Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spooktacular 5k

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The Spooktacular 5k is the funnest 5k race in the area. It is a great combination of festive and fast. Sarah, the race director, does all the things that runners like including accurate timing, a fast course, standard race amenities, fast crowd, and very cool awards. But when you add to that the costume contest and the Thriller dance show before the race, she does some cool and fun things that normal people like. If you haven't run this event, you should.

My numbers... 17:46 for a PR and another sub-18. That was good enough for 14th (I think) overall and 2nd in the 36-42 (unusual, I know) age group.

This was my circled race for the fall. I knew I couldn't get in good marathon shape in time to do a BQ-20 for Boston 2012. So, I decided to focus my training around the 5k. I've never thought about racing short distances before. I have to say that I have found this type of running to be quite fun! I'm probably better at the 5k distance than any other that I've run, but I'm not good enough at any distance to do anything but have fun with it. So, the plan was to get in peak 5k shape for Spook, then shift my focus for an early 2012 marathon.

Late Again
I have to break this cycle that I've gotten into of showing up just before race start. I did not have time to get in a proper warm up again today. I woke up in plenty of time, but by the time I read Facebook and drank my coffee, time just slipped away and I was late leaving the house. And I had stomach problems again this morning. I don't know if it's pre-race anxiety or something in my pre-race diet, but this is happening too often and I need to fix it. I was barely able to get my number pinned on and run 1.5 miles before the start.

The First Mile
I really didn't know what to do with this race. The temperature was great for running. The crowd was fast. The course was fast. What am I capable of? Sub-18 for sure, but by how much? I had grand thoughts of hanging onto Donald Bowman or George DeWitt's shoulder for as long as I could. Both of those guys are much faster and tougher than I am. They're heroes to me. They're out of my league, and they know it and I know it. I tried that for about the first half mile. I knew that wasn't sustainable for me, so I settled down a bit.

I could see Marty Clarke and Jon Elmore up ahead. I had to surge just a bit to catch them. I didn't expect to beat them, but I wasn't going to let them go this early. Again, both of those guys are well ahead of me. Marty is a guy that I have never beaten. And I know that Jon's best is better than my best. I was about a second behind them at the 1 mile mark which I hit at 5:33. That is the fastest mile I've ever run by 5 seconds!

Mile 2
After the 1 mile mark, I decided to make a move. I surged a bit and passed Marty and Jon just after the turn on White Street. Jon came along and passed me back as we ran on Clinton Avenue towards the downtown area. I hung on to him for the rest of the second mile and even passed him after the turn on Holmes Avenue. I had no idea how close Marty was, but I figured he was near. Jon passed me back on the hill up to the courthouse area just before the 2 mile marker. My watch lapped early, and had us running this mile in 5:41.

The Finish
There is a long downhill stretch on Madison Street. I made my move on Jon here. I wanted badly to stay ahead. I felt like I was pushing the pace, but my watch was showing a 5:55 pace, even downhill. My legs were dying. They just weren't kicking like I wanted them to. But I could still feel that I was opening a gap between Jon and me. Again, I had no idea where Marty was, but I figured he was very close. I wasn't about to look.

My watch was showing a lap pace of 5:54 for the third mile. I was so disappointed in that! So, I just decided that I had to dig deep and push to the finish. I felt like I was going to puke. My instantaneous pace was showing 5:25, so I figured I'd try to hold that to the finish. I didn't quite do that, probably running a 5:30 pace or so for the last quarter of the third mile, but I was sure giving all I had. My watch lapped early again at 5:49. The final stretch showed 0.13 and it took me 44 seconds to cover it. That's about a 5:28 pace. I was able to hold off both Jon and Marty, but not by much. They were both less than 5 seconds behind me!
Jon just over my right shoulder!

