Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rails to Trails 10k

What a beautiful day for a race! Thanks to my good friend Whitney Hollingsworth for directing this great event. I really like the 10k distance, and there aren't very many around. I'm glad that one of them is in Limestone County. I haven't seen any results yet, and I had to leave early, so I'm taking a guess at the numbers here. I think I was first in the 35-39 age group. I think was sixth overall and I ran a personal best about 38:03 or so.

UPDATE: I got my name in the paper! Thanks Whitney! It turns out that I ran a 38:01, officially.  Also, results are available at the HTC website.

I had back to back good nights of rest leading up to this race. I really am starting to think that rest is a key that I have been overlooking. When I woke up, the temps were lower than I expected. I just felt good this morning. I knew that I had to leave early because I was planning to go to Tuscaloosa to watch some football (Roll Tide). So, I was a little out of my routine getting out of the door. I had to do a little extra getting ready. I had to get everything ready so I could shower and leave my house as quickly as possible when I got home from the race.

As I was driving, I was thinking of goals for this race. I struggled for so long to break 40 in the 10k. I knew I was capable of much better than sub-40, but it just never came together for me on race day. I finally broke that silly mental barrier three weeks ago when I ran 39:09 at Monte Sano. I remembered that it was very uncomfortable to run that 39 minute 10k. I felt better today than I did that day and the temps were cooler. So, I just set the modest goal of sub 39.

Oh no. Really? I was over halfway there and realized that I forgot my watch! Nooooo! Oh well. I can't go get it now. I just have to run. What would my strategy be? I saw Tim Vinson and Jon Elmore before the race. I know that both of those guys are much more talented than me, but I knew that they were both coming off the summer doldrums and not quite in peak shape. So, my strategy without a watch was to just hang with them.

The First 5k
This race is really two 5ks. The first 3 miles is on a curvy, hilly road. There are some steep downhills, some flats, and some small climbs. But it is very much a net downhill first 5k. Then you turn onto the Rails to Trails trail that covers an old railroad track. It is a nice, scenic crushed gravel trail. But it is all uphill. There is nothing steep about it, but it is just gradual uphill for 3 miles.

So, you have to positive split this course.

For the first mile, we, Jon, Tim, and I, all ran together. During the second mile, which is a very fast, downhill mile, Tim pulled a little ahead. I wanted to be sure not to let him get too far ahead. The split caller said 7:00 at the first mile. I said, NO WAY! Jon reassured me that it was 6:05 and not 7:00. Whew! The second mile we hit at 11:50. Wow! That didn't really feel THAT fast. But it was pretty close.

Tim extended his lead some in the third mile, but I wanted to keep him close, so I covered part of the distance, and Jon came with me. We were gaining on him late in the third mile and he was coming back a bit. We hit the 3 mile split at 18:00 flat. Wow. I'm just above 5k PR pace. But it was a downhill 5k and I know what's coming. Steady uphill.

The Uphill 5k
During the turn on to the trail, Jon and I passed Tim. He wished me well, telling me to get a PR. I appreciated that and it gave me some energy for the grind I was about to have to endure. All I had to do was to average a 6:15 pace till the end and I'd be near 38. Wow! My goal was sub 39, so I was feeling really good about that. I changed my goal to sub 38 right after the turn. I knew I'd have to work for it, but I also knew it was attainable.

I had Jon right behind me pushing me along, so I was counting on that to help. But, somewhere before the 4 mile marker, Jon fell off. There was nobody calling splits at any of the mile markers on the trail, so I was completely blind to my pace. So, I just focused on effort level.

During the 5th mile, the pace became quite uncomfortable. I allowed negative thoughts to enter. I feared falling apart. I had a new blister on my right foot. I don't really know the split, but there is no doubt that the 5th mile was my worst. I missed Tim and Jon. I was all alone, except for a young guy who started out too fast and was falling completely apart and death marching to the finish. I encouraged him as I passed, hoping that wouldn't be me in the 6th mile.

When I saw the 5 mile marker, I took some new strength. I could see Greg Reynolds in the distance, but I knew there was no way to catch him. I just wanted to keep him in my sight, in the distance. I figured he would be running somewhere near 37 for this race, so I figured I was still close to 38. I just gutted and gritted until I could see the clock.

