"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, March 29, 2012

It doesn't get better than this

I worked a little late Tuesday night and didn't have much sunlight left to hit the Pimmit Run trail for an hour, so I took it as far as I could- out to Bryan Branch, then back via Old Dominion and New Virginia Manor for 10 miles at about 7:00 pace.

Wednesday I had my ritual steak and eggs breakfast in advance of the evening's workout, which I had high hopes for- 5xmile starting at 5:15 and speeding up five seconds from there. When we got back from our warmup, the high school meet on the track was still raging, so we had to look at our options. We decided on the Capital Crescent Trail, which had half mile markers and a one-mile stretch between Connecticut Ave and the tunnel. The drawback is that heading north means going downhill and south is back uphill.
We started out downhill and finished in 5:08- I started a little late and caught up. It seemed too easy. The second was 5:11, but it was tough. The third was 4:58 and easy again, but the fourth was a struggle. I went out in 2:32, but fell back over the second half when my turnover wasn't quite there and finished in 5:17. By then it was pretty dark, and I spent enough time worrying about whether I would trip in the myriad of ditches and holes in the trail, so I retired to the track, which was just about to clear. That fourth mile busted me, though. I started to do some miles on the track, but had no sense of pace and went 70 seconds for a first lap, then jogged around a bit. I decided to try again, but felt wasted after a 75 quarter. I met up with the guys who finished the workout on the trail and we cooled down on the track while watching Diddy put some miles away, getting as fast as 4:23.

Thursday morning I woke early to head to the office so I could run among the cherry trees on Hains Point. It was miserably humid and I wasn't thrilled to do a second loop, so I headed back and just did 10. The cherry blossoms looked okay, but the real feature was the fog- I couldn't see Virginia from the west side of Hains Point. Not before I saw a guy who looked like Neal Hannan running. It turned out, however, to be his twin brother, Veal.

Looking at the forecast, Saturday morning looked rough, so I decided to do my weekend workout Friday morning. That meant an early wakeup -- 5:30 -- so I could get some water and ease into it. I headed out to McLean High School in the dark. I passed a few other runners, and wasn't feeling too spry, myself. The track was shrouded in fog and I didn't waste any time getting started with 20 minutes aiming for 5:30s. I was a little slow, though, running 5:31s, and was feeling awful. Part of me wanted to go home, but then I set myself straight. I woke up early, and I certainly wasn't going to be falling asleep again if I went home, so I might as well finish what I started. Also, this was my last chance to get an ambitious workout in that would contribute to my race at Cherry Blossom, so run I must!

I made it 14.5 laps in 20 minutes, and took an easy mile for recovery, but then the fog had lifted and the sun was all over the place. I figured I had nothing to lose from giving it a shot and running 80 second laps as long as I could. I was a little fast- 78 for the first one, and slowed only slightly as I came through my splits exactly on time- 5:20, 10:40 (with a 79.99 eight lap) and 16:00. I was a little slow on 13, but picked it up for 14 and 15 and finished in exactly 20, giving me an even 1:20.00 average. Beautiful. I thought back to the last time I did this workout successfully and remembered that I wasn't terribly sharp in the first segment, then was fine for the second. I felt like I was definitely running much harder to hit 5:31s than to hit 5:20s. When running 80s, every time I came through the 200, I threw in threw our four quick steps to keep turnover from slipping, and I think that helped. I did a longer cooldown on Westmoreland and felt magnificent. I took photos of the average split time to relish them, but I can't seem to get them off of my camera, so, no art for this post.

Saturday morning I ran all of the Pimmit Run Trail in a light rain. I finally saw the rest of the downstream section. Once I got to the end, I went up Glebe, Old Glebe, Glebe again,Williamsburg and through part of NVM to Orland, then I walked in from Longfellow for 14, no need for 15. I totaled 91 for the week and felt strong. Unfortunately, at some point on the trail, my right leg rubbed some poison ivy, to which I had just lost my immunity last year.

