Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Embarassing Story

I decided a while ago to never tell my walk-on cross country story unless I had a lot to drink because I felt it was an embarrassment.  Since I had a lot to drink over the weekend and attempted it, I realize that trying to tell a story when you are that far gone, one cannot tell the story effectively.  File that under Catch-22, I guess.

I was an above-average runner most of my young life.  I have some impressive sounding accomplishments in my Knight Strider days.  But when it came to the time that matters I was decidedly mid-pack.  I lettered all 4 years in all 3 running sports.  But my best finish was 25th at States in XC, and I was mainly doing the 2 mile relay in my last 2 years in anything past regionals.  I was not good enough to get any college attention above the coach at HJC giving me his card.  Thus, I was determined to go where I wanted for school based on other factors and I followed a bit of family tradition going to Penn State.  With an incoming freshman class of thousands and being that main school in one of the bigger states for cross country I now wonder if there were 100 kids stepping on campus with more of a right to try and walk on than me.  But I still had some hope that I would find something and would turn into someone that could compete.

I had to go up for placement testing at some point during the summer and along with my mother went to see Coach Groves.  I had a line about not being able to run off campus during high school (due to the tragic story of Paul Condon) and he wound up letting me know that had a 2 mile race for folks trying to walk on.  He agreed to let me run and gave me advice to introduce myself to a weight room.  I found out later from a kid who was in the geography department that Coach Groves had a soft spot for walk-ons so that's the only way I can figure he even gave me the chance. At some point, however, I got my dates mixed up and I showed up where I thought was the right place on the right day and it was the meeting for athletes who had actually successfully made their respective teams.  I sat through and then went back to Coach Groves yet again and asked to have another chance.  He agreed, telling me to come to practice the next week on a Tuesday.  Soft spot for walk-ons, for sure.

I was told to meet at the track, which I took to meant the outdoor track.  I was there for about 10 minutes when a van pulled up and folks in official gear get out.  It didn't take me long to realize it was the basketball team (It was hard to miss Phil 'Sweet Pea' Williams from Thomas Johnson high school) and I literally ran away.  I figured out it was the indoor track and by the time I got there I was almost half an hour late.  One of the assistant coaches asked me 'what do you do' and I misunderstood and replied 'push-ups?' thinking he was about to dole out some punishment for tardiness.  I think he was asking me what event I did, maybe if I was a track guy there to stay in shape for the future season.  Anyway, the universe was repeatedly telling me to give up and I was too stupid to notice.

The practice was something like simple like 3 x mile repeats and we ran down to the park where they took place.  The instructions went something like 'anyone who runs 4:20 should be running x, all the rest of you--shrug.'  Maybe it wasn't quite that bad but that's how it came across to me.  I had run 4:50 a couple of times and never really focused on that event, but if I had I am of the opinion that I could have maybe broken 4:40 if I had a really good day.  If you McMillian my 800 pr (open) of 2:07 it sorta would back this up.  Still not anywhere close to everyone else that was doing repeats.  I think I managed to hang with the rear of the pack for the first one, past 800 meters for the second, but fading fast.  The third one I was in the weeds.  I went home and can't remember ever being that tired.  And I used to come from indoor meets where I ran 4 events and would get Charley Horses from putting so much effort into the races.

Maybe I should have become acquainted with a weight room.  Oh, well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NCR Marathon, a PR in Parkton.

I posted this elsewhere, so I might as well post it here.  Too long, don't read...

NCR is called a trail marathon, but the name comes from the rail to trail history of the path as opposed to a proper hiking trail.  The whole race except for about 3 and half miles at the start and very end are on the trail, which gradually climbs until the turnaround point.   The downhill to the trail at the start is nice, but everything that goes down must come up and the last mile and a half are a bit tough.  The weather should have been near perfect at 40 degrees, but there was a bit of wind and it really showed up for that last uphill mile.  Times seemed down from previous years, but I really can’t imagine the weather would have had that amount of effect on everybody.

The cycle was not what I envisioned when I picked the race back in the summer.  I was thinking I needed to use a shorter plan since I seemed to stagnate around May before Grandmas.  I had a summer of slack where I didn’t agonize over miles and ran my first 50k on a real trail (Catoctin – just wanted to finish –and did in 7:46).  By mid-August I jumped the miles back into the 40s but then came down with something and had an unplanned cutback week.  The miles were easier after that and I averaged a modest 46 or so over the core 12 weeks of the season.  Mileage peak was 68 4 weeks out with a 20 miler that felt right. Certainly the endurance had improved if the speed hadn’t.

I raced a good bit (probably too much) including a 15k and a half, both fastest in recent memory.  I also managed to run every day in October and then kept the streaking rolling to 42 days before taking a day off to taper for my final non-marathon race.  It was a good decision as I had a good day on the super flat course and registered a 40:16.  Taper was a bit unorthodox as I flew to Austin for the Formula One Grand Prix and didn’t much running in while down there.  The last two weeks were 31 and 21 and I took off the last two days (Thanksgiving and the day after).  Throwing out the 10k time I was fairly confident with the other times from the season I could attempt to run 3:18.  The plan was to try and go out in 1:39 and then if I still felt good on the way back, with the help of the gradual downhill, maybe pick up the pace.  NCR is a smaller race so there are no pace groups, and I was looking forward to having to figure it out on my own (I did purchase a Garmin and would have that assisting my efforts).  Besides in the previous races I was always looking to run times that weren’t anybody’s BQ so the pace groups were either too fast or too slow for my goals--3:30, 3:20.


Having just bought the garmin a couple of weeks prior to the race I am not quite a master yet and I managed to socialize too much at the start and when we were off I looked down and it had reverted to time mode.  I switched back but it had to find the satellites again and it was at least a tenth or two off at this point.  I got the idea right before mile 1 to end the run and start it again so at least I was on with the course mile markers.  But it wanted to shut down instead of reset and by the time I started it over it was mile 3.  So I don’t really know my first 3 mile splits.  There was a clock at mile one, but it might have been short.  For the other two I have approximate times and for the most part I was running just under 7 minute pace.  Working backwards from a garmin finish time of 3:00:36 combined with a chip time of 3:21:58 would mean a 21:22 split at 3 miles.  That sounds about right, given the splits that followed.

Guess – 6:55, 7:05, 7:08

Way too fast.  I could see the garmin and I consciously tried to back off.  But I couldn’t make myself do it.  I think the idea of letting a bunch of people pass at all once was bothersome.  I guess I’m a competitive jerk deep down.  Some folks did pass, but I was ok because I was running consistently and felt ok.  I could talk and felt relaxed.  My legs were another story.  I had some tightness in my hamstrings and my glutes pretty much the whole time.  But it was a comfortable level of uncomfortability, if that makes any sense.  Not much change in the trail as it gradually climbed from roughly 400 feet to 600.  I have done the NCR for training frequently and it never felt as uphill as it did on Saturday.  But the miles ticked away and I looked forward to the turn around.

7:15, 7:21, 7:24, 7:17, 7:26

Thoughts were creeping in my head that maybe I could hold this pace and have a breakthrough.  The 10k time definitely projected to a much faster than 3:18.  I passed a few folks, including the 2nd place female around the bridges under I 83.  The pace was creeping up towards 7:30, which was what I should have been running all along.  I held on and figured the gradual downhill after the turn would help out.

7:22, 7:25, 7:34, 7:30, 7:35

Half way, by my rough calculations would have been 1:36:10 or so. It was crazy fast.  The official time for me was 1:40, but I think that was wrong as I crossed the strip twice and it would make sense to have been on the way back (2nd female is officially listed at 1:35).  I kept the same level of effort that I had, and the pace per mile and hoped I could maintain 7:30s.  If I could it would be a big day.  I didn’t want to think about otherwise.  I had taken 2 gels (roughly 7 and 12 miles) and there was no sign of a stomach revolt at this stage (has happened to me before).  Given the gradual downhill nature of the course after the turnaround the times actually picked up for the next stretch.

7:27, 7:27, 7:16, 7:23, 7:28.

Crossing 16 was a nice feeling.  My first marathon at the age of 22 I had gone out aggressively and 16 was the point where I bonked hard, running ~2 hours for the first 16 and ~2 hours for the last 10.  Also last year at a decent White Rock race I drifted back around 17 and the pace group I was supposed to be behind caught and passed me around there.  This was a much smaller race and I was close to being alone for all this time.  2nd place female passed me back and I think someone else, maybe a relay.  I caught a few people though and was feeling ok through the big 2-0 even if the times started to slide slightly.

