24 April 2012

Wet and Wild in Northern Virgina (Parkway Classic 10-Miler)

Scroll to the end of this post for the shorts.

I’ve decided to follow a standard/focused plan for racing; I will concentrate on shorter races (read speed) during the Spring, roll that into added base training over the summer, and focus on marathons in the Fall. Rest. Repeat. I can’t remember where I got this idea (it is not original), but I liked it as soon as I heard it. As such, my goal race for this Spring was the GW Parkway Classic. This is my favorite race, put on by my favorite LRS. They keep the crowds low (less than 8000), the course has a slight net downhill, is on rolling hills, and only has two turns along the whole course. Please remember that this report is about me; all paces and qualifiers are relative. Understand that what is fast/slow to you, may not apply to me and my perception of my own fitness.

Training: I’m pretty blessed to be a part of Pacers as an Ambassador and Fun Run Leader. I’ve found a family here with the elite team, retail and event staff, fun runners, and ambassadors. Being a part of Pacers has transformed my running through added accountability, and as an added spring board for questions and tips. Basically it’s RW, IRL.

I followed a Hudson 10k plan with an emphasis on speed. In all honestly I didn’t get in as much speed work as I’d like, but I did run hilly routes at least twice per week, more often than not many more times. I know that it isn’t the same, but it worked well enough. Most importantly I ran more mileage. Since the beginning of the year I ran around 522 miles (about 130/month and 35/week) with a peak of 62mpw. If that mileage seems low it is because it is. This includes taper, four full months instead of 11 weeks, and three weeks of this year that had an overall mileage of 12 miles( for the whole three weeks, not per week). I had eight weeks over the weekly average (35). This included three in the 49.5+ range. My average run was 8 miles, and there were 16 individual runs over 10 miles, not including days that I doubled (usually every Tuesday/Thursday because of fun runs).
Pre-race: I did a 10 day taper. I abstained from alcohol the last week; except for Saturday. The taper was only supposed to be 7 days, but, life happens.

Race morning: I got up at 3:30a.m. to help a friend get to the race start early; she had to work there. Had the obligatory cup of coffee (well two – to help with #2). I made the n00b mistake of forgetting to grab water and Gatorade from home but luckily the race provided coffee/water/food/space blankets at the start. I’d also gotten a bagel the day before to eat that morning, but I forgot it too. So my breakfast consisted of one egg, two cups of coffee and half of a Clif Bar; it was sufficient. I experiment a lot with my diet, so as long as there aren’t extremes with weather or course; I can fuel any way that is convenient. Admittedly some ways are better than others.

Race: This is a beautiful course along the Mt. Vernon Parkway. I did a 1.5 mile warmup (should have been two w/ strides, but I mis-timed the start) and was ready to go. I lined up in the front of the 7:00 min pace section and waited for the start. Rather than hit every mile, the point is simple; I went out to fast, got stuck in a slow pace in the middle miles and couldn’t recover sufficiently late in the race.
The first and last miles were sub-7, but the interim miles were far off. After about three miles I thought that I was cruising along until I peeked down at the watch and saw 7:30-something on the screen. I was really set aback. There was no reason for me to be running that slow three miles in. If nothing else, I should be able to hit 20 seconds off 5k pace, through the first three miles. I should not have been working this hard and running so slow. From this point on the race just fell apart. There were paces in 7:40 range and even one in a pedestrian 8-flat. I was kinda defeated when I saw that. Also, some knuckle head (who I think beat me) was doing this weird run (with goofy form) at sub 7 pace; walk until I was nearby, then run at sub 7 pace. He wasn’t a Gallo-walker; he was just not well paced/trained.

I was able to muster some composure at the end (due to a guy with a shirt that had the super-common phrase “Someday I will not be able to do this; today is not that day”). I was able to kick down from a 7:47 mile 9, to a 6:50-high mile 10.

Post-race analysis: I either really mis-judged my fitness or had a really bad day; and I’m not exactly sure which one it is yet. I can accept that I wasn’t in 7:15 shape, but I still find it hard to believe that I wasn’t in 7:30 shape. All of my workouts and races pointed to 7:30 being dialed in and not a challenging goal. I had a hard positive split as my 5mile split was 7:30 pace (37:28). I can pinpoint a few things that I need to do better:

-Follow my plan; and changes need to be smart and not on the fly. I know how to do this, but I still didn’t do it correctly.

