"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Friday, September 30, 2011

Off to western Maryland

I'm in for some lonely running tomorrow, and this time I won't have the crowd support the Great Race offered. The weather looks great for the Freedom's Run Half Marathon tomorrow.

I've gotten a flurry of e-mail from the organizers, including one which links to several news articles and personal blog posts about the race. All remark on its beauty and historic setting--several miles run through the Antietam battlefield, but also on the relatively solitary setting for the race. Aside from the volunteers at aid stations, I don't expect to see anyone for most of the race. The marathoners will be headed for the same turn toward the park I will, from the opposite direction, but I won't see any of them.

I don't know if I'll PR, chances are I won't, because it's not really that kind of course.
It's half hilly, but most of the bloggers who ran it seem floored by the hills. That said, most of them are also hovering around the four-hour mark for the marathon, so our opinions of a 'difficult' hill may differ.

Pretty much, my race plan is to run the first few miles, mostly on the towpath, pretty quickly, then dig in for the uphills. There's a sharp, long uphill in mile four, then a downhil before a few more climbs, then some rolling hills in miles 6-9 before another uphill. At that point, I hope to just be in a rhythm I can relish. The last 2.5 miles are consistently downhill, and I plan to go all out at that point.

I wanted to do a rural half in the middle of the fall season, and the other main option was the Buffalo Creek Half near Pittsburgh, more specifically, near Tarentum. Once the variety of local government officials in Buffalo Township and Freeport found out I was a runner, they encouraged me to run that race. I would love to, someday, but it's heavily downhill, and I worried that with that faster course was the chance I would run a time I wouldn't have a chance of eclipsing at Philadelphia, despite another month of training and a taper.

The Great Allegany 15k is the same day in Cumberland, and I would like to run that, too, but doing the half just makes more sense right now. It looks like I'll be running the Towpath Marathon near Cleveland next fall with Pokey, Nate and Evan, so I will be able to fit the Allegany Run in the weekend before.

Wednesday night I ran at B-CC, trying to get the life back in my legs after the Great Race. I joined a bunch of guys for a slowed-down B group workout, starting with miles at 5:30 and 5:15 before some 800s, but halfway through I decided to do a series of miles, starting at 5:40 and working my way down. Unfortunately, the quick start on the 5:30 mile meant it would be hard to slow down properly, so I finished in 5:31. Then 5:30, 5:15 and 5:15 and called it a day. With a longer cooldown I had 10.

Thursday morning I ran a sedate five miles on an extended Idylwood, then eight in the evening on Westmoreland, feeling great with the lower temperature and humidity.

Friday's pre-race was six miles on a Park loop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lonely in a crowd of 9,000

I don't even remember where I ran on Wednesday- I think a Woodley in the morning, something from my barbershop -- where I failed to get a haircut -- in the evening, for 16.5. Thanks to backloading my mileage the prior week and frontloading it this week, from Thursday to Wednesday I ran 120.5, so I cut the next few days' mileage so I could recover a little for the Great Race.

I slept in Thursday morning, then finally got that haircut in the afternoon. I warmed up back to my place then did a 10-10-10 p-word run on my usual loop. It was really humid, and the little bits of hair from the barbershop were spreading all over my body, thanks to the sweat. I was a little fast for the first mile- maybe 5:54, and about 30 seconds ahead of schedule at 1.6 miles. I was right on for the first mile of the 5:45 segment, but fast overall, 5 seconds perhaps. I was slow for the 5:00 chunk- 2:33 at the first measured half and 5:07 for the measured mile, but felt okay. It was pretty uncomfortable, but given how much I had run the week before, I felt alright.

The next morning, I set out to do an easy Oak loop, but the humidity made me feel like garbage a little more than two miles in, so I went a little more, turned onto the W&OD and ran home for 5.

The next morning, in Pittsburgh, I did my pre-race 5 on the Schenley Park course.

When I woke up, my room felt cool, so I had a good feeling about the Great Race. When my mom and I left the house, though, the air didn't feel quite as light, and it was warming up quickly. We didn't have to wait as long as we feared for a bus ride to the start.