7:31, 7:46, 7:52

And there is the end of the fun.  I was sick of the trail.  I tried to take a gel at 18 but only ate about half.  I stopped at the water stop and walked it to the road crossing to make sure I got some fluid in.  Strangely I was really looking forward to hill at the end to change up the stride and use some different muscles.  The mental aspect of having 6, then 5 miles left was very daunting.  It was a pretty classic bonk and I just wanted to get through it.  I was constantly doing math in my head—if I averaged 8 the rest of the way I could run x.  If I average 8:30 it was going to be y. A couple more walking stops (less than 30 seconds) and the pace was solidly over 8.  I was holding together better than White Rock and I could feel the hill section getting close.

8:33, 8:29, 8:24

I think one of those miles didn’t have any walking, but the times were about the same.  It was real hard to make the legs move again when I stopped.  I knew there was bridge before the hill and I told myself I could walk across it, I also stopped on the hill where mile 25 was marked.  They had a clock with the overall time and it read 3:10 as I reached it.  3:18 had slipped away somewhere around mile 23 and now I could see 3:20 also slipping away.  But White Rock was 3:35 so I knew I could still massively PR.  Good thing for PRs.  The hill turned onto a main road and the wind hit my face.  Another turn and we’re on the final road.  Still more uphill and I took a final stop for a few steps as I passed 26.

9:42, 9:12, 1:40(?)

The clock read 3:21:30 or so and I struggled to cross the finish line.  It was 3:22 as I crossed, but I hope I was actually under with my chip time.  Not really much of a difference, but it sounds better to me.
I actually forgot to stop my watch when I crossed and it tried to keep recording my sudden plunge into inactivity.  It says 17 minutes for .3 miles.  I was feeling pretty out of it and sat down on the ground for a while.  I don’t know if I could have managed to make it even another tenth of a mile.  I know I could have run a smarter race but I also know I couldn’t have given really any more effort than I did.  So I’m happy.  The 13:36 PR helps a lot, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NCR Marathon - quick post

Full race report to follow when I have time.

My realistic goal time for the race was 3:18 based on a half a few weeks back.  Went out too fast (still making that rookie mistake), but really didn't start to struggle badly until around mile 21 when the splits went above 8 minutes per mile.  The last two miles are uphill (the marker for mile 25 was in the middle of the longest hill off the trail) and subsequently were 9:40 and 9:12.  I think the closeness of the finish meant I was able to tough out a slightly quicker mile for #26.  But that's where 3:20 slipped away.  Chip time wound up being 3:21:58, which is a 13 1/2 minute PR and that's always a good thing.  The disaster at Grandmas is in the rear view mirror, now.

I could have run smarter and probably hit the 3:18 goal, but there is no doubt I couldn't have tried any harder overall.  I struggled to make it even back to the elementary school for the post race festivities.  It's 2 full days later and I'm still very sore. 

Already signed up for Flying Pig in Cincinnati in May.  Not sure about a BQ attempt (I have to run 3:10) but I will probably go out like it, again.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Anatomy of a Streak

I'm currently on day 38 of a consecutive running streak.  I do believe it's the longest for me personally, but much shorter than some, I know.  The idea of the streak itself sometimes is enough to keep going, even just to get around the neighborhood for a minimum of 3 miles (I consider 3 the minimum for a streak, if you you the mile as the minimum I might have a much longer stretch cause I do that with my dogs pretty much every day).  Some of the highlights of the streak:

Day 1 - Saturday September 29 - 3.44 miles
A run around the neighborhood the night before the Falls Road 15k (where I ran 1:04).  Did not feel so well in the morning so I waited until the evening.  Needed to run, but didn't really want to do much.  Pace was super 9.

Day 4 - Tuesday October 2 - 8.3 miles
Track night at Gilman.  An improvised 5 mile tempo workout at marathon pace, with 3 miles of warm up and cool down.

Day 7 - Thursday October 4 - 3.1 miles
The shortest run of the streak.  I was leaving for Dewey Beach for the weekend and managed to run for 28 minutes while doing laundry for the trip. 

Day 9 - Sunday October 7 - 16.2 miles
A long run at the beach the day after doing the Dewey Goes Pink 5k.  I originally planned a 20 mile run, but having not built up to that, I did 1:10 out and 1:12 back along Delaware Route 1, from Dewey to Bethany and back.  Mostly flat except for the Indian River Inlet Bridge, about 6 miles in and 10 miles on the way back. 

Day 15 - Saturday October 13 - 10 miles
My leg of the Baltimore Running Festival Relay.  The easy leg, 7 miles of downhill and flat course.  I ran somewhere around 6:30 pace and then 3 extra miles after to get more miles done. 

Day 16 - Sunday October 14 - 10.7 miles
I called this the 'nostalgia run' where I returned to Catonsville where I lived in 2003.  A rail trail turned out to be a lot shorter than I was expected and I circled around neighborhoods and Catsonville Community College for 95 minutes until I called it a day. 

Day 20 - Thursday October 18 - 3.9 miles
A run purely to keep the streak alive after band practice.  Rather than running from where we practice I stopped in Bolton Hill on the way home and ran around Mount Vernon to get the run in.  Was feeling under the weather as well for this one.

Day 21 - Friday October 19 - 9 miles
Ran later in the evening after walking the dogs in Patterson Park.  The weather was decent for the walk, but a storm rolled in (complete with tornado warnings) and 65 percent of the run was in the pouring rain. 

Day 22 - Saturday October 20 - 9.5 miles
Bought a Garmin Forerunner at Target and immediately used it on a trail run.  The knees were aching a bit after the previous day's run through the city so I went to the trail to run somewhere softer.  Ran until the GPS said 9.5 and then stopped. 

Day 26 - Wednesday October 24 - 6.6 miles
The RM Classic.  A 5k run on the Gilman track instead of the usual track workout.  Posted a sub 20 minute time and did some extra miles. 

Day 30 - Sunday October 28 - 14 miles
The Oktober Lauf Fest Half Marathon in Philadelphia.  Ran this to try and set a PR, which I did by some 80 seconds.  Tough course in Pennypack park, including a trail section that cost at least a minute or two.  Drive up was in the beginnings of Hurricane/Superstorm/Post Tropical Frankenstorm Sandy, but the race itself was dry and a bit chilly.

Day 31 - Monday October 29 - 4 miles
Early afternoon run after Sandy had arrived.  It was raining.  It was windy.  It was kinda fun.  The Garmin shows several pace spikes when I stopped to pull garbage from overflowing storm drains.  Yes, it was that kind of crazy.

Day 34 - Thursday November 1 - 5 miles
After running every single day in October and setting a new best for miles in a month, I was not motivated to do this run.  Dragged myself around the neighborhood for 5 quite slow.  But it was something.

Day 36 - Saturday November 3 - 20 miles
A 20 mile run as the final long run of my marathon training.  Around the northside/strongside full of Druid Hills and other fun things.  Followed on Day 37 by a cross country 8k out in Linganore that was hill and tough.  But got through them both.

The streak will likely die this week as the marathon taper is on the horizon, but it's been a fun ride while it lasts.  And the next one will likely be longer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One month to go

Tomorrow will be exactly one month until the big one.  Right on cue I bombed my long run over the weekend.  I don't know exactly why (it was warm, the course was rolling, I going over 60 miles in a week for the second time ever) and I don't think I really care.  Thanks to the brand new GPS watch that I purchased the day before I can show you the bonk in glorious detail. 

I guess this happens, and I will try not to dwell too much.  I was back out doing some really easy miles last night and I plan on doing a rather full week.  Perhaps I step off the pedal Friday or Saturday if I intend to do the low-key half marathon in Philly this Sunday.  I should be able to set a PR either way, at least by a little bit.

The cycle has been odd.  After my 'summer of slack' I picked up the miles for a couple of weeks in August, but then I was under the weather and had a down week.  Overall the past 8 weeks the mileage has averaged right around 45 per week.  Not great, but not terrible.  Two more weeks to pump that up by a mile or two if all goes well.  I'm currently on a streak, trying to run every day in October.  After that, a little bit more work and then taper madness.  Hope the autumn shows up soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Executive Stampede

I ran the Executive Stampede on Sunday for my company.  It's not a team in the manner of cross country where they score top runners, but just an overall participation total.  Since starting with my current company in 2008, I've done this race 4 out of 5 years.  It's had some highs and some real lows.  Last year I had a goal of being the first finisher from my company, but I was a moderate second.  This year I had no shot as a new hire was the overall winner in sub or low 16s.

In 2008 this race was my first formal race in 7 years.  I ran Shamrock in 2001 and promptly stopped competing, changed my focus to Australian Rules Football.  I was still playing Ausball (the rec league level of coed Footy) and continued the rest of the summer with intense practices so I was in shape and ran a somewhat respectable 21:30.  Here's a picture:

The next year I wasn't keeping in shape with the footy and I ran one of my worst times ever, 23:53.
 Notice the difference in the picture:

Somehow I missed 2010 even though I was running a bit more, and ran two other 5ks right around then--Great Prostate Challenge and the Dustin Bauer memorial race, both around 24:00.  Last year was 20:40 and some progress towards running competitive times.  I was second for my company and 16th overall, in a less competitive year. 

