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 active.com 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.