Sunday morning I went out for a new variation on my Brook loop. It was slightly misty in the mid 50s and felt very comfortable. I started out with a  6:15 for the first mile, but then ran 6:00 for the next. That was going to be the way things shook out. I wrote the names of the new streets I would be running on my warm, but the ink was already running seven miles in when I was supposed to turn on Daleview. I saw a "no outlet" sign, so I figured that much be the wrong road. Then I looked closely at my arm and realized it was right, and I would take my chances that the sign was full of it. I came across some fancy new houses and caught the right roads and figured out what the sign meant- there was an outlet, but drivers were discouraged from taking it because it looked like a driveway- one car wide. I then came across what might have been the nexus on the universe- the intersection of Old Tolson Mill Road and Old Tolson Mill Road. It looked like running ahead would take me into a yard, so I took a left and down a hill to a creek then back up the hill...into someone's yard. I turned around and went back, sure now that the mile markers I had committed to memory were not at least a quarter mile off. I came out on Bellview and was right in the middle of some rough Great Falls hills. It only got steeper when I crossed Old Dominion, and I was smelling lobster just about nine miles in. I didn't let that bother me, though, and took it as a challenge to push through it.

Drivers on Georgetown Pike were mostly (all but two) generous with a little space on the lack of a shoulder, and I gave so many thank you waves that I worried they seemed insincere after a while. After crossing the beltway, I ventured into the neighborhood north of GTP and liked what I saw-- rolling hills and not much traffic. Some middle-aged woman running along seemed annoyed to have to share to road with me, though I had given her a wide berth. As I wound through the neighborhood, I realized that I was doing exactly what I loved, and it couldn't get any better than this. I got back down to the rental car neighborhood (Mayflower and Enterprise) and nearly fell on my face after slipping in mud, but kept cranking. I hit 1:45 and decided to keep it up and crank it on Rupert and Lemon. I passed two hours at Crutchfield and finished up in 2:04 flat. I mapped it out to be a little more than 20.4, for a 6:03 average. A lot faster than I had planned, but it's hard to measure just how much pleasure a run like that gave me. More than anything, it gave me the confidence to head into the last month or two of my spring season with assertiveness. I can't wait until after Cherry Blossom, when I can let loose and work the miles for a few weeks. If I don't earn a Pittsburgh half entry, I'm seriously considering Cleveland, which will certainly give me a few more weeks to train.

Monday I ran an easy 8 at 6:30 pace on the Westmoreland loop. Tuesday I came home with every intention of running 10, but instead I lied around and didn't run. Wednesday's trip to the track was somewhat unnecessary, because I had my own plans and would not really get anything at BCC I couldn't do at home. I did three moderate miles- 5:12, 5:16, 5:14 and called it a day with a long cooldown. Thursday morning I did an easy reverse Westmoreland at 6:31 pace. I'll run nice and easily this afternoon, an Oak tomorrow morning with a fast 9th mile, then an easy Park++ Saturday. Sunday, I'd like to start no faster than 5:20, speed up a little over the next few miles, but really attack miles 4-9, then smell the finish line. I'm thrilled to be able to run this race, a month ago I wasn't sure it would be feasible. Even after I started running again, my quads felt like they were tearing apart. Luckily everything has tied itself up nicely.

I'll miss the Spider Relays and Monument Ave 10k, a bummer indeed, but I want to be sure I'm rested for Sunday.

Meanwhile a new Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Pittsburgh will kick off in August 2013. Though its scheduling was done with regard to the Great Race in October, holding it in early August is dubious, at best. I have confidence that it won't have the same fly-by-night, generic marketing act that 2009's Spirit  of Pittbsurgh Half Marathon carried, but at least those buffoons had the wisdom to run it in the fall. 

Also, the Richmond Marathon has a new sponsor-Anthem health insurance. As the Times-Dispatch article describes, the finish line will move for all three races. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Out of the pool and onto the roads

Thursday morning, (March 1) I PRed for aqua jogging with 2:30. I did about an hour of biking in the afternoon, then set off on a path that evening that left me too tired to even think about waking up early on Friday to get to the pool.

When Saturday came along, I thought about the smell of an indoor swimming pool and figured I would take my chances running, rather than risking having the smell of chlorine torment me. It felt like it had been months, rather than 12 days. That said, it had been 18 days since I had run from home, the longest I had gone since living here. I went off on an extended Idylwood and felt great, going a little too fast in the beginning (11:45 for the first two miles) and tried to balance my excitement that I was running again with some restraint. I ended up averaging 5:58s for 6 miles.

I took and nap and went right back at it- a reverse extended Westmoreland, ended up averaging 6:30s or so. That first run was a little traumatic, though my quads felt like I had run a marathon earlier in the day. Afterward, I had trouble walking down steps and off curbs.