This year I wasn't trying to run a recent best time because i'm not in that kind of shape at the moment and it's not really a fast course.  Going under 20 was nice, and the 10th place finish is my best since Francie's 5k.  I wound up 3rd for my company which was ok.  And I followed it up with 9 1/2 miles on the NCR since I was already north of town. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tough Market Street Mudder Mile

Saturday was a full day.  Went out to Frederick to run a race from my past along with one I never will do in the future.  At the end of the day I was muddy and had scrapes all down my legs, but I wasn't all that tired from the actually running I did.

Market Street Mile

The race was first run in '82 (I don't think I did it the first year, but it possible I 'ran' it at the age of 4).  I once held an age group record for 6-7 (a 6:24 I believe).  Also, this was the race where I first ran sub 5, back in 1992 as a freshman in high school.  It's an interesting course, not a straight downhill mile, but it starts with a hill and then the rest is down.  Mapmyrun doesn't handle it very well (much like the rest of Frederick County) and only claims about 15 feet or less net downhill.  It's probably closer to 30 or 40, in my estimation. 

I started ok, hanging with my friend Jon and some other faster folks I knew.  The split for 800 was 2:48, which seemed slow.  I picked it up when I saw the clock but only managed 5:34.  I ran 5:40 on the track last month in a much less even paced race so I thought I was capable of something under 5:30 if I was smarter on a downhill course.  I didn't feel like I was completely tired at the finish, either.  The downside of running a mile while marathon training, I guess.

Tough Mudder

I don't know what to say about this one.  I originally signed up for the PA one back in April, but managed to transfer my registration and then signed up for this one, much closer to home so I didn't need a dog sitter.  The 'toughest' event on the planet according to them, which consisted of getting muddy and wet and then having to climb over and under things.  It was supposed to be a group of friends doing it together for fun, but in the end it was me and Jon and that was it.  Becky was along to spectate (which costs $20, by the way).  We were late, and traffic was god-awful so we started around noon.  It was a big group which mean we had to wait for everyone to jump over a medium-sized wall.  And then a guy had us hoo-rah for like 20 minutes.  And crouch on one knee.  That was the hardest part of the day for me.  I  wound up just sitting down completely.

Jon had done the previous event so he kept me from racing the first couple of miles, cause I was fresh and wanted to get it over with.  We saw people on the course when we arrived and it was lot of people jogging slowly.  But I never got that tired for the running part.  We jumped in the ice water and leaped over some mud ditches (I went in once), crawled under some barbed wire.  Then came the first wall climb.  Certainly not my event as it requires upper body strength, which I have none.  I think I went over both but I can't remember.  The log carry was next and it was much easier.  I train for that several times a month with 30 pound bags of dog food.  I think we were about 4 miles in so far.  Another crawl under barbed wire, which I wound up doing on my elbows cause I was worried about my knees.  I think we crawled through tubes next, with a turn so it was quite dark in the middle.  I think we walked through mud with deeper parts next (I found them and went in up to my neck).  And then the rain started.

We had been watching the storm move in over the mountain for most of the event.  It was raining north and south of us, possibly quite hard.  But it never really poured where we were.  It didn't matter, we were wet and muddy already.  The rain did mean they cancelled a couple of the obstacles (the lake jump and eel tank to name a few) which did not upset me at all.  There was the big wall, which I did not make it over.  We helped people for a while and one of them I didn't do such a good job and he landed on my head.  I decided to just go around after seeing stars for about 30 seconds.  The next one was climbing little mud hills which was much tougher than it sounds.  Went up to my neck in mud more than once.  The weather stopped the next one some sort of crawling through tubes into water.  No real loss there, either. 

The final 3 were tough.  We were walking up the hill in the mud at this point, but I could still run if I needed to.  The monkey bars defeated me before I even got on them, so it was two arms up and then straight into the water.  Being not the best swimmer, I was struggling to get out while Jon was doing the bars and I was worried he would drop on me if he fell.  But Jon made it across and we went to the balance beam one.  Not outwardly hard, I think other people falling in messed me upand I went in again.  Did not like falling into the water, out of everything that happened.  The last was the curved ramp wall, which meant people on the top reached back and helped you up.  I did it on the first time, but it was a struggle. And then we ran through some wires that gave a jolt of electricity.  And it was over.

So I did it. Now let us never speak of it again.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The 'Peaked at Age 13' Post

Go lions!

I was 13 in February of 1992 when I ran the Junior Olympic Mile at the Mobil 1 Invitational.  It was, to the best of my knowledge, a rather short-lived elite meet run at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.  Roughly the equivalent of a Diamond League meet, or the Milrose Games (without the storied history, of course).  Mobil was at the time headquartered in nearby Reston, prior to their merger with Exxon.  I think I still have the promotional poster somewhere, but I have not been able to find it recently.  But I found an old picture of my college dorm room, where I hung it proudly next to a bunch of National Geographic Maps and a random Big Blue on the Corner giveaway poster.  Without the (impossible) ability to enhance photos I can't quite make out all the names, but I know the big ones--Noureddine Morceli, Jackie Joyner-Kersee,  Evelyn Ashford, Willie Gault.  Scheduled to appear, but did not were Renaldo Nehemiah and the late Antonio Pettigrew.  Olympic Champions, world record holders, and a super bowl champion.  Morceli was chasing the world indoor record, but fell short.  His mile, not all that close to breaking the record, still stands as the 63rd fastest indoor mile of all time:  I was pretty much watching from the outside lane of the track while it was going down.  The best document of the meet overall was an article I found in the Baltimore Sun, of all places.  There is only an indirect mention of my personal performance, however.

So how I did get to share the track with some legends and heroes?  I was a bit of a phenom as a young runner, stretching back to at least age 6.  I had several top performances at regional and national AAU/TAC meets (I believe I won a regional 3200 at the AAU regional at Slippery Rock when I was 9, finished 24th at Cross Country Nationals in Birmingham in that same era).  But I was burned out by my teens and took a break from youth running to make sure I would be at my best for High School.  But I guess I had a reputation and my parents got the call asking if I wanted to take part in a special Junior Olympic mile at the meet.  It was for under 14 folks, or at least anyone who was not yet in high school.  I was still in shape, I was the manager of the high school cross country team that fall, and used to run the course after practice going sub 18:30 for 3 miles.  I think I would have been on varsity running those times if I had been a year older.  I talked to my future XC coach and got some mile-specific workouts.  I can't even remember what a typical week was like, how often I ran and how far.  For some context, I did the Cherry Blossom about 8 weeks later in 1 hour 10 minutes for that 10 miler (peaked at age 13, I tell ya!). 

My mother and I went down the day of the meet early to catch everything.  As a participant I was able to go anywhere, and I think I spent took full advantage, hanging on the outside lanes during the distance events.  I remember Maksim Tarasov being particularly entertaining at the pole vault.  Willie Gault didn't do much in the hurdles, but at one point came over to the section where my mom was sitting.  He had to be just a few weeks past the end of his season with the Raiders, since he didn't retire until 93.  He just recently set some fastest times in the 100 and 200 for someone over the age of 50 last year.  My race was the last even of the meet, sometime around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. 

I don't remember much.  I was racing one my 'rivals' from growing up--Robby Ficker (younger brother of Desiree the marathoner/triathlete and son of Robin the famous heckler from Bullets games).  I think he had done the mile the previous year and everyone seemed to know him and expect him to win.  The particulars of the race have faded but I assume I hung close and let him dictate the pace.  And some point on the last lap I made a move and we were pretty much stride for stride to finish the race in 5:16.7.  Since it was a legit meet with the proper equipment it was literally a photo finish.  I might still have the photo somewhere, I kept it for a long time.  After a little while (perhaps to develop the photo) they declared me the winner and I believe it was a meet record for the event.  That's one I might still hold...

In one of those Runner's World 'back story' pieces they interview Meb.  He mentioned he ran a 5:20 mile in middle school and his coach declared they had a future Olympian on their hands.  I also ran a 5:20 but somehow I'm not toting the line in London this week.  Ha.  He might not have peaked yet at 35 plus, while I peaked at...

Monday, July 30, 2012

I ran an ultramarathon, does that mean I get to be ultra annoying about it?

I've decided that running has pretty much become my part-time job these days.  And then I go and spend a full day at the office on Saturday.

The Background

The Catoctin 50k had piqued my interest every since I noticed it on the Frederick Steeplechasers Grand Prix schedule early this year (or late 2011, I really can't recall).  With a little research I realized it was a race that existed back toward the days when I was still technically a county resident.  However, when I did my basic checking it seemed this year's race was full.  I continued to train and plan for my marathon in June and wondered if I could find some small, flat easy 50k for the fall.  I also considered the JFK 50 Miler for a while, particularly since my White Rock 3:35 was A standard and pretty much guaranteed my entry for that one.  But I thought jumping from a marathon to 50 miles was a bit too much.  Fast forward a little while and I realized the message on the website that said the race was full was for the 2011 race, and the 2012 edition had not opened.  If I wanted, the race was very much on the table for my summer.  Still I was locked in to Grandma's Marathon and the 6 weeks between would either be a great thing, or the worst thing possible.  I decided I didn't want to really race the 50k and then it wouldn't be a big deal if I wasn't posting high mileage weeks or high intensity workouts during the times in between.