-More race pace workouts and longer tempos

-Start out slower. This isn’t usually a big problem, but this time it was.

A few of my friends from my running group think that I am better at the shorter distances, but I don’t know if I accept that yet. I want to like the longer distances and I want to run the longer distance, but not if it is not where I am at my best. I have been re-thinking my marathon this fall….

Next up? Redemption. I have a hot and hilly HM next weekend that I was gonna go out and jog. Now I’m going to race it. I need to put my legs out there again. Yesterday felt a lot more like a hard workout than a race. Even after; I didn’t experience any of the post-race soreness that should be expected from giving maximal effort. And the sub-7 mile at the end of the race makes me know that this was a subpar performance. After that it is back into base training and some fun races while I decide where I want to focus and if I want to run the marathon. I’m not afraid of the training. I love the training. I think of training as school and the race as graduation. One positive thing that came out of this whole ordeal is that I realized that I really do like (and respond well) to higher mileage.

Training: Hudson Advanced 10k (with modifications)
Support: Best.Folks.Ever - Pacers, RWBF, RW Mammals – my adopted run club, and a few special friends that I can’t really hyperlink… (Jenn, Kayla, Tripp, and all of my Awesome Sock Clan).

Time: 76:30
O/A: 520/4827
A/G: 189/781 (10yr AG)
Gender: 426/2141
O/A Male Winner: 51:03 – which is a bit slower than races past which is usually sub-50. CR: 47:30
O/A Male Winner: 58:50

01 April 2012

Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Race Report

I will try not to waste a lot of time or space on this race report (didn’t actually happen so skip to the end for the briefs). This is the biggest (15,000 strong) 10-Miler that we have in the DC Metro; part of the Big 3 for 10 Mile races (Army Ten Miler, Credit Union Cherry Blossom, and Parkway Classic 10). I wanted to run this race just so that I can say that I did it; although I was duly warned about the crowds. I figured that I’d give myself a ‘gimme’ for the first mile and that after that it would surely clear up…

I ran with my Garmin but without the GPS because of battery issues, I can’t say that it really affected me much either way, except that I don’t have more reliable splits.

Mile 1:  I expect crowding and I’m not shocked. In all honesty, this was partially my fault and partially CB’s fault. They seeded runners based on their best 10-mile time so I was in the 8:30 (1:22.30) group of runners, although my goal for this race was 7:30 (1:15). I probably could have asked to be moved up, but I figured that I would be able to clear traffic by a mile in. 8:03.16

Mile 2: I realized that I can’t be upset with the runners around me (except for the ones that move laterally without looking first). It seems that everyone is truly running ~8:30s. Great for them, not so much for me. I was very cognizant of trying not to push too much to make up for lost time. I’d see little pockets of air that I would try to hit, but I didn’t want to surge forward; in some ways I question my wisdom of this decision. I moved up slowly, I thought, but the lap time didn’t show it. As I went past the 2 mile mark I started a decline and had to remember to hold back and not to let the clock and decline dictate my pace. 8:03.10

Mile 3&4 (didn’t press lap button): Still crowded (no seriously), but I am able to find a little air by pulling little surges. I did move up noticeably here. It is considerably crowded and these streets, 2 lane roads, don’t really give much space. Hi Jenn! I saw bingo_jenn in the middle of her run and near my turnaround point somewhere in mile 3. 15:10.82; significantly faster.