I warmed up to the first mile and back, seeing Jason Baim and Brian Romine along the way.
The gun went off quickly, thankfully giving me little time to tense up on the starting line. The hoi polloi cleared out relatively quickly and the pack was pretty well set before we turned onto Forbes and I heard the first few people yelling for me. Outlaw, Luff and Hanson were all up in the front, with Steve Strelick up there looking tall and Brandon G by my side. I heard and saw Scott Rosenblum and Sarah Ordaz near St. Edmund's. The leaders went through the mile in 5:10, I was a second behind, pretty much right on pace. The lead pack pulled away up the hill shortly after the mile mark, but heading down, I wasn't sure if the three guys in the chase pack with me, including Greg, were going to be running the way I wanted, so I put in a surge to catch up to the end of the lead pack. They kept accelerating when they hit CMU, and I noticed Outlaw start to fall off. I hit the second mile in 4:55, a few seconds behind the leaders, but a world away. As I turned onto Fifth Avenue, I already felt like I was done and saw black spots on the bottom parts of my eyes. Well, if I passed out, at least someone would see me...

I passed Outlaw near Central Catholic but he didn't go with me. Then I heard Gillian off to the right, a very enthusiastic pick-me-up. I hit that third mile in 5:25, about15-20 seconds slower than I wanted. I was hoping to go through 5k in 15:45 and go from there, but I forgot how difficult running alone on Fifth Avenue, especially in the sun, was. Jen Taylor, of all people, was on the curb cheering, too. I saw a dude in orange ahead of me, and kept myself going to catch him with a bit left to go in the fourth mile. I hit 5:03, giving me a 20:36 split, right on pace to break 32, which was my moderate goal.

The fifth mile is always the worst for me. Almost every time I have run the Great Race, I've
been alone in the fifth mile. In 2007 I had Cavanaugh with me, but even then I split 6:00 for it. This year, Beth Shutt was riding along the course and shouting to me, but I felt like I was plodding. All I had to focus on was Hanson in the distance, also struggling alone. I feared a bit better than before -- 5:38, and came through five miles matching my PR for the distance- 26:15. After that, though, it was ugly. A minute later, Greg, the guy in orange I had passed a while ago, and some other dude passed me in a pack as yet another person I didn't recognize yelled to me. The downhill on Boulevard of the Allies did me no favors, and I knew I was unlikely to match the 4:53 I had once run for it. Matt, Shafer and Jo all cheered on Fort Pitt Boulevard, but so was some yinzer who yelled, "Get up with them! Don't run alone!" His insight into the dynamics of distance running sadly lacked the pragmatism of how I would suddenly get about 100 yards ahead. I ran 5:14 for my last mile and 1:07 for the .2 -- terrible -- to finish 10th in 32:36.

On one hand, it was just 9 seconds slower than my PR, and I rarely run 10ks. I ran almost 140 miles in the 10 days prior to the race. It was 70 degrees in the middle of the race and a slight tailwind was just enough to keep a runner's body heat moving with him, so there wasn't much relief there, though at least it wasn't a headwind in mile 5. When I ran faster in 2007, the weather was ideal. A lot of people complained about the heat and humidity, so I know I wasn't alone in feeling their effects.

I also ran alone for the last four miles, which seems more and more ridiculous. I wound up in that situation because I wanted to run a conservative first half, but I wasn't competitive on my own in the second half. Might I have done better if I had stuck with the lead pack, gone out faster and at least had people with whom to run? Maybe if I had more confidence in my ability to hold up? A few days later, I realize I definitely should have stuck with the lead pack and seen what I could do. This three-week racing segment is supposed to be a test for what I can do without the late-season taper, and taking a chance like that is exactly what I should have done.

But those excuses don't make up for a lack of discipline and ability to keep my pace when I needed to do so. My third and sixth miles were troubling. I didn't take any chances by pushing myself in the third mile. My goals coming in were to run faster than 31:30 on a great day, under 32:00 on a decent day and under 32:27 on an acceptable day, and I didn't accomplish any of them. I did match my five mile PR, but that was eight years old, and I barely run fives.

Using the Great Race as a benchmark, I am a little short of the shape I was in during the latter half of 2007, definitely my best year. That said, I don't feel like it- part of it might have been the humidity, but I am not as competent running hard on my own.

I did get to run in the last mile with my mom, which was fantastic. She also didn't feel good about her race, though with all the people she had to dodge in the first few miles, I'm sure it didn't even feel like a race for a lot of the course.

That evening I ran 9.25 around Mt. Lebanon, feeling pretty wrecked by seven miles in and definitely dehydrated. That place is a lot hillier than I appreciated when I was running there every day...

