Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Mid Week 15 miler

You have to love mid-week medium-long runs, or you won't survive marathon training. I'd rather run this 15 miler 10 times than do one track workout. That probably means two things:
  1. I really need to do the track workouts to strengthen my weakness
  2. I'm well suited to racing longer distances like half-marathons up to 50k
Matt was a "maybe, don't wait for me" for joining this morning. I was just about to take off when he pulled up. Man, was I glad to see him! Misery loves company! We took it easy for the first two miles and then sped up for almost every mile after that. We managed a 7:48 average pace with a very strong finish, another 6:38 15th mile!

I needed today's workout psychologically more than I needed it physiologically. Oh, it did some physiological good by providing a very good endurance and aerobic stimulus. However, my confidence was shot by the complete meltdown in the last half mile of McKay Hollow Madness and by the rabbit effort for a turtle pace of the past three track workouts. Today, I felt like I could have run 4 or 5 more 7 minute miles, and I needed to feel that way after a workout.

I think I like to run.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On The Track Again

Matt came over and we jogged to Athens High to run in circles for a while this morning. The schedule called for 6 x 1000m repeats. We took 300m recovery jogs between, except for the last one which was a 400m recovery. Track repeats are workouts that you really don't want to do, but you're always glad you did. I probably had a heavier dose of the "really don't want to do" today. But I did take an extra helping of "glad I did" when it was over, though.

I'm dragging just a bit lately. I'm not in peak shape, and that concerns me with a hilly marathon coming up in less than four weeks. I'm not as fast as I was in December, and I don't know why. One thing is sure, though: Matt is faster now than he was then.
  1. 3:43
  2. 3:39
  3. 3:41
  4. 3:43
  5. 3:46
  6. 3:40
I pulled on the first 3 and Matt pulled on the last 3. I was glad to have his help this morning. I know I should be running those faster, but I just couldn't this morning. Those were really close to max effort.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

McKay Hollow Madness 2010

This is really a great event. Seriously. If you run, run this race. I love Blake's style with directing this race. It just feels like a trail run should feel. No fanfare, just a brutally difficult course, great sponsors, nice post-race grub, a number to pin on, someone to yell "GO!", and a clock. Oh yeah, if you don't finish, you don't get the goodies. Earn your shirt.

Thanks to Blake, the volunteers, and the sponsors today. This is a first class event.

Quick Results
You know the drill. Check the HTC Website for the official results. David O'Keefe was the overall winner in 1:55:50. The masters winner was David Purinton, 2nd overall in 2:02:15. I think Katie Maehlman was the female winner in 2:36:27. I didn't catch the female masters winner. I had to leave quickly today due to other commitments.

I ran a 2:17:50 which was good enough for 12th overall. I took 30 seconds off of last year's time and the course is a mile longer. I guess that's progress.

But I want to show you something.

Two folks who don't usually finish ahead of me gave me a dose of humility today. Brett Wilks came in 7th, just behind speedster Shane O'Neill (though Shane is new to trails and definitely waited until late to kick it in today) and ahead of running legend Dink Taylor. And in 9th place, with a very impressive top 10 finish at McKay Hollow Madness is my perennial training partner Matthew Davis.

I'm more proud of Matt's effort today than I ever have been of any of my own. I knew he had this race circled on his calendar, and he had a good day. Look out. This guy is for real and will get faster. I knew he had it in him to leave me behind, and I'm really glad he did that today. We're going to make each other faster.

I'm really glad to see Brett's and Matt's hard work pay off.

The First Third
After a 2 mile warm up with Shane and Matt, it was time to go. I was surprised by the lack of a crowd at the starting line at 6:58! Eventually folks showed up and after a few announcements, GO!

I ran most of the road at about a 6:40 pace, with Matt up ahead of me. I probably should have stayed closer. Late on the road section, Glen Dodd passed me and I shouldn't have let that happen. I had to slow up on the descent on Sinks behind him, but eventually passed and hit the pace I wanted for the rest of the descent.

I kept that steady effort to the Panther Knob climb. I probably worked too hard on the climb, and took the very technical super cuts to recover. The course was marked really well here and that's good because the trail is confusing. I know it well, but I can see how others would get lost here.

I was following closely behind someone who I've seen before, but I don't know here. On the descent on Stone Cuts Trail, I passed by him quickly. After passing Stone Cuts, I saw Matt again for the first time on the Sinks climb to Mountain Mist. He was a good 45 seconds ahead of me. I was just going to keep him in sight for now. The run on Mountain Mist was uneventful.