Mile 5: I can actually see that it is clearing up nicely but not much else going on. I realize that for a race of this size and for this amount of money it is silly that they don’t have timing mats on the course. I would assume that there would be mats (they have signs and clocks) at the 5k, 5Mile, 10K, and 15k. I meant to check my over all time but I was still miffed that there were no mats. Also, this was about the time that we passed the elite runners going into the last mile (women started 15 minutes ahead, I believe). 7:46.7

Mile 6: This mile was where I truly decided not to ever do this race again; although I was already on the fence. The timing clock was about 10-15 meters ahead of the mile marker. That may not seem like a lot, but it can be. This area was a two-lane road with two-way runner traffic and they decided to put a water stop here, then about 50 meters later, a hairpin turn. I mean really? RD, are you serious? Move the water stop up or back .25 mile. Put the clock next to the mile signage. Separate the turnaround from the water stop. Damn you!!! 7:38.68

Mile 7: We go into Hains Point. I truly hate running and racing here. A lot of people in this area don’t like to race here, but enjoy it for running. My personal hate aside (my second ever 10 mile training run was down here and it was an epic fail, I ended up in a cab; also, my first ever race here I DNF’d). This area basically comprises mile 6.5-9.25, that is almost three miles of nearly completely abandoned road. There was a non-sponsored band (some HS kids and their parents; which was cool), a DJ who was using obviously borrowed equipment, and a guy handing out beer. I appreciate all of them and their support; but that is all that was around for almost three miles. This part of the course goes along the water, but there were not even boats in the water! I would appreciate if CB used fewer volunteers to cheer on the course (where there are always friends and family) and use those same volunteers in Hains Point. Better yet, sponsor some bands. I’m sure many would play for free; Hell I feel like I need to set up there next year. 7:40.60

Mile 8: Not much of note here, more of Hains Point. A lady did come up and asked me to run strong because she had been keying off of me for the last few miles. She said that she got nervous when she didn’t see me and had to speed up… I looked for her at the end. I hope she finished well. (If you’re reading this: “Good Job out there”). 7:43.40

Mile 9: Ending of Hains Point. A guy went down here and was being tended to by medical personnel; I said a little prayer for him, but the rumor was that he didn’t make it and I truly hope that was incorrect. I saw another guy who seemed to have tripped over the sidewalk and fell. Medical folks were there super quick! I have to give two big thumbs up to the first responders!
Mile 10: Meh… They had little signs that read 1200/800/400 to go, which was neat. I was ready to be done. My watch was all wonky here so I don’t really know what split I have for the last mile. (1.50, 4.94, 7:22.46=7:28.9?)

All-in-all I had a good race and I know that this wasn’t the goal anyway. This race did make me very excited to run my goal race at Parkway in four weeks. I have a 5k series to race between now and then. Thanks for your attention. I’m still waiting on official results, but my Garmin said 1:17:14. I kinda hope that I was 15 seconds faster than that…

After the race I changed clothes and met up with some of the people from our Fun Run group. They all seemed to do well and laughed at me while I was complaining; we are really spoiled by our LRS’s races. They ran this race last year and knew what was up. Silly, me. This is where my Fun Run co-leader commented, “You are much faster than you act,” after asking me about my time. I took it as a compliment; I think that she means that I don’t always go out and do our fun runs at 8:30 pace…

ETA: They posted results. Gun time. That is it. I am still waiting for Chip time. The site shows that it is supposedly Net and Gun times, but all of the times are the same. I think that I need to go run now... The only people who care about gun time are the O/A placers, who would know where they are instantly, and the A/G folks. BTW, Net time is NOT Gun time, Credit Union Cherry Blossom! Oh and my 5 mile split is not my gun time (or net time) divided by 2. Ridiculous. This is seriously ridiculous.

27 March 2012

I'm a n00b, all over again. I like it....

I have decided to take a whole new look at many things in my life; a major part of which is running, training, and racing.

I am a Hudsonite through and through. His book was the first training book that I read that I could relate to from the very first chapters (see below). I think that he has something for every runner ranging from the veteran who is pushing for a lifetime PR at 10k, or the aspiring marathon runner. Personally I use Hudson-style training and Daniels VDot-based paces and I can very rarely complain about my training – however the application of that training is a lot different.

I spent most of last year running, training, and racing simply to be social, which was a blessing and a curse. I had a great time last year helping many of my friends reach new peaks, but, I finished the year tired and failed at my goal race. All-in-all, I won't complain because I now have a group of friends that are as close to me as family. My LRS has been there and has grown me as a runner. In the end, that is significantly more important than a PR.

