Monday, November 22, 2010

Goal Adjustment

I have a completely new set of goals now. The second half of 2011 has been mostly a disappointment.  I'm not discouraged.  I'm coming back in focus again.

Rocket City Marathon
I love this race. It was my first marathon and will be a fixture on my calendar indefinitely. I'm so happy to have a quality marathon so close to home. I'm signed up and I look forward to running the course on that day. However, I will not be running or attempting to run a sub 3:00 this year at RCM.

In 2010, the Rocket City Marathon is offering pace groups for the first time ever. I am VERY excited about this! Most large marathons offer this feature, and I'm glad that RCM is offering it this year! Setting a goal and training for a goal are nice. However, having a group and a dedicated cheerleader for every step on race day makes achieving that goal a little easier. I will be leading the 3:45 pace group.  This is the Boston Qualifying time for women 35-39 years old and for men 55-59 years old. I know how much hard work and preparation are involved in running a BQ marathon.  I consider it an honor to be chosen to lead others to the finish line in BQ time. Come join me and run a 3:45 at Rocket City!  I am beyond excited about leading others to their race day goal!

Mountain Mist 2011
Since I won't be racing RCM, I should have plenty of umph in my legs for a strong showing at Mountain Mist.  I don't really want to say that this race is circled on my calendar, but it's important to me.  I want to break the five hour barrier.  This race draws such an elite crowd that breaking 5:00 won't get you much, but that does seem to be the measure of excellence on that course.  I'll be hitting the trails quite a bit in December in preparation.

Boston 2011
This is my new 3 hour goal. This one IS circled on my calendar. I know it's a big goal and a tough course that eats people alive. I know that I'll have distractions the week of the race.  I know I'll be tired from traveling.  But I will work harder and smarter than I ever have before.  2 something at Boston.  Nice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dizzy Fifties

Today was a day of lessons.  Most importantly, I learned a lesson in humility.  What ever made me think that I could just show up and run a 50 miler? It turns out that you need to prepare your body to run 50 miles.  You can't just run a couple of weekend 20 milers and call yourself prepared. I am not above the rules of nature.  Maybe there is some level of grit and determination that can pull one through 50 miles, but I don't have that.

The Little Loop
I had such hubris.  I thought, "I'll just find some 50k'ers slower than me and just run with them to make the first 30 miles pass."  I had no plan for the next 20 miles.  So, that's what I did.  I tucked in behind Brad White for a bit.  Then I caught Christy Scott and ran with her for the rest of the loop.  I HAD to stop and shed some clothes;  It was WARM today.

The North Loop
I was behind at the beginning of the north loop because of the stop.  I ran most of it alone, until just before 3 benches. There I caught up with a few folks from the Knoxville area.  I don't remember all their names, but I ran with them and passed going up the Sinks hill.  I was running quite a bit too fast to expect to finish a 50 miler, but I had to make a pit stop and needed to get there quickly!  I stopped again and there was some distance between me and the next group again.

The South Loop
Ugh.  Alone again.  I was very much alone for much of this South loop.  It took me until the South Plateau loop trail at O'Shaugnessey point to catch Linda Scavarda.  She was also planning 50 miles, and let me know that my pace was too fast for her.  Well, it was too fast for me, too.  We chatted a bit, but I went ahead. Shortly after that, I caught the next group, the folks from Knoxville.  I ran a bit with Malinda Honkus who told me in no uncertain terms that I would not finish 50 miles if I did not slow down.  What does she know about how fast I am?  Quite a lot, apparently.  I should have listened.  But NOOOO!  I ran ahead.

North and South Loop 2
After leaving the aid station I caught Christy again and ran the north and south loops with her.  It was great to have some company.  On the turn at Cold Springs trail, we had to shout down the second place female to bring her back on track. Other than that, it was completely uneventful except for some really good conversation.  This was especially helpful because I was already wondering how I'd run the South loop again.

North Loop 3
I let Christy pull away from me at the beginning of the North Loop because I knew that I would not be able to maintain this pace for 50 miles.  I really should have made the decision right then to go 50k and then keep up with her. She made a wrong turn that cost her a spot or two in the race which really made me regret delaying the decision.  I'm sure I could have helped her through that. My bad.  I'll take some blame for that.