I did have to familiarize myself with the course, mainly for two reasons.  To make damn sure I knew what I was getting into, and to know the course so when I was attempting the longest distance I had ever attempted, I would not get lost and do 35 or 36 miles instead of 31.  It's a common occurrence, according to the race site, and to my friend Joel who ran back in '05, I believe.  I still had a few months, and decided I could make 4 trips out to the old 'hood and cover the complete course.  This was rather optimistic given my propensity to hop in races at the last minute.  I managed to run on the course twice.  The first was the basic start, going as far as I felt able and returning back.  It was hard to discern how far I really went, but I was confident I was just short of Hamburg Road (the site of the first aid station, 6 plus miles along the course).  The second trip I started at Hamburg and backtracked for about 5 minutes, further convincing myself I had come just short of that on my first run.  I then continued down the other direction toward the manor area.  The total on that run was about 2:40 minutes and had me feeling pretty good about finishing the thing.  It was after Grandma's, and I started later in the morning to get a feel for the heat and humidity.  I also managed to forget the hand-held water bottle I bought and ran all 2:40 pretty much without water.  I felt like death when I got back to the car, but after pounding Gatorade I was human again.  The previous day I had a run a rather fast-paced 7 miles in the heat and convinced myself to bail (it was only $25 fee, and it would get donated to park or a group that maintains the trail if I did bail, I think).  So, three weeks out I was locked in for the fun in shade that is the Catoctin 50k. 

The Course
This is my best attempt at mapping this thing.  I used mapmyrun and several different online sources to get to this point.  Key points are the start and nearly the highest point, immediately followed by a mile or two of steep downhill, followed by immediately climbing back up again.  And then pretty much the same down-and-up sequence again.  Naturally the course is an out-and-back, so those same up and downs return at the very end.  They don't call it high knob because it's lower then the surrounding terrain, and I did not appreciate their candor when I was making my way back up the finish after a long time in the woods.  And, in case you though I wasn't going to mention it, yes that's (by far) the lowest point on the course smack dab in the middle.  Rather genius of them to plan it that way.  At the start they mentioned when one reaches the turnaround, one is basically 1/3 of the way done with the race, despite having covered half the miles.  Finally, the course itself.  Rocky doesn't even begin to describe it.  I think we need a new word to describe the hoping directly from rock to rock down those slopes of the blue trail.  Being part Mountain Goat wasn't going to cut it, you needed to be full goat...

The Race

Race weekend came and I was trying to get myself prepared.  I had bought the hand-held water bottle.  On advice from others I bought a second bottle, but smaller and decided to try and fit in my pocket.  I picked up several cliff shot blocks (gummy version of the energy gels) which I decided I like better on the trails, i'm not really sure why.  I ate a nice meal the night before (with some left over for after when I didn't feel like cooking) and tried to get some sleep.  The Olympics weren't helping as I stayed up watching the athlete's parade.  And round about 5 am I was awake and it was clear I wasn't getting back to sleep.  I took the dogs out and tried to do the rest of a normal routine.  My stomach has tended to not be entirely settled on race mornings, but i've yet to have any of 'those' issues while actually running.  I walked the dogs and hit the road.  I managed to remember everything I needed (they won't let you start without at least one 20 oz. bottle).  I missed getting a speeding ticket by an eyelash just over the border into Frederick County.  Not sure how I missed that one, but I was thinking maybe it was going to be my day.  I also got the last parking space at the top of the hill.  It's just not quite big enough to fit all the cars for a 175+ person race. 

For once in my life, I felt 0 compulsion to warm up.  So I did not.  I found my friend Becky and hung out until the start.  She worried me a little stating the race was more difficult than the JFK 50.  I still don't know about that.  I know the course is much tougher, but 50 miles is such a massive amount of distance to get one's head around.  I might be able to be convinced she is right, though.  The pre-race brief was short and humorous.  They noted people that had done the race 5, 8, 10+ times.  They asked about first timers, and a group of people raised their hands, but they clarified to first ultra period.  It was just me and maybe two others with our hands up (the website strongly discouraged the race as a first ultra, have I mentioned that?).  I was hoping for home field advantage, and being lax about my real goal to get me through. 

At the end of the brief the race director said go, and after a second everyone was off.  It was a loop around the parking lot before departing for the trail, which is necessary cause it was pretty much single track after that point.  I settled into a position behind the lead pack (maybe 20 or so folks).  I might have be overly optimistic cause some folks were stacking up behind me (or at least it felt like it), so I let some people pass.  The 250 or 300 feet of downhill immediately at the start has one feeling great and it was all fun and games as we skipped down the rock path.  But after a mile it turns back uphill and it was a moment of truth.  If everyone continued to blast up the hill, then I was out of my element and it would be a long day.  But, at least where I was by that point, everyone did walk.  Perhaps a little more briskly than I was walking, but walking all the same. 

The first 6 (or 6.8 or whatever) are pretty tough, even on fresh legs.  Walking most of the hills and keeping a good pace we were about where I had turned around on my first trial run, which I though was super close to the first aid station.  I was not correct with that assumption.  I was at least 15 minutes short of the road when I turned at just under 1 hour.  I was about the same spot at an hour into the race (perhaps a sign I was going out too fast, perhaps not).  The cutoff at the first aid station was 1:45 and I was arriving at about 1:15.  I was amazed it was so close to the cutoff time, but I think it was to weed out anyone trying to walk the whole thing.  I had planned on taking full advantage of the aid stations, stopping as long as I felt like it.  This was the first and I stopped and grabbed some watermelon.  They refilled my water bottle (I was still on the hand-held) and I took some time, but I was making good progress so I continued on down the trail.  The course eases up after this point (relative) and it's only 3 miles or so to the next road and aid station.  I actually went through without stopping as I hadn't taking much water and I had taken my first cliff shot block pack. 

The next stretch contained a series of switchbacks, which were my least favorite part of the course.  They weren't that steep, but they were endless.  As much as I disliked them going down, I knew they would be a hundred times worse going back up.  I almost felt dizzy going back and forth.  I was still running in close proximity to other folks at this point, which surprised me a little bit.  I knew from pouring over the past results, most folks were minutes apart and I figured most of the time I would be on my own.  This was not the case in the first half of the race.  There was a third aid station, not really official.  Thankfully it was there as it was mistake to pass Delauter Road.  They filled my water bottle and I grabbed more watermelon.  I also had them open my cliff shot block package, I was having trouble opening them with sweaty hands.  I don't think I ate that package for a while later, though.  I was not really trusting my stomach at this point. Although I did figure out if I took the blocks, I would be able to drink right after, cause in the middle of the race I was struggling to even drink.  The second, smaller bottle became the 'pour water over my head' bottle, which was working well.  I didn't use it much on the way out, but it was pretty handy coming back.

The course rolled for this part, if i'm remembering correctly, and I knew we had to be getting to the big decent soon.  I was past where I had reached on my training runs, and I was in new ground.  I don't remember the order, but there is an overlook along the path which views east onto the valley below.  It's significant as a landmark.  Also at some point I heard the sound of the highway and that was also a big deal, knowing the Manor Area was right off US15.  But there was still a lot of hill to descend, down to the lowest point of course, basically at the valley elevation.  I was also expecting to see the leaders coming back in the opposite direction and they were much later.  When they did pass going back up the hill they looked so strong.  I knew I wasn't going to be running much when I was heading back up that way, so it was impressive to see. The first place woman, who I had briefly ran with at the Lewis 10 Miler before getting dropped like a bad habit, was up in the top 10 and looked strong as well.  Followed by the second place woman not much behind.  It was great to see.


I reached the bottom of the hill at 3:15, just short of the amount of time I think it would take me to run a road marathon these days.  I had a developed a pretty good rhythm, but mostly because the course past Hamburg Road was more down than up.  I probably didn't spend enough time recharging at the stop, as I grabbed a cup of flat coke and some more watermelon.  I think it was something like 3:17 when I started back up, which means only two minutes of break.  Other folks seemed much more willing to take full advantage of the aid station, which was probably the wise thing to do.  After the turnaround, it was pretty much back up the hill we had just come down, so it meant walking back up.  It was a rather long way to walk, at least a couple of miles.  It flattened out a couple places and I would shuffle through those.  Once reaching the 'top' it still seemed to continue to go up.  Plus there was the switchbacks, which were just as awful as I was expecting.  They were filling my water bottle with ice at this point, which was just awesome.  I think I was forcing myself to take some of the blocks as I really only eaten 1 by this point.  As I cross over 4 hours it was getting close to uncharted territory for me.  The longest I had ever been out attempting a race was the 4:15 I logged at Grandma's that was just 6 weeks prior.  But I was not hurt beyond some minor knee aches and the skin that had rubbed off my ankle.  So I continued on the path, occasionally getting passed, but not really caring too much about it.