But, PR's I do have. Hell, I've set PRs at all of the major distances over the last two weeks and an expected PR coming in a few more days. Right now I feel that I can run a number of distance races up to the Half Marathon and PR. While I may have not produced really awesome races, I certainly trained well.

That brings us to the point of this post. Brad Hudson’s book Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach (no I am not reviewing this for money or anything of the sort). If you are a stickler for plans, he’s got them. He provides three plans for each of the major distance. If you like to “wing it”; he teaches you how to “wing it” with purpose. He doesn’t get a lot of attention around here I’m not sure why. He is usually one of the first coaches that I recommend to people, and I’ve noticed that he is gaining more mentions now, than three years ago. I wonder how many people that ask about training have ever heard of Hudson? How many of the “wing it” crew have cracked his book? He’s not super-technical, and actually writes his book to us: the recreational runner.

He has two rules of running and four principles:
-Understand how the human body adapts to different types of training, and train accordingly.
-Learn how your individual body adapts to various types of training, and train accordingly.

The goal of training is to stimulate the precise set of physiological adaptations that are needed to achieve maximum performance in a peak race.
Training programs must be adapted to the individual strengths, weaknesses, needs, and goals of each runner.
Individualized training schedules must be adapted daily, based on the runner’s response to recent training and any other factors that may affect the runner’s readiness for planned training.
The runner must adapt his or her training from season to season, year to year, in response to the effects of the most recently completed training cycle, to stimulate further positive adaptations.

Every elite running coach has a training philosophy. Mine is called adaptive running. It is based on my belief that a responsive, evolving, creative approach to training is better than an approach that is too structured and formulaic. Simply put, there is no single training formula that works perfectly for every runner. Nor is it possible to predict exactly how a runner will respond to any particular training formula. What’s more, even when a certain formula works well for a runner, he or she changes as a result of using it, so the formula must also change to produce further improvement. For these reasons, a rigid, one-size-fits-all training program will never allow you to realize your full potential as a runner. It may get you started, but it will only take you so far. Adaptive running becomes the natural way to train when you recognize that training must be customized to you individually and adapted every day based on your response to recent training.

imagine another spectrum that ranges from strict adherence to planned training at one end to total spontaneity at the other end. The typical competitive runner trains in fairly strict adherence to the plan, and with fairly little spontaneity. If the training plan calls for 12 quarter-mile repeats in 80 seconds apiece on Thursday, then by God, he’s going to run 12 quarter-mile repeats in 80 seconds apiece on Thursday, even if he feels awful from the very first step of the workout. My approach to training encourages far more spontaneity—not arbitrary changes to the plan, but informed changes based on how the runner has responded to recent training. Naturally, there isn’t a runner on earth who is completely unwilling to deviate from planned workouts. I don’t advocate a make-it-up-as-you-go approach, but I do put far more emphasis on reaction and less emphasis on planning than the typical competitive runner does.

Fitzgerald, Matt; Hudson, Brad (2008-07-29). Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach (Kindle Locations 196-203). Broadway. Kindle Edition.

20 March 2012

RR - My HM PR warmup to my PR 5k (and hardware of sorts). Rich's racing weekend, with pics:

Training: Neither of these two races were goal races for the spring, however, each served a specific purpose. The HM was to put in a hard effort and to show how I could do at the end of high mileage week. Also, I wanted some added stress/intensity before the 5k. The 5k was my benchmark. I spent a lot of last year doing races for fun, and not many for time/place. I had an awesome time running high 20 5k’s, but that doesn’t help me become a better racer.

This week is a lifetime mileage high for me at 62.09 miles. That I completed these two races, with the results that I got, gives me a lot of hope for what is to come this season. Skip to the bottom for Cliff Notes.

My check on training: Rock ‘n’ Roll USA, Washington, DC; 18 March 2012
My goal here was to better a very stale and soft PR. I didn’t have a specific time goal, but I wanted to run a good, hard effort. I wasn’t expecting ‘sprawled on the ground’ hard, ‘hands on the knees’ hard would suffice. I train in the area that the race was staged; but I still forgot about the hills.  In training I like to run hard on the up hills and while that is fine in training, it is not so good in racing. 

