"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, January 4, 2012

The great runs of 2011, hoping for more in 2012

The year started from very little. One of my telltale signs of how far I had come was just before the end of 2010, when Slosky and I averaged 8:02 for 10.5 miles in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. The 12 days I took off after my throat surgery in December, and the recovery from that surgery, put me back a lot. Before that, though, I had been taking a good amount of time off after the two marathon fiasco, so I really wasn't in shape at all.

I did a pretty good job gradually building my endurance again and was equally thrilled and disappointed to run 15:42 at Richmond in March, but as it turns out that was an honest indicator of what I could do then. I didn't get that much faster in the spring, but I felt stronger. Oddly enough, I probably could have run the fastest at the Race for Hope, had they offered day-of registration for racers, because I felt so loose as I paced Jake through 2.5 miles under 5:00 pace. I never got close to 15 minutes, but enjoyed a few of the races.

This year, more than ever before, I was very aware of what I was capable of doing, either distance-wise or speed-wise, which meant I was a lot more sensitive to whether or not I was ready to race. I definitely felt ready at times and not at others. Whether that awareness held me back at nationals or helped protect me from blowing up completely, I'm not sure.

My best race was either the HCA Virginia 8k or the Freedom's Run Half Marathon, probably the latter because I was just out there hammering in the hills in the wind and rain and I ran about five minutes faster than I had expected.

My worst race was the Great Pumpkin 5k, which I just plain shouldn't have run, given the cold I had suffered the week before, though even had I been healthy, it would have been tough to improve my place. I also wasn't happy with the Great Race, when I failed to fight three guys who passed me in the last mile.

Because I only raced on 5 percent of the days in 2011, the focus of my retrospective should be the days when I wasn't competing, because that's what made up the year.

The absolute best, most memorable run, was in Portland, when I got lost looking for a trail in Forest Park and ran 25 miles. It turned into a race of sorts, with me trying to get back to my hotel in time to shower, change and get to work on time, all without going too hard and breaking down and not making it back at all. As time started getting close when I was on St. Helens, fighting through the rain, I wasn't sure if I would succeed. I never found the water tank I would have used to take the goo I so sorely needed. 

In March, I relished a fast 14 miles on the W&OD Trail in a cold rain. The long run in Richmond after the Spider Relays was solid, considering it was a substitute loop when I found out the Hugenot Road Bridge was closed.

In June, despite the heat, I ran a surprisingly fast 16 miles the day after FD8k, on the Irvin Loop. I was fast through four miles and just kept that going. 

The day before I left for Portland, I had a great longish run on the Pimmit Run Trail, out to Langley. The weather was oddly cool. As much as I enjoyed the trip to Portland, it set me back in terms of my heat acclimation, because I really felt like I had a handle on it before spending a week running in the 50-degree range.

September's long run in Richmond also went really well, despite the humidity. I was shocked at how well it went.

My 21 miles on the Brook loop, by way of Georgetown Pike, one Sunday in October stood out to me, too. I didn't need to do many long runs, but I enjoyed going out there in the cool fall air and cranking it for a few hours. One of the Sleepy Hollow hollow loops I ran was so much fun that I knew I had to be onto something with my training. I actually prefer running that one in the dark, especially on Slade Run and Rose. I need to rename that loop, though- out of 13 miles, only .3 actually follows Sleepy Hollow.

I closed the month out with the 10-mile workout at McLean High School that was just thrilling- despite going a little fast, I was able to comfortably ratchet up the pace five seconds per mile. Back when Steve was  advising me on half marathon-specific workouts, I couldn't imagine going under race pace for some of the long ones, but I somehow did it. I had a lot of good runs on the New Virginia Manor loop- another one that's better at night, but the 13 miles I did before Richmond took the cake.

Despite being in terrible shape, I had a great time at Difficult Run in early December.

The bad runs were the weekend my mom visited in August and I could barely run 40 minutes at Great Falls and from the Line, the long run on the canal when I fell apart with two miles to go, and the run before I passed out in Metro Center. Otherwise, I had fewer bad runs than last year, and when they went bad, I was less frustrated because I tended to stop straining to continue when the elements were so contrary to my abilities.
* * *

After taking last Tuesday off to stay out of freezing rain, I got back to building a base on Wednesday. I met up with Slosky and Maura in Frick Park around noon and we got a solid 50 minutes in before we dropped off Maura. We added a nice chunk in Regent Square before going back on the trails and finishing with a loop in Wilkinsburg.