It was supposed to be 6 miles from the Manor Area to Delauter Road, but it felt like 10.  At one point I convinced myself we were running a part of the trail that was prior to the stop on the way out.  Even the occasional blue blazes were not comforting, I managed to turn that around that we had gotten off and back on missing the station (and basically killing the race, as there was no way in Hell I was going back to the check-in I had missed.  But I was just getting addled by the 5 plus hours out on the course and we did eventually come to Delauter Road.  I took full advantage this time.  I sat down for a minute.  I had Gatorade, I even asked for a band-aid to put on my ankle to try and minimize the damage that was being done (it was pretty useless, though).  It was at least 2 hours from Manor, and I extrapolated that I was heading for 8 hours.  I was a little dismayed, thinking I had a shot at a sub 7 or better, but at this point all that mattered was finishing.  I was off up the trail again (it was generally still rather uphill at this point, not really any significant downs until after Hamburg, 3 miles up the way).  Once I reached Hamburg it was more of the same. A full sit, a couple of glasses of cold(!) Turkey Hill Iced tea.  I even took the salt tablet, which I had never done before in my life.  And just before six hours into the race, I got a kick in the behind from Bob, who I knew from growing up and I just had to tackle the last 6+ to the finish.  If I could managed less than 2 hours back I would even break 8. 

Nothing really good happened in those last 6 miles.  The hills were soul-crushingly steep and long.  I stumbled on a steep down and completely stressed out my right calf.  I stopped and rubbed it back into submission, as the alternative was to crawl back to the aid station.  It was multiple hours longer than my furthest race at this point and I was really just putting one foot in front of the other.  It was also getting to be well after noon and the sun was breaking through a lot places and that wasn't helping at all.  I managed to not use all my water until the very end, i'm not sure how.  I ate more blocks, and strangely still had a full pack which I didn't feel the need to use.  The course has a tease where you reach a lower parking lot about a half mile from the finish.  It feels like you are almost done, but it's still another 100 feet or something up to high knob.  Darn you High Knob for being so high.  But I staggered my way up and finished 7 hours, 46 minutes, and 48 seconds after I had departed from that same spot.  It was a full day at the office.


My re-ward. No shirt. No medal.  Just a card that says I finished.  It's pretty awesome.  Certainly a long way from where I was a year and a half ago.  Maybe even further along than back in 2000 when I took the marathon plunge right after college.  Probably not going to make a habit out of these things, but I certainly don't dread the 50 miler the way I did a couple of days ago.  I think it will be a (mostly) flat one.  If JFK was a spring race it would probably workout, but it isn't.  So it's back to marathon redemption to close out 2012.  Hopefully it will be a little lighter, a little faster, and injury free. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bring on the Night - Rockville Rotary Twlight 8k

I signed up for Rockville Rotary Twilight 8k because I knew a lot of people that were doing it.  I wasn't going to be in top shape, but still had a chance to improve over Celtic Solstice (with an adjustment for the 8k - 5 mile distance).  Plus the after stuff was pretty cool, if it was like when I did it in the early 90's (or late 80's, I don't even know anymore). 

I had a plan to go out at 6:30 pace and after 3 miles, hopefully I would be feeling ok and I could push through to the end.  If I was not feeling ok, I could just try and hang on to the 6:30s.  It's not how I usually race, but I certainly didn't want to start with a 5k-like first mile under 6.  And I managed to start in that ball park, I think the clock read 6:30, although I was maybe 8 or 10 seconds behind gun time, so it was really a tad faster than that.  I was steady through 2, but somewhere between 2 and 3 my shoelace came undone.  Not a huge deal, except the chip was laced through them.  I worried for a bit and then just decided to stop and tie it.  I don't know how many seconds it cost me (probably less than 10?) but it threw off my rhythm for sure.  I picked it back up a bit, but I think the damage had been done.  Miles 3 and 4 had shown quite a bit of dropoff.

I actually had to stop a second time right before mile 4 and I just decided to grab the chip and carry it the rest of the way.  The last mile was straight shot down 355 to the finish and I was fortunate someone passed me going faster than everyone else around me.  I followed his lead and finished up 10 or 15 seconds faster in the last mile at least. 

Overall, the race was fine.  It wasn't a bad race, but it wasn't exactly a 'good' race either.  I'll just take the time and move on.  It was cool and rainy, but it also was very humid and that probably took its toll.  I would like to come back and make an attempt at sub 30:00 next year for sure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quadzilla Redux

I'm writing this one while my quads are still sore for once.  And yes, the quadzilla did result in a lot of soreness.  Maybe as much as Grandma's even, which pretty much says it all.  Originally the plan was to hop in the BRRC track meet today, but I thought better of that, and turns out they canceled it in the heat anyway.  Still on a 4 times a week, sometimes 3 times scheduled until after the 50k and then we'll see how it goes from there.

Back to the race.  I was trying to follow a progression last year of races--5k in April, 10k in May, 15k in June.  Turns out there aren't a lot of 15k's in June.  Or July either.  But there was one lone race north of Allentown.  I had a friend from college with whom I could stay, so I singed up without really thinking about it too much.  Well, the 5k was hilly and didn't go as well as planned.  The 10k was hot and I went out fast, so it was a big of struggle to finish.  Quadzilla was pretty much a repeat.  I was not ready for the distance, I went out too fast, and the course was pretty damn tough.  Racing the first couple of miles meant I was walking a lot by the middle of the race.  And then comes the real hills past mile 6.  I took my 1:46 finish (more like a half marathon time than 9.3 miles) and continued on without thinking too much about it.

Since last year was the inaugural race I felt that silly compulsion to make the race a tradition.  I signed up sometime in April and knew that it was after Grandma's, so I wouldn't be in peak shape.  I was also very committed to the idea of the 50k two weeks later, so I knew I would be logging some trail miles and longer runs, if not hitting the same weekly mileage.  Not to mention overall better fitness and the whole weight loss thing (I would say I was still 190+ for the race last year).  I was eying 20 minute improvement, but anything over 15 and I would be very satisfied with the day.  At the start, I believe the race director said only 29% of the people returned for year two.

By doing a little bit of mathematics, I figured out that I could take it very easy at the start.  Even running 10 minute pace, I would be in line for around 90 minutes and my drastic improvement.  Still, I probably did still start to fast (a guy behind me was having a conversation and commented that everyone would be toast later for starting at that pace). And the first rest stop was 3.5 miles or so, and we were through at 31 minutes.  I don't think I took water, or maybe splashed it on my head.  There are some hills in the first parts (in all parts, really) and I managed them pretty well.  But they get steeper in the middle section (the sign calls it the back of the beast).  I walked some of those hills, much more as a strategy to not die than because I was already toast.

I made a friend or two on course and was still going well through the 5 mile water stop.  We were too fast for any watermelon (I could have used some) and I think I took Gatorade at this stop.  Once I was past the rocky part and the sideways hill that goes for at least half a mile, the real race starts.  I don't know if I can accurately describe the hills that start at 6 miles or so.  They aren't that big, but they are impossibly steep.  If you weren't running a race you would still have trouble getting up them.  There are at least 3 and then a water crossing.  I wonder what the leaders are like when they try to run up them.  I have to assume they climb as well. 

The last hill leads up to the finish, but before you do the path turns to the right and goes uphill for at least another quarter of a mile, but probably closer to half.  And then down to the finish.  I came out of the woods at 1:26 and thought I could make 1:30, but I had to stop for a moment before the turn and then didn't have much 'sprint' to the finish.  Still 1:30:38 is a full 16 minutes faster than last year's 1:46:48.  I'll take it.

Next up - the big Willy --  Catoctin 50k.  Not racing, just doing it to finish.  Probably will be luck to finish in 7 hours.  Wish me luck...

Friday, June 29, 2012

The First Half of 2012

So one might expect a race report for Grandmas marathon in this space, but I really don't have that much to say about the race.  I went out like I though I should, crashed embarrassingly early, and struggled most of the way to finish in 4:15.  It could have been an issue with my training or with the conditions.  Or it could have been that unexplainable 'bad day.'  Probably a combination of all three.  In the end, I now stand with 2 out of 3 marathons over 4 hours.  At least this time I know I won't quit competitive running for 8 years.

