again, I didn't see anybody for the majority of my run.

I had traveled along the Columbia River in 2000 with my mom, but we only took a cursory look at the waterfalls, and didn't bother hiking. Our destination at the time was the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam. My mom loved taking my sister and me to see fish ladders when we visited the northwest. I'd see the dam, and the ladder, and with it, the fish, later. For now, I had my second amazing run in two days ahead of me.

When I saw the photos from Molz and company's run in Umpqua, I told Steve that's where I was headed. He suggested I get to the gorge instead. I got greedy and did both, even though they were far away from each other- I made it work, and every few minutes a feeling would wash over me and I would audibly say, to nobody at all, "I'm so glad I did this." For the most part, the trails were a little wider than yesterday, but they were wet, so slipping was a threat. This bridge was kind of cool. It spans the Oneonta Gorge.
Yep, more climbing. You can run under Ponytail Falls, the upper portion of Horsetail Falls.
It was pretty foggy, though east of Multnomah Falls, visability was a little better.
Every now and then it's great to get out from the canopy of trees and see just how high you and climbed.
Then I hit a paved path and started seeing people. There was a hill in front of me, so I instinctively started climbing it. I dodged walkers and saw a sign "Switchback 3/11," which gave me an idea how close I was to the top. Then I saw a break in the trees, and had a really, really great look at Multnomah Falls, all 542 feet of it. Framed through the trees at a distance, it was an awe-inspiring sight. Shrouded in fog, the top was just out of clarity, adding more mystery and majesty to the sight. I am not exaggerating to say it struck me more than most natural features I have come across. Again, part of it was the climate that day, but I couldn't wait to see more. The trail got steeper as I climbed, and it seemed like there was an awful lot of distance between the "official" switchbacks that were counted on the signs. Breathing got kind of hard, and when
I came across some walkers heading down, I shouted out "Is it worth it?" when they laughed about me running up the gorge. They said yes, and I was glad, because it would be a shame to go all the way up there and have it suck. I did get to the top, where I saw a Chesapeake resident on vacation, and got to the viewing deck at the top of the falls. The fog was pretty thick, so I didn't have a clear view, but I saw enough to give me the full scope of everything, eerily enough it was more majestic than if everything was laid out in front of me. I went back down the paved trail to the bottom of the falls, looked right up at them and instantly knew I preferred my first vantage point. I ran a few miles along the Historic Highway back to my car, and took a quick dip near Horsetail Falls. I would have stayed in longer for a quick ice bath, but given the temperatures in the upper 50s, it didn't seem prudent.
I drove to Hood River, where I decided to forgo the pizza I so enjoyed 11 years ago for a chicken burrito that was seasoned to perfection.

There was no telling how the weather would end up being in Crystal City Saturday night, so there was still a chance I would race, so I decided to only run 10 miles on Leif Erickson.
I thought that without the rain that drove throughout my entire run on the trail Sunday, that I would enjoy the Leif Erickson Trail more. Oddly enough, I didn't.
Maybe I was tired. From Saturday to Friday, I ran 106.5 miles, 101.5 of which were up and down long and/or steep hills. Even my recovery runs were a little taxing.
What was taxing was my trip home. My flight to Chicago was smooth enough but my flight from Chicago to Washington was delayed three hours, leaving at midnight central time. I got to Dulles, not Reagan, at 2:45, and by the time the cab got me home, it was 3:30. It took me an hour to get to sleep, then I got up at 7:15 to run 3.25 miles with Slosky, who was in town for a wedding. It was a sweaty jaunt, and Virginia told me that after a week of being spoiled, I was entering a world of pain.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lots of hills, not much heat

I accidentally published a post instead of saving it, so this is pretty much a placeholder until I actual get around to writing it and uploading pictures. In short, if anyone cares, every run has involved a substantial climb and the weather here, between 50 and 70 degrees, is going to leave me woefully unprepared for the Crystal City 5k on Saturday night.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Accidental near marathon

Saturday afternoon's run was a return to the short network of trails in Washington Park, for about four miles. Sunday morning, however, was my long run, my first real effort at a serious long run in about a month, thanks to the heat. I had a 22-mile route mapped through Forest Park, the 5,000 acre collection of trees and stuff on the northwest edge of the city.

