Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Base Training 11/28 - 12/4

M: 10 miles/70 minutes steady on Andover roads solo. Calf is still tender but less tight and felt better as the run progressed.
T: 10 miles/75 minutes on five or six reservations in Andover/N. Andover. Connected more of the Bay Circuit trail and I officially know how to get from Ward to Harold-Parker. I would have gone to H-P but I heard so many rifle shots in that direction I decided to give the hunters a little extra room. Calf didn't bother me. 10 minute plank session plus back, glute, crunch routine afterward.
W: 11.7 mi with 12x400 at 77s, 60s off. 2x200 at 32s, 60s off. Ran into Nate Jenkins on the cool down. Chatted for a couple miles making my cool-down a tad longer than intended. Nice day for a run and a wimpy yet satisfying first workout!
R: 5 easy in the evening after work. Felt crappy from standing all day at work. Top of foot is sore too. Drills plus 10 minute core
F: 9 easy, foot still a tad sore. It feels like my arch is collapsing in more than it should be. Less sore than yesterday though.
S: 9 miles with a HILLY 5k tempo in 17:10 on the Garmin. HR averaged 185, which is pretty high for a tempo effort. I couldn't believe the course I picked this morning Google Maps. Brutal. Started at 150ft elevation, maxed out at 320, and finished at 255. Reminded me of road version of Manchester's Derryfield Park.
S: 0. Right as I was dressing to run I got a call that there were things much more important than running going on that I needed to tend to.

Total: 54.7 on 6. I'll take it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Base Training 11/21 - 11/27

M: off
T: off
w: 8 miles steady
R: 13 miles plus 5 mile Thanksgiving day race
F: 10 miles 70 minutes over hilly terrain
S: off
S: off

Total: 31 - Had a disappointing week with some calf tenderness after a really encouraging series of runs. I took Saturday off to let things heal up but all that happened is everything got super tight and more painful on Sunday. Lesson learned: don't take that first day off!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feaster Five / Thanksgiving

Feaster Five splits

11:22 - 5:34
17:05 - 5:43
22:41 - 5:36
27:33 - 4:52

I'm pretty happy with the run this morning. After a couple weeks of decent, but certainly not ideal running, I feel like I'm finally past the major aspects of marathon recovery. My left hamstring bugs me when I stretch my quad (as if that makes sense?) but it doesn't bother me when I run. I've spent a good amount of time on the foam roller hoping to avoid a setback by building back to a good volume too quickly.

Anyway, Alex and I were up until about 1am hanging out and got up around 7 to roll out at 7:30. It was cool to be able to run right from my apartment to the start line (3.7 mi) but it was a little difficult carrying extra gear and layers. It was a crisp 29 degrees as we left the apartment and hit the trails. Arriving at the start line it was exciting to see several really solid runners doing strides. The crowd was also amazingly large as far as New England road races typically go. At the time I didn't notice it, but I guess several top guys were bandits, most likely because the race sold out for the second year in a row. Feaster has to cap the race at 10,000 people, making it the second largest road race in MA.

On this morning I was sort of ambivalent about a performance goal and just wanted to be out there with my kind on the day that classically holds the most road races accross the United States. Meanwhile, Alex was instructed by his coach to run 5:00-5:05 as a pace run. I entertained no thought of running that hard, so the gun sounded and I was instantly surrounded by a mass of runners as we settled into the start. It was difficult to tell who was running the 5k and who was in the 5 mile, so I just relaxed and tried to let a solid pace run effort come to me.

I felt flat from the first step, but I expected nothing less so I just embraced the effort and tried to do the best I could with unresponsive legs. It's the oddest feeling as a runner to be unable to force yourself to breathe hard, and for the second race in a row my muscles have been the limiting factor. At the same time, it is good to know that I am aerobically sound and I can focus on improving my mechanics and strength in the coming weeks. It was my first time running the Feaster and I was pumped to find the course really played to my strengths. After a tough hill in the first mile, an uninspired 4 miles had passed. I hung onto a loose pack of 3 guys through 2 miles but gradually let them run on ahead of me. Hitting the 4 mile mark, I did some quick math and decided I would really try to punch it and dip under 28 minutes. There were several guys in sight and the 5k crowd to my left was really motivating. The downhill grade as far as I could see was a major motivator.

I caught four guys, and passing the final two I rounded a turn and looked uphill to see a banner in the distance. Reinforcing the fact that I really need to buy glasses, I began an all-out sprint up the hill thinking it was the finish line! The adrenaline of trying to dust the two guys I had just passed mixed with anticipating the finish caused this rookie mistake, but I tried to embrace the lactic acid rush as it poured into my shoulders and arms, making me feel instantly heavy and uncoordinated. The move worked out for the better and I finished with one heck of a final mile. The splits are based on the mile markers out on the course, so it's possible my last mile was slightly slower and #4 was a bit faster. Either way, it was an exciting way to finish up. It was probably the most content I've ever been running a 27-mid 5 miler.