<5k - 25:15 (8:08). In these first three miles, I was still pretty indecisive. I told myself that it was ok to run splits between 7:50-8:10; don’t ask me where those numbers came from, because I have no idea. (Sidetrack: this is the race where bingo_jenn and I first started hanging out last year). In mile 1, I ran pretty slow, but I thought a lot about how my life has changed since this race last year,; I’ve had a really rough few recent months. Besides gaining Jenn as a friend, I gained an entire community. My LRS and my running buddies have become a second family; I would do anything for them and this mile helped me remember how important they are to me… It is a good thing that I ran slow, because a lot went through my mind! During mile 2 as I was passing through downtown DC, I started to think that this is where I learned about Diva Cups; and well, that is all… Mile 3, ahh, well: please don’t hate me for this. I decided that I really don’t like TnT. There was one of the TnT coaches in the hairpin turn here; he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but for some reason it disturbed me. He was in running gear and had a bib (I’ve seen this with them before and it always irritates me). What makes them special from every other charity and training group? Grrrr… Anyway, I really enjoyed this first 5k. I realized that we live in one of the most awesome cities in the entire world. I may or may not have had a moment in this segment where I got a little emotional; which is very unlike me, if it happened

<10k – 51:25 (8:16) There really isn’t much to write here. The course got hilly and I got confused. I knew, I swear that I knew, that this was a race and not training. My theory is this, “run the hills fast in training, so that you can race the hills strong and smart in races.” Ugh, I ran these hills fast (and stupid), or tried to. It didn’t work. Toward the end of this section I changed my mind to run on effort, not pace. This is a pretty hilly course and common effort does not equal common pace. Oh and just in case you are wondering, most people slowed down in this section; but no one that I saw slowed down as much as I did. I am not very bright sometime. I did realize that I was way off where I needed to be; but no, I did not start to run a smart race all of a sudden. (Oddly enough, this was actually a PR 10k for me).
<10M – 1:23:38 (8:22) Meh. Part of it here was the hills, most of it was me losing sight of why I was racing. I think that I was holding back a little based on needing to race the next day. Really all that matters is that I lost a lot of time. At mile 10, I thought, “kick it in.” My answer was “nah, I’m good.” Luckily I looked down at my watch, did some quick math and realized that I was off sub 1:50 pace. Oops, time to Cowboy Up and rectify that.

Team Awesome Socks and Pacers Running Stores...

Representing Pacer's

Running, No idea when or where... Semi-float

“I went to support a friend at a run, and a foot race broke out”: Paulette’s Steps for Cancer 5k
After the race on Saturday, Jenn and I left DC and headed up to NJ to support Paulette (kayano) and Nic (runnernic); there may or may not have been a 5 guys stop in there somewhere... We arrived on site in the morning and I kept hugging Nic and Paulette. It felt so good to see them. I was also really lucky to meet Amy, and her nice family. Bill (shulaw – Mr. Karma), Jenn, Amy, and I stood around drinking coffee, taking pictures and talking. (Side note: I really love how easy it is to meet other BF’ers and hit it off instantly; I have honestly never met someone from here that I did not genuinely like).

I headed out to do a quick mile w/u. I wanted to hit some strides in the low 7’s but I didn’t feel it in my legs. I had a high mileage week and I was ultra-aware of a little bit of tightness in my left calf, so I didn’t want to aggravate it with pick-ups. I came back just in time to here the ceremony start. There were a few short speeches, followed by Paulette’s talk. The morning had been overcast and chilly when Paulette began talking about her mom (whom she lost in September of last year). When she mentioned her looking down on her, the clouds cleared and the sun started shining. It was almost as if she orchestrated it; really it was amazing. Whether you are religious or not, sometimes things just give you the chills. This was one of those time.
I started taking of my layers as Paulette finished and we all migrated over to the start. I didn’t really know what goals I had, I just wanted to run a good race. Like the HM, I thought that a PR was almost automatic, but by how much? (Side note: Jenn did something pretty interesting last year, she skipped a minute in her PR. She went from 27, down to 25 in one race and I had a thought of doing the same.) I learned from yesterday’s race and I did not want to tie myself into a pace, but I had an idea of a pace not to go above. I stood a few rows back from the start as we waited to be sent off. Nic, Mike (Nic’s dad), Bill, Amy, and Jenn were all in the same group waiting at the start as we joked about what I would run and if I could win the race; I smiled a little inside because I had thoughts of finishing top 10. We went off and I had to dodge a little more than I wanted in the first 50-100 meters (damnit, lesson learned, line up apporiately). I got about .5 miles in and settled down, I looked down and noticed that I was running mid 6 minute pace. I thought to myself that there is no reason that I should be doing that (yet), so I dialed it back slowly over the rest of the first mile. The course had a few rolling hills and I instantly regretted not previewing it first. I mean, I truly believe that ignorance is bliss, however, in a 5k this is not the case. I finished the first mile in a top 10 placing, with the lead vehicle still in sight. 7:04.54.