I woke up at 5, but worried it was too dark to navigate trails in the woods, so I waited a half hour for the light to spread a bit. It was raining, which didn't exactly thrill me, but to have temperatures in the low 50s for a mid-July long run was too lucky to give up. Within two miles I had missed some turns, but I figured out where I was and recovered before I did any damage, lukcily I was running pretty slowly up the stead hills to the park. I found the Leif Erikson Drive trailhead and was delighted to find mile markers. A quarter mile later, I was even more delighted to find quarter mile markers. It was steadily uphill, but I rattled off 6:30 miles for a lot of the climb. Thanks to Portland Monthly's handy Forest Park Guide, I knew I would hit a water tank at some point so I was anticipating sucking down the goo packet I brought with me.

The mud was flying, and I was soaked and filthy--I was loving it. I kept climbing, and wondered if I even wanted to go downhill. I didn't even care that there wasn't a dry spot on my body, I was too focused on moving ahead. It seemed like I'd see another half mile go by before I knew it. Then, about 9.25 miles into the trail, I got worried that I hadn't seen my turnoff, which was supposedly a significant road. I climbed a steep, single-track trail for a while, but when I saw it intersect with other trails that were nowhere on my map as I rememebered it, I turned back. I was starting to get worried that I wouldn't get any fresh water and miss any chance of having the goo. I retraced more than three miles of Leif Erikson to the Saltzman Road trail, down a long long hill to Mt. St. Helens Road, in the industrial section northwest of downtown. I was back on track, but knew I had a long way to go. I was starting to wonder if I could make it back to my hotel in time to shower, get to the convention center and eat a decent breakfast before the first workshop I had to cover.

Photo from austinmarathontraining.blogspot.com
It was just plain flat, and I was starting to weigh the consequences of running fast and getting back quickly, or running slower and not going overboard or hitting the wall with miles left to travel. I considered hitchhiking, but I didn't even see many drivers, early on a Saturday morning in a non-residential part of town. I did notice that my form was immaculate, which concerned me because my most significant worry was getting lazy and hurting myself with sloppy form. Despite running for well more than two hours, I was probably running faster than when I started. Running was a natural state, and the only thing that would keep me from continuing was my impending work day. I was worried about making it back just because my sense of professionalism told me to be, but at the same time I was confident in my ability to get back. I went a long time without seeing numbered road signs, having started at 56th and aiming for 6th. As it turns out, the addresses were about 10 blocks off, but I was overjoyed when I hit Vaughn and saw 27th street, knowing I was closing in on my hotel. I saw a bar open for breakfast and stopped in for a glass of water so I could have the goo. I probably would have made it back without it, but the full day of work I had ahead of me probably wouldn't have gone too smoothly. I continued east toward 6th, running along several Simpsons character's namesame roads- Lovejoy, Flanders, Kearny. As I approached my hotel, I check my watch- 2:49. In a little more than a minute, I would break my personal record for longest duration run. I coicidentally finished up at 2:49:18, my marathon PR. I didn't really feel like running another minute. I got up to my room and took my shower, noticing the ridiculous amount of mud, sand and a few pebbles that worked its way into my shorts. I never noticed when it was bouncing around in there for what turned out to be 25 miles, but I sure noticed it when I turned the shower on and the water hit the raw skin on my inner thighs. I averaged 6:46 for the run, though I left my watch running when I went in for water, so I ran a little faster.

It's a run I would never have been able to do in Virginia the same day, where the temperature was much higher. Suffice to say, it's been a good trip.

And my shoes were pretty filthy when it was over, and this was after six miles of running on pavement during which the dirt could come off.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chilling out

That seems to be what most people are doing in Portland. I've never seen so many drifters in my life. When I went to a pretty tasty Mexican place Friday night for dinner, the cook looked my my clothes and asked me if I worked today. Well, yep, it's Friday, I'm not quite sure why I wouldn't have worked...