The next morning, after a doctor's appointment, I ran in Frick, starting at the Biddle parking lot, wrapping around to the start of the Braddock Trail, down to the Nine Mile Run trail, up the Tranquil Trail and my usual two loops near the lawn bowling courts. I got to the bottom of the Falls Ravine Trail and stopped, with no interest in continuing, but having gotten in 6.5 miles. After a trip back to DC with Sam that was a veritable GRC Heritage Trail (we passed the Wiggy's Mom birthplace in Hopwood, Pa., the Towpath Birthplace in Cumberland and the Towpatch Conception Point Monument in the Shady Grove metro parking lot) I ran another 6 on the Seaton loop.

Wednesday morning, I am still wrecked from the race. My quads, especially, are heavy and don't respond when I want them to do something. My back is stiff and my head is pounding. Even my hands hurt. It's like someone beat me up while I was recovering from the flu. I just want to sleep. I got home and started to run the Double Pimmit, but eight miles in I was feeling poor, so I stumbled back home, and ate a most of a rotisserie chicken for dinner. I slept in the next morning, thanks in large part to a heavy morning rain that relaxed me so much that I just waited for my alarm to stop.

The weather is looking good for the Freedom's Run Half this weekend in West Virginia and Maryland. With a low of around 48 Friday night, I should hopefully have the tools with which to have a good race. It's a hilly course in miles 4-9, but that leaves seven miles that are fast. If I take the quick splits when I can get them and stay focused when it's rough, I can come out with a good race. The last three miles, especially, are consistently downhill, I want to take advantage of that and cross the line kicking, not sputtering. What I would like, ideally, is an opportunity to get in a rhythm that embraces an undulating, rural course and enjoy the uphills and much as the downhills. I see, at least in my imagination, a similarity to my Hickory Hill loop in Hanover County, Va, in both the weather and topography.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

He was night running, just running at night...with the 15-year-old daughter of the dean...

We finally had a crowd for the store run Saturday morning- the Fox, Terrible Terry, Big City, Luff Daddy, Rod, the Powerbar dude, Wilson the Lecturer and Wardian. The latter two turned back after a few miles, but the rest went out and back 30 minutes each way, then a few went on for more. I was tired, and fine with stopping short of nine miles. A nice run.

That afternoon, I did a loop in Bethesda from Nora's- up Old Georgetown to Greentree, out to Burning Tree and back on Bradley, just about 6:50 pace. Very pleasant.

Sunday morning, I had my first half-marathon-themed workout planned -- a long "p-word" run.
My plan was this- three miles slow, maybe 7:30 pace, three at 6:30, three at 6:00, three at 5:45 and then three Greenwich miles at 5:20. The loop would take me on rolling hills through McLean outside of the beltway and back.

The first three miles went by in 20:40- just under 7:00 pace, and much faster than I had expected or even felt. As I headed off on Chain Bridge Road to start my first segment, I felt like I was taking it easy, so I was shocked to see myself hit the first mile in 5:45. I slowed it down a little bit on Dolley Madison, but when I got onto Old Dominion things just got a little fast again. I came through the second three miles at 18:15- 6:05s. When I turned onto Spring Hill, I realized just how uphill it was and how wrong the elevation profile was on mapmyrun.com, and I started pushing. I hit the end of the third segment at 17:45- only five seconds fast per mile, but fast nonetheless, and I would eventually have to pay the fiddler for my transgressions.

The fourth segment ended up being right on- 17:15- but in the middle, I dealt with cluttered sidewalks, jumping over barriers, dodging a car that ran a stop sign with the driver not looking and subsequently performing pantomime outrage-fueled gesticulations at the driver for having been so careless. The uphill back to Dolley Madison was a little tough, but somehow the timing worked out that I didn't need to stop at the major intersections, a simple gift but significant. My right sock sagged a lot and I developed a blister on top of my right achilles tendon.

For the most part, I didn't feel like I was working that hard. I certainly didn't feel like I was running as fast as I was, and maybe that's how it got hazardous. When I got the the Greenwich Mile, I was pretty tired, and when I jogged over to the start and wrung out the sweat from my shirt, I noticed that my bellybutton was saturated in blood, for some reason I never determined. I started a quarter mile into my usual Greenwich loop, which gave me a significant downhill in the first quarter this time, which I passed in 70 seconds. I'm not sure where I found the speed for that, but once again I ruined the workout by going to hard, too early. The next 400 was uphill, and i came through the half in 2:32, three quarters in 3:55, and a mile in 5:28. I felt no need or push to go on.