I went with what is known as the WTF plan for my training, which means not following any specific plan.  I knew I needed to up the miles from the previous cycle and I was pretty successful with that (peak week was 55, although there was a stretch of 7 days where I did 63 miles in April).  I had two interruptions: the first in March when I was sick, the second when I had some random knee pain in early May.  I hit my races just about each month--Club Challenge, Shamrock 5k, Cherry Blossom, and Frederick Half.  And they were all a 'success.'  Frederick mostly cause I did still PR, but I did not consider it an A race at the time. I did let the track workouts get away for a while. 

I am considering this period my break after the race, but honestly I am going to keep running.  I am not feeling like it would be a good thing to obsess about weekly mile totals, so I am not going to let myself worry about that.  I do have a bunch of races scheduled, but I am not going to beat myself up if I don't run a bunch of recent bests (Quadzilla should be faster than last year, but much slower than any other 15k purely by the nature of that fiendish race).  Also, I signed up for the 50k fully aware that it was probably a 50/50 proposition.  If I decide to bail it's a nice (little) donation to the trails up there.  And I am going to do a few track races to see what I can do at the shorter distances.  Probably can't crack 2:25 for 800 these days. 

In non-running news, I bought a bike.  Should arrive next week, cause I bought it online.  Probably made a mistake going the online route, but the price was right.

I don't feel like even posting these, but I guess I should:

LocationRace TimeTime of DayPace BetweenOverall PlaceDivision PlaceSex Place

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I jumped in two races after the slight disappointment I felt in Frederick.  One was another Half which didn't go so well.  The other was the Bel Air Town Run.  A 5k two weeks before the big race seemed fine.  Three consecutive weeks of racing might not have been so fine.  I did a full track workout (10 minute tempo, 1600 in 6:31, and then 2 800s in 3:10 and 3:05) and ran the rest of the week except for Friday (played a show).

The course had a nice downhill at the start, but made up for it with uphill near the end.  Overall, mapmyrun says 20 feet net loss from start to finish, but maybe it was a little more.  I had trouble finding where to pick up my number and once I did there was 15 minutes to finish warming up.  I jogged out and did strides and returned to the start where 1500 people were crammed into the street.  Not one to push my way through (or go around to the front that way) I wound up starting 20 rows back behind some pretty dubious people.  But that's pretty much expected.  I don't think it cost me more that 5 seconds, although being 6 seconds faster would have been nice. 

I was passing people left and right and by a mile I was up some people I recognized.  The split was somewhere around 5:50 by my watch.  I think it matched the clock so the distance may have been proper, but the clock was off for others.  I was not feeling too bad and still pushing ahead.  I think I settled at 1.5 and at this point I was actually racing the people around me, which is something I haven't felt in a while.  I put a move on a couple people and they came right back.  It was real racing.

Through two miles at 12:00 on my watch and I knew I could get low 19 at the very worst.  Maybe had a chance to go under.  I could see 3rd place woman (my friend) up ahead and continued up the smallish hills near the finish without losing much steam.  Remus passed me somewhere in the last .1, on his feet not on his hands this time.  I wound up ahead of him on chip time, though.  Finally the finish came and I was pretty happy with 19:06 by my watch.  It was almost a full 40 seconds faster than Shamrock in March, which was a faster course with that big downhill at the start.  Of course, I calculated and it was 550 miles in between the two races.  That kind of work will lead to some improvement almost every time.

By the numbers it's somewhere around 6:10 per mile for the race.  Perhaps it was the shorter distance after a half and a 10k, but I just felt better when out there.  The temperature was quite nice as well, but I was soaked with sweat at the end.  Age-graded is somewhere in the 67% range, a jump up from the low 60s and even high 50s that I had been turning in for the last year.  Not that those mean all that much, I know what a 19 minute 5k means since I ran 3 miles so often in high school (and much faster for most of the time). 

And the taper began at 8:19.07 Sunday morning when I decided I didn't need to run after the race.  I think I can stay sane since I am a bit sick of the training.  I basically started in the middle of January to get my miles to 40 to start my own custom 15 week plan going.  And I managed a couple of weeks below 40 in May after racing, and just busy with life. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Last year around late March/Early April I made the decision to get back into decent racing shape.  I was no longer playing Australian Rules Football or even Ausball after my ankle injuries.  I feel like I spent 2001 to 2008 in terrible shape, but that might not be completely true.  I did the 2008 Executive Stampede for my new company in a 21:30, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 minute pace after an active summer and fall.  But the next year I was not so lucky and struggled to a 23:53.  The next several races I did were a couple of 5ks also in the 23/24 range.  Pretty pathetic for someone who went under 17 as the peak of a above average high school country career.  So the goal was to get back to respectably through a lot of work.  But it was an inauspicious start as I ran the Cylburn Arboretum 5k with a couple of huge hills in 28.  My friend also ran and we figured it was about 4 extra with the hills, so still in that 24 minute range.  I wanted to get into the longer distances with an eye towards the Baltimore half (and sometime in May I made the impulsive decision to pick a marathon and train for it).  I think a basic search landed me on the MCVET 10k memorial day weekend 2011. 

It was hot last year, probably around the same conditions it would turn out being this year.  I did a 7 mile training run the previous week around Dundalk and home and was convinced I was ready for the race.  I was pretty much not ready for the race.  So I showed up not quite sure how the schedule was arranged.  It was a 5k and a 10k, and the 5k went first.  I was warming up and completely unaware we had to wait until the entire field finished the 5k (around here folks walk in 5ks and the stragglers will finish in about an hour).  I kept warming up and pretty much had done the race before the race by the time we made it to the starting line.  I still felt confident and started out in an optimistic 7:30 pace.  I held something decent until the turnaround, but the exposed course was getting to me as it was after 9 and shade was scarce.  I just fell apart after mile 4 and shuffled in walking and running to finish in an awful 54 minutes flat.  Quite a bad experience and I was forced to pound little orange juice cups to stay with it.  But I stuck with the training and finished the year strong with my marathon and the next races after.  I did a couple of 10k's later in the year running 44 in the short Too Hot To Trot race and 45 in an ordinary Veterans Day 10k in November (which I didn't do as much as take a day off in advance).

As I rolled into 2012 I looked forward to being able to run some repeat races and marveling at the improvement as I had lost more than 20 pounds from the beginning of 2011.  I was now running 6-7 days a week and spent 8 weeks with an average over 50 miles in March and April.  Unfortunately the Arboretum race was the same day as Cherry Blossom and I was looking to improve on a time from 1992 (age 13!) so the choice there was obvious and no regrets as I ran the peak race of my season.  In fact, the 42:42 or so at 10k would be the fastest 10k of the season if it was a race by itself.  So that left the MCVET 10k on Memorial Day weekend.  And it was probably the best choice since last year's result was so bad on paper.  I though I could easily take off 10 minutes, and possibly take off 13 or 14 minutes with a great race under the right conditions. 

Knowing the schedule this time around I didn't even bother to arrive before the 5k.  I walked up to the War Memorial Building to get my number and shirt and my fast friends had already finished their 5k (winning time was 15:42) and I did a modest warm up and lined up to start behind the fast folks in the front.  Really there was nothing special about the race.  I went out fast and couldn't hold it.  Slipped about 10 spots and was passed by 2nd and 3rd in my age group.  Took to dumping water on my head at the water stops.  I was back on Lombard Street around 40 minutes and I was worried I wouldn't hit 44 minutes to make the 10 minute improvement that I wanted at a base level.  But I efforted up the hill and by that point I could tell I was going to be around 43:30 and I came across tired buy happy.  I then stood around for the awards and then went for some more miles after because I thought I needed them.

Next up - Bel Air Town Run for fun and to get some points in the MDRRCA grand prix in case I have a chance to out participate my way to a shot at the age group award.  Will try to go under 20, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yoshimi battles the Half Marathon

Relatively unhappy with my Frederick Half, I impulsively signed up for the St. Michael's Half just 13 days later.  An eastern shore race, it seemed like it would be flat and fast like the Cherry Blossom and maybe I could improve my time on that fact alone.  But I was not sure if I would be able to post the necessary effort.  For Frederick I stayed in the night before, ate a full dinner and went to bed early.  For this race I had tickets to see Cock Sparrer play a show in Philly.  Since they are an English band from the late 70's they don't come around, ever, so the show was very important.  I drove up after work and stood for around 3 hours and then drove back home.  The show ended around midnight so I wasn't home until 2.  And then St. Michael's is an hour and a half drive from home. I was up before 6 to make it to town before they closed the road at 7:30, as was written in bold on the event website.

I overslept slightly and rushed out the door after a quick dog walk.  I took my clothes along and proper lubricant for a race of that distance (too much info, I know).  No traffic until a mile or two out and I was picking up my number before 8 with plenty of time for the warm up.  Thinking the start was 8:30 I did my warm up accordingly, jogging for 10 and stretching.  But there was no urgency in most people around and I realized there was no chance it was starting at 8:30.  Or 8:45.  So at some point they let us line up in the start chute and we stood around.  They gave up a 5 minute count down and finally we started (note: this was a small town even run for the first time, i'm not really complaining about how the start went). 