Soon after this I caught Dan Burleson.  We had some very good conversation, and then Malinda caught us again. Malinda and I left Dan on the way up Sinks trail. I told Malinda that she was in 4th place, so she turned it up a notch as we left the aid station to start the South loop.

South Loop 3
This was completely miserable.  I was alone the entire loop.  I just couldn't convince myself to do this loop again.  It's the easiest of all the trails physically.  However, mentally, it's mind numbingly boring! This loop is an absolute test of mental toughness and I failed.  I didn't want to run another step.  I knew that a reasonable 50k time was long since past. I had no desire to do any more than 50k.  So I made my decision to just quit when this loop was over. I walked a lot of this loop wondering if that would convince me to keep going.  Nope. Not if this loop is included. I believe I could have run the North loop 3 or 4 more times, but there was no way I could run the South loop even once more.

My hamstring held up and I feel pretty good several hours later.  I'm going to run the Sunday morning 10 miler  tomorrow.  So, today was just another long run.  I didn't give this race the preparation and respect it deserved. Then I didn't commit to either of the 3 distance options available.  This is what happens when you do that.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Huntsville Half - Humbling DNF

Well, I report the good and the bad here.  Today was the bad.  I DNF'd for the first time.  I don't regret my decision, but I do regret having to make it.  I believe it was the right one.  Ouch, my pride hurts. It turns out that I'm not invincible.  I can't just run as far and as fast as I want without consequence.

I had a bad week of preparation.  I knew it would be.  I had to be at work early and work late on Monday and Tuesday.  I had to travel on Thursday and Friday.  I just viewed the packed schedule as an excuse to "mini-taper" for the half marathon.  I had a very good short tempo run (6:19 avg pace for 3+ miles) on Tuesday and a very comfortable 11-12 miler on Wednesday.  I took Thursday off and ran an easy treadmill 5 on Friday. Reducing the mileage was the only way to survive the added fatigue and stress of the work week.

I rode over with Lance, one of the regulars for the Athens Sunday morning 10 miler.  This was his first half marathon, and I'm proud of his hard work in preparation and his effort today. Nice job buddy!

My stomach was all out of sorts, as usual.  I just couldn't go to the bathroom enough before the race.  But somehow, I was able to overcome that discomfort.  I enjoyed the pre-race pep talks and visits.  That's one of my favorite parts of racing!  I worked my way to near the front of the starting line just in time for some pre-race announcements and the start.

The First 5k
For some reason, I had a lot of adrenaline for this race.  In spite of the bad week and stomach troubles, I was as mentally ready for this race as any I remember. I wanted to GO!  I was pretty pumped.  I started really quick and constantly had to rein myself in during the first mile.  It's a rolling first mile and I kept peeking at my instantaneous pace and it was sub 6:00!  Then I'd purposely slow down and then I'd be running fast again.  I just couldn't help it.  I clocked the first mile in 6:21.

I knew that I still had to pull the reins in some to last.  Mile 2 is a much easier mile, but I was able to hold back the excitement and run it in 6:30 flat.  The split caller said 12:51.  Nice!  I'm on pace, feeling great, and have some time in the bank!  Greg Reynolds blew past me as we passed the mile marker.  I did not even entertain the thought of chasing him. He's faster than me.  Period.

Mile 3 is pancake flat and I was still trying to hold back.  6:31.  The split caller said 19:22.  Nice.

Miles 4-6
I didn't remember that Mile 4 was so uphill.  It's a long, continuous uphill.  It's not that steep, but it's uphill.  And today, it was into the wind.  I was struggling up this hill!  I was working maybe a little harder than on the previous miles.  I hit this mile in 6:38.  The split caller said 26:02, so I was off just a bit.

Near the top of this hill I caught up with Robert Whitaker.  We ran together for a a few minutes.  I know that he has run the 10 miler at about 6:30 overall pace, so I figured we were looking for about the same pace.  I could tell that he was working harder than me for this same pace, so I dropped the pace a bit to pull ahead.  From here I could see some bodies in the distance to go after.