In the evening, I did an easy six on the Seaton loop around 6:45 pace.

Monday I did a relatively easy 13 miles on the New Virginia Manor loop, with darkness spreading six miles in. It's a great loop to run at night- barely any traffic, good roads, and time to focus on the feeling that comes with a good distance run. No watch.

Tuesday morning was eight plus on a Westmoreland loop. I thought about cutting it short at 6.5, but kept going. It rained lightly, but it wasn't a hassle. No watch.

That evening, I biked over to McLean High School and did my warmup loops, finishing at 8. A thick fog rose from the field and covered the track, obscuring the three or so joggers doing laps. No lights, aside from a single bulb above the door along the 300m mark. Every now and then a car would head toward the track on Westbury, illuminating the fog on the back stretch and blinding me. I didn't mind because I could barely see if there were no lights at all. After a while, I was the only one out there, so with that came the security of knowing I wasn't going to run into anybody. I forgot how big the track was for a while and just ran. 3:05, 3:04, 3:04, 3:04, 3:04, 3:06, 3:04, a false start, then 3:03. They weren't impressive times, but I ran pretty consistently. When I dropped the last 200 of the sixth, I came back and ran a little fast for the last two, almost hitting 3:02 for the last on the virtue of the last 200. To run it that consistently on my own, too, was encouraging.

Wednesday morning was just 8.5 miles on a Woodley loop- it had been a while since I hadn't included the Presidents' loop portion. 6:49 pace.

Friday, September 16, 2011

First day off in three months

I took Monday off, my first day off since June 12, and even though I felt like I was putting a perfectly good day to waste -- it was in the low 80s and much drier than the night before -- I really didn't have the motivation to go out. I hope by not forcing it I gave myself time to physically and mentally recover.

Tuesday morning I almost let that malaise continue, but I forced myself to step out onto my porch to see just how nice the weather was. About 62 degrees. I'd be an idiot not to run, so I did- 6:30 for 10.3 miles on an extended Oak loop. Thirsty, of course, but better than most times I have run that loop--I have usually had enough when I cross over 66 on Virginia.

That afternoon I planned to go out and run an easy seven miles on a new loop, but missed a turn and ended up going nine. It was refreshing, though- close to 80 degrees, the sun setting in the middle of the run, hills everywhere. If I didn't have a workout the next day, I could have kept going. I had never run on the segment of Powhatan between Kirby and Orland and good God, it's steep. Rock Spring Park was also new to me and although it was short, it was pleasant.

I slept in again on Wednesday and was, again, feeling pretty cruddy on my way to practice- it was much muggier than usual. I decided to forgo the 800 workout to do 400s with Tex- he planned to do 20 with 35 seconds recovery, which at some point was communicated to me at 30 seconds recovery. I led the first two, 70.00 and 69, he led two more, 69,69, and as we started the fifth I realized these half minute breaks were not doing it for me, so I started alternating the quarters to give Tex a break from going alone. I ran six more in 69 until he had enough, then joined some guys doing 800s for their first lap (66) and then did a 66 on my own. It ended up not being a terribly long workout, but I needed turnover and I think I got a good handle on it there.

I had a much improved Thursday morning from last week. I did the same first seven or so miles as before- Williamsburg and Military Road to the trail and up to Marymount, but this time I took George Mason to Lee Highway and back to Great Falls. I also took a squeeze bottle with me and drank a little bit throughout. Also, no passing out on the way to work. I did an easy 6 after work on the Seaton loop in weather that was perfect for distance running- chilly enough that I had to keep moving to stay warm. This is the kind of weather in which I feel like I can competently run.

I planned to do the 6x mile workout Friday morning that I had been unable to finish last week, thanks to my breathing episode. I reserved a Zipcar a three minute walk from my apartment for 5:30, which would give me time to drive to McLean High School's track with my flats and water and warm up in time to start the workout at 6, which I could finish and cool down for by 7:15, then get the car back by 7:30. I woke up at 5 to drink some water and get my bearings before the workout, and headed out. I saw no car. I waited a while, nobody showed up with it. I went back to my apartment to ascertain what happened, and after calling the support line, it appeared a Zipcar employee took the cars to be cleaned or something, and just never put them back. Even if they had a car there, I wouldn't have had time to do my workout before heading to the office, so I gave up there. With 45 minutes of being awake under my belt, I was hard pressed to be able to fall asleep again, so I went out and ran a Park Plus for a morning 7- not the way I wanted to split the mileage today, I was hoping to be able to relax after work.