I made up some ground on Matt on the descent on Goat, and Glenn Dodd had caught back up to me and passed at the bottom. On the Warpath Ridge climb, I wanted to keep Matt close. We're about even on ups. I passed by Glenn on this climb. We both were walking. Glenn told me here that he was running blind, so I gave him some course pointers. I'm too nice. I stopped for water, but Matt did not and Glenn was faster than me to leave.

I didn't know my exact placement, but I was guessing about 7th or 8th.

The Middle Third
After the aid station comes rest shelter. This is a nasty descent that I have practiced over and over until I can run it fast. I knew I would gain ground on Matt here, but I was worried that being behind Glenn would cost me. Also, someone was breathing down my neck here. I didn't turn to see who it was, but I later learned that it was Brett Wilks.

I really ran the Rest Shelter descent well. Glenn did too, thankfully. I put quite a bit of distance between Brett and me here. At the bottom, just before slush mile, Matt was only 3-5 seconds ahead of me and Glenn had passed, I think. Matt did exceptionally well on slush mile, and put more distance between us. I caught Glenn and we chatted it up until the Natural Well climb where I passed him and put some distance between us.

Brett caught me after the well and passed while running out to the 2nd Aid Station. Man, he was strong today. Next, Dink passed me here. Again, I wasn't sure exactly, but I thought I was still top 10. Dink gave me some encouragement, and I tried to keep him in sight for as long as possible.

The Final Third
After the aid station comes one of my favorite parts of trail running anywhere, the Arrowhead descent!

The problem was that I didn't feel so good. My stomach was just not right. You'd think that by now I'd have this fueling and hydration figured out, but I don't. I knew that I needed something to have energy for the finish. However, the thought of ingesting anything was repulsive. Yuck. What do I do? I slammed down about 3/4 of a Gu that I had, knowing that I needed it. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not.

I didn't catch anyone on this descent. I kept them close, and the gap between Glenn and me was getting larger. At the turn around, I saw Shane O'Neill not more than a minute behind me, so I expected him to come from behind at any time.

During the descent and the climb up Big Cat Hill and the sloppy mud that follows, it was Brett setting the pace, Dink behind him, Matt, then me. And I was fading. We were plodding along through the mud (This was the muddiest section of the course, much worse than "slush mile".) when Shane passed by. "How long?" he said. "About 1.5 or 1.6 miles," I said. I was really surprised that it took him that long to catch me, but I also knew that I had NO chance to stay with him.

It's beginning to fall apart for me now. I'm nauseous. Bad. My calves are screaming, but I can ignore that. It's the nausea. How am I going to reel those guys in without puking? Um, I'm not. Even if I do lose my breakfast, I probably won't catch them. I don't see Brett anymore. I see Dink. I see Matt.

Let's start Death Trail. I'm in 10th place. Matt is fading, too. We've climbed this hill together many times in the past. Who's going to push and who's going to pull today? Early in the climb, I pass him. He stays close. He says, "There are people coming. Go." I can't go. I'm really about to lose the contents of my stomach. I stumbled, and that almost did me in. During this time, I saw Eric Charette coming back down the hill. He gave me a hard time for walking and offered some encouragement.

Matt passed me back. He was bound and determined to be top 10. I wanted to stay with him, but I was done. I was really done. Just behind him is Glenn Dodd again. He caught me back! Then, another young guy, 14 year old Cody Moore, passed by me. If there had been anyone else within 25 seconds of them, that person would have passed me too. I really was done.

I've never tanked that badly that near the finish, unless it was last year at this race. So, in less than a half mile, I went from 9th to 12th. Just like that! That was a pitiful come-apart. Having said that, I'm proud of my effort. I've been sick all day since that race. I ran myself sick. So, I didn't have anything else to give today. What else can I expect? This course has my number.

I am extremely happy for Matt. I was very proud to see him gut it out and grab that top 10. I would have liked for us to have been 9 and 10, but I just couldn't hang with him today. I was glad to see him find another gear when someone pushed him. I'm happier for him than I would be for my own top 10. AWESOME job, man. THAT's why we hit the pavement at 5:00 AM to do 15 miles before 7:00 AM.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Must Be Getting Soft

Yesterday morning I planned to do a general aerobic run of 8-10 miles. General aerobic runs are easy miles, but they're not a recovery jog. I run them at about an 8:00 to 8:30 pace, depending on heart rate.

I set my alarm for 5:00 AM. It was pouring down rain, enough that I could hear it without getting up. I hit snooze. I got up at 5:30. I put on my running clothes. Yes, that means I got out of bed, turned on lights, and got dressed. I even put contact lenses and shoes on. I opened the door, and it was still raining. I just didn't want to go out in it, so I took off my shoes and got back into the bed and slept until 7:30 in my running clothes. What is wrong with me?