Post Race
You know you had a good race when people ask you, "What have you been doing in your training?" at the end. Well, my dirty little secret is that I've been relatively focused on the 5k distance for about 10 weeks now. Most people just run 5ks to see where they are while they're training for other stuff. Many of the folks I finished ahead of today would crush me in a 10k or 15k (see what Marty did a few weeks ago at Monte Sano 15k) or a half marathon. I'm not sure I could run a 3:15 marathon right now. This is the best I can do in a 5k. Now, I'm shifting my focus to a March 3, 2012 marathon. I'll see what I can do there. 2:55 is the goal for a BQ-20 early entry for 2013.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Mile Repeats

Last Saturday, I accomplished one of my big goals for this year, breaking 18 minutes for the 5k. The good and bad news is that I did it before my target race. My target race for breaking 18 was Spooktacular. Then, after Spooktacular, I was planning to shift my focus to marathon training. So, I have a decision to make. Do I want to keep on the 5k training schedule and be ready to peak for Spooktacular, or do I want to go ahead and shift my focus now and get a couple of extra weeks of marathon prep? I've decided to stay on the 5k schedule and see what I may have on a cool day on a fast course. Hopefully I can shave some time off of Saturday's 5k PR.

So today was 4 x 1 mile repeats at 5k pace with good friends and Ragnar Teammates Jake McCleary and George DeWitt. Just a shade over 10 miles total including warm up and cool down.

  1. 5:45
  2. 5:38
  3. 5:39
  4. 5:42
Great way to start a day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sub 18

I did it! I don't know what is so special about minute markers, but they're meaningful. I remember trying to break 20 minutes. That was big for me. Then breaking 19 was big, and I tried several times before I actually broke that one. Then, 18 was the next big minute. I've only seriously tried to break 18 once, and that was today, and I did it with a 17:54 at the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run 5k.

I had a pretty hard week of training along with a couple of emotional ups and downs. (I'm still considering posting more about that some time, but things are drastically improving, thankfully.) I had fast 400s on Tuesday that really zapped me on Wednesday. I felt great after them on Tuesday, but Wednesday, my legs felt like concrete, heavy and stiff. Then, Thursday, I was planning to have an easy day, but I saw fellow Athens runner Chris Ramsden doing a tempo run and I just HAD to join him for a few 6:30 miles. My weekly mileage is over 70. My legs just didn't feel fast this morning, but I had tons of confidence that I could pull this off anyway.

The Event
Wow, this race is an event! I had never run this one before, so I did not know what I was missing. I'm still amazed that they had to turn runners away. 5500 runners!?!?!?! Wow. Congratulations to Liz Hurley and her breast cancer awareness foundation for an incredibly successful fund raiser. And it was a very fun event, too.

There was pink everywhere. I need to get some pink just for this event. I felt like the only oddball not wearing pink. Any other time, I'd feel like an oddball for wearing pink! And there were lots of fast people at the starting line. There's just something about an event this size. It was very festive and fun.

The Race
My plan was to run an aggressive first mile and then hold on the best I could after that. I was thinking 5:35 or so. There was a lot of bobbing and weaving avoiding runners at the start and through the first turn that wasted some time and took some energy. I don't know what the split timer said, but my watch recorded 5:40.

There was a pack that pulled away from me just before the mile marker that included Dink Taylor, Jon Elmore, Sean Allan, Tim Horvath and Blake Thompson. They probably were 5 seconds or so ahead of me. I decided not to let them go. If I were going to break 18, I needed to stay with them, so I kicked it after the mile marker and joined in. Sean fell off the pace early, but I stayed with this group for the whole way. I couldn't have broken 18 if I hadn't done this.

The second mile is no joke. It rolls and gains about 40 feet. I probably ran harder during this mile, but split it at 5:46. The pack thinned and clustered, but I stayed with them, just waiting for the downhill finish I had heard about.

The third mile has a hill in it, too. It loses 20 feet or so, but that hill is mean. The third was another 5:46 mile and I was tired.

The last uphill and downhill were very eventful! Jon and Blake pulled ahead. I passed Tim Horvath. Dink put some space between him and me. I caught Dink on the downhill, but he would have none of it and dropped me pretty good while chasing Jon and Blake toward the finish. Tim Horvath and Tim Vinson came zooming by after I gave up on chasing Dink. So, I got picked off by three people in the last 0.1. Oh well. I BROKE 18 MINUTES!!! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the Track Again

I'm still struggling a little to get going in the mornings. I don't know what my problem is, but I need to solve it quickly. I was able to get a lunch workout in today even though I wasn't able to roll out of bed. I did 10x fast 400m repetitions. I did full recoveries in between reps. It was a good workout. I felt like I could have done a few more, but I was out of time. 76, 78, 79, 76, 78, 78, 77, 78, 78, 74.