For the workout, I ended up going to the Gallaudette track, not far from my office, which Breezy recommended. Unfortunately the football team was practicing, so I would have to deal with obstacles on lane one and carpets spanning the track in three places. Luckily, the team moved most of the crud off of the first lane and was happy to let me coexist there. A few guys even called out arbitrary splits as I ran by.

The workout itself did not go too well. I didn't have a good handle on my pace early and opened with a 70, about seven seconds fast for the first lap, and I was expecting to be 10 seconds slower-- a reversal of the impeccable internal clock I had recently. I slowed down, but still ended up running 5:03. The next one went a bit better, opening in 2:30 and finishing in 5:02. During the third, the 5:00 mile, two players started rolling up one of the carpets on the far stretch, so I swung into lane 5 to avoid them, which worked, but tired me out. I ended up running 4:59 but feeling in control.

The fourth, however, was just a disaster. I lost whatever sense of pace I had, came through the 200 in 35 when I thought I was going to be slow, and I just called it off. This was a situation where I really could have used some help pacing, but at the same time, I had been up for 12.5 hours by this point and felt like it. I did a long cool down, to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and up to Brookland and back, and I was depleted when I finished that. After I showered, I felt like doing nothing but sitting at my desk in my office, at 7:30 on a Friday evening.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rough few days

I slept in Wednesday morning and spent most of the day watching heavy rain fall. The workout that night, 6xmile, was exactly what I had wanted to do for several weeks, but the weather was not looking good. On top of that, I had been having trouble breathing for the past week and a half. I noticed the previous Monday night, while reading in bed, that I didn't feel as though I was getting enough air when I breathed, despite deep breaths. The air didn't have the same fulfilling effect, like when I was struggling in at the end of the towpath long run a few weeks ago. I wondered if I would stop breathing while I was asleep and suffocate, which just mad me more anxious. I somehow survived the next eight days, running workouts and races with no ill effects. But I was still worried.

The workout started well. The rain stopped in advance and I felt okay in the warmup, and the first few miles were delightful- 5:08, 5:03, 5:00. I led the second almost perfectly, just a little fast for the last lap, and feeling like I could go at 5:04 pace all day. Within 200 meters of the 4:56 mile, though, I felt myself unable to get a satisfying breath. I once again did not suffocate to death, but I felt like I was on the brink. I also had a good amount of gastrointestinal distress before the first one, after the second one and when I was cooling down.

I did a Marymount loop Thursday morning, recalling the last time I did it, I listened to Very Tough Love, one of the better This American Life episodes I've heard recently. I was struggling in the humidity again, stopping at the top of the trail and a few times in the 11th mile. It was rough, I tell you. Then, on the way to work, I got up from my seat on the metro and rushed up the escalator at Metro Center. I just missed the red line train, and I had five minutes to wait until the next train. It was incredibly stuffy in there, and I started feeling weak. I looked over and saw I still had five minutes to wait and wondered if I could make it. Then I heard very loud noises and saw nothing. I opened my eyes and saw people everywhere looking down at me. I had evidently passed out, and realized I was soaked with sweat. I took off my windbreaker and instantly felt better, drank some water and felt better still. Chalked it up to my low heart rate and heat exhaustion, with which my cardiologist concurred, and felt better pretty quickly, back to normal by lunch.

I got home in time to run in a gnarly storm- 6 miles on the Seaton loop, sometimes going through ankle-deep water, averaging 6:29s. It eased up toward the end, but the most memorable scene from that run was water rushing across the W&OD trail between Grove and West.

Friday morning I did an easy Scott's Run for 11 miles, stopping a few times in the last mile. Still ridiculously humid. I saw my pulmonologist, and I had forgotten how at ease he was. He said it was hyperventilation syndrome. I'm getting plenty of oxygen, I just need to stop worrying about it.