I also wanted to make up some of the 8 seconds that I lost in the fourth mile, but I didn't want to do it all at once.  I ran the 5th mile in 6:27.  Nice.  Do that a few more times and I'm back on pace. It's a downhill mile and I took some advantage.  I probably should have run it a bit faster, but it was still nice.

Mile 6 is also flat, and I had a person picked out to pass.  I passed him (did not know him) at about 5.75 or so and ran the mile in 6:29.

I can't really describe how good I was feeling.  6:30 pace seemed like 7:30 pace.  My breathing was controlled.  The stomach issues were gone.  I was feeling great.  It just seemed like it would be my day.

The End
I was cruising along and had another unknown runner picked out to pass.  And I did just after the 6 mile marker.  I had to make a bit of a move to pass him, and dropped to below 6:15 temporarily to get by.  After that I settled back to the 6:30 that was I was feeling.

Then, I noticed a pain in my left hamstring.  It was toward the outside, near where the tendon attaches at the knee in the back, but inside such that it couldn't be IT band.  And the pain was clearly muscular. It wasn't that bad for a few steps.  I thought I could handle it.  Then it got worse.  Then I couldn't run without limping.  So I stopped to try to shake it out.  I started again.  No.  I walked.  I tried to run about an 8:00 pace to see if I could do that.  No.  I was limping.  NOOOOO!! What do I do?  I started walking again. The guy I just passed ran by.  He checked on me and I told him I was fine and that I would make it to the aid station just ahead.  I appreciate his checking on me. Then, I tried an easy jog.  My gait was affected.  No go.  Ugh.  This was about 3/4 mile from the aid station, so I just walked there and dropped out.

Humiliating.  Disappointing.  Frustrating.  Embarrassing.

I noticed the hamstring soreness the week before last while I was doing some strides.  On about the second or third acceleration, it tightened, so I just quit the strides and jogged home.  It was sore the next day, but it never bothered me again.  Today's pain was just a little worse than a couple of weeks ago, but it doesn't seem that bad.  It just seemed like continuing, and especially continuing to push the pace, would risk real injury.

Hopefully, today was just discretion being the better part of valor.  I probably could have limped to the finish. But why?  If it had happened at mile 10 or 11, I definitely would have considered finishing through the pain.  But with 6.1 miles to go, it just seemed silly and pointless and risky.

Thanks to Madelyn Patton for her kindness and encouragement when I dropped out.  Also thanks to Mark York for giving me a ride back to the start.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week In Review

This week was up and down.  I didn't get nearly my scheduled mileage on Saturday because I ran the Spooktacular 5k and felt more like visiting with friends than running extra miles. So I ran 16 or 17 on Sunday to make up for the lost mileage. I felt sick on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, but just ran and worked through it.

Tuesday called for 6x1000m intervals, but I just didn't feel like it.  I opted for about 11 miles with some strides instead.  I would have called in sick at work, but missing work wasn't an option on Tuesday. Since I had to work, why not run?

Wednesday was by far the best workout of the week.  I felt much better.  Matt and I ran a "long tempo".  We ran three warm up miles and then we ran 10 sub-7:00 miles.  Matt peeled off after 7 and then I was joined by one of the happiest golden retrievers I've ever seen!  I told him to go home, but he wouldn't. He joined me for two laps around the Athens High 1.5 mile track at a 6:45 pace!  I could tell that he was struggling at the end, but he was welcome company! I really had to get stern with him to keep him from following me home, which wouldn't have been safe for him.  I petted him and congratulated him for hanging with me.  It made me want a dog!

Today was a 17.5 miler at long run pace.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spooktacular 5k - A New PR

First, the numbers.  I ran an 18:29 which is a PR by 22 seconds.  That was good enough for 24th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group.  Congratulations to Fleet Feet team mate Brandon York for out-dueling perennial winner Josh Whitehead for the overall win in a very swift 15:19. There was a very fast crowd up front with the top 19 finishers under 18 minutes.  The overall results are at the HTC website.