I don't ever remember wimping out of a workout that badly. But the sleep felt good!

Today, Matt and I did a "shake the legs out" easy 7 miles with 6 x 100m strides. Hopefully each of us will have an outstanding day at McKay Hollow Madness tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

VO2 Workout and Heart Rate Questions

I needed a couple of recovery days after the Saturday/Sunday combo. That put me a bit behind schedule for the week, but I wasn't able to give a good effort for a VO2 workout before this morning. It's okay, even desirable sometimes, to go into a long run with tired legs. However, it never makes sense to do a VO2 workout with less than fresh legs.

I did a 5+ mile warm up followed by 5 x 600m repeats with a 200m recovery jog. My goal for each of the 600m was sub 2:10.
  1. 2:10
  2. 2:08
  3. 2:08
  4. 2:08
  5. 2:05
I probably need to figure out how to run those nearer to 2:00. They felt hard. I was uncomfortable. I was struggling to maintain the sub-6:00 pace on the last 100m or so of each repeat. My feet felt heavy and I felt like I was landing hard with each step. But my heart rate was lower than expected for those. My max heart rate during the entire workout (177) was equal to my average heart rate (177) during Saturday's 10 mile race. Hmmm.

My last VO2 workout was similar. I ran at cookie tossing pace last time, but my heart rate never got above 179. My heart rate has regularly been getting in the mid-170s during tempo and MP runs, which are 0:45 to 1:15 per mile slower than my VO2 intervals. For reference, my max recorded heart rate was last summer during a hard workout at 189 and my resting HR is 39.

Is my HR monitor defective? Am I not putting enough effort into the VO2 workouts? (Isn't dry heaving a reasonable indicator that I gave good effort?) Is my tempo and marathon pace too difficult for my current level of fitness? Do I need to do more speed drills so that I can go faster and push the heart rate up during VO2 intervals? Or do I just need to forget HR and go by feel and pace? If you can answer these questions, please do!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rocket Run 10 Miler

As I mentioned, I wasn't really optimistic about this race. I was excited because it was my first 10 miler and I had never seen the course. Also, I was excited to run another race and hang out with all my racing friends on a Saturday morning. There were lots of Fleet Feet Huntsville Racing Team members there today.

I have a boat load of excuses again. Weather isn't one of them! The conditions today were perfect. Most of the excuses I detailed in yesterday's post. But the bottom line is that I just didn't feel well this morning and haven't all week. I'm lethargic and my digestive system seems to be just a bit out of whack. I'm sure I can run 10 miles faster than I did today. (I think I say that after every race! One day, I'm going to have to just leave it all out there.) Still, I believe I gave a good effort today.

Brief Results Summary
Results will be posted on the HTC website when they're available. Carl Smith always does a great job scoring those races. David Riddle, as usual, won todays race in 54 something. The master's winner was George Dewitt in 56 and change, a state 10 mile age record! George is simply amazing. Talk about overcoming adversity! Impressive! It's really good to see him running so strong again. Congratulations to my friend, Heather Day, on being the overall female winner. The female masters winner was another good friend, Whitney Hollingsworth.

I ran a 1:05:18 which was good enough for 14th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group. I'll have to find races that Shane O'Neill doesn't run to get any more age group wins. I'd like to think that one day I can compete with him, but that day is a very long time in the future if it's ever even possible.

The First Half
After a nice two mile warm up with Jon Elmore, I came back to the starting area and did a couple of strides at race pace. I still felt yucky and not sure about this race.

In my typical fashion, I started too conservatively. My stomach just wasn't right to start this race and I didn't know what I was capable of. I know that Jon Elmore is ahead of me in fitness, but not by a ton. I thought I'd just get close to him and try to hang on. That lasted for about a half mile. He ran a 6:15 first mile!

After the turn around just past the 1 mile marker, I saw several friends heading out and we were cheering each other on. I don't really know why, but that helps a TON!

I ran the first 3 miles in 6:35, 6:37, and 6:38, and it felt surprisingly good. I'm a bit behind where I need to be, but 1:05 is on! Just make it up one mile at a time. I may be able to do this!

I was hearing footsteps behind me. They weren't getting closer or farther. At about 2.5 miles, I let him pass and tucked in close behind him. I learned it was Larry Dickerson whom I had met at the Black Warrior 50k. We were both just strolling along at a dead even 6:30 pace. At the aid station (Thanks to Troy Connealy for volunteering today. Thanks for the water and encouragement, Troy!) I grabbed water and passed him again. We would battle it out taking turns leading and holding nearly dead even 6:30 splits until about mile 7.