Looking around there were a few people who looked pretty racey and a whole lot who did not. And as we ran the first half mile or so, it was pretty much the case.  I tucked in somewhere in the high teens and didn't think too much about it.  I was just behind the first female and a guy wearing headphones.  The scenic part of the race through town didn't last long and we were out on a loop road that went through a golf course filled with mostly disinterested golfers.  All the cheering folks were wearing volunteer shirts.  There were a ton of those, though.  I am not sure if crowd has an effect on my racing, i've decided.  I pretty much have to run my race and really block them out in the end.  But I digress.

First mile was somewhere around 6:40 (too fast) and I didn't see the second mile marked.  Third was still under 7 pace at 20:40, but I was already slipping away.  Lack of sleep, bad warm up, or too soon after the previous half--take your pick.  I pretty much subconsciously slowed to a sensible pace and prepared for the long haul.  A bit frustrating when I can hold 6:50 or better for 7 or 8 miles at the Cherry Blossom and the past two halfs i'm way off even that pace by 6.  There is a good chance I peaked on April 1, but there is not much one can do about that, right?   The course after the loop part dumps you back on the main road out to Tilghman's and as strictly out-and-back it was a tad easier mentally to grind through as I could count down to the turn.  The turnaround was cool, you could see the front of the race for a while.  One guy way out (finished 4 minutes up on second place guy, himself as far ahead of third place) and then clumps of folks through to me.  I tried to count my place but overestimated the people.  Several had passed me on the way out and at least a couple would pass me before the finish. 

Feels like I hit a bit of a mini 'wall' at around 10.  I took my gu at 48 minutes or so and I was taking a little bit of gatoraide at the stops.  After 8 I could compare my times to Frederick and they were pretty uniformly behind--58 versus 56 for 8, 72 and change versus 71 for 10.  Not helping was the direct heat since all the shade was on the other side of the road.  And after a late start it was after 10 am at this point.  But that's not really an excuse.  Grinding through the end I held my pace to 1:37, less than 2 minutes off the Frederick time.  I think I was close enough I could have seen myself finishing if I had been in the racing running my Frederick time, and would have only finished 24th instead of 26th or something like that.  But in the end I think it was a sign to adjust my goal for the full marathon in 24 days.  If I can't hold 7:30 when i've only done 8 or 10 miles the odds of holding it for 26 seem low.  Then again, maybe i'll surprise myself.  Realistic Grandma's Goal:  3:20.

I did a couple of brisk cool down miles bringing the morning's total to 16 miles and I likely won't run farther than that before the race.  Almost taper time, with two more races of decreasing length the next two weekends. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Frederick Half Marathon

aka, when a plan doesn't come together.

The Half Marathon is an odd distance.  I'm coming to realize that I don't really like it all that much.  Something about being short but not really that short.  A 15k or 10 miler I can get my head around.  And probably can tough through if i'm having a bad day.  But being early in a half and it's not going so well means a long time to grind out.  It happened last fall at the Baltimore Half and it happened again last weekend at the Frederick Half.  At least my fitness was good enough that my time this go around did improve by over 5 minutes.

I was keyed on the half as potentially the prime indicator of my upcoming marathon goal pace.  After a blazing fast Cherry Blossom, I was starting to get thoughts of 3:15 or even 3:10s creeping in to my brain (3:10 being the new Boston Qualifier for someone 35, which I am going to be by Patriots Day 2013).  I figured if I ran the Cherry Blossom equivalent again and then toughed out the last 3 miles I would be solidly in the 1:32 range, and on a good day close to breaking 1:30. 

So I rested up (thanks to a mystery knee ailment that surfaced last Tuesday morning) and took it easy all weekend.  The race was early Sunday morning, but I even walked the dogs early and went to bed before 11.  I had only one beer with dinner. I warned up pretty properly and felt ok at the start.  I was running with a friend with a GPS watch and we had similar goals so we had a fairly aggressive 6:50 pace (same as the bulk of my Cherry Blossom split).  The course goes out from the Fairgrounds, and then doubles back up Market Street.  It is a bit of a hill up past the 2 mile mark and then a half mile later.  I'm hanging in at this point, but really feeling like it was not my day.  So by mile 5 I had pretty much let him go and was trying to hang on to 7 pace or just over that.

It still wasn't happening and I was at 7 minute pace exactly at the 8 mile mark.  But I had dropped close to a minute off the original pace so I was really in the 7:20's or worse.  A not-so-nice hill at mile 9 and I was dropping hard.  I had to be doing 8's by then and that's how my Baltimore half ended.  I thought about stopping, but kept moving the legs forward.  I took a gu type pouch at the water stop and it tasted weird, and had too much of a fluid consistency.  More reason to just bring my own in the future.  At 10 1/2 there was a medical tent and I thought about stopping.  My hamstrings were pretty tight and I was not comfortable.  But I kept going cause as bad it was I still had a PR in my range. 

I started worrying about my friend Dan and his 1:40 pace group catching me (that was a bit over the top) and kept moving the legs.  Finally we turned into the Fairgrounds and, yes, there was another hill.  At the top you enter the track and finish there, on severely uneven ground.  The 13 mile mark was around the turn and you finished on the straight.  I was not willing to run another step and staggered around the finish.  I sulked about my time, but I think i'm over it.  My bad Baltimore half was the most accurate for predicting my full time at White Rock.  And a 1:35:35 still predicts to a 3:21 or something which is a large improvement, and what I was originally aiming for when I started my training at the beginning of the year.

Twitter splits (I think I could recrate the others, but I don't really feel like it)

1/2 Marathon: Pj Anderer - Finish in 1:35:35. Pace: 7:17. At 8:35:45.

1/2 Marathon: Pj Anderer - 10 Mile in 1:11:26. Pace: 7:09. Est: 1:33:43. ETA: 8:33:48.

1/2 Marathon: Pj Anderer - 8 Mile in 0:56:00. Pace: 6:60. Est: 1:31:45. ETA: 8:31:54.
(people enjoyed the impossible 6:60 split at 8)

May slide into something of a makeup race before the end of the month, I haven't decided yet.  I'm also going to the MCVET 10k memorial day weekend and that should indicate some things. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Westminster Main Street Mile

I know i've done the Main Street Mile before. I don't really remember any times or anything, but I have run that course. I feel like it evolved out the old Midnight Mile from the mid 80's, but I have absolutely no proof of that. Anyway, with the team headed up there for a quick mile on a Wednesday night, I was all in.

I didn't take any days off, but Tuesday was a rather easy 6 on the flat but rocky Big Gunpowder trail. I was breaking in my new trail Mizuno Ascends (at right), and wanted something that resembled a trail to do that. So the legs felt great and I was thinking I could pull a nice time.

So I had to get to Westminster before 6:30 and that meant leaving work early. I worked through lunch and left at 4:20, heading home to take the dogs around the block and change. I put the Fall Road singlet with pride and took the tunnel. It took over an hour. So it's right at 6:30 and i'm dashing over to pick up my number, dashing up the hill to the start. But I think I got enough warm up. A few strides and some stretching, the usual. I line up with the other guys from team TWSS looking very racey.

It's been 15(?) 18(?) years since I did a race that short. I didn't know if my legs would remember how to turn over. But once the gun when we all did, and I was hanging with folks probably a tad faster than me. The hill at the start is steep, almost too steep for my taste. It flattens out as you hit the half and maybe even goes a bit uphill before the final plunge to the finish. They were reading out times for the half and I think I was about 2:29. That's under 5 minute pace, but I was starting to fade.

The clock at the finish was reading 5:10 as I approached and I glanced over to see 5:14 when I crossed. I didn't get the watch stopped until 5:20, but I knew I was 5:15 or 5:16 at worse. Considering my 135 pound 15 year-old PR was 4:52 at the similar Market Street Mile, I was very happy. We had our ice cream sandwiches and I headed over to Western Maryland (McDaniel) to do some moderate 800s on the track. Checking the official results the verdict was 5:14.5. Very happy with that time. Good times all around as the winner went under 4, and a cluster of our girls went under 5 (kicking my butt, like ususal).

Coming up: The Mulligan Metric Marathon. I am not going to race it (famous last words) and I have to do at least a mile warm up and cool down to get 18 for the day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cherry Blossom

I love the cherry Blossom. I still love it, having only done it twice back in the early 90's and not again until this year. One part of the reason I consider to have 'peaked at age 13' was my Cherry Blossom race in 1992. I can't even remember what training I was doing, I did the Mobil 1 meet indoor, but that was a mile. I stopped doing Knight Striders and any formal stuff. I just went out ran ten miles, and managed 7 minutes per mile. I think I was shooting for 68 so I could submit the time to be 'ranked' nationally. It seemed like a big deal at the time.