I had to work at our legislative conference the next day, which meant lots of standing around and little relief for my sore legs. When I got home, I started on an Irvin, switched onto Cottage from Gallows and came back from Vienna on the W&OD, my quads basically numb. It was pretty soon to do a long run, but I got in 14 miles at 6:27 pace.

Monday I ran from the Chevy Chase store but got lost on the route I planned and ended up heading to the Line, then the Western Ridge Trail and back to the store for 9 miles. The quads felt better.

I felt pretty miserable Tuesday, so I took the day off.

I had no idea what I would be able to do when I got to the track Wednesday. I decided to just give the workout a shot and see how it went. The goal times for 8x800 meters were 2:32, 2:30, 2:28 and 2:26. I started in the back of the pack for most of them, and frequently moved up throughout, so I ended up fast for all of them- 2:30, 2:29, 2:27, 2:27, 2:26, 2:26, 2:24, 2:23. I would have liked to have done two more, because Saturday's Van Metre race was a last-minute adventure to give me the feeling of racing I didn't get when I scratched the RRCA 10 mile, but I wasn't feeling like those additional 800s would be successful. As soon as I was done, though, my whole body started feeling awful, and my quads, fine during the track work, were now in terrible shape. Things didn't get any better during a long meeting afterward, and I soon felt pretty cruddy.

Thursday I knew something was going wrong, but I was always just able to keep going. Karl and Mike wanted to run in Vienna,and I wanted to give it a shot, so I went out there to meet them. We kept about 7:00 pace out to Hunters Mill and headed back, but then stopped for gyros on Maple. We walked back to the cars while eating, and when we returned I was pretty cold, despite the sweat drying. I changed into long clothes and went to the Metro, then started shivering violently. I got home and took a hot shower, hoping to stabilize my temperature, but it delayed for a while before shooting way up. I went to bed hoping I could somehow just get a few hours of rest for this all to calm down. I felt like I was on the brink of death until I got about two straight hours of sleep. From then on, it was on and off, but the fever was gone. I realized I was no longer in danger of dying, so I started thinking about my next priority- the Van Metre race, where my participation could affect our team prospects.

When I woke up, I decided to see how running would go. I started with a lap around my complex, but 1:15 in, I was walking and heading back in. I started thinking about when I had felt that bad before. I recalled 2010, right before the Monument Ave 10k, when I had to take a day off, and I realized I wasn't suffering from a cold I had caught from one of the county officials visiting for the legislative conference, I was getting hell from the pollen that was hitting the air earlier this year, thanks to the unseasonably warm weather. I then got a lot more confident that 24 more hours of recovery was all I needed and that I would be able to race Van Metre after all. I went to work and took it easy, then came home and rested some more.

When Liz Elk-oh-yeah and I headed out to Ashburn in the morning, I felt dramatically better. I still had no assurances I would perform the way I wanted, or even be able to run more than 75 seconds, but it was a beautiful sunny day and I was going to a road race, so that was enough for me. Breezy would be able to pick up the slack if I died or something. Then I got a call from Karl- he was headed out to run after all.

The three GRC men went out for the warmup and I was thrilled to be able to go much more than 75 seconds. I wasn't feeling great, but hopefully I could grind out a decent five miles.

I managed to hit the bathroom once more and get to the line, where the crowd looked a lot smaller this year. Also, the start was moved back about a block, which was odd. We got started, slowly. I was in the lead, despite taking it pretty easy. Two Thopians were hanging around. I stuck next to Karl for about two more minutes, then realized how quickly the pace could escalate, so I dropped back. The wind, which was so bad during the warmup, was calm as we wound up a lot hill during the first mile. They went through in 5:15, me in 5:24, and I was pleased with that. I figured I would crank it up in the last three miles. I was in no-man's land pretty soon. I hit the second mile in 5:32. I was hoping to be a little faster, just because I wasn't going uphill anymore. I hit the long out-and-back hill and tried to push, but felt my quad aching return and disable me to a point. I had a little trouble making the turn, I tried to follow some barrels that went the wrong direction. I tried to hammer down the hill, but my legs weren't responding and my lungs weren't helping. After what seemed like forever, I hit mile 3 in 5:44, and I wasn't happy with that. I was starting conservatively and getting slower. It was worse after 4- 6:01. Jesus...  and I was smelling lobster, so I was going all out for that.. So much for not losing much fitness. I cranked it a bit in the last mile and finished with a 5:34, but it took a lot more than it should have to run that fast. 28:17, pretty bad. Very bad. I tried cooling down my my quads weren't having it, so I headed back and stretched. The results were all fast- they said I ran 27:47, but my watch would seem to be the right source for the duration of my race. It was disappointing, but again I was glad to be able to run. Breezy, Maura, Susan and I all won $50 gift certificates to the Glory Days Grill, so we went there for breakfast. It was generally low-grade dog food, but it was free. I did six miles on the Seaton loop that afternoon, which went decently well, though not thrillingly.