On this race, you can see the clock for about the last half mile. But you can't make out the numbers. I saw the clock, I was running hard, but I was not getting closer to it! I'm sure we've all had those strange dreams like that, where you're running and running toward something, but you just aren't gaining on it, kinda like Alice in Wonderland. That is exactly what it felt like, except that it was real. And it hurt!

Finally I could make out the numbers on the clock... 37:44... Noooo!!!! There is no way. I knew that I could not break 38. The clock was too far away. I still gave it all I had, and nearly puked before the finish. I turned myself inside out for that last stretch, but didn't make it. I was frustrated when I saw 38:00 and still wasn't there. I almost stopped right then. I did slow down a bit, and crossed at 38:02 or 03 or something like that. Oh well.

Still, I cannot be disappointed with a 1:07 PR. I wanted sub 38, but that wasn't the goal when I left the house. That was a minute better than the goal! Would it have been better if I had my watch? I have no idea. I won't be intentionally leaving my watch behind, that's for sure.

I once read somewhere, I can't remember where, that if you don't have the genetic makeup to run a 38 minute 10k, then you probably won't be able to run a sub 3 hour marathon. Well, I'm calling this a 38 minute 10k, and that on a not very easy course. This gives me confidence that with work, dedication, and focus, I can break 3 hours in the marathon.

Fast 800s

Yesterday called for a set of 6 "fast" 800s. Fast means 15 seconds per mile faster than 5k pace. Doing the math, that would come out to 2:45 per 800. Ouch. But hey, it's only 6, right? I did feel like I could have run one or two more at that pace, so good.

  1. 2:48
  2. 2:44
  3. 2:44
  4. 2:47
  5. 2:44
  6. 2:46

A little off, but it still counts.

I have been running a bit faster lately in my workouts. When I run faster, I typically decrease the volume and increase the recovery between workbouts. Before this summer, I almost never ran faster than 5k pace, and I rarely ran 5k pace. This summer, I ran some fast (for me) 200s (35-37 seconds). I ran some fast 400s (76-79 seconds). And, I was sure to do strides once per week and twice on most weeks. I really believe this faster running has helped. I know it has helped my finishing kick (which is still pretty weak). We'll see if it helps me get to sub 17. I'll try to keep it up through the winter and see if it has any benefit in ultra and marathon racing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mile Repeats

I don't know how long it's been since I did mile repeats. The last time I remember was back in April of 2010. It just seems like it's been forever! I had planned to do them all week last week, but it just never happened. I had a crazy busy week at work and actually took two days off from running. Oh the horror! The week before, I had an 80 mile week and felt pretty good. My legs were dead and just wouldn't turn over fast, but I felt great. I knew that jump was pretty quick, and it followed three consecutive 70 mile weeks, so I turned down both the intensity and the volume last week. I did about 50 miles and most of them were fairly easy except for a tempo/speed combo workout on Friday. As a result, I'm feeling great again this week.

Today called for 4 x 1 mile repeats at 5k pace. I dreaded it, but I'm so glad I did it! Matt joined me for the first couple of repeats.
  1. 5:49
  2. 5:43
  3. 5:44
  4. 5:43
Sub 18 sure feels like a possibility if I have a good day and the weather cooperates. It was a joy running in the rain this morning. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Battling Lee

Now those of you who know my wife's name is Leigh but don't know how to spell her name may misinterpret the title of this post. No, I didn't battle my wife today. I battled the remnants of tropical storm Lee. The wind was very stiff and the rain was yucky. I like running in the rain, but I don't really like running on the track in the rain and wind.

The track that I workout on has straightaways that face pretty much north and south. The prevailing winds are from the southwest around here. So, it's actually a pretty nice layout. There's a large stadium protecting you from winds from the west and there are tarps on the fence to the south to block some of those winds. But today the winds were out of the north. There was no protection. I felt like I was running to stand still.

Also, my legs felt totally dead today. I'm not sure what that was all about,but they just wouldn't turn over as quickly as I wanted them to. They were very heavy. Aerobically, I was fine, but my legs were just heavy. And running into a 18mph wind with gusts up to 30mph slowed me some, too. I think that's all the excuses I have for today.