Thursday I woke up comparatively early to get to Walkers Mill to meet Hanson. I planned to do a warmup and then 10 miles on the Panhandle Trail at 6:00 pace, but after the mile warmup, it was pretty clear talking and taking it easy was more what we wanted to do than push it too much. We turned after five and headed back, averaging 6:40s or so. It was pretty chilly, mid 20s with light flurries.

While in Pittsburgh, I realized that my reference for distances in Mt. Lebanon is warped. While trying to figure out 12 mile loops, I was routinely frustrated by the extra loops I had to add to make it work.

Friday's trip back to DC was postponed, so I went out to Sewickley and ran 13 miles in the hills, this time coming down Camp Meeting Road, which turned out to be so steep it was not enjoyable to descend. I ended up averaging 6:40s.

I slept in Saturday morning and saved my run for when I got back to Virginia- an easy 8.75 George Mason loop. That Powhattan hill gets harder each time. I hit 65 miles that week, pretty good considering my day off on Tuesday. I totaled 4,042 miles for 2011, with 18 days off.

Sunday morning, I met the Fox, Murph and Big City for a 9.5-mile run through Rock Creek Park from the line. I overestimated the cold and had to stash my long-sleeved shirt after three miles.

Monday, I met up with Dickson to drive up to Lake Frank in Montgomery County for a run with the Fox, Diddy, Diddy's buddy Eric and Bain. We only did eight miles, but it was a nice run, mostly trail, with a great soft section on wood chips. That afternoon, I did five at 6:35 pace on the Idylwood Plus loop. I sprained my left ankle near the Lemon Road school, but it only hurts if I stretch it unnaturally far.

Tuesday night featured a struggle to get going after work, but within four minutes of my Oak loop, I had my act together. Shreve Road was a little dicey when headlights were in my eyes, but the dark was fine. The westbound Lee Highway bridge across the beltway is evidently back in business, though not for traffic, so I had the pleasure of not having to cross Lee Highway twice. By the time I reached Oak Street, it was clear I was rolling, and figured I would push it a little bit on the mile eight stretch on the W&OD, which I hit in 5:43. I finished up the 10.1 miles averaging 6:21. For all the hesitation I fought to go out and run in the low 20s, I felt great for the most part.

Tonight I will go up to BCC and get a feel for how fast several efforts feel- easy, a little faster, moderate, medium and hard, each for a mile. 

* * *

In 2012, I will focus on the Pittsburgh Half Marathon again in May and the USATF Cross Country Club championships in December. The spring schedule has become problematic, though. I initially planned to do the Al Lewis 10 Miler this coming weekend, but heard bad things about it, plus it's pretty early. Instead, I will do the Club Challenge 10 miler and run it hard. It's a tough course, evidently, but if I can run 5:25 pace for that, I'll feel pretty good about my training going forward.

In late March and early April, three races I really want to do fall on consecutive days. The Fred Hardy Invitational/Spider Relays 5k is Friday night, the Monument Ave 10k is Saturday morning and the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile is Sunday morning. I really enjoyed Monument Ave in 2010, despite getting over a cold, and would have loved to race it, but it's the third option. Nothing would be as much fun as running a fast 5k on the track, especially at Richmond, and getting in a good long run in the morning, but a 5k doesn't really fit into my racing plans for the spring. Cherry Blossom would be the easiest and makes the most sense in the scheme of my season. I would be very pleased to be able to PR significantly there and take that confidence into the last month before Pittsburgh.

I'll go back to Pittsburgh for Martha's Run, since I've been promising Rick I'd be back for three years. It would be nice to break Cavanaugh's 33:35 record from 2008. If that seems slow, you should check out the course...

I'll do a cross country-heavy fall, with a trip to the Richmond alumni race, hopefully a race at Hampden-Sydney, now that they have their act together, hired a real coach and plan to have a meet in the fall on a new course. I am also hoping at least one trip to a UVA meet will work out. With luck, we should be able to get some runners together for a tuneup race at the cell phone tower field before nationals.

I'll do a pair of road races- the Great Allagany Run 15k in October and the HCA Virginia 8k again in November.

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