I figured the best way for my quads to recover on a run was somewhere soft, so I went out to the Pimmit Run Trail. I was determined to finally get to the downstream portion. I tried to get there once last summer, and wound up just running a few laps around a nature preserve before heading back. I skipped it this time and went right to the street from which I could apparently find the trail -- Maddux Lane -- and took a chance on a sidewalk-like path that lead me to a stream. With a few jumps over some rocks, I was on the other side and finally exploring the downstream portion. It was a lot softer and I was thrilled to see where it went. It eventually dumped me off on a private drive off of Kirby with some ridiculously nice houses, then led me back to a trail when eventually ran parallel to the northern portion of George Washington Parkway, which I have always thought would be just the greatest place for a trail. Unfortunately, I had to turn back and head home because of time constraints, but that also means I get to explore more, later. I planned to do a second run that evening, but instead, I didn't.

Monday evening was the second day of extra light in the evening, and I headed out for an extended Oak loop with a few fast miles in the middle. The first came a little more than two miles, once I hit Shreve Road. I started off pretty smoothly, but evidently came through the half in 2:32, much faster than I expected, and finished the first mile in 5:09. After looping around 29 and Gallows, I got to Cottage and let loose, splitting 2:32 again, but facing a long uphill afterward. I managed only 5:23. The next mile was going to be much worse- a long stretch on Oak, but then turns and a steep uphill. I stopped when I hit the beltway for a half mil in 2:40something. By the time I got to Idylwood Park, I had to go to the bathroom, which rendered my last mile useless, and I stopped after a minute and jogged home.

Tuesday after work I ran around Hains Point. The pollen was a little rough, and I was struggling for most of it, averaging 6:47s and not feeling like I was moving that fast. There was some isolated rain when I was on the east side.

Wednesday night didn't promise much. I felt wrecked and was coughing up most of what was in my lungs during the warmup, and I felt beaten before I started. I joined the weekend racing group for nothing too taxing- miles, however many we wanted to do. The first was 5:30, and it was pretty rough. We went 2:50- 2:40, but the 2:40 actually didn't feel so bad. 5:25 for the next one,and that got better. Then I led through 5:20 and 5:15, before Miler offered to take us though 800 at 78 pace. We almost hit 79 for the first, then 79.99 for the second, with me passing in the last 50 to take the lead. Then I went 70 and finished in 72 flat for 5:01, and suddenly I was feeling a lot more optimistic about my Cherry Blossom chances. Back in early Feburary, I was looking at sub 52. That might be out of the question now, but I can still run a fast 10 miles if I am under control early on. Now almost two weeks after coming back from my time off, I realize it haven't lost too much, but I'm nagged by my allergies. If I follow my pattern, though, I should be adjusted very soon. The next 13 days will be big for me- I need to nail my long workouts, get plenty of rest and recover well.

I met up with Jarrin Thursday morning for some time on TRI, my first trip there since 2010. It was good to catch up with him and hear what's new, the most notable thing being the impending first birthday for Iris. I got about 12.5 miles in, and given the quick turnaround from the workout the night before, I was pretty happy with that.

Friday night I headed out to McLean High School for the Spider workout, but grew worried when I saw the packed parking lot. When I got around to the track, I saw a crowd watching a lacrosse game and headed home. I was a little light headed by the time I got a mile away, and I declined to make an attempt at doing the workout on the road.

In the morning, I got up and headed to my office, the last place I'd want to spend Saturday morning. Luckily, it's in the right place that I was able to drop off dry clothes and head out to the National Marathon course. I ran out to the Ellipse and waited for people to come by- Marco, with Burnham in tow, Murph, then Breezy and Lavar. Then I headed up to mile 10 near Capitol and M and waited for them to all come by. I was heading back to my office to fill in the rest of my time when Lisa Sikora popped up out of nowhere- her dad, Joe was running and we were evidently right on time to see him. I ran a few blocks with him then finished up about eight miles before I headed over to see Murph, Breeze, Panther and Beth as they started their St. Patrick's Day celebrations. I went home for a nap, then did a Park++, though on my way back, a driver forced me into a car's sideview mirror and my forearm started swelling like a mother. I ended up getting 80 miles for the week.

