"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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Laps on a dark track

The visually-pleasing snow Monday afternoon did not last until I got home and ran because by the time I got out there, a mild freezing rain was falling. I headed out to do an Albemarle, but the wet road reflected a lot of the light on the dark stretch, and it wasn't nearly as eerie as usual. I was pretty tired, too, my cough is back.

I had to work late Tuesday, so I didn't get home to start my run until 8, but when I arrived I saw my new shoes, which were long overdue. They were a little rigid, as was to be expected for the first run in them. I went out and did an Oak, and did a pretty good job of keeping it slow on Oak. When I got to the W&OD, I started hammering, and ended up running 5:05 for mile that I ran in 5:42 the week before

Wednesday was downright miserable, and it started long before I got to the track. The metro trip alone took more than an hour, making me late. Dickson, Shredder, Bogart and Raekwan and I warmed up on the track, but that's rarely a good idea for me, mentally, especially when I have a long track workout ahead of me, I just don't want to see those stupid lane lines more than I have to. My whole body felt like my basic balance wasn't there.

I led the 2ks- 78s and 77s, and generally kept things pretty even, though I was two seconds slow in the second 400 of the first, though I made up for it, and was a second fast for each lap of the second. I did well enough with the first two 1ks, hitting 75s for both, thanks in large part to Dave's superb pacing during the second, but I couldn't stay faster than 5:00 pace on the 2x1k that were supposed to be 73s. In fact, in the fourth, I was struggling to keep my legs cranking within the second 100m, and I dropped at 400, running 75. It reminded me I badly need to get turnover work in, after missing it Monday.

Thursday night's weather was fantastic. I was exhausted when I woke up, so I forgot running to work, but came home eager to run a New Virginia Manor in 50-degree weather. I got out to a pretty fast start- 6:07s for the 2.1 miles to the start of the loop, then I got moving. I honestly didn't feel like I was going that fast until I got to the two-mile mark and I was well under 12:00. I came through 5k in 18:03, then finished my first four-mile loop in 23:36. I took it a little harder in the second loop, was 20 seconds faster through two miles and 5k, but I was starting to feel some intestinal distress. The last mile was pretty rough, the flat parts moreso than the uphills, but I finished loop two in 23:24. I'm lucky McLean residents never realized there was a recession and also didn't stop doing home renovations, because there were plenty of portable toilets all over the place. After taking care of business, I was pretty dizzy, but managed to run home for 13.5 miles.

I felt pretty rough Friday morning when I set out to do a reverse Westmoreland++, and by the time I got to the bottom of Grove, I decided to just do a Fisherman's and just double with a five-mile loop in the afternoon. I felt no better after work, so I took the afternoon off. Instead, I doubled Saturday, with an Idylwood+ in the morning and some moderate miles in the evening, after the Olympic Trials broadcast. I ran out to McLean High School and did 5xmile, three in 5:12, two in 5:11. I kicked a bit on the last 100 of the last two, but otherwise, I was consistent with my pacing, and I was pretty pleased with it all and the 80 miles I tallied for the week.

Sunday morning, Raekwon picked me up and we met at Difficult Run with LTO and Dave, Tex and Shredder, Murph, Dangerous Dave and Yukon Jack. We started out heading out to Leesburg Pike and back, on the way back, I managed to twist both ankles pretty badly. My right ankle was so uncomfortable for a while that I wasn't sure if I could keep going, but within a few minutes I stopped limping and was back at it. We crossed over the washed-out portion and the terrain almost immediately improved. Much like my last trip to Difficult Run, the sky was completely clear and the view from the ridge was magnificent. The falls were raging, thanks to days of snow and rain. We ended up with 14.5 miles, and headed back to my place for brunch. I had a few mimosas while cooking pancakes and omlettes before having my own meal, and by the time I sat down, I was pretty much useless. I took a nap and got an easy Fisherman's loop out of the way before dark.

The next morning, Outlaw came to get me to go back to Difficult Run. We met up with Karl and Hanson, but this time stuck to the Great Falls side. We wandered into Riverbend Park and came back on the Bootlegger Trail and got in 11 and change. The falls were once again fantastic, Outlaw got a kick out of the pole marking the river's high water points. Two days in a row running there was pretty fantastic.

Thursday night was wonderfully warm, close to 60, and I felt loose when I headed to McLean High School for another workout in the dark. Since the Spiders were coming up to GW the next night, I moved the GRC workout up a day- 8x800. Given the trouble I had sustaining high speeds with a group last week, I took it easy to start off- 2x2:34, but I was eager to get going, because the next two, 2:30, 2:31, just kind of happened. The next, 2:30, was problematic because I felt my efficient digestive system once again get the best of me, and McLean's bathrooms were inside the school, there entrance to which was a quarter mile away. After that resolution, I hit 2:29, then resolved things, again. Then 2:27, 2:26. The 2:29 went particularly well, because I was at 77 at the quarter, and kicked like crazy. That workout was the first time I noticed any troublesome wind in 2012, but I typically pushed through it pretty well. I finished my last lap with a 71, which pleased me. I knew, however, that some remedial turnover work was going to be necessary, because I didn't trust myself to run under 5:00 pace consistently for the whole workout, though I knew after my third 800 I could do so.