Fast forward to this year. After a decent club challenge race I felt like I could break through a bit at this race. And the pancake flat course would mean a PR, if I could just survive the start. I don't know if I would claim I survived the start, but I didn't have a sharp object so no one got stabbed. I used the full course, a bit of grass in places, and most helpfully the area over the yellow line across memorial bridge. I didn't even notice the first mile sign and my best guess is somewhere between 7:30 and 8 minutes. A little more running room meant I could pick up the pace a lot and I passed mile 2 at 14:10 or so. Fatigue was creeping in and I had to settle in a pace. At this point I was concerned about passing, the field was more spread out and I had caught some much faster runners.

All my mile times are from memory (except halfway which had an official split). Also, each 5k was marked and I will list times from those points as well. The first 5k was somewhere around 21:20 after the third mile was under 21, as I started to get back on track for a sub 70 minute race. I saw my sister (with her large Elmo, very popular) just before 5. I was about 27:41 at mile 4 and I think I had settled on a proper pace around 6:50 per mile. Half way split was 34:30, faster than my Celtic Solstice time just 4 short months ago (but hundreds of miles later).

The rest of the course went down to Hains Point and back. I briefly had my brain get in the way. The Veterans Day 10k was over this same stretch of pavement and I had flashbacks of that CF of a race. I fought it off and the miles continued to fall away. 6 was somewhere around 41:21, and the 10k was 42:40, two and a half minutes faster than said Veterans Day race. Come to think of it, that probably helped bust the mental funk as I knew I was cruising and feeling ok. Mile 7 was 48:11 and I started thinking about not just going under 70, but under 69. 8 was 55:05 and I had started to creep closer to 7 minute miles. Mile 9 confirmed this as I was 62:05. But with a short mile to go I picked the pace back up and finished at 1:09 flat. Time for the 15k split was 1:04.12 or so, which would be a PR at that distance as well. The most freaky stat was the second 5 mile split was 34:30 which means I ran exactly the same time for each half of the race. I've never done that.

At this point I should have the woulda, coulda, shoulda conversation. Most PR times beyond 5k should be a big question mark. I didn't run much over 3M/5K while in peak shape during high school. My 3 Mile PR of 16:50 translates to low 60 minute for 10 miles. But I never actually ran that distance, so I can't really claim that PR. The fastest 10 miles, to the best of my knowledge, was the Cherry Blossom in '92 in just over 70 minutes. So it's a PR that doesn't feel like a PR. C'est la vie...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cherry Blossom preivew

Sunday is the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I hope to do well, time could be anywhere in a range. I did not get in to first corral, so I don't think i'll be able to hang with my friends before the start. At least most of them. I haven't done this race since 1993 (I did half with my sister and then kicked in for something like 1:16). I also did it in 1992 and set what appears to be my PR for the distance. Since I was 13 for that race, it's a piece of why the blog is named Peaked at Age 13. I am hoping to run under that time. A equal effort to Club Challenge on a much flatter course should mean that is possible. To be continued...

March is going to be an odd month. I had unplanned sick time at the start, then I ran everyday until today. The miles piled up, and i'm sitting at 193. I really want to run a couple quick miles today and tomorrow and keep the streak going and hit 200, but I probably will take the days off and rest for the race. I really don't have another race of emphasis until the Frederick Half, which is more than a month away. A month without a day off is what i'm planning right now. It may not happen, I have a trip to Gettysburg at the end that will complicate. But there is always a way to run if the desire is there, and so far the desire is there. So we shall see.

Weekly totals for the past few - 36 this week, 55 last week, 52 the week before that...

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Nostalgia Tour Continues

2012 as the year of the return continues. I returned to Frederick to compete in not one, but two races. The first was Francie's 5k, which was not a race from my youth, but a race in a place from my youth. The second was the Forest of Needwood 5 Mile, which was a race from back then. Oddly, when I discovered these were both on the same day I was at a loss to pick one. But upon closer inspection the 5k was at 9 and the 5 miler was at 1 I realized I could certainly do both. Neither would be a ground-breaking time or place, but it would be a nice change and good miles as well.

Francie's 5k
Francie Billoti Wood was a student at Middletown High and a member of the track team. She was a couple of years older than me, but we did overlap in tenure. She was also a friend of my sister and a good friend to some of my sister friends. Her tragic passing back in '09 was pretty big news across the state, if you were around you would have heard about it. It's the kind of thing that rocks a small town like Middletown. Francie was getting back into running for fun and training for a marathon, I believe. It was natural that folks put on a race in her memory. This year was the 3rd event, I had wanted to make the previous ones, but circumstances did not allow it (busy or lazy, basically). This year, in shape and training lots, I thought it would work. I let me sister know and she wound up walking it with my mom.

I would have preferred to the 5 miler first and hoof the 5k. But it was the other way around, so I had to try and show some restraint for the first race. It was very popular with the younger kids so they took off, along with some legitimate fast folks in the front. I settled in very early and passed quite a few people as we progressed through the High School property to Green Street. A decent hill that left me ahead of all but one very young girl (the lead pack was off and out of mind by then). The backside of Green Street is a nice downhill, around the corner and through Middletown's 'main' intersection. I knew we were past a mile at this point and I was under 7 best I could tell. The course then went up past the memorial park (site of so many Spring Thaw 5 Milers) and then to Linden Ave. The water stop was near half way and I was around 10 minutes so still cruising a decent pace. Linden has a decent down-and-up that we used to use for workouts back in my school days. That certainly helped me power up and around the loop.

I saw David Schafer coming out of the loop and gave him a cheer. I'm sure he had no clue who I was (a bit of theme). He was cruising to 18 and change, still amazing in his 50's (he was a state champ and Olympic marathon trial qualifier back in the day). I was still trailing the small girl, she couldn't be more than 12. I laughed to myself as that was me back in the day, very young and running with competitive folks. We crossed 40A and back on the school grounds. I knew there was less than a mile and I was feeling quite sore from the miles I had been doing. But I had run hard that far and I wanted to cruise in to the finish. And when I did I was still a bit surprised at the time. 20:51 was only about a minute behind my Shamrock 5k time and that was a net downhill course, this one had both down and up hills. I figured I had killed the Needwood, but I was not all that worried, I guess. I jogged back to where my sister and mom were walking and finished the race with them. They came home in less than an hour, which made my mom very happy.

I saw my old High School coach and some other folks from school. Won a random prize (round of golf at a course they built since I left Middletown) and then won the overall age group award. I figured I was somewhere around 10 overall, checking the results I was 8th (The 12 year old girl won the women's race in an amazing 20:35). I was a bit concerned about the course being short, but I mapped it when I got home and if anything it was longer than 3.1 by a little bit. Well done, Middletown.

Forest of Needwood 5 Miler
I don't know how many times I have done this race. It was the traditional season opener (not counting Club Challenge which I had never managed to do) and the first Grand Prix race for the Steeplechasers. I didn't realize, but this was the 30th anniversary, so it was a good time to make a return to run. I tried to map out the course ahead of time, remembered the main part was running along Lee's Lane, the site of Needwood, home of former Maryland Governor and notable colonial figure Thomas Sim Lee's ( plantation. Yes, he's also one of 'those' Lees...

The course I remembered as fairly rolling. I did not remember it being so open, which meant it was more challenging as the temperature crept up towards 80. I didn't really do much warming up, I figured a slow first coupe of miles would do the trick. But apparently my habitual fast starts know no bounds and I was through the first mile at 6:45 or so. Even if it was aided by some downhill running, that's still a fast start for the second race of the day. I kept it rolling and the second mile was a sold 12 flat. I attempted to drink water at the first stop, but I didn't get much down and I was off. The halfway point was marked (bonus) and I was around 17:30, which would equal a 35 minute race, exactly 7 minutes per mile. But I was fading a bit and was ok with that. I was passed twice, both women. I was a little worried about losing grand prix points (my secret motivation for doing the race), but there was really no one else threatening. At mile 4 was a rather significant hill which I has mostly forgotten. I don't know if I would have done the race if I had remembered. I think perhaps that's a fun Frederick County thing, putting a nasty hill towards the end of races to break the flatlanders that come to race. I may have not noticed having grown up with those hills my whole life. But I digress.

The last mile was fine and I wound up with a respectable 37:25 (officially time was a bit fast, but I think they have the times bumped up one spot for each runner). Celtic Solstice was 34:34 for comparison, but that was cooler, less hilly, and most importantly not right after a 5k. Again, a fun way to get to 10 miles for the day. I also took home an age group award (second place this time). I don't think too many folks from my age group in the Grand Prix ran so I will gain some ground that I lost because Club Challenge didn't count.

Miles for the week were 52, possibly an all-time best for me. I followed up going to Patapsco for 90 minutes of trail and path running (and two trips up Gun Road). Shooting for 54 or 55 this week, before a lighter week prior to the Cherry Blossom.