Mile two started on a decline through a very beautiful neighborhood and as we went down, I thought “in running: what goes down, must come up.” In this mile I was passed by two other runners (A & B), I wondered to myself if they would stay there or if I could pass them again. I decided to hold off and keep them in sight. As we turned a couple corners and began to ascend the next hill, I passed one of the guys. At the end of this hill I was able to pass another (woman) runner that had been in front of me. She was so nice that I almost felt bad passing her. She yelled out “way to go runner,” I smiled and yelled back “looking good, good job”! Right after this, A passed me on a short straight and as we began to run by the 5k runners that were just going past mile one (the course was a sorta lollipop), someone yelled out “fifth, sixth, and seventh male.” I took a mental note that I was sixth and that seventh was close behind. (Side note: it never even occurred to me to see how close fourth was, but that is another lesson learned.) 7:20.0.

As we entered the third mile, I passed runner A and was leading our group of four (three men and one woman). Close to mile 2.5, B passed me and held me off for about 5 seconds. There was a trumpet player at the corner here playing a song that I equated to “charge,” so, I charged! Like that, I got back in front. I didn’t realize it at the time, but another women joined the fray around this time, and one dropped off. Toward the end of mile 3, A surged forward and he looked like he was going to take a commanding lead, but I rallied and got back in front. I felt like I was in HS and sprinting home at the end of the 4x100m relay. I had excellent knee lift, my arms were swinging purposefully and I continued to sprint to the finish (I’m sure that to the spectators I looked like a suffocating fish). 7:00

I went into the chute and the timing lady attempted to grabbed my bib to get my place in the standings. She tried to stop me, but I almost bowled her over. The guy behind me, A, slowed down in time for me to skip out of the way and avoid a collision. I had to go back and give the lady the bib tag that she asked for; I think that the placing and timing got mixed up here, but I’m not sure. I walked out of the chute and shook hands with runner A and runner B and the two mystery women (who were 4th and 5th place for females). As I got a water and took off my singlet I saw Runner A was sprawled across the grass and it made me smile, because I knew that we both pushed each other.

I jogged back on the course for a c/d mile. I cheered on the walkers and runners as I passed and it really warmed my heart to see so many people living this healthy lifestyle.
 Post race with the RW BF Crew (Shulaw, RunnerNic, me, Kayano, Bingo_Jenn)
Before the race (Amy, Jenn, me, Bill)

At the finish. My pain courtesy of Maureen (Mrs. Shulaw). This singlet was a gift from the mammals, when I was stationed in Afghanistan.
Post race, it was warm.......
A very special thanks to Paulette who put on a great race. The hospitality was nothing short of amazing and the people were all super friendly. This race is a permanent fixture on my calendar and I’d suggest you do the same. I traveled over 180 miles for a 5k, and I will continue to do so, as long as I am able to.

Cliffs notes:
Weekly Mileage: 62.09. Mon-6.52, Tues-11.21 (2runs), Wed-7.6, Thurs-15.20 (2 runs), Fri-3.1, Sat/Sun-18.47 (2 races and w/u, c/d).
RnR USA(8:17): O/A 1896-16291, AG 285-1147, Gender 1242-5584
Paulette’s Steps(7:05): O/A 7th, Gender 4th (I won a comfy and really nice sweater for being top 5).

Top 5 Men (number 3 left early). Pacer's on the Podium!