I'm pretty focused on that sub 18 5k this fall. I'm going to give it a go this weekend at Liz Hurley. I still have another chance at Spooktacular on Oct. 29. Maybe I'll break 18 twice. Maybe not at all!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Monte Sano 15k

First, the numbers. I ran a 58:58 which was good enough for 13th overall and 2nd in the 35-39 age group. This race always draws several fast runners. That was a PR by 2:40. My goal was just to be faster than an hour, but I felt like running faster, so I ran a little faster. I really couldn't be more pleased with this race. Sure, I made some mistakes and I left some seconds on the course, but I ran about as well as I am capable of running today.

I had been traveling this week and it had taken a heavier toll than usual on me. Thursday and Friday, I worked in three different time zones in that two days. I ate drive-thru garbage on Friday (well, I did the best I could with drive-thru). Friday afternoon, I had to choose between a shake-out run or a nap. I slept for 2 hours! Then, I spent over three hours on my feet at the Fiddler's Convention in Athens. I had excuses ready for this race. I felt tired and heavy.

I woke up feeling icky. I could not think about eating. I had stomach problems all day, before, during, and after the race. This may be TMI, but I spent way too much time in the restroom before and after the race.

Eventually, I was able to choke down a gel about 10 minutes before the race started. I sure couldn't eat anything else. Because of all of this unwanted "activity", I barely got warmed up and showed up at the starting line about 2 minutes before the start of the race.

The Start
The race started right on time, which is the norm for HTC races. (We Huntsville runners should be very thankful for such a great organization as HTC. They really help to make the local running scene great.) I looked around and knew that top 10 was very unlikely. So, I decided to just run my own race and shoot for anything less than 1 hour. I'll just have to go whether anyone is with me or not. During the first mile, I ran a good part of it with Dink Taylor and Marty Clarke. I've had my eye on Marty as someone that I should try to hang on to during a race some time so that I can step up to the next level. Marty made it clear late in the first mile that today wasn't that day. He and Dink had a pretty good battle all day and they left me behind right at about the one mile mark.

The first mile was 6:28. I really thought my one hour goal was in trouble. That pace felt about right, but the split was too slow to beat an hour. So, I dropped the pace a bit, and it oddly enough felt better. With one exception (mile 7, which is a brutal hilly mile), the first mile was by 10 seconds my slowest mile. Wow.

This pic, courtesy of Gregg Gelmis is about 1.5 miles in.

The Rest of the Race
There are a couple of overlapping sections in this race. During these, I got to see several people who cheered me on. I cheered back. This, for some reason, really helps. I can't explain it. Dale Carnegie said that the sweetest sound to any person is the sound of their own name. There is a lot of truth to that. I took tons of energy from that and from the smiles and encouragement. And I tried to reciprocate.

Other than those sections, I was all alone. I could see the battle between Dink and Marty for the early part of the race, but I really couldn't gain much on them. During the out and backs, I could tell that nobody was threatening me from behind. So, I knew that I was not going to have anyone to realistically chase and I knew that nobody was going to push me. It was me versus myself. How badly do I want to break an hour?

I ran like this until about mile 7. That's when I got Dave Purinton in my sight. But he was pretty far ahead. He would have to come back to me. And, man, that 7th mile is a beast. I tried to keep positive thoughts, but the hills during that mile are relentless. And my stomach came calling again. I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't be able to finish this race. This was not good. So, chasing Dave was pretty far out of my mind. Keeping my shorts clean was the primary goal! TMI, I know.

I just tried to think about other things and keep my effort consistent and strong. I really didn't look at my watch very much for some reason. I don't know why. I looked at every mile marker, but that's about it. I really couldn't believe that basically every mile was sub 6:20, except mile 1 (6:28) and mile 7 (6:29).

During the 8th mile I had gained significant ground on Dave Purinton. I thought about giving chase, but I wasn't really competing with him for anything, so I didn't see the point. Also, up ahead I could see Greg Reynolds. I was really surprised to be this close to him. But he was far enough ahead that catching him did not seem realistic. Looking back, I probably had a shot, but I just didn't. If I had it to do over, I definitely would have given some effort toward that.