Alex and I hung out for a bit after the race and chatted with a few racers. Nate Jenkins had taken it to him and broke away early. Alex had been really pumped before the race and was hoping to go for the win despite his coaches' orders, and ultimately I think he put in a racing effort. Fresh off his 30:20 10k at the Southeast Regional, my best guess is he was a little rusty after some downtime, not to mention pulling an all-nighter three nights ago plus hitting the weights hard the night before. I'm not trying to make excuses but trying to explain he did indeed put in a racing effort and Jenkins most certainly earned a win this morning!

In the end we made out like bandits, snagging full-size apple pies, vitamin waters, tons of snacks, and such items and stashed them in the woods on the run back to my apartment. It is good to spend time with the little bro and inspiring to hear about his training and truly Spartan focus during this fall cross-country season. It has been helpful to be reminded of what it takes to run at a high level. I'm amazed sometimes at my own complacency in my training. The major take-away: drills and strength training are important components to running efficiently at a fast pace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Base Training: 11/14 - 11/20

M: 3.5 easy plus a light core session.
T: 10 miles steady 65 minutes on a combination of roads and trails. Felt great today from the start.
w: 8 miles/53 minutes on trails from the apartment w/ old partner in crime Alex Hall.
R: 5 miles/35 minutes through a few reservations in N Andover.
F: 9 miles/65 minutes on the Rivah trail for the first time. Ran into MQ and he was nice enough to show me the 10 mile out and back, making his run somewhere around 17 miles! 10 minute core. 
S: 6 miles/45 minutes on trails with Jenkins
S: 3 miles easy/felt like dog poo. Core and drills. 

Total: 44.5

Thoughts: This week was an odd one in the sense that in strange ways I feel like I'm still recovering from the damage caused by the cramps late in the CCM. My left hamstring feels tight and high up near the pelvis and my right hip feels crappy late in runs. I had a few good runs without much pain but the few strides I've done have simply felt terrible. This coming week I need to focus on good rest and nutrition, bumping up to 50-55 miles and making core a regular component of each training day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Base Training 11/7 - 11/13

M: 6 miles 45 miles solo, second day back running
T: 0 off - why not?
W: 5.5 miles/40 min solo
R: 7.5 miles/56 min with Matt
F: 8 miles/55 min with Ken at Winnekenni
S: 5 miles/54 min with Jim and Dan at Bald Hill
S: 10.5 miles/67 min solo on the Holt Road loop in Andover. Dropped a few under 6mp near the end.

Total: 42.5 miles on 6 days.

I'm still working out some kinks in the hamstrings, but by now I'm feeling pretty well recovered from Cape Cod. The first few days out there I felt really slow but by the end of the week things seem to be coming together.  Sunday's first few miles were slow but once I warmed up I was feeling really good. It was a mental battle to hold myself back and not start hammering... but I'll take is a good omen that I'm holding myself back rather than dragging my feet to get back to running consistently.

Friday, November 11, 2011

October and the Cape Cod Marathon

October is my favorite month of the year. The scent of the foliage season is at its peak and I become nostalgic about past team championships and my personal discovery of running as a young teenager. This October marks my 10th year of running, and I guess it was only appropriate that I took my first shot at the marathon distance. Despite some struggles with injury during the final 4 weeks of training limiting me to no more than 30 miles per week, I really looked forward to the event and discovering what the marathon is all about. 

As race day drew nearer, I was becoming more anxious and frustrated with my limited preparation. In mid-September I would have guaranteed a 2:38-2:40 finish. Recognizing that nothing could be gained by fitting in miles on a leg that finally felt healthy in the final week of training, I didn't run the 4 days leading up to the race. I may have been unprepared, but at least I would be fresh! So race day arrived and I woke without power caused by a pretty nasty snowfall. I checked the water temp and cursed our tiny water heater. Skipping the shower, I realized I would also have to find a store for my coffee. My pre race meal of oatmeal also didn’t happen.

While we only got 6 or 8 inches, the snow was wet and heavy and had laid waste to much of southern NH and northern MA. As Lauren and I made our way slowly down 93, we could see transformers igniting in greenish-blue sparks in the distance and we seriously wondered if we would make it to the race on time. 

It was mostly easy driving once we were past Boston except our search for Dunkin' Donuts coffee and bagels led to a dead end. Apparently the factory supplying the south shore of delicious donuts and bagels had also lost power. By 7:00 I was getting pretty anxious about getting food in my stomach, so we stopped at an On-the-Run and I bought the soggiest chicken salad sandwich and just put it down as fast as I could. It was a little nasty but it felt good to have something to digest. 