The Last Half
I walked at the second aid station near the 6 mile marker to take some Gatorade without getting sticky. Larry took advantage of this and put some space between us. I couldn't just let him go, so I picked up the pace to catch him and stayed right behind him, until just before mile 7.

I could tell by his breathing that he was working a little harder than I was, so I decided to make my move now instead of later. I passed by and held a 6:10 or so pace for a few hundred yards. When I no longer heard his footsteps, I dropped back to 6:30.

Up ahead, I could see Jon Elmore. He had told me that he wasn't ready to go all out today, so I was surprised by his fast start. I was even more surprised to see him now. I was watching him from behind, thinking that the guy who measures courses surely knows the shortest route! I passed by, running closer to a 6:25 pace now. We encouraged one another, and I saw another runner ahead that I had a chance to catch.

I caught him just after the 9 mile marker and we encouraged one another. For a few steps, he entertained the idea of not letting me go, but I was running about a 6:10 pace at that time. I was running that pace because when I hit the 9 mile mark, I knew that I had to run a near 6:00 mile to break 1:05. I was going to give it a go. Ultimately, I just didn't have that fast of a mile left in me, but I did run hard.

The Finish
That last mile took me from comfortably hard to just hard. I did have just a bit too much left in the tank. However, I'm happy with the race. It's my first 10 mile, so some would say it's a PR. I didn't feel great and ran near my goal. I overcame the temptation to sit this one out and sleep in.

Big thanks to Fleet Feet Huntsville for sponsoring this race, and big thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible. It was a great run in great weather with great friends.

Splits for those who are still reading... They don't add up because they were auto-lapped on my watch. But it does give the general idea of how the race went: conservative start, even pace, and a fast finish for a negative split race.
  1. 6:35
  2. 6:37
  3. 6:38
  4. 6:30
  5. 6:35
  6. 6:25
  7. 6:35
  8. 6:25
  9. 6:30
  10. 6:15

Friday, March 19, 2010


Whew! What a busy week. I've been gone all week on business travel. It's really difficult to find time for miles while I'm on the road.

This trip was to Columbus, OH, and I hated the thought of spending spring break on the road while my kids were out of school. So, I decided to drive to Columbus (~7 - 7.5 hours) and take the family with me. They were able to find plenty to do in the area while I worked during the day. I missed being with them during the day, but I was very glad not to come back to an empty hotel room. I was glad to see everyone in the evening instead of only being able to talk on the phone. I spent the evenings after dinner staying up late doing the work that I normally do during the day when I'm not visiting a customer. I'm exhausted.

But I made time to get in about 85% of my miles this week. Since it is the first week of daylight savings time and since we were in the Eastern Time Zone, those 5:00 AM runs felt like 3:00 AM runs. It was hard to do them. I didn't give good effort this week, but I did do (most of) the miles. Columbus is on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone, so it was dark when I started and when I finished my runs. Yuck.

I'm still out of sorts. My work was in a restricted access lab all week, so I had to get an escort to the bathroom. I ended up not drinking nearly enough water to keep from having to go so often. Add to that the gross diet that accompanies life on the road, and I feel yucky, bloated, and lethargic. I'm not optimistic about tomorrow's 10 mile race.

I was so glad to get my usual breakfast of grape nuts, blueberries, flax seed and skim milk today. I was glad to eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat at lunch instead of looking for the least processed thing (which was still over-processed garbage!) in the cafeteria. I actually like "good for you" food better than "bad for you" food nowadays. (Well, except for chocolate and ice cream. I LOVE chocolate and ice cream. If those two things didn't exist, my body fat would be below 5%!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Difficult and Muddy

McKay Hollow Madness is one tough race. Mile for mile, I don't think I've ever run a more difficult selection of trails. There are a few easy miles on the course, but very few. Matt and I ran 16.35 miles this morning on the MHM course, and it felt more like 25.

The weather was absolutely gross. It was cold and raining. You never get comfortable when it's 40F and raining. More clothes don't help, they just get cold and wet, too.

The course was extremely slippery and muddy. I ran the downhills like a timid school girl. There was just no traction. If the conditions are like this in two weeks, it will definitely slow down the times.

Even though it was cold, wet, muddy, slippery, difficult, and exhausting, it was still fun. I was smiling most of the time. I guess boys never do outgrow enjoying playing in the mud.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mid Week 15 Miler

Those mid-week 15 milers are the "hair on the chest" workouts. Matt and I left my house Wednesday morning and did the usual 10 mile loop in Athens plus the loop and spurs at the high school. Waking up and running 15 miles before work is not an easy thing to do, but I'm always glad to have done it.