When I crossed the 9 mile marker, I heard FFRT teammate Christy Scott say "56:59". I nearly jumped for joy! I knew that sub-1 hour was IN THE BAG!!! I'd have to death march at near a 10:00 minute pace to not beat 1 hour. I then figured that I had a realistic shot at sub-59. I think that 9 mile split time was a little off, because my watch tells me I ran about a 6:05 pace for that last stretch. I really did run hard. Eric Charette was cheering me on near the finish to break that 59:00 barrier. I thought again about trying to pass Dave but I just focused on beating 59:00 and did with a 58:58.

I did the obligatory congratulations to other runners on my way to the restroom after crossing the finish line. I still can't believe I ran that well while fighting stomach issues. I have no idea what upset my stomach so. After I got settled down a bit, I went back on the course to bring some other runners in. Knowing how much of a struggle those last couple of miles were for me, I figured someone else could use a little help.

Jeremy, a fellow Athens Sunday morning 10 mile regular joined me. I met a fellow Limestone County runner, Stacey Glover, and Jeremy met some people from his Mizuno 13.1 group and we brought them in to the finish. Fun stuff.

Final Thoughts
I had a little left, but I am still VERY pleased with this race. This gave me tons of confidence going into the winter training months for a March marathon. I'm thankful and excited to be running.

I've run my last three PRs in these Nike Lunaracers.

I've struggled with blisters in those shoes, but man, they make me feel faster. I really like the ride, but hate the blisters. I've tried breaking them in by walking around the house in them, and it seems to have paid off. They were much more comfortable today. I ran 12 miles total with no sign of a blister or hot spot. It just took a little breaking in. Now, I'm not saying that these shoes magically made me PR, but a good, fast feeling pair of shoes never hurts!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Mile Repeats

Sometimes, I just do things that don't make sense. I really want to break 18 minutes in the 5k. So, I'm doing considerably more fast running. However, just like last year, I signed up for the Dizzy Fifties Trail Run. I signed up for the 50 mile. A fast 5k and a 50 mile trail run are about as incompatible as two goals can get. My mileage is pretty high (for me) right now, so I'm hoping that base will let me hang in there for one day. If not, I'll drop at 50k again! :) I'm not remembering last years lesson that you can't fake your way through 50 miles. But I'm going to try again anyway.

So, with the focus on a fast 5k, I did another set of 4 mile repeats at 5k pace. I'm figuring if I can do 4 of them at 5k pace, running 3 without a break should be possible, right? I don't know. I'll just connect the dots of my training on race day.

Yesterday I did 4x 1 mile repeats during lunch. It was warm out, and that affected how I felt and how fast I was able to run. In my recent track workouts, I've left the track feeling like I could have done one or two more. That was not true yesterday. I may have been able to do an additional 800 at that pace, but not another mile.
  1. 5:45
  2. 5:43
  3. 5:45
  4. 5:46
My shoe came untied during the 3rd lap of that fourth mile, or I would have brought it in under 5:45. I didn't stop to tie it, but I did slow down to keep my shoe from flying off.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Odds and Ends

One of the things I've learned this year about running is that sometimes you just have to take what the day gives you. Saturday was one of those times. I really wanted to get in a long run. A long run would have put my weekly mileage into the mid-70s, which is where I want to be. But Saturday, it just wasn't to be.

I've mentioned some personal struggles on this blog. One day soon, I'll do a post about that. Like my story of weight loss has been inspirational to some, I hope this story, the parts I'm able to tell, can help some. Anyway, last night, I hardly slept at all. Though I was in bed before 11:00, my first wink of sleep did not come until well after 2:30. Based on that, I abandoned any early morning running plans. When I finally did get out of bed, it was like I was walking in quicksand. I just could not get going and could not get out the door. I didn't leave until after 10:00 AM.

I had to go to Huntsville anyway, so I went over to Monte Sano to get in a long trail run. Well, I forgot how different trails are. I struggled early and often. I had stomach issues. I could barely move. I was exhausted when I started. I finally settled into a groove about 8 miles into the run, but by that time I was already on my way back to my car and had given up on the run. Just. Plain. Awful. Oh well. Take what the day gives you. It was beautiful weather, and I really enjoyed being in the woods. I'll try again another day.

I still had a solid week of training with mileage in the mid-60s. I had a good track workout and a good tempo run in the hottest temps of the week. I still believe sub-18 in the 5k is attainable. Just keep moving forward.