That does not detract from how wonderful the weather is here and how much I am enjoying the running. The temperature is in the 60s, and I feel...alive.

I got up early on Friday, capitalizing on the unseasonably cool weather to do a good workout. I decided on a p-word run, 10 at 6:00, 10 at 5:45, 10 at around 5:00. I was feeling kind of sluggish, but somehow wound up having my most even workout of this type. Usually I am way ahead of pace, hitting 5:30 for the first mile, but I was right about 6:00 this time, and maybe only 20 seconds ahead of pace for 10 minutes. I was exactly on pace for the 5:40 10 minutes, then came through my last 10 minute half miles at 2:31, 5:02, 7:34, and I think I kicked it in to get two miles in the 10 minutes.

The first flight to Portland, to Chicago, was pleasant, with a one-year-old fellow who barely made an offending sound. The second flight, however, at almost four hours, was dominated by a baby who did not share the other's disposition. She cried more than half of the time, and that, coupled with the dehydrating recycled air, left me feeling like a disaster when I arrived. I went for a 50 minute run, mainly around the Willamette River and several laps of a flat grassy park, but was not feeling great, and not terribly thrilled with the prospect of running.

My attitude changed after almost 10 hours of sleep. I got up and headed to Washington Park, on Bryan's recommendation. It was lightly drizzling, but it didn't bother me at all. After a few dead end trails, I started heading up Kingston Street, a long climb with a dirt path on the shoulder. I came to the Wildwood Trail and took it for a while, then turned around and got to enjoy the hill I had climbed earlier. I hoping to get another good night of sleep tonight and doing my first long run in weeks tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HeadOn, apply directly where it sweats

As has been, and will be, a theme in my summer writing, it's hot, humid and uncomfortable for running. The favors the DC area did us in early June are now long expired, and the reality of a hot miserable few months is not going away. Cowering won't do me a bit of good, so I've been meeting this hot air head on.

I've survived to Friday, so I get a week in Portland, Oregon, and there's no better reward than that. Highs are at least 20 degrees cooler, and it's a change of scenery. Talking to Steve about the trip he said I'll just start hammering those mountain trails there because you can get into such a groove- I can't wait to get that groove.

I still can't believe how much I enjoyed last year's trip to Reno, all of those pre-dawn runs in such a strange place- half of that city looked like it was hiding from someone. Or in bankruptcy. This will be better in that it won't be completely arid and dusty, and Oregon is by far a much more running-friendly place.

Last week-
Tuesday evening I did an easy 3.5 miles on the treadmill.

Wedesday did a morning Fisherman's 3.25, then in the afternoon did the GRC track workout- 5x1200m. 3:44, 3:43, 3:42, 3:41, then my sweating caught up to me after a 71 second lap on my last one- my legs stopped responding with the turnover I needed. I took a lap off then ran another 71 with everyone else.

Thursday, another morning Fisherman's 3.25, then a 26th street in the evening.

Friday morning, an Idylwood extension for five miles, then a 6.5 mile truncated Westmoreland in the afternoon.

Saturday morning I went to the store, but nobody else showed up, so without anyone to complain, I ran up Wisconsin, around Chevy Chase, then back down. In the evening I did yet another Fisherman's loop to close out the week at 95 miles.

Sunday morning started early with a message from Tex that we did not have a ride to Riley's Lock for the long run. I slept in a bit then ran a loop in Annandale that I had done before, but shortly before I crossed Annandale Road, I missed a turn and wound up winging it for a while. I had some gradually-melting ice in my water bottle, so I was able to take sips when I needed. Trying to do a long run was a losing proposition, though, with the heat being what it was, so I decided to run 13 and if I was up for it, do another 7 closer to home. When I got back to my apartment to get more water, I decided I had run enough and relaxed. I went out later to run seven, doing so down to Arlington Boulevard and running a mile in 4:58, despite the 90 degree heat, then squishing my way home.