Lately, Matt is the rabbit and I am the dog. He simply destroyed me on Wednesday's run. I know very well what the back of his shirt looked like. (At least I was able to keep him in sight!) The 15th mile was 6:38. Our average was 7:42, and if you take out the first warm up mile (9:00), the average pace for 14 was 7:36.

That's a pretty hard effort to give less than 24 hours after doing a VO2 workout at "cookie tossing" pace.

Next is a couple of easy days to get ready for another hard long run this weekend.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mmm. Humble Pie

I knew that today wasn't going to be my best day. There has been some job and personal stress over the past few days. It's been the kind of stress that causes me to lose sleep and eat chocolate. Neither losing sleep nor eating chocolate make me faster. Those are my excuses today.

Matt came over and we ran over to Athens High School. The plan was for 5 x 1200m repeats at 5k pace. Yeah, thinking about that workout hurts just a little bit. Doing it hurts even worse. We did about a 3.5 mile warmup and then the 5 repeats with a 400m recovery jog after each one. We ran about 10.25 miles total.
  1. 4:26 (This isn't so bad)
  2. 4:21 (Um, this one felt different from the first one)
  3. 4:25 (How can I do two more?)
  4. 4:31 (Yuck... I can either quit now or puke)
  5. 4:21 (Well, I didn't eat breakfast, so I only dry-heaved)
I'm disappointed in those times. I wanted them all to be near to 4:20, but I just didn't have that kind of ability today. Matt left me behind on the 4th one. I think he ran it in about 4:20. I wanted to keep up with him, but I was seriously battling nausea.

Without a partner, I would only have done 4 x 1200s today. Matt and I have this thing where that if I wimp out of a workout, he'll call me by my wife's name. I'll do the same for him if he wimps out. I had a choice to make -- puke or be called by my wife's name. I ran that last 1200 hard, especially the last 100 meters. As soon as I stopped, I was dry-heaving. I was glad that I didn't eat breakfast before the workout. But he didn't call me Leigh (no offense, honey). :)

I'm glad I did today's workout. I'm glad I have a partner who'll push me beyond what I believe I'm capable of. (Actually, he pulled me today.) I recognize that today's workout is not an easy one, but I expected this level of effort to result in faster splits. Humility does one good. I have some work to do to reach my goals.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You're Doing Great!

Bear with me while I ramble a bit today.

While Matt and I were running along the greenway in Athens early the other morning, we passed a young lady walking on the way out and then again on the way back. We were moving along pretty good, probably about a 7:30 pace and chatting. As we passed on the way back, she said, "Y'all are making me look bad!" To which we both replied, "You're doing great! Keep up the good work!" I was as sincere as I could be.

After most races, I congratulate folks much slower than I am. I've been asked if that praise can be sincere. How can that be? How can I congratulate someone for a 45+ minute 5k when I just ran a sub-20:00 5k? Do I really mean it?

I most certainly do. And, when someone who just ran a 15 or 16 minute 5k congratulates me at the finish, I don't doubt their sincerity. You see, I'm not as fast as I'm going to be. You're not as fast as you're going to be. I haven't done all the work I'm going to do. I assume you haven't done all the work you're going to do.

The young lady on the track... I admire the discipline that it took to be out there alone before 7:00 AM in sub-freezing weather. I don't really care that we were moving faster than she was. I admire the courage that it takes to toe the starting line of a 5k or any race. I admire the desire for improvement that caused you to train to be ready for that race.

You see, it's better to walk one mile than it is to think about running 20. A 16 minute mile is better than 16 minutes on the couch. If you're training and not making excuses, YOU'RE DOING GREAT!

Thanks for tolerating my rambling. I wanted to say that. This week, I'll give that bit of philosophy instead of boring you with the details of my recovery runs and too slow long runs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Want To Be Well

I'm struggling with a bit of a chest cold lately. It has whipped me, but hopefully I'm on the mend. Maybe if I took a few days off , I'd get better quicker, but I don't want to do that. Monday was the worst day, and I did take it completely off, work included. Today, I feel much better, except for that green stuff that keeps coming up when I cough. At least it doesn't hurt to cough today.

Yesterday, I tried a tempo run. I did 10 total and was able to run 5 miles at a 6:37 average pace. That's off from the 6:32 I should be running for tempo. Today I did the mid-week 15 miler, starting slow and finishing faster for a 7:52 average pace. All things considered, I'll call both of those very good runs.

You know, I have an awesome running partner. Matt showed up in the snow yesterday and then followed that up by pulling me along on the last 3 or 4 miles today. I was content to coast those last few miles at 7:45 today, but he had sub 7:25 in mind. I had to keep up.