11 miles total. 8 x 800m intervals with 400m jogs between. 2:58, 2:55, 2:54, 2:57, 2:53, 2:56, 2:56, 2:46. What a difference two weeks makes. Those were slower than I wanted. But I got them done and I did take some encouragement in the fact that I was the ONLY runner that I saw all day today. I didn't see another soul at the track, and I usually see a dozen or more people at that time of day. I am doing today what you won't so that later I'll be able to do what you can't.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Monte Sano 10k and 5k

Well... I think I just want to talk about the 10k today. I pretty much mailed in the 5k after 1 mile. But I did give good, consistent effort in the 10k.  I have always struggled with exactly how to approach this race. I'm not a big fan of racing, then taking off some time, and then racing again. I just struggle to put it together again for the second race. I had a big fat case of "I don't want to" during the 5k.

The numbers up front... I was 10th overall in the 10k and 2nd in the 35-39 age group with a time of 39:09. I was 14th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group in the 5k with a time of 20:29 (blech).

My prerace routine was much better today than it has been. I have been really struggling to get out of bed for a variety of reasons (maybe I'll detail those on a later post). As a result, I've been showing up with hardly any time to warm up and haven't been able to, ahem, take care of business (runners know what I'm talking about here) before the race. All was good for this race. Plenty of time.

The First Loop
This course is a rolling double loop with a crowded out and back that I really don't like very much. I really only run it because it's the place to be for runners on Labor Day weekend. Well, that and 10k races are scarce around here. And it's an excuse to mix hard miles into a long run.

Anyway, I was hoping to hit 39:00 for this race. I was figuring that I had recently run about a 19:00 5k. This is a difficult course, so double your 5k and add a minute. That's how I got 39 minutes. I probably should and could run this a bit faster.

The first mile is pretty much all uphill and not a nice uphill at that. I don't know why I didn't take that into account, but I didn't. I went out a bit too hard and hit the first mile in 6:11. The second mile rolls quite a bit, but it is still a net downhill mile. I didn't keep even effort here, slacking a bit on the uphill portion and already tiring from the aggressive first mile. Still, the split was okay at 6:12. The third mile is another rolling net downhill that I didn't keep even effort on and split at 6:15. I was feeling pretty good as I hit the 5k split at about 19:24 with a very good chance to beat 39:00. But I knew I was tiring.

There are a couple of spots on this course where you see the runners ahead and behind. On this first loop, I was battling Dave Purinton, Robert Whitaker, and Chad Davis. (The wrong part of that is that all of them have several years on me. I have work to do!) As we were coming back and other runners were going out, I kept hearing so many people shouting my name! That was totally awesome! I really appreciate it. I cheered for those that I know and recognized. Big thanks! It really helped.

The Second Loop
I knew I had some work to do on this second loop. I was tiring and needed to keep consistent effort on the last half. Chad had dropped the hammer and pulled a good 30-40 seconds ahead of me. He really ran a great race today. Robert and Dave were still in sight, so I hung on to them. I probably let their effort level dictate my effort level more than I should have.

Mile 4 is pretty much the same as mile 1, uphill. I worked a little hard up the hill, but no way I was going to 6:11 this mile this time. It was more like 6:20. Ewww. Just after the 4 mile marker, I passed Dave Purinton, but he hung on to me pretty good. I put some distance on the way out to the cone turnaround. After the turnaround, I decided to make a move on Robert. I did and he didn't really give chase. I think it was more of those two fading more than me running strong, because the 5th mile (again a rolling but downhill mile) split at 6:28. Ewww again. What is happening to me? Oh yeah, I'm not really prepared to run a 10k, that's what's happening.

After that, Chad was out of reach, and there really wasn't anything left to run for except to break 39:00. I still thought I had a chance, and I really did. But that 6:28 really discouraged me. I let it get in my head. This was my biggest mistake during this race. I lost focus during the fifth mile and let it discourage me during the 6th. One thing that helped a TON was that Linda Scavarda saw me and I was really tense. She said, "You're looking great. Relax your arms! You got this!" I really needed that. I relaxed my arms, and my pace almost instantly dropped! I ran the next mile in 6:19. Much better, but not where I should be and not good enough to undo the damage. Oh well.

I cruised in at 39:09 when I saw that I had no chance of sub-39 I just mailed in the last few yards. Shame on me.

Post Race
It was great to see everyone and I had some good easy miles between the races and some good cool down miles after the 5k with Fleet Feet teammates. And, I've never placed in my age group at this race. I was glad to do that today!