Onto the race: I found most of the CMSers pretty easily and I was pumped about the crew we brought to the line. JJ and I ran probably less than a mile total before the start plus a couple of strides. It occurred to me as I stood on the start line and spoke with Sam Wood about pace that I hadn't even picked a goal pace to begin at. Sam said something about running 2:55 and I agreed that sounded good, but I had no idea what pace/mile that would involve. About a minute later after a cannon sounded the start, my "race plan”, like my shower and breakfast, was also kaput. I decided to aim for low-6:00s knowing the odds were stacked against holding pace.
I was happy to run into Jon May and a few others including Dan Verrington and we hit the first mile in 5:53. The pace felt effortless, but we all knew we had to reign it in. I have thought about ways to describe how my race played out, but as my buddy Brandon said recently, "the numbers never fail to tell the story in a way nothing else can". Here they are:
1 - 5:53
2 - 6:05
3 - 6:02
4 - 5:56
5 - 6:02
6 - 6:11
7 - 6:09
8 - 6:11
9 - 6:15 break from group and begin solo journey
10 - 6:05
11 - 6:10
12 - 6:13 hills begin
13 - 5:55
14 - 5:57
15 - 5:49 oops
16 - 6:13
17 - 6:15
18 - 6:18
19 - 6:00
20 - 6:11
21 - 6:16 caught JJ
22 - 8:59 running + 1:44 most insane hamstring cramps of my life (aka, wheels come off)
23 - 7:54 running + 2:11 stretching, getting passed by top female
24 - 8:19 running + 1:27 asking for fluids from strangers, almost took a ride ... walked most of the way to someone's car before deliriously spinning around and running on
25 - 9:40 determined to finish, gave up on watch
26 - 7:21 fluids from final aid station kick in
.2 - ~1:15

10 mile split 60:48
20 mile split 121:49
Final 10k 53:16

Finish: 2:55

From mile 9 to 21 I ran alone with exception to passing or getting passed by a relay runner here and there. I was really enjoying working on the hills and recovering on the downhills. I felt super smooth too and at one point got a little too aggressive running 5:50's for a few miles. Right around mile 16 I felt the first alarming sign of a hamstring cramp. It was in the exact same spot as the cramps that made the Nahant race so difficult. At this point I knew the inevitable would eventually catch up to me, and it was only a matter of when. I took down a couple Rocksters back to back and stopped momentarily to give the hamstring a hard stretch. Eureka! I kicked the cramp and could run normally again. Around this point I started seeing racers in the distance and knew I couldn't be too far behind a few guys. I was assuming stragglers would begin falling off a faster early pace, and so I pushed pretty hard to make up some ground during miles 18-20.

Finally someone came into view, and to my surprise, I realized it was JJ. I caught up to him somewhere around mile 21 and we spoke briefly. He was in cruise control mode but still appeared to have some energy, although I could tell his legs were hurting. He encouraged me to keep rolling but I told him I was better off just trying to stick with him. My hamstrings and groin muscles really started to jump and I knew the end was near. At the next aid station I stopped at a table and pounded 2 full cups of Cytomax and then got going again. JJ had gained ground on me, so I pushed hard up a small hill to get even with him again....

And then I bonked. It wasn't the low-energy, light-headed wimpy kind of bonk though. It was the my-muscles-are-tearing-themselves-apart, pulling-harder-than-should-be-physically-possible kind of bonk. From the insertion point behind the knees to the connective tissue in my butt bones, I felt the most excruciating pull in my hamstrings. JJ thinks I shouted "oh God!" but it may have just been a nonsensical cry of pain and surprise. It was all I could do but desperately reach for my toes and hope the cramps would subside.

While I stood hunched on the curb I watched my race mostly slip away from me. All the racers I had left at mile 9 moved by me in a loose pack led by Jon May. It was around this moment I fully realized just how important race preparation for this distance is. I had felt incredibly comfortable, aerobically, throughout the race, but I knew as early as mile 10 that targeting a 2:40 or anything close to that was a gamble.

The last 10k is a sort of delirious blur. I managed to get moving again but never at more than a hobble. Someone in a car passed me, stopped, threw it in reverse back to me and offered me an entire 20 oz electrolyte drink. Normally I’m not in the habit of soliciting strangers for help, but I was desperate for fluids I hoped would ease the cramping. I slammed the bottle and got going again. Right at mile 24 is where I almost threw in the towel. A CMSer I had only met once before (I think his name is Tom) was spectating and when I stopped again to stretch he came up alongside me and asked me if I was okay. At that point I really wasn’t sure. My left quad had just cramped really badly and I was keenly aware of the physical damage being done. Tom and several other people began walking me to their car but as we approached I spun around and shouted I had to continue. I couldn’t bear the thought of not finishing.

Coming into the downtown area I was thrilled to hear from JJ that Pat Rich had won the whole damn thing. After finishing I was instantly freezing and after watching Abbey and Sam finish up a few minutes later I headed straight for the showers.

It’s easy to have mixed feelings about my first marathon, but similar to what some other guys have said, I can’t stop thinking about racing the next one. I’m not sure if a spring marathon is in the works, but Vermont City could be it. The coming winter season for me will be a base-building phase with regular strength-building workouts. I’ll likely try out a few more snowshoe races as my work schedule permits and if things go really well, I might run a couple 3ks or 5ks on the boards.