Monday I did another Fisherman's loop, which is pretty much my go-to morning run. In the evening, after a protracted haircut, I went out for another 10, out to Vienna and back on the W&OD trail, a route cooled significantly by winds from a thunderstorm to the east, which also treated me to some cool lightning in the distance as I was running back. It seemed a little counter intuitive, running toward the storm, but it was far enough away that it didn't matter.

Tuesday morning I slept in and didn't run in the morning, then headed out to Rosemary Street to do 6x 2/3 mile. I wanted to start them slow, and I thought I was relaxed, but i ran the first two in 3:22 and 3:23, 5:00 pace being 3:21. It was 95 degrees and when I started my third, I just gradually slowed after a minute and stopped two minutes in, then ran a longish cooldown. I should have stuck to a loop with intermediate splits, like the Greenwich mile, because I had no idea where I was on Rosemary if I wasn't at the start or finish.

Wednesday I got up and ran an Oak loop at 7:00 pace, stopping three times to completely wring out my shirt. I lost nine pounds over those 10 miles. That afternoon I did an easy three miles on the treadmill, liking none of it.
Thursday was my day off, and I slept in a bit and was delighted to see temperatures in the low 70s with low humidity. Outside it was a friggin' blessing after the previous, well, almost a month. My right hip had been a little sore, perhaps I had been running on the side of the road too much, so I figured soft trails were the best remedy. I went to the Pimmit Run Trail and made it out to Langley High School, then came back. On my way out, I slipped on some mud easing down to cross a creek and tore my left index finger open on some thorns, so I had to spend the next 70 minutes squeezing that finger, and generally the entire hand, into a fist to stop the bleeding. It was so nice that I could have kept going, aside from some vicious thirst, because I didn't stop at the Potomac School's water fountain. About 13.5 miles in 100 minutes- I like that there are enough obstacles that the trail keeps me from hammering, because I needed an easy day to just run. I did a Fisherman's in the afternoon, and am ready to enjoy a slightly chilly week in Oregon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trails made the right way

"Trail" is a dicey term- lots of trails in newly-developed areas are nothing more than long, paved sidewalks, which, while useful in protecting users from traffic, are a bit of a disappointment. Good news from my old paper, the Valley News Dispatch, about progress on various crushed limestone trail projects in the Alle-Kiski Valley:

'Nexus of trails' envisioned

Photo by Louie Ruediger

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fall schedule

I've shuffled my schedule a bit, but the constant will remain- I am running two half marathons and zero marathons.

My Portland trip will be over the day before the Crystal City 5k, so despite my horrific experience there last year in ridiculous heat, I will give it another shot. I won't try to double with Riley's Rumble again, though, because Pokey will be in Hawaii.

My friend's wedding in New York July 30 will preclude me from making my annual trip to Pittsburgh for the Run for Roch. For a while I considered taking a bus to Pittsburgh Friday, running the race Saturday morning, flying to Albany right after, then renting a car and driving to Rhinebeck, but it figured to be too stressful and likely that I would enjoy neither.

The Spider Alumni race, of course.

Sam is heading to Pittsburgh to defend his Great Race title, so I will go along. This will be my opportunity to race in Pittsburgh again, since I won't be doing the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon anymore. Hopefully the Great Race won't kill my back, as it usually does.

As fine of a race as Buffalo Creek may be, the elevation drop is ridiculous. If I want to improve my half marathon time, I want it to be legitimate, and I don't want an attempt to PR in
Philadelphia be up against an early performance from a novelty course. So, instead I will run the Freedom's Run Half, mostly around the Antietam Battlefield in Maryland, with a start and finish in West Virginia. I have always loved western Maryland in October, and wanted to run a race there anytime. It definitely won't be a fast race, but I can't imagine expecting to PR in every race is realistic, or healthy. In fact, I think I just ceded a few minutes of my finishing time just by choosing this race, but I don't care, I really want to run here. It could end up being really sunny, because most of the course is exposed, but it will still be cooler than around DC. I am just looking forward to hitting the hills. Tim Schuler, whose daughter ran for Richmond, is a very active masters runner and he did the half last year, and said the race was impeccably managed. That goes a long way.