Yet again, I wasn't sure I'd run this race. I still have bruised confidence and legs that are slow to turn over.  The last workout on the track humbled (or is the word humiliated?) me.  But I really needed a good 5k fitness test, so I signed up.  Late.

This race is really too cool.  Costumes are encouraged, so you will laugh. And there are awards for the best costumes. Cool awards, too. The start of the race is preceded by a rendition of Thriller complete with dancing zombies.  Really, you should run this race.  Also, this race draws a FAST crowd.  So, if you just want to see the costumes and really compete, you can do that, too. Fun and competitive.  Nice.

It was very cool with temps in the mid 30s and no wind.  PERFECT running weather.  I warmed up with Sean and Jon from Fleet Feet on the course.  It wasn't a good sign that I was already feeling nauseous.  I had great weather, but I wasn't confident and I didn't feel well.

I opted for a long sleeve Nike base layer, Fleet Feet sleeveless shirt, shorts, beanie, and gloves.  Also, this was my first race in my Nike Lunaracer2 shoes. I REALLY liked racing in those shoes.  They just stay out of my way and let me run fast.

The Start
After Vincent Price was finished rapping and laughing and a few announcements, the race started right on time.  That's impressive given all the pre-race festivities.

I was scoping out the competition, looking for people in my age group, knowing that the front would be way ahead of me.  Shane O'Neill was running with his son, so who else? Rob Youngren.  Sometimes Rob runs hard and sometimes he doesn't.  This day, he ran hard and I had no chance to touch his sub 17. I figured I should be 2nd in my age group.  Now that's out of the way, how fast can I run?

The start was VERY crowded.  There were tons of young runners who started WAY too fast.  It was just absolutely packed.  It took a good half mile for it to thin out at all.  Even the front runners had to weave and bob through the crowd.  After maybe 3/4 of a mile, I had passed a dozen or so teenagers and it seemed that we had settled into our places.

I tried something different for this race.  I barely looked at my watch.  I wanted to have it for log purposes, but I wanted to run based on how 5k pace feels.  Oh, I definitely paid attention to the split callers, but I didn't look at my watch very much at all.

Mile 1... Mike called out 5:42, but I think it was slower than that.  Post-race I learned that my auto-lap on the watch clocked it at 5:47.

Mile 2
Just ahead of me after the turn on Clinton was a teenage boy, then Caitlin Morris and a group of 3 teenage boys.  I could tell that the first teenager was struggling a bit, so I passed him and he made no attempt to hang close.  For the rest of the race, I stayed close behind the group of Caitlin + 3.

I thought several times about making a move and passing.  I probably should have.  I at least should have joined the group.  I just didn't.  I have no idea why not, just not.  It's probably because I was already running pretty hard!

The only noticeable climb on this course is between 1.5 and 2 miles.  Here, I lost the group ahead.  As we were climbing up toward the courthouse, I just didn't (couldn't?) keep up with them.  They passed the two mile mark and crested the hill with some distance that I didn't know if I could make up. I MUST work on hills. The distance at the two mile split was enough that I didn't hear their split, but I heard mine.  There was probably 15-20 seconds difference.  Randy said 11:44.  Post race, my watch said 11:52.

The Finish
Going down the hill, I closed the gap considerably. Now, there couldn't have been any more than 5-6 seconds between me and the group ahead. Again, why did I not continue the move?  Why did I not hold that pace?  The course is downhill to the finish except for the bridge by the Embassy Suites. I fancy myself a better than average downhill runner. Why didn't I run faster?  Sure, I was running hard and I was tired of that pace, but I wasn't hurting that bad. I have no idea why I don't run harder in races.  Really, I don't.

Approaching the 3 mile marker, I noticed that the teenagers ahead had a final kick.  Caitlin didn't give them chase.  I didn't want to be the guy who sprints past a lady at the finish line (yeah, that's it, chivalry and all), so I didn't try to close the gap either.  Also, there was nobody within striking distance behind me, so I just maintained pace the rest of the way in.  Yeah, it's a weak way to finish, I know.

It was a PR and a fun race, but as always, I know I could have done better.  It's a tired refrain.  I say it after every race.  When will I really let it go in a race?