The next morning I ran to work, something that seems to always promise a good time, but ends up being miserable. I got going pretty fast, clocking myself at 6:10s for a few of the half miles on the W&OD. I eased up when I got to the Custis Trail. The cyclists weren't too bad, though they were pretty constant, toward the end. When I passed the Kennedy Center, more than 10 miles in, I felt like I had been running forever. I ended up getting to work after 1:26, for the 13 mile trip.

Thursday morning, I got up at 6 to meet Hulk Logan at Galaudet for my badly-needed turnover work. It was about 20 degrees when I woke up, which usually isn't too bad, except that I encountered it after about 6.5 hours of being almost completely still. The metro had not yet warmed, so the trip into the city was rough. So, too, was the reception at Metro Center- a delay on the red line that put the next trail 13 minutes away. I wanted to get a long warmup before turning it over, so I walked to the office, suffered through a quarter mile on the treadmill, then headed out to the track at the quietest football stadium around. Hulk showed up and we got to work on some 400s, four, then six 300s and seven 200s. None were extraordinarily fast, we got down to 31 for two of the 200s, but it did the job- got me used to moving my legs that fast again. I subtly moved from moving a little faster than I thought I could sustain to cranking it in the middle 100 of a few of the 2s. It's a foundation from which I can build some speed and resistance to self-doubt and weakness.

With my Friday run planned for the morning, I will get four of my five weekday runs done in the morning, not a bad record for a chilly week in January.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Too fast

I hoped to get a lot of sleep Friday night, but had trouble actually getting to sleep, so I pretty much jut got a little less than eight hours. In the morning, I ran an Ernst loop with Sam , with Murph and Billy along for the first stretch. I was pretty dehydrated, and was definitely not comfortable when climbing Loughboro, but I stuck pretty close to Sam most of the time. I was relieved when it was over, though. He wanted to go two hours and I was fine with 80 minutes, so I turned back after we got back on the towpath.

Sunday I had planned to do an easy long run on the Irvin loop, but I apparently don't know how to do that. I thought I was close to 7:00 for the first mile, but it was a little different than my usual first mile via the metro park and ride lot, so I wasn't quite sure. I felt like I was keeping it loose, though I had an idea I was a little ahead of schedule about six miles in. I definitely slowed climbing Creek Crossing , but still came through 10 miles in 1:04:44, a little under 6:30 pace. I slowed even more on Westbriar Ct, but sped up a bit down the hill. When I got to Wolftrap, I just kept going and figured I'd better finish what I had started. I got pretty aggressive on Oak and was rolling on Providence. I had to dodge a little traffic on Idlywood, but cruised down Barbour and finished hard up Haycock to hit 1:42:08 for a 6:23 average over 16 miles. I really didn't plan on it being so fast, so perhaps I won't do hills in the morning.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back at it

Aside from the quick mile toward the end of my run Tuesday, I hadn't pushed it since nationals, and probably hadn't run under 6:00. I headed up to BCC to do just that Wednesday and figure out exactly where I am in terms of my speed. I ran a few miles at different efforts and let the watch tell me afterward how fast each was.
Running easily, so that I could handle the bulk of a conversation, ended up being 5:52. Moderate, a pace I felt I could handle for an undetermined, but long, amount of time ended up being 5:35. Cranking it, which I defined as running hard but at a pace I could sustain a while, was 5:19, and running hard was 5:08. I was very happy with how the first three turned out, but I would have been happier to be closer to 5:00 for the hard mile. I was wearing trainers, so obviously that affected my turnover, but my legs felt pretty darned heavy. I should start quarters again soon and get my legs moving again, maybe some hills.

I had planned to meet up with a gang Thursday morning at 7 to run, so I was a bit flustered to wake up at 8... That meant running in the dark again that evening, which I did with a double Independence. The temperature had hit the mid 40s, so I was feeling pretty comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. After the usual traffic snarls as I got away from the Hill, I got rolling- 18:34 at three miles, and when I got to Hains Point, I took a couple of splits based on the MCM markers- 5:47 on the west side, 5:52 on the east, not too bad. I finished up 11.5 miles in 1:10 on the dot- 6:05 average, not bad for a few traffic stops, though I hit 14th street on the way back.  I was a little surprised at how fast I went.

Friday morning I balked at getting up to run, but ultimately succeeded and did a reverse Westmoreland. I started out a little fast- 13:00 for the first two miles, but then cooling off and averaging 6:48 for the 8.1.

I got a bit of good news when Bob Shooer confirmed Martha's Run for April 14, rather than the 7th. Having an extra week between that and Cherry Blossom will be huge, especially now that Marco is running it, too. He'll be bringing years of running on Pittsburgh's hills with him, and that's a course more than any where hill running acumen will make a big difference. If anything will take my form to a new level, it will be that course. McLean and northern Arlington are hilly, they're not "Lebo-rough hilly," though.

I'm closing in on 75 miles this week, and feeling good for most of it. Keeping my Sunday run slow will be a big test of discipline, and will be harder than running it fast, frankly.

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.