I have a really good feeling about the Anthem Great Pumpkin 5k. The course, looks to be exactly what a road race should be -- closed road where you otherwise wouldn't be able to run. No 180s, no sharp turns, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Reston Town Center was one of the first destinations my ex-girlfriend showed me around when I spent my first significant time in northern Virginia 10 years ago, a personal footnote that will have no bearing whatsoever on the actual race.

After that, it's back to Richmond in November for the 8k the morning of the marathon, followed by biking around while Molz races. Then, a week later, the Philadelphia Half.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The heat is back

I had been tired most of last week, but I managed to force myself to get up and do six miles before work Wednesday, though it was pretty humid. I just did the Park look, the first time I had run it without the Van Buren and Buxton addition in a long time.

The evening workout had a lot of promise, Karl was planning 4xmile at 5:00 pace, which was just what I wanted to do. He wasn't ready for the first one, though, and so I did a mile with the group that was planning shorter reps after a first mile. I lead that one exactly, then prepared for life on my own for the rest, because Karl's stomach was not ready to go. I let the 2:25 800 group go ahead, and I followed at a safe distance, running 4:59.

The third one, though, felt a little wobbly, and I cut it after a 2:30 half. Bryan, reeling a bit from his first group workout in quite some time, offered to run with me through half, so we did so, also in 2:30, but a few steps later I was feeling like crud and stopped.

Thursday morning, I awoke to temperatures in the low 60s with scant humidity. I decided to take this opportunity to do a medium long run- a Double Pimmit- a summer evening favorite of mine last year, because it gave me an opportunity to drop water off a 1.5 and get it again at 8, with a trash can at 9. It was an outstanding morning for running, but as I climbed part of Idylwood Road the circumstances conspired against me. The shoulder is pretty limited, so I crossed some grass onto the sidewalk up the hill. A woman ahead of me was walking dogs, so I called ahead to her to let her know I was coming. As I approached, one of the three Maltese dogs darted in front of me, and I lept to avoid it, though it then moved beneath me, so I tried not to land on it, either. Instead, I landed on the edge of my right foot, spraining the ankle, and landing sideways on the sidewalk and grass, then rolling down the hill into the street, which was luckily not occupied by an automobile. The woman repeatedly asked if I was okay and did not accept that I needed to test my ankle to see if I was indeed alright, her stupid little TOWLs barking the whole time. Once I confirmed that the ankle wasn't broken (which she smart-assedly chimed in about), I tried walking, with a bit of pain, but I was unsure if whether I could run.
I limped off to a nearby stump to stretch everything out, and the woman walked up and mentioned that her husband ran on a track, and suggested I do the same. I demurred, telling her my volume running would make the track more unbearable that it already is. She then said I should run on bike trails, and I resisted the urge to tell her what unbearable dicks bicyclists typically are. She then scolded me, telling me sidewalks are for walking, and it kills me that I didn't retort that she should keep her dogs in a dog park. After a while, I was able to jog back home, but I cut off the second loop of the run.

I then ran with Will from Logan Circle that evening, and my ankle felt fine, though sore and weak.

I have no recollection of what I ran Friday morning, something about nine miles. In the afternoon, I did an easy Fisherman's loop, in preparation for pacing a 5k time trial the next morning.

Dickson picked me up at 6:30 and we headed to B-CC. We didn't know who was actually showing up to run, but since we were up, it was worth it to find out. We were joined by Jason Myers, Matt Logan, Dutch Paul and Murph, though Tex, Outlaw, Wiggy and Big City were on hand to watch. I was to take the group through 4k at 5:00 pace, something I had done well for Jake at the Race for Hope. It was in the mid 60s, but humid, and the sun was beating down pretty directly. Murph was shooting for 74s, so I let him go ahead, but I did a solid job with the first mile, coming in a little fast at 4:58. After another lap in 75, though, I was not feeling up to it anymore. Dutch Paul took over and Tex joined the party to help pacing, and I was out. I had never gone from feeling comfortable to being completely overtaxed in such a hurry. Thankfully the Pauls had everything under control, but I felt bad to be unable to pace. Granted the conditions were more adverse than a chilly morning in early May, and I was no longer training for a 5k, but I was still disappointed. The pack broke apart soon after, and I jumped in for a few laps to give Logan someone with whom to work. Murph dropped a lap after I did, and the time trail group was Tex leading Jason, with Dickson a few seconds behind and Logan behind him. Jason was looking strong, though, and came through 5k in 15:43, a big PR and his first sub 16. Meanwhile, I completely died on the cooldown. After a nap, I did a three-mile Fisherman's in 6:00 pace.