Saturday morning was a big improvement- sun and a slight breeze to move around the damp air. Witty, Breezy and a dude named Rod joined me at the store for a Dalecarlia loop. Breezy left us for the trails before he could enjoy the fruits of our uphill running, and I think I pushed a little hard on the parkway hills, but it was all good. We ended up averaging 6:40s and I discovered Rod was a Hampden-Sydney alumnus, so we had some good laughs about times The Hill.

That afternoon, I wound around the corridor between Great Falls and Westmoreland for 4.5 miles to total 100 for the week.

Sunday morning, I did a punctuated Westmoreland for 6.5 miles, then in the afternoon biked to McLean High School for a workout. I planned to do 20 minutes at 5:30 pace, eight minutes easy and 20 more minutes at 5:20 pace. I was a little fast for the first segment-5:25, 5:29, 5:25 and change, and was pretty darned thirsty. An asian family was all over the place, including a guy I call YF2k55, and his grandson kept cheering from the stands as I ran by, which was kind of nice. The second segment was not so smooth- I hit my first mile in 5:23 and was done- lightheaded and thirsty. My cooldown involved a jog to a 7-11 on Chain Bridge Road where I purchased a pair of Gatorades and drained one before getting back to the track. Yep, I was pretty thirsty. It was a rough workout to try on my own, but I think having the constant feedback from the track made up for that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seven years as a Spider alumnus

Monday afternoon I ran a Presidents' Loop, pretty exhausted from waking up at 5, and achy from the bus ride back from Pittsburgh. I averaged 6:45s.

Tuesday morning I did a Fairview Loop in the morning, having some trouble with dehydration around mile seven despite temperatures in the low 60s, and three miles in Kent Gardens Park in the afternoon.

Wednesday, I slept in and skipped my morning run to contritue to my recovery week by getting more rest and focused on the workout- 2x mile and 6x800. I once again felt faint during the warmup, extremely so when crossing East West Highway, but things got better. We ran 5:06 and 5:02- two seconds fast for each, but the 800s were not as easy. Someone, I am not sure who, paced the first (2:24) ridiculously poorly, and we came through the 400 in 70, then finishing in 2:27. The second was better- 2:25. I took the next two and ran 2:22s evenly, which pleased me, and I felt fantastic. The leaders took us out too hard for the 2:20s- our 200s at 33, and I stopped at the 400 with a 69. I took a break and ran the last one, way behind the group- they went out in 66 and I cautiously in 69, finishing in 2:21. Big City ran with me when I did another 400- 66. I was happy with how the workout went, aside from the pacing fiasco. With the humidity dropping lately, I've been able to keep myself together later in workouts and feel a lot better.

Thursday I wanted to explore the downstream portion of the Pimmit Run Trail, so I ran up Kirby to the Marie Butler Leven Preserve and sought to pick up the trail there. I found it, but lost the trail when I came to a neighborhood. I realize where I went wrong, and should be able to find it next time. In the meantime, I did a few laps of the grassy loop at the preserve, then headed into Dominion Hills and caught the upstream portion of the trail. Aside from one downed tree in the second segment, the trail was clear after Hurricane Irene.

Friday morning I did an easy 4.25 mile Idylwood loop.

Saturday brought the most meaningful race of the year--the Spider alumni cross country race. I still feel fortunate, nine years later, to be able to participate in the race. In 2002, I was reeling from two weeks of getting my ass kicked one way from the cruel Virginian summer and the other from my first Division I practices, after a year off following a Division III season that is better forgotten.

When I transferred to Richmond the previous semester, I wasn't eligible, nor was it reasonable for me to expect to join the track team without having run cross country the semester before. As I gradually met the Spiders, thanks to gracious introductions from Ruth, Emily and Angry, I joined them for afternoon runs when I could, but joining runners for their supplemental work served only to give me an abstract idea what the program had come to expect, I had no idea how hard they ran on a daily basis in real workouts. Though I had run cross country at Hampden-Sydney, from day one I was minutes ahead of the rest of the team for regular distance runs, let alone races, so for all intents and purposes, I hadn't run on a strong team since high school track 28 months earlier, and I was out of the sport, as far as real competition was concerned, for almost two years.