Sunday morning, Dickson and Emily picked me up to go up to BCC for a long workout. We met up with Dickson's friend Stefan and headed off on a 16.5 mile run through Chevy chase, Northwest, Rock Creek Park and Bethesda. From the very start I was feeling like I was hanging on, because Stefan definitely liked to push the pace, but as the run progressed, I found myself up there with him, somewhat consciously trying to take the pressure off of Dickson, whose real work would begin when we got back to the track.I enjoyed the loop, which gave me a chance to see some of the neighborhoods where I will be running once I move (I liked them) and once we entered Rock Creek Park, I truly enjoyed Ross Drive for the first time, perhaps because it was the first time I was running it without a banana-toting chap in tow. I eased off a bit when we hit the trails near the Line, but got back into it shortly after. We got back to the track in 1:45, changed shoes and started a 10k. Dave O'Hara was there to help, and I'm glad he was, because I could be of much help to Dickson at that point. I hung on the back of our little pack as we went through the mile in a little under 5:35, but on that fifth lap I just fell apart and stopped. Considering my longest run in more than a month had been the 14 miles I did on my second day back after my layoff, getting to 17.5 was enough of a stretch.

I was disappointed to not be able to do the meat of the workout, and hung my head a bit while trying to watch Dickson run a solid 33 minute 10k. It seems to me like he'll be ready for Boston. I ran a while longer to get 20, then had a few burgers and a chocolate milkshake to prepare me for the mild consequences of what I had done to myself. I was pleased to feel none of the soreness in my quads that had been plaguing me. I hope this would be a big step toward eliminating that pain which I feel could affect me in long races; it certainly did at Van Metre. That evening I did an easy three miles.

Figuring I was already on pace for some significant mileage this week, I stripped down my Monday evening run to a progression and cooldown for a little more than seven miles. I did my usual loop, designed for 10 minutes at 6:00 pace, 10 at 5:45 pace and 10 of up to 5:00 pace, though I was planning for more like 5:10-5:15. It was warm and a little humid, but far less oppressive than my alarmist protege had warned. My right hamstring felt a little odd on my way home on the metro  but once I was dressed to run and ready to go, it didn't hassle me. I came through the half mile in 2:40- 20 seconds fast, the mile in 5:25- 35 seconds fast, and reached the end of my first segment a minute early, so I ran in circles until my 10 minutes were up. The 5:45 segment was 8 seconds fast at the half, 15 fast at the mile and not sure about the next intermediate point, but I was 30 seconds fast for the whole segment. The uphills on Virginia and Barbour helped temper me a bit, but I was definitely faster than I needed to be. On the fast segment, I hit the half+ in 2:32 pace, then the mile+ in 5:05. I think I slowed a bit when I had to start crossing streets in Falls Church, but I finished up feeling great (and likely hitting two miles in 10:10-15) and took a nice slow jog to get home, completely soaked with sweat but not minding too much. I have some solid miles coming up Wednesday, hopefully a good moderate run or Spider workout Saturday and some cruise miles Tuesday, then it's time to rest and get ready for Cherry Blossom.

Where my season will go after that, I'm not exactly sure. As long as I run something decent, I'll send it off to the Pittsburgh Half people to see if I can get a comp. I have a feeling I likely won't, so then the options spread out:
A.Convince the Pittsburgh people to let me pay to run, despite the race being sold out
B. The Frederick Half
C. The LEAD Strong Half in Maryland, on a trail
D. The Maryland Half Marathon, all May 6, or
E. Try to get into the St. Luke's/Runner's World/Lehigh Valley Half in late April.

or, I could do two halves, a few weeks apart, starting with the
Park to Park Half in Waynesboro, then
A. the Historic Half in Fredericksburg (May 20),
B. the Run to Dream Half in Williamsburg (May 20),
C. the MAC Half Marathon in Maryland, or
D.the Alexandria Distance Festival Half. (May 27)
or....Cleveland (May 20)

Those late May races could be pretty warm. The Alexandria course looks awful, but it's so convenient. I'll probably go with either the Frederick or LEAD Strong. Or maybe I'll give up on running.