I wanted to do a long run Sunday morning, but I feared the humidity would bedevil me for 19 miles, so I repeated the Double Pimmit, with a frozen bottle of berry rain Gatorade waiting for me at mile 8. My shoes were squishing by the middle of the fourth mile, but I knew I wasn't going to break down any barriers by shying away from discomfort. I kept pushing, got my reward drink, and tried to keep pushing toward the end of the run, feeling particularly strong on my two loops of Pinecastle, even when holding a half-full bottle. I ended up averaging 6:49 pace for 13.1 miles.

After a nap and some more time off my feet, I went out for a ridiculously hot six miles on the Seaton loop. I came through three miles at 21:00, and then almost after, I felt a gust of cold wind hit me. I passed a couple of dudes cooking in their yard, listening to Ramble On, a favorite of mine. A few seconds later, all hell broke loose from the sky and rain began pelting me like crazy, and I loved it. My pace dropped ridiculously to 6:00s as I tore through the storm, again not caring that I was drenched and running with figurative sponges in my shoes, I just cared about how I could move ahead efficiently. I logically ended up averaging 6:30s for those six miles.

Monday morning I went out to run for time on the Pimmit Run Creek Trail. I spent about 100 minutes, and ran out to Georgetown Pike. About 35 minutes in, I stepped in some mud, which coated my foot and ankle completely, but I just went about my business.

Tuesday I got to work early and ran to Hains Point for the first time since the By George 5k. Unfortunately, this time there was no wind whatsoever, but seven miles in I ran into Matt Logan, and he accompanied me for a little more than two miles, a godsend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

THERE's your pride

I woke up from a nap and saw that Charles Torpey died. He was to LaSalle University track and cross country coach for years and if you know where that is, it's thanks to him. He made the Explorers an absolute powerhouse in the Atlantic 10 over the past decade. When Richmond joined the conference, LaSalle was bulldozing its way to cross country titles left and right. The meets looked more like scrimmages for the Explorers and although there was a little more parity as the decade went on, Lasalle always made its presence known.

As my collegiate career ended, I wanted to take time to get to know some of our competitors, but when I got right down to it, I only got to know Torp. I watched a few track races with him and a few of his guys and listened to his commentary, which was at once honest, insightful and hilarious. I knew he had, at times, contentious relationships with his rival coaches, and it just so happened of everything I heard about, I ended up supporting his arguments.

The most extensive meeting was at the conference cross country meet in 2008, when I joined Joe DeMatteis and a slew of other coaches at the hotel's bar. Torp regaled us with stories for a few hours, and I came to appreciate what a fine coach and person he was. Not that I needed to know more about what a good coach he was- my buddy Tom chose to run for him after college, and Sean Quigley stuck with him for his professional career. I got to observe the interplay between Torp and Todd Witzleben, one of his star athletes earlier in the decade who was now assisting him at LaSalle, and really appreciated the relationship they had.

The last time I saw him was at the Swarthmore meet, during which I only wanted to catch the LaSalle guy in my 5k heat. I felt like without any Spiders in the race, catching an Explorer was my definition of success because I just respected them so damn much. I told him as much after the race. He told me that his athlete, a freshman, had come into school slower than 10:00 for two miles and had just finished off his season with a big PR. He exuded pride in his young athlete and hope for what he would do in the future.

Whenever discussion of collegiate athletics turns to putting a school on the map, I can unequivocally say Charles Torpey did a fantastic job making LaSalle known the right way, making it an option for a lot of distance runners in their college search it would not otherwise have been, and the Atlantic 10 conference is richer for it.