When I arrived on campus in August for cross country, a little bit of me died every day, as I finished farther back in every workout as the alumni race -- then just a 5k time trial because we had yet to build an alumni base -- approached. I figured I had a few days until I finished dead last and was subsequently booted from the team. Lauder said later he thought I'd be cut. Somehow I pulled out a fifth place finish and a four-second PR, striving to catch Rhue toward the end of the second mile before I dropped back. In doing so, I managed to finish ahead of five guys who were already on the team. I still remember the day the results went up on the website, my "open" affiliation evidence of my provisional status with the team, but proof that I could hang with them and serving as the best validation of my running career to that point. Four days later, Steve told me he wanted me running for the team at the UVA meet the next week, and I started on the road that would lead me to a lot more of these Spider Alumni 5k races. The relief that I felt that afternoon at the Athletic Director's picnic has been unmatchable, even with my best races since. It changed my whole identity as a runner and oriented me where I am today.

The race moved from Bandy Field (my favorite) to athletic fields owned by St. Catherine's and the Collegiate schools. These days, a new softball stadium at the St. Catherine's fields means we're pretty much never going back there for the alumni race, and I'm not terribly disappointed. The sprinklers seemed to always turn off five minutes before the start, which exacerbates the amount of fluid built up in my shoes. I hadn't run the course at Collegiate before. Our competitive ranks were thin on the Alumni side- Ciccarelli still hobbled from the Little Rock Marathon years before, Lauder now quite relaxed about his running, Watson holding together his hamstring with scotch tape, Molz and Benford in West Virginia for the Charleston Distance Run, Llano convalescing from a car accident a week before, Quinn teaching the leaders of the future in Colorado and Jonny somewhere on I-95 between Richmond and Maine. Seann is still getting after it, but an ankle sprain two weeks before left him severely hobbled. The whistle squeaked and I stuck back in the pack, just trying to get an idea where the course went, because it was all new to me. Most of it was on very short playing field grass that was not saturated with water, which alone made it faster than St. Catherine's. It also seemed to have fewer turns, though there were patches where the ground was uneven, a stark difference to the smooth trails and road on which I run, and it reminded me how soft I have gotten. Skipper and York and Connor and Adam had pulled away within the first mile, and I was dropping back. As we got to the mile mark, a fellow who shall remain unnamed called out 4:25! 4:26! 4:27! I freaked out until I looked at my watch- I came through the mile in 4:49, the bloke had just missed the start.

I spent the next mile struggling and lagging behind a William and Mary guy.As I neared the end of the second mile, Steve was waiting near a tree. "Get green" he whispered. The WM guy was about 30 yards ahead, and I figured, why not? I came through mile 2 in 5:08 high, then set to work reeling in my target. I had him less than halfway into the third mile, and I charged up the one significant hill on the loop to try to shake him, but I felt him on my tail. As I closed in on the last stretches to the finish, Barkhuff was waiting on the second-to-last field, screaming for me. I managed to hold off the WM dude, plus a pair of Richmond freshmen to finish my third mile in 5:10 and the race in 15:46. I cooled down with the other alumni and did a little extra to get me to 90 for the week. I did some mild uphill running that evening.

I woke up well before 7 Sunday morning for my long run. Seann, Lauder and Z were planning to start at 9 to do about 40 minutes, so I wanted to get at least 90 in before that. I ran to and through campus to Panorama Drive, over the Hugenot Road Bridge and onto Riverside Drive, left toward Hickory and Cherokee for some rolling hills. There isn't much of a shoulder on Cherokee, but traffic was light. I wore a shirt for this part of the run so I could grab a Gatorade at the 7-11 on Hathaway, then headed to Stratford Hills. I cut a few miles from the Riverside Drive portion to ensure I would be back in time to meet the other guys, but climbing and descending Rockfalls was great, as always, especially the portion down Menokin. I jumped back onto the bridge to head over the James River and onto Westham Station, once a favored stretch of quiet shady road, which has since been transformed to a staging zone to build a new bridge over the river. The trees are largely gone now. I barely remember climbing the hill to Westham Parkway. Then I headed back to campus for 14 miles in 90 minutes.
Seann decided on Roslyn, one of my favorite loops, though we only got to Higginbotham before we turned around. I ended with 20 miles in 2:10, and though the last two miles were pretty lagging compared to what I was running earlier, it was great to be with my old teammates.

Monday morning I ran out intending to do a reverse Scott's Run, but I made a last-minute turn onto the Pimmit Run Trail, ran out to the Potomac School and back for an easy 85 minutes.

Tuesday morning was a sedate out-and-back 10 miles to Vienna at 6:42 pace, then 4.25 miles at 6:30 pace on an Idylwood loop in the afternoon.